Books 22 - 24

22. Willing by Scott Spencer - This is a novel with a great idea for a plot suffering from multiple genre disorder. Is it farce? Comedy? Literary fiction? It's possible for a book to be at least two of those things, maybe all three, but this book doesn't quite achieve any of them. Avery Jankowsky, a freelance writer who's not quite making a living as a writer but is doing too well to quit, tells us the story of his many fathered childhood; his disappointing attempts at relationships; and how they all lead him to take an all expenses paid sex tour. Skipping along through Scandinavia with his fellow travelers, Avery always seems on the verge of breaking out of his self imposed dreariness. If he had, we'd have a funny book. If he discovered he couldn't, this could have been a story of a man accepting his life for what it is. Instead, we get a bunch of characters doing exactly what you knew they were going to do the moment you first read about them, and an ending that puts the story almost exactly back where it started.

23. A Prisoner of Birth by Jeffrey Archer, read by Roger Allam - The Count of Monte Cristo is one of my favorite books of all time. I re-read it every couple years, and if I stumble across a movie version on television, I am powerless to not watch it, no matter how many times I've seen that version before (or how bad the adaptation is). When I heard that Archer had done an "update" on TCoMC for his newest book, of course I had to read/listen to it. The bad news is Archer still writes like a man who could live alone on a deserted island and never tire of the company. He writes. And he writes. And he writes more. Sometimes what he writes moves the story forward and about equal to that happening we get a rehashing of something we were already told or were able to figure out from context. Case in point, I inadvertently skipped disc 9 of the audiobook, and it didn't make one bit of difference to the story. The good news is, TCOmC is a story that has to be changed to be updated. Contemporary technology, finance, and law make it much more difficult to become someone else and then insinuate yourself into the lives of your nemeses. Archer does a good job of bringing the heart of TCoMC into the modern world. If only he had done it with few words. He is, unfortunately, another victim of SKS.

24. The Courage to Write: How Writers Transcend Fear by Ralph Keyes- This is the book to turn to when that little voice inside your head begins to whisper (and then shout if you let it get away with it) "You? A writer?? Who do you think you're kidding??!?!?". This is the book you read when you hear that same vice as you sit down in front of a key board or pick up a pen asking, "What will my family think if they read this?", followed quickly by "What if no one but my family ever reads this?". And lastly, this is the book to read when you think that if what you are writing is "good" it would come to you in a better form, or at least more easily. This book doesn't give you writing exercises to condition your writing muscles, it doesn't teach you the mechanics of plotting and character arcs. What it does is give you antidotes and quotes from and about successful (sometimes financially, sometimes critically, sometimes both) authors and how they got past those awful moments. Some of the stories deal with the physical (when is the best time to write?), sometimes the psychological (this story is my baby, no one can love it like I do!), but they all deal with the blocks, real and imagined, that every writer faces at some point (or at too many points, in most cases).

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