Bored, guys, I’m bored, I’m so bored.
Not really. In reality, I have gallons of stuff I should be working on. Final revisions for How to Kill Yourself in a Small Town (Halo, to you insiders), drafting cover art, looking into health insurance things—heck, I’ve even got forks to wash and laundry to do. But today I want to talk about books.
“Why would you stop and talk about books when crunch time is finally at hand?” you might ask.
Who are you, my work ethic? Because if you are, you’re too late.
Horns by Joe Hill
If you’re a reader, Horns is probably the most devastating book you’ll ever pick up. If you’ve got a bad heart, weak stomach, or inner ear problem, don’t read it. But Horns should be required reading for writers. It’s an absolute clinic on how to make the hardest possible decisions for your story. There was never a point in this book where Hill said, “Okay, I’ll give [my character] this one,” or, “Easy way out—just this once.” No, every step is harder to take and every page would’ve been excruciating to write. It’s beautiful and awful and so heartbreaking and I don’t even want to think about how much time and energy went into wrestling this story from start to finish. Horns is what writing should be for readers and for writers.
Whispers in the Dark by Maya Banks (KGI Series: Book 4)
KGI is by far my favorite series of books in the military suspense section of the romance shelf, but not because it’s an example of spectacular writing. I’m no elitist when it comes to books. I read some absolute trash and I love every second of it. A compelling character or an awesome story can convince me to forgive a lot, but even I can admit that Bank’s writing could use a few more passes through editing and revision. I want to talk about Whispers in the Dark because it’s an example of an author veering wildly off the beaten path while somehow maintaining believability. You don’t see supernatural storylines in romantic military suspense, and nothing remotely supernatural has happened before within the KGI series, but the way Banks worked Shea’s abilities into Nathan’s story was so smooth and true to her characters that it seemed natural. And as a bonus, the sex scenes were hilarious while still being super-hot, which is something else you don’t find too often in romance.
Death Sentence by Alexander Graham Smith (Escape from Furnace: Book 3)
With Halo’s upcoming release, I’ve been focusing a lot on the effect that books’ covers, back flaps, and beginnings have on potential buyers. Death Sentence is a perfect example of hooking a reader (me, specifically) done right. It’s the only Escape from Furnace book that I’ve read. Under normal circumstances, I would’ve flat-out refused to start in the middle of a series, but the cover was so b.a., the blurb on the back dragged me in, and the first sentence was, “I died in that room.” Hook, line, sinker. I didn’t have a choice, I had to buy it.
Deadpool Kills the Marvel Universe by Cullen Bunn (Dalibor Talajic, artist)
Deadpool is crazy, yo. Everybody knows that. It’s part of why he’s my second-favorite corporate comic book superhero of all time. But when you take away the things that also make him funny and give his schizophrenic inner voices some focus, then you’ve got potential for a disturbing, psychological gorefest. That’s what Bunn was going for in Deadpool Kills the Marvel Universe, and why I bought it—the concept. The problem was that Bunn didn’t have enough page space to give every murder and mass murder the weight it deserved. (I’ve been accused of this crime a lot lately, so I should know.) Maybe the corporate higher-ups refused to let Bunn have more issues, maybe he was just in a hurry. All I know is that this awesome concept would’ve played out much better if everything had slowed down and the series had drawn out over, maybe, ten or twenty more issues. The Marvel Universe is big and Deadpool is just one guy. One psychotic, homicidal lunatic of a guy.
Four seems like a nice, round number to end on. I’m sure I’ll have more books I want to talk about in the future so I don’t have to work on stuff. I always seem to. But for now, I got to study.