"Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart." ~ William Wordsworth

The Writing Life Too

And if you're reading this, it means you're not writing.

Saturday, June 30, 2007

The sky is deep blue promising summer perfection. The news is full of car bombs reports and Glasgow airport is closed, and the latest American death in Iraq makes 100 for the month. The day looks too perfect for such senseless violence.

I’m afraid I’ve been a sketchy blogger lately—I plead that my writing energy was taken up with finishing my book. Yesterday I sent my final chapter of Bullies, Bastards & Bitches, the Bad Guys of Fiction to my editor at Writer’s Digest. Now comes the rewrites….

I went out with friends to celebrate and came home in time to watch Bill Moyers Journal on public television. Last night he interviewed Republican Victor Gold about his book INVASION OF THE PARTY SNATCHERS: HOW THE NEO-CONS AND HOLY ROLLERS DESTROYED THE GOP. After complimenting Gold on his terrific title they discussed Gold’s frustration with Bush, the neocons and fundamentalists who have hijacked the Grand Old Party along with his general complaints about the current state of politics. He wrote: The impact of the sound bite mentality which you find in both parties...is there's been a debasing of the system. Because if you listen to these — I call them the Stepford candidates — on both sides in these debates the only two candidates that speak clearly are the ones they call the kooks.

Each week Moyers reads a rant/editorial. This week he talked about Rupert Murdoch’s plans for taking over the Wall Street Journal. Here is the opening of his editorial:

“If Rupert Murdoch were the Angel Gabriel, you still wouldn’t want him owning the sun, the moon, and the stars. That’s too much prime real estate for even the pure in heart.

But Rupert Murdoch is no saint; he is to propriety what the Marquis de Sade was to chastity. When it comes to money and power he’s carnivorous: all appetite and no taste. He’ll eat anything in his path. Politicians become little clay pigeons to be picked off with flattering headlines, generous air time, a book contract or the old-fashioned black jack that never misses: campaign cash. He hires lobbyists the way Imelda Marcos bought shoes, and stacks them in his cavernous closet, along with his conscience; this is the man, remember, who famously kowtowed to the Communist overlords of China, oppressors of their own people, to protect his investments there.

The ambitious can’t resist his blandishments, nor his power to get or keep them in office where they can return his favors. Mae West would be green with envy at his little black book of conquests: Tory Margaret Thatcher, Labor’s Tony Blair, George Bush. Even Jimmy Carter couldn’t say no. Now, Bill and Hillary Clinton, who know which side of their bread is buttered, like having it slathered by their new buddy Rupert. Our media and political system has turned into a mutual protection racket." To read the complete editorial and follow the astute journalist’s blog go to http://www.pbs.org/moyers/journal/blog/ We need Rupert Murdoch taking over more media outlets like we need more bombings in Iraq.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Blue is appearing between puffy cumulus clouds and warmer weather is promised after a dreary, drizzly Sunday.

Summer is the second busiest season in the book publishing biz because it is when publishers bring out titles that they’ll hope you’ll pack in your beach bag and suitcase. I’m still compiling a pile of novels for my annual vacation at the Oregon Coast not to mention a stack for evenings spent on my patio, awaiting a cooling breeze. My main qualification for a summer read is that it’s utterly engrossing and allows me to surrender to the torpor of a sun-drenched world. Since I won’t be traveling to Paris or Provence, I need books to whisk me to other worlds, other lives.

In the past summer reads were supposed to be as substantial as cotton candy, but in recent years that trend has changed and literary novels and books by new authors woven around weighty concepts and themes are also making an appearance in book stores. So books by Annie Dillard, Ian McQuen, Amy Bloom Michael Ondaatje, and Ian McEwan are going to nestle in the stores along with the new titles by Janet Evanovich and Dan Brown, not to mention the final Harry Potter book. Summer is also a time to release memoirs and biography and this season includes Peeling the Onion by G√ľnter Grass and Circling My Mother by Mary Gordon. Summer releases also include scholarly tomes such as Inner Workings: Literary Essays 2000-2005 by J.M. Coetzee, and Leviathan: The History of Whaling in America by Eric Jay Dolin.

This weekend after finishing up another chapter in my Bad Guys book and hosting a baby shower for a friend, I’m reading the third book in Nancy Martin’s Blackbird Sisters series, Some Like it Lethal. Part chick lit, part romp, the story takes place amid Philadelphia high society and settles me among people I’ll never meet in real life. Martin is one of those writers who make her stories look easy, but if you look closer at her scenes, you’ll notice just the right dose of details to make you believe in the story world and the gaggle of characters and murder suspects.

In case you’ve missed it, for the past month the staff at salon.com has made suggestions for summer reads that won’t leave your feeling cheap and empty. In the fourth part of the series they’ve focused on mysteries, a crowded genre and offer up reviews of these books: Three Bags Full by Leonie Swann, Mr. Dixon Disappears by Ian Sansom, Up in Honey's Room by Elmore Leonard, Body of Lies by David Ignatius, Body of Lies by David Ignatius, and The Margarets by Sheri S. Tepper. You can find these reviews at http://salon.com/books/feature/2007/0607/Summer_reads

Happy reading and writing to all.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Pale, pale blue grey sky and now summer has officially arrived. I went for a long walk last night down the Springwater Trail and the cottonwood blooms were floating on the night breeze and so thick on the ground it looked like a snowfall. No wonder my allergies have been driving me crazy.

Every month one of my favorite days is when my copy of The Sun magazine arrives. In case you’re not familiar with it, it is a literary magazine published from Chapel Hill, North Carolina. It has no advertising in it and each month features an in-depth interview, essays, memoir excerpts, short stories, photography and poetry. The writing is first rate, the photography is evocative, and each issue is based around a theme.

However, when I receive the magazine, I always first turn to Readers Write section. In it, readers from all over write about their personal experiences on a single topic. This month is was “in the bedroom” and I read a piece by a man in Alexandria, Virginia about his childhood memory of sharing his bedroom with a younger sister with a heart defect. Because she was so ill, she rarely left the house and was not permitted to exert herself. On weekend mornings she’d crawl into his bed and they’d talk for hours and his sister would ask him about school and the world outside their home.

On a Friday he was sent to spend the weekend with an aunt and when his father drove him home on Monday explained that his sister had died over the weekend. She’d also been buried over the weekend in his absence to spare him the grief. When they returned home all her things had been removed from the bedroom. He writes: “The room I had longed to have to myself now seemed barren and lonely. I sat on my bed for hours, staring at her empty one, not even realizing I was crying until I felt my wet cheek.”

The June issue also contained an essay by Peter Selgin, The Man From ‘Stanbul. The essay is about, of all things, his enlarged prostate and the pain thereof. Selgin takes us through agonizing moments spent over the commode struggling to pee and to various doctor’s appointments as he tries to find a cure. Now, I’ve always been a woman who has been annoyed and fascinated by men’s relationships with their penis. Like many women, I’ve long been weary of the world’s preoccupation with all things penile and have questioned how a few inches of flesh has carried such significance in lives and cultures. And caused so much pain, violence, and craziness. So I wasn’t exactly thrilled when I at first realized I was to be taken on this journey of penis troubles….but oh my, what a trip.

The essay is wicked and hilarious and intimate and silly. I cannot recommend it enough. At one point he writes: “And now we come to that delicate portion of my story wherein I must tell you about my orgasms. Yes, I must. I said I once peed like an angel. Well, I used to come like the devil. I’ve seen enough porno flicks to know the difference between a squirt and a spurt, and I spurted. Back in those innocent days when hand jobs were about all a young lover could reasonably expect, a girlfriend of mine once remarked (on witnessing this spectacle the first time), “Wow, it’s like a fountain!” And it was, my own Old Faithful.”

When we leave Selgin with much reluctance in the final paragraph, he’s about to undergo a procedure that might cure him. Read it and laugh out loud. Also, if you don’t subscribe to The Sun, consider it, it’s well worth the price. Selgin’s also the author of By Cunning and Craft: Sound Advice and Practical Wisdom for Fiction Writers. His website is at www.peterselgin.com.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

I you write about matters to you, then you’ll organically and naturally bring all of your talents and attention to it. Ron Carlson

The clouds have a silver cast to them this morning but will likely break up as the afternoon wears on. When I’m home at night I sometimes tune into my favorite public television programs such as Frontline. On Friday night there is the wonderful Bill Moyers who always manages to interview interesting people and who opens his show with sharp-edged commentary. Then there is The McLaughlin Group which this week featured Pat Buchanan siding with the law with his opinion that Skooter Libby should actually go to prison for his many acts of perjury and obstructing justice. Then Austin City Limits came on and I watched James Blunt, the English singer. After his concert he was briefly interviewed about his songwriting and he said, “the mind is a lonely place.” I was so struck with his comment because lately I’ve been thinking about the loneliness of the writing life and how sometimes loneliness is as familiar to me as my breath.

I think the way to face the isolation is to meet it head on as when you’re forced to wrestle with any problem you’d rather ignore. Because a writer is a person who needs to get comfortable with vast amounts of time spent alone, who has the patience to explore the loneliness and labyrinths of the mind. And it seems to me that these days everyone is bent on never being alone. I marvel at people who need to chat on their cell phones as they walk their dogs or squeeze tomatoes in the market. What’s wrong with simply paying attention as the day unfolds instead of filling it with the bric-a-brac and noise of diversion?

As I was thinking about this I ran across this quote by Ron Carlson in the July issue of The Writer. Carlson is perhaps best known as a short story writer and his newest novel, Five Skies has been garnering favorable reviews. In advice to writers he says, “A writer is a person who stays in the room. So you do your work, and when you’re tempted to leave, you don’t. You push on, even if it’s for just a few minutes. On one level, it’s about you, the person, being alone with your writing, away from all the temptations of the marketplace, away from all of the fun you’ll have with your friends, and away from all of the terrible noise on e-mail….The world is addictive. It wants us away from the desk, and a writer is a person who likes her work so much, wants her work so much, that she’s going to go get it. You’ve got to go upstream. It’s against the tide to get this kind of work done.

“The second level is, as you’re writing the story, don’t hurry. When you come to a scene, say there. Stay there long enough to find out what might happen. I’m just pleading for patience, because people do not sit still in a place anymore. There’s almost no here and now in our country, because of the computer, because of cell phones, and because of iPods. We’re all someplace else.”

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Last night I was walking along the Springwater trail near my neighborhood and the sky was like an ocean of boiling clouds—so dramatic and beautiful. This morning they are a ‘whiter shade of pale ’ or grey and the sky is supposed to clear by afternoon. I’ve been working on a client’s manuscript the last few days and wanted to say something about subplots.

I’ve been studying subplots in the novels that I’ve been reading for the past few years. When I wrote Between the Lines my chapter on subplot was the last one I turned in to my editor and it never felt quite complete to me, so I’ve wanted to keep adding to my knowledge of the subject. It seems to me that sometimes subplots make or break a novel. Too many and it can become chaotic, too few and the story is flat and closed in. My client has got an intriguing concept for his 99,000 word manuscript, but two of his subplots are overshadowing the main plot and I’m creating a memo that I hope will help him balance out the manuscript. You see there are many aspects of balance in fiction and when a subplot is given too much weight in the story, it becomes unbalanced. I like to think of subplots as a means to provide complications and to prove that fiction, like life is dense and intricate.

S.ubplots are miniature stories woven into the main story, like threads woven into a tapestry, complete and intriguing in their own right, and serve to contrast, reinforce, or divert attention from the main plot. They are secondary actions in a story, complete and interesting in their own right. There may be more than one subplot, and sometimes as many as three, four, or even more running through a piece of fiction. Generally short stories do not contain subplots and subplots are distinguished from the main plot by taking up less action and having less significance.

Subplots enhance and deepen every aspect of story including the theme. Subplots are devices that drive fiction along with the protagonist’s emotional growth, dramatic action, and the significance of theme and premise. Subplots can involve the main characters in actions other than the main story line, or are based around secondary characters or can combine both. These stories within stories can run the entire length of the plot where they’re resolved near the climax or at the climax, or they can have a short run and end long before the climax.

Here are more tips for subplots:

  • The number of subplots in your novel will depend on its length. The longer the novel, the more room you have for multiple subplots.
  • Typically a shorter novel (60,000 -80,000 words) contains at minimum a main storyline, a second storyline or subplot starring the protagonist and a second subplot featuring a secondary character. A longer novel (100,000 + words) adds an additional five subplots (or more) featuring secondary characters or viewpoint characters in lesser storylines.
  • Subplots will always have fewer words and scenes than the main storyline.
  • Generally subplots are introduced after the inciting incident and deepened in the middle of the novel. However, a subplot can open the story instead of an inciting incident, be followed by the inciting incident, or can set the story in motion. When the main storyline arrives later the purpose of this structure is to acquaint readers with the protagonist and the story world before launching into the ramifications of the inciting incident. It’s important that if you use a subplot to start off the story that you stay true to the genre.
  • The best subplots arise from a crisis.
  • Subplots are effective devices for featuring main characters sorting out painful emotions.
  • Subplots can be used as breathing room in the midst of intense events.
  • Subplots can be also be designed from weather, setting, environment if they have a major impact on the main storyline such as when a storm or hurricane isolates characters on an island so that they cannot escape the danger there.
  • The most effective subplots affect the outcome of the main storyline.
  • The best subplots cause unbearable complications in the character’s life.
  • The best subplots bring contrast to the story and cause it to range further and possibly explore different classes of people, subcultures, and lifestyles.
  • Subplots are often best used to strengthen the middle of the story.
  • Generally most subplots are resolved but there are sometimes exceptions such as when the outcome is left dangling in longer works or in series fiction.
  • The protagonist’s or main character’s subplot, like the main storyline, will be focused around a goal. This goal will be met with opposition, causing additional conflict, tension and suspense.
  • When plotting or outlining, it’s helpful to develop a hierarchy of your subplots.
  • Avoid focusing too long on a single subplot, keep juggling the various threads of the storyline and subplots.
  • Subplots never rehash events that have occurred in the main storyline.
  • When designing a subplot ask yourself if it adds to the intimacy, intricacy and texture of the whole.
  • When designing subplots ask yourself who are your most important secondary characters and their relationships to the protagonist.
  • Remember that subplots are still plots and require the same elements of fiction as the main storyline, although they may not be a part of the full novel from beginning to end. Often they have a setup or inciting incident, the first plot point, a midcourse reversal, and resolution. Each subplot is associated with a secondary character.
  • Subplots have many purposes, but many show complexities in your characters, prove that the story world is lifelike, a complicated, teeming place.
  • The best subplots are a natural outgrowth of the main story and most contribute to the resolution of the plot in some fashion.
  • Subplots are a great means to illustrate inner conflict.
  • Use a subplot to expose a side of the protagonist that will not be revealed in the main storyline, such as how he interacts with more vulnerable characters.
  • Subplots can be used to foreshadow events in the main story.
  • Subplots can be linked to the back story if connected to the front story and changing the outcomes of the front story.
  • Subplots often are structured of rising action then falling action.
  • Generally subplots will contain less exposition and description than in the main story.

Monday, June 11, 2007

There is an indigo cloud in the midst of silver and blue ahead of me and I still feel like its part of the world of dreams I woke from recently since I slept in until 7:30. In the last dream before I woke my grandmother’s house had disappeared. I went outside on an errand and when I turned around the building was gone. I kept searching the house numbers, but the numbers had disappeared too and the neighborhood was gentrified and transformed and I was adrift on the street wondering what to do.

Just one dream in a long line of missive from my unconscious that I cannot quite decipher besides the obvious 'you can never go home again'. Well, in case you didn’t see the finale to The Sopranos just as you thought Tony and family were going to die in a hail of bullets while munching on onion rings, the screen went black. Apparently David Chase, the series’ creator has had the last laugh and we’re all wondering at his dark vision of America and puzzling over the lyrics of the crappy Journey song that provided the final notes of the scene. So the series now sleeps with the fishes even if we’re not sure if Tony and crew were splattered in a New Jersey restaurant. Oh well….Chase thanks for the great ride and speaking of great HBO, David Milch the creator and head writer for the brilliant series Deadwood and NYPD Blue (among other gigs), is involved in another series, John From Cincinnati which premiered after the finale. It’s set in the world of surfing and might be worth checking into. I miss Deadwood and could spend many hours in the gritty, dangerous frontier town. Apparently they’re going to create 2, two-hour tele-films, so all is not lost. HBO has been in transition since Chris Albrecht was fired so let’s all hope the networks stays as edgy and meaningful as when Albrecht was at the helm. (Christine Strauss is still the entertainment president).

Meanwhile, I’ve turned in another chapter to my editor, I’m working on a client’s manuscript, have proposed an article to The Writer magazine, am going to lead a fiction critique group tomorrow, and am trying not to panic every time I look at my to-do list of writing projects. Happy writing to all.

Friday, June 08, 2007

The sky is mostly blue this morning as if making an effort to push away the clouds. I’m pouring my second cup of Earl Gray tea and making my daily to-do list and thinking about the chapter I’m working on and the issues that need addressing in a client’s manuscript.

One thing I love about this time of year is how all the experts and book pundits weigh in in on books to read during the sweet days of summer. This morning on NPR’s Morning Edition show they featured a segment on reads chosen by independent booksellers. For the complete story go to npr.org, but in the meantime, here is the list: Soon I Will be Invincible by Austin Grossman, Divisadero, by Michael Ondaatje, Bangkok Haunts, by John Burdett, In Patagonia, by Bruce Chatwin, The Accidental Touris by, Ann Tyler, Five Skies by Ron Carlson, The Dud Avocado, by Elaine Dundy, Anagrams, by Lorrie Moore, The Children's Hospital, by Chris Adrian, At Large and At Small, by Anne Fadiman, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, by Barbara Kingsolver, Devotion, by Howard Norman, Finn, by Jon Clinch, Knots, by Nuruddin Farah, On Chesil Beach, by Ian McEwan. Doesn’t this sound like a delicious line up?

The NPR site includes excerpts from the books and short reviews. Also, at salon.com each Monday in June, beginning with June 4, there is a list of summer reads. I realize that summer is equated with reading because when vacations mean time to lie on a beach with a fat novel. I like reading in any season, but in summer I sit on my small patio, sipping wine or iced tea, listening to the birds go about their business in birddom, looking up from time to time with the satisfied gaze of a gardener at my various pots of blooms…..ah summer. Let’s all read more.

Monday, June 04, 2007

The sky is a tapestry of clouds in blues and grays, for me, as welcome as a kiss. When I first moved to Portland I would be amazed at the people who claimed to love the rain, the gray, the constant sullen sky. They would rhapsodize about how the rain made everything so green and I’d think they were all nuts. Well, as years have gone by, I cannot claim that I love the rain, but I know with a certainty that I hate heat. This past week the temperatures were in the 80s, and several times when I was out the sun felt as punishing as August in Kansas, the air lazy and parched and still. And I was watering twice a day and it was only May……..So I’m happy to welcome back cooler weather.

Recently a lovely writer in Portland sent me this question. She wrote: "The following quote from a New York Times book review stopped me in my tracks. (Underlining mine.)

“The Sea Lady” is a waterlogged, ramshackle contraption that fascinates even as it annoys. [Margaret] Drabble’s longtime readers won’t be surprised by the novel’s tactics. After all, the most important entry in her long bibliography may be her sympathetic biography of Arnold Bennett, one of the Edwardian novelists — along with John Galsworthy and H. G. Wells — denounced by Virginia Woolf. (“They have given us a house,” Woolf declared, arguing that their concentration on external description, on the workings of society, failed to convey the inner lives of their characters, “in the hope that we may be able to deduce the human beings who live there.”)

There is so much emphasis these days on concrete external details. I am much more interested in the inner lives of characters. It's nice to discover I'm in the excellent company of Virginia Woolf."

She then asked my opinion. What an interesting question…..First, I haven’t read too many Edwardian novelists and it’s been years since I read any of Woolf’s or Drabble’s books, but I love Woolf’s comment and I’d like to weigh in here. I was teaching a workshop on plot this past weekend in Olympia. As I began the day I talked to the writers about understanding the underpinnings of plotting. You see, when a writer understands the underpinnings of fiction— the three-act structure, plot points, turning points, reversals, and the like, the story is easier to write. You need a three-act structure because first you need to establish the fictional world and its characters and dilemmas. This set up should create a story question or problem that must be resolved. Then once you’ve established the conflict and situation, you need to complicate the situation and make it intolerable in the middle of the novel. You also need to send the story skittering off in a fresh direction in the middle with an interesting reversal. Then, as you write the final act, you need to resolve the situation. If you don’t have these three basic acts you don’t have a novel. If I were to try for an analogy, you cannot build a house without a foundation and lumber.

Now, lots of writers grow impatient or pissed off when I talk about underpinnings. Instead they want to be an artiste, they want their stories to be a flow of images dictated from the muse. But if you don’t have three acts and plot points and the like, you haven’t written fiction. You have ramblings and digressions and people floundering around on a flimsy soundstage or a ramshackle contraption. Or, you have something that’s thin and ghostly and empty.

Another aspect of fiction is change—a character is pummeled by a series of threatening changes. These changes will create conflict and force your protagonist to change in the way he or she needs to most change. Some protagonists won’t change or won’t change much—James Bond, Sherlock Holmes, Kinsey Milhone. They’re designed to be static or fairly static characters because the reader’s are fascinated by the action, not the character growth or character arc. Or they’re designed to change over the course of a series, but change little within a single novel.

Which leads us to the writer’s question. A fictional world needs details because details create a reality. How many or how few details are entirely a matter of taste and the dictates of the genre. A historical novel, science fiction novel or fantasy novel will necessarily require more details than a contemporary novel because we need proofs of the fictional dream. Similarly, horror writers use more details because they want the story to be atmospheric and spooky, and they’ll want setting to impose another layer of tension.

When there are too many details or descriptions the story becomes cluttered and the reader becomes confused and bogs down while reading. You see, if you lavish three hundred words on an object the reader will imagine this item is important. Similarly, if there are too few details, the reader will feel ill at ease and confused. He won’t be able to unpack his bags and wander around in the story world.

Every writer must find the perfect balance of details and description to provide a vivid sense of place. When a room contains no colors or furniture or smells it’s possible that when the character is experiencing the crisis of his or her life, the reader won’t buy into the crisis because he cannot imagine the world. The more intense the character arc, the more firmly you need to create a fictional world that this growth and change can play out against. So a house and all its embellishments cannot replace the delicious arc of a character. But a character who acts out on a blank soundstage will not be believed either. If I have spotted the overflowing ashtray and empty beer cans and dust clouding the furniture, I’m much more apt to believe in the emotional fireworks that happen in the room. It’s all a matter of balance. If you want more information on how much detail to use, consult Stephen King’s chapter in On Writing.

Friday, June 01, 2007

June is such a sweet month. The sky is again a pale blue with only wisps of clouds and temperatures today will be in the mid-80s. I’ve got NPR on in the background and have heard that Jack Kevorkian has been released from prison after eight years. He was imprisoned for helping a patient with Lou Gehrig’s disease commit suicide. I imagine that Lou Gehrig’s disease is worse than any prison. And today is the first day of hurricane season in the Atlantic—now that we cannot count on FEMA any more, I guess people living in hurricane regions should batten down the hatches……

Alas, I’m still working on my bad guys book—I had hoped to be finished by now but my final chapters are not complete or polished enough to send off to my editor. After reading a spate of young adult novels, lately I’ve been reading horror stories and trying to get a sense of what’s happening in that genre. From what I can tell it’s exploding with fresh ideas and new writers. I believe that I previously mentioned Charlie Huston’s gritty noir series that began with Caught Stealing. Huston is a terrific writer and the plot that starts the series is a wrong man plot, sort of Hitchcock meets Tarantino. On his web site at www. pulpnoir.com he writes: NEW YORK — I write pulp. I write noir. Open one of my books and you'll see I'm not lying. I write about people killing each other and suffering or not suffering the consequences. I write about the halt and the lame and the addicted.

Huston is writing Marvel comics these days and is also writing a vampire series. Oops, I mean vampyre. Because in Huston’s books vampyres are undead because they’re infected with a vyrus and the vyrus needs blood. His first book in the series is Already Dead and his protagonist is Joe Pitt and he’s a sort of detective who lives in Manhattan as a free agent. Trouble is, all the other vampires are linked to Clans and turf is tightly guarded and like his character Hank Thompson in his first series, Pitt is in a buttload of trouble as he works to solve two cases {zombies on the loose and a missing girl] and bad asses are smacking him from all sides. I’m mentioning Joe Pitt because Huston has endowed him with a complicated personality and a particularly perilous situation. But mostly it’s interesting to note the intricate world he’s created [although at times it’s difficult to track], and the underbelly of Manhattan that makes the sex industry, porn industry, drug deals and the like look like playground larks. And if this isn’t a fresh take on the horror novel, well, then I don’t know what is.

Be warned, this is not a series for the faint of heart. Starved for blood and dying, Joe is forced to chow down on a victim: "And when the man is empty and I am full and my face is rinsed in his gore, I feel as I always do when I feed, like I want more." And that’s one of the less graphic moments in the story.