Tag Archives: stephen king

Working Atmosphere for Me

When I visit with people at the various book signings I attend, some new authors or people who want to try their hand at writing are always curious about the environment in which I write.

In his book, On Writing (which I highly recommend), Stephen King mentions that he normally and prefers to write in a room with the door closed but with some type of classic hard rock (AC/DC) blasting from speakers.

I'm a little different. I have a multiple monitor setup and often when I'm writing I will have some movie or television show playing on one monitor while writing on the other. Whatever I'm streaming is usually something I've seen before, often a series where I particularly like the writing or characters. An example of this would be Showtime's Shameless since I've seen all of the episodes repeatedly and I think 90% of the work on the show is genius level (by everyone involved from the writers to the actors).

Sometimes I feel like listening to music and so I will imagine that the novel I'm working on has been turned into a movie, and try to pick out some songs which would fit on the soundtrack. For instance, I'm working on a book about a supernatural or weird western twist on the Doc Holliday story. My playlist for that one includes the songs in the list below (in case you don't know them I'll also put the YouTube video for it and then the link to where the song can be bought on Amazon if you'd like) as well as some others. If you'll notice, the genres are mixed but each of them fit a scene I have in my mind. Often, if I know I'm going to work on a certain book on a day, I'll listen to the playlist songs to get me in the mood and to start the ideas flowing.

John Grisham’s Sycamore Row – A Master at Work

sycamore rowFirst, writers are readers. Even though this is my author blog, anyone who tells you they are a writer but doesn't have time to read, will never be a good writer. In order to get better you have to learn and the best way to learn is by reading what other writers have done.

That doesn't always mean reading Shakespeare or even Faulkner. My favorite writers are Stephen King and John Grisham, although I don't read Grisham as much as I used to.

Sycamore Row is reminescent of Grisham's first, and in my opinion best, book so far A Time to Kill and also reads a lot like Playing for Pizza (his book about pro football, kind of).

In A Time to Kill, Grisham absolutely caught what it is like to be a lawyer in a small town. His hero, Jake Brigance, had the same problems, faced the same hard choices, and had good and bad days just like real lawyers do. Grisham writes about real people.

In Sycamore Row, Grisham returns to Ford County and writes about Jake Brigance, three years after the Carl Lee Hailey trial from A Time to Kill. All of the characters make a return including Lucius Wilbanks and Harry Rex Vonner.

The topic this time isn't a murder trial but rather a probate hearing aka a will contest. From experience I can tell you that probate work can be both the most boring and the most dangerous work a lawyer can do. Lay-people think that family law cases are the most antagonistic but they haven't seen anything until they see a family fight over a few dollars in an estate. The only time I ever felt like I needed a gun in court was in a will contest case that ended with an 80+ year old man using a walker pulling a pocketknife on a 40+ year old woman, who was scrambling to get a straight razor out of her purse when the bailiff broke it up.

Grisham does an absolutely masterful job in setting the scene and building his characters. I had forgotten just how good he was at this and how accurately he portrays lawyers, judges and clients in the book.

Sycamore Row gets a big thumbs up and a five star rating from me. 

Updated Book Review – Stephen King’s 11/22/63

 

I'm putting this on here since, as I've said before, if you want to write you have to read.

While some critics rag on Stephen King, I have always enjoyed his work. Like many fans, I think his best work was done years ago but even the least of his books are still head and shoulders above most others as far as the writing skill.

What is unusual about this review is that I'm doing it when I am just halfway through the book. There's a reason for that.

Like books by John Grisham, King's tomes often have endings that I just don't like. Up to the last part of the book I love them, then the book falls apart (as far as what I like). I don't see any need to always kill off a hero and this seems to be a consistent thread in King's books. Grisham's endings are different. I'e always gotten the impression that by the time he gets to the end he is just tired of it and writes something just to get it over with. 

However, while I am critical of that aspect I also know that not everybody agrees with me and, to be honest, if it bothered me that much I wouldn't buy every single one of their books and read and reread them. Which I do.

I wanted to do this review of 11/22/63 while I was still in the midst of reading it because one of the things King does so well is put you into his world. He uses little things, like the taste of root beer, a description of a street, or someone's personality quirks to make the characters and setting in the book live and breathe.

As you probably know, the book is about someone going back in time to try and prevent the Kennedy assassination. Kind does a masterful job of transporting us from the present day, back to the days of bobby soxers and high school dances. While that was before my time, I have no doubt that he nails it on the head and you quickly find yourself pondering how different things were back then and empathizing with the main character as he feels his way around a time that was over before he was born.

So far, the book is great. I'm not sure if it is up to The Stand, but it is definitely a great read and a long book, which I appreciate both because I like the writing so much and because it is another of those Kindle books that are priced high.

If you're a writer or a voracious reader I'd highly recommend you pick it up, and I'm putting an Amazon link at the bottom of this page to the book. As long as your'e at it, you might want to try one of mine as well. If you like the nostalgic feel, then look at Junebug and the Body (a comedy and mystery). If the supernatural is more your thing, then No' Chance is the way to go.

UPDATE: Just finished the book. While I wouldn't classify it as a horror story, it is probably the best King book in the last ten years. He does an amazing job of describing characters that we all know from real life as well as Texas and Dallas in the 60s. A great job of writing and one every writer should read for enjoyment and then pick apart for the way a master uses words.