Monday, April 26, 2010

Help a starving writer!

Has becoming a published writer changed how you read for pleasure?

There is one thing about being a writer that I’m not too happy about. It’s ruined me as a reader!

All my life I’ve been a voracious reader, following my favorite authors blissfully into the worlds they created for me. But now that I’m a writer and know the “tricks of the trade” I no longer travel blindly into these fictional realms.

Instead, I now proceed with eyes wide open, taking note of what works and what doesn’t. I dissect technique, scavenge evocative word choices, flag areas where the pace lags or the characters feel contrived.

I no longer can accept that a character does something “too stupid to live”—like going down into the basement when the lights are out and there’s a serial killer on the loose—unless they have a darn good reason to do so—something more than simply the author needing another action scene.

Romances where the only reason the hero and heroine remain apart is because they don’t stop sniping long enough to actually talk about their problems smack of melodrama. And thrillers where the main goal is simply racking up a body count rather than changing or saving the hero’s world seem lackluster.

Yikes!!! Now instead of reading 3-5 books a week, I find myself starting new books, quickly casting most aside within a few pages, or setting down the rest and never feeling compelled to pick them up again.

I long for the days when I would pick up any book in any genre and devour it like candy. Now I’m left with an often fruitless search for literary sustenance.

But then I’ll find that jewel—that precious gem of a story that draws me in, introduces me to characters I not only understand but care about, makes me feel that saving their world is as important as anything going on in my own.

You know what books I’m talking about—those keep-me-up-all-night books.

Suddenly they seem harder to find than ever, but once I find one I savor the experience, reading much slower than my usual headlong rush, trying to prolong my enjoyment as much as possible.

So help a poor starving reader/writer out here!

What books have you read lately that gave you more than entertainment, that were fresh and different, able to transport you to another world that you were reluctant to leave? Which characters have you fallen in love with lately and why?

I’d love to hear about the books that moved you—and what made them stand out from all the other ones out there.

Thanks for helping this hungry reader!

About CJ:
As a pediatric ER doctor, CJ Lyons has lived the life she writes about in her cutting edge suspense novels. Her debut, LIFELINES (Berkley, March 2008), became a National Bestseller and Publishers Weekly proclaimed it a "breathtakingly fast-paced medical thriller."

The second in the series, WARNING SIGNS, was released January, 2009 and the third, URGENT CARE, October, 2009. Her newest project is as co-author of the first in a new suspense series with Erin Brockovich. To learn more about CJ and her work, go to


Gabi said...

I know how you feel. It's hard not to think no way my editor would have let that through. Thank goodness. Stiegg Larson is great if you haven't tried him yet.

Nancy J. Parra said...

CJ, this has been a problem for me for years. I used to read up to 6 books a week. Now it's hard to read one a month. sigh. I've switched to watching movies. :)

CJ Lyons said...

Thanks, Gabi! Actually I read the first Larson book and while it was interesting, I didn't understand what all the hype was about. It began really slow, the ending was contrived and melodramatic, and while I like Salander's character, she is pretty cliched--that character has been written numerous times already (mainly by women) although never in books that got the attention his have.

See, so hard to turn that internal editor off!!!!

CJ Lyons said...

Me too!!! And watching/re-watching some fav TV series that really know what they're doing story-wise.

Right now I'm in the midst of a Friday Night Lights marathon and find myself crying or laughing or both in every single episode, they're so well-written and the characters are so compelling!

But I do miss my hoping to find some good ones the next few weeks while I'm at RT and other conferences.

Thanks for dropping by!

Beth Caudill said...

I'm biased towards the fantasy/paranormal realm...but my two favorite series are the Psi/Changeling series by Nalini Singh and the Kate Daniels urban fantasy series by Ilona Andrews.

I want to read the next books and I can always read them as books before dissecting what makes them so good.

CJ Lyons said...

Thanks, Beth! I've actually been reading more magical realism/paranormal lately, but mainly YA--like Hush, Hush, and Graceling, etc.

I'll have to look up those two series!

Terry Stonecrop said...

Long before I started writing fiction, I couldn't stand characters who went down into a dark basement with a serial killer on the loose.

But when I read most novels, I forget about writing and enjoy the story. I probably do notice more little nits than I used once did, though.

Shane Gericke said...

I loved Child 44. It was addictive, and set in such an unusual place--a serial killer of children in Stalinist Russia, when murders did not official exist because only decadent societies of the West had murderers--I couldn't wait to turn the page.

CJ Lyons said...

Oh, I know what you mean--that used to irritate the heck out of me, too!
Thanks, Terry!

CJ Lyons said...

Oh yeah, Shane! What a great book!!! Haven't had a chance to read his next yet, but it's on my list.

You might also enjoy Josh Bazell's Beat the Reaper--total bloody, violent, but a different voice and concept that added an interesting spin.

Joshua Corin said...

Cj, everything you just wrote was exactly the same sentiment of what I was going to write tomorrow (except I've a feeling yours was much more coherent than mine ever had the potential to be).

One of my favorite thriller writers is Charlie Huston, if only because he always avoids plot cliches and fills his novels with a contagious, locomotive energy.

CJ Lyons said...

Hey Josh! I know, the perks of going first on Monday, lol!

Charlie Huston--I agree, his books move like drag racers on nitro!!!

Hard Boiled Mysti said...

Nancy and CJ, do NOT spend time with any screenwriters: we can ruin movies for you in a single conversation. Ask my husband--he's always loved trash film, but now it's no good for him--I taught him the tricks :)

I'm always YEARS behind everyone else in fiction. Aside from the talented writers on this blog, I've been struck by Chabon's voice in Kavalier and Clay, and while I didn't believe parts of the book, The Lovely Bones was a cool experiment.

Mystery/suspense, I'm so busy catching up with all you all and my MWA/SinC buds, I don't have time for the big guys :)

CJ Lyons said...

LOL, Mysti! I know, friends hate going to the movies with me--I'll start yapping about oh, what a great break into act two, or cool pinch point....not to mention things like knowing the end of a movie from it's opening.

Pretty much lost a boyfriend over that when we saw that Jamie Foxx/Tom Cruise assassin movie (can't remember the name) and before the opening credits finish rolling I told him: oh look, Jamie's gonna have to kill Tom on a subway train....yeah, did not go over well, lol!!!

Rebecca Cantrell said...

Great post, CJ! I couldn't get into either CHILD 44 or the dragon tattoo book. Dragon started super slow and I gave up 100 pages in. People say if I just tough it out another 50 pages it's golden. But there are so many books that I LIKE to read that I just can't do it. CHILD 44 was too damn grim for me. Fine writing, but I just couldn't watch any more children being eaten by cannibals (chapter 1 and probably 2 so I'm not giving anything away). I'm just a wimp sometimes, I guess.

Am reading a steampunk book called BONESHAKER that my editor gave me. The main character is fascinating and the writing itself is just wonderful. We'll see how it goes, but so far I'm hooked. I don't usually go for alterate history books, but so far I just checked my belief at the door. Might be the zeppelin on the cover. :)

Reading THE NEVERENDING STORY aloud for bedtime. Liked it better in the original German, but it's still great.

PK the Bookeemonster said...

Do you sometimes read historical crime fiction? I enjoyed SJ Parris's HERESY recently. Set during Elizabethan England.

CJ Lyons said...

Cool, thanks, PK! I read just about anything, and do enjoy a good historical.

Appreciate the recc!

Gary Corby said...

I'm totally with you.

The other week I was reading to a daughter when my wife called me away. I called back, "I'll be with you as soon as I've finished this piece of transparent exposition."

Laura Benedict said...

Oh, honey. I'm so with you on this.

Terrific recent reads: Huston's Mystic Arts..., Nunn's A Beautiful Place to die, and Jo Nesbo's Nemesis. (All Edgar noms). Also, Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie--it's YA-ish and very well done. I think you'd love it! xo