Why would a mother and father bring their small child to a cemetery every Christmas? Why would that child actually be excited to do so? Here’s a hint: there’s a grandmother involved! Some holiday traditions are stranger than others, but rest assured, “Christmas At the Cemetery” will warm the heart. Read my $00.99 short on your Kindle or Kindle app by clicking here!
As a huge fan of Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident Of the Dog In the Night-Time, I was delighted to receive an advance copy of his latest work The Red House (though it is in stores by now). I was cautious, though, because while I loved his first book, I did not enjoy A Spot Of Bother, his second novel, nearly as much.
The Red House falls somewhere in between.
I have to admit, in the beginning, the book absolutely captivated me. The Red House is the story of a middle-aged brother and sister meeting in the country at a charming little cottage. The sister, Angela, has brought along her husband, teenage son and daughter, and a pre-teen boy. The brother, Richard, is accompanied by his beautiful wife he has just married and her difficult teenage daughter.
I’ll get to the characters in a moment, but they are not what initially ensnared me. The book’s structure is what really got me excited. The book is broken into days instead of chapters, each representing a countdown to when the families’ holiday is over. Furthermore, each “day” is chopped up by a character’s particular perspective, and Haddon works tirelessly to make each character’s voice and point of view unique. Though I should probably be ashamed to admit it, I especially relished each vignette because, by and large, most of them were not more than a few paragraphs long. This meant that I could pick the book up at any given moment, read for a few moments, and then put it down and still feel as though the story was uninterrupted.
The style of the book made it a very quick read and, considering the numerous plots, assured it kept a nice pace.
While I enjoyed Haddon’s characters, truthfully, I didn’t feel most of them broke any new ground. Angela, the seemingly most mundane of them, ended up interesting me more because, in my opinion, her development proved the most radical. The rest of the characters, while appealing, really dealt with things we’ve read about before or perhaps even experienced. Maybe that was Haddon’s point, though? Even though I’d read their general plots before, that admittedly did not make me like them any less.
I will say that next to Angela, another character that was meant to be the second most mundane was thrust into a plotline that I felt was the most forced and even patronizing. I won’t go into detail for fear of spoiling things, but had this character progressed with either one or the other storyline, I would have been fine with it, but to juxtapose the two developments for this one character simply did not feel consistent with her previous characterization and, as I said, came off as something more political in nature than an organic evolution.
To conclude, The Red House did not recapture the lightning in a bottle that was The Curious Incident Of the Dog In the Night-Time, but it was a really interesting character study, particularly in regards to Angela, and executed an unusual technique that I felt only enhanced the overall story.
This is it! At last, Dr. Nekros has Xaphan in his sights and the ghost
hunter is ready to exact his revenge, and it’s all thanks to Zetta’s
husband! But when Zetta admits that she knows nothing about Jason’s
information, Dr. Nekros grows suspicious. Is this yet another trick by
Xaphan, and if so, are all of them – including Zetta’s husband and
sons – being led to slaughter? Find out in the second-to-last episode
of Volume I entitled “A Nightmare Realized.”
Just click the link to download Episode V to your Kindle for $00.99!
Writing is a funny thing.
Sometimes a story demands to be written, and when this happens, it is both exciting and terrifying.
A very long time ago, I wrote a book called Souls Triumphant. It spent some time in limbo before I finally published it, and when people read it, I invariable heard, “Will there be a sequel?” Stupidly, I would immediately answer, “No, this is a one and done deal.”
I say this was a stupid response for three reasons.
The first reason is that a writer should never do anything to quell a reader’s excitement. If people wanted a sequel to Souls Triumphant, I should have at least kept an open mind to it. Instead, I blatantly stated that there would be no sequel, and in doing so, I effectively lost a future reader for a potential book.
The second reason I say this was stupid is because who the heck was I to say I would never write a follow-up to Souls Triumphant? As I get older, I realize that there are different phases of “me.” The twenty-four year old me was one distinctive person. The thirty-four year old me is someone else altogether. Both “me,” and yet not.
The third reason is that stories are sometimes out of the writer’s control, and writers would do well to accept that inarguable fact. As clearly established, I never considered writing a sequel to Souls Triumphant. But then, about a year ago, an aspect of the story crept into my mind and provoked my imagination. Every once in a while that little detail would flash through my head, and I would always give it weight. And then tonight – tonight! – an entire story unfolded as I did the dishes.
I kid you not.
The plot, the characters, the theme – all of it. It just happened. I wasn’t trying to make it happen. I really hadn’t even been thinking about it too hard (on a conscious level). It just popped in there. And now that it’s fully there, it has to get out.
Will I actually write it? Yeah, I probably will. You see, I care about my characters from Souls Triumphant. I almost consider them family. And when it dawned on me that one of them in particular got treated in a way my thirty-four year old self just can’t handle … Well, I guess the story demanded something be done.
Is it a sequel? No, I don’ t think so. What I have in my mind is more of a follow-up. Ten years have passed since I wrote the story, and I want Joe and Alessandra to have aged ten years as well. I want the world to have moved on, too. Those ten years, in fact, are essential to the plot I have in mind. We’ve all matured in the last ten years, and this story will reflect those changes in tone, values, and senses of responsibility.
Times like tonight make a believer out of me. The imagination and the capacity for love are indeed our most beautiful gifts, and make no mistake about it – love is the driving force behind this story’s emergence.
Yesterday I took part in a panel discussion on publishing at Milner Library. The other authors were Patti Lacy and Adam Decker, and, judging from all the notes I saw the audience taking, the three of us offered some diverse and informative ideas and experiences about the world of print. I know I learned a few new things from my fellow authors as well!
I wanted to specifically thank Toni Tucker and her staff at Milner Library for inviting me to take part in such a fun discussion and for working so hard to promote a very well-organized event.
Here are some links to get to know Milner, Patti, and Adam: