the truth is, if I don't have time to read,
then I'm not a serious writer.
Books are my university, my mentors, my safety net, my go-to for writing advice. So I thought I'd share a few of the things I've read recently, and little snippets that taught me something:
From Ramsey Campbell's THE INFLUENCE:
"Hermione almost dropped the flashlight. The lit wall nodded toward them..."
What it taught me: Tis a small thing, but my first instinct when writing about a flashlight would be to view it from the vantage point of the beam of light. I like how he turned it around, and had the wall nodding instead. Nice.
A reviewer wrote, "When other horror writers were cranking up tension [with] physical horror, Campbell managed by sheer writing skill. This is very much akin to what one might expect had Camus or Sartre ever written a supernatural thriller." Damn.
"Kansas had the purity of a sixth-grade math problem, an exercise in scale and stark geometry."
What it taught me: To look at description seriously freshly, to really see a scene and come at it from an unexpected angle. Who woulda come up with something mathematical to describe a landscape??
A reviewer wrote, "Daryl Gregory can write like a son-of-a-bitch." I'll say.
The Night They Missed the Horror Show" (full story at that link, tho it's not for the faint of heart) from his collection of stories, BY BIZARRE HANDS (I'll pull out a couple of snippets):
"They tied Leonard's hands behind his back. Leonard began to cry. ... The chain took up slack and Leonard felt it jerk and pop his neck. He began to slide along the ground like a snake. ... When he hit the bridge, splinters tugged at his clothes so hard they ripped his pants and underwear down almost to his knees. ... Leonard picked up speed and the chain rattled over the edge of the bridge, into the water .... The last sight of Leonard was the soles of his bare feet, white as the bellies of fish."
What it taught me: To be unflinching. I actually had to put the book away and go watch, like, Dr. Phil or something to clear the horror from my head and stop my hands from trembling. It still chills me. And I'm nowhere near unflinching enough in my own work - YET - but I know that's where I need to be.
A reviewer wrote of the short story, "[Lansdale] digs in with a keenly honed medical saw. The reader laughs and screams and falls dead silent. Maybe in the same paragraph." Yeah. And shudders and feels ill. Great work.
NIGHTMARES & DREAMSCAPES:
"All those days, stretching away across the plains of June and July and over the unimaginable horizon of August."
"Grandpa knocked another roll of ash off his cigarette with the side of his thumb. The boy believed Grandpa was so lost in thought that the wind was smoking practically all of it for him."
What it taught me: That even tiny shards of realism can be poetic.
These are the tiny lessons I pick up from books. Seriously, if you're not reading a lot, you're missing out on the tiny gems, the turns of phrases, the character-revealing dialogue -- all the ways you can bend the language. No education like it.
Me? I just finished Mike Shevdon's SIXTY-ONE NAILS (nifty little Feyre novel, outta my genre but I read everything), and have to take a break from Hawking's THE GRAND DESIGN (that shit makes my head hurt), so I'm casting about for the next in my TBR pile...we'll see what it turns up. So what are you reading?