James Hockenberry

Author James Hockenberry’s February 2017 Blog

My February 2017 blogcontains a bit of history, something about the books, a writing tip, and oddsand ends. I’d love you to send any thoughts, comments or suggestions to info@jameshockenberry.com . Manythanks.

1)     A little bit of World War I history:

One of the most importantplot twists in Over Here is whenMartin and Keller find Traub’s code book after Caarsens has killed him andfled. I invented a second code book that Caarsens destroyed. To my knowledge asecond book never existed, but I needed it for my story. The actual story as tohow the police found the code book deviates from my fiction, but it is fascinatingand humorous.

Here is what actuallyhappened. The police had been shadowing the German diplomat who was acting asthe financier for their spy network. They followed him onto a subway train whenhe accidentally left his briefcase (with the code book inside) behind. Thedetectives picked it up and realized its importance, but they needed to link itto the Germans. They complied admirably by placing a notice in thelost-and-found section of a paper describing the briefcase and asking for itsreturn – incontestable proof it belonged to them. The financier was surprisedwhen the police arrived with the book in-hand.

2)    What you did not know about the books:

Since college, I havewanted to write a book. As I was ending my career in Corporate America, I tookwriting classes, read books on the writing craft, and began writing shortstories. I had no time to do more. However, I believe that my experience withshort stories has affected my writing style. I think of my chapters as shortstories. They are just a few pages. In fact, I form my books chapter by chapter.The actual history provides the time-line; my job is to connect the dots withstrong characters and action.

I think in terms of a beginning,middle, and an end not only for the book but for each chapter as I would forany short story. I often start a chapter knowing the exact spot, and often thespecific line, that will end it. The beginning of the next chapter followseasily. This approach makes the action tight and the transitions smooth.

Several people havecomplemented me on my chapter ends. Here are some of my favorites from Over Here:

a.     “Yes.Anthrax.” Prologue

b.     “He woke upthat night with the unnerving idea that Beck might already know.” Chapter 27

c.      “Have you everheard of the New Haven Projectile Company?” Chapter 56

d.     “Only onething.” Mena Reiss hesitated. “They could win.” Chapter 69

e.      “… he heardthe unmistakable click of a revolver’s hammer. Caarsens pointed his Colt at thesound.” Chapter 72

3)    Writing tip:

Thereis a current and popular trend in written and spoken English that horrifies me– the substitution of gerunds (verbs acting as nouns) for verbs. This forcesthe writer / speaker to add a form of the verb “to be” and “of.” Here are twoexamples:

a.     “He waiteduntil he wasdesirous of …”  Why not:  “He waited until he desired …”  Stronger, more succinct, clearer.

b.     “John issupportive of …”   Why not:  John supports …”    The improvement is obvious.

I admit that sometimes Islip into this usage, but in my editing I look for and eliminate this badEnglish. I encourage you to do the same.

4)    Odds and Ends:

a.     I’ve made someimprovements to my website to facilitate book purchases, to add my appearances ona timelier basis, and some other technical things.

b.     What am Ireading?

                                                             i.     Hundred Days – The Campaign that Ended World War I, by Nick Lloyd. This book provides furtherresearch for the 3rd  book, setin 1918, in my “WWI Intrigue Series.”

                                                           ii.     Ike’s Gamble: America’s Rise toDominance in the Middle East, by Michael Doran. WW I is not my only historical interest. I am fascinated by howand why the world became what it is today. This book focuses on the crucial periodin the mid-1950s with the rise of Nasser and America’s replacement of Britain and France as the most important Western power in the Middle East.

                                                         iii.     My good friendChristina Paul’s book, A Second Chance,the first book in her Bradford Series. ASecond Chance  is an Indie Book Awardwinner. I have also read the sequel, TakingChances. Set during the Napoleonic era, these wonderful historical romancenovels are fast paced, full of well-formed and fun characters, and surprisingplot twists. Action and intrigue abound. Christine has many great books, all worth a read.

c.      An update on So Beware, the next book in the series.I have filed for a copyright on the manuscript. I am still waiting on feedbackfrom some of my beta readers.

 

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