Friday, October 30, 2009

A Real Life Scary Story

Japan is a country of islands, and it is impossible to overestimate the influence of the sea. When a typhoon strikes, the coastal areas shudder. Wherever possible, the fishing boats are hauled up onto high and dry land for the duration.

Last week, a boat with a crew of 8 tried to get back to port before the typhoon, but didn't make it. When it capsized, 5 crew members got themselves off the boat and into a lifeboat. Three were below deck, in the sleeping quarters, when the boat capsized. To make matters worse for them, the refrigerator broke loose and fell on top of the hatch covering the sleeping area.

They were well and truly trapped. They made a promise to each other to drink a toast together when they met again in the afterlife.

With wind and waves raging, the 5 who escaped didn't have a choice: the sea knifed the lifeboat away from the ship in an instant.

Who lived to tell the story? After four days, the missing fishing boat was found. Coast Guard divers knocked on the upturned hull, just in case, and guess what? Their knock was answered.

The three who were trapped were the only ones saved. The boat's name was "Lucky", and for them, it surely was. The toppled refrigerator kept the hatch closed with just enough air inside to keep the men alive until help arrived.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

A Dog's Life (2)

What do you think of stories about talking dogs? Yep, my thoughts exactly. With the possible exception of Walt Disney's Goofy, who is not only allowed to talk but also gets to wear white gloves while poor Pluto has to walk around on all fours barefoot and say nothing but "Arf!", dogs haven't got the proper vocal anatomy, so why should they suddenly have the power to talk in stories?


Dogs DO know how to communicate.

When they look at you in that certain way, and make their unique whimpers and groans and barks and grunts, you know they are doing their best to make contact with the human species. And you do your best to figure out what it is they would say, if only they could talk, which of course they can't.

Sometimes you get it right. Sometimes, you just don't know.

What makes J.F.'s dog detective stories fun is precisely that. Randolph does his best to communicate in his doggie way, and sometimes the human catches his drift and sometimes he's way out in left field.

When Randolph gets really desperate, he does what any good dog would do: he tries and tries again. And when he absolutely has to communicate a name or a date, well, he has his methods.

Books I've read on how to write a great book cover this topic. They say your story premise doesn't have to be a hundred percent believable. What they say is, it's your job as the writer to make people feel that just this once, the unbelievable is believable.

Having read two of J.F. Englert's Randolph books (A Dog at Sea will be number three), I can clap my hands in total honesty and say that I believe in Randolph.

Friday, October 16, 2009

A Dog's Life

The first dog that stole my heart was a black lab named Nick. Nick lived with my grandparents and was the next best thing to having a dog of my own. A writer friend in NYC also has a black lab as part of his family, and that dog (Randolph) has become the hero of his own mystery series.

Yes, series!

I was so thrilled to finish and publish one novel, and here before my very eyes is someone who not only completed and published his first novel, but wrote another one, and then another one--and his stories keep getting better.

The newest in the series is called A Dog at Sea, and it is written by J.F. Englert. It should be in the stores by Christmas.