American Ripper Heavy on Gore but Light on Proof

American Ripper Heavy on Gore but Light on Proof

The year 1888 was busy in the annals of crime. While Jack the Ripper preyed on prostitutes in London, H. H. Holmes oversaw the construction of a large hotel/office building designed with unique amenities. It included hidden rooms, doors literally going nowhere, an airtight vault, and a chute going all the way to a basement crematorium. By the time of his execution in 1896, H. H. Holmes, Chicago serial killer at the time of the 1893 World’s Fair, had reportedly murdered more than twenty people. The History Channel series American Ripper gives us the H. H. Holmes treatment but with a twist.  The premise is that H. H. Holmes was also Jack the Ripper. Jeff Mudgett, Holmes’s great-great grandson is determined to prove his ancestor was the notorious Jack and partners with Amaryllis Fox, a former CIA operative, to hunt down the proof. First-Rate Production First, the positive. This production is top notch when it comes…

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Kill Off Those Patronizing Redundancies

Kill Off Those Patronizing Redundancies

Hire a hit man. Yes, you heard me. Go find a scary guy with scissors who can slash those condescending redundancies out of your writing. Unless you do, readers will feel patronized, like you don’t trust them enough to use their God-given brains to figure things out on their own.  Keep in mind, however, that even big-name authors like Daniel Silva are guilty of using these. So if you struggle, you’re not alone. Maybe you’re one of the few who doesn’t make these mistakes, but given the hundreds of manuscripts I’ve edited over the last decade, trust me when I say I’ve seen a lot of the same flaws. And redundancy is so common. Let’s get right down to what I mean. These are some of the common ones I see every day. He squinted his eyes. He nodded his head. He waved his hand. He shrugged his shoulders. What’s wrong with these…

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What Henry James Taught Me about Writing Suspense

What Henry James Taught Me about Writing Suspense

If you’ve read any works by Henry James, American-born British author (1843-1916), great suspense probably isn’t the first thought that leaps to your mind. Consider the all-important first sentence of his famous novella The Turn of the Screw. The story had held us, round the fire, sufficiently breathless, but except the obvious remark that it was gruesome, as, on Christmas Eve in an old house, a strange tale should essentially be, I remember no comment uttered till somebody happened to say that it was the only case he had met in which such a visitation had fallen on a child. That’s sixty-two words in the first sentence alone. By today’s standards, such writing is “wordy” at best and “frankly hard to read” at worst. But writing styles come and go just like the bell-bottoms of the seventies, and during James’s day, this was cutting-edge stuff. Perhaps the economical writing so popular today…

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Clean Christian Fiction Makes Sense

Clean Christian Fiction Makes Sense

It used to be that Christian readers could pick up a book (fiction or nonfiction) from most recognized “Christian” publishers and never think twice about coming across questionable or outright offensive content or language. This, unfortunately, is no longer the case, folks. And that’s why I sometimes like to remind readers and publishers of where I stand on the issue. As the years pass, I’m afraid it will only become more necessary to do so. Lest anyone question the accuracy of my claim about slipping standards, let me offer two examples to illustrate my point. In a desire to be kind and fair, I won’t mention the authors, book titles, or publishers. The first example is very recent. A recognized author of Christian nonfiction had a 99-cent Kindle sale of one of his books from one of the leading Christian publishers. I had heard good things about this author’s writings and…

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