Thursday, April 8, 2010

Feel Like I’ve Been Here Before*

Please join me in welcoming special guest blogger Alan Orloff, whose mystery novel, Diamonds for the Dead, has just been released by Midnight Ink. Alan’s also working on a new mystery series featuring his sleuth, standup comedian Channing Hayes. The first of these novels, Killer Routine, will be released by Midnight Ink in Spring 2011. Alan’s crisp writing, including his fantastic blog, A Million Blogging Monkeys, shows a particularly deft use of down-to-earth humor and directness. His blog also has lots of very useful ideas and lessons for writers; I know I benefit from them. I, for one, can’t wait to read Diamonds for the Dead and Alan's Last Laff (Channing Hayes) series.

When it comes to remembering certain details, I'm not too good. Sometimes I have the same trouble remembering what happens in books I've read.

A true, illustrative, story:

About ten years ago, I bought a book with a great premise by an author I liked (a sci-fi thriller). I read it, despite some slow pacing, until some plot twist at around page 200 didn't agree with me. But rather than put it down, I slogged through because I wanted to see what happened. I finished the book, hated the ending, and got miffed with myself for wasting all that time. Okay, stuff happens. Move on.

I moved on about three years, until I went to my bookshelf, picked up a book with a great premise by an author I liked, and started reading it. (Groundhog Day, anyone?) At around page 200, I ran into a plot twist I didn't like. Now about this time, I got the vague sense that maybe I'd read the book before, but did I put it down? NO! I slogged through the rest of it because I wanted to see what happened. Would you believe I got miffed at myself for wasting my time?

I think this was the only book I've ever thrown into the trash can. (What's that saying, "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice and I'd better get rid of the book before I pick it up a THIRD time"?)

I'm so totally in awe every time I read one of Margot's posts with all these intricate details and facts about books she's devoured (I'm guessing many of those books she read a while ago). I mean, I think I've read some of Agatha Christie's stuff, but please, don't ask me any details. (I only hope she went on to become a successful author with a long career.)

Unfortunately, my memory doesn't just fail on books I've read. Often, I struggle with remembering the details about books I've written. Talk about embarrassing!

Take Diamonds for the Dead. It just came out, but because of the lead times (and waiting times) involved in the world of publishing, I wrote that a while ago, and I've written hundreds of thousands of words since. When I read the page proofs not too long ago, it was sort of like reading an entirely new book!

Sometimes, I'll go back through my files of half-finished projects to see if anything strikes my fancy, and I can't even remember writing them! It's kind of weird, because for many other things, I've got an excellent memory. Maybe my subconscious is trying to tell me something.

What about you? Do you have an encyclopedic memory of books you've read (like Margot), or are you more like me, who can't remember what was in the morning newspaper? (Hmm. Did I actually read this morning's paper? Can't remember.)

Thanks, Alan, for taking the time to visit Confessions of a Mystery Novelist on your World Blog Tour. I am honored and grateful. Folks, please do visit Alan’s terrific blog and his book site.

But please don’t believe a word he says about my memory. What was that he said? ; )

*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young's
Déjà Vu


  1. Alan - Thank you very much for making Confessions of a Mystery Novelist one of the stops on your World Blog Tour : ). I am honored.

  2. Margot, thanks for hosting this interesting post by Alan. It's always fun to find others have memories like mine. I can remember the general plot of most books I've read, while some of the minor details remain in my mind of only a few of the books. I have bought the several books twice, but it was only because I had only read the book cover and not the book (plus one of the book covers had been changed). Best of luck on your tour Alan and with both series.

  3. Nice to "meet" you Alan, having seen your name in Margot's comments a few times! I like your post - not only have I done what you have done but I have also actually bought the book in question twice, too! I wish the internet and online libraries had been around when I was younger.

    Your book sounds interesting, and I've put it in my Amazon (UK) shopping basket - I was pleased to see it listed there as so often I read about books on blogs and find they are only available in the USA or at great postage cost to order from a US site. If I can get a book via UK Amazon I can get it for free postage.

  4. Isn't Margot's memory amazing?!

    No, unfortunately, my memory is pitiful. I have to make bibles of my own books so I won't forget my recurring characters. Sigh.

    Mystery Writing is Murder

  5. I figure I could really exist on a library with 3 books. By the time I finish #3, I've forgotten #1. I can't tell you how many times I've read a 'familiar-feeling' book, then gone to put it on the bookshelf--next to itself.

  6. Alan -- I think we share some of the same brain. My favorite is when I'm doing an event and someone who is fresh off of reading my book asks me some specific question and it's like, "Uh... sorry, I wrote that five years ago."

    On the positive side, I can re-read books by some of my favorite authors and be thrilled again, just like it's the first time.

  7. So happy to discover I'm not the only one. Our library has benefitted more than once because I bought a duplicate of a book I already own, and had read!

  8. Margot - Thanks for the very kind words! I'm honored that you invited me to guest blog!

    Mason - Thanks! Maybe the Kindle (or iPad or Nook or whatever) should have some kind of lockout feature that prevents users from purchasing the same book twice. Hear that, Mr. Bezos, Mr. Jobs?

    Maxine - Hi! Nice to know I have at least one fan on the other side of the pond -- very cool! I think if they had the Internet around when I was younger, I wouldn't have gotten much accomplished.

    Elizabeth - Sometimes I write stuff down on lists so I won't forget, but then I forget where I put the lists.

    Terry - Your memory is better than mine. I would only need two books.

    Brad - I know what you mean. I've got most of the Spenser books, so I'll never run out of "new" Parker books. And, by the way, I'd like the rest of my brain back, when you get a chance. I could use it!

    Rural - I think you have plenty of company. To avoid this problem, I once tried compiling a list of all the books I read. It wasn't one of my better ideas.

  9. Wow – so it’s not just me:) I'm terrible at remembering books or films. I’m not allowed to pick out DVDs by myself because I always pick out movies we’ve already seen! I also keep a running list of books I've read to avoid rereading.

  10. I don't remember titles - but I do remember plots. Therefore, I know if I've already read the book by the end of the first page - it all sounds just a touch familiar. As for my own writing - with my games and scripts I have some I wrote 5 or 4 years ago. I can remember who the guilty party is - but all the other characters and subplots have disappeared into the fog. If I get a customer asking a question, I have to review the game - because off the top of my head, I simply don't remember.

    Margot's knowledge of crime fiction puts me on my knees in wonder. The woman is a walking encyclopedia.

  11. I, too, am impressed with Margot's incredible memory for details. I fall more on Alan's side of the fence. In fact, I'm happy to realize that I'm not the only one with poor memory when it comes to books I've read from some of the comments here. Like Mason, I've been known to buy books twice (which is why I really hate it when publishers change covers, I'm much better at remembering covers than content, apparently!). Maybe it's selective memory - the books I do tend to remember well are books that have left a major impression in some way. I have a more difficult time remembering books I read for the pure entertainment pleasure.

  12. Thanks so much, Alan and Margot!
    I am a particular fan of humorous detective mysteries. I can't wait to read "Diamonds For The Dead"; and as well, look forward expectantly to your Channing Hayes series. It takes a certain skill-set to write a good detective mystery and a certain skill-set to write humorously. I think it's the rare writer who can successfully combine the two--Janet Evanovich (Stephanie Plum), Lawrence Block (Bernie Rhodenbarr), M.C. Beaton (Agatha Raisin)--and I'm ecstatic when I discover such a writer.

    And thanks so much to all you readers who have helped me realize that I'm not alone with memory issues! Just yesterday, I was pondering an Overdue Book fine that my library levied. I finally realized that it was for a book I checked out but had already read. I had returned the book on the same day I checked it out. Essentially, I returned it before the library knew I checked it out!

  13. Jane - I sometimes have that problem with movies too. On a related note, I prefer re-reading good books over re-watching good movies. Usually. (I think some people don't mind watching movies repeatedly, but I can't do that.)

    Elspeth - At least you know who the bad guy is--that's the important part. I'm not good with titles either, especially on those series where the titles are all similar (like Sandford's Prey series--cute, but confusing!).

    Ingrid - I think you're right. The "deeper" books usually make a bigger impression (if I can finish them, that is. My record on the classics is abysmal).

    Bob - Thanks for your comment! I hope you're not disappointed, but there's more "mystery/suspense" in the Channing Hayes series than comedy (although there are chuckles--after all, they're in a comedy club). Don't feel bad about the memory lapses--sometimes I forget I've even checked a book out at the library!

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  15. See, Margot? I knew if you gave me enough rope, I'd mess up your blog somehow. I made my comments, then posted them. Nothing happened. I waited a few minutes, then tried to recreate the genius and reposted. Of course, both comments got posted and when I tried to delete one of them, Mr. Blogger wouldn't let me back in. Curse you, Mr. Blogger!!!

  16. I totally understand the forgetting part. I can read a book I liked and read it again because I forgot what happened.

    That's why I write everything down.


  17. Thanks, Everyone, for your comments and input : ). I have enjoyed reading what you have to say. Alan, my thanks again for including Confessions.... in your Blog Tour : ).

    However, to set the record straight, I spend a lot of time looking stuff up in books; encyclopaedic memory? Don't think so... ; )

  18. Thank you, Margot! You've got a great bunch of (memory-challenged like me) blog readers :)

  19. Alan, I do the exact same thing! (except I make a big mental note of which books never to read again) and I enjoy going back to a favorite I read five or ten years ago and getting to experience it like new! A bad memory can be good sometimes.

  20. Alan, I've had exactly the same experience -- I pulled out some old journal pages to use in my "J is for Journaling" post tomorrow (Monday) and found entries I had no memory of writing. It almost felt creepy (even though the entries in question were written in 1976 and 1977).