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Hello, my name is Valorie. I have a Master's Degree in History and a license to teach-- I have been both university professor and public school teacher. Currently, I am a middle school social studies teacher. I love horror movies and spooky things. Every day is Halloween. I am also a passionate book blogger.

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Saturday, July 11, 2009

Book Review & Author Interview: Jack Wakes Up by Seth Harwood

Title: Jack Wakes Up 
Author: Seth Harwood 
Genre: Fiction - Action 
Finished: July 11, 2009

Jack Palms is down on his luck-- after some bad tabloid press, his acting career bottomed out after only one action film. During his time of fame, he developed a heroin addiction and an abusive relationship. These are the two major reasons that his one film remains just one film. Now he is trying to pick up the pieces of his life and pay his piling bills. When his friend Ralph offers him a couple thousand to help him show a few Czech visitors a good time and help them with their Colombian cocaine deal, Jack does not turn him down. Unfortunately, Ralph ends up dead and Jack wants to know who did it and why. The Czechs know nothing, but someone does and Jack doesn'˜t want to be the next one on that hit list. Pretty soon Jack is dealing with a couple of crazy ex-KGB Czech's, a Colombian drug dealer's crew, a blood thirsty club owner named Tony, and a cop who wants information about the drug dealers in the area or else Jack is going to take a fall for the carnage that is following him everywhere he goes. Not to mention that Jack has also met a woman, a desperately sexy woman named Maxine who nurses the wounds he inevitably incurs during his harrowing adventures through the dangerous San Francisco underworld. One would think that this would be enough to send anyone in to the nuthouse. But not Jack. No. This is the first time he has felt alive in a long, long time. After such a long period of inaction, it feels good to Jack to be in the midst of things again. Like a movie... but real. So real that you end up with broken ribs, knife wounds, machine guns going off around you, and people really out to kill you. 

This book is crazy like an action movie. I can actually imagine the guy from The Transporter running around in this book ducking sprays of bullets (though yes he is a bit too skinny to be Jack, but still, you get what I am saying). Standing up to big time drug lords and doing major drug deals seems to come naturally to Jack, which is a bit strange because if you put most normal people in a situation like that, they would run around like their heads are cut off or cower somewhere. I guess being an action hero comes naturally to some people, because it comes naturally to Jack. Even if it means getting arrested, killed, or maimed, Jack is determined to see things through to the end. It was all very exciting-- action packed, I think the correct phrase would be. The Czechs are great, too. Coked up, waving guns, speaking broken English, and listening to techno music is their profile. If not for the whole you might get shot and 'they bring danger and Russian terrorists' elements, they would be great to hang around with. They were really a lot of fun to read about. The best scenes are with one of the Czechs, Al, flipping out and wanting to kill someone. Though I will admit that I was surprised none of them turned on Jack. Not knowing how the story would turn out, I figured it was only a matter of time before the Czech's would make their escape and let Jack handle the mess, but they were with him to the end. This is a man's man kind of book-- the men are masculine and immune to the fears of life threatening danger and the women are unnaturally hot, things men admire and women usually scoff at. Of course women can be in to this kind of stuff, too, but the genre belongs to men. I did enjoy the book, though, girly-girl though I am. Harwood wrote a very riveting and intense book with Jack Wakes Up, so you get caught up in it and can't put it down. I mean, you have to know who the one at the head of the plot is. You have to know if Jack will get the girl in the end. You have to know if Jack is going to end up getting himself blown away. No, no, I won't spoil it by answering all of those questions. You will just have to read the book for yourself.

Interview with Seth Harwood

Q: What do you do to prepare to write?
A: I wake up every morning and try to write first thing. The less tasks/things I add to the mix before I start writing, the harder it is to get down to work. When I'm in a drafting mode, I'll make sure to shut down my email and web browsers at night so that I can go straight to the word processor (Scrivener) first thing.
Writing takes a lot of practice and it's like exercise: if you can do it every day, you stay "in shape" and can keep doing it. When I stop writing for a while, it'll take me a few days to get back into the swing.

Q: What is the process that gets you ready to sit down a lay out a story?
A: I write by feeling my way through the story and its events. When I start out, I often don't know where the story is going "this is how I've worked for my crime novels. I try to write one good, true sentence at a time and then follow that one with what's next,"and on and on.
Writing a novel can be like paddling a boat across an ocean. When you're out there on the water, you might not know which way it is to the opposite shore; you can't do anything but paddle. But if you keep paddling, good things will eventually happen. And then in revision, you can straighten out the bumps.
I also make sure to end off each day at a place where I know for sure what happens next. That makes the next day's work easier to start.

Q: How much of yourself do you put in your characters? Are they extensions of you, or are they independent creations that take on a life of their own after coming from your imagination?
A: They're definitely creations that take on a life of their own. Some of them might come from amalgamations of people I know or characters I've read or seen in movies, but then when I start writing, I get to know them more and more and they become individuals. I really like that part of it: getting to know my characters and finding out what they'll do in certain situations.
In my short stories, I knew all the characters ahead of time and there was a lot of me in them. Now that I'm writing crime fiction, I get to make it all up.

Q: What is the most valuable piece of knowledge that you've picked up after becoming a published author that you wish you knew from the start?
A: Ow. That's a tough one. I guess I'd say that I wish I'd known from the start how to start building my own audience. I mean, I knew the web was there, but I always thought if I waited long enough and kept doing the traditional things, I'd get lucky. Now I know that even if that came true, I'd still need to build an audience to get my book to sell. That's just become a key part of it in today's world.
And then I guess I wish I'd have known about podcasting. To me, connecting blogging/RSS and audiobooks has been the most important part of getting my work known and, ultimately, published.

Q: What is one thing you've never done but would love to do?
A: Fly a plane. Jump out of a plane.

Q: Finally, could you share with all of us a quote that you love?
A: "She opened a mouth like a firebucket and laughed. That terminated my interest in her. I couldn't hear the laugh but the hole in her face when she unzippered her teeth was all I needed." - Raymond Chandler, The Long Goodbye

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