L. T. RYAN: EVEN BEST SELLERS AREN’T PERFECT

L. T. Ryan burst onto the publishing scene in 2012 with the first two books in the best selling Jack Noble series (now numbering 16). With his skills in marketing and technology, he was able to self-publish successfully through Amazon books. Ryan’s writing skills landed him spots on the best-seller lists for Amazon and USA Today.

The following year was even more productive. Ryan published nine more books in 2013, including five volumes in the Jack Noble series. Because he was able to control every step of the publication process, Ryan was able to ensure that all of his works are made available simultaneously in audiobook, eBook, and Kindle format as well as in print.

The Depth of Darkness, also published in 2013, is the first installment in the Mitch Tanner series. The other books in this series (so far!) are Into the Darkness and Deliver Us from Darkness.

The Depth of Darkness is my focus here because it is a great example of good and (in my opinion) bad writing—and thus could serve as a writing lesson to us all!

RELAX: No spoiler alerts needed here. Indeed, I hope you will read L.T. Ryan’s works and let me know what you think.

“L.T.” Ryan has lived in various points in the Appalachians, including Georgia and Virginia, with his wife, three daughters, and one slightly psychologically unbalanced, but lovable dog. He enjoys writing fast paced suspense thrillers. When not staring out the window while pretending to write, he enjoys reading, hiking, mountain biking, fishing, and spending time with the ladies in his life.

The Good

There’s a lot of it.

  • His plot here is complicated, with lots of threads that weave together in a believable pattern at the end. It revolves around two elementary school children kidnapped from the playground during recess.
  • His characters are interesting, well-drawn, and consistent, including the relatively minor ones (for example, Mitch Tanner’s mother). 
  • The two children, a really smart white girl and a black boy who suffers from asthma are best friends, perhaps initially based on both being outcasts. This cross-racial friendship is taken for granted/not a focal point for anyone, which I like. In addition, they are caring and protective of each other.
  • He avoids the stereotypes of the clingy, dependent female.
  • By and large, Ryan has created realistic children (even though occasionally the kidnapped girl seems resourceful beyond eight years old).
  • The interpersonal relationships appeal to me.
  • I like the balance between Tanner (who tends to be hot-headed and impulsive) and his partner, Sam (who supports Tanner while also providing a voice of reason/practicality.
  • Tanner and his pre-school daughter have a close, loving relationship—which is fresher than such a relationship between a father and a young son.
  • The sex scenes are handled well. I like that the sex is left to the reader’s imagination rather than being explicit to the point of causing one to wonder, “Could two people really do that?”

The Bad 

Although the issues described below distracted me from the reading experience, I greatly enjoyed the book. In fact, I liked The Depth of Darkness so much that I read the entire Mitch Tanner series!

Verbal Distractions

The specific one I noticed most was using “at” unnecessarily, as in, “Where are you at?” If it were only one character, it could be a character note. When multiple characters say it, it’s an author note.

The other thing that made me grimace was telling things implicit in the action. For example, when Tanner took his sunglasses off his head and dropped them in front of his eyes “to keep the sun out of his eyes.”  Sunglasses blocking bright sunlight is assumed. A reason to don sunglasses only needs to be mentioned when it’s something else, like hiding the emotion that might be revealed.

Other examples would be unlocking the door and then opening it, or describing how he kicked the door open, then reversed the action to kick it shut again.

Repetitious Actions

Mitch Tanner sweats—copiously and often. The reader gets many descriptions of how and with what he wipes the sweat from his brow. Also described often is the following relief of a blast of AC or cool air from the open refrigerator.

Tanner drinks beer and eats pizza so often one would think they are two of the basic food groups. So, okay. But everyone else seems to pick-up, order, make, or have pizza on hand, too. Why not cold chicken or leftover tuna salad sometimes?

Work calls in the night all seem to come at 2:00 or 2:30 in the morning.

Overall 

I recommend L. T. Ryan, because of the “good” stuff mentioned above. Also, I’m a series junkie, and he has a lot of those out there. AND, I didn’t notice the “bad” stuff cited above in all his books (for example, the Rachel Hatch series). 

In 2013, Ryan was a (relatively) inexperienced writer, and one would expect improvement with experience.

Bottom line: Your writing doesn’t have to be perfect to be worth reading, so keep at it.

L.T. Ryan’s Works

Jack Noble: Because Bear Logan and Jack Noble’s stories overlap so much, L.T. Ryan has suggested the following reading order to encompass both series.

  • The Prequels
    • The Recruit
    • The First Deception
  • The Early Years
  • The Noble Sagas
    • Noble Intentions (Jack Noble 4)
    • When Dead in Greece (Jack Noble 5)
    • Noble Retribution (Jack Noble 6)
    • Noble Betrayal (Jack Noble 7)
    • Never Go Home (Jack Noble 8)
    • Beyond Betrayal (Jack Clarissa)
    • Noble Judgment (Jack Noble 9)
    • Never Cry Mercy (Jack Noble 10)
    • Deadline (Jack Noble 11)
    • Noble Ultimatum (Jack Noble 13)
    • Noble Legend (Jack Noble 14) – Pre-order

Rachel Hatch

  • Drift
  • Downburst
  • Fever Burn
  • Smoke Signal
  • Firewalk
  • Whitewater
  • Aftershock
  • Whirlwind

Blake Brier

  • Unmasked
  • Unleashed
  • Uncharted
  • Drawpoint
  • Contrail

Mitch Tanner

  • The Depth of Darkness
  • Into the Darkness
  • Deliver Us from Darkness

Cassie Quinn

  • Path of Bones
  • Whisper of Bones
  • Symphony of Bones
  • Etched in Shadow
  • Concealed in Shadow

Affliction Z

  • Patient Zero
  • Abandoned Hope
  • Descended in Blood
  • Fractured
    • Part 1
    • Part 2
  • Coming Soon: The Sickness of Ron Winters

1:57 AM

And it hit me: I hadn’t written a blog! Where did the days go since Friday Tuesday?

Fauna

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I had a chance to enjoy the acrobatics of Stanley and Ollie at the bird feeder.  They’re better than a professional circus troupe, but without the spandex and sequins! (For more about their antics, check out an earlier blog I wrote about the behaviors and habits of squirrels in my yard and elsewhere.)

Flora

Visiting yard plants is always interesting this time of year (sometimes a bit confusing). I found that a purple baptisia anemone planted by the front back door has migrated to a side garden near the back—clearly the work of fairies.

I have a single rose bud opening (although my neighbors’ roses are hanging heavy) Christmas rose hellebore loaded with buds and a few blooms .

I have a single rose bud opening (although my neighbors’ roses are hanging heavy) Christmas rose hellebore loaded with buds and a few blooms .

The rhododendron has its first bloom, and azaleas are going wild. I think this weather is confusing them. Irises Daffodils are so heavy-headed that they are resting on nearby azaleas. My peonies camellia sasanqua aren’t as far along as they were three years ago, but they’re showing lots of buds for the future.

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The patio pots have flourishing mint, chives, oregano, thyme, sage, and—surprisingly—dill and parsley that wintered over.

My mums are going crazy! I love their colors, and I wish I could convince mine to be perennials.

Fiction

Then, too, there were writing tasks. I wrote the first draft of “Pandemic.” I’m involved in an online writing class, and this week was my turn to present.

Fraternizing

All of that doesn’t even touch on communications with family and friends. Like many in the US (and around the world), I’ve been a bit preoccupied with the election results this week.

I’ll try to get out of myself for Friday Tuesday!

Bottom line for writers: Life happens.

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Upside, Downside: The Writing Life

upside downside writing life
 
The upside to writing is almost limitless! Which is fortunate, because few of us gain significant income for our efforts. Here are some of the best things about the writing life for me.

 

1) It’s good for your brain. Writing requires rational thought, planning, focus, and practice, all of which is good exercise for maintaining one’s intellectual health.
2) It helps develop empathy. Getting inside heads other than one’s own, being able to take the other’s perspective, even express an opinion not one’s own are all conducive to a broader world view.

nimrod hall summer arts program 2016
L-R, kneeling: Foust, Kristy Bell, Nancy Hurrelbrinck, Jennifer Dickinson, Judy Bice, Ruth Gallogly; L-R standing, Terry Dolson, Jane Shepherd, Kit Wellfod, Charlotte Morgan, Cathy Hankla, me, Sheri Reynolds, Molly Todd, David Cooper, Betsy Arnett, Amelia Williams, Frances Burch.

3) Writers are interesting people. I’ve never met a boring writer—although I can’t say the same for all their spouses! But writers all seem to have rich, complex lives and thoughtful views on everything from history to art.
4) Writing is good for your physical and mental health. Yes, there is actually evidence of this! You can look it up online. Writers get sick less often, heal faster, and are less likely to be depressed.
5) Writing gives you something to think and talk about besides your poor health, job complaints, etc.
6) It makes you a more discerning reader. You notice bad, poor, sloppy writing. You may even drop some formerly favorite authors—which I guess could be a downside, if you look at it that way. But you will appreciate good writing more than ever.
[Source: Amazon]
[Source: Amazon]
7) When you finish a piece of writing, and especially when something is published, you have a rewarding sense of achievement.
The downsides are fewer, but powerful.
 
1) It’s difficult and time consuming. Enough said.
upside downside writing life
2) When it becomes a habit, you feel guilty when you don’t do it.
3) Writing to deadlines can raise your blood pressure and exacerbate your ulcers. (However, you’re less likely to have these issues if you write. See above.)
BOTTOM LINE:
upside downside writing life its-a-wonderful-life
[Source: Stafflink]

A Satisfying Writing Life

I recently read that two things will make or break a writing career. The first was passion that (among other things) wakes you in the night to jot down ideas, steals time to write, learns the craft, bounces back from rejection and criticism, and spurs investment (money implied).

 

The second was a strong submission strategy. By this, they meant, “…a streamlined, organized, efficient, highly functional, easy-to-execute…” strategy. Submitting should feel joyful rather than burdensome, and put the right work in front of the right eyes.

 

All of the above strike me as good, desirable things. And probably they are necessary for a brilliant writing career. But not all writers expect—or actually aspire to—a writing career in that sense. Surely everyone who published writing sometimes fantasizes about writing a best seller, but that is seldom a realistic goal. Perhaps writing is so inherently gratifying that it’s a necessary part of a satisfying life.

 

Satisfying Writing Life
Which brings me to important elements of a satisfying writing life. The first is enjoyment. Taking pleasure in crafting artful descriptions and effective dialogue is key. Then there is the gratification that comes from a job well-done. Every once in a while, I read something I wrote years ago and think, “Damn! That’s pretty good.” Then I smile, and return to writing with renewed energy.

 

The second in my list is writing that suits your purpose. Of course, that means you must figure out why you write. I started writing as therapy for my post-profession depression. As a former academic, I found that cooking and gardening just didn’t engage me intellectually. I did—and still do—enjoy both activities. But I need to keep my brain engaged. So, I enrolled in adult education writing classes and began learning the craft. (I’d never had a composition class, having tested out of freshman comp in college.) Today, one of the greatest joys of my writing life is doing the research to get the story line right, whether that involves the effects of ketamine on humans or the price of gasoline during the Great Depression.
Satisfying Writing Life
Writing as a source of self-esteem doesn’t require being a Steven King or a J.K. Rowling. Praise from fellow writers in classes and critique groups, and from readers, is great for my ego. And every time I have a short story or essay accepted for publication, even with no monetary reward, I feel like someone pasted a gold star of my forehead!

 

Perhaps one of the most common reasons to write, especially memoir, is to leave a legacy for family. This can be a way of letting them know who you are and how you came to be you, and/or leaving a record of their roots and the relatives who have gone before.

 

Many writers have more than one reason to write. In my opinion, why people write is less important than that it contributes to a gratifying life. Be clear in your own mind and heart about why you write, and then choose the path and activities that will achieve your goal.
Satisfying Writing Life

Day 12 at Nimrod Hall Writers’ Workshop

NIMROD HALL TRAVEL LOG

Day 12

country path on misty morning at Nimrod Hall, Virginia
A path not walked

The last day at Nimrod is always bittersweet. All the paths not walked. All I won’t see come to fruition–like this rose in the Square House flower box.

blooming rose
Rose coming on

And the naked ladies are just coming on. There will be a huge display, but searching now reveals only spears of varying heights, rather like an asparagus bed in spring. I guess the summer heat here is recent.

Away from here I won’t walk before breakfast. When will I again notice a toad or see a katydid?

But what I’ll miss most is the focus on writing with other writers, discussing ideas, process, and progress–not to mention book recommendations! Of course there is always some of that in my life, but it’s scattered and intermittent.

Nimrod is addictive. One of the writers from last week, Molly Todd, drove over from Richmond for a few more days–and brought her husband!

Author Molly Todd and her husband
Molly Todd and her husband

Except for being the last, it was like every other day. We talked writing before dinner, and after everyone read for five minutes. I read three pages from my new novel, developed this week.

Cathy Hankla, this week’s writer in residence is wonderful. She’s been working her magic here for more than twenty years. Cathy has published eleven books–short stories, novels, and poetry–so far. She’s won numerous prizes and is the Susan Gager Jackson professor of creative writing at Hollins University.

Author Cathy Hankla holding her book at Nimrod Hall Writers' Workshop
Cathy Hankla

Charlotte Morgan, a novelist, is the writer in residence for Week 3, but she’s also the coordinator of the Nimrod writing programs. Anyone who comes during the first two weeks gets a two-fer, for Charlotte gives generously of her insights and support. Her laugh is famous!

Author Charlotte Morgan at Nimrod Hall Writers' Workshop
Charlotte Morgan

And so I’m wrapping up, having just headed back to Square House in the dark that is so much darker here than in the city.

Square House at night, Nimrod Hall Writers' Workshop
Square House at night

Nimrod Hall, established in 1783, has been providing summer respite from everyday stress since 1906. It has been operating as an artist and writer colony for over 25 years. The Nimrod Hall Summer Arts Program is a non-competitive, inspirational environment for artists to create without the distractions of everyday life. The 2015 Writers’ Workshop writers-in-residence are Sheri Reynolds, Cathryn Hankla, and Charlotte G. Morgan

NIMROD HALL TRAVEL LOG POSTS

Off to Nimrod Hall 

Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

Day 4

Day 5

Day 6

Day 7

Day 8

Day 9

Day 10

Day 11