Scribbling Scrivener Reads: The Stravinsky Intrigue by Darin Kennedy

This month’s book review is the sequel to The Mussorgsky Riddle by Darin Kennedy. The Stravinsky Intrigue follows psychic Mira Tejedor as she is called upon to solve why little girls are suddenly leaving home only to be found unresponsive and in some kind of undefinable coma state. Also like The Mussorgsky Riddle, the answer seems to lie in the labyrinth mind of Anthony Faircloth. This time instead of being obsessed with Mussorgsky, he’s obsessed with Igor Stravinsky, specifically his “Firebird” ballet.

The book opens with Mira days away from making a permanent move to Charlotte to be closer to her boyfriend, psychologist Dr. Thomas Archer. In a few days her daughter will be joining her, but when the first little girl disappears and is found a day later in the middle of a park, not suffering from physical trauma but some kind of psychological trauma, her attention is diverted. Quickly she notices the similarity between the girl’s state and what happened to Anthony Faircloth the previous year. At first Mira wonders if Anthony somehow has something to do with it. The situation further escalates as more little girls follow the same pattern and a new possible suspect comes into play. With Mira’s contact with them and Anthony, she is soon sucked into an equally bizarre world as the one she was trapped in The Mussorgsky Riddle.

What I liked about this book is though it is a sequel, it’s one that lives up to the expectations set forth in the first book. Without the need to explain Mira’s abilities, the book is able to focus more on some of the supporting characters and tests the relationships between Mira and Dr. Archer and Anthony’s mother who is extremely reluctant to allow a much recovered Anthony from being dragged into the psychic link he and Mira have in order to help solve the case. All the characters returning from the first book are still interesting and develop further.

The twist in the book is well-done and Kennedy does a great job of getting the reader to question who is really behind the sinister plot. As you read you think it’s one person then another then you’re not sure at all until the twist occurs. It comes at a plausible point in the story without totally catching the reader off guard.

The pacing of The Stravinsky Intrigue is quite good though I think it was rushed a tad as more little girls turn up in the strange comatose state, but I don’t think the reader needs twelve different scenes. It would drag the story down.

Along with the pacing of the book, I think the ending was strong. Like the first book, it ties up the story and is not a cliffhanger as so often happens in a series. Though this is a sequel, it can be read without having read the first book. A reader doing that will not be lost, in my opinion. I actually like that as too often as a reader I’ve been frustrated to pick up an interesting looking book only to discover it’s not the first book in a series.

Overall, on a scale of 1 to 5 pencils, I give The Stravinsky Intrigue 4.5 pencils. A worthy and interesting sequel and I can’t wait for the next book.

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Weekly Musing: Feeling Peevish

Through the years I’ve touched upon pet peeves of mine mostly from my POV as a reader. One area I haven’t touched upon are my pet peeves I see as a writer. Sure I’ve given my opinion on annoying writing advice. Admittedly devising a list of writer pet peeves was a little more difficult. Beyond railing against publications and outfits not paying writers for content and charging reading fees, questioning why readers believe everything in a fiction story must be 100% accurate, and any other topic I’ve groused about in detail, what are the things which bug me as a writer?

Abusing Apostrophes: This is my biggest pet peeves. One of the biggest offenders are people adding ‘s to things which are not possessive but are plurals. For example, saying “The patient had multiple EKG’s during her hospital stay” is incorrect. In this context EKG should not be possessive. What does it possess? Nothing. Clearly the sentence states the patient had more than one EKG so it should be written as EKGs.

Another example is when words are abbreviated and pluralized. For example, PJ is short for pajama. When talking about say wearing PJs to IHOP it shouldn’t be spelled PJ’s. Again, what does it possess? When using ‘s really examine the sentence to see what, if anything, is possessive. If you mean to express more than one of something drop the ‘s and just use s.

One more common misuse of the apostrophe when noting decades or a specific year. For example, it is not the 1990’s. It’s 1990s. Does that look a bit awkward? Yes, but English is full of idiosyncrasies.

Another incorrect usage of an apostrophe is when a decade gets truncated. It is not the 50’s; it’s ’50s. Now, like so many rules there are exceptions. Examine if the decade or year in question truly possesses something. Take this sentence: “2016’s American presidential election was a wild ride” correctly uses ‘s when referring to a year. In this case the year is possessive.

Incorrect Usage of They’re/There/Their, You’re/Your, Were/We’re/Where, Two/To/Too, and Then/Than, etc.: We’ve all seen memes making fun of people incorrectly using these words. Some point out in posts and emails the errors. For me personally, when I see Facebook posts, emails, and other forms of communication where these words have been misused, my left eye twitches and it takes a team of oxen to hold me back from typing a correction. Blame how the English language developed.

Here are a few charts to know when to use each:

Though we all struggle with many of these you can see it’s easiest enough to look up a handy graph. There are other commonly misused words I could have added to this list, but I think the point is made. It’s super easy to search for when and how to use these words.

Extra Spaces After Sentences: This one is tricky because it depends on your generation and where you went to school.  However, the accepted industry standard is one space. I repeat ONE space after the period.  Not two. Two spaces used to be acceptable, but times change.  Language and grammar rules evolve and change.  A writer of any kind must be willing to progress unless they really enjoy having their metaphorical hand slapped.  To me it looks as if a writer is trying to pad their piece with the extra space.  It also is unnecessary work.  To me the extra space is noticeable.  See how odd it looks in relation to the rest of this post?

Could Care Less: Oh, dear. Anyone who says this sounds as if they don’t understand what they are saying. When one states they could care less when the intent clearly is you have decided you don’t care anymore. In other words, you should be saying “I couldn’t care less.”

Irregardless: Please someone tell me this still does not happen. I rarely see it pop up so I feel reassured most people have gotten the memo irregardless is not a word. Even Microsoft Word knows it’s not a word as it red squiggle lined it for me twice. The proper word is regardless.

I think the biggest culprit of why people believe this to be a word is how English language continues to change. Think about it how many words start with the ir prefix signaling its meaning is opposite: Irrespective, irreplaceable, irrational, irrecoverable is word. You get the idea. By this logic why can’t the opposite of regardless be irregardless? Because it’s English?

Hyphens: I tend to be a fan of hyphens though they are a confusing mess. Hyphens are fun though I can’t really explain why. I just really like them. Since hyphens are confusing here is a helpful guide as to when and when not use hyphens: *INSERT LINK* http://www.grammarbook.com/punctuation/hyphens.asp

My legal last name is hyphenated so it greatly irks me when I’m not allowed to use it when filling out forms. When this happens my last name either is squished together in one long unpronounceable name or a space replaces the hyphen. This is legally and grammatically incorrect.

But I digress. Looking through the above linked list I notice I have incorrectly used the hyphen. I think the reason is because hyphens are so rarely used and I don’t remember them ever being brought up in elementary, junior high, high school, or college. As a result, it’s ignored or used incorrectly. But when used as intended hyphens clarify words and phrases.

 

Though this is my personal list of writer pet peeves, I unfortunately have committed some of these myself. Believe me old habits are hard to break. Thank goodness for reviewing one’s work, grammar books and websites, other readers, and editors. I’m know I’ve disappointed myself and annoyed my initial reader when I’ve not followed my own list of pet peeves. It is my hope with my small contribution you, the general public, will not fall into the trap or misused grammar so many do.

Weekly Musing: What Fuels Creativity?

Note: Apologies for being MIA for over a month. Life had been intervening, not in a bad way, for the past several weeks. Things should be calming down enough to allow me to get back on track. Thanks for your patience.

Ever since I was a kid I’ve always been fascinated by creativity. Going as far back as elementary school I would watch behind-the-scenes specials of shows and movies. I was blown away by how special effects, storylines, characters, sets, etc. were created. As I’ve gotten older I am still fascinated by creativity in all areas from music to art to dance and of course, writing. To see other people’s expression is amazing. How did they come up with that? It’s awe-inspiring and intimidating to know someone’s mind works on a different level than mine.

To this day I still love watching special features and listening to interviews with fellow creative types to learn where their inspirations come from. Often I have wondered what sparks creativity and listening to others has taught me it can come from anything. Many joke without coffee or tea the muse will continue to slumber. Others joke without copious amounts of alcohol and drugs they are unable to create.

Beyond those stimuli, what really is the root of creativity? It’s this need, this want to express ourselves in whatever form fits. An individual’s life experiences also spur it acting as a healthy way for us to deal with emotions and events both good and bad. Seeing the world around us and wanting to process how it makes us feel also causes us to create. Some use their art to comment on what they feel is lacking or is too much of in society.

Obvious writing is my creative outlet. What drives it is it the only outlet I feel comfortable with and seem to have some aptitude for. What inspires me to create comes from a variety of sources. Sometimes it’s a show I’m watching. Sometimes it’s what I see going on in the world. Other times it comes from an internal struggle I’m going through. Other times I simply can’t put my finger on where an idea comes from; it just comes.

To me it is vital we all have a creative outlet. It doesn’t matter if anyone sees it and one certainly doesn’t need to pursue it as a career. Not to sound New Agey or full of “woo”, but without a creative outlet of some kind a person risks burying emotions clamoring to be released. Creating something, no matter its format, allows for such a release. Whatever drives your creativity, embrace it.