The Ruins by Scott Smith: Death by Mayan’s

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I first heard of this book “through the backdoor” as it were. I’d seen the film first. I can somewhat hazily remember liking it. It wasn’t anything to write home about, as far as I can remember, but the film did strike a chord with me. I discovered that it had been made from Scott Smith’s (no relation) book of the same name.

I discovered the book whilst perusing the many available books on Amazon. My eye caught a blurb by the horror Meister himself Stephen King. He gave what I thought was a glowing recommendation of the book. That to me was a seal of approval and I then ordered a hardcopy of the book.

It was only after getting said book that I realised that the glowing recommendation was for his first book, A Simple Plan. Upon learning this disturbing and misleading fact, I raised my clenched fists to the sky and cried, “Damn you Amazon!”

Not really. I did, though, mutter a slight curse at my obvious gullibility and no, I do not want to buy prime real estate in the swamplands of Florida… Or do I?

I haven’t read Mr Smith’s first novel, but I am going to since I trust Stevie King implicitly. But for now, I’ll just focus on the book I have read.

The Ruins is set in Mexico (obviously since the Mayan’s don’t come from any other part of the globe) and it follows the deathly journey made by a group of young people who are just starting out in the world. Jeff and Amy are medical students. Stacy and Eric are happy-go-lucky kids who have drifted together. Eric has been hired as an English  teacher and Stacy has no idea what she is going to do.

This group of four have been joined by Heinrich and Mathias, two German men who happen to be in Mexico on holiday and three Greeks who, since no one can speak the language are referred to as Don Quixote, Pablo and Juan. When Heinrich runs off to some Mayan ruins in pursuit of a female student who is working at the site and then seemingly vanishes, Mathias decides to find him.

Jeff, Amy, Eric, Stacy and Pablo decide to accompany him on what appears, on the face of it, to be a lark and an adventure. Unfortunately for this small band of “explorers” when they eventually find Heinrich they also find something deadly amongst the ruins. After being trapped on the archeological site by neighbouring villagers, the group must try to survive until help arrives.

Jeff, the Eagle Boy Scout, is the leader and he must struggle to keep them alive as well as try to find a way out of their deadly predicament.

This was a great read. I honestly cannot remember if the film adapted from the book was a faithful representation of the story. I’ve down-loaded the film and I’ll watch it soon so I can make an accurate comparison.

Smith does a good job of fleshing out all his characters and paints a great picture of the young people who don’t let language barriers stop them from connecting with other people.  Unfortunately this lack of language skills is what helps to trap the happy-go-lucky group in the ruins.

The only drawback to the book was some of the actual characters themselves. I bonded with Jeff and with the “spacey” Stacy but none of the others had traits that made them personable enough to connect with. And the “foreigners” like Mathias and especially Pablo, did not have enough development either because of the language barrier (Pablo) or lack of character information due to personality (Mathias).

Despite my “disconnection” with some of the main players, I did feel a lot of empathy for the group and their fight for survival. Smith has also introduced a “Big Bad” that was properly creepy and downright scary! And this big bad was nasty and cruel. I can’t tell you what it is, you’ll have to read the book to get that. But it not something you’ll forget about after you’ve read it.

A real 5 star book with just a couple of 3 or 4 star moments. Keep an eye out for Mr Scott Smith, both his books thus far have made a bit of a wave in the literary community. While I try to chase down a copy of his first foray into the horror/suspense/thriller genre, I’ll be looking for any new books he may release.

Author Scott Smith (no relation)
Author Scott Smith (no relation)

Can Blogging Lead to a Writing Job?

Cover of "The Elements of Style, Fourth E...

I read a Tweet on Twitter just now where the Tweeter had written an article about hiring writers for your blog.

Interesting.

I guess that I am still very naive about this blogging business. I mean, I’ve only been blogging for just under two years. I’ve only been blogging daily for a lot less than that.

Like most people, I assume –and yes I know that is a bad idea– that most people are like me. Writing about things that they are interested in while either trying to get the motivation to write or finish a book.

I do know that there are quite a large amount of folks who view their blog as resume (Curriculum Vitae) filler. They can presumably point to their view counts and follow numbers as some sort of standard of excellence, that they believe will show that they possess the talent to write professionally.

I can put my hand over my damaged heart and say that I never looked at blogging like that.

It sounds like a great idea.

Of course it also sounds a bit like the old, “I was spotted in the Schwab’s drugstore having an ice cream float by an agent.” Or the more clichéd, “Why Miss Jones! When you take off your glasses and let down your hair, you could be a model!”

“Why Miss Jones! You look beautiful without taking off your glasses…”

I suppose the literary version would be, ” Why Mr Smith, I had no idea that you could write so well! How would you like to work for us doing something that you are not only good at but love to do as well?”

It all sounds rather fanciful, but, I am sure there is some merit to the idea that blog writing can lead to employment as a professional writer. If you think about it long enough it does make some sense.

As a blogger you not only have to put your thoughts and ideas in down in such a manner that everyone can read them and understand where you’re coming from, but, you also have to add pictures and captions to help develop your blog posts and you are your own editor.

Editing properly, despite the helpful addition of ‘spell check‘ and WordPress‘s own ‘Proofread Writing’, is difficult. You can still commit all sorts of sentence sins and miss the occasional –or not so occasional–faux pa.

It’s a lot harder for potential professional employers to recognise your capability if your blog is full of grammatical errors or poor punctuation. Your creativity and originality can get lost in the shuffle of coma splices, dangling participles and shotgunned adjectives.

If this all sounds too daunting, you probably don’t want to start blogging if you haven’t already. If you are already blogging, just keep a copy of Strunk and White’s Elements of Style handy.

If it doesn’t sound too daunting, then you are where you need to be. Practising a craft that many aspire to become perfect at but so few can actually do.

Because blogging is writing, it can also be photographic in nature, but it still boils down to the writing. A picture may be worth a thousand words, but I’ll bet the photographer still has a few things to say about the picture he’s taken.

I do know that there are “professional” blogs out there, I’ve read them. But whether you are a professional blogger or an amateur, the rules are still the same. The big difference is that as an amateur you do all the work for no pay. Your recompense is the blog itself and the views, likes and comments that it garners.

I also would argue that because you do all the work that when you look back at a blog post and find a mistake, you overreact just that little bit more.

I know I do. I cringe if I find I’ve missed something after I’ve proofread the damn thing over and over. And before you ask, yes I do re-edit old posts. I have to.

I don’t know if I would enjoy writing for another blog in a professional capacity or if it would be as much fun or even as personally fulfilling. It would be nice to suddenly become a “professional” writer at 54, other people have started at a much more advanced age and been quite successful.

So I’ll keep blogging and maybe one day…

Blogging Heroes
Blogging Heroes (Photo credit: Wikipedia)