Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Happy New Years!

Brining in the New Year has always had a slightly artificial feeling to me. Unlike Christmas or Halloween, it never really elicits quite the same feeling, but maybe that’s because something as simple as a date change feels somewhat arbitrary to me. Nonetheless, New Years is still worth celebrating.

Namely, because of that old tradition of creating New Years resolutions. A chance to remake ourselves anew for the New Year. Or to at least try and tackle those resolutions from last year again.

So what are your resolutions? I’m trying to think of something not entirely selfish this year, as often my resolutions revolve around attaining some personal goal or improving myself, but I think it’s time I resolved to do something for someone other than me. If any ideas pop into your head, let me know. Otherwise, have a very happy New Years!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Merry Christmas!!!

Hey all! With the holidays upon us I’ll only be blogging intermittently, because after all it’s the holidays and it’s best to spend as much face time with family and friends as possible. I hope that you all enjoy doing the same.

I’m sure you’re all out doing last minute shopping too and trying to wrap up work. Good luck with all that. But tune in at the start of the New Year and I’ll have lots more exciting things to actually blog about.

Namely, I have more irons in the fire regarding my writing and am continuing to pursue publication through potential agents. But we’ll get into that stuff later. In the meantime…whatever your preference, happy holidays and have a very, very Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Great Charles Dickens Fair

Apparently, every Christmas Ren-fair folks dress up in Victorian-era costumes for the Charles Dickens Fair held every year in San Francisco. I’ve heard that similar events like this one take place all of the country, but I’ve never been to one. What I’m trying to discern today is whether one of these things is worth seeing in person.

With all the stress of the holidays, fitting one more task in sounds pretty nuts. However, I’m into new experiences and was wondering if anyone has tried one of these events. I’ve heard that it’s supposed to be a great way to get into the Christmas season as Charles Dickens’ stories have become such an integral part of how we see and celebrate the holidays.

I honestly don’t know if I can make it to one this season, but as both a reader of Dickens and a fan of Christmas I figure it’s worth a try. I just hope the people aren’t quite as eccentric as the folks at Ren-fair. Nonetheless, if anyone has gone to one of these, let me know what you thought of it.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Ugly Sweater Party

A bad or ugly sweater party can be a really good thing. Tonight my wife and I are going to the annual bad sweater party some friends of mine have hosted around Christmas time for the past several years. What are we wearing? Bad sweaters of course. 

Not only is it a good excuse to get together with friends, you can actually put to use those old, crazy Christmas sweaters you or family members have received in years past. I know I personally like to use my dad’s since they truly are out of fashion. But it’s a good thing in this case Dad.

Additional benefits to holding or attending an ugly sweater party is that you’re already warm (I mean you’re wearing sweaters), and there’s usually plenty of holiday food and cheer. Obviously, I’d like to invite you all to come, but since some of you are pretty far flung across the globe, that probably won’t work. But whatever you’re doing tonight, have a great weekend as Christmas is just around the corner. 

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Memorizing Art

Every so often I like to memorize a favorite poem. Sometimes Yeats or Shakespeare or Whitman. Sometimes I like to memorize lines in other languages or lines from the bible.

I often think about how the art we read or hear or see has to live inside us to truly reach the pinnacle of its fulfillment. If I can hear a piece of Mozart, Beethoven, or U2 playing perfectly back in my mind, then I know that I’m really imbibing its mystery. Of course, it’s even better when I can play it on the guitar.

Nonetheless, I strive to find new things to memorize in my head. Song, poems, Elvish from Tolkien, or whatever seems worthwhile. If the only art you could take with you were the bits and pieces in your mind, what would you memorize and bring along? 

Monday, December 13, 2010

Books for the Holidays

What would Christmas time be without Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol? Or how about Frosty the Snowman and book versions of The Twelve Days of Christmas? Many have turned into successful films and shows, such as How the Grinch Stole Christmas and The Polar Express.

I suppose you have to mention the Bible prominently as well, since after all, that’s the whole reason the holidays revolve around this time of year in Western Culture. Of course, there are plenty of books, especially childrens' stories, about the origins of Chanukah and Kwanzaa that you can find online and in stores. But you don’t have to limit yourself just to holiday specific stories if you have a favorite author or genre that reminds you of the season as well.

I guess the big questions is…what do you read to get into the holiday spirit? We have plenty of Christmas specials on TV and lots of music to listen to as well, but sometimes nothing puts you in the right frame of mind like a good book on a winter’s night. I know one of my favorite pastimes is enjoying a Christmas book with my wife while we read aloud to one another.   

Friday, December 10, 2010

Love on the Page

Putting love and love scenes into a novel or short-story can easily be some of the most difficult stuff to write. Some writers steer clear of it, while others make a living from it. But, truth be told, if you’re going to create well rounded characters they need to live and experience full human lives, and love is a big part of that.

Most writers will agree that subtlety is the key to infusing love into a storyline. But easier said than done. How do you get passion to come through without being over-the-top?

I’ve found that little tricks in your description can infer a lot. For instance, mentioning how one character touches another’s hair or hand implies action within an individual’s personal space, but still leaves room for the imagination. And perhaps that’s they key anytime you put love onto the page. Leave room for the imagination. It’s easy to over describe, so just leave enough descriptive breadcrumbs for your audience to follow and you should be alright.  

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Research and Development

For the novel I’m currently working on I’ve put a lot of time and thought into researching the historical time period. But reading books isn’t enough. I want to experience firsthand many of the same difficulties of the characters I wish to represent, and although I will never know precisely what it may be like to be in the shoes of 18th century farmers on the frontier, there’s still a lot I can examine on my own today.

I started by actually going to Virginia, where my novel takes place. My patient wife traveled with me through the Blue Ridge Mountains as well as other parts of Virginia last fall so that I could get a feeling for the place. Although I had gone there as a child, seeing it through an adult’s eye definitely gave me some new impressions as well. From colonial Williamsburg to the Shenandoah Valley, I’ve gotten to see the landscape in summer and wintry seasons before as well.

Back home, there are other important ways I’ve researched for this novel. Raising corn, beans, squash, and pumpkins in my yard for successive years, going hunting, firing black powder muskets, grinding corn with a pestle (and yes, it takes forever), making a fire with different tinder and wood, cooking settler and Native American dishes on the stove from basic foods, and a whole host of other experiments all aimed at discovering for myself elements of frontier life. As my writing progresses more and more each day, I suppose the only question that remains is…what else should I try next?    

Monday, December 6, 2010

What dreams may come…

Nope, I’m not referencing any movie or book specifically here. Instead, I wanted to talk about the use of dreams in books. I’ve started experimenting quite a bit recently with the use of dreams of main characters in my stories and have found it to be an intriguing way of getting into a persona’s mindset.

Depending on your outlook, you can approach dreams in many different ways in your own writings. There’s of course the Freudian Psychological view, which I do give some credence to, but overall I think Freud was largely unimaginative himself and that’s why he didn’t really understand dreams much. However, Carl Jung and other more intriguing psychologists offer some really intriguing insights into the realms of dreaming while we sleep.

I also like the more archaic version of dreaming where they represent portents of the future or goings on in other locations with other people. This not only fits in with classical literature and legends much better, it also provides a useful tool while advancing the story. But even this aspect of dream perception can become overdone and appear cheesy. The key I’ve found is to mix in a little of the mundane, a little of the supernatural, and a little aspect that handicaps the character in the dream, i.e. they lose their voice or they seem unable to run when they wish to do so. All of these things and more provide great fodder when crafting characters through their dreams. 

Friday, December 3, 2010

NanoWriMo Report

Well, the month of November has ended and with it NanoWriMo. The contest in general involves writing a short novel from start to finish, but I adjusted it slightly for my own ends this year. I set myself the goal of writing 50,000 more words in the historical novel I’ve been working on, and here are the results…

At about 7,000 to 8,000 words a week, or a chapter every 5-7 days, I came out with about 35,000+ words written between November 1st and 30th. Needless to say, I’m fairly pleased with the outcome and I definitely think I deserve an A for effort, but I still fell short of my goal. With almost 15,000 words to go, I didn’t quite make it to the big 50,000.

Still, I figure that gives me a grade in the B range. What this NanoWriMo experience really taught me is that I can write no matter what the distractions and time restraints of life. I’ve been busier at work and at home than ever, yet I still made time to write over 1,000 words a day. I don’t know how long I can keep up that pace without burning out, but I definitely think I’d like to give it a go.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Cutting Down the Christmas Tree

Last weekend my family and I went out to Half Moon Bay to cut down a tree at one of the great Christmas tree farms out there. It’s a tradition we’ve had for many years where we cut down our trees and enjoy plenty of hot chocolate and delicious treats afterwards while tailgating. Of course, this year, it poured buckets while we were out there.

Nonetheless, we still had a great time. There’s something about cutting down a fresh tree and setting it up in your living room that makes the holidays complete. The fresh scent and the time that goes into it make it fun. The only difference this year was instead of tailgating in the rain, we returned to my house and all enjoyed our brunch indoors with the heat on.

I look forward to this every year and it was great hanging out with my parents, grandparents, wife, and in-laws. All part of what makes being together and chopping a Christmas tree fun. And rain or shine we’ll probably be doing the same thing next year.

Monday, November 29, 2010

The Deathly Hollows

This last week I went and saw the new Harry Potter film, The Deathly Hallows: Part One. I’ve read the books and definitely think that the last novel of the seven book series is a pretty good one so it’s nice to see it now on the big screen. Overall, it was a worthwhile flick to go see.

For the first time in the filmmaking franchise, they split up a book into two parts. The result is that you get more bang for your buck and more from the book is included in the film (although there’ll always be tons more in the book than the movie version). The only downside is that the movie doesn’t really have an ending, just a “to be continued” kind of feeling.

Nonetheless, you get to see all of your favorite characters, only now these kid films have definitely turned dark and adult. In fact, during parts of the film I was surprised the rating on the movie hadn’t been restricted for more adult audiences. This was also the first film where the characters never visit their school, Hogwarts. I’d say, if you’ve got a few hours to spare during the week or weekend (when you’re not Christmas shopping) go see the film and have a good time.   

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

With Thanksgiving upon us and thoughts of turkey, yams, and cranberries it’s pretty difficult to think of much else. Although I’m sure more than a few of you are already looking towards Black Friday. But before the holiday season progresses I thought I’d blog about my second installment of Monday’s piece about Thanksgiving-esk literature.

After my plug for Native American writing, I’d like to highlight all the New England, Colonial, and Puritan literature that makes up the origins of American consciousness. Now, you may be wondering, who cares about the Puritans? And I used to think the same way until I had to take a course on the subject in graduate school.

Turns out that texts such as William Bradford’s history of the Pilgrim’s, John Winthrop’s “City on a Hill” speech, and all the sermons of Jonathan Edwards to the poems of Anne Bradstreet really do have something to offer to the avid reader. Many of the things we consider American, from our work ethic to attitudes to morals stem from these early colonial writings. Other uniquely American genres, such as Captivity Narratives (like those of Mary Rowlandson) described settlers' experiences when taken prisoner by Indians. All in all, I suggest giving one of these short texts a try over your four day break, and who knows…you might just like it. Happy Thanksgiving! 

Monday, November 22, 2010

Native American Writing

Before I get into the Thanksgiving spirit of Puritans and Pilgrims I thought I’d spotlight the other side of the fall holiday season first. Namely, the Native American contributions to this time of year and the legacy that surrounds it. After all, who do you think gave us the first turkeys, corn, beans, and pumpkins that we so associate with this time of year?

As usual, I celebrate with reading. Some of my favorites include legends, such as The Myths of the Cherokee as well as pretty much any tribal or cultural myths I can get a hold of from other regions of North America. I watch some of my favorite movies, like The Last of the Mohicans and I more or less give myself over to whatever autumnal whims pop into my head.

For fun reads and stories, try The Education of Little Big Tree. For history buffs there’s an endless supply of non-fiction accounts and histories from which to choose as well. I like reading all of it because it provides food for thought and something apropos to talk about when I find myself around the Thanksgiving table.    

Friday, November 19, 2010

Stylish Blogger Award!

Fellow blogger and chef extraordinaire, Stacy Grow, has nominated me for the “Stylish Blogger Award.” Basically the way it works is you link back to the person who praised you, list seven things about yourself, and nominate other blogs. Even though I’ve heard that you’re supposed to nominate 15 other blogs, I think I’ll follow Stacy’s example and praise my top 5. They are as follows:

  1. Of course Stacy’s blog, In Search of Finer Things, because it’s awesome.
  2. Meghan Sullivan’s Ancient Musings, for all things Greek.
  3. Valerie Noce’s Mi Viaje a Peru, for things south of the border.
  4. Lawrence Ma’s Left Field Laws, for baseball and, yes, I know it rhymes.
  5. And Stephanie Thronton’s Hatshepsut, because we all need a little Egypt in our day.   

As for seven things you may or not know about me beyond my life as a would-be author, here it goes…

  1. I work at Google as a Project Lead and Tech Writer.
  2. I love sailing with my dad on his boat on San Francisco Bay.
  3. I have a Masters in English and a BA in History/English from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo.
  4. I am married to the absolutely most spectacular and beautiful wife in the universe!
  5. I love gardening, and fill up my little yard with corn, pumpkins, etc. every year.
  6. I’m not loyal to any one religion, but I’m very spiritual, after all it’s pretty hard to top God in your life.
  7. And…oh yeah…I’m a ninja…

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Progress with Colonial Novel

Seeing as we’re halfway through November I figured I’d give you an update on my ambitious plans to write 50,000 more words in my historical fiction set in colonial America. The good news is that I’m writing a ton. The flipside is, I’m still not sure if it’ll be enough to meet my goal.

Obviously, quality is better than quantity, but I’ve found with writing that the more you write the better, because you can always cut the fluff out and still keep going with the nuggets of gold you’ve created. I’m racing through about a chapter a week right now, approximately 7,000-8,000 every seven days, or around 1,000 words a day. Sounds nice, but will I reach 50,000 words by December 1st?

We’ll see, but I’m optimistic. Even if I don’t quite reach that goal, I’m pleased with the current pace as well as the content. My only major stumbling block remains the title. I’m working on a shortlist of potential titles for my new novel, and I hope to post them in a few weeks to see what you all think. In the meantime…keep writing. 

Monday, November 15, 2010

Weekend in Napa

Thanks to all of you who wished me a happy birthday on the phone, via email, and on Facebook yesterday. I totally didn’t expect it! My wife and I were away for the weekend, staying at the Silverado Resort in the Napa wine country.

My company treated us to an all expensed paid weekend for some particularly good work I’ve done for them over the last few months. And it all just happened to be on my birthday weekend. We had a suite, meals, wine tasting, massage, and more all complimentary. Needless to say, it was pretty sweet.

I’m not used to such nice things, but it was great having a weekend to relax and enjoy the important things in life: spending time together, being outdoors, reading, and of course drinking wine. We even saw members of the country-rock group the Zack Brown Band as they too were staying at the resort. Overall, we had a great time and will probably keep living off memories from this weekend to help get us through the work week. 

Friday, November 12, 2010

Veterans Day Books

Yesterday was Veterans Day, and along with wishing friends and family who are vets a happy day I of course also thought about books. Namely, great literature written by veterans. Writers like O’Brien, Remarque, Sassoon, and Owen. Great stories inspired by real events.

But I also thought about other different veteran books, such as Tolkien. In his Middle Earth fantasy, dark places like Mordor were definitely influenced by his experiences in the trenches during World War One. Other writers, who weren’t necessarily veterans, but war correspondents, also provide some great Vets Day reading. Authors like Hemingway, Dos Passos, and Crane. But I’m sure I’m forgetting plenty of others.

Since I’ve read all of these authors, I’m curious to know which Vet books you like to read. I’m always looking for ways to expand my reading and if anyone thinks of a great Veterans Day book I haven’t thought of you get a prize. Not sure what yet exactly…probably lots of good karma points. Anyhow, have a great weekend! 

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Tale of Genji

I recently just finished reading Japan’s national epic, “The Tale of Genji.” As far as epics go, it’s pretty different from Western stories like those of Homer or Virgil. There are no battles, not much in the way of Gods or Goddesses, or even magic. Perhaps, most intriguing, however, the tale was written by a woman, Murasaki Shikibu.

Written sometime around the year 1000, this epic reads more like a novel. Since most male authors at the time in Japan wrote in Chinese, considered the higher form of calligraphy at the time, courtly women were actually the first to write epic poetry in Japanese. As a result, “The Tale of Genji,” which centers on a man, deals mostly with concepts central to courtly women during the ancient/medieval period. Genji, a good-looking aristocrat, is something of a male Helen of Troy, around which the central female characters (who inevitably become his lovers) revolve. Much is made about his good looks, and the clothes of women at court, as well as the political and romantic intrigues.

This book isn’t for the fainthearted. Most translations run in excess of 1200 pages. Nonetheless, it has striking characters that seem as real today as they must have been a thousand years ago. Genji’s lovers, like Fujibutso (the Emperor’s Consort), Murasaki (a young beauty, but too young for marriage yet), and the Lady Akashi (a rural governor’s daughter) all provide worthy heroines in of themselves. Forbidden love and courtly values, instead of detracting from the story, only add a distinctly Japanese flavor that allows the reader to truly travel back in time and immerse themselves in the tale. 

Monday, November 8, 2010

Non-Fiction November

Along with NanoWriMo, November is also known as Non-Fiction month. This month, non-fiction writers are encouraged to strut their stuff regarding their favorite topics and/or subjects of most expertise. Although I’m primarily a fiction writer myself, I do like to spotlight this unusual aspect of November when great non-fiction contests and publications flood the scene.  

So, if you find yourself as a budding writer and may have found fiction not quite your thing, try out some non-fiction this month. In the publishing world, nothing comes easy, but writers of non-fiction do have slightly better odds at getting published and with such a wide variety of real life material to choose from the genre only grows more fascinating by the day. Everything from history to biography to science counts as but a few of the wide range of subjects from which to choose.

Writing non-fiction can also be a good career move. If you work in academia, publishing non-fiction can often be a requirement and a means of not only gaining prestige, but also securing better teaching opportunities.  Some of my favorite non-fiction books were written by professors I had in college. So, even if you don’t write some non-fiction this month I suggest you find some to read, and experience just a taste of what’s out there.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Publishing in the New Yorker

Today I wanted to give a brief shout-out to Brian Crawford, a fellow writer I met at the San Francisco Writer’s conference, who just got some of his short fiction published in the Hint Fiction Anthology run by the New Yorker. An anthology of very short stories and some very big talent, it’s definitely worth checking out. A pretty darn impressive feat!

Brian has a blog entitled The Leaf Blower and is also worth a browse. He writes thriller novels and like myself is still looking for that big break into the publishing world, namely through a literary agent. But with something published by the New Yorker I think he’s well on his way.

So give yourself a treat and check it out this weekend. Happy Friday everyone! 

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

World Series Champs!

Well, it finally happened! The San Francisco Giants won the World Series. The partying in and around the Bay Area has been relatively non-stop as the team begins their parade through the city today. 

My wife and I enjoyed watching my favorite player, Brian Wilson, pitch the last strikeout of the game, clinching it for the Giants. Our neighborhood promptly erupted in shouts of joy and fireworks. We drove to a nearby pub to meet up with friends where along the way everyone honked their horns and came outside as the entire city and environs commenced with the celebrations. 

People in the Marina stopped traffic and stood on buses and the cops didn’t even mind. It’s been a heck of a year and a heck of a season, and I’m just glad I was here to see it. And yes, I finally shaved (but not until after we won). 

Monday, November 1, 2010


November first kicks off NanoWriMo, otherwise known as National Writing Month. A friend of mine recently hipped me to this site and all the great literary endeavors happening this month. One contest I’d like to highlight in particular is the NanoWriMo contest for starting and completing the first draft of a 50,000 word novel all within the span of the month of November. Very cool, but, of course, easier said than done.

The website has detailed instructions, but the gist of it revolves around dedicating every day this month to crafting a new novel. It’s a tall order that would require a writer to finish over sixteen-hundred words a day with no breaks in order to meet the deadline of November 30. Needless to say, I’m game, how about you?

Personally, I’m not in it so much for the contest, but more as a personal challenge to see how much I can write. If I could keep up that kind of writing pace even for only a few days I’d feel pretty good, but I’ve never tried to sustain that level of productivity for an entire month straight. Currently, I’m in the throws of a historical novel and about halfway through. But I figure I’ve got another 50,000 words to go before I complete the second half. What better way than to challenge myself to a dual of words during NanoWriMo? So, the real question is, what creative breakthroughs will you challenge yourself to tackling in the great month of November?   

Friday, October 29, 2010

Don’t Fear the Reaper


In wishing you all a Happy Halloween weekend I thought I’d make today’s post short and sweet. I was just listening to easily my favorite song ever, Blue Oyster Cult’s “Don’t Fear the Reaper,” and thought to myself for the trillionth time what an awesome song it is and what a great Halloween-ish tune it is as well. Need I say more?

I don’t believe in categorizing art much, and I feel one kind of writing is much like another in many ways, whether it’s for a play, a novel, or a song. So this weekend while you’re giving out candy or at a party don’t forget to blast a little Blue Oyster Cult for me. Have a great weekend and a very Happy Halloween.

P.S. I gotta have more cowbell!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Horseman, Pass By


Last evening or so I saw on Jeopardy a category referring to famous gravestones. I, of course, immediately though of William B. Yeats’ grave and what with Halloween just around the corner I figured I would mix in some literary lore with the spooky spirit of the season. For those of you unfamiliar with what I’m talking about, allow me to briefly explain.

If you ever find yourself in west Ireland, on the road north of Sligo, you will find beneath the breathtaking mountains near the sea a grave in a chapel churchyard from the great poet Yeats. My wife and I visited his grave there and paid homage to the Irish writer, but I must admit that the famous last line on his gravestone has always both intrigued and befuddled me…“Horseman, Pass By.”

Ireland is of course replete with famous last words, such as Oscar Wilde’s famous remark on his deathbed about the terrible wall paper in his room, joking that between himself and the wallpaper, one of them must go. But Yeats’ gravestone has inspired many writers, including Pulitzer Prize winning Larry McMurtry who borrowed Yeats’ famous quote as the title of his first novel. Other gravestones of authors around the world are probably equally famous as well, like Edgar Allen Poe’s, which every year receives anonymous bottles of booze to commemorate his birthday. There are others I’m sure I’m forgetting to mention or do not yet know about. So this Halloween season, let me know of any other such unusual grave markers from poets and playwrights past. And who knows…you may just glean something from beyond the grave…

Monday, October 25, 2010

The Fall Classic!


It finally happened. The Giants are going to the World Series, a.k.a. “the Fall Classic!” I had a nail-biting time watching the game with my wife, folks, and friends Saturday night, but now I’m looking forward to wearing my orange and black not just for Halloween, but for the Giants as well.

I love seeing how events like this can transform a community. The morning after the big game, I saw everyone at the store and coffee shop sporting their Giants swag, buying copies of the Chronicle with the teams’ pictures all over it, and all the fans (formerly strangers) conversing together with smiles and enthusiasm. Names like Huff, Posey, Ross, Burrell, Lincecum, Cain, Uribe, and Wilson on everyone’s tongue.

We faceoff against the Texas Rangers in the upcoming series and will be counting the minutes as the Giants attempt to win their first World Series since coming to San Francisco back in 1958. Not only have I never seen the Giants win a World Series in my lifetime, my father hasn’t seen it in his lifetime either. I’m still reading and writing like crazy, but with history in the making right on my doorstep it’ll be hard to think on much else for the next couple weeks.    

Friday, October 22, 2010

Best Holiday Ever!

Alright, I’m finally recovering from being sick and low and behold my favorite holiday of all is soon upon us. Halloween! Why, you might ask, do I consider this the best holiday ever? My response would be…what’s not to love? The costumes, the spooky decorations, the jack-o-lanterns, the candy, the kids, the mystical ambiance, and much more. Even though I’m grownup (whatever that means) I still like putting on a costume and handing out candy. Last year we had almost 200 trick-or-treaters come to our door, and I’m definitely stocking up on candy big time this season.

It’s actually quiet easy to dress up for Halloween at any age. I love going through my garage (or sometimes my parent’s garage) and cobbling bits of things together to make a creative and free costume. This year I’m going as a baseball player (for the Giants of course) and my wife may or may not dress up along the same theme. Maybe with baseball attire, but more of a sandlot type of ballplayer. Either way it should be fun!

The background and history of Halloween fascinates me as well, dating back to the Celtic rites of Samhain (pronounced like sah-ween or something like that) all the way up to more contemporary ghost stories and horror flicks. Actually, there are only a few horror movies I really like, I actually tend to prefer Charlie Brown’s Halloween special to be honest. But there are tons of great books to read this time of year. I pull out my Hawthorne and Poe and anything else that gets me in the mood. Tonight there’s a full moon out so enjoy the Halloween spirit and start stocking up on the candy and the decorations and the fun!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Still Sick

Sorry guys, still sick. I went to the doctor and they diagnosed it as either strep throat or whooping cough. Yes, like Victorian England whooping cough. Well, I'm hopped up on antibiotics, robetussen, and codine so I don't feel much like doing anything other than resting. I promise once I'm numbered among the living once more I'll have some decent posts for you guys. Thanks for your patience. 

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Out Sick

Hey all, I'm pretty sick this week so I probably won't do any posts for at least a few days. My only highlight has been that the Giants managed to "stop the chop" against the Braves yesterday. Otherwise, keep thinking those good book thoughts and I'll have some more great posts coming down the pipeline for you all in a week or so. Thanks.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Halfway Done!


I know that I’ve got a lot of irons in the fire so-to-speak, but today I wanted to give an update on the historical novel I’m working on set in Colonial America. I recently finished my seventh chapter of fourteen planned in my outline, each chapter being fairly lengthy in of itself. Even though I’m still in the phases of my first draft, I’m pretty excited at the pace I’ve been keeping up.

For those of you unfamiliar with what I’m talking about, allow me to briefly explain. My novel follows a family of seven children, ranging in ages from 4 to 16, who live on the Virginia frontier during the French and Indian War. Through various events, both parents are away when the settlement they live near is attacked and soon the children find themselves isolated on a tiny farm up in the mountains in what is now enemy territory. The novel chiefly focuses on the two eldest children, Joshua and Sarah Roebuck, who struggle to take on the new roles of father and mother over their younger brothers and sisters, all the while trying to survive in their little cabin in the wilderness. Unknown to them, however, a French officer and his Indian allies are actually hunting for them out on the frontier, for reasons that only come to light gradually.

All in all, I’m enjoying the writing, but I must admit that I have run across one problem. The title! I’m not sure yet what exactly I want to call this book. I started with a working title of The Night in Which the Corn Grows, as it comes from Thoreau, but unfortunately I think it’s too long and sounds a bit like the name of a horror flick rather than a historical novel. So with the weekend upon us I need your help. Any good title ideas? Believe me I’m open. I can’t promise much, but anyone who comes up with a winning title gets major kudos and good karma points! So let the ideas flow…  

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Fear the Beard!!!


If you don’t know what I’m talking about, then you probably haven’t been bitten by the same post-season playoff bug that has hit me and every other San Francisco Giants baseball fan in the world this week. For the first time in seven years, my team, the Giants, has made it into the playoffs. Just to put it into perspective for you, the last time the Giants made it to the playoffs (before 2002 and 2003) was 1989! So it’s a pretty memorable event.

But what does “fear the beard” mean you might ask? Two words: Brian Wilson. The closing pitcher for the Giants, he’s one of my favorite ballplayers and something of an unofficial team mascot at times when he and Panda (that’s Pablo Sandoval) get the team pumped up and inspired. He basically started growing a beard for luck and got himself and the rest of the team jazzed by pitching some great games as the Giants went on to beat the Padres last week and clinch the division title.

For a writer as well as a fan, it feels like we’ve been living inside a storybook, as each of these games has been very close and down to the wire. The Giants, if anything, seem to love tension packed games that could rival any opera or movie or novel. This Thursday they start playing the Atlanta Braves and with only eight teams left in the league it will be a nerve-racking and memorable next few weeks. Needless to say, I’m not shaving much these days. Go Giants! 

Friday, October 1, 2010

Traveling and Writing

This Friday I’m blogging on one of my favorite subjects, the complimentary relationship between traveling and writing. I’m a big believer that traveling not only improves your life, but it improves your writing. Inspiration isn’t exactly something you can order up at will, but I’ve found a change of surroundings tends to increase the odds in a writer’s favor. With the weekend upon us I figured I’d extol some of the ways that a person can easily incorporate traveling into their life as a means of benefiting their writing and, of course, their soul.

First off, eliminate that negative part of your mind that says ‘no’ to everything. This is the most important step and will enable you to just go with the flow and enjoy things that might normally take you out of your comfort zone. Adventures in life are the raw material of adventures on the page! But you might be saying, hey Mark, I don’t have a lot of money to go spending on travel. Neither do I! All the better. I’m a big fan of shoestring vacations. It forces you to actually interact with people wherever you go and live like a local for a few days. And it costs very little to bring a notebook and a pen to with which to write. Whether backpacking in hostels, hiking to camp sites, or staying with a friend in another city, all of these super low budget accommodations only enhance the very experiences you’re looking for when you need life to inspire you. But I’m not advocating freeloading either. Something cheap in terms of money still isn’t cheap. Wherever you go, you help clean up or volunteer or do something else that “pays” for your trip and brings you good karma all around.

Now my favorite time of year has begun, the season of fall. A great time to go stay at a house in the country or hike along a windswept part of the coast. Also, a time when life tends to force you to travel anyways so that you can visit friends and family for the upcoming holidays. And here’s where the last part of writing and traveling come together. Set aside some time on your weekend jaunts to quiet reading and writing. Don’t stick to a rush, rush schedule, but leave a healthy space for you to absorb the wonderful things around you. Alright, enough of my Zen-ish comments. Go enjoy your weekend, and most importantly…have a good time.