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.