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.