Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Dream Journal

The aboriginals of Australia believe that the world began when our ancestors dreamed it into existence. Everyone from the ancient Greeks to the Native Americans sought answers to the future via their prophetic dreams, and even modern psychology emphasizes the importance of REM sleep both physically for the body and mentally for the mind. Generally, I like my dreams and simply wish to remember more of them.

I often forget what I dream, although when I do recall my dreams they're usually pretty cool and sometimes lucid. I decided to start a dream journal, writing down each morning what dreams I remember from the previous evening. I've only just started, but I can see already how it helps me remember more dreams each night.

I've always had an intuition that different dreams come from different places. Some things are just on your mind, i.e. school, work, etc., but other dreams seemed to originate from somewhere else entirely and have such a vividness and mystery all their own. So what do you dream?   

Monday, June 27, 2011

Reading Multiple Books at Once

Do you ever find yourself confronted with having to choose between reading an old favorite or a new bestseller? Perhaps you don’t have much time in your day, but you have a list of a dozen more books you’d like to read. Well, if you’re anything like me, you prefer just to go for it and read all of them. 

Sometimes I like to read books one at a time, but other times I’ll read two or three different ones on any given day. After all there’s just so much out there, I often think that I’ll never get through enough of the great stories I want to jump into if I don’t tackle them a few at a time. I also find it a great way to revisit old favorites while still enjoying new novels. 

At the moment I’m reading three books: one historical fiction, one sci-fi, and another non-fiction. So what do you do when confronted with so many delectable reading choices in your busy schedule? Do you prefer to imbibe one book at a time or do you make exceptions for perusing more than one good read a day? 

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Reread it...Are You Serious?

Ever read a book for the first time, then reread it when you're older and get a completely different take on the story? Ever get to the end of a book and feel sad that you finished it? Ever flip right back to the beginning and start reading it again?

If so, then you're a chronic re-reader and I'd like to help encourage the habit. Riffing off our discussions this week regarding summer reading, I love to reread my favorite novels over the summertime and reconnect with writers and stories that inspired me before. Whether I reread Tolkien or Shakespeare or Marion Zimmer Bradley, each time I gain new insights and discover new elements of the characters that I had no idea existed before.

So, how about it? If you could pick only one or two memorable books to reread this summer what would they be? What author's world would you most like to immerse yourself in time and again?

Monday, June 20, 2011

Summer Solstice and Summer Reading

June 21st marks the summer solstice and what better way to enjoy the long stretch of daylight than picking out those favorite summer reading lists you've been dying to tackle. Some people might look at me strange for getting excited over summer reading, but my fellow book-enthusiasts out there know what I'm talking about. Everything from libraries to schools to bookstores will publish their suggested summer reading lists for book-lovers to tackle during the warm summer months.

Of course, you can generate your own summer reading list based on whatever you like, but just as spring cleaning acts as an incentive to start tidying the house, so too does summer reading help get the literate of the world to indulge in books with newfound passion. Personally, not only do I like to read new books over the summer, I like to tackle old favorites. I find summer a great time to reread books that I love and others I've been meaning to get back to because the joys of rereading a classic are boundless.

So what tomes will you pick up this summer? Do you prefer to use a bookstore/school reading list or do you like to strike out on your own? What do you do in order to get into the groove of summer reading?   

Friday, June 17, 2011

Monetizing Your Blog…Entrepreneurial or Selling Out?

Have you ever thought about monetizing your blog or does the thought of mixing art and advertising turn your stomach? I work at Google, a little known company you may have heard about that owns Blogger amongst other things, and they certainly encourage ads. However, my blog is my personal webspace, and I’m not sure whether allowing advertisements on it is a good idea or not. 

The obvious pro is that you could make money, but probably not very much. The con is that it may affect how you’re perceived by your readership and it may mess with the artistic flow of your website. Of the many blogs I peruse I admit that most don’t seem to display ads, but I’m not sure if that’s because they choose not to use them or that they don’t know that blogger allows for easy monetizing. 

So what do you think? Is allowing ads on your blog kosher or does it make something stink in the land of Denmark? I’m somewhat on the fence regarding this issue myself so I’d love to know your thoughts, thanks! 

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Are You a Yankee or a Reb?

Ever watched Gone with the Wind for the hundredth time, but still press rewind to see it again? Or have you visited the Lincoln Memorial in D.C. and wondered what it might have been like to hear the Gettysburg Address in person? Perhaps you’ve got an inner voice that sympathizes with one side or the other in the never ending American struggle between North and South.

This year marks the 150th anniversary of the start of the American Civil War, which dovetails nicely with the writing of my historical novel set during the Civil War entitled The Long Defeat. I’m halfway through another draft, and have gotten great feedback and support from fellow readers and writers out there over the past year as I continue to sharpen and rewrite my story. But during my writings and research I continually find myself asking what side of the line would I fall onto if I found myself embroiled in that American conflict 150 years ago.

I know some of you hail from states today that would have been either in the North or South, and some of you live in different countries altogether, but today Rebs and Yankees can come from anywhere. So if you found yourself living in America back in 1861, where would your sympathies lie? Do you see yourself as a Southern Belle/Gentleman turned Rebel or do you identify more with the Underground Railroad/Preservers of the Union?

Monday, June 13, 2011

Writing for the

So I took the plunge and started writing articles for the online. A friend of mine referred me to them and they hired me as a “San Francisco Adventure Traveler” writer responsible for creating articles regarding travel to and from the SF Bay Area to other parts abroad. It’s not a job that I’ll really get paid for, and so it’s more like a hobby on the side, but it’s nonetheless an opportunity to connect with other people on the world wide web via my writing. 

You can check out my newest articles here, and even if you’re not from the Bay Area you’ll probably still find some useful backpacking ideas if you choose to visit Europe or some other place I write about.  I have to confess, however, that I’m still on the fence regarding this opportunity, and am not entirely sure how it will all pan out. After all, I’ve already got enough to write between my fiction writing, my blog, and my day job as a Technical Writer. But a writer writes…right?

Anyhow, let me know if any of you frequent the or perhaps you or someone you know has written articles for them in the past. I’d be curious to know your thoughts on them as a website and organization. In the meantime, checkout a couple of my articles and let me know what you think, thanks! 

Friday, June 10, 2011

High Art vs. Low Art

We often learn the classics in school, from Homer to Shakespeare, and few would debate their uncontested value today. At the same time, less entertaining writers like Pope, Dryden, and Spencer appear in many a college curriculum, much to many students' dismay, but nothing from Tolkien or J. K. Rowling ever gets mentioned. So why is some art considered just popular tripe, whereas others are deemed literary masterpieces?

Understandably, most authors are canonized once they're no longer alive and their work has stood the test of time, but this is changing. Living authors like Toni Morrison are anthologized now as well as many others that even the most well-read haven't heard about or read. Needless to say, books ought to be judged by merit and not book sales, but it seems odd that such renowned authors get left out simply due to their genre.

Think about it, when was the last time you heard of a course in school that covered a fantasy, sci-fi, or even a more recently penned historical novel? Plenty of exceptions abound, by it seems the establishment turns its nose to novels that don't deal with some esoteric form of absurdism or talk about some psychologically deranged character in order to describe our “modern” times. What do you think, is there a real difference between high and low art or is this all just a case of the emperor's new clothes?    

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Rocking Out with U2

Last night I saw U2 live at the Coliseum in Oakland, CA where they preformed a 20 song set, complete with massive electric screens, awesome instrumentals, soaring vocals, and even a conversation with an astronaut on the International Space Station singing “Beautiful Day.” An eclectic mix of some of their many, many awesome hits, they played a couple songs from each of their numerous albums, giving the crowd an energetic rush as they rocked out anthems such as “Mysterious Ways,” “Pride,” and “Until the End of the World” just to name a few. Opening bands included the hippie-esk group Moonalice, and the ever-cool Lenny Kravitz, who played a half dozen of his best known tunes.

Ever socially conscious songwriters, Bono, the Edge, Adam, and Larry, provided heartfelt moments where they showed video on the interactive big screens of speeches by Bishop Desmond Tutu, Burmese Activist (and former political prisoner) Aung San Suu Kyi, and astronaut Mark Kelly on the Endeavor space shuttle. Seeing Mark Kelly’s view of Earth from space was an eye opener, showing that the real world has no political boundaries and we share one big planet. Bono and the band of course rocked out to world peace for a while after that, much to the crowd’s enjoyment. 

Aung San Suu Kyi, just recently released from 20 years house arrest in Burma where she was democratically elected president before the military took over in her country, spoke about being an activist for human rights as well as being a big U2 fan. Even though she was released, much to social pressure from within and outside of Burma, she said that over 2,000 pro-democracy/human rights Burmese colleagues of hers still remain in military prisons after 20 years. U2 and the band gave a touching salute as the crowd prayed for those still suffering all in the name of love and freedom and peace. Needless to say, it was a moving evening spiritually, emotionally, and musically. As always, U2 continues to be the best band ever!  

Monday, June 6, 2011

Is Plot Passé?

Famous Modernist author, T.S. Eliot, called plot out of date, out of style, a remnant of a bygone era, or as he liked to put it…passé. Of course, the guy was practically a Fascist and a snob to boot, but that didn’t stop him from writing tours de force like The Lovesong of J. Alfred Pruefrock and The Wasteland. Did this avant-garde guy know what he was talking about (yes, I’m using French words today), or was he just puffing smoke?

He and many of his contemporaries emphasized form over the general story-line, as anyone who has read through James Joyce or Virginia Woolf knows. But today writers seem to have rebelled against this concept, including everyone from Thomas Pynchon to J.K. Rowling. However, I’m not debating whether plot sells, it always has in bookstores, but whether it still provides the primary means of conveying a novel in terms of art for art’s sake.

As time goes by I find myself believing less and less in the difference between high art and low art, but that’s another topic for perhaps another post.  In terms of plot, what do you think? Is it truly as passé as Eliot says or have we got some romantics out there still willing to defend the role of plot in the books we read today?

Friday, June 3, 2011

Make $10,000 for Collecting Books?

I rather randomly stumbled across the wide world of book collecting the other day and was astounded by how much hardcore book collectors will pay for rare and valuable books. First editions in hardbacks top the list for classic authors and bestsellers from the past century and beyond. So why was I looking into collectors items in the first place? It is soon told.

My father-in-law lent me his books from the Dune series to read a while back and I noticed that the cover of his hardbacks matched the image versions on wikipedia and wouldn't you know it...they're first edition hardbacks. In the world of book collecting, an original Dune hardback, first edition, sells at auction for over ten grand. Not too shabby for a novel that cost $5.95 back in the sixties.

So what possible gems might you have sitting on your dusty shelves at home? I'm not saying you'll have the most sought after sci-fi or literary book of the last century, but if you indulge in hardbacks you might surprise yourself with what you find. Of course, we all love books intrinsically for their own enjoyment, but just out of curiosity, what possibly valuable old hardbacks are on your bookshelves?

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Genre Jinx

It seems anything written today with a vampire in it makes it to publication, but for those of us who prefer not to turn Abe Lincoln or Jane Austen into a bloodsucker, what are the best selling alternative genres out there? I get a lot of conflicting impressions from agents, as some prefer to go with genres that are popular right now, whereas others shy away from the current flavor of the month as they believe the market is already too saturated.

Regardless of what sells or not, what are your favorite genres to read and write? Literary, historical, sci-fi, fantasy, westerns, thrillers, mysteries, young-adult, children's, chick-lit, and romance are all pretty widespread genres from which to choose. More quirky genres have also taken center stage in the last few years, such as steampunk and teen-specific just to name a few.

Obviously, there's too much out there to describe, especially if we get into the realms of non-fiction, memoir, biography, poetry, etc. etc. So what are your favorite genres? What subject do you prefer to write about and what types of books are the ones you just can't put down?