Friday, May 27, 2011

How Do You Find the Time?

Ah, the eternal question. It seems between jobs, school, family, etc. etc. life just gets in the way of your sitting around time, or as Whitman used to call it “loafing.” So how are writers supposed to find time to hear themselves think, let alone write?

I address this query more to my fellow bloggers and fiction writers, but anyone who spends time on an intensive passion in their lives knows what I'm talking about. Everyone has preferable hours when they do their best work. For some that's at the crack of dawn, whereas others prefer to function as night owls.

Regardless of your preference, how do you get your daily dose of writing into your life? Do you set aside specific hours or have a certain word count you aim for each day? Maybe you don't write every day, but instead do every other day or just weekends or only on weekdays. So to sum it up, how do you find the time?

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The End of the World…again

If I have to live through one more apocalypse that feels oddly like an average day I swear I’ll die of boredom. Just kidding. I don’t go in for the doomsday crowd myself.

Actually, people should simply take Nostradamus at his word. When he speaks of ‘a purple prince in darkness’ he’s not making a metaphor about the destructor, he’s actually just warning us to beware of the artist formerly known as Prince. Come on, if you looked into a crystal ball five hundred years ago and saw a Purple Rain video, wouldn’t you think it was the end of the world too?  

But before you party like it’s 1999, or listen to televangelists like Harold Camping for that matter, I suggest people remember that, like a good thriller book, the lure of the end of the world only works if it’s very near. A doomsday like the sun burning out (which will actually happen) in 5 billion years doesn’t make for a very good story. So between the Mayans and the Egyptians, has anyone else heard some amusing cataclysms that are supposed to befall us soon? Sarcastic comments welcome. 

Monday, May 23, 2011

Pick Your Favorite Stalkers

The joys of social media provide us with connections to friends, acquaintances, and strangers where we can say as much or as little about ourselves as we choose. At the same time it seems we can all learn as much or more than we wished to know about others, giving social networks the feeling of an anonymous, electronic stalker. Nonetheless, my fellow bloggers and web-surfers out there tend to have their favorite brands they use in order to get their content published to the web. 

Most of us use multiple options of the following: Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, MySpace, Blogger, Flickr, etc., etc.  Still, I’ve often found that people tend to prefer one or two over all the other alternatives and I am always interested in the reasons why people prefer their “stalker” form of social media over another.  Even if someone publishes content on Blogger, the bulk of their readers might find them via links on Facebook or Twitter or elsewhere. 

There are of course many alternate options I haven’t listed, such as Google Buzz, LinkedIn, and an endless myriad of other types of social media. Such is the web. So what are your favorite forms of social media that you use for your blog or to see other people’s work? And why does that social “stalker” avenue work for you better than others? What gets you the best results?

Friday, May 20, 2011

Curse Words in Print

My mother read a draft of my latest novel the other day and halfway through one chapter she looked up at me in a very motherly way and said that she just came across the first “naughty” word in my book. I completely forgot that I even had any profanity in my story, and felt a little bit like a kid caught with one hand in the cookie jar as my mother stared across the room at me much the way she might have done when I was four. We both had a good laugh about it, but it raised an issue I had not thought about in a long time: what place, if any, do curse words have in a book?

I’m halfway through rewriting my historical novel on the American Civil War, entitled The Long Defeat, and have made significant improvements thanks to great feedback from many of you as well as other friends, family, and even a few literary agents. I really don’t use curse words for the most part in my writing, but a war novel without them seems a bit unrealistic to me. Nonetheless, I do feel that plenty of authors today employ profanity more for shock-value than in an effort to really advance a story. 

What do you think? Have you used curse words in your stories, books, or blogs? How do you feel when you come across them in other people’s novels? Is it okay to use them a lot, a little, or not at all? 

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Death of the Paperbacks

It seems the extinction of paper publishing has already begun. Some of you may already own a tablet, or Kindle, or iPad, or Slate, or Xoom, or Nook, or some other Star Trek-esk reading device that the ancients used to call…a book. 

I’m all for progress, but the monkish, luddite, tactile, Neanderthal inside me wants to bang on the desk and shout “No take-um my book, Ug!” Okay, maybe not that extreme, but any book-lover out there knows what I’m talking about. So what’s the sensible thing to do? Should we burn the libraries and convert to electronic pads or should we buy up paperbacks and horde them away in preparation for the intellectual apocalypse to come? 

The truth probably lies somewhere between these slightly divergent alternatives.  So, my fellow wise book-learned writers/readers, what have you decided to do? I myself am debating whether to hold back or join the progressive wave, but perhaps there’s a third way in between. What would you do? 

Monday, May 16, 2011

Pick Your Favorite Blogs

It’s no secret that a gigillion new blogs are published every day (yes, I’m considering a gigillion a real number). On top of that, every blog out there generates new posts every day or so, only adding to the bombardment of mass information available out on the web. So the question remains, what (if any of it) is worth reading? 

I suppose my real question for all my fellow writers, readers, and bloggers out there today is, of all the blogs, semi-blogs, and similar personal websites generated on the internet, which are your favorites and why? Obviously, I prefer more writing/reading/literary oriented blogs myself, but that doesn’t rule out great sports, entertainment, food, and other thought provoking mediums available to me. I suppose I’m looking for that special something that makes a quirky blog sparkle while others seem to fall flat. 

So what are some of your favorite blogs? Where do you go day after day, and what continues to draw you to that well of inspiration or entertainment? I always like to gauge what other people are reading out there whether it be printed on paper or online. By the way, it’s not cheating to list your own blog...after all I’d like to read that as well! 

Friday, May 13, 2011

Gimme a Good Hook ;)

Call Me Ishmael. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.

Think of all the good opening lines you’ve read in your favorite novels. The first line of a story can be so critical and it’s often in those precious moments that a reader decides whether they’ll continue perusing the rest of the book. I often find myself struggling when trying to come up with an opening hook for my own fiction. I have no problem writing the rest of the story, but I always feel that the first sentence could use a little umf to really sparkle and shine. 

So what’s in an opening line? What are some of your favorite hooks from your favorite novels? Or what are some of your own favorite creations for opening hooks? Don’t worry, I’m not looking to steal your brilliant ideas, but I love hearing the creative insights of others as it often inspires me on my own little journeys on the page. So have at it!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Why did you first get into writing?

This morning I thought about all the experiences and impressions of my past that led me to an interest in writing: inspirational teachers, great books, and lots of other tiny moments that added up like a bunch of little pebbles that eventually combined into an avalanche. I know it sounds odd, but I still remember the thrill of discovering adjectives as a kid and how they could alter my perception of words on the page, i.e. how a door or a gate suddenly came alive on the page when I referred to it as a red door or a broken gate. The way simple text could evoke an image in my mind fascinated me. 

Of course, reading and writing go hand in hand, and every writer I know is as much inspired by a fascinating series of books as they are by experiences in creative writing. But there are so many other kinds of great writing many of us apply in our daily lives as well: journals, diaries, poetry, screen-plays, brainstorms, and even blogs!

So what first got you into writing? I want to know what events transpired to make you into the quirky would-be writer that you are now. What pushed you over into the madness…err passion for writing? What about it changed your life for the better?

Monday, May 9, 2011

Little Mermaid Not For Kids

For my wife’s birthday I took her to see the San Francisco Ballet Company’s “Little Mermaid” at the War Memorial opera house downtown. Needless to say, it was a fantastic production of both art and music. This show, however, was no Disney remake, instead focusing on Hans Christian Andersen’s original story, which was much darker and more adult. 

This particular rendition of the “Little Mermaid” ballet is hosted by San Francisco’s premier ballerina, Yuan Yuan Tan, who not only headlines probably the best ballet company in the U.S., but is herself one of the top ballerina’s in the world and a major superstar in her home country in China. Nowadays, Yuan Yuan lives in San Francisco and puts on productions with other top talent from Russia, Cuba, and the U.S.  My wife did ballet as a girl and needless to say, she loved seeing such amazing performers onstage. 

But I know what you’re wondering…can a guy actually like the ballet? Yes, it actually was pretty darn good and anyone who can appreciate athleticism or music can get into such a well put together production such as the San Francisco ballet. If you don’t believe me, just check it out for yourself. I promise you won’t be disappointed.   

Monday, May 2, 2011

Osama Bin Laden Dead

As I'm sure most of you already know, the President announced that Osama Bin Laden was killed by U.S. Navy SEALs in Pakistan last evening. The details are still coming in, but this operation alone has been in the works for at least two years and the operation achieved its objective without an civilian or American casualties during the raid.

Apparently, the soldiers (as instructed) offered Bin Laden a chance to surrender peacefully, but he replied by opening fire himself and was subsequently killed. His body has been identified via DNA evidence and was later buried at sea. Reportedly, when President Obama was informed, the first two people outside the White House that he called were former presidents Bush and Clinton.

Further details continue to be available online and on television.