Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Finished Editing!

Or I should say finished at least for now. I have finally completed the last chapter edits of my civil war novel, The Long Defeat. Thanks to my professional editor I have not only the satisfaction of a job well done, but also the confidence that my manuscript is as polished and sharp as can possibly be. I have now begun resubmitting my novel, as requested, to several different literary agents in the hope that my novel in its newly revised form will spark their continued interest.

Now, the reason I mention before that the editing process is done for the time being, refers to the fact that usually every stage of the progression of publishing a novel requires further edits. An agent may request specific edits, your publishing house, and even sometimes the bookseller. All in all, writing is certainly rewriting in the publishing business. But I am nonetheless ecstatic to have my novel cleaned up and ready for the next step.

One of the things I mentioned in a previous post regarding editing is that it seems like story length gets shortened as the editing process goes on. This has resulted in my novel being around 60,000 words now, a good, but shorter length novel for historical fiction, which many agents prefer be 70,000 or 80,000 or even 90,000 words or more. Needless to say, this business standard conflicts directly with everything I ever learned in Creative Writing classes, namely that if you can shorten or tighten a story up it will make it better. I have no qualms about lengthening my story, but I don’t want to fill it with needless fluff in order to reach a preordained word count that is supposed to make a book more marketable on a graph. But I am open, and optimistic as always, and ready to cross whatever bridges may be required in order to continue to bring my novel to light.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Sailing on the Bay


Yesterday, I went sailing on San Francisco Bay with my father on his boat. It felt great to get out on the waves again and I spent a good part of the day at the tiller or trimming the mainsail as those westerly winds picked up in the afternoon. As you might imagine, I’ve been reading a lot of nautical-type fiction and non-fiction lately, including Two Years Before the Mast and Mutiny on the Bounty. Interestingly enough, I find that when I read a nautical book it often dovetails nicely with something new I encounter when actually sailing.

For instance, Jack London’s Tales of the Fish Patrol (another favorite of mine) describes London’s sailing adventures on San Francisco Bay back during the turn of the century. It’s neat to find some of the same shore-side landmarks, the same seasonal wind variants, and tidal peculiarities described in his books still very much a part of the character of the bay. Although a lot has definitely changed since his time, the spirit of sailing that he captures in his stories remains the same when you’re actually out there on the water.

In Richard Dana’s Two Years Before the Mast I was surprised to hear such descriptions of the bay before the Gold Rush that paint a portrait of a much wilder bay area. A land of wooded islands, native Indians, a tiny Spanish mission, and Russian fur trading vessels all converging on the bay. Upon first sighting the bay, Dana accurately predicted that this location, because of its unique geography and large, navigable bay waters, would someday become a major maritime center within the growing and prosperous territory of California. I’ve actually seen quotes from this book engraved in some of the shore walkways along the peninsula where a portion of his historical descriptions of the bay are listed in the same, albeit modern-day, settings. All in all, it’s been fun putting some of my reading into practice so-to-speak, and who knows…maybe it’s still something worth writing about too.     

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Left Field Laws

This seems to be my week for praising other blogs, but there’s a lot of good stuff worth checking out on the web. Today, I’d like to shed some light on a new blog a friend of mine has dedicated to his (and my) favorite sports team ever…the San Francisco Giants. My friend, Lawrence Ma, works as a lawyer in downtown San Francisco and decided to combine a flair for law and his passion for baseball in the title. His blog, Left Field Laws, chronicles the ongoing saga of the Giants’ baseball team and their exciting underdog struggle to get to the top of the heap in the National League West.

Although I usually write about more literary topics, I consider baseball worthy of art for all of its heart and its inherent inspirational qualities. It’s not just what types of pitches a pitcher throws, but how he does it that makes him stand out. It’s not just how many homeruns a hitter gets, but how he gets the crowd amped up in the bottom of the ninth. A healthy mix of individualism and teamwork, baseball remains the American pastime. What I particularly enjoy about Lawrence’s blog is that he emphasizes all aspects of the game, from statistics to sportsmanship to…who is the cutest (some of his posts tend to be geared toward more female fans). Nonetheless, there’s something for everyone when it comes to the Giants.

So checkout his site and see how the Giants are faring this baseball season. I’ve posted a link to his blog on the right-hand side of this page as well. I’ll be there, putting in my two cents on all the latest happenings Lawrence has posted. The Giants have a really great team this year, full of both talent and heart. If I don’t see you on his blog, hopefully I’ll catch you at the ballpark. Enjoy!  

Friday, June 18, 2010

Civil War Genre

I’m making good progress with finishing up edits on my Civil War novel, The Long Defeat, and I started thinking about all of the great Civil War genre-type books I’ve read that had an influence on my own book. Some of you may be more aware than others of the large and ever growing genre of Civil War fiction, and although I could never list out the numerous books to choose from I decided today to list out a few of my favorites (in no particular order) for those of you interested in delving deeper into this fascinating genre of literature. I’m a big fan of all historical fiction in general, but I think that there is something unique about novelizations on the American Civil War. Some undefined quality that makes them at once eloquent and rough, universal and decidedly American. But enough of my guff. Checkout the list below and see which ones you’d like to add to you summer reading list this year! 

The Killer Angels
By Michael Shaara, One of the all time greatest Civil War novels, this Pulitzer Prize winning book centers around the pivotal battle of Gettysburg (also the film Gettysburg is based on this novel).

By MacKinlay Kantor, Another winner of the Pulitzer Prize, this novel depicts soldiers and civilians, North and South, who dealt with the most infamous prison camp of the war, Andersonville, Georgia.

Gods and Generals
By Jeff Shaara, Depicting events in the war from its outset up to the battle of Gettysburg, this story is written by Michael Shaara’s son and is intended as a prequel of sorts.

Last Full Measure
By Jeff Shaara, Continuing where Gods and Generals and The Killer Angels leave off, this book chronicles the story of the generals on both sides during the last half of the war.

The March
By E. L. Doctorow, Winner of the Michael Shaara Award, this almost post-modern novel portrays men and women in the western theatre of war, particularly Sherman’s march to the sea.

Gone With the Wind
By Margaret Mitchell, Probably one of the most famous Southern books ever written, this novel needs no introductions and is definitely a worthwhile read.

The Red Badge of Courage
By Stephen Crane, The quintessential Civil War novel, written from the perspective of a common foot soldier, it came out only thirty years after the war and had a huge impact. 

By Valerie Martin, Not strictly a Civil War novel, this compelling book takes place on a slave plantation in Louisiana before the war and its dramatic monologue style is not to be missed.

Uncle Tom’s Cabin 
By Harriet Beecher Stowe, This book came out just before the war and it got reactions from people North and South, making it a bestseller then and now.

Cold Mountain
By Charles Frazier, Set in North Carolina and modeled somewhat on Homer’s Iliad, this story follows a rebel deserter and the woman back home that he loves as they try to get back to one another.

Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass
By Frederick Douglass, Not fiction, but nonetheless all the more compelling as he describes his birth, enslavement, and struggle for freedom in an America few would recognize today.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

U.S. in the World Cup

So against the expectations of many in this year’s World Cup, the American soccer (fĂștbol) team tied England at one goal a piece. Early in the game, the Brits scored, but the U.S. came through in the end. Now both teams have advanced to the top of their respective divisions in North American and Europe. The U.S. goes on to play Slovenia next and Algeria after that.

The U.S. has a particularly strong team this year and has already pushed ahead of other competing nations in the North American division, such as Mexico, Honduras, and others. Despite the U.S. preference for other sports such as baseball, basketball, and (American) football, this year American fans seem to be getting into this worldwide pastime with a little bit more fervor than usual. I’m a big baseball fan myself, but even I played soccer growing up, and just seeing sporting fans from across the globe partake in this year’s World Cup in South Africa makes me take a new, genuine interest in this truly universal competition.

Even though I’m of course rooting for my home country, other teams this year will be tough to beat. Japan and Korea have come off strong, and the Brazilians almost always end up as one of the top finalists. But there’s always hope and it should be a great series of games from all competing nations. My hope is that the U.S. team makes a strong enough finish to continue to expand the interest of budding fans in America, like myself. After all, even the President couldn’t keep away from this year’s American team, posing with them before shipping out for the World Cup in Johannesburg.   

Monday, June 14, 2010

Does Money Make You Happy?


Studies on lottery winners in the 1970s reported that people who hit the jackpot claimed to have no noticeable difference in their level of happiness a year or so after coming into more money. In fact, aside from resources for basic survival and comfort needs, people who earn higher salaries often report the same or lower levels of satisfaction with their lives compared to others. So why is your multimillion dollar lawyer less content than your starving artist? Let me tell you a quick little story…

A fisherman off the coast of South America brings in his catch everyday and a visiting tourist from Harvard in America notices the fisherman coming into port. He asks where the man caught such great big fish, and the fisherman explains that there are many out in the channel nearby. So the Harvard man says that the fisherman should go back and catch more. The fisherman asks why, because he spends most of his day taking a siesta with his wife, playing guitar with his friends in the evenings, and drinking wine with dinner. Upon hearing this, the man from Harvard sets him straight.
“No, no, no,” he explains. “You should go catch more fish. Then you will earn more money from selling them.”
“And then what?” the fisherman inquires.
“Then you’ll have enough money to hire more hands to catch more fish and make even more money,” the Harvard man says.
            “Then what?”
            “Then you can buy a canning factory and sell directly to customers around the world.”
            “Then what?”
            “Then you’ll have more money and can set yourself up in New York and people will buy stock in your company.”
            “Then what?”
            “Then you’ll manage your corporation for many years and eventually sell your own stock in the company and retire.”
            “Then what?”
            “Then you can hang out near the beach, catch a few fish for fun, have siestas with your wife, play guitar with your friends, and drink wine in the evenings.”
            The fisherman simply shakes his head, shrugs, and walks off to go have a siesta with his wife.

Obviously, this isn’t my story, but the idea is the same. You don’t need to be rich to enjoy the very best of life. And it’s in living, not in making money, that we truly find purpose.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Are You a Browncoat?


Or more specifically, what kind of Browncoat are you? If you’ve seen either the show Firefly or the film Serenity you know what I’m talking about. If not, rent or buy them tonight…honestly it’s a great way to spend your Friday evening. Take the quiz below and see what type of Browncoat personality you have. Enjoy your weekends everyone…and keep flying!

Browncoat Quiz

  1. You find yourself in a bar, playing pool, when suddenly a rough looking customer with big fists and a switchblade accuses you of hustling. You reply…
    1. Jeepers, mister…I’m sorry. – You retreat meekly.
    2. Zoe, help! – A tall Amazon woman with a Winchester appears beside you.
    3. Gorram yokel. – You pull out a barstool, deck the customer, and resume your game of pool. 

  1. A Companion Courtesan appears in your doorway, dressed in a revealing silken gown, asking you for directions. You answer…
    1. Are you lost my child? – You pull out your bible.
    2. I swallowed a bug… – You smile and do a handstand. 
    3. I’ll be in my bunk. – You retreat to the bedroom.

  1. Given a choice from the junkyard, you pick out your ideal ride. You decide…
    1. Risk my ship? You select a hovercraft called a “mule.”  
    2. I do legitimate business. – You buy a shuttlecraft.
    3. I am a leaf on the wind, watch how I soar. – You pick a Firefly.

  1. Serenity to you means…
    1. Peace. – Where even a fugitive of the law can be safe and free.
    2. Love…Little Albatross. – You read a poem, try not to faint.   

… - The primary buffer panel goes out.

      Wednesday, June 9, 2010

      Think You’ve Read A Lot?

      -->I recalled today a presentation a fellow classmate in Grad school had given several years ago regarding the publication of novels. In fact, I think it was Brad Uy, if memory serves (correct me if I’m wrong here Brad). Anyhow the short of it is that we had to read so much material during those years that several of us thought we’d read a good amount of what was out there. How wrong we were.

      It turns out that there are a lot more books out there than people realize. I mean, a lot more. Some of you may have heard the old phrase that more novels have been published since the year 1950 than in all of human history beforehand. And that is true, but did you also know that so many new novels have been published in the last few years that there are almost more new books in print that were published after the year 2000 than all the previous centuries before? In other words, within a few years there will be more new, never before published books since the year 2000 than all the rest of human history put together. That’s a lot of books! 

      In fact, currently, in novels alone, in fiction alone, over 200 completely new and unpublished works are printed and presented to the public for the first time…every day. That’s right, over 200 new novels a day in English alone. And the rate of newly published novels is rising exponentially every year as well. Now, I’m sure if you finished one novel a day for the rest of your lives you’d feel like a real bookworm, right? But, even at 200 novels a day you’d still be behind. There is a plus side, however. There are more books than you’ll ever physically be able to read, so the enjoyment is limitless. In addition, for first-time authors (like myself) there’s more and more of us getting published every year. Of course, there are more writers too so the odds may remain about the same. Nonetheless, I think the sheer volume of books printed today is something worth wrapping your head around.

      So get reading…  

      Monday, June 7, 2010

      Make a Deal with the Devil

      For my wife’s birthday, I took her to the opening night of Faust at the San Francisco War Memorial Opera House this last Saturday. Charles Gounod’s operatic rendition of Goethe’s Faust involves some new characters and plot revisions to the original play, but the music and storyline of this opera still proves to be fantastic a century and a half later. The performer who played Mephistopheles definitely stole the show Saturday night, and for a story about a man selling his soul to the devil the dialogue turned out to have a substantial amount of comical relief throughout each act. A winning combination of magnificent sets, jovial plots lines, and truly terrific singing made this production of Faust a worthwhile experience to say the least.

      For those of you unfamiliar with Faust, the story essentially revolves around an aging professor who sells his soul to the devil in order to have youth again and success in love. The devil shows up, often in very comical and unexpected ways, and gives Faust his wish. In addition, Faust meets a young woman named Marguerite who is the ideal of chastity, beauty, and virtue. Needless to say, the two fall in love. The devil, as Mephistopheles, frequently gives Faust help in any way he asks, often putting his powers to both good and ill uses throughout the story. Probably what really makes this opera unique, compared to Goethe or Marlowe’s versions of “Faust,” is that the devil in this rendition is so candid about his intentions and yet also so friendly to the point that he really seems to want to help Faust (so long as he gets his soul in the process). All in all, it makes for an interesting relationship amongst the primary characters.  

      This is the second opera I’ve seen, the first being Il Trovatore, and although I very much like both they are quite different. If they were flavors, Il Trovatore would be vanilla and Faust would be chocolate. Il Trovatore offers traditional, full-throated opera in Italian, whereas Faust is a more tongue-and-cheek, devil-may-care performance in French. No pun intended. Both of course had fantastic music, and the symphony deserves as much credit as the actors onstage. If you haven’t had a chance to attend an opera in your area I suggest you go out and see one. Their mixture of story, music, and showmanship really brings multiple art-forms together in a truly enthralling experience.

      Charles Gounod, creator of the opera Faust

      Friday, June 4, 2010

      U2 Out of Commission

      Well, my favorite band in the world has recently had a mild setback. Bono, the lead singer from U2, injured his back on tour in Europe and had to have immediate surgery after the show. As a result the entire American leg of the tour has been postponed until next year. In addition to obviously feeling sorrow for my favorite band, I also had planned to see them live in Oakland with my wife in just a few weeks!

      Fortunately, Bono will recover and my tickets for the show should still be valid…wherever and whenever the rock venue ends up being. Nonetheless, my wife and I had bought the tickets for one another as a Christmas gift and with only a couple weeks to go we were pretty jazzed to see Bono, the Edge, Adam, and Larry onstage. Now, unfortunately, we’ll have to wait another year or so until we can see the awesomeness of U2 again. I haven’t seen U2 live since their Elevation Tour in 2001 so I can’t wait to see them in the flesh again. My last U2 concert was also memorable because I actually got to meet the Edge, and he signed my jacket. I later cut out the signature from that old jacket and still have it mounted on my wall. Aside from being an awesome guitarist he was also a really, really nice guy!

      So, as the weekend arrives keep Bono in your thoughts and prayers as the sooner he heals up, the sooner U2 can fill their airwaves with their new albums and the sooner their unrivaled live show will take the road once more. Take it easy this weekend, and keep rocking. 

      Wednesday, June 2, 2010

      My Weekend in SLO

      I just finished this last weekend in California’s sunny San Luis Obispo. A great town for relaxing and of course, perusing books. I paid several visits to the local independent bookstore, Phoenix Books. Definitely a must-see for those book-lovers out there. Wall to wall hardbacks and paperbacks of every variety and make line Phoenix’s extensive shelves.

      My wife and I had a good time getting back to basics: walking the streets, eating out, and going to the beach. My wife wasn’t feeling too well (she had a cough and sore throat), but after a few days of taking it easy I think the rest helped her improve. We didn’t visit any friends in town (we didn’t want to get anyone sick), but we were kind of in the mood to do lots of nothing. If you haven’t been to SLO you owe yourself the experience of chilling in a place with no worries, where everyone is super friendly and enjoys the SLO life!

      I’m super swamped this week with work and whatnot, so my blog posts may be a bit more spotty than usual for a while. But stay tuned as I’m hoping to have some more exciting articles for you guys in the coming days ahead. In the meantime, take it easy and enjoy your short-week!