Monday, November 29, 2010

The Deathly Hollows

This last week I went and saw the new Harry Potter film, The Deathly Hallows: Part One. I’ve read the books and definitely think that the last novel of the seven book series is a pretty good one so it’s nice to see it now on the big screen. Overall, it was a worthwhile flick to go see.

For the first time in the filmmaking franchise, they split up a book into two parts. The result is that you get more bang for your buck and more from the book is included in the film (although there’ll always be tons more in the book than the movie version). The only downside is that the movie doesn’t really have an ending, just a “to be continued” kind of feeling.

Nonetheless, you get to see all of your favorite characters, only now these kid films have definitely turned dark and adult. In fact, during parts of the film I was surprised the rating on the movie hadn’t been restricted for more adult audiences. This was also the first film where the characters never visit their school, Hogwarts. I’d say, if you’ve got a few hours to spare during the week or weekend (when you’re not Christmas shopping) go see the film and have a good time.   

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

With Thanksgiving upon us and thoughts of turkey, yams, and cranberries it’s pretty difficult to think of much else. Although I’m sure more than a few of you are already looking towards Black Friday. But before the holiday season progresses I thought I’d blog about my second installment of Monday’s piece about Thanksgiving-esk literature.

After my plug for Native American writing, I’d like to highlight all the New England, Colonial, and Puritan literature that makes up the origins of American consciousness. Now, you may be wondering, who cares about the Puritans? And I used to think the same way until I had to take a course on the subject in graduate school.

Turns out that texts such as William Bradford’s history of the Pilgrim’s, John Winthrop’s “City on a Hill” speech, and all the sermons of Jonathan Edwards to the poems of Anne Bradstreet really do have something to offer to the avid reader. Many of the things we consider American, from our work ethic to attitudes to morals stem from these early colonial writings. Other uniquely American genres, such as Captivity Narratives (like those of Mary Rowlandson) described settlers' experiences when taken prisoner by Indians. All in all, I suggest giving one of these short texts a try over your four day break, and who knows…you might just like it. Happy Thanksgiving! 

Monday, November 22, 2010

Native American Writing

Before I get into the Thanksgiving spirit of Puritans and Pilgrims I thought I’d spotlight the other side of the fall holiday season first. Namely, the Native American contributions to this time of year and the legacy that surrounds it. After all, who do you think gave us the first turkeys, corn, beans, and pumpkins that we so associate with this time of year?

As usual, I celebrate with reading. Some of my favorites include legends, such as The Myths of the Cherokee as well as pretty much any tribal or cultural myths I can get a hold of from other regions of North America. I watch some of my favorite movies, like The Last of the Mohicans and I more or less give myself over to whatever autumnal whims pop into my head.

For fun reads and stories, try The Education of Little Big Tree. For history buffs there’s an endless supply of non-fiction accounts and histories from which to choose as well. I like reading all of it because it provides food for thought and something apropos to talk about when I find myself around the Thanksgiving table.    

Friday, November 19, 2010

Stylish Blogger Award!

Fellow blogger and chef extraordinaire, Stacy Grow, has nominated me for the “Stylish Blogger Award.” Basically the way it works is you link back to the person who praised you, list seven things about yourself, and nominate other blogs. Even though I’ve heard that you’re supposed to nominate 15 other blogs, I think I’ll follow Stacy’s example and praise my top 5. They are as follows:

  1. Of course Stacy’s blog, In Search of Finer Things, because it’s awesome.
  2. Meghan Sullivan’s Ancient Musings, for all things Greek.
  3. Valerie Noce’s Mi Viaje a Peru, for things south of the border.
  4. Lawrence Ma’s Left Field Laws, for baseball and, yes, I know it rhymes.
  5. And Stephanie Thronton’s Hatshepsut, because we all need a little Egypt in our day.   

As for seven things you may or not know about me beyond my life as a would-be author, here it goes…

  1. I work at Google as a Project Lead and Tech Writer.
  2. I love sailing with my dad on his boat on San Francisco Bay.
  3. I have a Masters in English and a BA in History/English from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo.
  4. I am married to the absolutely most spectacular and beautiful wife in the universe!
  5. I love gardening, and fill up my little yard with corn, pumpkins, etc. every year.
  6. I’m not loyal to any one religion, but I’m very spiritual, after all it’s pretty hard to top God in your life.
  7. And…oh yeah…I’m a ninja…

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Progress with Colonial Novel

Seeing as we’re halfway through November I figured I’d give you an update on my ambitious plans to write 50,000 more words in my historical fiction set in colonial America. The good news is that I’m writing a ton. The flipside is, I’m still not sure if it’ll be enough to meet my goal.

Obviously, quality is better than quantity, but I’ve found with writing that the more you write the better, because you can always cut the fluff out and still keep going with the nuggets of gold you’ve created. I’m racing through about a chapter a week right now, approximately 7,000-8,000 every seven days, or around 1,000 words a day. Sounds nice, but will I reach 50,000 words by December 1st?

We’ll see, but I’m optimistic. Even if I don’t quite reach that goal, I’m pleased with the current pace as well as the content. My only major stumbling block remains the title. I’m working on a shortlist of potential titles for my new novel, and I hope to post them in a few weeks to see what you all think. In the meantime…keep writing. 

Monday, November 15, 2010

Weekend in Napa

Thanks to all of you who wished me a happy birthday on the phone, via email, and on Facebook yesterday. I totally didn’t expect it! My wife and I were away for the weekend, staying at the Silverado Resort in the Napa wine country.

My company treated us to an all expensed paid weekend for some particularly good work I’ve done for them over the last few months. And it all just happened to be on my birthday weekend. We had a suite, meals, wine tasting, massage, and more all complimentary. Needless to say, it was pretty sweet.

I’m not used to such nice things, but it was great having a weekend to relax and enjoy the important things in life: spending time together, being outdoors, reading, and of course drinking wine. We even saw members of the country-rock group the Zack Brown Band as they too were staying at the resort. Overall, we had a great time and will probably keep living off memories from this weekend to help get us through the work week. 

Friday, November 12, 2010

Veterans Day Books

Yesterday was Veterans Day, and along with wishing friends and family who are vets a happy day I of course also thought about books. Namely, great literature written by veterans. Writers like O’Brien, Remarque, Sassoon, and Owen. Great stories inspired by real events.

But I also thought about other different veteran books, such as Tolkien. In his Middle Earth fantasy, dark places like Mordor were definitely influenced by his experiences in the trenches during World War One. Other writers, who weren’t necessarily veterans, but war correspondents, also provide some great Vets Day reading. Authors like Hemingway, Dos Passos, and Crane. But I’m sure I’m forgetting plenty of others.

Since I’ve read all of these authors, I’m curious to know which Vet books you like to read. I’m always looking for ways to expand my reading and if anyone thinks of a great Veterans Day book I haven’t thought of you get a prize. Not sure what yet exactly…probably lots of good karma points. Anyhow, have a great weekend! 

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Tale of Genji

I recently just finished reading Japan’s national epic, “The Tale of Genji.” As far as epics go, it’s pretty different from Western stories like those of Homer or Virgil. There are no battles, not much in the way of Gods or Goddesses, or even magic. Perhaps, most intriguing, however, the tale was written by a woman, Murasaki Shikibu.

Written sometime around the year 1000, this epic reads more like a novel. Since most male authors at the time in Japan wrote in Chinese, considered the higher form of calligraphy at the time, courtly women were actually the first to write epic poetry in Japanese. As a result, “The Tale of Genji,” which centers on a man, deals mostly with concepts central to courtly women during the ancient/medieval period. Genji, a good-looking aristocrat, is something of a male Helen of Troy, around which the central female characters (who inevitably become his lovers) revolve. Much is made about his good looks, and the clothes of women at court, as well as the political and romantic intrigues.

This book isn’t for the fainthearted. Most translations run in excess of 1200 pages. Nonetheless, it has striking characters that seem as real today as they must have been a thousand years ago. Genji’s lovers, like Fujibutso (the Emperor’s Consort), Murasaki (a young beauty, but too young for marriage yet), and the Lady Akashi (a rural governor’s daughter) all provide worthy heroines in of themselves. Forbidden love and courtly values, instead of detracting from the story, only add a distinctly Japanese flavor that allows the reader to truly travel back in time and immerse themselves in the tale. 

Monday, November 8, 2010

Non-Fiction November

Along with NanoWriMo, November is also known as Non-Fiction month. This month, non-fiction writers are encouraged to strut their stuff regarding their favorite topics and/or subjects of most expertise. Although I’m primarily a fiction writer myself, I do like to spotlight this unusual aspect of November when great non-fiction contests and publications flood the scene.  

So, if you find yourself as a budding writer and may have found fiction not quite your thing, try out some non-fiction this month. In the publishing world, nothing comes easy, but writers of non-fiction do have slightly better odds at getting published and with such a wide variety of real life material to choose from the genre only grows more fascinating by the day. Everything from history to biography to science counts as but a few of the wide range of subjects from which to choose.

Writing non-fiction can also be a good career move. If you work in academia, publishing non-fiction can often be a requirement and a means of not only gaining prestige, but also securing better teaching opportunities.  Some of my favorite non-fiction books were written by professors I had in college. So, even if you don’t write some non-fiction this month I suggest you find some to read, and experience just a taste of what’s out there.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Publishing in the New Yorker

Today I wanted to give a brief shout-out to Brian Crawford, a fellow writer I met at the San Francisco Writer’s conference, who just got some of his short fiction published in the Hint Fiction Anthology run by the New Yorker. An anthology of very short stories and some very big talent, it’s definitely worth checking out. A pretty darn impressive feat!

Brian has a blog entitled The Leaf Blower and is also worth a browse. He writes thriller novels and like myself is still looking for that big break into the publishing world, namely through a literary agent. But with something published by the New Yorker I think he’s well on his way.

So give yourself a treat and check it out this weekend. Happy Friday everyone! 

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

World Series Champs!

Well, it finally happened! The San Francisco Giants won the World Series. The partying in and around the Bay Area has been relatively non-stop as the team begins their parade through the city today. 

My wife and I enjoyed watching my favorite player, Brian Wilson, pitch the last strikeout of the game, clinching it for the Giants. Our neighborhood promptly erupted in shouts of joy and fireworks. We drove to a nearby pub to meet up with friends where along the way everyone honked their horns and came outside as the entire city and environs commenced with the celebrations. 

People in the Marina stopped traffic and stood on buses and the cops didn’t even mind. It’s been a heck of a year and a heck of a season, and I’m just glad I was here to see it. And yes, I finally shaved (but not until after we won). 

Monday, November 1, 2010


November first kicks off NanoWriMo, otherwise known as National Writing Month. A friend of mine recently hipped me to this site and all the great literary endeavors happening this month. One contest I’d like to highlight in particular is the NanoWriMo contest for starting and completing the first draft of a 50,000 word novel all within the span of the month of November. Very cool, but, of course, easier said than done.

The website has detailed instructions, but the gist of it revolves around dedicating every day this month to crafting a new novel. It’s a tall order that would require a writer to finish over sixteen-hundred words a day with no breaks in order to meet the deadline of November 30. Needless to say, I’m game, how about you?

Personally, I’m not in it so much for the contest, but more as a personal challenge to see how much I can write. If I could keep up that kind of writing pace even for only a few days I’d feel pretty good, but I’ve never tried to sustain that level of productivity for an entire month straight. Currently, I’m in the throws of a historical novel and about halfway through. But I figure I’ve got another 50,000 words to go before I complete the second half. What better way than to challenge myself to a dual of words during NanoWriMo? So, the real question is, what creative breakthroughs will you challenge yourself to tackling in the great month of November?