Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Nosegay Power Points?

I visited Miami once, years ago. I met a family friend who was aware of my aspirations to become an author. He arranged for us to go to a bookstore to hear an author. I was looking forward to it. Then I got there. He read some pages from his book and then it was cocktail hour. I kind of felt like I was missing something. It seemed somewhat shallow and pompous. Now that I’ve read this article by Joanne Kaufman called Rethinking the Familiar Book Tour (here), I see that I’m not the only one who feels this way.

The best quote of the article is this:
“We want them to leave the event saying 'wow,'" said Ms. Jennings, who'd like to say something similar when she looks at the cash register receipts after one of these events. One recent example: a visit from Vanessa Diffenbaugh, who spoke about the foster-care system—a theme of her debut novel, "The Language of Flowers"—and who gave a PowerPoint presentation about the significance of particular nosegays in the Victorian era.

I don’t know about you, but I have a hard time believing that I’d leave a reading with a nosegay power point as the kicker saying “wow.” But, there could be some out there who would.

Additionally, was this line:
At Boswell Books in Milwaukee, the store's owner, Daniel Goldin, suggests a hybrid: a talk (what inspired the book? is the protagonist based on a real person?) sandwiched between the reading of two brief passages. In lieu of readings, Roxanne Coady, the owner of R.J. Julia Booksellers in Madison, Conn., will sometimes conduct an interview with an author. "Audiences feel they're getting something unusual and intimate, and sales of the book go up," she said.

How many readers would I win over when I tell them my inspiration . . . to make money and to eventually quit the day job. Hardly enough to inspire folks to part with their money.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Dick Hannah Stayed Here

I read Maria Finn’s article in the WSJ The Write Stuff (here) last weekend and was less than inspired. Do I think it’s a neat idea to stay in hotels or apartments where famous literary heroes may have stayed? Sure. Would I want to stay in any that are highlighted in the novel? No. A thousand times no.

Despite being less than inspired to go travel as Miss Finn suggests, I was inspired to think about where I would want to go and where I would want to stay.
First, I think it would be fun to start a trail ride down on the border and ride it north just like they did in Lonesome Dove. You could camp out along the way and read passages of the book along the way. What a spectacular way to both camp, and to read a great novel.

Secondly, a Dick Francis tour. I’m sure they have these and if I ever get over to England I’m determined to join one, but a tour of the horse racing venues that Dick Francis uses as backdrops for his mysteries would be incredible. The problem? There would be too many.

Probably not what others would like, but certainly more personal and personally inspirational than those listed in the article.

Another First, but Just What You'd Expect

I'm reading a hard-boiled mystery by Ross Macdonald from the mid 1950's. The first line is as good as they get.

“It was a Friday night. I was tooling home from the Mexican border in a light blue convertible and a dark blue mood.”

The Imaginary Blonde – Ross Macdonald

Who wouldn’t want to read on more after starting with that.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Word-Smither Strikes Again

My five year old's custom words and unique formulations have become less frequent since he started reading more, but he came up with one today when his uncle asked him what his favorite chocolate was.

"I like chocolate mint but I really like chocolate smudge."

Took me just a split second to translate it, but in the end I really liked it.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011


Of my twenty-eight buddies, some of who were hold-overs from last year, four have completed National Novel Writing Month successfully. One of my buddies is all the way up to 80K already. I'm sure that I have at least four Facebook compatriots who have announced their finishing (it all a bit ambiguous as I can't see their word totals on Facebook).

Having given it some great deal of thought, I think much of this disparity has to do with age. Most of my buddies are my own age. When we write to one another a common theme is what to do with kiddos when we write. Facebookers are primarily teens and twenties. What do they know about juggling kids, work, spouses, and writing.

Still, I envy them. I wish I had been writing 50K novels at twenty-three.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Having Made it to 50K . . .

Having made it to 50,000 words (50,010) to be exact, I still have quite a bit of story left.

This is the fifth time I've gotten to 50,000 words, and I have to say that it gets easier each time. I still have at least 10K more words just on the story I'm currently developing and I have several sub-plots that I never fully fleshed out, so I can see this being a bit larger even still. Editing will cull it down, but the point is that each National Novel Writing Month gets easier. Hopefully the editing will get easier too.

The other nice thing? I have some great support. I have about 20 writing buddies and some people I see via Facebook. I had less or neither of these support features when I wrote the first few times. Makes me wonder how much they played a part. I will say that the local Facebook chapter is far more prolific than my writing buddies. I had two writing buddies who finished before I did, the others are still 10K or more shy. I saw many, many of the Facebookers had hit 50K a week or more ago.

Onward to Script Frenzy in the Spring and NaNoEdMo! (Seriously, I didn't just make that up. It's an even sillier sounding anagram than NaNoWriMo, but I'm not in charge).

Worrisome Title

Upon reading the title of an Economist article my brother sent me, I thought I might want to ready my wife to return the Kindle Fire she has no doubt already ordered for me for Christmas. The title is Fire in the Hole (here) and it is worth reading for anyone considering a Fire.

I found the most prescient passage to be:

"One big difference between the iPad and the Fire was that the latter was shipped preloaded with Babbage's Amazon account, and thus linked to all of the digital purchases he ever made on Amazon, as well as music uploaded to its Cloud Drive, divided neatly into categories like newsstand, video, music and books. The appropriate aisles of Amazon's digital store load by default in each tab. Purchases past and future can be also downloaded onto the device or streamed from the cloud. The process is so simple that one might expect Apple to have come up with it. (Accessing content on the iPad is incomparably more finicky.) The streaming option is particularly nifty, especially since the Fire boasts little storage—just 8 gigabytes, compared with an iPad's 16, 32 or 64 gigabytes."

This is exactly what I'm looking for. I'm not looking to dump my library of books and start over, I like having all those with me when I go from reader to reader. I want my content.

Nevertheless, the passage that should make all Apple devotees like my brother feel secure is the last:

"For all that, the Fire is not an iPad killer. But nor does it need to be. Mr Bezos has built a clever little gizmo which, especially at its low price, may yet put a dent in Apple's dominant, even overweening position. Consumers can only benefit."

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Kindle Fire

The other day I hinted to the wife that I wanted a Kindle Fire for Christmas. I know, I know, . . . regular readers will howl about how I have not been the greatest fan of tablets for reading in past posts, but having read a few reviews (here and here)I think I would like one.

Despite the rather rough review from PC World, having read it, I realize that the things that the Mellissa Perenson says are the shortcomings for the Fire are the very things I don't want. I don't want a tablet, I want an e-reader that provides more functionality for reading periodicals and books. If I wanted a tablet I'd go with the iPad. I don't. I want an e-reader. What I like the most? What Miss Perenson says here, is what I'm looking for.

"The Fire's integration with Amazon's media storefronts is, bar none, the best thing about this tablet. Rather than giving you one place to shop and another to use your digital media, Amazon consolidates those experiences into one."

That and my existing libarary of content, and I'll be happy.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Where Are We Now?

Things are moving swimmingly with National Novel Writing Month. I'm over the 35K mark and well on my way to 50K. I think I'll have more than enough story to go beyond 50K, but will I get it all in in the one month.

I will admit that things have slowed down. Tomorrow though I have a business trip. As you can see from the graph, my first week, when I was travelling to Ohio, I got a ton done. I won't promise that this business trip will provide the same productivity, as New Orleans doesn't offer the same flight time, but I'm hoping that it will help me get past this final hump.

Monday, November 14, 2011

In the Absence of Anything Better to Post

As I'm knee-deep, and thirty-five thousands words deep into my novel, along with several thousand other National Novel Writing Monthers, I offer this repost from the Monkey See Blog (here) all about How to Name your Novel.

My favorite: If Your First Novel Will Be A Workplace Satire - At Least They Left Us The [A PIECE OF OFFICE MACHINERY]

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Nota Bene

Uh oh. This is a good note to self. If you want to be a published and well known spy thriller novel, probably best NOT to plagarize. The whole article, Spy Thriller: 'An Instant Classic' Vanishes Amid Plagiarism Charges by Jefferey A Trachtenberg (here), is well worth reading but I've quoted (not lifted!) segments below.

The Hook

The book is a thriller about an elite CIA agent chasing a shadowy international group of assassins. But Tuesday, publisher Little, Brown & Co. recalled all 6,500 copies of the novel on the grounds that passages were "lifted" from other books. One sharp-eyed observer says he had identified at least 13 novels with similar material.

The Proof

One example, noted by spy novelist Jeremy Duns, is this passage from "Assassin of Secrets": "Then he saw her, behind the fountain, a small light, dim but growing to illuminate her as she stood naked but for a thin, translucent nightdress; her hair undone and falling to her waist—hair and the thin material moving and blowing as though caught in a silent zephyr." The same sentence appears precisely in "License Renewed," a James Bond novel by John Gardner, a search of Google Books shows.
Although not in and of itself damning, this next passage is enough to nail the coffin down.

On the first page of chapter one of "Assassin" is this paragraph: "The boxy, sprawling Munitions Building which sat near the Washington Monument and quietly served as I-Division's base of operations was a study in monotony. Endless corridors connecting to endless corridors. Walls a shade of green common to bad cheese and fruit. Forests of oak desks separated down the middle by rows of tall columns, like concrete redwoods, each with a number designating a particular work space."

In the book "Body of Secrets: Anatomy of the Ultra-Secret National Security Agency" by James Bamford is this: "In June 1930, the boxy, sprawling Munitions Building, near the Washington Monument, was a study in monotony. Endless corridors connecting to endless corridors. Walls a shade of green common to bad cheese and fruit. Forests of oak desks separated down the middle by rows of tall columns, like concrete redwoods, each with a number designating a particular workspace."

YOW! Why do folks do this. There are things that I read from my favorite authors that I might want to mimic. For example, in Three for the Chair by Rex Stout, Archie uses a characters mannerisms to describe the character, but he does it in a clever and funny way (see more here) but I wouldn't dream of actually cutting and pasting the entire section into my book.

Not a big fan of plagarism. Avoid it at all costs!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Sorry for the Silence

I've been working so hard on my latest National Novel Writing Month entry that I just haven't been able to find the time to write any blog entries. The good news is that this effort is going quite well. At this point I only have to write 1000 words a day from now until the end of November to finish with 50K words. I think I'm on pace for over 100K if I keep this up.

The best part? At about 17K I started to get worried I would run out of story. I added a whole new sub-plot and BLAMMO! I'm off! No more worries about hitting 50K.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

National Geographic Article

Whenever i travel for work I like to read national geographic during those few times that I have to "power off anything with a on off switch." It takes just about the right amount of time to reach 10K feet as it takes to read an article. One that read a month or so ago dealt with elephant orphans in Kenya (here). It was a great article and I almost decided to write a mystery novel set in that type of environment just cause I thought the story was so terrific.

I get my ideas from a myriad of sources, from friends, from relatives, from all sorts of articles that I read. I passed this article along to a fellow National Novel Writing Month writer who from what I've read and seen from her website has some significant experience in Africa. Who know, maybe a few years from now I'll have the chance to read a mystery novel that focus on orphan elephants. If it was inspired by this article its bound to be good.

Friday, November 4, 2011

YA Bullet Points

Great article on YA writing in the WSJ (here). What Kids Want in A Novel by Malie Meloy has several great points, but there are one or two which I find better than most, including:

"Don't write down. Kids read up. After hearing that my book takes place during the Cold War, some parents have worried that their children won't know the history. But all information is new information to kids. They're designed to absorb it, and they follow the emotional story."

"This might be the most important one: Stuff has to happen. Right from the start. Roald Dahl said, "Children are a great discipline because they are highly critical. And they lose interest so quickly. You have to keep things ticking along." I think that should be true of books for adults, too. I complained to a friend that I had stopped reading three much-admired novels in a row because I was on page 60 in each and nothing had happened."

Some of the aspiring writers in the writing group I was a part of were YA writers. I don't think I could do it, particularly fantasy YA. I find it hard enough just writing for my own level of reading, I would imagine that writing YA would be as hard as writing from the opposite sex point of veiw. Still, a good article.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

I Don't Usually Paste Pictures

Sorry its been so long, but I've been traveling and as I said in my previous post, there are few things better than traveling for writing. I have proof this time. I'm up to 14,000 words on my National Novel Writing Month entry.

I'm really cranking it out. As a seasoned vet of these things I guess I've learned that it doesn't matter at this point how polished the prose are, all that matters is getting them on the page. Either that or I've learned that a five year old and a one year old aren't conducive to writing so I'm trying to get as much done as possible whilst I'm away. Whatever the case, I'm way ahead of schedule. (Writing that made me think about the Bandit and Snowman. Let's hope I have an equal or better ending than those two).

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Where Do I Write

There is a forum in the National Novel Writing Month website (here) that asks "where is the best place to write, coffee shop, home, or library?" I say none of the above!

Few things beat airport terminals for writing. Southwest has the spectacular powered chairs that allow me to charge my computer while I write. Then, once I get on the plane, there I am, ensconced in the seat, with nothing to do but write until the plane lands. No people milling about, no crazy travellers on cell phones, no loud speakers announcing the next flight.

The only bad part is that at the beginning and end of the flight I have to "turn off anything that has an on off switch." That's a bit of a pain, but I've found that I get to recharge a bit, think about where I'm going, and to reconsider my plot.

The bad news. Although this travel today has allowed me to get to 5337 words on day one, I don't have many more travel days coming up in November. Still, I look forward to flying home on Thursday. Maybe I can get a quarter of the way through the contest by Friday.

And So It Begins

My first “mission” in the military I was shuttled into the Washington State wilderness on a decrepit Huey that looked as though it was older than I was. I had been in the battalion for less than a day. I was hustled out with my squad to the airfield and with barely a check to see that I had everything I would need, we were off for a week in the field. During that mission I lost two sets of gloves, an undershirt and two pair of under-roos that I didn’t really need, three magazines, a blank adapter for the muzzle of my weapon, a cap and mysteriously, a bootlace.

As is common in the military, each lost article of gear resulted in marathon punishment routines that consisted mostly of pushups. I learned quickly to pack directly from the packing list, no more no less, to have my gear tied down, stowed or packed to take the rigors of our missions, and to go to the field prepared.

Other than that first mission, I don’t think I’ve ever been less prepared for anything as I am for this National Novel Writing month.

Last year I remember I had a firm idea of what I was doing, the type of book it was going to be, the character description and an outline of the first few chapters. This year . . . zilch. I have a loose outline and some ideas. That’s it. Heck when I started writing this morning I changed the POV!

Still, I just read an article about inspiration and how creative ideas will come to the fore when you least expect it. I’m hoping that my creativity comes up now and stays for the whole month