Monday, February 28, 2011

My Ode to Valentine's Day.

Hearts and roses and kisses galore…
What the hell is that schtuff for
People get mushy and start acting queer
It’s definitely the most annoying day of the year.

Today marks two weeks since Valentine's Day...that loveliest of holidays where twidderpated hearts and much sex ensue.  My friend James recently told me about his gift to his sweetie.  He called it "Fourteen Days of Valentines" and it started on February 1st.  In mid-January, he bought fourteen gifts for his girlfriend and packaged them up with bright bows and coupled all of them with a calendar.  He then mailed these in a big box with the instructions that she was to open up each gift indicated by the day on the calendar.  I thought it was one of the most romantic things that I'd ever heard of anyone doing for anyone.  Since a well-known author used the word "perfect" a ton in describing her protagonist, I'm offering up these "sample" men for you ladies out there to see if they could distract you from your work-in-progress.


You can find this model at any Home Depot or Lowes, but, they're really expensivo.












Officially, an endangered species :/ Best of luck.







You have to cross the border into Mexico to find this one.













This is the guy you find at the bookstore. But with all the writers out there hanging out next to bookshelves, it's a real fight to find one that isn't spoken for.



This guy won't last because he doesn't know he's gay yet. However, that gives
you at least a few years of happiness before you have to trade him in.
Look for him amongst Republicans and Literary Agents.









This guy can only be found in big cities. The downside is that he may be a clean freak, insisting that all of your towels be at the same level on the rack.





This charmer generally haunts cooking venues like Sur Le Table. However, he really could be just about anyone. To find him, use the question, "What wine goes with a filet mignon?"  If he answers correctly, bam... you've got one on the line.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Forecast For The Digital Age Is Fair to Partly Cloudy

Do you stare at clouds searching for familiar shapes?  Pretty soon, whether or not you realize it, we all will be doing just that.  Only the shapes that we see aren’t going to be sheep and butterflies…they'll be our work in progress.
According to Wikipedia, the key characteristic of cloud computing is that the computing is "in the cloud" i.e. the processing (and the related data) is not in a specified, known or static place. This is in contrast to a model in which the processing takes place in one or more specific servers that are known.
Basically, cloud computing is internet-based computing whereby shared servers provide resources, software, and data to computers and other devices on demand, as with the electricity grid. Google docs is an example of cloud computing, so is Blogger, heck…Google has an entire app store with hundreds of things that use cloud computing and you can check out the link right here.




What are the types of cloud computing?  SaaS (Software as a Service), PaaS (Platform as a Service), and IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service).




1) IaaS is a provision model in which an organization outsources the equipment used to support operations, including storage, hardware, servers and networking components. The service provider owns the equipment and is responsible for housing, running and maintaining it. The client typically pays on a per-use basis.  Think of Amazon.com which the hacker group Anonymous claimed was unassailable because they have so many computers available to run their servers.

2) PaaS is the delivery of a computing platform and solution stack as a service. PaaS offerings facilitate deployment of applications without the cost and complexity of buying and managing the underlying hardware and software and provisioning hosting capabilities.  They provide all of the facilities required to support the complete life cycle of building and delivering web applications and services entirely available from the Internet.

3) SaaS sometimes referred to as "software on demand," is software that is deployed over the internet and/or is deployed to run behind a firewall on a local area network or personal computer.

But is cloud computing secure?  According to a recent article published by M.I.T., this depends on your viewpoint. For many potential users it’s like trusting the telephone company--or Gmail, or even the post office--to keep your communications private. People frequently place confidential information into the hands of common carriers and other commercial enterprises. There is another class of user who wouldn’t use the telephone without taking security precautions beyond trusting the common carrier. If you want to procure storage from the cloud you can do the same thing: never send anything but encrypted data to cloud storage.

THE DOMINO EFFECT of WIKILEAKS:

No matter what your personal opinion is of Julian Assange, when WikiLeaks published thousands of classified diplomatic cables, it highlighted the fairly ramshackle state of data security, particularly when it comes to dealing with insider threats.
Questions come to mind: 1) Does transparency open the door to unintended disclosure? 2) If these kinds of cables can be so easily published to the world, what about information sharing via social networks or even through cloud computing? 3) For us writers who may be using Google docs or similar platforms, could someone steal our writing? As far fetched as it sounds, it can happen.  There was supposed to be a fifth Twilight book and so much of it got leaked online and distributed that Stephanie Meyer canned the whole project. :/


AND WHAT ABOUT CYBERATTACKS? HOW DANGEROUS ARE THEY?

For the average person, they're basically a nuisance.  I myself have had a keylogger on my computer before which stole my password for my World of Warcraft account.  All of my stuff on the character I'd worked hard on was gone, disenchanted, or sold off by some gold farmer in China for real money.  It took me a week and a dispute with the parent company, Blizzard, to get everything back and now I have an authenticator on my game account.  I've also had my social security number stolen for a D.U.I. and a credit card stolen in which someone charged $1,000.00 in stuff before I realized what was going on.  Again...nuisances...fixed with a few hours on the phone and faxing some documents.  But how much worse could it get?

Well with the Stuxnet worm, the answer is pretty bad.  Stuxnet is one example of a new reality for all of us because it is a worm that crossed the line between cyber and traditional warfare.  The worm is sophisticated. Its creators aren't known, but the consensus among analysts was that it was the work of a team with considerable resources. The effort involved would need to be measured in years and it required access to expensive and regulated hardware as a test bed, and it apparently took advantage of detailed intelligence about its target.

What did it do, you might ask? It targeted a specific process control system to disrupt uranium enrichment (most likely in Iran), however, it ended up infecting 60,000 other systems.  The idea that an organization out there operating outside of government could design a worm to disable or affect nuclear weapon systems is a little scary. It almost reminds me of a Hollywood movie plot where skynet takes over the world and kills all the humans.  Terminator anyone? Anyway, how do you anticipate approaching the whole "cloud computing" thing or would you feel more secure storing your work on your own p.c.? Steve Jobs says that "Cloud Computing" is the future. Who knows...maybe all those billions of dollars he's made means he's right about everything.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Do You Judge A Book By Its Cover?

If you answered yes to the above question, I invite you to play a little game with me :).

Let me know how well you did in a comment.  For those of you that failed badly, I guess what's on the outside doesn't tell you at all what's on the inside now does it?

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Dual Slit Experiment & Hawking's Implications

Below the picture is a conversation between three characters.  Kolin is a British guy, mid-twenties. Jordan is a freshman hockey player for The Big Red (age 18). He has an obsession with science and math.  Brianna is Jordan's friend. The setting is outside Uris library at Cornell University in Ithaca, NY where they go to school (Jordan's the only boy on his team with a major in physics).  The dual-slit enigma is something I love to ponder and I thought this conversation did the job in explaining what it is to those of you who may not be familiar with this "root" of quantum mechanics.


Kolin rubbed his shoulder where Jordan had slugged him.  He looked into Jordan’s eyes and he could see that his friend was deeply concerned that he’d hurt his feelings.  “—Well no need to get gutted about it.  Please, explain this double slit thing then,” he said, “as a starter.”
            “Okay—it’s a famous experiment that demonstrates beautifully the central mystery of quantum theory and before you ask what that is—just hold up.  I want to explain that first so that I don’t lose you here.  There's this standard explanation of what takes place at a quantum level known as the Copenhagen Interpretation.  It attempts to describe the behavior of very small objects because they are a zoo unto themselves.  Are you following what I’m saying thus far?”
Kolin nodded and opened the door to the library for Brianna and Jordan.   “You’re saying that we can’t study atoms the same as we’d observe the regular world,” he clarified.
“More or less,” Jordan said, agreeing with him.  He followed Bree into the library who led the way to the café by turning left.  Because it was lunchtime, there was a line of about seven people for food and a separate, even longer line for coffee.  “Okay, if light travels as particles let’s think of them as bullets for the purpose of envisioning what I’m talking about.”
“Got it—light photons are bullets.”
“Okay, you fire your bullets from a rifle at a brick wall with two holes in it, each hole being the same size and large enough to allow for the bullets to pass through.  Behind this wall is a second wall where the bullets will strike.  After firing off a few rounds you’d expect to see on the second wall two clusters of hits in line with the two holes. This is of course precisely what you get with bullets, so if we get the same result with photons we can conclude irrevocably that they’re particles.”
“That’s not what you get though, is it?” Kolin asked.  “I mean with respect to the light and not the bullets.”
“Not at all,” Jordan stated.  “We get an interference pattern, proving that light acts as a wave.  However, it gets weirder than that.  If the experiment is set up to fire individual photons, so that only one photon at a time goes through, it's logical to predict that we wouldn't expect to see the same interference pattern.  To clarify, what I’m saying is that we’d anticipate a single photon to act like a bullet and that a photon would only go through one hole or another, but not through both at the same time because it’s by itself and there are two holes.”
“I follow you old boy,” he said, winking at Brianna who was obviously enjoying Kolin’s English accent.
Jordan continued.  “If we wait until enough individual photons have passed through to build up a pattern—and this takes millions of photons— we don’t get two clusters opposite the two holes, we get the same interference pattern as before.  It’s as if each individual photon 'knows' that both holes are open and gives that result. Now, if we repeat the experiment, this time with only one hole open, the individual photons behave themselves and all cluster round a point on the detector screen behind the open hole, just as you’d expect. However, as soon as the second hole is opened they again immediately start to form an interference pattern. An individual photon passing through one of the holes is not only aware of the other hole, but also aware of whether or not it is open.”
“That's…fucking strange,” he said, moving up in the line.
“It gets weirder,” Bree said.  “Tell him what happens when we try to catch the photons misbehaving.”
Jordan smiled.  “Alright, if we set up detectors at the holes, looking for electrons passing through them, the light acts as a particle.  It doesn’t misbehave and doesn’t produce a pattern on the screen.  It acts exactly like a particle.  As soon as we aren’t looking, it goes back to acting like a wave again.  The light seems to know when it's being observed.”
“I don’t think I understand what all of that means,” Kolin said.  “Is there a point?”
Jordan nodded, “Yes.  Nothing is real until it's observed.  Or to restate that, until a thing has been observed, it simply doesn’t exist.”
“Hawking thinks that there's something outside of the universe that observes it and forces the universe to collapse into an existence that can be seen by all those inside the universe.  Others believe that the universe exists only so long as we're here on Earth to observe it.  Without us looking at the universe, it wouldn’t exist,” Brianna said.
Kolin didn’t say anything and turned around at the counter. He ordered a breakfast bagel and a mocha for himself; a spinach/red pepper panini sandwich and a large coffee for Jordan.

Now don't you think quantum mechanics is just about as cool as sliced bread?

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

My Heroes Part 1-Celebrating America's Greatness

My friends, I've a confession to make.

I have real-life heroes and I'm going to introduce you to one of them. 

She has a book deal...which is more than I've accomplished. And I've read the Agent blogs and stuff online.  I know that to get a book deal, you need to write a million words just to get the garbage out of the way.  You must write every day. You must hone your craft. You must sacrifice and edit, edit, edit. Because when your query goes across an Agent's desk, you get one chance.  That's it... one chance at brilliance. Some people make it...some people don't.  We should celebrate those that do.  So I'm celebrating one here.

She is my first hero.

She goes by B(ee) Palin--so cool, yo!

She made over $345,000 from being on "Dancing With The Stars".

If you're thinking of booking her to speak at your school or engagement, this is how it might go as she rubs elbows with Mike "The Situation" Sorrentino from "The Jersey Shore" another person that's worked really really hard to be where he is. I'm pretty sure...he could get a book deal $$$$ too.

This goes to show you that maybe... just maybe... if you haven't been published yet, you've been going about it all wrong.  I mean...there's no way that an agent or a publishing house would have accepted bad writing from her, right?  No way at all. So yeah...get to work!

I hope to show you more of my heroes in the future :) Happy Tuesday!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Bones is Brilliant

Bones is one of my favorite shows.  Why? The answer is simple--the writing is outstanding.  If you haven't checked it out, in my opinion, it's in its own league of crime-solving t.v. shows and stands apart from the nitty gritty drama of C.S.I. and its brooding characters.  If you haven't checked it out, I strongly suggest doing so. In particular, there are certain "Smoking Man" episodes (for you X-Filers out there) which are the real core of the show.  These feature re-occurences of the same serial killers...Gormogon, the intelligent Howard Epps, and my favorite...the Grave Digger.  Here's a photo collage I created that might help explain my love of the show:
Furthermore my friends, Bones is all about writing. The concept for the show is based on the real life of a Kathy Reichs who I guess is an amazing forensic anthropologist.  Anyway, Dr. Reichs wrote crime books featuring Dr. Temperance Brennan (the main character).  Well in the show, Dr. Brennan is also a published author but her main character in her books is a Dr. Reichs.  Kinda clever in my opinion.

Also, the dialogue for the show is really really good:

Booth: He's got no sense of discretion. That kid. Typical squint.

Brennan: I don't know what that means.

Booth: Well when the cops get stuck we bring in people like you. You know squints. You know to squint at things.

Brennan: Oh you mean people with very high IQs and basic reasoning skills.

Another example:

Sweets: Anyway, even though Daisy and I aren't dating, I've decided we can still enjoy each other's company, casually, once in a while.

Brennan: I'm not sure why I should care. Are you planning on having sex somewhere that I will witness it?

Sweets: I hope not.

Brennan: Then I definitely don't care.

I think writers that are trying to work on dialogue could learn a lot from just watching the show and seeing the banter that goes back and forth between Dr. Brennan and just about anyone that crosses her path. I also want to mention that because of this show...I know what the words "specious", "prurient", "kinesiology", and "ad nauseum" mean so its definitely a vocabulary "expander" (those are just the ones I can recall looking up that I'm remembering at the time of this blog entry).

Another thing that I love are the poweful intelligent female characters.  Dr. Brennan is an atheist so she's after my own heart from the beginning. She's almost like a super-hero solving crime with this immense brain of hers in this glamorous fictional setting.  This is way better (for me) than the weak co-dependent female characters that seem to be making their authors or movie-makers mega-millions and have a following so large it's a population almost as high as China's (I don't really understand why that is). I have to admit, there are times when watching the show that I wish my life could be this frickin' awesome...solving murders and then sitting with friends down at the local pub.  How awesome would that be?

But the real thing that got me hooked on the show were the gruesome, disgusting pictures, like the one below (insert ewwwwwww) and admit that ya can't take your eyes off of it cause ya know you want to know what's goin on there.

Is there a dermatologist in the house? I have a fungus problem.
Happy President's Day!

Friday, February 18, 2011

What Wonder Woman Can Teach Us About Writing

This post is totally relevant to writing. I promise. It's not just about boys that may have grown up watching Wonder Woman, owning an Easy-Bake oven, or playing with a Barbie Dreamboat.

It has nothing to do with that at all.

Forget the news on Bahrain, forget the news about the economy, or the global food shortage, mass fish deaths, or even...God forbid...Borders declaring bankruptcy.  Yes, my colleagues...there is something more important. A new Wonder Woman series is about to be launched and for the first-time in 30-years, we have someone attempting to fill Lynda Carter's shoes!  All I know about this "someone" is that she's on a show called Friday Night Lights.  Is it any good?  Sadly, I've no idea.

My big question is...can she do it? In order to be objective about this, I'm going to look at what Wonder Woman has given to us writers and leave it up to you.















What she gave us:
1) She taught writers that magic powers were really awesome. She also showed that if we could somehow link magical items to mythology that this was even cooler.  If you ever use magic items in your stories...you should totally link them to a mythology. Doing so only adds to your street cred because there is totally someone out there that will think it's real. Of course, they may also think that leprechauns, the devil, and unicorns are real too.
2) She showed us that if your novel is bloated with words, all you got to do is strip away some fluff and BAM! Inside is waiting this voluptious manuscript just waiting to explode.  And think of all the trees you'll save! Honestly, if some of the people I rub elbows with in the online fiction community were to print out their books, entire forests would die. :( <== sadface
3) She taught us that once you have an idea, you should run with it.  She also showed the world that a hero could completely be taken seriously by Americans as long as they wore red, white, and blue underwear. She also showed young famous people that you could sprint and not flop out. In Wonder Woman's world, there is no excuse for a wardrobe malfunction.

4) She showed us to deflect the negative comments of naysayers and people who think we suck. Or to persevere in the hail of bullets peppering us from a lack of any kind of validation from friends or family.

5) She taught us to shoot for the stars.  If we missed, then at least we could put stars on our underpants.  Then if anything, we'd still be popular with the gays and shoe-tapping Republicans in airport restrooms.

6) She showed us that our drab manuscript in the hands of a skilled editor and a little spin is a HOUSE ON FIRE BABY! Or maybe a ball of fire...or a ball of light.  It woulda been cool if that thing would have made scorch marks. Basically though, transformation from drab to kapow is inside all of us.

7) She showed us that the best marketing wasn't really Twitter, blogging, or Facebook.  It was just being so damn cool that they put your face on a frickin' lunchbox. Once you appear on a lunchbox...you've made it. This kind of fame totally validates you to join the ranks of "arrogant" author who condescends on others and seeks praise for their genius.

So do you think the new girl can fill Lynda Carter's shoes?

I'll give her the benefit of the doubt and reserve judgement until the end of the first season. 

Have a great President's Day weekend.  I'll be back on Monday with more posts.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Marzipan, Coffee, and Dead People Are So Cool.

So yesterday, I went to Gourmandise with a friend.  Gourmandise is all diet food.  I promise...ZERO calorie...you just have to read the calorie content from the right side and not the left.  Things in life depend on a certain point of view, right? Or maybe it was Obi-Wan-Kenobi that said that...

You can get creme brulee to go in a great disposable aluminum ramekin...who does that? Yes, I'll take three. No, they're not for anyone else...just me. :P

There's free Wi-Fi. This should appeal to anyone that loves to mooch.

You can get sandwiches, salads, and croissants stuffed with egg, melted cheese, and love.

Yes...they serve LOVE at Gourmandise...and it doesn't cost you any extra. Well...maybe a pant size or two.

And the company was great too.  Justin told me about his cadaver and how they stuck pins in all 38 of them and the "first years" had to go through and identify from memory all the different parts that had been pinned (which sounds really really hard). I've never seen a cadaver before but I think seeing one in the future is possibly in the cards.  Coffee with future doctors is kinda like an episode of House...only way cooler, cause Justin is nice and not grumpy like Dr. House.  I thought "First Years" sounded so Harry Potter.  I just wish Justin had said, "Expelliarmus!"

Coffee, marzipan, cadavers...is there a future story here?

Happy Thursday!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Cool Stuff For Your iPad & Strange Kittens

I don't work for any technology place so what I say here is simply because I'm a geek and I love technology.

I love my iPad.  My first post about it is here.  Since then, I've attended an Assistive Technology conference that showed a bunch of other stuff out there available for autistic children and adults, many of them free. All you have to do is check the Apple store and type in "autism" and a bunch of apps will come up.

At my heart though, I like games and the new Joystick-IT arcade stick looks awesome.  In short, it suction cups down on your iPad screen and will allow you to play Pac-Man and other games without having to rely on finger swipes.

It's going to be on sale at ThinkGeek and I'm definitely snapping one up. Not to mention, it just looks cool.

Other cool stuff:

1) Penultimate.  Think of Penultimate as a notepad that you can write and scribble on and you’ve got the big idea. This app organizes your musings into notebooks so they’re easy to keep track of. When you’re done, you can email single pages or entire notebooks as PDFs. This app is for finger-written notes and drawings only. 
2) Portapoet. A great app for poets that is equipped with a built-in rhyming dictionary. You can search rhymes without being connected to the Internet. Portapoet also provides pronunciation for words and enables you to share your work via Facebook.

And here are some strange kittens related to Charlie's post on his blog.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Joining the Crusade

"Crusade" normally makes me think of some kind of holy war, but in this case, Rach is having this networking/blog thing (that I signed up for) and as part of the rules, I'm supposed to blog about.  So here it is:

"Basically, the Crusade is a way to link those within the writing community together with the aim of helping to build our online platforms. The Crusaders are all bloggers in a similar position, who genuinely want to pay it forward, make connections and friends within the writing community, and help build each others' online platforms while at the same time building theirs.

Last year (my First Crusade) we had 55 Crusaders, many of whom have become great blogging friends. We saw our followers skyrocket and the comments on our posts increase, and had fun taking part in Crusade Challenges as well."
So if you want to sign-up for it, today is the last day and you gotta do it by 11:59 p.m. EST.  Here's the link. I say give it a whirl...could get your blog some exposure :)

Oh and Happy Valentine's Day weekend everyone.  I hope you have many romantic endeavors and remember that you guys are wonderful! :)

Friday, February 11, 2011

Horse of a Different Color

In the world of publishing, it's no secret that having a literary agent in your corner is an amazing thing.  However, finding one can be difficult for some (I use myself as an example of this).  Criticism, rejection letters, etc. don't really phase me...basically par for the course and as a co-worker once told me, "Mike lets stuff roll off of him like water off the back of a duck". 

I read a ton of blogs and try to comment on a ton too and I've noticed that there seems to be a disconnection with the idea that you need a big publishing house and an agent to simply "be read". I wanted to make a distinction that you actually don't need any of these things if you want people to read your work. "¿Qué pasa?" you might ask...allow me to elaborate.

I'm a member of this wonderful website called Gay Authors where I post stories for free and people read them.  Do I get paid?  Not one bit. But let's put it this way, my story has probably had somewhere in the neighborhood of 6,000 to 7,000 reads (from the first time I ever posted it and counting the Nifty Archive) and I got probably 60 comments and or reviews on it over time from people that read my story and either liked it or had great constructive criticism.  For someone that really doesn't have too many real life friends that read, this was awesome.  Disclaimer:  all of my friends spend most of their free time on Facebook, World of Warcraft, or socializing.  Reading is an "alone-time" thing and most people I know, really don't read that much because they cannot stand being alone.  But anyways, I digress.

Finding G.A. was a wonderful breath of fresh air for me.  It also allowed me to connect with like-minded people who are intelligent, concerned about writing, and love to read.  And...my experience is based on my first story ever posted on the site.  It wasn't complete when I started posting.  Rather, I did so a chapter at a time and I only partially storyboarded it but I knew where I wanted to go with it.  So you can imagine...a first draft just going up on the web, no one to edit or beta-read it, and bam...tons of people are suddenly involved with it.  I had great writers that go by the name Nephylim, Anytasunday, and KingdombytheSea who took time to read my story and throw me a comment or two.  It's great.

But my readers and reviews pale in comparison to true hard working writers on the site.  My good friend Andy (who's a lawyer and having a baby via a surrogate with his partner and blogging about it) has probably over 20,000 views on his story and hundreds of thought-filled and provoking reviews (some an entire page in length).

Now, Andy's story that I've linked above called "Second Shot" would be considered basically "unpublishable".  It's essentially an on-going soap opera that is over 230,000 words in length and still going (publishable being essentially 120,000 words or less by most outfits).  I've seen stories on G.A. approaching half a million words...does that mean they're bad?  Well they've got people devouring them up.  All it means to me is the author has a different way of telling a story and that if it went to print, an entire forest would die.  But in the digital age...this happily doesn't need to happen ever.

So my point is, that if you're a writer, you don't need the trimmings of a big publishing house and an agent to be "read" which is what I see a lot of writers saying.  "I want to be read."  I think the distinction is, "I want to have fame and fortune and a prestigious publishing house."  If this is what you want, then yes, you need to go the traditional route.

And there's nothing wrong with that either.  I too seek fame and fortune with a prestigious publishing house.  I think it'd be cool to see my books featured on a Barnes and Noble bookshelf with cover art and some marketing done by a publisher and a humble book-signing.  I also believe that everyone that writes should also get their dream of this.  But realistically, it all depends on whether or not what you write appeals to the people that have enough discretionary income to buy your book.  That's what the agent is...he's a person trained to know whether or not your writing can fatten a bank account for a publisher since publishers no longer print stuff that doesn't put money in the bank (did they ever?).

Horses of a Different Color!
So anyway, I think that if your dream is just to have people read your stuff...then I'd advise just finishing your manuscript because there's a world of people on the internet that would love to read it.  You just won't make any monies.  :(  However, they'd reward you in other ways with thoughtful praise. But don't be confused that wanting to 'be read' means you need an agent, publishing house, and book deal with all the trimmings.  That's "fame and fortune" and a horse of a much different color.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Font Fail

As a writer, I pose the question:  Does it really matter what font is used on your manuscript?



Answer:  Yes, it most certainly does!

O.o (If you're having trouble seeing what I'm talking about, the "F" and the "I" kinda blend together in the word "Final".

Oh my... I'm glad this wasn't sponsored by a church.

Happy Thursday!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Nomenclature

"A rose by any other name would smell as sweet" is a quotation by William Shakespeare from his play Romeo and Juliet meant to say that the names of things do not matter. In the play,  the line is said by Juliet in reference to Romeo's house, Montague, which would imply that his name means nothing and they should be together.
Well, does a name really not matter?  I remember in college when I played Dungeons and Dragons, a friend of mine (his name was Buhl) introduced a character (he was the Dungeon Master) and stated her name was "Brunhilda". 
My friend Leroy got upset. "Dude," he said.  "How could she be so beautiful and have a name like Brunhilda?" 
Buhl replied, "Brunhilda is considered a beautiful name in Germany and I think of her as being a woman of German descent." 
Leroy's response was classic American, "We're not playing in Germany and I think that name is butt-ugly."
So, how much thought do you put into your character's names?  Stephanie Meyer said that the name "Bella" was one she had been holding onto for quite a while and decided to use it when her heroine really needed a good name.  I know I've agonized over naming characters.  Searching for the ones that sound unique to the voice in your head can be a real chore. 
Do you use name generators?  Name books? Online resources?
How do you decide on spelling between Dylan or Dillon?  Amy, Amie, or Aymie? Jason or Jayson?
The friend Leroy that I mentioned above...well he said something funny one day about a villain in a book named Tyranthraxis (villains have the best names).  He said, "Hey Mike, imagine how fun it would have been to see that villain's mother saying, 'Come here little Tyranthraxis. You're in trouble now.'" I think I woulda LMAO.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

YouTube Fun

Checkout this Acapella rendition of Bad Romance by Lady Gaga.  I love it.

And then there's Dean Winchester's rendition of "Eye of the Tiger" ala the show Supernatural.
Happy Tuesday!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Artist Michael Whelan

My favorite artist of all time is Michael Whelan.  He's done book covers for famous authors since 1980.  He's won a ton of awards and is the last of the old school artists doing everything with paint and brush as opposed to photoshop (which is how everyone does paintings these days in the cover art industry).

Aside from just admiring his work, I own two of his books where he explains all the symbolism and thought that he puts into each and every painting.  He purposefully offsets things from the center to draw the person's eye.  Sometimes he'll rely upon geometric shapes (like triangles) to add stability to a painting (having a protagonists legs spread while they stand creating a triangle in your mind.  He talks about creating chaos in a painting by just shifting the horizontal line of the ground up and at an angle.  Anyway, I found it all fascinating.

Michael Whelan is old now and he rarely if ever does work for publishers because he doesn't need to.  He's rich, successful, and in the twilight of his career.  I know that he recently did a cover for one of the new Robert Jordan books and the artwork is so good it makes me want to read the whole series.

How important do you think cover art is to a book?

Friday, February 4, 2011

Cool Dogs Plus Supernatural

If dogs were really this cool; I'd probably get one. :))

I've been watching Supernatural a lot lately.  Much of what they show is based on actual things that people believe to be true in our very real and tangible world (Disclaimer:  I don't believe the stuff as I'm atheist but I know plenty that do).

In the episode I saw last night, a leprechaun played by the same actor that played the doctor in Star Trek Voyager told Dean that he could get Sam's soul back from the cage in Hell.  Of course, Dean doesn't make deals with monsters.  To distract the leprechaun while he performed the "reverse incantation" that would banish the leprechaun and his troop of fairies, he spilled a jar of salt.  As the legend goes...no matter how powerful the fairy, if you spill salt or sugar in front of them, they must immediately stop what they are doing and count every grain.  It was funny watching him pull aside each grain on the floor..."one, two, three..." he started to say, grumbling all the while as Dean sent him back to wherever it is he came from.

So...do you think fairies would make good writers?  I read all the time on author blogs at how rewriting and editing are a neverending process.  Personally, I think that there is an end and I've reached it several times but I know others are way more obsessed than I regarding absolute perfection.  I'd probably not be a good fairy...I'd only estimate the spilt salt and not count every grain. Oooh...and the metaphor can go even further than that.  Agents and editors are the ones that spill the salt in front of you, forcing you to count the whole thing again.

Are you obsessed with perfection when it comes to your writing?  And, if you answer yes to the question, does it cause you stress?

Thursday, February 3, 2011

The Cover Art For Your Ebook May Feature Erectile Dysfunction

So you finally made it.  You are now a published author.  You pop out your handy Kindle, Nook, or iPad and show your friends/family the labor of your one+ years of work and are greeted with an advertisement with the whistling guy promoting "Extenz" or the latest/greatest advertisement for E.D.


"Your ebook will begin in 30 seconds following this advertisement"

Yup. advertising is coming to the ebook.  Read about it here.

I'm hoping for feminine hygiene products myself.  As a man, that would at least show that the people behind the ebooks are doing their demographic research. O.o /sarcasm

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Do You Use the Word "Dystopian" To Describe Your Novel?

Well you wouldn't be alone.  Just in my travels on the internet, I see this term pop up A LOT. When I first encountered it, I was reading the "about me" section of a well-known blogger who also writes.  She was a young adult author, so I just assumed that "dystopian" was a self-described term for "young adult fiction" and didn't really give it much thought beyond that.  But by the time I penned this blog, I'd seen it at least ten times on other writing blogs.  It's also mentioned on several publisher sites, so it must be an industry standard.  Either that, or people just in on the "know".


/shrug.  It wouldn't be the first time I missed out on something.


To test out the term, I actually have a few young adult friends and I used the word on them hoping to see their eyes light up with excitement and phrases like "ooo I love everything dystopian."  However, that's not what I got. 


"Dystopian?" they replied with a curious look.  "--What the hell is that?"


I would answer, "Authors are using it to describe work that they write for you."


"Oh...strange, I guess.  The last book I read was Harry Potter. Who has time to read?"


Hmm.  Okay, so here I'm, an adult...and I'd only the faintest inkling as to what the word meant.  I had a thought that maybe it was the opposite of "utopia" which is sometimes used to describe Salt Lake City by many of its residents, as this is essentially "Zion" to them.  Okay...so then I'm thinking that the people using this word are writing a novel that is the opposite of how many Salt Lakers would regard their city (relate to what you know right?).  So a "dystopia" then is a place where you'd have gun control, lots of social services, good public transportation, a lack of churches, gay marriage, and a society that read books that weren't recommended by the LDS church.  Gotcha.  I think I've an idea of what dystopia means. 


Okay end sarcasm.


But still unsatisfied, I took a look at Wikipedia.  Here's what I found.


Dystopias usually extrapolate elements of contemporary society and function as a warning against some modern trend, often the threat of oppressive regimes in one form or another. Many utopias can be seen as dystopias in regard to their treatment of the issues of justice, freedom and happiness. Samuel Butler's Erewhon (I've no idea what this book is) can be seen as a dystopia because of the way ill people are treated as criminals, but as far as the people 'living' in his novel they are in a utopia. The main point of a dystopia is to make people think about the world in which they live and to see how the idea of happiness can be damaged providing the members of society know little else.


To my surprise I also discovered Ecotopias.  And this has nothing to do with ghostly ectoplasm.


A subgenre of this is ecotopian fiction, where the author posits either a utopian or dystopian world revolving around environmental conservation or destruction.  The novel The Bridge (1973) by D. Keith Mano presents a world dominated by a global environmental fascism, where the government ultimately promotes the extinction of the human race by enforced mass suicide, so as to 'save' the environment.


Another important subgenre is feminist utopias and the overlapping category of feminist science fiction. Writer Sally Miller Gearhart calls this sort of fiction political: it contrasts the present world with an idealized society, criticizes contemporary values and conditions, sees men or masculine systems as the major cause of social and political problems (e.g. war), and presents women as equal to or superior to men, having ownership over their reproductive functions. A common solution to gender oppression or social ills in feminist utopian fiction is to remove men, either showing isolated all-female societies as in Charlotte Perkins Gilman's Herland, or societies where men have died out or been replaced, as in Joanna Russ's A Few Things I Know About Whileaway, where "the poisonous binary gender" has died off. Marge Piercy's novel Woman on the Edge of Time keeps human biology, but removes pregnancy and childbirth from the gender equation by resorting to artificial wombs, while allowing both women and men the nurturing experience of breastfeeding.
So out of curiosity, is your young adult novel a dystopia?  And why do you think writing a dystopia is the way to go for young adults when they don't even know what the term means?

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

*!%$ Query Letters! Show Me Your Writing Résumé.

Query letters are so 2008.  I propose that everyone adopt a writing résumé instead to show your chops, and what better way to get some practice than pretend you're a reality show celebrity with the marketing kapow (is this a word?) to write a completely engrossing book.  To this end, I think I'd wanna be Snooki and below is totally how my writing resume would look.  Random House would sooo completely go nuts over me.  I just know it.


I mean...it has pickles on it. How could you not see the brilliance of pickles?

Disclaimer:  No Snooki's were harmed in this social experiment.