Monday, January 31, 2011

The Misunderstood Exclamation Point!


Uh...whoops...i had my caps lock on.

Aside from turning you white when you read it in someone's manuscript, it has many other fantastic uses.  For example, if it were large enough, you could prop up a building with it as a huge red column.  However, here's more on this misunderstood form of punctuation:

1) Use it as an ice cream scoop for the rock hard stuff you got in your freezer compartment that hasn't seen the light of day since you started your New Year's Resolution.

2) Use it to express your undying love.  Perfect for Valentine's Day which is just around the corner.

3) Use it as a symbol for your new religion.

4) As a quest marker in the Massive Multi-Player Online Game that you are designing.

5) In your Independence Day celebration.

If you're ever in doubt if you are using it correctly, consult the following chart.  It's amazing. And thank you for visiting. If you are looking for a great science-fiction read that has glass spiders, hockey sticks, and monsters from the Id, please check out my book below. I may not use many exclamation points in it, but some reviewers have used them in their praise! :)

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Sunday, January 30, 2011

Starz Camelot

I love tales of King Arthur. 
So needless to say...I'm really excited about this

Here's the video for it if you don't want to follow the link to the Starz website.

The selling points:  It has Sex, Violence, Humor, in a very real dangerous world.  Did I mention sex?  Have you seen these actors and actresses?

mmmhmmm.  I love TiVO and I'm totally going to watch every single episode.

Things I really like:

1) Just like in the show "Merlin" which I watch whenever I can, Arthur is a young king/prince.  This is totally how it needs to be.

2) The attention to detail...the armor, fight scenes, etc. look awesome.

3) The actors are really good looking.  Although I'm going to miss Bradley James as Arthur.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Please When You Write, Try To Do It Well...pretty please?

Good writing really does depend on more than making a collection of words worthy of belief.  In my opinion, a writer wants his work to be read by others with minds different than their own.  To this end, it requires practice and a lot of it.  For the any level of writer, maybe there's something below that you could put to use to polish that final draft into a gleaming manuscript of amazing(ness)!

1) A sentential adverb -- it's a single word or short phrase, usually interrupting normal syntax, used to lend emphasis to the words immediately proximate to the adverb.  Compare:
  • But the lake was not drained before April.
  • But the lake was not, in fact, drained before April.
2) Asyndeton consists of omitting conjunctions between words, phrases, or clauses.  In a list of items, asyndeton gives the effect of unpremeditated multiplicity, of an extemporaneous rather than a labored account:
  • I came, I saw, I conquered.
  • She likes pickles, olives, raisins, dates, pretzels.
3) Polysyndeton is the use of a conjunction between each word, phrase, or clause, and is thus structurally the opposite of asyndeton. The rheotrical effect of polysyndeton, however, often shares with that of asyndeton a feeling of multiplicity, energetic enumeration, and building up.

  • "The water, like a witch's oils, / Burnt green, and blue, and white." --from Samuel Taylor Coleridge
4) Understatement deliberately expresses an idea as less important than it actually is and can be really effective in humor.

  • "Hey! Assbutt!" -- The angel Castiel getting archangel Michael's attention in the Season 5 Supernatural episode right before he sets him on fire with holy oil.  Calling Archangel Michael an "assbutt" is really funny understatement in the context of the show and had me and others laughing.
5) Litotes is a particular form of understatement generated by denying the opposite or contrary of the word which otherwise would be used.  Compare:
  • Heat waves are common in the summer.
  • Heat waves are not rare in the summer.
6) Use adjectives but only when necessary.  To identify weak adjectives (the ones you really don't want), ask yourself what they mean.  What exactly am I saying by using the word "dark"?  Is "perfect" really a good adjective in this situation? Here's an example of the bad use of an adjective that I've seen in more than one manuscript:

  • (something) was dark black.   Or, alternately, "He stared at me with his dark gaze while I lusted over his perfect features."
Black is already dark.  I actually cannot think of anything darker.  Please don't describe it as dark black.  And in the above sentence, dark and perfect are just silly.  It's impossible for me to imagine what exactly is going on because I've no idea what "dark" and/or "perfect" mean in this context.

You are wonderful :)

Friday, January 28, 2011

Baked Alaska -- Yumm

First, Baked Alaska is not Sarah Palin with a suntan.


Rather, it's my favorite dessert.  And I keep trying to pester my friend Meg to make it.  In case you don't know what it is, I've summoned Gordon Ramsay to tell you all about it below:

It's sponge cake, it's meringue, and it's a little piece of Nirvana with a crippling fat count.

If you make any...please send me some.  I'm a terrible cook.

Oh and thank you James for providing me with this link. :)

Thursday, January 27, 2011

I Heart Google Earth & the iPad

I have to say that the iPad is one of the best inventions and investments a writer could make. The applications allow you to proofread your manuscript in one hand as a .pdf file and you can make edits by just tapping the screen and highlighting the text or scribbling a note down for yourself. Additionally, there is the powerful application called Google Earth.

Do people actually use Google Earth?  Well, writers should if they are describing any kind of action in a place that is unknown to them.  Some authors can get away with not knowing (Stephanie Meyer is an example as she had no clue what Forks looked like but decided to write about it anyway).  I'd have issues with this if it were my text but I don't think fact-checking is the kind of thing romance writers worry about anyway.

You may have some familiarity with this already, having used it somewhat to spy on your own house. However, its power and gift to a writer go far beyond that. I used it to do a street-by-street description of a chase through St. Louis all the way to the Millennium Hotel (which I've never seen in real life). Admittedly, my work with it has mostly been removed from my final manuscript but it was still great practice.  And it came in really handy when I wanted to spy on Cornell's campus and learn all about where the Arts Quad lay in respect to the libraries, McGraw Tower (site of the great pumpkin caper), and where the synchotron was in respect to Lynah rink.

Furthermore, the Google Earth application allows you to zoom in on buildings to see cars or landmarks, it labels those landmarks and the streets, and even gives you links you can touch with your finger that open up a wikipedia article on what your viewing as well as several real life photographs. Wow...what a tool if you are crafting any kind of story. I imagine that it used to cost a lot of money and time for an author to drum up authentic research. This application allows you to stay in the flow of your writing without breaking stride and the details provided allow you to invest into your manuscript a deep level of authenticity.

Kowloon Walled City is an Urban Fantasy Setting

How important is setting?  
As a reader and not a writer, the first thing I really take note of is how the author has created his setting.  Some masters of world-building include Tokien, David Eddings, and unquestionably George R.R. Martin (even though it's a bit strong on all the hetero-sexual annointing of said areas "down there", women performing needlework, and little girls being the object of desire for grown men).  But hey, whatever George...amirite?
Now, in film... one Director really stands out and that's James Cameron in the blockbuster hit Avatar.  Think of how real Pandora looked what with its floating mountains, flying monsters, and glowing moss.  It was an astounding vehicle for the delivery of that story (which was essentially just a re-telling of Pocahontas). 
In my opinion, aspiring writers disregard the idea of world-building and just slog on with characters that are nothing more than humans with a little quirk.  Example: So-and-so is an angel/ demon/ vampire/ werewolf and the story is going to be about how unusual this is and how they come to terms with the issues and prejudices associated with these roles. 
Your setting will help you develop your plot. A plot that takes place in outer space is going to be a lot better developed for your story of industrializing the moon, than is say...a tropical forest. But I don't think it has to be hard.  If you keep in mind what kind of story you're telling, you will automatically have ideas about your setting. 
Readers like to understand why characters do the things they do.  In Million Dollar Baby, despite the fact that Hillary Swank decides that it's best for her to just die at the end of the show, we know that this is a choice that her character would have made.  It may not be the same choice that everyone else makes, but the setting (her being a fighter, her family life, and the fact that she was a reflection of all the elements of the setting around her) made it irrefuteable that death is what that character would have chosen.

Anyway...I'm linking the above story on the Kowloon walled city here so that you can watch it.  I think that it is an amazing example of a real-life setting that stepped right out of the pages of some science-fiction book.  It's no longer around, but wow... I could think of ten or more stories that could have taken place in there.

The Goldman Sachs Helicopter -- ZOMGAH!

In one of the stories I'm writing, my protagonist has a friend in college whose dad works for Goldman Sachs.  I wanted to see what their helicopters looked like and found this below.  All I gotta say is wow...the rich really do live wayyyy better than us people without money.  Le sigh (the French version of the normal sigh and yes...somehow more exotic don't you think?) 

But I digress.  Here's the picture:

This is the Eurocopter EC145 "Mercedes-Benz Style" Helicopter. For this special edition EC145 turbine-powered chopper, Mercedes Benz was hired to design the interior in a stylish and opulent manner. The  medium-sized, twin-engine helicopter features a plush, wood-paneled, yacht-like interior with high-end upholstery, three multi-function boxes offering a cool box, cup holders, tables, monitors, and blu-ray player, and a windowed partition wall between the cabin and the passenger area to keep the help from bothering the guests.

Checkout the cockpit here ==>

And here's a pic of the entertainment panel when it's in the up position ==>

And of course, the whole reason for taking the helicopter is to avoid the traffic in Manhattan on the way to the golf course, amirite?

I'm so jealous that even writing about it in a fictional point-of-view is sure fun as hell.   Oh how the other half live :)))

SLC Restaurant Review: Cafe Madrid

Last year, I told my brother about Cafe Madrid; he had no idea what I was talking about and he has lived in Salt Lake City for over two decades.  First, I want to say that I'm biased because every experience at this restaurant has made me feel like a prince. onto the review.

Cafe Madrid is absolutely my favorite(ist?) restaurant in the valley for so many reasons (but I'm going to try really hard to put them all down here so that if you read this, you'll think about checking it out).

This is a picture of me (I'm the guy on the right in the white shirt), my friend James (who's basically an amateur Chef, my friend Meg (the blond), my partner-in-crime in going out to eat Gary Atwood (middle of the two girls), and my best friend Tomeka Munford (black woman on the right).  James and Tomeka were visiting me from out of town and this was the last place we went to on our list of places to check out in the Salt Lake Valley and it turned out to be the best.

J.C., the host, is absolutely amazing.  When he says " Cafe Madrid.  This is your house..." he means it.  The hospitality is top notch and the food is its unparalleled equal.  Your glass never gets even half empty and the waiters are there at your beck and call to make sure that your dining experience is unforgettable. 

Oh...and the food...yum.

Did I say yum?  It bears repeating so...yum X2.

Everything on the menu is absolutely perfect.  I love the Payaya because it comes with little mussels in the saffron infused rice with these huge grapefruit slices on the side.  They don't always have it available so you're really lucky if you go and they happen to be serving it. 

And the Croquettas are so delicious that I really only have to text my friend Gary with the single word "Croquettas!!!" followed by the obligatory three exclamation points to get an equally excited response.  It's like we're on the same wavelength or are perhaps telepathic.  But this doesn't mean you need super powers like telepathy to enjoy this restaurant.  Actually, all you really need is the craving for super fine dining and the need to feel pampered.

It's also fun to go with someone who is fluent in Spanish.  My friend Gary ordered everything for us in Spanish and when it came to desserts, he just said, "We'll take the first five."  That was fun.  If you intend to go to Cafe Madrid, it's best to make a reservation. 

When I took my parents there over Christmas, when my dad got up, someone even came forward to help him out of his chair.  How cool is that?  I've never seen that at a restaurant.

Microsoft Office 2010

I'm a p.c. so whatever the software is that Mac Users out there rely upon is in that unknown territory that I label "incognito".  As such, I want to report that I absolutely love MS Office 2010 and I'm happy that I upgraded.  Features that I reliably use in my writing.  Well for starters, it has a really nice Thesaurus feature built into it.  I know that professional writers like Stephen King say that you should write your whole manuscript out without ever consulting a Thesaurus.  However, all I have to say to that is that it obviously works for him but what may be good for the goose is not always good for the gander.

Other features...well OneNote is amazing.  I can keep all of my notes in this particular program and no matter what computer I use, as long as I have access to my email and a copy of MS Office 2010, then I have access to all of my scribbles.  With a click, I can save a huge web page of information.  This has been an invaluable tool in penning my second novel (the sequel to Slipstream) in which my protagonist goes to play ice hockey for the Cornell Big Red.  I wanted to make the experience and the details as real as possible about this famous Ivy League school.  So my research required a lot of articles, interviews, testimonials, and newspaper clippings about either Cornell or the games that the Big Red played. 

Additionally, I got really lucky and met Louis Harris online.  He's a super-talented, super-smart Editor that lives in South Africa.  At first, I didn't trust him completely and to assuage my trust issues, MS Office 2010 has security features that allow you to lock and safeguard your document (including placing a signature on every page).  This is a really awesome thing and mimics in many ways the security features available in Adobe Acrobat Professional but for way cheaper.

I know that there are people out there that disparrage Windows and/or Microsoft.  One of them happens to go by the name Admiral Potato.  I met this guy at my friend Meg's home for a night of board games and good food.  I have to admit, I was a little taken aback by the guy insisting to be called Admiral Potato, especially when I knew that this wasn't his name.  But he turned out to be pretty cool.  However, he was one of those that really hates Microsoft products. 

All I have to say to that is that Microsoft Products for me, seem to do exactly what I want them to do.  The Windows 7 operating system runs smoothly, it has backup and restore capability to my external hard drive, and all of the programs I run work well on it.  Additionally, I work with a lot of handicapped people, and MS Word really does well by Dragon Naturally Speaking.  Also, for people that can't afford DNS, Windows comes with its own voice-recognition software.  Truth be told, the company has inserted a lot into its operating system to help those with disabilities.

Anyway, if you're a writer like me, and don't know what to pick to help you get your words onto the page, I'd go with MS Office 2010.