Wyrdwend

The Filidhic Literary Blog of Jack Günter

WHAT I NOW DO ON THE WEEKENDS

WHAT I NOW DO ON THE WEEKENDS

How and Why My Weekends Are Now Totally Different

I used to save my weekends for my entertainments. Watching TV and occasionally (very occasionally) playing video games, or just sitting around and relaxing. Because I don’t do these things during the week. Occasionally I’d also go somewhere, like to a movie. Or a bookstore, or library, or I’d work on one of my novels or books. The idea being that I used my weekends for relaxation and entertainment.

Now I have a totally different weekend routine and schedule.

Why?

Because I realized that my weekends were not advancing me. At all. As a matter of fact they often allowed me to regress in my progress so that come Monday I often had to intensify my efforts to make up for lost productivity or advancement on the weekends.

I used to think my weekends were for entertainment and relaxation.

Now, instead, I think of my weekends (and conduct my weekends) as an opportunity for recreation, fun, and enjoyment.

I take pleasure and enjoyment now in different kinds of things, some very different from my prior weekend schedule, some subtly but still noticeably different from my previous weekend activities.

So let me now sketch out some of the activities I currently engage in during the weekends:

1. I continue my physical training from the week before. Not as hard, but in a relaxed form. Often this involves things that stretch me out, enhance my flexibility and my reflexes (very helpful considering my prior injuries), or allow me to recover from weight lifting and hiking in heavy packs. Things such as boxing, sword fighting, working on stealth, climbing, throwing the discus, hitting baseball, yoga, tai chi, etc.

2. I am teaching myself to play the guitar and to play far more complex chords on the piano than I normally do.

3. I spend time with my wife and kids and pets

4. I have gone back to drawing and sketching and architectural design

5. I learn new languages or improve my mastery of languages I already know

6. I practice and study Theurgy

7. I continue listening to the lectures I had been listening to during the week

8. I play games (board, role play, wargames) either with family and friends or by myself

9. I walk in the forest, explore, or Vad

10. I listen to my scanner or radios or monitor other communications (HAM, shortwave, etc.)

11. I study mathematics and physics (and other sciences, such as epigenetics, chemistry, biology, etc. as the mood strikes me)

12. I read for pleasure ( have returned to genre reading, such as sci-fi, detective, mystery, horror, fantasy, historical fiction, children’s literature, etc. – basically the same kinds of things I write)

13. I write a poem or song (if I’m in the mood)

14. I make notes in my notebooks to prepare for the upcoming week

15. I listen to music with a special emphasis on discovering music that is new to me

16. I work on my wood-craft and soon I plan to buy a small forge and master some of the arts of metalcraft (knife and sword and axe-head making)

17. I am taking up working with drones and 3-D printers and small robots

18. I try to come up with a new business idea or review our investments

19. I invent, build, or repair something, or renovate the house

20. I travel locally, throughout the state, or into nearby states

Now I’m not able to do all of these things every weekend, of course, except spend time with my family (assuming they are not somewhere else), teach myself guitar, and every weekend I try to study and practice Theurgy and explore or spend time in the woods.

But the point is that my weekends are far more active, enjoyable, productive, profitable, and refreshing (they are now Recreationally- oriented) than they are entertainment-oriented. And usually by Monday I am far more energized and ready for the new week than was previously the case.

My advice to you, and I know we live in an entertainment driven culture (movies, video-games, sports, etc.) that promotes entertainment above all else (in many cases), is to skip or put aside the entertainments as much as possible and focus instead on Recreation and more Beneficial Activities.

Personal activities, physical ones, social ones, educational ones, acting on your true goals and objectives, on your hobbies and avocations – focus on the things that bring you the greatest pleasure and fulfillment rather than upon those things that merely distract and entertain you.

For mere entertainment is a time-consuming and life-wasting trap. And more often than not it is a profit-wasting venture rather than an enriching one. And I mean that in both the financial sense (think of how much money you piss-away on bad films, group sports – where you don’t even play, you just sit on your asses watching others play, and mediocre video games) and in the general sense concerning the fact that you are wasting your perishable time and life-span on essentially useless activities.

Now before anyone thinks that I will say that I am not against all video games, or films, or even spectator and group sports. I am merely saying that far too much time is uselessly and profitlessly expended on the pursuit of these things as mere distractions and entertainments from actually living and accomplishing truly worthwhile endeavors and enterprises. Hell, even just a casual weekend hobby – such as rocketry, flying drones, exploring, , reading for pleasure, etc. is likely to be far better for your mind, body, and soul than merely sitting for hours upon your ass passively consuming (for the most part) films, television shows, spectator sports, and video games.

Finally, and not to be overlooked, by being more active on the weekends your sex drive increases. So, more sex with the wife. Sometimes a lot more.

And that never hurts a man…

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NOBODY WANTS TO READ YOUR SHIT (for free – correction, I Do)

Steven Pressfield is giving away a free download of his new book, Nobody Wants to Read Your Shit.
You should download a copy before the free offer expires. I really like and admire Pressfield’s work, both his historical fiction and his non-fiction.

The War of Art was superb. I added it to my personal library. Everyone should read it.

This will likely be another excellent tool for writers.

I can’t wait to read my download of this new book. I’ll start it this weekend. Afterwards I anticipate that I’ll add it to my personal library as well.

 

No strings attached.
No e-mail address required.

Brand new and FREE from Steven Pressfield

NOBODY WANTS TO READ YOUR SH*T

…picks up where The War of Art left off.

Nobody Wants to Read Your Shit - by Steven Pressfield

.EPUBDownload your free Nook/iTunes/Kobo e-book here!

.MOBIDownload your free Kindle compatible e-book here!

.PDFDownload your free
PDF e-book here!

We’re giving it away (for a limited time) because we want people to read it. Simple as that.

Want more information or a paperback? Click here.

Thanks from Steve P. and everybody at Black Irish Books.

LET’S BLOW THIS ROCK

Well, they might very well convince me anyway. Since I was a kid I’ve wanted to be an astronaut and I’m more than ready to blow this rock. Too many damned backwards, insane, and evil people populating Earth at the moment.

Of course I reckon to some extent it’s always been that way, and maybe we’d just take our twisted bullshit with us. But at least it’d be a chance at a fresh start…

 

NASA’s Mars Recruitment Posters Will Convince You to Go Die in Space

Okay, poster. You make a compelling argument—sign us up!

True, there will be obstacles: For one, the Martian corps that these recruitment posters from Kennedy Space Center are attempting to enlist us in does not exist. Also, as of yet, no human has ever stepped foot on the surface of the red planet, much less worked some kind of shadowy night-watch position, that (rather terrifyingly) appears to require the constant use of a space harpoon.

But, no matter! The can-do spirit of these WWI- and WWII-influenced posters has already inspired us. We will be teachers, and welders, and farmers, and satellite technicians, and guards against the Martian night-octopuses that presumably overrun its lunar plains. Just let us know when those enlistment rolls open up.

Full resolutions, suitable for printing on your own, are also publicly availableright here.

All images via Kennedy Space Center

MY ADVICE TO WRITERS (and Everyone else)

The other day someone asked my advice on how to conduct myself as a writer. Or actually, to be more accurate, my advice on how they might better conduct themselves as a writer based on my prior experiences. Since writing is basically a “lonesome occupation” requiring a great deal of commitment, isolation (to a degree I’ll explain momentarily), focus, determination, self-discipline, and real work. They were having trouble dealing with the “lonesome” part of the occupation.

I repeat my advice to them here in the case this assists anyone else. Of course this advice could just as easily apply to artists, inventors, poets, songwriters, and even (to some extent) entrepreneurs of all kinds (all of which I am) with but a few minor modifications. So this is my Highmoot for this Wednesday.

THIS IS MY ADVICE

This is my advice after having worked for myself for decades. I’m about evenly matched between being an introvert and being an extrovert. I too do my very best work alone. However I prime myself by going out and observing people. Going to places that are active, like labs, industrial complexes, malls, museums, libraries, city streets, performances, college campuses, Vadding, to shops, exploring other towns, theaters, etc.
I do this for a day or two about once every two to three weeks.  Although depending on my work schedule I may not be able to do it but once a month. Nevertheless I do this as much as I can and regularly schedule such things.
(Aside: One place though I never go to is coffee shops. Everyone there is on their computers or cell phones and the interactions are limited and about all you see anyone doing is staring at a screen. Coffee shops are, for the most part, horrible and pretentious work environments, with people tending to merely congregate together in order to appear to be working, when in fact they are not truly working – they are seeking to socially escape real work by the public appearance of a displayed but primarily unreal act of “business.” On this point I entirely agree with Hemingway, coffee shops and cafes are the very worst places to do any actual and real work, though they give the plastic social facade of appearing to be busy.
The very same can be said to be true about coffee shops as “observation posts” on true human behavior. The types of human behavior evidenced in most coffee shops is unnatural, artificial, pretentious, deceptive, and rehearsed. People in coffee shops and cafes are extremely aware that they are being observed, indeed this is one reason so many go there, to observe and be observed (in a sort of pre-approved, socially accepted and promoted play-act), in the place of actually working. I almost never trust the close observations of human behavior I make of people in such environments. Such behaviors tend to be no more “real” than the work supposedly occurring in such places, and just as artificial as the plastic illuminated screens they seem so utterly devoted to, and the technological implements they are eagerly seen to be worshiping. My advice is to skip such places entirely if you can and go rather to where real work can be done and you can make true observations about actual behaviors, be those human or animal. Places like I mentioned above. End Aside.)

Then I come home and my mind and soul are primed with observations and ideas and stories and poetry and songs and invention concepts and business proposals.

When I’m at home and working, and tire, or am bored, then I go outside and clear land, hike in the woods, explore the nearby lands (I live out in the country), go fishing, track and observe animals, climb trees, cut down trees, cut the grass, etc. I said I do my best work alone, but actually I do my best work alone while doing something physical, and then I work in my head as I labor. Both because it is excellent practice to work in your head as you labor (the bodily labor frees the mind to wander and work) and because working while you labor is an excellent Mnemonics Technique. Sometimes I’ll write entire poems, songs, scenes from my novels, sections of business plans, create prototype inventions in my head, etc., then memorize the same and store them in Agapolis, my Memory City as I am physically laboring and only after I quit and go back into the house will I write down what I created.

I know modern people are not big on memory or Mnemonic Techniques (so much the shame for them), but I learned such things from the Ancients and the Medievals and if you ask me a superb memory and good control over your own memory is a far better set of skills and capabilities for a writer (or most anyone) to possess than a thousand cell phones or a hundred laptops or tablets or even a dozen internets. A good memory increases not only your overall intelligence but is fundamental to establishing, developing, and properly employing an excellent vocabulary. So practice writing or creating first in your head (after all you can do such things even when you have no access to even pen and paper), then fully memorize what you do, and only then write it down. Such exercises are not only important to do (because of what I mentioned above), but will pay many dividends in any of your creative endeavours and enterprises. Rely not just upon mere technology for your best creations and for your most important works, but rather upon what you most deeply impress upon your own mind and soul. That is both where creation begins and where it will be properly shaped and forged and worked into worthwhile and well-crafted final products.

I don’t know if this helps you any in your own creative enterprises but my advice is go out at least once a month, or as often as you need it, and do nothing but observe and generate new ideas. Then let them ruminate and percolate through you and within you.

If you thereafter feel all cramped up and unable to work smoothly then do something strenuous and physical outside. The labor will do you good and also set our mind free to wander. Then when you are primed and relaxed go to work.

To simplify to a very basic formula: Prime + Observe + Labor + Work + Memorize = High End and Valuable End Product.
After the necessary revisions for proper refinement, of course.
REWRITE OFTEN.

But just because you work alone doesn’t mean you are a prisoner of your environment and just because you work alone doesn’t mean you always have to be alone.

Go wander, go labor, go explore, go meet new people, go people watch, memorize, and then actually Work. Don’t just wade into crowds and pretend to work.

Actually Work.

Be extremely good for ya. And it will probably make you a helluvah lot better writer than you’ve ever been before. No matter what you’re writing. And it is awful hard to be lonely, or a slack-ass, when you are actually doing Good Work.

That’s my advice, take it for what it’s worth.

PUBLISHING YOUR BOOK – BOOKENDS

Book Publishing Secrets with S.W. O’Connell, Author of ‘The Cavalier Spy’

Name: S. W. O’Connell

Book Title: The Cavalier Spy

Genre: historical fiction

Publisher: Twilight Times Books

Thank you for your time in answering our questions about getting published.  Let’s begin by having you explain to us why you decided to become an author and pen this book?

SW: I had once published a magazine, called Living History. With each issue I wrote a publisher’s letter and often “ghost” wrote a few articles. I found over time that I preferred the writing to the publishing. After the magazine went out of circulation, I decided that I would get to the writing I liked via my favorite reading genre – the historical novel. I grew up reading Thomas B. Costain, James A. Michener, Leon Uris, Wilbur Smith, and C.S. Forrester. Later on, I read many of Bernard Cornwell’s books. I learned a lot about history from those writers. Yet the stories entertained.

Is this your first book?

SW: No, The Cavalier Spy is the second in the Revolutionary War action and espionage series I call Yankee Doodle Spies. I know the name is a bit “kitschy,” but I like it. I plan on eventually writing eight books in the series.

With this particular book, how did you publish – traditional, small press, Indie, etc. – and why did you choose this method?

SW: I went with a small trade publisher, a small press called Twilight Times Books. A friend, the late Lee McCaslin, referred me to Twilight Times Books. He was a published author himself and was looking for a new publisher for his second non-fiction book. When he learned Twilight Times Books published mainly fiction, he referred me and I was accepted and given a contract for the first three books in the Yankee Doodle Spies series.

Can you tell us a little about your publishing journey?  The pros and cons?

SW: Well, I did all the usual things. After my first manuscript was done, I went on line to search for an agent. I also met with Dave Meadows and Michael O. Varhola, both published authors. Dave has written several naval espionage novels. Michael writes popular history, travel and ghost haunting books. They provided me lots of insight and encouragement. Lee McCaslkin did as well. But most of our dealings were by phone and email. I actually wrote a chapter in his book, Secrets of the Cold War. Then began the long and frustrating search for a literary agent. Mostly by luck (or unluck) I found two and had contracts with them. They provided feedback on my writing but it was a bit of drag and die. I would get some generalized comments. After I would address them and resubmit, I’d get more (different) generalized comments. It was clear different folks were reading these, as occasionally the comments clashed. In any case, I never was submitted to a publisher. In one case I was dropped. In the other, I did the dropping. These were not paid agents but fairly renowned New York agencies. I’d rate the experience as extremely frustrating, not to mention nerve grinding, but I did learn from it.

What lessons do you feel you learned about your particular publishing journey and about the publishing industry as a whole?

SW: The most important thing I learned was to park my ego at the door. When you are writing, you have complete control of the world you are presenting. But once you get into the publishing phase, the situation sort of reverses. Editors and publishers now have a legitimate right to comment and suggest changing things. You have to trust them. And you have to let go of a part of the creative process. The author creates a work of literature for people to read. The editor and publisher have to turn it into a product for people to buy. The kind of fiction I write doesn’t really fit the cookie cutter mold.

Would you recommend this method of publishing to other authors?

SW: Yes, I would. I find the publisher accessible and well versed in all aspects of the business. And this publisher supports its writers.

What’s the best advice you can give to aspiring authors?

SW: I’ll say that there are a whole bunch of folks who will shut you down. For them, your work is a business decision.  This is especially true of some f the agencies. I’d say – find your style… your voice, and hone it. But don’t try to change it. I’d also say be very patient…. And keep writing!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

S.W. O’Connell is the author of the Yankee Doodle Spies series of action and espionage novels set during the American Revolutionary War. The author is a retired Army officer with over twenty years of experience in a variety of intelligence-related assignments around the world. He is long time student of history and lover of the historical novel genre. So it was no surprise that he turned to that genre when he decided to write back in 2009. He lives in Virginia.

////////////////////////////////////

Title: The Cavalier Spy

Genre: Historical

Author: S. W. O’Connell

Websitewww.yankeedoodlespies.com

Publisher: Twilight Times Books

Purchase linkhttp://www.twilighttimesbooks.com/TheCavalierSpy_ch1.html

Amazon OmniLit 

About the Book:

1776: His army clinging to New York by a thread, a desperate General George Washington sends Lieutenant Jeremiah Creed behind British lines once more. But even the audacity of Creed and his band of spies cannot stop the British juggernaut from driving the Americans from New York, and chasing them across New Jersey in a blitzkrieg fashion. Realizing the imminent loss of one of the new nation’s most important states to the enemy, Washington sends Creed into the war-torn Hackensack Valley. His mission: recruit and train a gang of rogues to work behind British lines.

However, his mission takes a strange twist when the British high command plots to kidnap a senior American officer and a mysterious young woman comes between Creed and his plans. The British drive Washington’s army across the Delaware. The new nation faces its darkest moment. But Washington plans a surprise return led by young Creed, who must strike into hostile land so that Washington can rally his army for an audacious gamble that could win, or lose, the war.

“More than a great spy story… it is about leadership and courage in the face of adversity…The Cavalier Spy is the story of America’s first army and the few… those officers and soldiers who gave their all to a cause that was seemingly lost…”

~ Les Brownlee, former Acting Secretary of the Army and retired Army Colonel

“Secret meetings, skirmishes and scorching battles… The Cavalier Spy takes the reader through America’s darkest times and greatest triumphs thanks to its powerful array of fictional and historical characters… this book shows that courage, leadership and audacity are the key elements in war…”

~ F. William Smullen, Director of National Security Studies at Syracuse University’s Maxwell School and Author of Ways and Means for Managing UP

– See more at: http://publishingsecretsofauthors.blogspot.be/2015/09/book-publishing-secrets-with-sw.html#sthash.RvabPHmv.dpuf

ONE DAY I’LL ESCAPE

ONE DAY I’LL ESCAPE

I kinda wish the internet did not so much exist
And then I wouldn’t Work on it or in its ranks enlist
But it does, oh how it does, and so I plod along
Wasting all this Living time with silly, versey songs

I wait and wait the web to thread its way to where I go
So I can make it larger still, these spiders all aglow
I often wonder where it ends – I know it’s pointless though
To kick so hard against these pricks – just dinner and a show

These monkeys screeching, slinging shit, getting nothing else
Yet if you sling it back at them whatever does it help?
The cages rattle, shake, and roll, and still what does it change?
A sinking ship’s a sinking ship, the deck chairs rearranged,

Oh look, it’s here, the site I seek, aren’t I a lucky lad?
Now I go to Work on this, I guess I should be glad!
Though it’s not real, I know that see, the world outside awaits
Then why am I, still at this place, just to cut my bait?

I don’t know, we’ve made this world, now getting out’s too late
But still I dream of better things and one day I’ll escape,
And come that day, that brilliant day, the dead webs all dispersed
I’ll be free to Live again and roam the wand’ring Earth…

IT’S NOT JUST WHAT YOU SAY, IT’S WHAT YOU IMPLY BY OMISSION

This statement is entirely true: “It’s what is left out of the song that keeps us coming back for answers.”

This image, and the accompanying lyrics, are superb examples of this.

Lyric Of The Week: Traditional, “Barbara Allen”

Written by March 9th, 2015 at 8:40 am

Forget_Me_Not_Songster_-_Barbara_Allen_p.1It’s been beguiling audiences for a half-millennium or so, perhaps longer than that. It’s been covered by artists ranging from the sublime (Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, The Everly Brothers) to the slightly ridiculous (John Travolta and, in the 1951 Warner Brothers short “Robin Hood Daffy”, Porky Pig.) So what is it about “Barbara Allen” that makes it so enduring and affecting?

The first known reference to this mysteriously captivating folk ballad dates back to 1666, in an entry by the famed English diarist Samuel Pepys. Pepys called it a “Scotch song”, and it flourished throughout the United Kingdom in that era until it was brought to the U.S. by immigrants. As the population of the America slowly spread westward, the song went with it, as noted by famed musicologist Alan Lomax in his book The Folk Songs Of North America. “This ballad, if no other, travelled west with every wagon,” Lomax wrote. “As someone remarked, they sang ‘Barbara Allen’ in Texas ‘before the pale faces were thick enough to make the Indians consider a massacre worthwhile.”

What transpires in “Barbara Allen” is simple enough on the surface. Yet since the lyrics provide little exposition or back story, the reasons for the behavior of the main participants are enigmatic. The song tells the story of young William who, as he lies on his deathbed, calls out for Barbara. She takes her time getting to his side, only to treat him coldly due to a social foul he committed against her at a tavern. On her journey home, she hears the “death bell knellin” and, knowing it tolls for William’s death, suddenly regrets her hardness and knows she will soon die of grief for him.

Harsh stuff, right? Maybe too harsh, even for audiences who were used to Shakespeare’s plays and their numerous deaths. As such, a variant on the song quickly arose that included a leavening epilogue whereby the lovers are buried side-by-side. From William’s grave grows a rose, from Barbara’s a briar, and the two flowers eventually intertwine, providing the deceased pair eternal unison.

It’s whats left out of the song that keeps us coming back for answers. If all William did was drink a toast to the wrong ladies, surely he didn’t deserve treatment so nasty from a girl he truly loved. Or was this single incident indicative of his wayward behavior as a whole? And what changed in Barbara’s mind and heart from the time she left him to when she heard that bell? In that short journey, she transformed from hard-hearted to sympathetic without any middle ground spent in consideration of all that had transpired.

This sort of unexplainable behavior from characters was also emblematic of Shakespeare (think King Lear or Hamlet), so maybe the original writer had that kind of strangeness in mind. It makes the song more psychologically realistic, since we all tend to do things when guided by passion or spite that defy logic and reason.

The murkiness of the motives and the beauty of the melody is an irresistible combination. As such, many legendary contemporary artists have found the song irresistible. Dylan, for one, not only covered “Barbara Allen” at various times in his career, but he also used Barbara’s home base of “Scarlet Town” as a jumping-off point for an equally mysterious song on 2012’s Tempest.

While there have been many powerful and moving renditions of “Barbara Allen”, Art Garfunkel may have given the definitive modern reading on his 1973 solo album Angel Clare.  Whatever lesson you take from the song, whether it’s that even a moment of taking the one you love for granted can come back to haunt you, or that life is too short for petty grievances, you’ll likely be mesmerized by the mercy Garfunkel’s ethereal vocal grants these two lovers. It’s just too bad they didn’t show each other that same kind of mercy until it was far too late.

NEW PUBLICATION SCHEDULE

NEW PUBLICATION SCHEDULE

Recently I have been involved in a number of different projects that have left me little time for blogging. I have been writing the lyrics for my second album, Locus Eater, I have been writing and plotting my novel The Basilegate, I have been putting together a crowdfunding project for one of my inventions and one of my games, I have been helping with and compiling material for my wife’s new career as a public speaker, and helping my oldest daughter prepare to enter college. In addition I have been speaking with and seeking a new agent. I have even been preparing a new paper on some of the work of Archimedes and what I have gleaned from it. Finally I have been preparing my Spring Offensive, which is now completed.

All of which have kept me extremely busy.

However I have not been entirely ignoring my blogging either. In background I have been preparing a much improved Publication Schedule for all five of my blogs, my business blog Launch Port, my design and gaming blog Tome and Tomb, my personal blog The Missal, my amalgamated blog Omneus, and this blog,  Wyrdwend.

Now that most of these other pressing matters are well underway and on an even keel this allows me more time to return to blogging.

So below you will find my new Publication Schedule which I’ll also keep posted as one of the header pages on my blogs.

So, starting on Monday, March the 15th, 2015, and unless something unforeseen interferes this will be the Publication Schedule for this blog every week, including the Topic Titles and the general list of Subject Matters for that given day. That way my readers can know what to expect of any given day and what I intend to publish for that day. I will also occasionally make off-topic post as interesting material presents itself.

 

Wyrdwend – 11:00 – 12:00 AM

Monday: First Verse – Poem, Song, Music
Tuesday: Tuesday’s Tale – Short Story, Children’s Story, etc.
Wednesday: Highmoot – Reader Discussions and Commenting, Reblogs
Thursday: Hammer, Tongs, and Tools – Tools, Linked In, Essay, Non-Fiction, etc.
Friday: Bookends – Serialized Novel, Graphic Novel, Script
Saturday: The Rewrite – Reblog best Personal Posts, Review
Sunday – Sabbath

 

THE EXERCISES

Writing Exercises Scientifically Proven To Redirect Your Life

Need to find a new direction or reclaim inspiration? Grab a pen and paper. These writing exercises can help.

We’re total suckers for self improvement: The self-help industry brings in billions of dollars each year from countless books. All that encouraging advice can feel empowering and commonsensical, offering a simple path to a better life.

But there’s a problem with this approach. “Reading a self-help book is like buying a lottery ticket,” writes social psychologist Timothy Wilson in his newest book Redirect. “For a small investment, we get hope in return; the dream that all our problems will soon be solved without any real expectation that they will be.”

While the power of positive thinking—the seeming bread and butter of self-help as we know it—is a nice thought, according to Wilson, there’s no evidence that simply thinking positively actually works. We can’t just will ourselves to be happier a-la The Secret. “Our minds aren’t that stupid,” says Wilson. “It’s not like you can just tell you mind, ‘Think positively.’ You’ve got to nudge it a little more along.”

In Redirect, Wilson offers an alternative he calls “story editing,” based on the research of social scientists over the years. This approach operates off the premise that we each have a core narrative or story that we tell ourselves about who we are and what the world around us is like. It’s a story that influences our choices and way of experiencing the world. But it’s also one we play a major role in shaping for ourselves.

Using specific writing exercises, according to Wilson, we can begin to shift that story and redirect our way of thinking. “Writing is an act of creation. You are creating as you go,” he says. “That’s what can make this personally so helpful.”

Write through a challenging problem

We can never simply write painful or difficult events out of our lives, but we can make them far more graspable and change our relationship to them, according to research by psychologist James Pennebaker. Over the years, Pennebaker has developed an approach he calls “Writing To Heal,” that uses writing exercises as a way to help people deal with difficult events their lives.

To try the Pennebaker writing exercise, think of an event or worry that’s been most on your mind recently. Set aside 15 to 20 minutes at the end of the day to write about that specific problem. Do this for four days in a row, setting aside at least 15 minutes at the end of each day to record your thoughts. As you write, don’t pause or second-guess yourself—just write without stopping.

Through his research over the years, Pennebaker found that this simple four-day exercise helped improve people’s health, and well-being in various studies. “It’s how we deal with setbacks that’s so important,” says Wilson, who has worked with Pennebaker over the years. While the writing exercise can be difficult at first, people tend to gain clarity as they continue doing it. “Often what they first write is jumbled and unorganized,” says Wilson. But eventually “they view what happened to them in a way that makes more sense.”

Distance yourself from negative experiences

Research has also shown that having some distance from a difficult event allows us to step back and better understand it. There’s a writing exercise Wilson calls the “step-back-and-ask-why” approach that allows us to create this distance and understanding in order to reframe negative events.

To do this exercise, close your eyes and bring yourself back to a specific moment or event that was upsetting to you. Then, in your mind, try to take a few steps back from yourself in the moment so that you can see the story unfolding as if it was happening to a distant version of yourself. Write about what that distant version of yourself is thinking and feeling. One way to do this effectively, suggests Wilson, is to write in the third person, rather than the first person, which automatically builds some seperation between you and the moment you’re writing about.

Don’t simply rehash a play-by-play of what happened; instead, try to explain why it happened. “Don’t recount the event,” Wilson writes. “Take a step back and reconstrue and explain it.”

Determine what your best possible self looks like

There’s a reason Saturday Night Live‘s “Daily Affirmations With Stuart Smalley” was such a hit in the ’90s. That focus on self-affirming mantras is practically begging to be made fun of, yet even today, you’ll find that same advice given in total earnest.

But as Wilson points out in his book, rather than telling yourself you’re doing the best you can and are the best you can be—a pretty text-book self-help mantra—try actually imagining what the best version of yourself might look like in the future and what you need to do to achieve those goals.

He calls this writing prompt the “Best Possible Selves Exercise.” Like the Pennebaker prompt, take 15 to 20 minutes a night for four nights in a row to do this exercise. Imagine your life in the future as if you’ve achieved all your life goals. Write not just what those life goals are, but also how you will be able to achieve them. “Focus on the process of achieving an outcome rather than the outcome itself,” says Wilson.

Imagine all the things that could have gone wrong

Gratitude journals are another self-help go-to, but research has shown they can actually have the reverse effect of making you feel less happy. There’s a pleasure to uncertainty—not being able to pin down the specific details of an event were was pleasing.

While reducing our uncertainty about negative events can help us bounce back from them more quickly, reducing uncertainty about positive events can take some of the pleasure out of them. Wilson calls this a pleasure paradox: “People want to understand the good things in life so that they can experience them again, but by doing so they reduce the pleasure they get from those events,” he writes.

For example, research has shown that asking people in a relationship to tell the story of how they met their partner doesn’t make them particularly happier. But ask those same people to write about the many ways in which they might not have met their partner or their relationship might not have worked out and they get much more pleasure out of the exercise. “People don’t like to do that, but when they do, it makes the relationship look special again, at least for a little while,” he says.

This translates well into a writing exercise Wilson calls the “George Bailey Technique” named after the protagonist in It’s A Wonderful Life. For this exercise, think of one of the most important or special events, relationships or accomplishments in your life. Then imagine all the ways in which it might not have happened. Doing this can introduce mystery and excitement back into the experience again.

Maintain a sense of purpose

These last two exercises aren’t so much writing prompts, as they are calls to action. In their studies of what make people feel happiest and most fulfilled, social scientists have found that having a clear sense of purpose is critical. This means reminding yourself of what your most important goals in life are and finding ways to move forward on those goals, says Wilson.

He identifies three ingredients to well-being: hope, meaning, and purpose. Writing exercises that help reframe the way you feel about negative events in the past can help create a sense of hope and meaning, but it’s also important to maintain goals that provide a sense of purpose in your life. “We all have some choice over what we want to pursue and those of us who are really lucky can get paid to do it, but plenty of people find other ways,” says Wilson.

Do some good in the world

Research has shown that it’s not simply having a sense of purpose that contributes to our well-being, but that those who help others are actually happier than those who don’t. These people have a greater likelihood of forming bonds with others and having a positive image of themselves.

“If you want to have a positive outlook and feel like a good person, go out and be a good person,” says Wilson. “The mind is a very good observer of ourselves.”

PLATFORMING

Author Platforms 201 – Part Two – Consistency

Starting last Tuesday and continuing today and next week I will be exploring the issue of author platforms and how to get one.  At the conclusion of this series of blog posts, The Steve Laube Agency will offer a downloadable document that will include the three posts plus additional information and resources.

__________

Last week, I talked a little about the need to develop a “message platform”, which must be in place before you get a website, Facebook page or start any social media effort.

Today I am still not going to talk at all about how to use Twitter or Instagram or any specific social media. Media is the vehicle to communicate. Maybe at one time “the media is the message”, but in the 21st century, with ubiquitous media, “the message is the message” and that is where it belongs.

Today we will continue to explore how to determine what your message platform is and what you need to begin implementing it.

Most people have heard the term “branding” or “brand management” as it relates to consumer products like breakfast cereal and cars. Simply defined (so even I can understand it), effective branding limits creative expression within certain boundaries. If you are a label designer for Campbell’s Soup, there is a template you use to maintain the Campbell’s brand so anyone can recognize a product at a glance.  An artist who desires to express herself creatively would view that job as a start, but probably not last long in that highly controlled environment.

Authors are brands as well. When anyone, from an agent to a reader looks at an author some immediate thoughts will come to mind, whether positive, negative, clear or confusing. Of course, you desire to project a positive and clear image, but often times, the way we operate is contrary to that.

I am not talking hypocrisy or sinful behaviors or walking the talk. I am referring to having a consistent message, delivered creatively, one that attracts readers and followers and meets the expectations they have for you.

Toe-stepping alert#1: Many less-than-interesting messages from authors have been posted in various media because “I need to post something today, but I can’t think of anything right now.” Until you become truly a rock star and people really want to know what kind of shampoo you use, don’t lose focus and talk about things that lack connection to your message. (Unless your message platform is about hair care, then shampoo is fine)

Whether you recognize it or not, you have a theme to what you write.

  • A novelist might have an approach that shows how characters can learn from mistakes.
  • A non-fiction author might use extensive research to undergird whatever they write and is known for attention to detail.
  • Another novelist shows how people go about their lives unaware of the spiritual world in the background.
  • A writer of Bible reference works desires to make the Bible understandable to everyone.
  • A writer of children’s books might want parents and children to interact about important things.

None of the above are necessarily the topic of a book…they are an author’s approach to their writing. That is their message platform, which is the first step for developing the author platform we hear so much about.

Toe-stepping alert #2: Most authors have no idea what their message platform is until someone else tells them.  If you try to figure it out yourself, you are engaging in a form of self-deception. We never see ourselves as others see us. Ask someone who will be honest. Don’t ask close friends or family. They will be nice and usually agree with whatever you say.  “Of course, you are smartest person in the world”. Thanks mom.

Bloggers, columnists, talk-show hosts, comedians, teachers, pastors and others who are responsible to deliver regular presentations make it a habit to always be on the lookout for illustrations and content. In many cases, they carry a small notebook with them everywhere they go, ready to capture a thought. Of course, these days, a number of people use a notes app or voice memo function on a smart phone. Use whatever you want, but do it.

Eyes and ears open, antennae up.

Look for stories to support your message platform everywhere. Let’s say your message platform is to highlight the good things people do for one another every day. That’s an easy one. You look for people doing things for one another.

Toe-stepping alert #3: If you don’t write or record the idea immediately, you will forget it. I don’t care how smart you are or how much you can memorize, the first time your phone rings you’ll forget what you were thinking about and the thought will be gone like a coin dropped on the couch.

Suppose your core message is harder to define. This is where asking multiple people is extremely important. Tell people to be straight with you. Anything else will not be helpful or at best, will send you off on a rabbit trail.

Finally, the framework for all message platforms is a commonly used item. A calendar. There are dates that mean something, like MLK Day, Fourth of July, Thanksgiving, your grandmother’s 100th birthday, the anniversary of the day you got your driver’s license, etc.

By mapping out your message framework with a calendar, you will have a much easier time acquiring a specific message than if you try to figure out something without it. An idea from this afternoon might be great for next Spring or two years from now.

Toe-stepping alert#4: If you do not consistently plan your platform messages, then you will have regular moments of brain-freeze and you will shelve your carefully crafted platform for something less-than-important. The more you waste the time of your devoted followers who expect something from your core message platform, the less devoted they will become. (Unless you are super-famous, then we want to know what flavor of hummus you like best)

Next week, I’ll close this series of blog posts with a specific approach you can view the way you conduct your author marketing.

But if I forget what to write, anyone want to know how I feel about buying food from vending machines at rest stops along interstate highways?

Author Platforms – Part One

– See more at: http://www.stevelaube.com/author-platforms-201-part-two-consistency/#sthash.w12ysvl6.dpuf

CREATIVE WORK RELEASE

I almost never face Writer’s Block. I almost always have the opposite problem, too many ideas to pursue at once.

But for those who do have Writer’s Block problems then maybe this will help.

How to Work Through Difficulty: Lewis Carroll’s Three Tips for Overcoming Creative Block

by

“When you have made a thorough and reasonably long effort, to understand a thing, and still feel puzzled by it, stop, you will only hurt yourself by going on.”

In addition to having authored my all-time favorite book, Alice in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll was a man of extraordinary and frequently prescient wisdom on matters of everyday life — his nine commandments of letter-writing offer timely insight into how we can make modern digital communication more civil, and his four rules for digesting information are a saving grace for our age of information overload. In The Life and Letters of Lewis Carroll (public library; free download), this blend of timelessness and timelines so characteristic of Carroll’s thinking comes vibrantly ablaze, but nowhere more so than in an 1885 letter to one of his child-friends, a young lady named Edith Rix.

Carroll addresses the age-old question of how to overcome creative block. More than a century before psychologists identified the essential role of taking breaks in any intense creative endeavor, and long before our earliest formal theories about the stages of the creative process, Carroll offers spectacularly prescient counsel on how to work through creative difficulty and seemingly unsolvable problems — a testament to the fact that in the study of creativity, psychology often simply names and formalizes the intuitive insights artists have had for centuries, if not millennia.

Carroll offers young Edith three tips:

When you have made a thorough and reasonably long effort, to understand a thing, and still feel puzzled by it, stop, you will only hurt yourself by going on. Put it aside till the next morning; and if then you can’t make it out, and have no one to explain it to you, put it aside entirely, and go back to that part of the subject which you do understand. When I was reading Mathematics for University honors, I would sometimes, after working a week or two at some new book, and mastering ten or twenty pages, get into a hopeless muddle, and find it just as bad the next morning. My rule was to begin the book again. And perhaps in another fortnight I had come to the old difficulty with impetus enough to get over it. Or perhaps not. I have several books that I have begun over and over again.

His second tip is particularly noteworthy for the way it compares and contrasts Carroll’s two domains of genius, writing and mathematics — for, lest we forget, behind the pen name Lewis Carroll always remained the brilliant mathematician and logician Charles Dodgson. He writes:

My second hint shall be — Never leave an unsolved difficulty behind. I mean, don’t go any further in that book till the difficulty is conquered. In this point, Mathematics differs entirely from most other subjects. Suppose you are reading an Italian book, and come to a hopelessly obscure sentence — don’t waste too much time on it, skip it, and go on; you will do very well without it. But if you skip a mathematical difficulty, it is sure to crop up again: you will find some other proof depending on it, and you will only get deeper and deeper into the mud.

In a way, this dichotomy also illuminates the difference between reading and writing. Writing is almost mathematical, in the sense that it requires a clarity of logic in order for the writer to carry the plot forward. A reader may be able to read over a muddled sentence and still follow the plot — but only if that sentence was unmuddled for the writer in carrying the plot forward. In that sense, while Carroll’s advice to Edith considers her experience as a reader, his advice to a writer regarding creative block would be more closely aligned with the mathematician’s experience — if a writer were to skip over a difficulty in the construction of a story, which is essentially a logical difficulty, it too “is sure to crop up again.”

Illustration by Tove Jansson for ‘Alice in Wonderland.’ Click image for more.

Carroll’s third tip is at once remarkably simple and remarkably challenging to apply for anyone who has ever tussled with the mentally draining but spiritually sticky process of creative problem-solving:

My third hint is, only go on working so long as the brain is quite clear. The moment you feel the ideas getting confused leave off and rest, or your penalty will be that you will never learn Mathematics at all!

The Life and Letters of Lewis Carroll is a wonderful read in its entirety, full of the beloved author’s thoughts on happiness, morality, religion, identity, and much more. Complement it with the best illustrations from 150 years of Alice in Wonderland, then fortify this particular bit with the psychology of the perfect writing routine and more ideas on overcoming creative block from Brian Eno, Carole King, and some of today’s most exciting creators.

ANCIENT AFRICA, THE ORO, AEZANA OF AKSUM, AND THE RUINS OF THE DEFFUFA

As some of you know my youngest daughter recently asked if she could do a special study on some of the Ancient and Medieval kingdoms of Africa as part of her homeschooling studies. I readily agreed as I like the subject myself and she just finished a great course of study on archaeology. So this seemed like a natural extension of her previous study set.

Well, I got as much good material together as I could from our local library system, which admittedly has little decent material in the way of books on Africa (any part of Africa, especially African history). What I could get though I got. Most of the books – I wasn’t too impressed with except for a very excellent book on the early spread of Christianity throughout northern and eastern Africa called The Blessing of Africa, which I had previously read myself in my studies for the priesthood. (One day I intend to help found churches in Africa. Or refound is perhaps a better term since much of Africa was Christian until the Muslim invasions and slave trade.)

As I said many of the books were less than stellar but the video materials I got were quite good and since I’m here at the house alone today I thought I’d look at one of the videos on the Lost Kingdoms of Africa. I’ve watched two episodes so far, one very good one on the Nubians and Cushites and a truly excellent one on the Ethiopians and the Aksum Kingdom.

The guy who is the host or moderator is obviously a black Brit archaeologist (given the accent) who nevertheless tends to dress something like an American cowboy and definitely does not like desert environments. He’s got that cold blood of the Brits I guess. It’s very amusing to listen to him say over and over again, “Man, I have never been so hot!” He’s an eclectic character, and his manner of dress, speech and aversion to heat make me laugh. Nevertheless he is bright and a good host and the show explores some fascinating places and investigates some interesting history.

One thing in particular that I learned regarded Ezana the Ethiopian (Aezana of Aksum), who was educated by two Syrians who had become shipwrecked in Ethiopia. One of the Syrians was a Christian monk (Syria being the first Christian kingdom in the world – most of the entire Near East and much of Africa being Christian before the Muslim invasions) who converted Ezana and Ezana become the very first Christian Emperor of Ethiopia.

Considering his background, the size of his kingdom (which was quite impressive), the number of Near Eastern, Arabic, and Christian states it was in contact with, and given the novels I am writing I cannot help but think that Ezana was at least one chief aspect of what would later become the historical template for the Prester John myth.

Ezana converted to Christianity, expanded the empire considerably, instituted educational and religious reforms (similar to what Charlemagne and Alfred the Great would later do in France and England), imported people from all over the nearby world as advisors, and expanded trade. He was also the first to mint Christian coins, interesting since Syria was the first Christian kingdom, and he had been educated by a Syrian.

There is a character in my Other World novels, a man by the name of Erasto Qwara, and he is a primary character in the party of the Oro (Moonshadow), which is a rough analogue of the Byzantine Basilegate. The more I study Ezana though the more I think that some of Ezana’s attributes will be adopted into the character of Erasto.

Erasto, while recovering in Egypt from combat injuries decides to join the Oro to try and discover, almost precisely as the Basilegate is trying to do, why so many odd and unexplainable things are happening in our world.

Before that however Erasto has a vision, or a dream, or a mystical experience in which he is instructed to go to Alexandria and from there to Constantinople.

But while watching the video today on the Nubians I discovered that they had built a large, room-less and solid, very impressive mud-brick temple or ritual building (part of a large ritual complex at Kerma) called the Deffufa. It reminds me of nothing so much as the Ziggurats in the Near East, but it is far more oddly shaped.

Originally I had planned to have Erasto’s vison occur one night while he lay alongside the banks of the Nile, the vision echoing Abram’s vision of God when he called God a “Horror of Great Darkness.” But now I think that I will rewrite that scene to make it so that Erasto’s vision occurs while he sleeps one night alone on the top of the Deffufa, and that instead it will far more closely resemble Jacov’s vision of the Ladder or Stairway to Heaven.

Also, since later the entire Oro will have a very eerie experience with the obelisks at Karnak in which the obelisks ring like gongs and then produce weird music and a spooky voice I think I might also work in as a prelude something to do with the “Rock Gongs” of Cush and the cobras of the Split Egyptian Kingdom.

So, it seems my daughter’s homeschooling project has actually turned out to be of enormous benefit to the plot and historical research of my novels. I’m quite glad she chose this particular course of study.
Well, that’s enough research for one day so I’m going to go play Metal Gear. Have a good evening folks.
By the way, below is a brief character description of Erasto Qwara the Ethiopian, and his position in the Oro (Moonshadow).

 

Erasto Qwara – born in Axum, the third of six children, Erasto grew up following his family tradition of soldiering. At fifteen he became a Christian Soldier and rose quickly through the ranks, so that local officials were soon sending him as an escort and emissary to foreign lands, such as to the courts at Egypt. Smart, driven, and self-educated Erasto learned six African tongues and was soon able to read and write Koptic, Greek and Latin as well. Because of his linguistic skills and general education by the age of 19 Erasto was made commander of a unit formed to escort diplomatic missions throughout the Nubian kingdoms, along the coast of east Africa, into the tribute states of the Arabian Peninsula, into the Near East, and also into Egypt. The farther afield Erasto roamed the more types of people he encountered and he soon discovered that he loved to mix freely with people of different nations and races. Developing a personal interest in trade Erasto also was soon gaining experience as a trade representative in addition to his diplomatic and military skills. Born into a devout Christian family Erasto nevertheless had no interest at all in religious matters until traveling in Egypt he discovered an early copy of some of the works of the Philokalia written in Koptic. Reading it eagerly Erasto became a devout Christian and returning to Axum began to study under Aksumite Christian Masters. Erasto remained a solider but also developed a strong interest in interpreting scriptures from a Monophysitic point of view, and became such a skillful writer, fluent interpreter, and powerful debater on Christian doctrine that he soon earned the nickname, Qwara, the Cushite Christian (even though that was a misnomer). At the age of 25 Erasto was assigned to escort a trade and diplomatic mission to the Byzantine Empire by way of Egypt and the Mediterranean. At sea his ship, along with several others, was attacked by Sicilian pirates and many on his ship were killed. Erasto was severely injured in combat and had to return to Egypt, where as a result of his injuries he was retired, but allowed to retain the rank of Commander as a Christian Soldier. While recovering in Egypt he studied with Kopts in Alexandria to become a Christian Cleric and within two years was ordained. After ordination he was returning to Axum but stopped at Karnak where he met Addo and the other members of the Moonshadow.

THE DARK ARTS

THE DARK ARTS – definitely worth the read and the reblog

Having worked a couple of corporate espionage cases myself, from the counter-espionage/defensive side of things, a couple of these articles were useful and fascinating.

WHAT ARE YOUR GOALS?

A good one from a friend of mine…

Goal Setting for Writers (Firsts in Fiction with Aaron Gansky)

In our latest Firsts in Fiction program, Aaron Gansky and I chat about how writers can set goals for the new year and how goals for writers differ from goals of others.

Firsts in Fiction is a weekly netcast designed to help new novelists and other writers of fiction get a proper start. It’s also a fun place to hangout. It is broadcast live at 6:30 pm Pacific each Wednesday on Google Hang Outs. The show is posted later on YouTube, http://www.aarongansky.com, and here at http://www.altongansky.com. The audio version can also be heard on iTunes or Stitcher. Click on the Firsts in Fiction tab above for more.

Enjoy.

 

– See more at: http://altongansky.typepad.com/writersconferences/2015/01/goal-setting-for-writers-firsts-in-fiction-with-aaron-gansky.html#sthash.m2NM0lNa.dpuf

WHY?

The other day, after she completed her homeschooling studies, my youngest daughter walked into my office and said, “Dad, why doesn’t everyone use the Oxford Comma?”

I laughed out loud.

“I have no idea,” I replied.

“Well they should. It would make what they say and write so much easier to understand,” she said emphatically.

“I couldn’t agree more, my dear.”

Then she left.

LOL.

TOME AND TOMB

I’ve got some really good and interesting stuff up on my Gaming Blog today, including a Greek animated reproduction of the Tomb at Amphipolis.

Tome and Tomb

11 STEP GUIDE TO SCENE/SCREEN WRITING

11 STEP GUIDE TO SCENE/SCREEN WRITING

This is not my Tool, I did not write or create it. Nevertheless I think it is a very useful tool, and one worth using.

NOT THE WAY

Friday, December 12, 2014

How NOT to Query an Agent

Working for a literary agent, definitely has its moments of hilarity. My most recent reason to LOL? I was pitched to.

Yes. Me. The administrative assistant. And here is the crazy part: I was pitched a manuscript to an email address that really isn’t really common knowledge. And on top of that: I don’t get the query emails. That goes to a completely different person.

So why did it come to me, you ask?

I have no idea. Which prompted this post: how NOT to query a literary agent. Sharpen your pencils; get out your note pads, this is going to be riveting (and maybe save you the embarrassment of making easy, amateur mistakes)

  • You hear it everywhere. You’re about to hear it here too: READ THE SUBMISSION GUIDELINES ON OUR WEBSITE. Yes, I just used about every function on the Word program to emphasize that statement. Seriously, all your problems will be solved if you take a few minutes to get these few facts straight. When you do, you’re a sight for sore eyes for those of us who get the queries (or shouldn’t get the queries as the case may be…)
  • Don’t put your entire chapter outline/back cover copy/reasons why you wrote this story in the query letter. Take an hour (or two) and Google query letters. Figure out how to write a good one. Have a critique partner give it a once-over (at the least). This is your first impression. It needs to be a good—GREAT—one.
  • Don’t tell the agent that you are going to be “the next NYT bestseller” or “Nicolas Sparks” or “Janet Oke”. Yes, these things just came through in a query letter that landed in my inbox. And if you are going to claim to be the next hot name, please be sure to at least spell it right.
  • Don’t tell the agent that you need them to publish their book. Um, excuse me, but duh. Be humble when you approach an agent. They have a ton on their plate. Usually many, many authors that they are managing their books and careers. To take the time to read your next best synopsis is a chunk of time out of their day. Realize that it’s not all about your needs and frame the tone of your query accordingly.
  • Don’t give your life story. The reason why you wrote the book. The story behind the story. Nothing. Don’t go there. Stay away. The agent doesn’t care. Now, if he/she picks up the book, reads it, signs you to their agency and you become friends, well, then yes, you probably will tell them the why behind the book. But right now you’re not BFFs, you’re strangers. You wouldn’t walk up to a handsome stranger-dude at a cocktail party, stick out your hand and tell him all about your dog dying when you were four, right away would you? Of course not. Don’t do that to the agent you are querying either.

Yes, that’s a lot of don’ts. Believe it or not, these all came out of a query letter I should have never gotten this week. So: read the guidelines. Write a pithy, word-catchy query. Have a great product to share with the agent. Be humble. Be patient. Email the right person and you won’t become an illustration on some agent’s blog anytime in the near future. 😉

INFOGRAPHIC – SOME OF THE MOST POPULAR BOOKS

THESAURUS

http://tomeandtomb.wordpress.com/2014/12/02/product-review-the-storytellers-thesaurus-fantasy-history-horror/

THE VADDER’S IMPERATIVE

I must Vad these places one day and I don’t even have any interest in going to New York.

http://scribol.com/anthropology-and-history/5-abandoned-stations-of-the-new-york-subway-system/1

JOHN MILTON’S OLD DIGS

Being a great fan of Milton’s poetry, I really liked this:

http://scribol.com/anthropology-and-history/paradise-lost-the-crumbling-english-manor-house-where-john-milton-once-lived/1

CLOSE TO HUMAN

The Art of Close Writing

By posted at 6:00 am on August 5, 2014 10

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coverJonathan Russell Clark sits at his desk, writing an essay about free indirect discourse. Surrounding him are books by authors who employ the technique with considerable skill: Jane Austen, Gustave Flaubert, James Joyce, Virginia Woolf, Stephen Dixon, and Joshua Ferris. He recalls a time when he did not even know what free indirect discourse was, and a time, later, when he knew the term but viewed it more as a descriptor than a crucial component. He remembers how his relationship to the term evolved over the years: his initial distrust of it, as many of his favorite writers cavalierly disregarded the tactic; his frustration with its limitations: how would he communicate the thoughts of other characters if he couldn’t leave the brain of the protagonist?; his eventual understanding of its importance while reading James Wood’s illuminating (though much debated) book How Fiction Works, in which he refers to it as “close writing”; and then, finally, his acceptance and full embrace of the method. Though he still admired novelists who could successfully avoid using free indirect discourse, he knew he would never break from it himself. It was just too liberating, the way close writing allowed his sentences to spill out of him, effortlessly, like thoughts, rapid and rabid and rampant, just spit out onto the page––it was so easy, or, well, easier, because it’s not as if he’s without problems, creatively speaking, oh he has problems, like how is he supposed to know which thoughts are important and which simply aren’t? and why is he unable to write economically, why are his pieces always longer than they need to be?––but yeah anyway, he now loved close writing because it made writing fun.

To be clear: close writing is not vital to all fiction. In fact, it doesn’t even speak to most fiction. For instance, first-person narrations cannot use free indirect discourse. When a character is speaking directly to a reader, the aim of close writing is already happening; no technique required. Also, novels and stories that feature an omniscient narrator are similarly excluded––all-knowing narrators simply tell us information. The skill required to pull off such a voice is its own subject. No, close writing only relates to third-person limited narrations, and, even more specifically, ones with an active interest in the inner lives of the characters. Not all fiction cares about that.

Here’s how James Wood explains close writing:

So-called omniscience is almost impossible. As soon as someone tells a story about a character, narrative seems to want to bend itself around that character, to take on his or her way of thinking and speaking. A novelist’s omniscience soon enough becomes a kind of secret sharing.

And later:

Note the gain in flexibility. The narrative seems to float away from the novelist and take on the properties of the character, who now seems to “own” the words.

Without being able to articulate it, free indirect discourse appealed to Clark greatly. Novels that used the style effectively gave him a giddy sensation, the prose seeming to not have been written but transcribed from a person’s mind but filtered through the ostensibly distancing third-person point-of-view, and though he didn’t know it, he came to depend on such techniques to let him “settle” into a character. Even more striking, when he read a piece of fiction (especially in a workshop environment) that failed to use close writing and didn’t effectively employ another style, something irked him as his eyes moved over the words. He was made uncomfortable by these stories, but he didn’t know why. What the hell was it?

When he finally learned the term––in a college course, he thinks––he started to understand what it was that had been bothering him. Once he read How Fiction Works, he knew with satisfying finality. Free indirect discourse. Close writing. Thankfully the grey cloud hovering over his frustration had a name. Nameless things give aimless dreams.

coverHow important is free indirect discourse? In the history of the novel, it’s extremely important. Clark at first didn’t even realize that the technique had to be developed at all, but in fact it was an astonishing feat. According to Michael Schmidt’s monumental and astounding work of scholarship and criticism, The Novel: A Biography (a book so big and important it merits its own essay, which is forthcoming), early iterations of the novel concerned themselves less with verisimilitude than outright deceit. When Daniel Defoe composed Robinson Crusoe (or, to use its full title––no joke––The Life and Strange Surprising Adventures of Robinson Crusoe, of York, Mariner: Who lived Eight and Twenty Years, All Alone in an Uninhabited Island on the Coast of America, near the Mouth of the Great River of Oroonoque; Having Been Cast on Shore by Shipwreck, wherein All the Men Perished but Himself. with an Account of How He Was at Last as Strangely Deliver’d by Pirates), “he believed he had to honor readers’ expectations of a true and edifying story. An untrue story had to seem true.” The nuanced psychology of the characters was irrelevant to the task of moral tutelage. But the method of mimicking eventually morphed into the representation of human thought.

covercoverGenerally, the development of close writing into its modern form is attributed to Gustave Flaubert in novels like A Sentimental Education, but the early traces of “inner monologue” are as subtle and elusive as the technique itself. Gabriel García Márquez “detects the original use of ‘interior monologue’” as far back as Lazarillo de Tormes, a picaresque work from 1554. James Wood points out an example in Pope’s mock-epic The Rape of the Lock from 1712. Jane Austen, who died four years before Flaubert was born, occasionally abandoned her lofty point-of-view in order to take the reader into the character’s mind, if only briefly, as in this passage from Pride and Prejudice:

Elizabeth felt herself completely taken in. She had fully proposed being engaged by Wickham for those very dances:––and to have Mr. Collins instead!––her liveliness had been never worse timed. There was no help for it however. Mr. Wickham’s happiness and her own was per force delayed a little longer, and Mr. Collins’s proposal accepted with as good a  grace as she could. She was not the better pleased with his gallantry, from the idea it suggested of something more.––It now struck her, that she was selected from among her sisters as worthy of being the mistress of Hunsford Parsonage, and of assisting to form a quadrille table at Rosings, in the absence of more eligible visitors.

Austen’s tactics are very subtle––the exclamation point punctuating the shock over Mr. Collins, the italicized she, and the sound of contemplative flow in “There was no help for it however”––but those little moments of language all belong to Elizabeth, not Austen. It is Elizabeth who can’t believe she has Mr. Collins instead; it is Elizabeth who can’t believe that she was selected from among her sisters, and it is Elizabeth who doesn’t think there was any help for it however. A reader may not be able to articulate with precision the, as Wood describes it, “marvelous alchemical transfer” that just took place, but they’ll feel it. They’ll understand Elizabeth a little bit more.

Flaubert took it a bit further. He organized his entire style around close writing. In A Sentimental Education, the prose moves into the protagonist Frédéric’s mind without any explicit hint at the shift. Here is Frédéric’s first seeing Mme Arnoux, the older woman with whom he falls in love with:

Never before had he seen more lustrous dark skin, a more seductive figure, or more delicately shaped fingers than those through which the sunlight gleamed. He stared with amazement at her work-basket, as if it were something extraordinary. What was her name, her place of residence, her life, her past?

Those last questions are Frédéric’s, as if transcribed verbatim from his thoughts. But where did that shift happen? There was no, “He thought…” Instead, the language slips first into the character’s vernacular––the words “lustrous,” “seductive,” and “delicately” are all Frédéric’s––and then into his mind. It’s quite a nifty trick. “Thanks to free indirect style,” James Wood writes, “we see things through the character’s eyes and language but also through the author’s eyes and language. We inhabit omniscience and partiality at once.”

If this all seems very basic to you, consider that there was a time when close writing simply didn’t exist. Additionally, though readers and writers often implicitly understand these ideas, sometimes the act of naming something and recognizing its traits leads to understanding. Like David Foster Wallace’s fish parable, sometimes you have to say: This is water.

coverMoreover, once the modernists enter the picture, close writing is taken to new depths: the inner thoughts of characters become just as important––or more important––than the plot. Virginia Woolf and James Joyce went so far as to construct novels that took place in a single day, Mrs. Dalloway and Ulysses, meaning the reader spends most of the narrative inside a mind as it thinks. Joyce loved to catalogue very ordinary thoughts, and through Leopold Bloom he mastered close writing like nobody before him. Here is Bloom just after he is first introduced, as he prepares breakfast for Molly:

Another slice of bread and butter: three, four: right. She didn’t like her plate full. Right. He turned from the tray, lifted the kettle off the hob and set it sideways on the fire. It sat there, dull and squat, its spout stuck out. Cup of tea soon. Good. Mouth dry.

Listen to the fragmentary nature of Bloom’s thoughts as they mingle with action. Taking Flaubert’s technique even further, Joyce gives us full access to Bloom’s mind with almost no indication he’s doing so. His thoughts aren’t profound––they’re quotidian, mundane, banal. Clark’s favorite moment comes when Bloom is unable to recall someone’s name:

Stream of life. What was the name of that priestylooking chap was always squinting in when he passed? Weak eyes, woman. Stopped in Citron’s saint Kevin’s parade. Pen something. Pendennis?

Who hasn’t had a similar moment, a name stuck on the tip of the tongue? Then, a full 25 pages later (in the 1922 text, that is), as Bloom assists a blind man across the street, and whose face strikes him “like a fellow going in to be a priest,” it suddenly hits him: “Penrose! That was the chap’s name.” The image of a priest brings to mind the “priestylooking chap” whose name he couldn’t recall earlier and he’s able to conjure the name, except Joyce doesn’t clue the reader into the association. The line is simply plopped down in the middle of another scene.

Virginia Woolf wastes no time delving into her titular character’s inner life. After her famous opening––”Mrs. Dalloway said she would buy the flowers herself”––the prose immediately becomes one with Mrs. Dalloway’s ruminations:

For Lucy had her work cut out for her. The doors would be taken off their hinges; Rumpelmayer’s men were coming. And then, thought Clarissa Dalloway, what a morning––fresh as if issued to children on a beach.

What a lark! What a plunge! For so it had always seemed to her, when, with a little squeak of the hinges, which she could hear now, she had burst open the French windows and plunged at Bourton into the open air. How fresh, how calm, stiller than this of course, the air was in the early morning; like the flap of a wave; the kiss of a wave; chill and sharp and yet (for a girl of eighteen as she then was) solemn, feeling as she did, standing there at the open window, that something awful was about to happen; looking at the flowers, at the trees with the smoke winding off them and the rooks rising, falling; standing and looking until Peter Walsh said, “Musing among the vegetables?”––was that it?––”I prefer men to cauliflowers”––was that it? He must have said it at breakfast one morning when she had gone out on to the terrace––Peter Walsh.

Who’s Lucy? Why does she have her work cut out for her? Why is Mrs. Dalloway buying flowers? And who is Peter Walsh? Why does he suddenly appear in her mind? Remember: this is the first page of the novel. In 1925, when Mrs. Dalloway was published, people still expected some exposition, some introductory orientation, but Woolf provides none. She doesn’t have to. That’s the power of close writing.

>Since then, free indirect discourse has become an integral part of third-person novels. Grab any one at random and you’ll probably find that it employs close writing. And there are still writers who experiment with this voice in their fiction. Stephen Dixon’s I. plays around with the separation of author and subject. The protagonist’s is named I., which means Dixon gets to write sentences like: “I. met Fels more than twenty years ago.” Yes, it’s third person, but it’s also first.  Dixon, then, further erases the gap by having the character, I., also be the writer of the prose, so that he can stop in the middle of a paragraph (which, in Dixon’s fiction, are always long) and say, “Oh, he’s not explaining himself well,” or “What’s he going on about?” Then, those murmurs of uncertainty become full-blown self-doubt:

Oh, stop with the crypt of memories swinging open and all that. Fine, then what? Simply this: he finished something yesterday––okay, a short story––wanted to start something new today––story, novel, two-page short-short: what did he care? A fiction of any length––even a play if it was possible––because he gets agitated with himself and grumpy with his family if at the end of the day after the one he finished a fiction he still doesn’t have something to work on the next day. In other words––but he thinks he explained that okay.

He continues to edit himself as he goes, noting, at one point, “that last parenthetical sentence could be clearer, and he knows it’s going to take work.” After a lengthy explanation of I.’s morning, he writes, “He could have done that so much more simply: he finished writing something yesterday, wanted to start writing something today, saw the obituary and started to write.”

The transfer of voice from the author to the character, here, is thrown right back to the author. Dixon’s I. is also the writer, so close writing here traces not simply the character’s thoughts, but the very words he’s typing. Thinking and writing meld into one organism. Dixon’s metafictional approach could be thought of as elaborate autobiography, but whatever it is it shows how close writing can still be stretched and expanded for new purposes. Dixon’s work is often neglected, or deemed too difficult for casual enjoyment. Too bad; he’s wonderful.

coverThe last writer Clark wants to focus on is Joshua Ferris, a writer noted for his experiments with voice. His Then We Came to the End is written in first-person plural, an entire office represented with the narrative we. Recently long-listed for the Man Booker Prize for To Rise Again at a Decent Hour (in the first year Americans were considered), Ferris is one of contemporary fiction’s most assured practitioners. His abilities with close writing are prodigious, as unequivocally demonstrated by his New Yorker story “The Pilot.” It basically focuses on the neuroses of Lawrence, a wannabe television writer who gets an email invitation to a producer’s “yearly blowout.” “He’d R.S.V.P’d,” we’re told, “but not immediately. Two days after the message came in. Two days plus maybe an hour.” When he receives no reply from her, he starts to worry:

He would have liked a reply. After a few days went by, he’d have liked a reply a lot. Was his e-mail too effusive? Was it a mistake to use the word “sick” to describe her show? Or maybe she was just busy shooting the season finale. She was just busy shooting the season finale. He should have just written back quick-like, something like “Thanks for the invitation, Kate. See you then.” Then she might have quick-like hit Reply, with a confirmation, and he’d have known that she knew he was coming. Did she even know she’d invited him? Sometimes, with e-mail, some programs, you hit All Contacts or something and invite people you didn’t even mean to invite. Of course she’d meant to invite him. He just didn’t have any confirmation that she’d received his R.S.V.P. That was kind of unnerving. But, think about it, would he then have to confirm her confirmation? That wasn’t really feasible. It was just…Everything was fine. She was just wrapping. He was too effusive. “Sick little fuck-you”: that might have been––no, it was fine––just a little insulting? No, no, it was fine, who knows, not him.

That is a virtuoso stretch of comic writing, and a better representation of human thought as it occurs than almost anything Clark’s read in his life. The thoughts interrupt each other, the narrator oscillates between two poles of neurotic uncertainty, even repeating himself to emphasize a statement’s validity (yet inadvertently showing how questionable Lawrence finds that validity), and yet the reader never loses the train, the writing is crystal clear, the rhythm natural. Even though Lawrence isn’t technically narrating, he owns every single word on the page. The reader is in his mind.

Close writing really is an amazing thing. Consider that this essay right now has been narrated in the third person, and yet there is no question as to what Clark’s opinions are. There was never any confusion over “who” was asserting the statements made above. The “marvelous alchemical transfer” made it so the separation between Jonathan Russell Clark and some ostensible narrator disappeared––after a while, you probably stopped noticing, except for the occasional use of Clark’s name. Here, of course, Clark and the author are the same, but the same technique used in fiction functions the same way. The writer disappears and only the character is left––the voice, the thoughts, the little details that make us human.

A Talk on Monsters

THE MONSTERS AND THE MAN

To me the monster is that Man
Whose spirit we cannot
Unwrap from evil in the womb
That ferments as it rots

To me the monster is that Beast
Whose tearing maw will bleed
With uncanny ichors hot
To digest what it breeds

To me the monster angelic
Who fell to Daemon’s pit
Broods on murderous revenge
With septic, cold intent

To me the monster prodigal
Like a Titan strides
To grind upon the red shorelines
Where terror does abide

Yet in me Monster curls and sleeps
Hibernating long
Dreaming when he will awake
To sing his monstrous song

So knowing this, and monsters well
I keep him drugged and bled
So he will never wake in me
To do what I most dread…

__________________________

To me there are four types of monsters in this world: The Evil, Unrepentant Man, the Naturally Savage Beast, the Supernatural Daemon, and the Unrelenting Prodigy/Prodigal.

And then there is me…

Writing North East

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. If you don’t come to one of Dr Alison Younger’s talks, you are truly missing out. On December 1st, at Café Culture in Newcastle, once again, we were all enlightened as Alison took centre stage in talking about the things that go bump in the night. In other words, monsters.

For century’s these creatures of the night have taken over the pages of our books, and scared us silly on our TV screens and according to Dr Alison Younger, they’re not leaving us any time soon. Because gothic sells, monsters sell.

alison

But why do we enjoy them so much? The things that frighten us at night, it seems strange that we’ve formed an attachment to such creatures. But, when you look at the evidence, it’s overwhelming. In her talk last night, it was said that we need monsters to make us…

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THE MYTH OF THE WRITER, AND THE FANTASY THEREOF

Last night a friend and I were having a discussion regarding Myth and Fantasy on his Facebook page. Since this is a subject I have much studied and long thought about I decided I would post my reply to his discussion on this page. So here is my summation of some of the more salient differences, and some of the basic similarities, between Fantasy and Myth.
This is in the form of my Facebook page response, of course, but later I will create an essay out of this and related material I have written in the past on the same subjects.

 

SOME OF THE DIFFERENCES AND SIMILARITIES BETWEEN FANTASY AND MYTH

To me it mostly depends on if you’re writing Myth or Fantasy.

Myth, such as Tolkien wrote is filled with footnotes and endnotes and much of Tolkien’s myth refers directly to real world history or is a thinly veiled modification of it, just as Classical myth is, e.g.. Homer and Virgil.

The Black Gate is a modification of the Iron Gate of the Byzantines, Rohan was a modification of a real place and people, etc..

If it is fantasy it might also contain heavy historical elements, but they are greatly modified and changed significantly. In that kind of fantasy (swords and sorcery fantasy) magic is more important than myth, the supernatural more important than technology or realism, story more important than history, and character more important than culture (typically).

Tolkien for instance created very realistic cultures and landscapes that were well developed enough to imagine living in, or wanting to live in. Howard, with Conan (fantasy), created heavily modified versions of semi-realistic, but mostly underdeveloped proto-human cultures that few if any would really want to love in. Same with Moorcock (another fantasy writer). A lot of underlying history and myth in both Howard and Moorcock, no real admirable cultures or worlds to live in. No real higher mythic and spiritual content, a lot more grunt-work and gritty adventure and survival.

I follow that same general pattern. I’m writing a mythic series (The Other World) which is a mix of Byzantine realism and the mythos of Prester John. It is also a retelling of the Fall of Constantinople and the founding of America in mythic form. It has a lot of “high, mythic, poetic, and spiritual content.”
I am writing another series of what I call magic and miracles fantasy which is based on what we now know of pre-historic and proto-human cultures, but the emphasis is not on sweeping myths or great cultures, but on personal adventure, and individual supernatural and magical experience.

(And this is paradoxically why poetry and song so rarely appear in pure fantasy, and when it does, it is almost always of very inferior quality – but in myth really good song and poetry is a primary and necessary component – Beowulf and the Iliad are poetic, in Conan real poetry and song are absent. Real Myth is poetic, by nature. Fantasy is prosaic, comparatively speaking.)

In myth magic is tightly controlled and there is little of it, especially overtly. Magic is underground and few can master it. Magic is an elite force employed by an elite few. In fantasy it is usually ubiquitous yet extremely dangerous and likely always out of control, or completely uncontrolled. In fantasy the elite think they can master magic but it almost always it overmasters them. In myth they often can master magic, be it Gandalf or Wotan, though it always has a price for the greedy and unwise. (Such as Fafnir.)

On the other hand, Conan being a fantasy character and a barbarian and a primal man instinctively knows this about his world, he lives in a supernatural and fantastical environment (not a mythic one) , well above his personal pay-grade. The way to equalize magic is not to make it rare and tightly controlled, like in myth, but to avoid it altogether, or destroy it if possible. In myth magic is really a spiritual force, good or bad, and not easily understood or mastered. In fantasy magic is not a spiritual force, but supernatural nitro-glycerin.)

In myth there are also obviously miraculous and apparently fated events. In fantasy fate is what a man makes of himself.

And to me therein lies another of the real differences. In myth, although the characters are very important, the myth is Fundamental. Obviously much bigger things than the individual are at Work.

The myth is what is really being discussed; the characters are archetypes in action.

In fantasy the cultures and the environment are the archetypes, it is the characters being discussed. The individual is what is at Work. The person is in reaction, struggling to bring things under his own control, and usually failing.

In my second series, the fantasy series, the books are about the adventures of Solimar, who is renamed by his god and given a mission to fulfill in the world. So he roams the world seeking to fulfill his mission and understand his supernatural origins, both at birth, and at “rebirth and renaming.”
Solimar, who begins as Soar (So-ar), is really a retelling of the stories of Jacov and of Abram (Solimar’s god, Olim, or Holim, inserts his own name in the middle of Soar’s name to remake him into his representative in the world) in a vaguely Conan like form. Though Solimar is not a warrior but more of a spy, and a Jack of all Trades adventurer, who has become his god’s semi-reluctant and covert Agent.

Now all of that being said I still think there is plenty of room in the middle. As a matter of fact GRR Martin and his series is exactly that. Half-mythic realism, half-magical fantasy. Half Westeros mythos (and Real World history – Dunk and Egg), and half Dragon-Egg/White Walker fantasy. And you can clearly see how the two separate worlds impinge upon and overlap one another, and you can also clearly see how they are separated by, “A Wall.” (In Tolkien the wall of separation was the frontier of Mordor.)

So if you ask me you can lean towards the ends of the bell curve, or, if you wish, seek the top and the middle.

Plenty of room to roam landscapes in all directions if you so wish.

 

 

CHERNOBYL BY DRONE

Explore Chernobyl like never before, courtesy of a drone

Prepare to see Pripyat, home of the Soviet-era Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, like never before. A British man has used a drone to offer entirely new angle on the abandoned Soviet city, which became famous for the Chernobyl meltdown on April 26, 1986.

British videographer Danny Cooke made “Postcards from Pripyat, Chernobyl” in his spare time while filming a segment for CBS News. His aerial footage, recorded using a DJI Phantom 2 drone and a Canon 7D camera, provides a fascinating look at the iconic shots that have come to define a city that has been empty for decades: Decaying ferris wheels, neglected Soviet monuments, heavily-wooded city square.

“Chernobyl is one of the most interesting and dangerous places I’ve been,” Cooke wrote on Vimeo. “The nuclear disaster, which happened in 1986 (the year after I was born), had and effect on so many people, including my family when we lived in Italy. I can’t imagine how terrifying it would have been for the hundreds of thousands of locals who evacuated.””There was something serene, yet highly disturbing about this place,” he added. “Time has stood still and there are memories of past happenings floating around us.”

Photo via Danny Cooke/Vimeo

SETTING THE STAGE

Brain’s reaction to virtual reality should prompt further study, suggests new research

by Stuart Wolpert
brain
Credit: Rice University
UCLA neurophysicists have found that space-mapping neurons in the brain react differently to virtual reality than they do to real-world environments. Their findings could be significant for people who use virtual reality for gaming, military, commercial, scientific or other purposes.

“The pattern of activity in a region involved in spatial learning in the virtual world is completely different than when it processes activity in the ,” said Mayank Mehta, a UCLA professor of physics, neurology and neurobiology in the UCLA College and the study’s senior author. “Since so many people are using , it is important to understand why there are such big differences.”

The study was published today in the journal Nature Neuroscience.

The scientists were studying the hippocampus, a region of the brain involved in diseases such as Alzheimer’s, stroke, depression, schizophrenia, epilepsy and post-traumatic stress disorder. The hippocampus also plays an important role in forming new memories and creating mental maps of space. For example, when a person explores a room, hippocampal become selectively active, providing a “cognitive map” of the environment.

The mechanisms by which the brain makes those cognitive maps remains a mystery, but neuroscientists have surmised that the hippocampus computes distances between the subject and surrounding landmarks, such as buildings and mountains. But in a real maze, other cues, such as smells and sounds, can also help the brain determine spaces and distances.

To test whether the hippocampus could actually form spatial maps using only visual landmarks, Mehta’s team devised a noninvasive virtual reality environment and studied how the in the brains of rats reacted in the virtual world without the ability to use smells and sounds as cues.

Researchers placed a small harness around rats and put them on a treadmill surrounded by a “virtual world” on large video screens—a virtual environment they describe as even more immersive than IMAX—in an otherwise dark, quiet room. The scientists measured the rats’ behavior and the activity of hundreds of neurons in their hippocampi, said UCLA graduate student Lavanya Acharya, a lead author on the research.

The researchers also measured the rats’ behavior and neural activity when they walked in a real room designed to look exactly like the virtual reality room.

The scientists were surprised to find that the results from the virtual and real environments were entirely different. In the virtual world, the rats’ hippocampal neurons seemed to fire completely randomly, as if the neurons had no idea where the rat was—even though the rats seemed to behave perfectly normally in the real and virtual worlds.

“The ‘map’ disappeared completely,” said Mehta, director of a W.M. Keck Foundation Neurophysics center and a member of UCLA’s Brain Research Institute. “Nobody expected this. The neuron activity was a random function of the rat’s position in the virtual world.”

Explained Zahra Aghajan, a UCLA graduate student and another of the study’s lead authors: “In fact, careful mathematical analysis showed that neurons in the virtual world were calculating the amount of distance the rat had walked, regardless of where he was in the virtual space.”

They also were shocked to find that although the rats’ hippocampal neurons were highly active in the real-world environment, more than half of those neurons shut down in the virtual space.

The virtual world used in the study was very similar to virtual reality environments used by humans, and neurons in a rat’s brain would be very hard to distinguish from neurons in the human brain, Mehta said.

His conclusion: “The neural pattern in virtual reality is substantially different from the activity pattern in the real world. We need to fully understand how virtual reality affects the brain.”

Neurons Bach would appreciate

In addition to analyzing the activity of , Mehta’s team studied larger groups of the brain cells. Previous research, including studies by his group, have revealed that groups of neurons create a complex pattern using brain rhythms.

“These complex rhythms are crucial for learning and memory, but we can’t hear or feel these rhythms in our brain. They are hidden under the hood from us,” Mehta said. “The complex pattern they make defies human imagination. The neurons in this memory-making region talk to each other using two entirely different languages at the same time. One of those languages is based on rhythm; the other is based on intensity.”

Every neuron in the hippocampus speaks the two languages simultaneously, Mehta said, comparing the phenomenon to the multiple concurrent melodies of a Bach fugue.

Mehta’s group reports that in the , the language based on rhythm has a similar structure to that in the real world, even though it says something entirely different in the two worlds. The language based on intensity, however, is entirely disrupted.

When people walk or try to remember something, the activity in the hippocampus becomes very rhythmic and these complex, rhythmic patterns appear, Mehta said. Those rhythms facilitate the formation of memories and our ability to recall them. Mehta hypothesizes that in some people with learning and memory disorders, these rhythms are impaired.

“Neurons involved in memory interact with other parts of the hippocampus like an orchestra,” Mehta said. “It’s not enough for every violinist and every trumpet player to play their music flawlessly. They also have to be perfectly synchronized.”

Mehta believes that by retuning and synchronizing these rhythms, doctors will be able to repair damaged memory, but said doing so remains a huge challenge.

“The need to repair memories is enormous,” noted Mehta, who said neurons and synapses—the connections between neurons—are amazingly complex machines.

Previous research by Mehta showed that the hippocampal circuit rapidly evolves with learning and that brain rhythms are crucial for this process. Mehta conducts his research with rats because analyzing complex brain circuits and neural activity with high precision currently is not possible in humans.

SOCIAL MEDIA IN 30 MINUTES A DAY

A useful article by a friend of mine.

 

Social Media Monday—Successful Social Media in 30 Minutes a Day

by Edie Melson @EdieMelson
You can look at this digital age we live in as a blessing or a curse—and there are merits to each viewpoint. Since I’m a glass half full type girl, I happen to take the positive approach. I like the connectedness of this time and place. I like connecting in person and online—especially through Facebook and Twitter.

A word of warning here, it’s possible to let these tools (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc.) eat into your writing time. For myself, the way I combat that temptation is to schedule my networking time.

Many of you have asked how I schedule my day so now is as good a time as any to share it with you. Now, please know that I am NOT an organized person, but this loose arrangement of my day helps me to stay sane in the insane world of freelance writing.

My Daily Schedule

  • 8 – 9: I answer email (I have two accounts), and I use Hootsuite to schedule my main social media for the entire day. I use this hour to get connected.
  • 9 – 11:30: I use this time as my creative writing time, because it’s the time when I’m most creative.
  • 11:30 – 12: I answer any emails and phone calls that have come in and again check FB, Twitter and my blog.
  • 12-1: lunch.
  • 1-3 I: work on things that have a deadline and once a week write all my blog posts during this time.
  • 3:30 – 4: I again check email, phone messages, FB, Twitter and my blog. Then, before I go to bed I again check email, FB, Twitter and my blog.
  • Also, about once an hour I get up and walk around to relieve my back and when I sit back down, I check Hootsuite. That way, if anyone has mentioned me or retweeted something I can reply. It’s important to keep the conversation going throughout the day and this is how I do it. BUT, I only allow myself 5-10 minutes each hour or two.

Some days the times vary, especially if I have a big deadline, but this is my basic schedule.

Final Tip to Stay on Track: I try not to be subject to emails or even the telephone. Funny thing, I discovered that people are fine about having to leave messages, IF they know I’ll actually call them back. This allows me to accomplish what I need most days and still stay sane.

I’d love to know how you schedule your social media time. Share your tips, and your struggles in the comments section below. Remember, we’re all better together!

Don’t forget to join the conversation!

Blessings

Edie

ALL GREAT LITERATURE from MEMORABLE LITERARY LINES

All great literature can ultimately be reduced to three basic pronouns: I, you, and us.

LE GUIN’S GOOD ADVICE

By the way I’ve said for years that “Show, don’t tell” may just be the single most juvenile and straight-jacketing piece of writing advice I’ve ever heard in my life. Show, don’t tell is an appropriate device for certain genres and in certain situations, it is the kiss of death for great literature and poetry.

 

 

10 Writing Tips from Ursula Le Guin

At the National Book Awards a few nights ago, Ursula Le Guin was honored with the Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters, a fancy sounding award that basically means she’s the bomb (she really is).

Ursula Le Guin writing quote

I’ve been reading Ursula Le Guin for a long time, since I first discovered The Earthsea Cycle, which re-invigorated my love for fantasy.

She’s also famous for her science-fiction, especially The Left Hand of Darkness and The Dispossessed, and was one of the first to show the world that women can not only write great science-fiction, they can often do it better than men.

Le Guin is a “genre” writer who constantly worked to push the boundaries of what we think of as genre. Besides sci-fi and fantasy, she wrote poetry, creative non-fiction, and literary fiction.

I honestly believe she will go down in history as one of the greatest writers, literary or otherwise, of the 20th century.

Ursula Le Guin’s Quotes on Writing

With that in mind, here are ten quotes from Ursula Le Guin on her process as a writer:

1. “Show, Don’t Tell” is for Beginners

From ursulakleguin.com:

Thanks to “show don’t tell,” I find writers in my workshops who think exposition is wicked. They’re afraid to describe the world they’ve invented.… This dread of writing a sentence that isn’t crammed with “gutwrenching action” leads fiction writers to rely far too much on dialogue, to restrict voice to limited third person and tense to the present.

2. So Is “Write What You Know”

From ursulakleguin.com:

As for “Write what you know,” I was regularly told this as a beginner. I think it’s a very good rule and have always obeyed it. I write about imaginary countries, alien societies on other planets, dragons, wizards, the Napa Valley in 22002. I know these things. I know them better than anybody else possibly could, so it’s my duty to testify about them.

3. Do Your Job as a Writer, and Do it Really Well

From Paris Review:

But when people say, Did you always want to be a writer?, I have to say no! I always was a writer (tweet that, emphasis mine). I didn’t want to be a writer and lead the writer’s life and be glamorous and go to New York. I just wanted to do my job writing, and to do it really well.

4. Shoot for the Top, Always.

Ursula Le Guin writing quote

From Paris Review:

When asked what authors she measures her work against, Le Guin says:

Charles Dickens. Jane Austen. And then, when I finally learned to read her, Virginia Woolf. Shoot for the top, always. You know you’ll never make it, but what’s the fun if you don’t shoot for the top? (tweet that)

5. Write Like Who You Are

From Paris Review:

Hey, guess what? You’re a woman. You can write like a woman. I saw that women don’t have to write about what men write about, or write what men think they want to read. I saw that women have whole areas of experience men don’t have—and that they’re worth writing and reading about.

6. Learn from the Greats

From Paris Review:

It was Borges and Calvino who made me think, Hey, look at what they’re doing! Can I do that?

7. Writing is All About Learning to See

Ursula Le Guin writing quote

From Paris Review:

A very good book tells me news, tells me things I didn’t know, or didn’t know I knew, yet I recognize them— yes, I see, yes, this is how the world is. Fiction—and poetry and drama—cleanse the doors of perception. (tweet that)

I love this, by the way. It reminds me of Oscar Wilde’s quote, “No great artist ever sees things as they really are. If he did, he would cease to be an artist.”

8. Begin Your Story with a Voice

From Paris Review:

How should you begin your story?

With a voice. With a voice in the ear. That first page I wrote, which the novel progressed from, is simply Lavinia speaking to us—including me, apparently.

9. Focus on the Rhythm of the Story

From Paris Review:

I want the story to have a rhythm that keeps moving forward. Because that’s the whole point of telling a story. You’re on a journey—you’re going from here to there. It’s got to move. Even if the rhythm is very complicated and subtle, that’s what’s going to carry the reader.

10. Don’t Waste Time

From Paris Review:

And one of [the things you learn as you get older] is, you really need less… My model for this is late Beethoven. He moves so strangely and quite suddenly sometimes from place to place in his music, in the late quartets. He knows where he’s going and he just doesn’t want to waste all that time getting there…. One is aware of this as one gets older. You can’t waste time.

How about you? What do you love about Ursula Le Guin? What has she taught you about writing?

PRACTICE

Use tip #5 and write like who you really are.  Write like a woman or a man or an American or an alien or an Ursula Le Guin or a Joe Bunting. Write just as you are.

Write for fifteen minutes. When your time is up, post your practice in the comments section. And if you post, please be sure to give feedback to a few other writers.

Happy writing!

About Joe Bunting

Joe Bunting is a writer and entrepreneur. He is the author of the #1 Amazon Bestseller Let’s Write a Short Story! and the co-founder of Story Cartel. You can follow him on Twitter (@joebunting).

THE FLOW OF IMAGINATION AND REALITY

And yet because the brain is a collaborative interconnected network both imagination and reality must both either originate from the same point or at some point pass each other to get where they are going.

Knowing this one should be able to both improve the quality of your observations of the Real World and beneficially intensify the quality of your imaginative and fictional productions.

In other words from the senses (perception) to the mind (for comprehension) goes Reality, and from the mind (projection) to the senses (through comparison) goes Imagination.

 

Imagination, reality flow in opposite directions in the brain

by Scott Gordon
Imagination, reality flow in opposite directions in the brain
Electrical and computer engineering professor Barry Van Veen wears an electrode net used to monitor brain activity via EEG signals. His research with psychiatry professor and neuroscientist Giulio Tononi could help untangle what happens in …more
As real as that daydream may seem, its path through your brain runs opposite reality.Aiming to discern discrete neural circuits, researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison have tracked electrical activity in the brains of people who alternately imagined scenes or watched videos.”A really important problem in research is understanding how different parts of the brain are functionally connected. What areas are interacting? What is the direction of communication?” says Barry Van Veen, a UW-Madison professor of electrical and computer engineering. “We know that the brain does not function as a set of independent areas, but as a network of specialized areas that collaborate.”

Van Veen, along with Giulio Tononi, a UW-Madison psychiatry professor and neuroscientist, and collaborators from the University of Liege in Belgium, published results recently in the journal NeuroImage. Their work could lead to the development of new tools to help Tononi untangle what happens in the brain during sleep and dreaming, while Van Veen hopes to apply the study’s new methods to understand how the brain uses networks to encode short-term memory.

During imagination, the researchers found an increase in the flow of information from the of the brain to the occipital lobe—from a higher-order region that combines inputs from several of the senses out to a lower-order region.

In contrast, visual information taken in by the eyes tends to flow from the occipital lobe—which makes up much of the brain’s visual cortex—”up” to the parietal lobe.

“There seems to be a lot in our brains and animal brains that is directional, that neural signals move in a particular direction, then stop, and start somewhere else,” says. “I think this is really a new theme that had not been explored.”

The researchers approached the study as an opportunity to test the power of electroencephalography (EEG)—which uses sensors on the scalp to measure underlying electrical activity—to discriminate between different parts of the brain’s network.

Brains are rarely quiet, though, and EEG tends to record plenty of activity not necessarily related to a particular process researchers want to study.

To zero in on a set of target circuits, the researchers asked their subjects to watch short video clips before trying to replay the action from memory in their heads. Others were asked to imagine traveling on a magic bicycle—focusing on the details of shapes, colors and textures—before watching a short video of silent nature scenes.

Using an algorithm Van Veen developed to parse the detailed EEG data, the researchers were able to compile strong evidence of the directional flow of information.

“We were very interested in seeing if our signal-processing methods were sensitive enough to discriminate between these conditions,” says Van Veen, whose work is supported by the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering. “These types of demonstrations are important for gaining confidence in new tools.”

THE MASTER OF HIS BETTER CRAFT (A LOOKING GLASS WILL DO)

I used to practice all the time before I learned to do it
Then I practiced even more to help myself accrue it
I wrote and wrestled, scribed and scored
A thousand lines a day,
I exercised with great accord
If even I do say,
By practice trained I forged my mind
Repetition’s Child,
Drill and Duty, Craftsman’s Kiln
A Master will beguile;
The modern man thinks everything
Is only thin technique, but
Training born and bred in blood
Into the Real Man seeps
If you would be the Great Maestro
Then you must toil long
The road is hard, the trail discards
Those who don’t belong;
And who does not, you might ask
Not deserve to be
The Master of his Better Craft,
The Lord of High Degree?
You need not track with Spying Glass
A Looking Glass will do,
That man who will not sharpen skills
Will soon be bid “adieu.”

(the same, of course, applies to the mastery of all things…)

 

What New Research on the Brain Says Every Writer Should Do

German brain researchers studied the brain activity of people who were actively writing, and they discovered one thing that every person should do to become a better writer. Ellen Hendriksen, the Savvy Psychologist, explains how the study worked and reveals the secret.

By

Mignon Fogarty,

Grammar Girl

August 22, 2014

Page 1 of 2

[Note: If you’re listening along with the audio in the player on this page, you can follow along with the text of the first segment by opening the Money, Monies, and Moneys page in a new window.]

Sponsor: Thanks to Audible for supporting our channel.  Get a free audiobook of your choice at AudiblePodcast.com/GG.

 

Ellen Hendriksen is the host of the Savvy Psychologist podcast, and she recently sent me an article about researchers in Germany who studied people’s brains while they were actively writing. They looked at both professional writers and novices, and they found differences. The professional writers showed brain activity similar to what researchers see in people who are good at music and sports.

Mignon: Before we get into the findings, they used something called an fMRI scanner. What does that actually measure?

Ellen: This is a great question—there are so many fMRI studies in the news these days, but much like “gluten” or “Obamacare,” most of us don’t know what fMRI really is, even though the term gets thrown around a lot.  So this is a perfect opportunity for a quick primer!

fMRI stands for functional magnetic resonance imaging.  When an area of the brain is used to think thoughts or perform a task, it requires more oxygen, so blood flow to that area increases to meet the demand.

The fMRI scanner uses a strong magnetic field combined with radio waves to create images of this contrast in blood flow—the oxygen-enhanced blood in the active part of the brain reacts differently to the magnetic field and therefore stands out against the less oxygenated blood in the quieter parts of the brain.

The images allow neuroscientists to pinpoint what parts of the brain are in use during a given task, plus there’s no exposure to radiation like in an X-ray or CT scan.

Mignon: What did you think was most interesting about this study? Is it ground-breaking or does it build on things researchers already knew?  

Ellen: I’d say both.  It is groundbreaking because this is the first time neuroscientists have looked at the brains of experienced writers writing fiction in real time.  Two previous studies have had participants make up stories in their heads while in the scanner, but this is the first time we’ve been able to catch the brain in the act of writing.

What’s the useful takeaway message for writers? Practice.

Logistically, this was hard to pull off.  You can’t have a computer in the same room as the scanner because of the magnetic field, so the researchers asked writers to write longhand.  But, you have to lie down in the scanner, so they couldn’t have the writers sit normally to write.  Finally, you have to be absolutely still in the scanner—just like with a regular camera.  If your subject moves, you end up with a blurry picture.  So the researchers had the triple whammy of figuring out how to get people to lie down with their heads perfectly still, but still write longhand.  So through a set of double mirrors and a custom-built writing desk, they jury-rigged a system.  You’ll find a picture on the QDT website.

This study was also important because the next frontier of creativity research is identifying neural mechanisms—in other words, this is the first study to nail down how the semi-mystical qualities of creativity and expertise in professional writers manifest as neurons and blood flow.  It’s a little bit like pulling back the curtain on the wizard to reveal his gears and levers.

It’s also important to say that creativity and expertise are very difficult to study.  There’s so much that goes into it: originality, intelligence, talent, practice effects, motivation, culture.  So while this study is a nice shovelful towards the excavation of creativity, there’s a lot more to uncover before we can get a definite picture of what we’re even unearthing.

– See more at: http://www.quickanddirtytips.com/education/grammar/what-new-research-on-the-brain-says-every-writer-should-do#sthash.knnnXVbB.dpuf

THE OLD AND UNSEEN THINGS…

Fascinating! And yes, I remember analog computers.

36 Rarely Seen Photos From History.

1. Moving a 7600 ton apartment building to create a boulevard in Alba Iulia, Romania, 1987

1. Moving a 7600 ton apartment building to create a boulevard in Alba Iulia, Rom...

2. Black officer protecting KKK member from protesters, 1983

2. Black officer protecting KKK member from protesters, 1983...

3. Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev as a young gentleman, 1986

3. Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev as a young gentleman, 1986...

4. Hannah Stilley, born 1746, photographed in 1840. Probably the earliest born individual captured on film

4. Hannah Stilley, born 1746, photographed in 1840. Probably the earliest born i...

GRIMLY GRIMM

Indeed. The original Tales (and I’ve read several of them) are powerful and horrific, more like the uncensored stories of Baba Yaga. The revised tales are mostly impotent and simple-minded by comparison.

Grimm brothers’ fairytales have blood and horror restored in new translation

‘It is time for parents and publishers to stop dumbing down the tales for children,’ says editor of uncut edition
Grimm

Not for kids … an illustration from the new edition of Grimms’ fairytales. Illustration: © Andrea Dezsö

Alison Flood

Wednesday 12 November 2014 06.09 EST

    

Rapunzel is impregnated by her prince, the evil queen in Snow White is the princess’s biological mother, plotting to murder her own child, and a hungry mother in another story is so “unhinged and desperate” that she tells her daughters: “I’ve got to kill you so I can have something to eat.” Never before published in English, the first edition of the Brothers Grimms’ tales reveals an unsanitised version of the stories that have been told at bedtime for more than 200 years.

The Grimms – Jacob and Wilhelm – published their first take on the tales for which they would become known around the world in December 1812, a second volume following in 1815. They would go on to publish six more editions, polishing the stories, making them more child-friendly, adding in Christian references and removing mentions of fairies before releasing the seventh edition – the one best known today – in 1857.

Jack Zipes, professor emeritus of German and comparative literature at the University of Minnesota, says he often wondered why the first edition of the tales had never been translated into English, and decided, eventually, to do it himself. “Though the Grimms kept about 100 of the tales from the first edition, they changed them a good deal. So, the versions with which most English-speaking (and German-speaking) readers are familiar are quite different from the tales in the first edition,” he told the Guardian.

His version of the original 156 stories is just out from Princeton University Press, illustrated by Andrea Dezsö, and shows a very different side to the well-known tales, as well as including some gruesome new additions.

How the Children Played at Slaughtering, for example, stays true to its title, seeing a group of children playing at being a butcher and a pig. It ends direly: a boy cuts the throat of his little brother, only to be stabbed in the heart by his enraged mother. Unfortunately, the stabbing meant she left her other child alone in the bath, where he drowned. Unable to be cheered up by the neighbours, she hangs herself; when her husband gets home, “he became so despondent that he died soon thereafter”. The Children of Famine is just as disturbing: a mother threatens to kill her daughters because there is nothing else to eat. They offer her slices of bread, but can’t stave off her hunger: “You’ve got to die or else we’ll waste away,” she tells them. Their solution: “We’ll lie down and sleep, and we won’t get up again until the Judgement Day arrives.” They do; “no one could wake them from it. Meanwhile, their mother departed, and nobody knows where she went.”

Rapunzel, meanwhile, gives herself away to her captor when – after having a “merry time” in the tower with her prince – she asks: “Tell me, Mother Gothel, why are my clothes becoming too tight? They don’t fit me any more.” And the stepmothers of Snow White and Hansel and Gretel were, originally, their mothers, Zipes believing that the Grimms made the change in later editions because they “held motherhood sacred”. So it is Snow White’s own mother who orders the huntsman to “stab her to death and bring me back her lungs and liver as proof of your deed. After that I’ll cook them with salt and eat them”, and Hansel and Gretel’s biological mother who abandons them in the forest.

Zipes speculates that the Grimms’ changes were “reflecting sociologically a condition that existed during their lifetime – jealousy between a young stepmother and stepdaughter”, because “many women died from childbirth in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and there were numerous instances in which the father remarried a young woman, perhaps close in age to the father’s eldest daughter”.

Cinderella’s stepsisters go to extraordinary attempts to win the prince in the original Grimms version of the tale, slicing off parts of their feet to fit the golden slipper – to no avail, in the end, because the prince spots the blood spilling out of the shoe. “Here’s a knife,” their mother urges, in Zipes’ translation. “If the slipper is still too tight for you, then cut off a piece of your foot. It will hurt a bit. But what does that matter?”
Grimm Not such innocent fun … an illustration from the new translation of How Some Children Played at Slaughtering. Illustration: © Andrea Dezsö/PR

Zipes describes the changes made as “immense”, with around 40 or 50 tales in the first edition deleted or drastically changed by the time the seventh edition was published. “The original edition was not published for children or general readers. Nor were these tales told primarily for children. It was only after the Grimms published two editions primarily for adults that they changed their attitude and decided to produce a shorter edition for middle-class families. This led to Wilhelm’s editing and censoring many of the tales,” he told the Guardian.
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Wilhelm Grimm, said Zipes, “deleted all tales that might offend a middle-class religious sensitivity”, such as How Some Children Played at Slaughtering. He also “added many Christian expressions and proverbs”, continued Zipes, stylistically embellished the tales, and eliminated fairies from the stories because of their association with French fairy tales. “Remember, this is the period when the French occupied Germany during the Napoleonic wars,” said Zipes. “So, in Briar Rose, better known as Sleeping Beauty, the fairies are changed into wise women. Also, a crab announces to the queen that she will become pregnant, not a frog.”

The original stories, according to the academic, are closer to the oral tradition, as well as being “more brusque, dynamic, and scintillating”. In his introduction to The Original Folk and Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm, in which Marina Warner says he has “redrawn the map we thought we knew”, and made the Grimms’ tales “wonderfully strange again”, Zipes writes that the originals “retain the pungent and naive flavour of the oral tradition”, and that they are “stunning narratives precisely because they are so blunt and unpretentious”, with the Grimms yet to add their “sentimental Christianity and puritanical ideology”.

But they are still, he believes, suitable bedtime stories. “It is time for parents and publishers to stop dumbing down the Grimms’ tales for children,” Zipes told the Guardian. The Grimms, he added, “believed that these tales emanated naturally from the people, and the tales can be enjoyed by both adults and children. If there is anything offensive, readers can decide what to read for themselves. We do not need puritanical censors to tell us what is good or bad for us.”

SO WHAT? ACTION IS ACTION

It’s only a starting point anyway. With focus and practice you’re liable to become much, much better over time. You don’t improve at anything sans practice.

Nobody reading your blog? 10 reasons to persist!

THE CHILD IS THE FATHER OF THE MAN

Being both a writer and a man who homeschooled my own children I found this article fascinating, informative, and useful. Maybe you will too.

The education of a best-selling teenage author

November 10

 

When Christopher Paolini was 15 years old, he started writing a novel that eventually was titled “Eragon,” the first in a four-book series that became known as the “Inheritance Cycle.” He spent two years writing and then rewriting the story and a third year traveling around the country promoting the self-published book before an established author, Carl Hiaasen, read it and had it published by Alfred A. Knopf.  How did he manage to do all this and get an education too? In the following post, his mother, Talita Paolini, explains. Talita Paolini trained and worked as a Montessori preschool teacher. She and her husband, Kenneth, homeschooled their two children. Many parents asked Talita for advice, so she recorded the Paolini Method in a series of articles and books. You can read about it here. She currently resides with her husband and children in Paradise Valley, Montana. On her website, the 30-year-old Christopher Paaolini is quoted as saying:

“People often ask how I was able to write Eragon at the age of fifteen. Well, the credit has to go to my parents, and specifically my mom, who is a trained teacher. She started to educate my sister and me when we were very young, first with games and other fun projects and later with more formal lessons. Without her system of instruction, none of our professional success would have been possible. I was incredibly fortunate to have been educated with these methods, and I firmly believe that children everywhere can benefit from them.”

 

By Talita Paolini

When my son, Christopher, was born, I wondered who he was and who he would become. I had no inkling that he would someday be listed in the Guinness World Records as the youngest author of a bestselling book series. At that time, I just marveled at this little human who had joined our family and felt a sense of responsibility at the task before me: to introduce him to the world.

My husband, Kenneth, and I talked to Christopher, read books to him, and sang to him. We carried him in a backpack, so he could watch what we were doing. He expressed great interest in watching me make dinner, peering over my shoulder as I worked, and he loved observing the world on hikes, while perched high on Kenneth’s back. And when he could walk and talk, wow! He explored the world using all his senses and filled our ears with endless questions and commentary. Our daughter Angela was born not quite two years later, and she developed along the same path. She would become a writer as well.

I had been trained as a Montessori preschool teacher. Dr. Montessori’s philosophy emphasizes the cultivation of children’s innate desire to learn using specially prepared materials and freedom of movement, so it was natural for me to offer my children hands-on activities. Not having the resources to buy expensive classroom materials, I looked for ways to teach them using common household items. In addition, I observed my children closely and then found ways to help them learn through art, games, music, and activities of daily life. In town, we counted cars and trees. We talked about the seasons and where we lived on planet Earth. My children enjoyed doing art projects and playing games with the letters of the alphabet, tracing the letters in preparation for writing, and then pointed out those letters around the house and in town. Each week we visited the library and returned with an armful of books.

TOOLS OF THE TRADE

Tools to Help You Write a Novel in 30 Days

November is National Novel Writing Month; here’s the best software to help you write 50,000 words in 30 days.
The Best Writing Tools for NaNoWriMo

Contents

November is known for turkey, Black Friday sales, not shaving, and—since the year 2000—the month when writers try to (finally) craft the Great American Novel. We’re talking about the fifteenth annual National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo).

What began as a little event in San Francisco in July 1999 (it moved to November the next year) has ballooned into something far more than national—it’s a worldwide phenomenon, backed by a non-profit company created by the founder, Chris Baty, that doubles as a major cheerleader for writers.

It’s free to participate, but your tax-deductable donations are encouraged to keep it afloat. That’s because you don’t really need the NaNoWriMo site to get a book written. But think about the “rule” you’re expected to follow to “win” at NaNoWriMo: You have to write a 50,000-word novel in just 30 days. That’s 1,667 words a day. Stephen King might snap that much off before lunchtime, but the rest of us need encouragement.

Take the first step by announcing your novel at NaNoWriMo.org, and on November 1, start recording your daily word count. You’ll earn badges along the way and get advice via newsletters (some by famous authors) and the forums. You can build a community of fellow WriMos online and locally through events.

In the end, you’ll have a novel. It will probably be crappy. No, it will definitely be crap-tastic. But that’s okay! The only rule of NaNoWriMo is to finish—because that’s the hardest part. Some famous modern novels, such as Wool, The Night Circus, and Water for Elephants all started life as NaNoWriMo novels. We’re not saying you’re that good… but if you work on it after November, maybe you can get it out there. (That’s a whole other story.)

To truly succeed at NaNoWriMo you need things we can’t help you with—like an idea, and a plot, and characters, not to mention the gumption to spend hours each day clacking at the keyboard. But we can point out bsome of the absolute best software and apps you can get to make it all a little easier to write, plan, and count all those precious words. After you win by writing that 50,000-word tome—that’s the same size at The Great Gatsby!—you’ll have all the tools you need on hand to keep writing. Always keep writing…

SHOW AND TELL

For my NaNoWriMo friends.

I liked the way in which, and how, she presented most of this advice.

How to Show and When to Tell

I hope you’re busy writing your amazing works of NaNoWriMo fiction!
I thought, as we dive in, it might help to understand what editors mean by “Show, Don’t Tell.”  Listen, I know it can be confusing.  Especially since there is not only mis-information and bad teaching out there, but also because there IS a time Tell!
Showing, not Telling is not about describing everything that happens. And Telling has nothing to do with narrative and backstory.  Narrative and backstory (and even action) get a bad rap because often, during narrative, backstory and action, authors drop into “telling” without realizing it.  Describing ACTION by saying “John shot Bill.” is not telling.  It’s action.  But adding:  “John felt sorry when he shot Bill,” would be telling.
See, I know. Confusing.
Here’s the bottom line:  Showing is about helping the reader experience the emotions of the character. Showing brings us into the mind and heart of the character to understand their emotional journey.
Here’s how:  If you say, ‘She felt grief,’ or even, and this is more common, ‘Grief overtook her’ you are not just telling us what emotion she’s feeling, but you’re pinpointing one emotion your reader must feel with the character. Instead, show us how despair makes her feel through how she acts, what she thinks, what she says and how she sees her world. Let us into your character’s head.
 
Telling is when you tell someone how to feel. It relates to the emotion to the story, not the narrative, backstory and action.
Here’s an example:
Let’s say your character has just lost her husband. She’s come home from the funeral to the quiet house and gone upstairs to her room.  Here are some options:
 
You could say: She stood in front of the closet and grieved. However, we feel like an onlooker, a voyeur into her world. We are told how she feels, but don’t experience her grief.
Further from that, but also a telling, is: She stood in front of the closet and felt grief course through her. We’re closer to understanding how she feels, but we’ve still been told exactly the emotion she’s experiencing.
Better is: She stood in front of the closet and wept. Here, we’re closer to experiencing what the character is feeling. We might understand what it feels like to stand there and simply weep.
But what if we took it further. What if we let the reader into the character’s skin to feel the grief?
She stood at the edge of the closet and stared at his polished shoes, at his pressed wool suits, at his crisp silky red ties. A tidy man. Not the kind to wrap his car around a tree. But there, in the back…she pushed aside the shirts and pulled out his letter jacket, the one he’d wrapped around her the night they’d met. She inhaled. Thirty years, and still his scent lingered. Please, let it linger. Please let her rewind, go back to the fight, erase her words. Erase his anger. Without a word, she stepped inside the closet, closed the door behind her, pulled the jacket over her, and wept.
Never once do I say that she is grieving. But I weave it in through her perspective, the five senses and rich details and finally her actions.
Here’s the part that people confuse. Often I see people over-showing in their effort to not tell.  What happens, then, is they write, “She bent at the knees, lowering herself into the chair,” instead of simply saying, “She sat.”  Don’t laugh – I’ll be you could find this in your early drafts! (I know I can!)  Authors spend precious words showing how a person rises from a chair, or how they get dressed. Don’t do this!  Tell actions that are common to all of us.  She tied her shoe, she made coffee, she answered the phone.  We all get what this looks like.
However, show actions that you want to make impact. If you want answering the phone to have impact, then have her reach for the phone, check the caller id, maybe hover her thumb over the receive button. Then push it before her courage fails.
Here are the easy rules for Show Don’t Tell:
Tell us everyday actions, SHOW us the important ones that reveal emotions.
            Show us the emotion, don’t tell us about it.
Are you bogging down your story by showing actions that have no emotional connection to the story?  Here’s a litmus test. Ask: How does the emotion impact your character?  Are you showing this emotion through words, action, though and perspective?
Better yet, take the MBT Challenge: Write the scene without naming the emotion! It’ll make you stretch and help you become a better writer.
Have a great NaNoWriMo week!  Go – write something brilliant!
Susie May
MBT Head Coach

INTERMINABLY SO… from DIVINE SOPHIA

God is the least passive and static Being and Force in the universe. Any universe. If you are “waiting upon God” then it is only because you have gravely mistaken your real position in relation to things. God long ago easily and immediately surpassed you and is merely waiting upon you to catch up to him, not the other way around.

Do not deceive yourself. You do not “sit and wait upon God.” God sits and waits upon you… sometimes interminably.

Jarrad Saul

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Aspire to inspire others & the universe will take note

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