Thursday, May 31, 2007

Announcing . . .

My teensy article on Sweat has finally been published in the June issue of Boys' Life . . . (pause for resounding ovation) . . . my first $1/word gig. And not, I am overjoyed to state, my last.

As for the military text book articles, I have--over the past couple of months--written a few dozen on Rome's rise and fall and the Spanish Civil War of the 1930s. Now, I embark upon the Iran-Iraq War of the 1980s, which may carry me through to the end of the project.

Time to Write

I'm adding Poynter Online to my links because they have such great articles, such as today's from Chip Scanlon's Chip on my Shoulder Blog about finding--or rather, making--time to write.

It's a nifty piece filled with anecdotes about how Scott Turow, Anne Tyler, and others found time to write, initially, but he gives an intriguing line at the start: Writing to our circadian rhythms. I thought he was going to talk about each individual's need to find the best time of day to write.

That may seem a luxury if you're working 8 hours a day doing something else, but I think everyone has a particular time of day when they do their best work. Mine is first thing in the morning. I plan my day based on that. I have plenty of time to putz around with research, outlining, and editing, but I save my first couple of hours in the day for the work that is most important.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

The Hero's Journey

Watched a two-hour show about the Star Wars saga on the History Channel. Overall I liked it (although I really do wonder about their selection of talking heads. Peter Jackson was a coup, but some of those academics were . . . ummm . . . silly) but does anyone out there agree with me that this "Hero's Journey" formula is wearing thin?

To clarify:

  • Joseph Campbell was brilliant, and Hero with a Thousand Faces is worth reading twice.

  • Archetypes pack a ton of punch.

  • All authors can draw inspiration from mythic tales.

But . . . this idea that there is an esoteric formula for screenplays and novels that derives from ancient myth and traverses step by step through twists and turns . . . I have a problem with that.

I've heard lectures and read articles that try to hammer movies like Die Hard and It's a Wonderful Life into these multi-step formulas. A lot of convoluted interpretations are being forced where they don't really fit. OK, maybe I'm just not getting it, but lots of books are being sold that tell would-be writers to fit their stories to a magic formula and miracles will happen.

Seems to me that if you write a really great story, it'll lend itself to all sorts of interpretations. Maybe someone will diagram it out so that it matches their mythic hero's path. But a good story is a good story is a good story is a good story.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Oh Noooooooo

American Heritage on hold? No buyers, not publishing? Oh, God, NO!

Voici: American Heritage Website Announcement

Not that I read it lately. Criminy, the articles are like 4000 words long. Who has time?

But I'm hypocrite enough to want it to always be there, waiting for me carve out an hour of my day. Even if they were short-sighted enough to ignore my query on Vaudeville. . . which was probably a good thing. It would no doubt be one of the articles on hold and I'd be ranting about the vagueries of fate.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Barbara Kingsolver

The Week Magazine of May 18, 2007 has a quote from Barbara Kingsolver, whose new book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle is about growing your own food (she's still writing fiction, clearly).

The Week says, "Future generations, she predicts, will look back on this time in disbelief. " Then they quote Kingsolver: "They'll say, 'The last of the fossil fuel you used for what? Moving watermelons from Chile to the United States? What were you thinking?'"

Friday, May 11, 2007

Cauliflower and Cabbage

I have spent decades convincing people I can't cook, accidentally and on purpose.

Since I am far from starving, they should have figured out by now that I can cook. Yesterday I proved my mettle yet again by mastering cream of cauliflower soup.

It's so easy, even for me. A cup of broth, a slice of onion, 3/4 tsp of curry, and a dash of dill. Bring it to simmer, then toss in half a head of cauliflower florets (is that redundant? flower florets?). Cover and cook for ten minutes.

Then osterize it with a half-cup of milk, or milk with a bit of cream. Pour the puree back into the pot to heat it up and add a little salt and pepper.


You might have guessed that in the olden days, cauliflower and brocolli were one and the same. Kale, cabbage, and some others--Brussel sprouts, I think, also have been coaxed from the common ancestor in the past two thousand years. So there is definitely an Iron Age tie-in. The Celts ate cabbage--but I suspect it wasn't the same plant we boil or chop today.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Rewrites: Some Encouragement

Here is a link to a wonderful piece on Poynter Online, about rewrites:

Let's Try It One More Time: A Tale of Three Best-Sellers

How encouraging to know that when a rewrite morphs into a REWRITE, we're not alone.

When I began my last rewrite, I naively thought I would just be cutting and pruning, correcting a few punctuation errors, etc. After all, the book was basicly perfect. I only needed to smooth it out.

That philosophy got me through the second chapter. Then I started over.

One year later, I am half-way through. The word count has been whacked by 30%. I hardly even look at the previous draft when I sit down at the computer. Good to learn that this is all normal, and this is what writers do. Thank you, Poynter Institute, Michael Chabon, Arthur Golden, and David Guterson.