Painful Uploads

I had to go upload the SSRLP again yesterday.

It was a messed up situation. The contact at the firm who contracted me said I needed to upload the SSRLP stuff to an FTP site (for those who are curious, ala CalliopesPen et. al, that stands for File Transfer Protocol and is a method of moving chunks of data across computer networks). But the site she cited (no pun intended) wasn’t the the same site the IT contact gave me. So I uploaded to the site which had my folder on it. And it was the wrong one, of course.

So off to a high-speed connection I went. That is, the public library, which is convenient and nice and free. All things I adore.

Problem is, the bandwidth on the FTP site I was supposed to use ain’t near as high as the one to which I’d already uploaded. And copying from one to another is verboten for some reason. So I struggled for more than two hours to get that puppy back up there in the right location. They have it, but I left the library with a migraine and sore jaw muscles from grinding my teeth. AARRRGH!

Meanwhile, my wife had to pitch in and help by taking over. Not only was the site slow, it timed out easily, so I had to upload one.file.at.a.time.  O. M. G.

Well, it’s finally up there. So even though it was finished, I guess now it’s really finished.

I don’t have a good reason for not telling you about it now. I just feel uncomfortable, like I might be violating a confidentiality agreement. Which I don’t have. So I suppose before very long I’m going to have to bust out with the ‘fess up. Bear with me while I muster the nerve.

The hard part’s over. I hope. Now I can sorta celebrate. I guess I should really get to that point sooner than later, shouldn’t I?

Anyway, not much else happened yesterday. The agony of upload and migraine proved too much for me, and the job search languished undone. I’ll have to hop back on that today.

Hope you’re all well. God bless and I can’t wait to be back to you full-time with my own connection soon.

-JDT-

Growing a Novel – Book Thoughts

I’ve done a lot of reading lately.  I’ve ground through about six books in two weeks, in fact; and a fair number of those were books on the craft of writing.

One I chewed through was Sol Stein’s How to Grow a Novel, and I complained in a previous post about his clear and unmitigated slant against what he calls “transient” fiction (which would be commercial, or genre, fiction to most everyone else).  The book didn’t hold any mystery solutions for me; that is, it didn’t tell me anything I didn’t know already, unless you count Stein’s shameless and repeated plugs for his previous book, Stein on Writing.  And the subtitle is, “The Most Common Mistakes Writers Make and how to Avoid Them.”  I didn’t get a lot of that out of it either.  Not as I can recall, anyway.

I’m sure Stein’s a big deal – just ask him, he’ll tell ya – in the publishing industry, but he set a tone of “only literary fiction is real fiction” to me which sort of put me off through the whole thing.  One achievement he did manage, however, was to get me curious about literary fiction.  I’ve had literary fiction described as fiction in which the plot unfolds within the characters, fiction which is internal and not external, fiction which only shows evolution of person, fiction which makes statements and offers insight about human nature (gimme a break!), and fiction which does not sell (ha!).  Still, I don’t really think I understand literary fiction or how to write it, despite my best attempts to glean information from Stein and others.

What Stein wants is fiction which talks of human nature in high-brow terms, but what he wrote (one of his novels, at least) is a story about a high school magician wannabe who hires a lawyer to represent him in a trial when the school bully is killed.  The lawyer, it turns out, is a character he ended up returning to later.  But isn’t that sort of commercial fiction?  I don’t know.  Anyway, I was supremely disappointed with How to Grow a Novel because, after all Stein’s posturing and puffing and self-adulation, I expected him to be able to teach me something, guide me through the differences.  But alas, I don’t think literary fiction can be taught, because it’s so doggone subjective.  Subjects, characters and internal angst.  That’s what literary fiction’s made of.

So, I disregarded most of what Stein had to say about the publishing aspect of writing, mostly because the book is more than 10 years old and I don’t think the information’s valid anymore.  A lot’s changed, after all.  But the rest of the book?  Well, the section on dialog was all right, I suppose.  There’s nothing, whatever, on story structure I can recall (I finished it about two weeks ago as you’re reading this), so if he discussed it, I missed it.  I probably wouldn’t pick it up again, frankly.  Stein’s too self-impressed and too literati (at least, he thinks so) for my tastes.  And I’ve had better how-to books in front of me, to be honest.  Stein on Writing might be more to my taste, but I can’t find a copy at my library, so until I stabilize financially, that one’s out.  In the end, Stein’s book wasn’t super-memorable for me.

Anyone out there familiar with literary fiction, can you recommend some books I can read to get a good feel for it?  Authors you’re particularly fond of?  Writers, are any of you doing what you believe to be literary fiction, or are you all commercial writers like me?

-JDT-

All original content © 2009 DarcKnyt
ALL rights reserved.

Book Review – Jump Start: How to Write…

FireShot capture #001 - 'Amazon_com_ Jump Start_ How to Write From Everyday Life (9780195140422)_ Robert Wolf_ Books' - www_amazon_com_Jump-Start-Write-Everyday-Life_dp_0195140427Over the weekend, I read Jump Start: How to Write from Everyday Life by Robert Wolf.  I mentioned part of it last week, but wanted to give a full review.  It’s not a new book – it was published back in 2001 – but since I’ve only recently been reading about the craft of writing rather than learning from other writers, I suppose the information in it is new to me.

The author is the founder of Free River Press, which grew out of writing workshops he put on throughout the Southeast and Midwest in which he encouraged people to think about their lives through writing, and gave them practical tools to perform the task.  He targeted small town farmers and even homeless people as he worked with them to develop their ability to write.

Jump Start is broken into seven very easy-to-digest chapters, each of which is made of up a bit of information relay, then examples of the discussed technique, followed by exercises for practice.  The chapters each cover various aspects of the author’s workshop seminars.  The first chapter addresses preliminary matters, in which he emphasizes the importance of writing (practice, practice, practice!), reading, memorizing special passages of favorite books (yeah, even fiction), and several other things he feels are valuable practice to prepare for writing.

The second chapter covers strategies for either getting started in writing, or breaking writer’s block down.  This is my favorite chapter, for obvious reasons, and represented solid gold.  The techniques included free writing (which I talked over with you last week), storytelling (I also blogged about this one), Jack Kerouac’s favorite technique of spontaneous prose composition, “sketching” (which is just like it sounds, except with words instead of lines) – and this can also be used as note taking for fast-action events or fast-moving ideas – and a couple of others.

Chapter three discusses observation, and how to use the other techniques to capture your observations.  Whether people or places, whether edited or raw, the author shows some examples of observations from his workshops.  Portraits are especially cool.  Chapter four goes over writing and revision, and how to work through the other techniques learned to compile a more finished product.  Chapter five discusses dialog and conversation, including accents and dialects, which are fun and a weakness of mine.  Chapter six is focused on how to go about writing a memoir, from recollection through to decisions about relevant stories for storyline and theme, and the final chapter is all about group exercises in the event you’re working with a teacherless sort of group or class.

I can’t say enough good things about this book.  At 155 pages including the credits and bibliography, this book is packed full of real, digestible information and excellent examples.  The exercises will be sure to challenge you and are set up for use either alone or with a group.  The author’s experience in helping people write is clear and obvious, and his language has been adapted to suit every level of understanding.

On a scale of one to ten, I’d give this a ten.  But that’s me.  It’s small, a quick read, delivers excellent information, has exercises to reinforce the concepts and principles, and really does provide great techniques to give the writer that Jump Start so many of us desperately need.

If you get a chance to read it or pick it up, and you haven’t done so already, you won’t regret it.

-JDT-

All original content copyright Darcknyt, 2009
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

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Monday Mornin’ Randomness

The Next Food Network Star

Okay, so, this past weekend was gorgeous, weather-wise.  It could’ve been any more beautiful without being … I dunno.  October.  Cool, partly cloudy, low humidity … heaven.

I didn’t get anything from the library to read last time we went.  I didn’t finish the books I had from the time before and returned them, so I have nothing for books to talk about.  However, I’ve been doing a LOT of reading just the same.  For one thing, you won’t be disappointed if you check out Sara Fryd’s poetry.  I’ve been hooked, and I don’t even like poetry all that much.  (I know, I know, I’m a philistine.  Sue me.)   But every time I see a post by Sara, I’m off to read it.  And I’ve not failed to get something from every single one.

Sara’s not alone in creating my addiction to poetry though.  No, no.  Calliopespen is another poet penning poetry which compels me to read every line, despite my profession of ignorance on poetry’s structure and styles.  I don’t need to be a critic to appreciate the wording and beauty she injects into those nuggets of gold.

But, like Billy Mays used to say (I miss him), I’m not done yet.

If you like poetry, you’re also going to enjoy Jaymie Thorne’s blog.  Another person who can make poetry appealing and visual even for a clod like me.  There’s so much to the lines I can read them a few times and still have to check the comments to make sure I didn’t miss the point (I usually do).  Hey, I don’t know art, but I know I like it.

So I read a lot, even if it’s not a book.  And I can see in those poet’s lines ways of capturing visual images in concise wording … something which can benefit any writer.  Thanks, gang; I appreciate you sharing your work.

My beloved and I enjoy watching The Next Food Network Star, and it’s become an annual tradition.  We cheer for our favorites, jeer at those we don’t like, have fun, talk crap behind their backs, and generally carry on as we always do.  This year, we felt – so far, at least – we agreed with the selection committee’s choices, if not their timing.  Sunday night, though, that changed.  We’re not happy, and most of the world agrees with us.  Check out their site and get a gander at those comments for further information.  Next week will decide whether we ever watch the show again or not.

I was approached by a company last week to do a software review of their product suite.  I’ll be testing the software and putting my notes together for a full review, coming soon to this spot.  Watch for that.  I’m excited about it.  I also dropped the ball; I was supposed to download and install the program over the weekend but sort of fell asleep at the wheel.  I’m going to do that today.

Other than that, not much happened here.  As per usual.

How was your weekend?

-JDT-

All original content © 2009 DarcKnyt
ALL rights reserved.

Weekend Happenings

Cover of

Well, we had a fairly busy weekend.  Okay, not really, but we had a good time, and it was busy for us.

After contemplating burgers all weekend, I decided brownies would be good to make.  In anticipation of wanting brownies, sometime last week I picked up a couple of boxes of Ghiradelli brownie mix.  I love Ghiradelli chocolate; grew up in the SF Bay area, remember, so I’m familiar with those pups.  Even the boxed variety are delicious.

But we didn’t get to that until later.

First, Saturday rolled around and it was time to get my wife to her author meet.  One of her newfound favorite authors, Brad Thor, came to our library for a book signing appearance.  She agonized over whether or not to go until Ben and Kristy provided a copy of his last book (not the newest one for which he’s touring), The Last Patriot, for him to sign.  Brad Thor, so says my wife, was engaging and approachable.  He answered the usual round of questions with patient good nature.  And he was far briefer than the time slot allotted him implied.  He only took forty minutes of his ninety, signed books for those with kids in the library waiting first so they could wrangle them, and was gone in a whirlwind of star-struck yokels and magic author-dust.  Good stuff.  While he regaled his audience with his writerly charms, I sat with the kids and let them read books about their current obsessions: ants, bats and sharks.  Overall, not a bad afternoon.

We decided to risk financial ruin and treat ourselves to dinner out of a paper wrapper, and reveled in the glory of the cholesterol spike.

But Brad Thor’s visit made my love imagine things.  She wanted me to “get ready” – meaning, get ready for the time when I, as an author, will have to tour and do book signings.  It’s nice to have someone so supportive, so full of belief in your ability, in your corner.  I can’t thank her enough for that confidence, and it’s only one of the myriad reasons I love her so.

She heard the usual round of questions — “Where do you get your ideas (from)?” [hey, we’re in the Midwest; it’s not really a sentence if you don’t end it on a preposition] and “What made you decide to become a writer?”  My wife told me only a couple of the audience members were wannabes, which surprised me, frankly.  I thought he’d be swarmed with them, having published seven novels now.

Still I resist the dreamer’s urge to speculate on what I’ll say when it’s my turn.  My turn, despite what my loving spouse wants to believe, may never come.  I haven’t finished a manuscript yet, and I can’t say even if I do and it gets picked up and published, I’ll be required to tour like a rock band.  Depends on how well it sells, I’m sure.

Anyway, I’ll talk more about that in a later post this week.  What else do I have to talk about?

Sunday was an easy day with the kids, and then – at the behest of our daughter, not quite four years old – my beloved made brownies.

Sound exciting?  It wasn’t.  But we had a good time, and what else matters, really?

How was your weekend?

-JDT-