Saturday, October 25, 2014

Fan Letters


I don’t receive many fan letters, so when they do arrive, it pretty much makes my day. Like all writers, I love getting conformation that readers do enjoy my efforts. 

Writers tend to spend their time in a room, by themselves, working on stories that they hope are good, but really don’t know for sure. We are always too close to our work to be a reliable judge of quality. So to receive this kind of validation is very special for me, for all writers. Without feedback, it is all too easy to slide into the trap of melancholy and become disheartened. Correspondence like this is an inoculation against discouragement.

I wish there were a way for me to tell all readers, that if they read a book they find interesting or uplifting or simply a pleasure to read, then by all means, contact the author and tell him/her. A few kind words do wonders to help motivate us writers.

This week I received the following email:

Dear Alan:  I just wanted to Thank You for having written the Lonely War.  I just finished reading this evening, and you have rekindled my personal belief that gay men can create literature as well, if not better, than straight men.  Your depth of meaning and life that you placed into your characters is truly wonderful.  I have put all four of your other novels on my "to purchase" list, along with the novellas.  

I have begun donating my gay men's literature to the Gerber Hart Library in Chicago, Ill.  Your book will be included in the next round of books that are sent to a library dedicated to collecting, conserving and providing an opportunity to preserve lgbt literature for the future generations to come.

Again, thank you for the bottom of my heart for writing such a wonderful love story.

As you can imagine, this note gave me a warm rush. 

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Writing Tip: The Reader Bond

The reader’s emotional involvement is held by the glue of empathy. If a writer fails to fuse a bond between reader and protagonist, the reader will soon lose interest and walk away. 

Involvement has little to do with altruism or compassion. Readers empathize for very personal reasons. Mostly because they identify with a protagonist and his/her desires in life. When the reader roots for the protag, s/he is in fact, rooting for his/her own desires in life. Through empathy, the reader vicariously links to the fictional character, and tests and stretches his/her humanity. That is the gift of storytelling – to enable others to live beyond their own lives, at all the various depths of their being. 

To establish empathy, therefore, is critical, while sympathy is optional. Sympathy means likeable – Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan, or Tracy and Hepburn. We like and admire them. But empathy is more powerful. It means: they’re like me.

Many writers go out of their way to make their protagonists likable. But likable is no guarantee of reader involvement. We all know likeable people who are painfully boring. Rather, the reader identifies with deep character traits, with innate qualities revealed through the choices a character makes while under pressure. In this way, even the most unsympathetic characters can become empathetic. 

Macbeth is the perfect example. Driven by power-lust and an evil wife, he goes on a killing spree. He’s a ruthless killer, a monster, right? Not so. Shakespeare gave him a conscience – something we all have and can relate to. When Macbeth asks, “What kind of man am I?” the reader/viewer has most likely asked that question of him/her self. The reader understands what it’s like to be guilt-ridden. So this killer transforms into an empathetic hero.

So the key to forge an empathetic bond, is first to put your characters in a series of pressure situations, and the pressure should increase with each one, and then have the character make choices under pressure that reveals deep human character that readers can relate too. I find it best when an author focuses on one or two character traits, loyalty for example, and then continually bombards the character with situations that test that loyalty.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

My New Webpage Address: AlanChinAuthor.com


It’s been a frustrating week. My website hosting company, Lucas Valley Cable, went out of business and brought my website (alanchin.net) down.

After researching other hosting companies, I signed on with Web Hosting Hub. But when I tried to move my domain name (alanchin.net) to the new company, Web Hosting Hub’s software and customer support claimed that I had an invalid authorization code, and they could not give me that same domain address. When I insisted their customer service department help me fix it, they told me it was my issue to solve because their hands were tied.

When the head honcho of customer service contacted me to asked how my experience with his team went, I told him I thought his service sucked. He sent me a two-page email explaining how his department strived in every way to give top customer service, blah blah blah. I replied saying: my idea of customer service was that his people A) understand the technical issues and problems, B) own the problem, and C) FIX the problem. So far his team was batting 0 for 3.

I also explained that, based on his email, he did a fine job of talking the talk. Unfortunately, I failed to see any walking going on by either him or his team. So as far as I was concerned, his service still sucked.

They pointed me to another company, Melbourne IP, saying they owned the account and would help me. Melbourne IP gave me the same runaround and pointed me to another company, Scena, who owned the account. Scena’s customer service rep told me he couldn’t find my account on record. At that point I really wanted to hurt someone. If I hadn’t already paid for a year’s service, I would have found a different company.

After five days of chasing my tail, I decided to take the easy route and simply create a new domain name. I created a website called AlanChinAuthor.Com and rebuilt my website. Luckily, everything is working except the feature that sends free story requests and comments to my email address. I’ll work on getting that fixed this afternoon.

So if you have a moment, please check out my new website at: http://alanchinauthor.com/

Thanks, 

Monday, October 20, 2014

Smithsonian Institute's Statement on Climate Change


The Smithsonian Institute finally posted at statement on climate change, and it’s what everyone has known for the last decade. I find it interesting only because it supports a premise in my current work-in-progress. The article I read reads as follows:

With special emphasis on the Smithsonian’s 160-year history and tradition of collection, research and global monitoring, the statement delivers a bold assessment: "Scientific evidence has demonstrated that the global climate is warming as a result of increasing levels of atmospheric greenhouse gases generated by human activities."
"The 500 Smithsonian scientists working around the world see the impact of a warming planet each day in the course of their diverse studies," reads the statement. "A sample of our investigations includes anthropologists learning from the Yupik people of Alaska, who see warming as a threat to their 4,000-year-old culture; marine biologists tracking the impacts of climate change on delicate corals in tropical waters; and coastal ecologists investigating the many ways climate change is affecting the Chesapeake Bay."
“What we realized at the Smithsonian is that many people think that climate change is just an environmental topic,” says John Kress, acting undersecretary of science at the Smithsonian. “It’s much more than that. Climate change will affect everything.”
This kind of article makes me very happy I’m writing about this current topic. I only hope I can do it justice in the telling, without sounding too much like a dooms-day evangelist. 

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Ebola Situation in the USA


The last few weeks’ coverage of the Ebola situation in the USA has reinforced something that I’ve known for many years. That the media has made most Americans frightened little pussies. That’s why they carry guns, they’re terrified of everything, and owning guns give them a false sense of power.

Please don’t get me wrong. The threat of exposure and death due to Ebola for people living in West Africa is both tremendous and heartbreaking, and I believe we should be doing everything possible to help fight the spread Ebola, and treat those already infected. But the risk for Americans living in the USA, is next to nothing, yet the media has everyone’s panties in a wad. Fear is rampant, and growing by the day. Our politicians and media personalities are cashing in, pointing fingers at anyone they can blame. Even those “Christians For Michele Bachmann” are cashing in, saying God sent Ebola to punish us for marriage equality. The level of ignorance of people in this country is astounding, and it’s never more visible than when people are panicked.

I also find it interesting that the federal government, back under Ronald Reagan, refused to even comment on the AIDS epidemic until over 20,000 people had died, yet three people in the US contract Ebola, and we’re sending in troops and everyone is demanding immediate action. But then, back then only gay men and drug addicts were at risk…. Enough said on that score.

When I think of the things that Americans really should be fearful about, things that actually kill Americans, Ebola is low on the list, if you are living in the USA.

Heart disease and cancer are the #1 and #2 killers in the US, collectively responsible for 50% of American deaths. But how many people have given up smoking, alcohol, fast foods, and fried foods? How many people exercise daily, eat healthy? This is something everyone has power over, yet so few actually do something about.

Traffic accidents are responsible for over 34,000 deaths each year. But people still drive after drinking, and nitwits think nothing of speeding and rolling though stop signs. So why aren’t we making tougher laws and pulling people’s driver’s licenses after the first offence?

Guns kill 30,000 Americans each year. Several hundred from accidents, 10,000 from homicides, and the rest from suicide. So why are so few people actively trying to limit gun ownership? Why do people let the NRA call the shots?

Climate change poses the greatest near-term harm to Americans. Over the next 100 years, that could include deadly heat waves, droughts, flooding, and a rise in sea levels wiping out coastal cities. So why do we continue to drive, drive, drive our cars, pumping ton after ton of pollutants into the atmosphere?  Why do we still burn coal for electricity, instead of going solar from coast to coast?

The flu kills thousands of Americans every year. An especially bad outbreak in 2004 killed 48,000 Americans, yet only a small percentage of people get flu shots. Why so few?

And yet, 3 people in Texas come down with Ebola and the whole country foams at the mouth. Every news channel talks about nothing else, whipping people into a frenzy. My level of respect for the American public drops by the day. Rather than running scared, we should be doing everything possible to help the victims in West Africa.

My message to Americans: Stop trembling in your boots, get off your fat asses, and insist that the American Red Cross and the World Health Organization has the resources and leadership to solve this problem in Africa where people really are dying.