Monday, September 30, 2013

My New Morning Routine

My old morning routine:
Wake at sunrise.
Make the bed.
Make Coffee.
Shuffle to my office and turn on the laptop.
Check the Stock Market.
Check for important emails.
Begin working on blog post, followed by working on my stories.
Break for lunch between noon and one.

Now that the cooler temps have arrived, I’ve felt the need to get out of the house and get more exercise. So this morning, I got a wild hair to take my daily walk at sunrise rather than in the afternoon. I strapped on 2 ½ lb weights to my legs for max exercise while walking, and Herman and I went for a two-mile walk as the sun rose. It was gloriously cool and refreshing to be out as the city woke and came alive. We had a wonderful time sharing the morning. It felt intimate, just the two of us out experiencing this town we love. Over breakfast, Herman mentioned that he adored the walk, but tomorrow we should walk twice as far.   I’m thrilled he’s as excited as I am to make this a regular routine.

My new morning routine:
Wake at sunrise.
Make the bed.
Make Coffee.
Walk a brisk four-mile hike as the sun rises.
Shuffle to my office and turn on the laptop.
Check the Stock Market.
Check for important emails.
Begin working on blog post, followed by working on my stories.
Break for lunch between noon and one.

Lesson for today: Even when you think that life is grand and couldn’t get better, you can still surprise yourself by trying something new.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Book Review: Inferno by Dan Brown

Reviewer: Alan Chin
Publisher: Doubleday
Pages: 461

Harvard professor of symbology Robert Landon awakens in a hospital, disoriented and suffering from a head wound, He recalls nothing of the last thirty-six hours, including how he got there.  Langdon’s world soon erupts into chaos, and he finds himself on the run in Florence with a stoic young woman, Sienna Brooks, whose clever maneuvering saves his life. He finds a set of clues left by a mad, but brilliant, scientist that led Landon to the conclusion that a deadly virus is about to be let loose on the world to cull the population to under four billion humans.

The race is on. Landon and Brooks must evade the authorities and killers while trying to find the mad scientist before it’s too late.

This book is typical Dan Brown. It is one long chase, scene after scene of almost getting caught and finding a way to escape. All of the clues are built around Dante Alighieri’s dark epic poem The Inferno., and parts of that were somewhat interesting. The premise of amnesia, however, is tired, and doesn’t really work because it is all too outlandish, too improbable, and not at all interesting. I felt it was basically The Da Vinci Code all over again, only not was well done.

The parts I enjoyed most (which is to say the only thing I enjoyed) were the descriptions of timeless locations such as the Palazzo Vecchio, the Boboli Gardens, the Duomo, and other sites in Florence and also Istanbul.

I must admit that, although I didn’t enjoy this read, the ending was an agreeable surprise. However, trudging through four hundred pages of over-the-top, cliché chase scenes and reading everything I never wanted to know about Dante’s The Inferno, to get to twenty pages of pleasant bombshell didn’t make this a book I can recommend.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

My Love/Hate Relationship with my Beta Reader

I’m working with another author just now, one I respect for his knowledge of story structure. He’s beta reading my latest manuscript and I’m commenting on his. We are worlds apart on style and approach to writing, and that’s a good thing, I believe.

He gives both high-level comments and detail edits within the text, which is great. Actually, its not just great, his fresh eyes on my work has been invaluable. It’s one thing for a reader to comment on my work, it’s an entirely different ballgame when a savvy author does it.

So I love that he’s pointing out potential holes him my story and character development. I also hate that he’s pointing out potential holes in my story and character development. (smile)

At the end of the day, my story will be a much better work because of his insights, even though he’s making me work a lot harder than I had anticipated. I’m willing to do that work, and I like that he’s shining new light on these characters and their motivations.

My only hope/worry is that he finds my comments on his work as helpful has I’m finding his. After all his hard work, I’d hate to let him down.  

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Writing Tip – Choosing a writing partner, or not?

This is a topic I’ve been churning over for months. You see, I’ve written five novels and two screenplays all by my lonesome, with little or no input from anyone else. But a few months ago I teamed up with a writing partner, Ed, to write a new screenplay. Collaborating on a story has been an interesting experience, both rewarding and frustrating. 

The idea for the story was purely mine. I approached Ed to work with me on it because he has a great deal of knowledge about how to best structure a script, and how to structure each scene. He is good at structure; I’m good at creating a compelling story. It seemed like a match made in heaven, but the results have been mixed. 

So over the past few months, we’ve created character profiles, a theme statement, a log line, a high level outline, plot points, and thirty pages of script. (about 25% of a full script). He has now focused on completing a medium level outline while I am pounding out the script itself. 

The work has moved along at a slower pace than I’m used to, but I’m ok with that because the script is reading really good so far, and I’m sure it will take much less rewriting than I’m used to. And I must say that his input into the story, the structure, and the script have made it a better read than I would have done by this stage in the project. Bottom line: it’s a much better work because of our collaboration. 

So where is the rub? I’ll tell you. Because I must respect and allow his input into the story, it has changed from what I originally had intended. That’s not a bad thing, because it is a better story. The problem is, that I’m not nearly as motivated to write this new story, simply because it is no longer my story. I don’t have the same passion for it. Hence, I’ve been avoiding working on it, and it feels like work, not something I do for pleasure. 

The upside is, I’m learning tons about structuring a script, not to mention that the script is very good. But I’m losing interest in it day by day. I’ve already begun another script that will be purely mine. 

So, when selecting a writing partner, I have two suggestions. First, be sure that you’re willing to write someone else’s story, because it won’t be totally your own once you take on a partner. Second, choose someone that will complement your weaknesses, someone you can learn from. That way, even if you don’t finish the project, you will become a better writer. 

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Five Star Book Review: Simple Treasures by Alan Chin

Tuesdays are the days I showcase my own work on this blog. Today I’d like to share a recent review of Simple Treasures, my novella about an American Indian trying to help an aging rancher die with dignity. This is not a story of death, but one of love and hope.

Hot Bods Erotica Reviews blog gives Simple Treasures 5 stars

Alan Chin: Simple Treasures

This is poignant, heartfelt story about struggle, pain, dignity, and the power of love. Chin creates story of complex relationships between characters facing crisis. Emmett is dying, but in his loss, two young men find something worth living for in each other. Jude and Simple are both wrangling with inner demons and each is seeking some form of escape Jude hides in his Goth-strewn anger and Simple hides in his mystic world of spirits and Native American traditions. Chin's beautiful, poetic writing style flows wonderfully, and makes this a fantastic, magical journey.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Life Is A Beauty Pageant

William Shakespeare wrote in a monologue in As You Like It, “All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players.” These days, it seems that all the world’s a beauty pageant, and all the men and women are doing their damnedest to be as beautiful as possible. What I’m saying is, beauty has become an obsession. It’s the new world religion.

It goes beyond merely trying to dress in trendy clothing and look our best. There is definitely an image that the advertising media promotes, and everyone—young and old, men and women, every nationality—tries to become that image. And for those of us who fall short of the mark, we worship those few who make the grade.

I’ve been noticing this more and more as I attend gatherings where people stand around, dressed to the nines, posing. On social media, there are as many people posting pictures of near-naked men as there are people posting pictures of their dogs and cats. For those under thirty (and many over), they all have stylish tattoos, designer clothing with the labels showing, and everyone belongs to one gym or another. Beauty is a multi-trillion dollar industry, and everyone seems to march to the same beat. Perhaps it’s just my perception, but it seems as though narcissism has grown to epidemic magnitudes.

Are we changing our values because we are letting the advertising industry manipulate us?

I’m not trying to suggest I’m above admiring a handsome, well-dressed man or woman. I can appreciate beauty as much as the next person. What I’m questioning is when did the worship of outer beauty replace the quest to cultivate/appreciate unpretentious, inner beauty. When did mankind grow so shallow? Or is it just me, where I’m focusing my energy these days? As my looks fade, perhaps I’m noticing the trend more.

That is of course why so many religious orders have the priests/monks shave their heads and wear the same drab clothing, to escape the clutches of vanity. I’m not suggesting all people do this. I think self-expression is wonderful. Yet, the question remains, how do we keep our focus on inner qualities, rather than what the eye sees?

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Book Review: The Almost Unbelievably Curious Case of Jeremiah Hudgejaw by Marten Weber

Reviewer: Alan Chin
Publisher: Aquarius Publishing
Pages: 148

Set in the beginning of the 1900’s aboard the RMS Noricum, traveling from England to New York, Jeremiah Hudgejaw is on the lookout for a husband for his daughter and a wife for himself. Jeremiah is a super rich, super homophobic, self-absorbed loudmouth who has a knack for offending nearly everyone he meets. Also, he often can’t tell if a person is male or female, which gets him into trouble when he is smitten by a young steward who he mistakes for a female.

Jeremiah is joined on this cruise by several quirky characters who provide both humor and romance. The comedy is built on the kind of absurd misunderstanding one finds in Oscar Wilde’s plays.

The writing is well crafted, fast paced, and breezy in this somewhat entertaining historical satire that takes a tongue-in-cheek look at the topic of homophobia and gay marriage. The story is rather predictable, the premises are too absurd, none of the characters are the least bit likeable, and the humor gets tiresome rather quickly, yet it leaves a smile on the reader’s face. 

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Writing Tip - Using of Copyrighted Material

There once was a time when you could include a few lines of a song or poem, or quote another book, and no one cared. That time is gone.

To use any quoted material from a work under copyright, you must have official permission from the rights holder. In the case of a published work, this is almost always the publisher, and it will cost money. Expect to pay $250-$500 for up to 100 words for the first 5,000 copies sold (although some may set the maximum at 2,000), after which an additional fee may be required. Fees of $1,000 and more are not out of the question.

Phrases that have been used so often ("Make My Day.") can still be used with impunity, although even then it's technically a copyright violation. 

If you're determined to use a bit of copyrighted material, it's your job to obtain the necessary permission. It takes time and money.

Be aware that when it comes to copyrighted material these days "just a little" is too much.