Sunday, March 29, 2020

Lockdown, Week Three

We are into our third week of the Corona-virus lock down. I’m depressed that the stock market has fallen so far down, or course, but I’ve been loving the peace and quiet. No screaming school children down the block. No screaming renters. No crowds on the streets or at the park. I miss going out to restaurants. And the city has closed the public tennis courts so Herman and I can no longer hit the ball. But I love spending time in the backyard reading without having to listen to loud renters over the fence. If this goes on all summer, I won’t be disappointed. The new government stimulus package has bumped up the stock market, so I’m feeling better than I have in weeks.

Still, it’s heartbreaking to see what’s unfolding across the world. So many deaths, and the heroes risking their lives to help others in need. And, of course, that boob in the White House making it all about him. 

One thing I don’t miss is hooking up with friends. Not sure why, but I’ve been perfectly happy being with just Herman and Trek. I guess my friends don’t have that big an impact on my life, which seems sad. But then, I’ve always been a rather solitary soul.

Saturday, March 21, 2020

3/21/20: Book Review: The End of Billy Knight by Ty Jacob

A tale that explores the relationship between a gay hustler and an aging drag queen, set in the world of 80s porn stars. This is not erotica, but a weak attempt at literary fiction. The characters are tired stereotypes, and because of that they fail to be convincing. The plot is a string of gay clich├ęs, one after another. 

The one positive thing I can say is that author has done a great deal of research into both the 80’s LA porn industry, as well as what it takes to be a drag queen. That said, I was not only disappointed in the story, but doubly so because this same author wrote another book, non-fiction using his real name, titled: An Olive Grove at the Edge of the World, which I loved. After reading his non-fiction story, I built up my expectations very high, and then was disheartened. All the freshness and humor I found in Olive Grove was sorely missing in Billy Knight. The only reason I finished the story was because it was selected by my book club, and I needed to read it all in order to properly discuss the book at the next meeting. 

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

3/17/20: Book Review: The Wright Brothers by David McCullough

Two-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize David McCullough tells the fascinating story of the determined brothers who overcame a lack of education (neither attended college) and lack of money, taught the world how to fly: Wilbur and Orville Wright.

On December 17, 1903, at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, Wilbur and Orville Wright's Wright Flyer became the first powered, heavier-than-air machine to achieve controlled, sustained flight with a pilot aboard, thus creating  The Age of Flight. How did they do it? And why? David McCullough tells the extraordinary story of the two brothers who changed the world. 

Sons of an itinerant preacher and a mother who died young, Wilbur and Orville Wright grew up on a small side street in Dayton, Ohio, in a house that lacked indoor plumbing and electricity but was filled with books and a love of learning. The brothers ran a bicycle shop that allowed them to earn enough money to pursue their mission in life: flight. In the 1890s flying was beginning to advance beyond the glider stage, but there were major technical challenges the Wrights were determined to solve. They traveled to North Carolina's remote Outer Banks to test their plane because there they found three indispensable conditions: constant winds, soft surfaces for landings, and privacy. 

Flying proved dangerous; the Wrights risked their lives every time they flew in the years that followed. Orville nearly died in a crash in 1908 but was nursed back to health by his sister, Katharine - an unsung and important part of the brothers' success and of McCullough's book. Despite their achievement the Wrights could not convince the US government to take an interest in their plane until after they demonstrated its success in France, where the government instantly understood the importance of their achievement. Now, in this revelatory book, historian David McCullough draws on nearly 1,000 letters of family correspondence plus diaries, notebooks, and family scrapbooks in the Library of Congress to tell the full story of the Wright brothers and their heroic achievement.

Wilbur and Orville were two of the key architects who molded our modern civilization. I found their story fascinating, and also marveled at their quiet, unpretentious natures. The book not only describes their momentous achievements, but also describes in detail their lives, habits, personalities. David McCullough is a master at presenting history as a fresh and exciting experience. 

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

3/11/20: Mining For More Creative Options

Yesterday I completed an exercise in creativity where I forced myself to come up with five different ways to present my next scene in my manuscript. Normally I have a gut feel for how to create a scene, and I just go with my gut. But after watching a documentary on expanding creativity, I decided to try one of the exercises they highlighted.

I recorded my first, gut-feel idea for my next scene, but then I sat there with pen and paper until I had thought up four more different version of how that scene could play out to achieve the desired results to the plot. It took me a few hours of considering different options and how they would affect the story, but I managed to come up with five choices that would work. 

As it turns out, I liked option three and option five much better than my original, gut-feel solution. But then I realized I could combine elements from both options three and five to create a sixth option that I think is marvelous. Not only did come up with a much better solution, but I have fun doing it. In fact, I kind of amazed myself. 

Needless to say, I very much liked this exercise, and will incorporate it into each new scene I write going forward.