November 24, 2010

Catching Up On Reading

Starting my New Year's Resolution early by reading a book a week. It's been less than three weeks, and I'm three books down--a few days ahead of schedule.

It's really not as hard a goal as I thought it would be. The trick is to keep it going. I'm forever catching up from days I find myself in Goodwill, snagging an armful of 25 cent paperbacks and dollar hard covers. And if I want to justify asking Santa for a Kindle this Christmas, then I'd like to knock out at least the top of my must-read list from the overpopulated living room bookcase.

First was 'Tis by Frank McCourt - Loved it. Quite sad though. Led me into a full hour or so of contemplation.
Next was I'm An English Major--Now What? - I should have read this right after my undergraduate years, though.
And last week I finished Atwood's Oryx And Crake. - Awesome. Very thought-provoking.

Phew! It's been a hectic Thanksgiving week already, blog, but I haven't forgotten you! 
Next up in the reading list: Mitchell's Cloud Atlas and Lamont's Bird By Bird.

November 12, 2010

Whiskey Vs. Wine While Writing

Trolling the blog universe, I notice many writers mentioning different beverages while they write. Seeing that it's NaNoWriMo time, coffee seems to be the quencher of choice. Presumably, these are the writers that begin their day with their craft. Afternoon writers supplement their wordy diets with an array of refreshments from the sugary, indulgent soda family spirited by Dr. Pepper and Mountain Dew, to the well-centered, always hydrating warm water with a mind-cleansing slice of lemon. 

Sure, I partake in various beverage adjustments throughout my writing process during the day. In the evenings, however, after adjunct duties free me to late night worldly vices such as 4th-quarter endings (November begins Thursday night football), TiVo, and the lure of attaining REM sleep should I turn in at a proper hour, I provide my laptop and me a mediator from the adult beverage family. That's right...a night cap while I write. Stop slapping my knuckles with that ruler, imaginary Catholic-school-English-teacher-I-never-had!

French press writing is great. If When I get myself an agent and my first novel is published, Mr. Coffeebean will be thanked. Those peaceful mornings that lead into an afternoon of reaching or surpassing my personal writing goal for the day are sublime. After the day's work is done, though, I put back on my writer's hat again. The inspirational moments cannot be ignored, and drinking caffeine at night makes my skin itch. Lately, I've been paying attention to which nightly beverages affect my writing and how.

Not Near Beer Right Now
I love beer, but I begin by eliminating it as an option for this post (hence it's absence it the title). Whereas beer is fine for watching football and appreciating a newly mowed lawn, its influence has produced little writing from me. Now that Texas' heat has finally succumbed to seasonal change, the hops have lost their appeal a bit. Nearing Thanksgiving, the warmth of wine and whiskey reintroduce their attributes.

The Case for Whiskey
Yes, this is a bold taste, especially if you drink it on the rocks as I do. Not yet a scotch enthusiast, bottled variations of Jack and Crown supply the current extent of my name-brand mentioning. 

Whiskey aligns the mind with hand to hammer away at that keyboard. Have an idea? Punch it out. Edit later. Press on and fill that page. It's the evening equivalent of caffeine: the difference being a hint of arrogance minus the jittery attention to incessant proofreading. Just remember to hold to one or two glasses at the most. Any more and you're spending the evening on rather than with MSWord.

The Case for Wine
I can only speak for red here because I am not a fan of white. And as Dr. Frasier Crane said, "Why go Merlot, when you can call a Cab?

Wine offers a unique writing episode to me. Cooool, calm, collected, and possibly clich├ęd. Okay, so I used the past tense of that one French word writers most consciously try to avoid falling victim to its denotation. Big deal. If you are writing with a nice glass of red wine at your side, chances are that creativity is flushing to the brain as fast as the blood and sulfites are to the cheeks. Let it flow.

Depending on if you are master of your alcohol domain, you can choose how you want to write late at nights by the beverage you sip. If you are not master of your alcohol domain, then your beer, whiskey, or wine nights may be uncooperative. But your mood, the mood in which you want to write, should take precedence. If you're at all a fatalist, your writing intentions will always choose your drink. 

Think not of me not how you think you should; but instead, how you feel you might without those constraints."

That's a real quote. I swear. 
A guess at whether I'm a whiskey or wine blogger tonight? Here's a hint: Thursdays are my Fridays.

November 8, 2010

Three Benefits of Retweeting

Plant a retweet and watch it grow.

Frequent Twitter users know what a retweet (RT) is and how to use it. It's simple. See a tweet you like and want to pass on to your followers, just highlight it and hit the Retweet button. Even easier on a smart phone: just hit the retweet icon (left) and confirm. If you prefer the old-school style, copy that person's message and paste it into your "What's happening?" box, and then precede it by manually typing the RT and @thatperson'susername.

Surely, there are long lists of benefits to retweeting out there in the web and blogosphere. These are three of my favorites as to why my little bird passes on what other little birds say.

1. Selflessness

Sharing the thoughts of those you follow with the realm of your own followers is a form of altruism, isn't it? That person tweeted something meaningful to you, and by you retweeting their message you are now showing your common interests with that person. That is the way Twitter works. Unless you are following somebody simply because they followed you first, then you often follow people with whom you have common interests.

Once you build a good number of folks to follow, you can expand that group further by paying attention to their retweets. The networking possibilities from this are seemingly endless. Following those retweets to their original tweeter opens a connection you may have had a tough time finding through the site's Search box.

It's always exciting to find the Twitter account of such authors as a Margaret Atwood or a Chuck Palahniuk. My small band of followers could then become an Oryx and Crake or Rant fan just by checking out their respective homepages after I pass along something from them I find retweetworthy. Twitter-based book clubs, anybody?

2. Selfishness

Tweeters are aware of how many people follow them. For those of us who just surpassed the century mark in terms of followers, we know the exact number. ;)~  Of course, you want your follower count to represent a steady supply of possible readers of your 140-word influence. The SPAMmy ones come and go, but it's those within your fields of interest that you really want. In essence, you want to attract followers that you, yourself, are following or would follow.

Retweeting is an exchange of information that can lead you to attracting more followers. In a way, it is a shameless act of self-promotion that says, "I found this interesting, so could should you." With a click of the mouse, you have shared an insightful comment or video/article link without having to post anything original. In a perfect world, I would recommend viewing/reading the linked sources prior to getting retweet happy over its title. Sometimes you will find disappointment in that newly opened tab or window, which you may regret retweeting to your followers.

Another selfish reason for retweeting is that the original tweeter may take note that you were kind enough to pass along their wisdom. This may be somebody of great influence to you--somebody of a networking influence. If they end up following you back, that could certainly make your Monday! And if others retweeted the same message as you, check out their profiles. They, too, may be people in which you'd be interested in following.

3. Archiving

This is my new favorite reason for retweeting. Being an aspiring writer, I love reading articles on blogging and writing. Twitter makes that so much easier. I've started a list of writing related tweeters, and follow their stream of knowledge, quotes, and links which serve to make up my own frequently updated self-help page. When I find inspiring information, I retweet it. This is not just to share with my followers, but to keep for myself for future reference. Fortunately, there is a wealth of knowledge for young writers on the web that others thankfully tweet. Unfortunately, it can be information overload.

Retweeting articles I want to read later provides me a working archive on my profile page. There are only so many a guy can read when writing calls and grading papers can't wait. Personally, I rarely "favorite" tweets. When checking my Twitter between classes, I retweet the article I want to read later at home. It is then stored on my own profile page. This makes it much easier than trusting my memory to recall who tweeted that link about revising first drafts or that vlog about the future of vlogging. And it makes it much, much easier than having to scroll through the thousands of general timeline messages looking for one specific tweet.

Of course, you don't want to retweet everything somebody posts unless you want to be that person. However, those various tweets that tickle your inspiration bone, pass them along. Retweet. I might like to read them too. Then, maybe we will enter that superexclusive club together: Retweeted by you and __ others.

November 3, 2010

A Wee Bit Obsessed With "The Avengers Initiative"

Allow me to get all Comic-Con for a moment. No, I don't read comic books anymore, but I wish I did. Back as a tweenager, I read them daily. Grapevine Comics & Cards just down Thornton Road was my haven. Also had me a subscription to G.I. Joe and Wolverine. The whole Batman "Death of Robin" episode captivated my entire attention for at least four or five issues.

As any responsible, respectful reader, I kept the best issues in plastic sleeves, the best of the best received Mylar treatment and/or a supportive board. All were kept in those long white boxes with the handle holes in each end. Trust me; those boxes treat the comics rather well over the years. And yes, I still have my collection.

Back in the day I would've loved for Marvel to be in the movie business. With the Batman movies and the success of the Superman series, DC's heroes were all we had. Every now and then some lame version of The Punisher would come out. The TV series finale of The Incredible Hulk was something to remember, especially because it featured Daredevil. I knew I was a bit too old to watch Spider-Man & His Amazing Friends, but I didn't care. I watched anything Marvel-related I could fix my eyes on. Decades later, my wish has been granted.

First, thank you Jon Favreau and Robert Downey, Jr. for keeping Iron Man cool. This whole bit with Nick Fury, the Avengers Initiative, and character crossovers has me incredibly intrigued. Only Tony Stark is charismatic and resourceful enough to pull off "putting a team together".

Sure, Captain America was the leader of the Avengers in the comics, but he's a couple of movies behind Iron Man. And Stark is already inquiring about the Hulk (Ed Norton, by the way, is an awesome Bruce Banner). I know Captain America: The First Avenger is set to come out in Summer of '11, but I don't know how the movie will transport him from WWII days to hang out with a present-day Stark. Samuel L. Jackson is in the cast as Nick Fury, and is the voice of this little teaser for 2012's The Avengers.

Checking out the IMBD's cast for The Avengers, I'm excited to see that this should rival the X-Men movies. Yes, that's saying a lot, but consider this cast of characters. You've got Downey Jr's Stark bringing with him Don Cheadle as War Machine and Scarlett Jo's Black Widow, formerly of Fury's S.H.I.E.L.D. Captain A (Chris Evans) is there as is the Hulk, except Banner will be played by Mark Ruffalo (who is just as cool as Norton) and the Hulk will be voiced by Lou Ferrigno (nice touch).

The Mighty Thor will joineth the group after releasing his own movie, directed by Shakespearean movie maker Kenneth Branaugh. It looks as if Loki (Tom Hiddleston) will follow him from script-to-script. Isn't that what any dark Norse deity would do? Oh, and lest we forget superarcher, Hawkeye, to be played by Jeremy Renner.

Here they all are at this year's Comic-Con.

It will be interesting to see how director, Joss Whedon, teams up Stan Lee's characters. I'd imagine it would look something like this...

Great to see Favreau will be involved in the production, too. I can hardly wait for May 4, 2010. Between then and now there will be plenty of teasers to digest. Surely, the crossover characters will be injected into the Captain America and Thor movies as they have succeeded to do in the Iron Man and Hulk movies.

While I could dig out my old comics, I should get a couple of new issues to see what's been going on with each of these characters. What do comics cost now? Any under a buck anymore?

A little investigation via new media will work just as well for now. I'm jumping further into YouTube on this matter of The Avengers Initiative.

'Nuff said.

November 1, 2010

Lawn Mowing Musings

Once it roars to a start, focus begins. While settling into its incessant hum, the rest of the world takes a backseat to the mundane: mowing the lawn. While safely directing the mower along whichever course works best during the outing, the imagination kicks in.

The reality of humanity leaves for an hour or three. In its stead, inner musings consisting often of to-do lists and imaginary ramblings take place. I suggest an obliging wave or nod to neighbors to deter having to shut off the mower (and thus, the imagination) for potential real-world conversations. Having already attained historical context, the imaginary conversations are just as good, right? Just as real?

Anyhoo, here are some of my lawn mowing musings from this weekend:

Random Rambling: Attack of the Acorns
I don't remember that big oak dropping this many acorns last year. Of course, last summer was much hotter so perhaps they dried up before they dropped. Is that even possible?

Slippery little boogers. There must be a million acorns covering that side of the yard. Okay, that's an exaggeration. What do you think? Fifty, a hundred thousand? I'd say about two to three hundred thousand, realistically.

See you built a firepit.

Yeah, I'm hoping most of the acorns fall in there. The smoke isn't hitting your house is it? We've only used it a couple of times: when we first built it and when we had a ton of family in town. I trimmed up the oak branches overhanging it so the smoke funnels the other way.

They really sting when they hit, especially if there's a little wind behind their fall. Who knows if an acorn can cause a concussion. One has hit me in the head...I think. I do remember a couple nailing me in the chest, and boy did they sting! Probably left a welt or at least some redness. Suppose if one of the kids got hit in the head with one, they'd be wailing. They do hurt, but it's hard not to laugh when you see someone getting beaned in the head in the middle of telling a story!

To-Do List
Mow the front too, or save for tomorrow? It won't take much time even though there are papers in the office in need of grading. But do those tomorrow while watching football. Get all yardwork done today. Why do tomorrow what you can do today? Who said that? Somebody made it famous.

Did NaNoWriMo start yet? Is it the 1st? If not, then it hasn't. Duh. Sooo, what does it take to register? Ready yet, or still dinking around in sports writing? Fiction needs attention, especially with how frequently the days have been overcast. Ahhh, the Pac-NW mindset. Always welcomed.

Commit to either rewriting that first draft or moving on with that new story. The new story has hit a wall and that first draft is screaming. You know what to do. Plus, the wine-induced epiphany Friday night produced some good notes on how to rewrite the entire novel. Going from third to first-person will do it some justice. Should of thought of that before, but it makes much more sense now.

Finish reading the novels you've started. Stop starting a new one before finishing the last one. Focus. Plus, efficiency is a must to get a jump start on that New Year's resolution to read a book a week.

Writing workshops: Research online options. Throw them up on the blog.

Lowered the wheels to the second lowest setting on this outing. Doing that along with the effect of the cooling weather will keep the grass short for months. Unless I mow to "vacuum" the leaves, these musings will take place in some other yardwork-oriented fashion. There's always gathering firewood musings, barbecuing musings, putting up Christmas lights musings.

No humming motor with those though. Verbal contact with the world is to be expected.