Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Lasting Hope

Lasting Hope

As many of you are aware by now, Robyn lost her 11-year battle with breast cancer this past Sunday.  Although we knew the disease was extensive and Robyn was in intense pain, we were not prepared for how quickly her life ended.  There was not even time to say that one last goodbye.  The only comfort we can take is the hope that Robyn is now watching over us all, free of pain and ready to guide us as we all complete our own journeys through life..

Robyn will always be remembered.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011


Book One: Tears of Destiny has been sent to a professional editor. I decided that it needed some work before continuing my search for an agent. I got a lot of good feedback from beta readers and the agents I've submitted to so far, but the manuscript needs some work. I've made so many edits to it over the years it's difficult for me to edit it like in needs. I've decided to invest in editing on my own for now. I think it will have a much greater chance of getting picked up if it's polished. Thanks for all the support!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Writing on the iPad

You know, some people are so adamant about how awful the iPad is for writing novels. I sincerely beg to differ! The iPad has changed how I write novels. I'm not longer bound to a desk or table on a large computer that I can't move. Or even chained to a laptop because , seriously, as portable as they are, there is still much to be desired on being able to crack one open on a whim and bang out a paragraph or two. Of course there are those that cry out, "Buy a MacBook Air already!" Well for those rich snobs that can afford one, more power to ya! There's only one accessory I need for my iPad to make it the perfect writing tool, a wireless keyboard. While I have become pretty proficient at typing on the on-screen keyboard, I find that it is a bit cumbersome for long jaunts. The thing that makes the iPad so useful as a writing tool is that it's portable enough that I can keep it with me no matter where I am. I find myself jotting down ideas, writing paragraphs, editing sections that I've had an epiphany about. Best things is, I don't have to remember the change until I get home. I can whip out the iPad and make the change without missing a beat! I've written both of my books on the iPad and I don't plan to change. It's the best tool yet for my writing. I'll talk more about the apps I use soon, but if you use an iPad to write, share your successes and struggles!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Trees of Shakara

Book Two is finished!!! Well the first draft is done, anyway. Still a lot of edits ahead and a few revisions I'm sure. Now to start Book Three, so excited!! Book Three is gonna rock!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

So I just realized that I'm 65,500 words through the second book. Haven't had much time to write, but I do it whenever I can. The publishing part takes a lot of time, which I wish I had more of right now. I plan to get a lot done during the Thanksgiving break. Granted the 2nd book is in rough rough draft right now, but I was happy to see how much of it I've completed!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

New Announcement

I'm proud to announce an addition to the Elements of Eaa family. I've begun planning a second set of novels centered around a character at the school that will chronicle the events taking place on Earth while Billy is learning the truth of his gifts. Sally Singletary begins to investigate his disappearance and uncovers a pattern of events that has taken shape over the course of human history. She must race to uncover the truth behind the mystery of Billy's disappearance and decipher the MOSAIC before it is too late to save humanity from certain doom!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Coping as a Writer

One thing I struggle with most as a writer is how to cope with having a real job. Now I know many of you just yelled at the scream in protest to my referring to writing as something that is nit a real job. Until my writing is brining in money enough that I don't have to work elsewhere, it is not a real job for me. At this point is is more of a hobby. My problem is that I want it to be more of a real job for me. I want to be able to spend the time on it to accomplish my goals with it. The problem is I am not one of those that can afford to go without another form of income. This is frustrating for me especially during times when my other work is not as rewarding as it once was and I'm finding it more and more difficult to get past the bureaucracy of it. I'm just curious how others manage, especially teachers. Are you able to write during the school year?

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Back from Puerto Rico!

Had an amazing time on vacation with my family. I have the best niece in the world, she's a blast to travel with. We stayed at the Conrad Hilton in San Juan. The hotel was nice, although the decor was a bit on the outlandish side. I didn't mind it so much, but it isn't what most would choose to decorate their living rooms. The beds were comfortable and the rooms had a great view, even if we weren't on the ocean side.

I got to do several things I didn't get to experience last time, which was nice. The best was climbing El Yunque. It was an experience, to be sure. The trip up was exhausting, especially after having surgery on my foot a month ago and having broke my toe just before we left. But I made it up and it was fantastic, even though the view left much to be desired since it rained the whole time. The rainforest was gorgeous though, despite the fact it lived up to its name.

We visited the Arecibo Observatory and the Camuy Caves which are always fun. The beaches were nice as well, although I don't recommend Luquillo Beach. It was a MESS!! I'm not sure if it is always that gross or if it was just the fact it was right after a three day holiday weekend. Either way, we left to find a more suitable beach spot at Dorado Beach, a favorite of ours.

All in all, it was a much needed getaway. The weather was beautiful. It was hard to come back to the hundred degree heat of Texas.

I'm so not ready to go back to school yet, I have so much more writing I wanted to do. I spent way too much time this summer sending queries and submissions, which I suppose is a necessary part of the job. My goal was to get the second book mostly finished so that I could begin editing and revising, but I didn't quite get that far. I at least got a little more than halfway finished. Hopefully I can find time throughout the year to work on it a bit. Such is the life of a teacher, I suppose.

I'm uploading a video project of the trip to Puerto Rico as I type this post. It's taking forever, and it looks like I can only get it up on Facebook. I'll have to shorten it, apparently, for YouTube. I'll get it on there if I can. In the mean time, I hope everyone has enjoyed their summer and whether we like it or not, it's officially Back To School.

Puerto Rico (2011) - Conrad Hilton

Puerto Rico 2011 - Birthday

Puerto Rico 2011 - El Yunque

Puerto Rico 2011 - Arecibo Obeservatory

Puerto Rico 2011 - Camuy Caves

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Best Places to Write

I've always wondered where most writers find it comfortable to do their best writing. For me, I need a quiet place, with as few distractions as possible, but I've noticed that some people can get work done in public places such as coffee shops or book stores. I guess a lot of it has to do with your personality and how well you can focus with outside distractions. Being ADD, I find that there is very little that does not distract me. This does not mean, however, that I can't get work done in these environments. If I'm really into a scene I am writing, then I can usually tune things out, but that's not always the case. It depends on a lot of factors. My favorite place to write, ironically, is on vacation. I guess the fact that I'm so far away from the problems of every day life that I can concentrate better on what I'm doing and I feel more creative, possibly inspired by where I am. Unfortunately, the opportunities for really good writing vacations are limited by the amount of funds in my bank account. Currently, I'm in Puerto Rico with family enjoying the beauty the island has to offer and I find myself excited about the possible things that might come out of this trip (in a writing sense). Share your favorite places to write!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Latest Updates from the Eaa Learning Foundation

Latest Updates

Is a Lack of Tanning Causing Autism?
Self-Esteem is one of those elusive attributes that we associate with children growing into well-adjusted adults. There are many opinions and schools of thought around the subject. My views as a teacher who has worked with students with special needs are different than most...

Behavior Problems? No Problem!
The most important thing to remember about child behaviors is, just like adults, there is always a reason for the behavior. It's not always important to know what that reason is, because frankly even if they knew, they're not going to tell you because in all likelihood they don't know...

The Myths of Self-Esteem
Self-Esteem is one of those elusive attributes that we associate with children growing into well-adjusted adults. There are many opinions and schools of thought around the subject. My views as a teacher who has worked with students with special needs are different than most...

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

COMMON SENSE: The Borders are Open

UPDATED: Great post that illustrates my point from a different perspective.

This will be the first post in a series of posts designed to look at things in a different way. I often find myself reading things that I have to step back and go, "wait, what?"

There is one fundamental truth to the world that has been a fundamental truth since the dawn of time and throughout the evolution of our humble planet. Things change. It seems to me that too many people forget that fundamental truth. Far too often we want things to stay the same. But how can we grow and learn if things always stay the same? If we stuck to the mantra that all things should stay the same because it's comfortable we would never have crawled out of the Dark Ages. Humanity is driven by change, it needs change, it would stagnate and evaporate like a pool of water without change, and yet we still push to keep things the same.

I've read article after article about the recent announcement that Borders was closing its doors and the common theme of most of them goes something like this:


I wish I were exaggerating when I say this, but it's all over the place. I suspect it's mostly from agents, editors, and publishers whose jobs depend on the current book business model who fear (yup, you guessed it) they fear change. Understandably so, mind you, I can imagine I would be worried if that were my job, but being an educator and having worked in education for a number of years, I have been faced with change after change after change; some of which have had major impacts on my job, and I have to pick myself up and move on. Not all changes were for the better, but in the end I learn to adapt, grow, and become a better teacher and person for it. I talked about this very issue in another post concerning Spotify.

The book industry is changing. (I say this as if it's a big surprise, but it isn't.) It has been changing for quite some time. We knew this the day ebooks were invented 20 years ago. People think that just because the internet was invented that ebooks are all of a sudden a big thing. They've been around forever. People have exchanged electronic formats of books since I was in High School. We saw it happen with the music industry, then the movie industry, and now publishing. The difference is, both of those industries have refused to change and complain that they are losing sales because of piracy, but the truth of the matter is that piracy isn't the big problem. Now before your head starts shaking and you stop reading, hear me out.

Piracy exists because of one reason and one reason only. It's cool. It was the big thing when information sharing became mainstream in the 80's and 90's. It was cool to be able to download a song or a movie. It was a novelty. The industry had a chance then to capitalize on its "coolness." Instead, they decided to thrust their heads into the sand and resist change. The problem is, people need change, they desire change, we thrive on change.

Don't believe me? Dig that iPhone out of your pocket and tell me that you'd still be using a rotary dial phone right now if it were available. Why do you have an iPhone (or other type of modern communication device)? Because it's cool! Because it's useful. Because it has changed from the old types of communication into something better. Why do we embrace such wonderful advances in technology when it benefits us personally, but rebuke it when it doesn't? Digital media is the future and there's no stopping it. Let's not make the same mistakes as the music and movie industry. Embrace the change and realize that there is a market for electronic media if people are willing to adapt and be creative.

Think of the advantages, books available in months or weeks, instead of years. Impulse sales like crazy! When I purchase a book on Kindle, I rarely think twice about it. It's right there on my screen, I don't even have to pick it up! And the best part? I don't have to hand over a card, money, or any other form of payment. It all happens magically and I never have to think about it (until I get the bill). The point is there are so many advantages to change, so why do we fight it?

Ask yourself this the next time you get into your car. Would you want to drive around a vehicle that you had to crank every time you wanted to drive it? Cars were supposed to be the END OF THE LOCOMOTIVE industry!!! As it was claimed back then. I can attest from the fact that every time I try to cross a set of train tracks that the locomotive industry is very much alive. Different. But alive.

Do I go to bookstores to look for books and then buy them on Amazon? Absolutely. Do I regret it? Absolutely not. Does it matter where I get the book from as long as I'm buying it? Probably to the people I'm not buying it from, but that's because I like ebooks. I like the fact that when I travel I don't have to have a separate suitcase form my books just like I like the fact that I don't have to lug around a gigantic CD case and risk swerving off the road to load another CD. It's all on my phone.
Look to the future with hope and opportunity, because anything else would just be a step in the wrong direction.
I say all this to make a point. It's all about Common Sense. We know the world changes, we know that it changes for the better (most of the time). We just have to be brave enough to embrace the change and innovate to make the change work for us instead of against us. Look to the future with hope and opportunity, because anything else would just be a step in the wrong direction. Borders may be closing, but the borders on the future are wide open.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Spotify, What's the Deal?

Ok, so I really don't get why everyone's all a-gaga over Spotify! I've looked it over and I really don't see why everyone was so excited that it's finally here. I mean, it does have some cool features and great syncing, but it's like everyone's forgotten there already was an app that has done that for years. In fact, the company that owns it seems to have forgotten they even have it after the latest rumor that they want to build another music services.

WTH??? I just don't get it. Spotify is no different than Napster. Napster has been around for ages and has had a web client, desktop client, and phone clients for the past three years. I've used Napster since Napster became legal and I've always enjoyed the fact that I pay a monthly fee to access whatever kind of music I was in the mood for at the time without having to worry about whether or not I have room for it or if I remembered to check it during the last sync.

Napster has been great. I even love the fact they have radio stations that play mixes of songs for whatever genre you choose. Not everything is on Napster, but I've had not trouble finding what I want to listen to and it's introduced me to songs I wouldn't have found otherwise. So why is Spotify so awe inspiring? I sure as heck can't figure it out. I haven't actually purchased the service to see if there are other advantages that I'm not seeing just by perusing the website, but what I've seen isn't even as much as Napster offers.

Napster is now owned by Best Buy, which is surprising considering the latest rumors that Best Buy want's to create a cloud music locker. Why do I want my songs locked up in the cloud when I can just pull them out of the air whenever I want? It all boils down to the concepts of ownership. Music labels still haven't grasped the concept that physical media is about as relevant now as the mastadon.

Music labels have struggled for years to keep up with the times, and rather than innovating, they've  chosen to dig their heads in the sands and force people to buy their products the way they want. We've seen how well that's worked. Music piracy has been on the rise for years only coming down when the record labels finally realized that people want their music with them all the time and embraced digital media. They had a golden opportunity to capitalize on concepts like iTunes and Napster, instead they tried to kill it at every turn. We saw what happened there, iTunes is dead right? Number one rule of customer service, give the customer what they freakin want!

The current trends in the book industry are headed the same way, fortunately, it happened in a way that cut the big houses right out of the picture in a single blow giving the power directly to authors. I know there are still plenty of people out there who will argue that you'll never make it big if you don't publish traditionally and I'm not saying the big houses have to go away for this all to work. I think there's a place for both. I think you can make it big because you've got a good product, a great marketing plan, and a vision in mind.

But you know what? Maybe there's a bigger issue here than just making it big. What about making it at all? There are plenty of talented writers who had great works to share who never got the chance just because some tight-shirted bureaucrat didn't like what they read. Publishing is one of the hardest industries to break into, if not the hardest. There's no American Writer, No Dancing with the Poets, and certainly no Hell's Quill out there to put the spotlight on our profession. Writers are left in the dark to fend for themselves. Even after being published by a big house, you still have to do your own promoting and your own marketing. Where does that leave you if you take a day off? Unless you have a name like Stephen King and could publish your memoir if it were written on your underwear, your chances are just as slim of making it big.

At least with the idea of self-publishing you get the satisfaction of seeing your work in print. You might sell a hundred books, but that was a hundred more than you would have sold if you never published at all. The point is that the world is changing, and we either change along with it or go by the wayside. The world is built on new ideas, why do we work so hard to make sure the old ideas persist for so long? I, for one, am embracing change wholeheartedly. I've already found some great books I've enjoyed that were self-published. If you write something worth reading, take the time to polish it up, and spend the money and effort that is needed to see it through, you can't lose. If nothing else, you can say you've accomplished something.

I'm reminded of a quote from my book Tears of Destiny (and this isn't meant as a shameless plug, just a point I brought up in the story):

"The Beast may win a battle, the Mastermind may win a war, but only those able to adapt to change will stand the test of time."

Wow! Great Resource for Blogging Information!

33 Must-Read Tips & Tutorials for Bloggers

Publishing: Sign of the Times?

Sign of the times? Or just bad business strategies for Borders? Interesting things happening in publishing!

Borders Faces Liquidation as Najafi Won’t Bid for Bankrupt Book Chain

DFW Writer's Conference

The DFW Writer's Conference is a great way to network, meet other authors, connect with agents and publishers and get a lot of great information about writing and publishing. I attended the conference for the first time last year and was overwhelmed with the amount of information and interactions with other authors. It was a fantastic experience that helped me to get on track with publishing my book. I took a lot of time since then to work on my manuscript and fine-tune the necessary details to make it better. I've gotten great feedback on the results and recommend the conference to anyone looking to get more information about the business or just have a great time meeting other authors. The conference is put on by the DFW Writer's Workshop (another great group and organization) and most of the organization credits go to Jason A. Myers. Head on over to the source link and check it out!

Great Article About Self-Promotion

I thought this was a great article by Nathan Bransford. It sums up the way I feel about self-promotion. I don't like doing it, I don't like anything about the whole business of selling, but if you don't do it, you don't get exposure. Personally, I'm not trying to publish my book to make a lot of money or be the next J.K. Rowling. I mean, sure, if it happened I'd be happy, but my main motivation for publishing is to write something people can enjoy. But the biggest problem with that is, if people don't know about it, they can't enjoy it. Eventually I would love for writing to be my primary profession and that is a goal of mine. Part of that goal is self promotion whether I like it or not. Eventually I'll learn a good balance of how to self-promote without it becoming such a dreaded part of my day. If you feel the way I do and think that Self Promotion SUCKS!!!, you have to read this article.

Nathan Bransford is the author of JACOB WONDERBAR AND THE COSMIC SPACE KAPOW, a middle grade novel about three kids who blast off into space, break the universe, and have to find their way back home, which was published by Dial Books for Young Readers in May 2011. He was formerly a literary agent with Curtis Brown Ltd., but is now a publishing civilian working in the tech industry. He lives in San Francisco.

Another great article about BSP! (Had no idea what that meant!)

Friday, July 15, 2011

The Truth About Harry Potter

It's 3 in the morning and I have no idea why I'm writing this except to give my honest and professional opinion of the last Harry Potter movie ever. I will have to say that I was disappointed in many regards and probably not for the reasons that most people think. I think the movie was too much like the book. Now I know this will not be a popular opinion, but hey, I was never one for popularity contests. Here's the deal. Having written novels, I've learned one thing. You don't write with a movie in mind.

Several of you just did a double take so severe I heard your necks pop from here. Screen writing and novel writing are two different beasts. Imagine if you tried to teach someone to swim. If you were writing a manual to teach someone to swim that lived in, let's say, Alaska, where they wouldn't have ready access to water. Your manual would like quite different from one written for someone that lived in Florida.

The same goes for movies. Timing in novel writing is so drastically different. When you write, time is at your whim, you can control the flow of time, allowing it to move faster at will and slowing it down for those critical moments. While "bullet time" and other special effects allow movies to alter the state of motion of time, it does nothing to control the audience's perceptions and feelings other than to illustrate something that a normal speeds would happen too fast for the human eye.

When it comes to Harry Potter's final movie, I felt like they tried to appease fans by staying true to the book. While this is admiral for those of us, including me, to stick with the book's storyline, it's not necessary to stick with the book's pace. I feel like opportunities were list that could have brought the movie to the next level. Now, before those of you that have read this far click on the comment box, I'm not done.

All-in-all, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was a phenomenal movie. Could it have been better? Sure. Overall I did not leave unsatisfied, just realizing how much of an affect fans like me have on movie-making decisions. I was one of the biggest advocates for the movies being terrible because they didn't follow the book's stories. I then realized how difficult and impractical a task that would be.

Movie making is a hard business, but in the long run, I think that they've done justice to J.K. Rowling's vision. I certainly cried through the second half of the movie. Regardless of what you think and feel about the final installment, it isn't going to affect the billions of dollars it will bring in this weekend. Until next time, keep your patronuses inside the vehicle at all times and always remember that the platform is moving at the same speed as your vehicle.

Have a great evening and a fabulous weekend!

ADDITION: One thing I would like to add about the movie was to comment about 3D. The last part of the movie was shown in 3D as part of the triple feature we went to and I felt like it added nothing to the movie to see it in 3D, in fact, I think I would have preferred seeing it in 2D for the first time seeing it. 3D is uncomfortable to watch, for me. It distorts the movie at times and is visually straining on my eyes. I think I would have been happier if I had just seen it in 2D.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Harry Potter

It's 4:47pm and I'm sitting in line at the theater waiting for Harry Potter. As if I weren't crazy enough for wanting to see the premier tonight, I got roped in to seeing a triple feature of the first movie along with both parts of Deathly Hallows. I will be in this theater for nearly 12 hours. Sounds fun, huh? Well, it is Harry Potter. I'm sure the Internet will already be a buzz with Potter news and people all a "twitter" over the movie. (I've already heard from friends who have already seen it in early premiers). Of course I had to add to all of this buzz by posting my own humble post. If you are venturing out tonight to see the premier, be prepared for long waits and lots of robes, wands, and happy fans. If you're waiting for the weekend, I'm sure you'll enjoy it just the same. As we close the final chapter of the Harry Potter series, we are comforted in the knowledge the books and movies will live in for a long, long time.


OMG, Can't wait!!!

Did not disappoint!

A Story is Only as Good as its Characters

As we come to the end of a legacy, I find myself thinking about what makes Harry Potter what it is today. Most people assume that it's because J.K. Rowling is such a gifted writer, but I think the truth lies in the details. What J.K. Rowling accomplished she did through imagination, planning, but most importantly she did it through characters. Harry Potter isn't about a story. Like most good books, it's about the journey. The reasons Harry Potter drew us in so completely was because we watched as a group of lovable characters grew together to solve imaginative, yet problems we could relate to in some way. As may of you venture to the theaters this weekend to enjoy the final chapter of this incredible tale, think about what draws you in to the story and remember who you cheer for in the end. :)

The Myths of Self-Esteem

Self-Esteem is one of those elusive attributes that we associate with children growing into well-adjusted adults. There are many opinions and schools of thought around the subject. My views as a teacher who has worked with students with special needs are different than most.  Read more....

Whew! It was Just a Dream!

Had a stupid dream last night that I went to set my iPhone down on the table and bumped it against the side and it shattered into several pieces. While that's probably not actually possible, it was still a disturbing dream. How horribly reliant we've become on our phones!
You miss 100% of the shots you don't take. 
- Wayne Gretzky

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

I'll Get it One of These Days

STILL working on my TOR submission. I think I've written and rewritten this thing a hundred times! Why is it so much easier to write a novel than it is to write a synopsis. There is so much conflicting information out there on how to write one but the general consensus seems to be that it should be short. Then why do they want 3-10 pages? And if I'm supposed to make it straight and to the point, how do I still make it interesting enough for them to want to keep reading? Hopefully I can get it polished enough to send it before I die!!! I'll get it eventually.

What was your one sentence "elevator pitch" for your upcoming novel? (Or if you didn't have one...make up your one sentence hook now...) No pressure! ;-)

On a quest to save his twin sister, a young teen is gifted with mysterious powers and must travel to distant worlds to battle unimaginable forces, older than humanity, who hold the answers to a secret that threatens all of reality.

Ask me anything


Ask me anything http://formspring.me/jcataffo


Best approximation that I can come up with based on the drink served at Universal Studios, Florida

Cream Soda Base with a shot of Vanilla Vodka and a Shot of Buttershots.
Mix Whipped cream with 1/2 shot of vanilla vodka and buttershots to form the head. Mix in some butterscotch syrup into the whipped mix and top off the cream soda. It's yummy!

What would your perfect day look like?

Like all the others, except perfect.

Ask me anything

Why We Write

Writers, Authors, Bloggers, or other writing professionals are often asked why they write. Everyone has a different reason for writing, if it's just to share information, or just a love for the craft. I've often thought about why I write and I've never come up with a reason other than I love to do it. I've always wanted to create a story that would engage people and allow them to interact and connect in ways that only books can. The biggest hurdle we face as writers is getting published. I'm learning the ropes of publishing, getting agents, writing queries, and submitting projects and let me tell ya, writers certainly don't do it because it's a quick buck. I've only scratched the surface of the publishing game and it's already become a full-time job. What's sad, to me, is there are plenty of really good writers out there who jump into this with really good products, and for whatever reason or another, their stuff never makes it out there. Here's hoping that my work has a fighting chance. No matter what your hopes and dreams are, no matter how impossible they may seem, the only good things that get done are the ones you never give up on.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Nearing the End

So we're down to the wire on Harry Potter, only a few days left! I'm both saddened and excited for the final visual chapter of the wizard boy's story. It's been so much fun having a tale that has been with you for so long. I started reading the books when I first started teaching to have something to talk in class. I never expected to become such a fan. I never expect to be the next J.K. Rowling, but I hope I can tell a story at least half as good as she. As we come to the end of Harry's story, we can take comfort in knowing these books will live on for years to come! Thanks J.K. for so many wonderful memories!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Synopses Require Synapses

Having written a novel I couldn't even begin to imagine how difficult writing a synopsis would be. It's like building an empire and trying to describe it in a sentence. I've worked for the past two days on a synopsis for a submission to TOR and I tell ya, it's probably one of the hardest things I've ever had to do. I've found some good sites with good tips and pointers. And some with good explanations of how a synopsis should be written. It all comes down to the craft itself, for me. I'm a creative writer, I write fiction. A synopsis is fact. Writing a synopsis requires you to strip all your creativity and simplify your novel down to the bare-bones facts without sound dull or boring. Sounds easy, right? Not so much. I found that my creativity tends to get in the way of writing a summarized report. Unfortunately, for those of you out there like me, who are trying to get started in this business, a synopsis is critical to a good submission. I wish you all the best, and if you have other good sites for writing synopses that you would like to share, please leave a comment and a link. Till next time!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Perhaps if They Would Have Just Cut the Cheese!

Transformers 3
This review will have no impact on the millions of dollars Michael Bay will make on Transformers 3, but it should. Watching this movie was like eating a multi-layered club sandwich with extra cheese. There were parts that were good, the visual effects were great, but nothing could mask the Gouda inside. 

There were a couple of funny one-liners but for the most part the humor was dull. It’s only saving grace came in the form of an actual plot, which if it had been released from it’s cheesy casing, could have come out like a fine piece of filet, but instead became a cheese-filled ball park frank, enjoyable at the time but trust me, you’ll feel the indigestion as soon as the credits roll. 

Don’t get me wrong though, the movie gave you enough for it to be an exciting visual feast, but after all of Optimus’s speeches about honor and being true to one’s self, in the end you wonder how much of that spirit remains. All in all, I’m sure the movie will be a hit with the masses, but personally my hopes were dashed for the redemption of a childhood love. 
Good thing Harry Potter is coming out soon or I may have to boycott movies for the rest of the summer! 

P.S. Was I the only one to notice that Rosie Huntington-Whitely spent the entire thing in heels? Seriously???

Friday, July 1, 2011

Is it SciFi or is it Fantasy?

Scifi vs. Fantasy
It's so hard to find the line, sometimes, between Science Fiction and Fantasy. There is, of course, the old argument of Rivets and Rivers. Many people claim that Scifi has rivets, where most of the action takes place on space ships or places with lots of metal and technology, where Fantasy has rivers, forests, and trees. But what truly is the defining line between the two? Does there have to be a line at all? My current project challenges the long held belief that the two cannot coexist in one story. Taking from the current research in Quantum Mechanics and String Theory I bring concepts to life which, even to the scientists who study them, seem like Fantasy. I know this all sounds over the top and too hard to understand, but I promise, it's not written with the intention to confuse. The worlds I've created are filled with mystery and wonder and by the time you're done sharing Billy's adventure, you'll understand why the question of Rivets and Rivers exists!

Tips for Parents

As a teacher, I've seen many parents who just get it, and many who don't. It's not a statement of character, parenting is hard! Heck, we go to school for four years to become teachers and that's only the beginning of the learning process. Parents don't get that kind of training, so the next time you see a struggling parent, cut them some slack! Read more...

Thursday, June 30, 2011

To Be or Not To Be

That is the question. I've really been struggling with the decision on publishing, traditional or self-published. I've read so much on the subject the past few days I fell like I'm developing a split personality, but before Mr. Hyde takes over I had to reflect on an article I read most recently.  Kristen Lamb is the author of the best-selling books We Are Not Alone—The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer. She wrote an article that really inspired me. Her words seemed to ring true to the desires within. I've examined the reasons for my struggle and have boiled it down to this. It's my book and I like it that way. I know that sounds selfish and a bit conceited, but the truth of the matter is that I have a story to tell and I'm not sure how I feel about the idea of other people involved in that. I know that my chances of "making it big" are probably not as high, but my real goal for writing this project wasn't to be the next J.K. Rowling. I mean who wouldn't want to be one of the richest writers in the world, but still, my dreams for this project is to see it in the hands of my readers. I'm not saying that I think my work is the best and doesn't need any help. I'm far from perfect. But I'd like the chance to see it take off, the way I designed it, the way I envisioned it. Not the way someone thinks it should be just because there's a chance it will make more money. I hope that readers enjoy it and will pass it on to friends and family and I hope that it will one day be a book that people will talk about, but for now I'm content with the knowledge that I've put a lot of hard work and a lot of years into this project and I think my decision has been made. Look for more updates soon on the status of this project and if you think it's something you're interested in, please share it. Let's make this thing a huge success!!!

At least it wasn't about her period!

An article on the NPR website shed light on the all the buzz about the mysterious disappearing comma! I'd seen countless tweets about and the internet was all a "buzz." Personally, I think the Oxford Comma is essential to writing as it gives clarification to sentences. If I were going to the store with two guys, Paul and Jeremy. It would take on a whole different connotation if I were going to the store with two guys, Paul, and Jeremy. As the article points out, very well I might add, the first sentences makes it sound like I was going to the store with only Paul and Jeremy, while the second sentence shows I'm actually going with four people: two guys, Paul, and Jeremy. This holds true for many other uses of the comma and taking it away would probably mean little for writers, but in the end I'm glad we get to keep this bit of treasure!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

What's For Dinner?

Tonight's low-carb meal:

Grilled chicken stuffed with muenster and prosciutto atop a bed of steaming spinach. paired with avocado slices, peppers and green beans.

I marinade the chicken breasts in a large zip-loc bag with zesty italian dressing and some fresh herbs. We usually keep a small herb garden which  is the best way to have fresh herbs on hand. If you can't use fresh, just throw some of your favorite herbs in the mix (basil, garlic, oregano, tarragon) or any other tickles your fancy.
I usually let this marinade for at least an hour or two. Then throw the breasts on the grill. Don't overcook them, many people leave chicken on the grill too long for fear of getting sick. Remember: you don't need to cook it until it's jerky!

While that's cooking (be sure to check on it often, and don't forget to turn those chicken boobs!) you can steam your green beans (hopefully you got steamables, SO much easier) drop some fresh spinach in a pan with some butter, couple dashes of lemon juice, salt and pepper and cook until the spinach just begins to wilt. (again, not too much. No one likes mushy spinach. Well, maybe Popeye.)

Once off the grill, slice the chicken in half longways and put the cheese and prosciutto in the middle. Lay the breasts on top of your freshly prepared spinach. While the cheese melts, slice some avocado, sprinkle with diced peppers (different colors for visual appeal) salt and pepper your green beans and you're ready to eat!

I've decided that since I can't get to the gym yet after foot surgery, I needed another way to lose some weight. I'm back on a low-carb diet and I'm going to do my best to stick with it. If I come up with some interesting ideas for a meal I'll post it here. I'm not big on recipes so I tend to just pair things together myself but I'll try to get some pics up of the meal after it's finished.

Are your characters truly diverse?

There's one thing that all author's should not overlook. The importance of diversity in their characters. Whether we intend it or not, many people look up to or despise the characters in our books based on their qualities and realism, even when that realism is quite obviously embellished. One thing that all authors should consider is, does your story involve enough character diversity? Look at the world around you. While you may find one "type"  of person or another within your social circles or even within the neighborhoods you live, look at the world around you  at all times. When you're writing scenes and interactions with characters, even those in the background, should be meaningful in a way that displays the real world. This becomes even more important when you're writing novels intended for younger audiences. What better way to open minds than to portray the world as it really is, diverse. People of all cultures, faiths, race, religions, philosophies, etc, live together. Make sure you consider that the next time you add a new character in your novel. Perhaps adding one from a culture you're not familiar with, may even add the spice to your writing you were looking for!

Young Writers

I'm considering a column for helping young writers. It would be a place for young writers to submit questions about the craft and possibly critique or encouragement to give them some helpful advice and guidance with their writing. I've taught Reading and Writing  for 13 years and love to help young minds bring new ideas to the world. Writing is NOT a dying art! If you have an interest in this project or think that it is something that would be helpful for you or someone you know, drop me a comment and feedback. I'd like to see how much interest there is in this.

Technology and Writing

One of the best things about being a writer today is all of the fascinating gadgets and tools that are out there to help shape your craft. A lot of people are stuck in the old paper and pencil trap and feel that is the only way to truly get any writing done. Since the advent of computers, it has transformed writing. For the first time, writers didn't have to worry about rewriting and carrying around hundreds of sheets of paper. Writers can now edit on the fly with word processors and move details around at will.

The most recent piece of technology that I have found to be useful is the iPad. I've read a lot of things about how horrible the iPad is for writing, but I beg to differ. For the past two years, I've worked mostly on the iPad to write my current project. It is especially useful for editing and revising. Rather than having to be stuck at a desk or table with your bulky laptop (assuming you haven't purchased an ultra-light laptop), you can sit comfortably in bed, on the couch, or even at the coffee shop and browse through your story, making necessary changes along the way.

It's most useful for those spur-of-the moment ideas that tend to hit you when you don't have your laptop with you. I'm notorious for popping up in bed in the middle of the night and wanting to make a quick change that I just thought of. The thought of opening my laptop and waiting for it to boot in the middle of the night is agonizing. With the iPad, I just pop it off the stand, make my change, and drop it right back in. Done! It truly has been a lifesaver for me and my writing.

The other complaint I hear is that people don't like to type on the iPad. I tell ya, I had a bit of trouble at first, but now I've gotten to where I can type on it pretty well and if typing on the screen is uncomfortable, there's always that nifty Bluetooth keyboard. There are so many tools on the iPad that I've found is helpful in organizing my thoughts, planning scenes, keeping track of plot points, and even throwing together some rough ideas for artwork. If you have any thoughts on the iPad or other technologies, please share! Perhaps you can inspire a writer to try some new tools!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

It has begun...

Ok, so I've started sending out queries to agents, which has been the most nerve wracking thing I've ever had to do. Here's where you start to doubt yourself and question why you started doing this in the first place, I mean it's only been ten years of my life I've devoted to developing the story for this thing and the reality is, even after all that work it could still suck and not go anywhere. Writing is a profession you do because you love it! If you write only with the expectation of being the next J.K. Rowling then you've missed the point. It takes a lot more than just a lot of hard work, it takes a lot of time, energy and dedication. Only then will you truly be a writer. I have a lot of people to thank for all they've done to provide encouragement throughout the development of this project. I hope to have a nice printed page with all their names on it when my book rolls off the press! Here's hoping!

Monday, June 27, 2011

This is the Worst Part

Ok, so my first novel is complete. I know, I can already hear some of you saying, "but you said that last year!" Well, I've learned a lot since then that I decided to put into practice before releasing it to the world. (I mean that completely figuratively since I still have a LOT of work to do to get an agent. The good news is that I'm already several chapters into the second book and I'm really excited where the story is headed. The process now begins for me to find an agent and build a fan base. I hope that my three or four fans that I have now will get the word out there if you know others that might be interested. I will keep you posted on my progress. The last few months have been rough, but I have high hopes that it will make it to the presses. Wish me luck and now that I'm back, look for new updates here!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

iPad 2 Adventure

Well, it's official, I am now the proud owner of Apple's newest electronic marvel, the iPad 2. Getting one was a bit of an ordeal, however, and the story deserves to be told.

First off, I know many of you are already shaking your heads about getting an iPad at all since I already had a first generation iPad, but hear me out. When I first bought my iPad last year I wrestled with the decision given that, at the time, I thought it was going to be nothing more than an expensive toy. I had a difficult time justifying spending that kind of money on something that I felt wouldn't be useful beyond a few nifty apps and reding the news. Once I got my iPad, however, I realized just how valuable it would be as a companion to my computer. I quickly learned how to do e edgy ing from my lesson plans to my grade book on Apple's magical device. It has now become as necessary a gadget as my cell phone (another device I was resistant to at first).

I was never an Apple FanBoy and would never have considered waiting in line for an Apple product (in fact I was probably one of those people making fun of those people in line). All that changed with the release of the iPad 2.

Now I know what you're thinking, what could possibly be better about the iPad 2. Well, the truth is, everything. There are many skeptics out there that are adamant that the iPad 2 is not worth the money if you already own an iPad, however, I disagree. The iPad 2 eliminates every complaint (perhaps gripe would be a more appropriate word) about the iPad 1. It is MUCH more comfortable to hold, the screen is clearer and brighter, easier to read outdoors, the responsiveness is impressive and the difference in speed is more than noticeable. I use this device daily in the classroom and having something that is significantly more comfortable to carry around is a plus. The magnetic case is top notch and a credit to Apple's ingenuity. So while I may not convince everyone how much I love the new iPad I can certainly entertain you with the story of finding one,

I set out to find the new iPad on Friday, release day, right after work. I anticipated a line so I left as soon as I could. When I arrived, the line was not only long, it went down a block and around the back of the building. I got in line and they began handing out tickets for guaranteed sales. They claimed that the tickets were half of their stock. Given that I was six people away from the last person with a ticket, I figured that I had a pretty good chance of getting one. I mean how many people were really going to buy two iPads? Needless to say, after waiting in line for nearly three hours and getting within six people of the doors of the store they announced, to me and the two hundred people still behind me, that they were sold out.

I left the Apple Store empty handed and a bit disheartened, but I knew this was a possibility so I took it with a grain of salt and figured that it just wasn't meant to be. I resolved myself to just living with the one that I had and getting a new one later on when they were more readily available. Yeah, right! I was obsessed! I couldn't just let this go, I called every store in the area to see if they had any in stock. Every Walmart, Target, Best Buy and Apple Store had all sold out. I made it through the weekend without too much disappointment and continued to check around on the off chance that someone may get one in. I figured that, since it was Spring Break and I had the time, I would stop in on Monday. The Apple store was bound to get another shipment in.

I showed up at the Apple store in Grapevine an hour before it opened. There was already a line. I kid you not, there were already ten people waiting for this damned thing. I wasn't really surprised and I waited in line anyway. The Apple store en lyre was very nice and gave us all Starbucks Double Shots to make our wait more comfortable. Once the store was open for sales they came out and announced that they had gotten FIVE iPads in their delivery. They were the white models, 32gig storage, WiFi only. My heart stopped and I actually got a little dizzy because that was the exact model I wanted. She spoke with the people in the front of the line to see if that is what they wanted, and it wasn't. HOME FREE!!! I thought. How lucky was I that I was not only going to actually get one, but I'd bet getting the exact model that I wanted as well. Hooray!!! Wait... What...

"I'm sorry," the woman says, "but we were mistaken, they aren't the WiFi only, they are the 3G and the gentlemen at the front want them."

Ok, now you're just being mean!

I left, a bit more disappointed and a LOT more disheartened. I couldn't believe I was THAT close only to be turned away, yet again. I left the store and once again called every store within driving distance. No one had any. I stopped in at the Best Buy in Grapevine, since it was right across the street at that point and figured I'd just stop in rather than calling. The Geek Squad member informed me that while they were sold out, they would take reservations for $100 down. I contemplated it for a moment thinking of many bad experiences with Best Buy, but I figured it was better than driving myself crazy. I put down the $100 and felt better knowing I would at least have a new iPad in a week or two.

I could have ordered it online, but I would have had to wait two weeks to a month any way and at least if something was wrong, Best Buy would be there to return it to. I went home and worked on my book for the rest of the afternoon. Out of curiosity I kept checking local retailers online to see if any stock showed up. Nothing. Around 2 in the afternoon I got on Best Buy's website on a whim. The iPad I wanted was in stock at the Best Buy in Grapevine. I called, just to see what they would say. An associate named Melissa answered and said they had none in stock. Within 2 minutes of hanging up the phone, I got a call back from Melissa that my iPad was in. I'd go into the amount of rejoicing I went through at that point, but I'll spare you the details.

Needless to say I was a very happy camper at that point, having left promptly to get to Best Buy before my luck ran out. They were the only store in the Metroplex to have gotten a shipment of the iPad I wanted. The whole ordeal makes me appreciate that I was able to get one when I did, I never expected to be able to find one. I thought I would have to wait a month before they were available again. My mom is also happy because she is the recipient of my old iPad, she and my niece will enjoy every second of it. In the mean time, for all of you who think I'm crazy for going through what I went through to get one, remember, there's something in your life you'll get just as excited about.