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:

OH MY GOD IT'S THE END OF THE BOOK INDUSTRY AS WE KNOW IT!!!!


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.

"NOT MY DAUGHTER, YOU BITCH!!!"

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

formspring.me

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

Butterbeer

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...