Friday, June 29, 2012


I love when an idea explodes in the back of my mind and the chill runs down my spine.  That's a sign I've had a really great idea.  Okay, great ideas a relatively, so I'll qualify that, a great idea for me, a thought I never had before.  Sometimes that means it's time to write a poem.

It depends on the idea.  Poems best express an image of something.  A man sitting on a couch.  Yellow dandelions in the lawn.  That sort of thing.  That's why imagery in poetry is so important.

Poems also express emotions through tone of voice and word choice.  Think, My Last Duchess by Robert Browning.  I have a poem like this.  I use the image of a smile to represent the hatred the speaker of the poem has for an old girlfriend.

And, of course, poetry can express ideas through metaphor -- a personal favorite; a love a good metaphor, preferably grilled and seasoned with garlic -- and simile.

When you mix all of these elements together -- stirring vigorously -- you can yield good poetry.

If this sounds hard to do, it is.  I've only got about twenty poems I really like or that I think are really good.  And I've got a lot more -- experiments in poetry I call them -- where the ideas don't mesh, the images to support what I've trying to say and the tone of voice is flat and non-expressive.

Of course, not all ideas and poems lend themselves to imagery.  But the tone of voice and the cadence of the line must be there or the poem doesn't work for me.  That's because poems are meant to be read aloud.  It makes a big difference.  I'm going back centuries with this when bards speaking Old English would entertain a large gatherings of people but reciting poems.  This is why a rhyme scheme was essential once upon a time.

Not so much any more.  Most of my better poems ignore rhyme.  It is less important for me, as the following sample illustrates.

The lone mountain peak
Resplendent with its snowcap
like a cotton knitted headpiece
stands majestic and firm across the eons of time.

A nearby brook
sparkling with the afternoon sunlight
like thousands stars at night
runs over the smooth round stones of the riverbed
its flow never-ending and unceasing.

I sit lonely and alone
in my empty house
listening to the clock
that lies upon the wall
ticking in the other room.

Nothing moves except the shadows on the wall.
Nothing stirs as dust descent upon it.

I cannot think of anything but you.
You fill the emptiness with noise and demands
You give me a reason to do and to be
Without you I cease to be
Paralyzed by the void you have left.

I scream to myself that this should not be so
Does the lone mountain or the brook
need anything to keep it company?
No, and neither should I.
But I do
For I am not a river or mountain.

I am a man.
A lonely man.
In love
with his
Keep writing, everyone.

Monday, June 25, 2012

A Thousand Words a Day

A blog on writing should have a post or two about this topic, something I've not done in awhile, I know.  Of course, I've been busy with other things.  Revision of Book 2 has slowed to a crawl but ironically, I'm writing more poems and short stories.  I don't really understand why.

Perhaps it has something to do with the passing of Ray Bradbury.  On news of this death I immediately cracked open my copy of the October Country, which is a collection of short stories.  I am re-reading them and thinking about them more than I did the first time I read them.  Perhaps this has got my mind thinking of things other than my novels.

Or perhaps the ideas have been lurking there and now that I'm going to be published I've given myself permission to open the floodgates and let the deluge sweep into the valley below and damn the consequences.

I don't know.  All I can say is I'm busier than ever working on all manner of things.  I completed my fifth tale of Marngol and I've created a print version of the first three.  The fourth tale is entered into a competition.  Once I hear back about it, I'll probably add tales 4 and 5 to the collection I started.  Meanwhile, I'm already looking for tale number 6.

At the same time, stories that have taken place in the world of my novels are presenting themselves.  I've already got three written.  The first is out on Smashwords; it's about the first dragon, Asbith and how she died.

The other completed stories are marinating.  The other ideas for stories are waiting but they don't wait quietly.  They rattle the gate to be let out and so I've been taking notes and writing as fast as I can.  Why just yesterday, I banged out Marngol tale #5 about 4000 words in an afternoon.  That wasn't easy and I wasn't even sure where the story was going until about halfway through.

No wonder I'm tried.  I need to rest my mind.  But that's not likely.  The goal, as Bradbury would say, is 1000 words a day.  No small feat.

Oh well.  Keep writing everyone.

Friday, June 22, 2012

The Game's the Thing

I've been taking a break what with the heat in the northeast and my dog passing.  But I thought I'd post this before my computer room gets too hot to use, despite the air conditioning.

My wife, Liz, was playing Bejeweled Blitz the other day on her phone.  And that got me thinking how far gaming has come.  Back when I was in school (high school) Atari Bong was the big thing.  Adventure gaming for desktop computers was just starting.  I played Zork and Enchanter and several other classic Infocom games.  Back then, gamers usually referred to someone who role-played, which usually earned to odd looks because of some bad PR Dungeons & Dragons acquired in the news media.

Now games are everywhere.  My last three or four phones have all had some game that came with it.  And games in mainstream software go back to Windows 3.1 and Solitaire.  The term gamer really means less than it did because just about anyone with a smartphone is likely to be playing games on it.

Personally, I think this is a good thing.  Gaming helps develop various skills, like problem-solving or hand-eye coordination, depending on the game.  It also provides much-needed stress relief.

Tip: If your game does induce stress, you are playing the wrong game.

Games are, and have been for centuries, a metaphor for life.  Chess is the classic example.  Game theory and how you go about solving a puzzle or play a game is very telling about your approach to life.  This is way we need more game playing and more games that teach good lessons or that subtly influence the player.  For example, playing SimCity can very quickly teach anyone to avoid deficient spending because once you over spend you're screwed.  You have to borrow or raise taxes and hope your Sims don't leave town making the problem worse.  That's a big mess.  Moral: don't spend more money than you can afford to part with, which is good advice in real life too.

And the best part about games is the ones with the simplest rules are usually the best.  This is something we need to carryover into software and other design activities.  Simple designs work best.  We tend to forget this because in the words of Mr. Scott, engineers "love to change things."  Change for it's own sake is not always best.

I'm done now.  Back to Castle Age, I think.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

She Will Be Missed

At 3AM or so this morning, my dog, Jules, died.  She was sleeping next me when she gave a scream.  I checked her immediately but it was too late.  She was gone.  We went to the animal hospital after bundling her in her blanket and they confirmed what we suspected.  She will be cremated and returned to us.  My sweet little baby dog.

Last November she had been bitten by a tick and contracted Lyme disease.  We tried to fight it and I thought we had gotten her stable.  Apparently I was wrong.  But if her kidneys did not fail then I suppose her had a heart attack.  Who knows?

My one comfort is that she did not suffer much and we were with her when it happened; one should not have to die alone.

I am told all dogs go to Heaven; I can only hope this is true.  Jules deserves no less.  And about the saddest thing I can think of is the death of a five and half pound little Chihuahua who wanted nothing but to be loved.

Yes, Jules will be missed.

We love you little girl.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Social media needs to be organic

I've been looking at my time management because suddenly I'm very busy.  As I prepare for my book launch -- which is months away -- I've been preparing my web site, a media kit, business card, a book trailer and other items I'll want or need.

As part of this, I've decided to write a many short stories as I can and put them in collections.  I've not done this before because short story writing is hard for me.  Ironic.  I can write a multi-book fantasy series, but short stories somehow elude me.

Well, not really.  Short stories need to be focused and to the point and I prefer a wide canvas, showing the way life is, pleasant or not.

As part of my time management review, I've concluded that social media as it is now, it a waste of time.  There is no way I can keep up and go to all the forums and sites I should and post something meaningful unless I give up a good portion of my writing.  And some sites seem completely pointless.  Foursquare comes to mind here.  After using it for a few weeks, I just don't see the point.

To be effective, social media needs to be more organic, like breathing.  I shouldn't have to think about it; if I blog it should automatically go to all the sites I want it to.  Currently that's not true because Blogger doesn't interfere with Tumblr and Tumblr doesn't talk to Blogger.  To get post on Goodreads, I had to set up a pull from the blog's RSS feed, when I would have preferred a push from here, the way Facebook and Twitter are set up.

So I'm going on a social media diet.  Perhaps when this thing is like a Frankenstein's monster and all the pieces fit better together I'll do more.  But right now I'm too busy writing and getting ready for the release of my first novel.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Assembling a Media Kit

One of the things you need to market your book, in addition to a web site and a book trailer, is a media kit.  The purpose of the kit is to help members of the media learn about your book so they can report on it, which helps you get the word out.  Unlike the web site and the book trailer that showcase your book, the media kit is more about you and what you are offering.

Since every writer and novel combination is different, the specifics of each media kit will be different, but here are a few highlights to ensure you've got the basics:

  • Press release announcing the book is coming.  Then a press release about the book launch and any events associated with the launch.  
  • Two paragraphs of your biography.  You may already have this because typical such things go in the back of your book.  The biography should include the things you've published, your educational background, what you are currently working on.  The idea here is to explain why you are the perfect person to have written your book.
  • Photos of yourself and the book.  The photos of you should be head shots.  Again, you may have this already, as a photo of the author is included in most books.  If at all possible have the photos of you taken by a professional photographer.  The candid photo of you at last year's barbecue belongs in the family album, not in your media kit.
  • Reviews of your work.  You'll want to collect all reviews of your work and put the best one in your media kit to show how great your book is.
  • Interviews.  You'll want to collect all interviews of you for the same reason.  If you've not been interviewed, come up with sample questions of your own and answer them.
  • A list of published work.  Include a brief summary of what every item is about, the ISBN, and the sales of each item.  You'll want to date this so you know how recent the sales figures are.
  • A summary of your book.  This will help give members of the press a sense of your book without having to slog through it.  They won't have time for that; they've got a deadline.  On the other hand, you might pick up a reader or two this way.
  • Target demographics.  You probably already know who you are writing for since this is one of the cardinal rules of writing: know your audience.  No?  You just sat down and began writing.  Me too.  But I had a general idea and I discovered a target demographic after I was done.  It was pointed out by several friends who read and reviewed the draft at the time.

There are other things you can include:
  • A business card or even several.
  • Any important URLs that might not be covered elsewhere.  For example, if your business card has the web address of your publisher and you, you might want to include the URL to the book trailer and your blog.
  • Other promotional material you might have.  For example, I like to make 4x6 postcards with the cover image on one side and the book's back cover text on the other.  It makes for a nice giveaway.
And that's it.  Hope this has been helpful.

Keep writing everyone.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Web site review: Tumblr

I should have known better than to think that after my last post I could put the topic of blogs and blogging behind me.  But no sooner had I posted the entry than I went to check out the site called Tumblr to see what it was all about.

In a word it is a blogging site.  But it's not like any blogging site I've ever seen.  You can post all kinds of content, links, text, images, video, audio, and chat are among them.  They all mix together into the blog, which is kinda nice.

You also get to follow your friends and their blogs merge into your blog, like the Facebook news feed.

But there is little support for integrating the site with other social sites.  If you're like me, then you want this, in fact, you need this so that you can single source posts and send them out into the world.  But Hootsuite, my social media management site, does not let me post to the Tumblr stream which defeats the purpose of using Hootsuite.

Tumblr lets me post to Facebook and Twitter and they provide code so I can add a put into my real blog; see the column on the right for an example.

But the lack of support isn't Tumblr's fault and I find that site kinda nice and easy to use.  It has got me thinking about blog content in new ways.  Perhaps I should include more images or the occasional video here.

Perhaps.  It is something to think about.

I suppose if I wasn't so heavily invested in Blogger, I would use Tumblr for my blog.  But as it is, I'm not sure Tumblr holds any value for me.  If the integration were better I think my opinion would be different.  So I think I'll wait and see if that aspect improves before abandoning Tumblr completely.

And this serves as a reminder that social media is very much a work in progress.  None of us know where it is going but like reality TV it seems to be here to stay.  The question is how do we use it?  And I don't know that even the so-called experts have that answer.  That's one reason I've begun to experiment to see how well it all works together and how far I can push it.

I hope you will welcome these experiments.  I'm sure to blog about them here.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Blogs and Blogging

I've been looking at social media again and my presence in that sphere of sites, trying to assess what changes I might make.  So far, I've been focused on blogs and blogging because I'm not sure I'm using it effectively or blogging correctly.

Supposedly there are no rules for blogging, but I don't think that's true.  You've got to have some to say and it has to be interesting and valuable to the reader.  After all, with a glut of content available why waste your time if the post says nothing.

As far as my blog goes, an analysis of which topics are popular shows that readers want posts on how to do things, and reviews on software and technology.  But that's not all I write about so respond to my posts is uneven at best.

I've also looked at the software I'm using: Blogger by Google.  I can't tell you exactly why I started using Blogger, except that it was free and I didn't do a very big search for free blogging sites.  Since that time, I've learned that WordPress appears to be more popular and perhaps more powerful.  I certainly see more support for WordPress at other sites like GoodReads and HootSuite.  Additionally, you can integrate WordPress into your web site so that it is seamless.  But WordPress also has bugs.  I've seen one that forced me to rollback to older versions of the application to get the desired plug-ins to work.  That's not good at all.

At the same time, Blogger has been overhauled recently by Google and provides some nice features.  I was able integrate the blog into my web site by tapping the blog's RSS feed and using a free RSS reader called Magpie to show that last five posts on the main page of the site.  I did this so that content of the home page was always changing without my doing extra work.

More recently, Blogger integrated usage stats into the data it provides me which I like and it now shows me the number of visits each post gets.  That's a really helpful to me so I can see which posts were popular and which ones weren't.

I also thought about moving my blog, but dismissed it because I don't need to take on that kind of work.  I've got over 200 posts now.  It would take a long time to move that I'm sure and I'd rather work on my novels.  Plus I'm not sure moving the blog is necessary.  Google seems to have decided to pay attention to Blogger so I'm hoping to see some cool new features in the future.  Additionally, Blogger is easily to use and for that reason better in my mind.  I don't worry about new software versions from WordPress or bugs in the code, or plug-ins that don't work.  I just show up and start typing each post as the mood hits.

But all that aside, does blogging work?  Is it necessary?  God knows, there are days I curse when I realize I need another blog post the next day.  And yet I continue to do it.  I ask myself why?

And I can't answer that question.  I have no idea if blogging is necessary for me.  Since I now push the posts out to Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, and LinkedIn, more people are seeing that I have something to say.  In that sense it keeps my name on their radar, which I assume will help me when I announce my novel is in print from my publisher.

But am I saying anything important or meaningful?  That depends on who is reading the blog.  I don't expect to change the world by blogging.  But I can pass on a few things that I know to others and capture a part of myself for posterity.  I think that's important.

In similar fashion, I don't expect to influence or change person's opinions by blogging.  I can inform them a little but they will form opinions about Blogger and WordPress, for example, based on more than a few words from me.  I expect anyone interested in either program to try it out first and see what each has to offer before committing to one or the other.

But ultimately, I think blogging has disappointed me.  I expected to attract a larger audience with my blog and I've got less than 100 people directed subscribed to it.  If not for Twitter and the other social sites, I think my blog would be a failure.  But I've got nearly 150 Twitter followers and that's growing faster than I would have believed.

The moral:  Blogging + Twitter appears to be a huge win.  We'll see if it is possible to tap that potential audience when the time comes.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Creating a Storyboard

I've been discussing the book trailer for Aure the Topaz with my publisher.  In order for them to understand what I have in mind, I decided to storyboard the movie in my head.  For those who don't know, a storyboard breaks down a movie into discrete bits letting you see how the movie goes together so you can make changes before you start.  Often it is done with pictures and some narrative.  In my case I use words to describe each scene because I can see exactly what I want.

To begin I created a three column table in Word.  The first column is for the description of the scene.  The middle column give the duration of the scene in seconds, and the third column describes the audio.

And that's it.  All you need to do now is add one row for each scene.  For example, the first row of my storyboard was this:

Fade in

The following words scroll up from the bottom of the screen:

The Aglaril Cycle by Rich Feitelberg

A new fantasy series published by Aziza Publishing

Fade out

10 seconds
Music fades in and text fades out

From there, I move the opening sequence of the trailer:

Fade in

The following words scroll up from the bottom of the screen:

Twenty-five years ago, invaders captured Andropolis, the capital of Thalacia, and ended the rule of King Leonard.

In the background, still scenes of an invasion, humans and elves using medieval armor and weapons and some magic clash.

Scene 1: The elves arrive sleek flying sailboats over the city.
Scene 2:  Elves fighting humans in the city.  Most humans flee or die.
Scene 3: The elves swarm around the royal palace.
Scene 4: The elves corner Leonard in a final stand.
20 seconds
Music; sounds of battle

I continue this process, describing each scene until I'm done and do the final fade out.

The publisher's response was positive.  I'm sure there'll be some adjustments along the way but once the trailer is made and posted, I'll be sure to post the URL here so you can see how the concept turned into the actual movie.

Keep writing, everyone!