"There is more treasure in books than in all the pirate's loot on Treasure Island." - Walt Disney

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Sneaked vs. Snuck

In this clip, actress Jennifer Garner tells Conan that snuck is not a word, and Conan proves her wrong. Gotta love his crazy laugh at the end. 

Actually, it's okay to use either sneaked or snuck as the past tense of sneak. Sneaked was there first (and is more formal), but snuck has been popular since the 19th century and now both are recognized as acceptable.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Hanged or Hung?

Hanged is used only when referring to the hanging of a person by the neck with the intention of killing him or her.
In all other cases, hung is the past tense of hang.

Correct: The murderer is going to be hanged at dawn.
Incorrect: The murderer is going to be hung at dawn.
Correct: We hung your picture on the wall.
Incorrect: We hanged your picture on the wall.
Correct: One should forgive one's enemies, but not before they are hanged.
Correct: We hung our swimsuits out to dry.

What about "Hung, drawn and quartered", then? Shouldn't it be "Hanged, drawn, and quartered"?
No, and this is why: "Hanged" is used when a person is hung by the neck with the intention of causing death. Being hung, drawn, and quartered is a rather different, very grisly, way to die: the person is not intended to die from the hanging but instead – slowly, painfully, and with a great deal of mess – by being slit open so that his guts spill out, and then chopped up into quarters.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Writer on Vacation

Enjoying the last few days of summer... Until next time, Happy Writing!

Friday, August 17, 2012

PubMatch—An Online Community for the Publishing Industry

by Samantha Gray

Along with everything else these days, the world of publishing has definitely evolved with the digital technology revolution. While many say that the ever-growing virtual age has hurt the industry, there are certain ways in which it has helped. Enter PubMatch.com.
This website has created an online, virtual hub for members of the publishing industry. Anyone from aspiring authors, illustrators, publishers and more can join and instantly connect with each other. In the past, someone would write and book and often wonder "what's next?" The whole process seemed foreign and possibly even somewhat daunting and overwhelming. But now, all they have to do is log onto PubMatch, create an account and upload their book to instantly connect with eager and interested publishers.
Bridging the geographical gaps between industry professionals, this site makes international networking a cinch. Literary agents and agencies greatly benefit from it because it instantly connects them to several up and coming authors that may be seeking representation. It will also help them maintain working relationships with various publishers.
Just like traditional social-networking sites, PubMatch offers members varying degrees of privacy. Users can make their profiles viewable, semi-secured or choose to remain completely invisible. Some might wonder the purpose of remaining "unseen" and "unsearchable" on a site like that, but it could actually make sense for authors, illustrators and photographers looking to build their portfolios and catalogs before "going public." The site offers members the opportunity to upload tons of data through CSV files, so if nothing else the site can be a working, back-up of their efforts.
However, for those seeking a more interactive experience, the site does offer several forums and discussion boards covering topics such as book marketing, writing techniques, illustrating experiences and more. The site also works closely with organizers of events such as BookExpo America, The London Book Fair and more, further exemplifying its commitment to bringing the publishing community together.
So, whether you're a veteran novelist with a few notable titles under your belt or a recent college grad with just an English degree to your name, joining PubMatch is an easy, proactive career move that can only help you in the long run. Speaking for myself as a freelance writer, I'm just jealous this site wasn't around when I first started my career years ago.
Samantha Gray is an expert in online education and a freelance writer. Pursuing an online bachelor's degree is often fraught with myths and misconceptions. Samantha shows her readers the way. She wants to hear your feedback and ideas, too, at samanthagray024@gmail.com.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Book Review: Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell

by Amanda Watson

I don’t often write book reviews, but I was so moved by the experience of reading this book that I couldn’t resist the opportunity to share my thoughts with fellow book lovers.
I spend most of my time running my own small business, an enterprise that I’m very proud of but one that doesn’t allow for much solitude nor moments of introspection. I don’t read as often as I used to, so I have to choose my books carefully. A friend of mine lent me David Mitchell’s epic novel Cloud Atlas a few weeks ago with the endorsement that it was one of the best books they’d ever read, so I knew it was worth a shot.
I was ever so glad that I read that novel, and I highly recommend that you do the same.
Cloud Atlas is a complex novel that spans hundreds (if not thousands) of years. The book is divided up into 6 different storylines, with each relating to the other in the slightest of ways that are so profound and subtle that at times you wonder how such a story could be written. Or at least that’s how I felt.
The six storylines in brief: The first involves a man traveling on a ship to exotic locales on his way home to California in the mid 1800’s. The second story is about a young music savant who travels to study under a classic music master because he wants to be the world’s next composer. The third story is an action-packed tale about a reporter in the 1970’s who uncovers a threat at a nuclear reactor in the style of the movie The China Syndrome. Next is a story about a washed up aging publisher who acquires a bestselling novel.
Then we get to the last two stories, each of which are set in a dismal future. The first centers on a clone that is slowly made to realize her unique place in a world of rampant excess and corruption. The second story, and centerpiece of the book, is a story about the world long after an apocalypse, where human civilization is reduced to the Stone Age. The first five stories are cut in half, with the first half of their narrative told before the sixth story and the second half told after it. All the stories have characters that have traits and similarities to characters told in past and future tales.
Why it’s so amazing: Before I even started Cloud Atlas I knew that it involved six interweaving storylines, including some futuristic ones, but that’s all I knew about it. I had no idea that I’d be reading one of the few books that I’d really consider epic for so many reasons.
The scope of Cloud Atlas is about as ambitious as you can get: six different stories told in completely different styles about six completely different people and societies. Yet all the stories speak to the strength of a person’s resolve when faced with adversity and hardship. It’s a book that makes you want to believe that we live a multitude of lives that stretch across the very fabric of time. I felt myself transported to other worlds in a way I’d never felt before while reading other novels. In short, it’s a magical book. Read it!
The impending movie adaptation: I should also mention that Cloud Atlas has been made into a major feature film that’s set to debut sometime in October of this year. It has a huge cast of well-known actors, and it’s being directed by the people behind The Matrix movies. Check out the long preview here if you want an idea of what the book/movie will be about.
Amanda Watson is a freelancer blogger who writes about online mba programs and other topics pertaining to online higher education. You can reach Amanda at watsonamanda.48@gmail.com.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

10 Places You Can Drink Like Your Favorite Writer

Many of the great novelists and poets of history have enjoyed a cocktail (or six). From Dickens to Hemingway (well, especially Hemingway), many literary geniuses have had a regular bar where they could drink, hold court, drink, ponder the meaning of life and drink some more. Some of the bars where these famous minds congregated have become minor tourist attractions where lovers of literature can gather, share a pint and try to soak up some of the glamour and wisdom of the past. Here are some famous bars where you can get close to the legend of your favorite writer:

1. The Eagle and Child – Oxford, England

This unassuming pub on the outskirts of Oxford University was host to what was probably the most epic writer’s group of all time. The self-proclaimed Inklings were a group of professors who would meet up weekly to have a drink and compare manuscripts. Among their ranks were CS Lewis, author of the Chronicles of Narnia and JRR Tolkien, creator of The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings. The Inklings were known to hole up in a back room, now referred to as the Rabbit Room. You can still grab a table in the back and marvel over the photos, drawings and other mementos of these famous fantasy writers.

2. Vesuvio Cafe – San Francisco, California

If you find yourself in San Francisco throw on your black turtleneck, dark sunglasses and grab your beat up copy of On the Road. Just off of Jack Kerouac Alleyway, the Vesuvio Cafe once played host to many of the hip irreverent writers of the Beat Generation. Neal Cassady, Allen Ginsburg and, of course, Kerouac himself often frequented this dive bar just across the street from the famous City Lights bookstore. There’s a famous story of Kerouac holing up in the bar, getting incredibly wasted and missing an important meeting with Henry Miller. Nowadays the bar has become a quirky tourist attraction, catering specifically to book-lovers who want to soak up this era of San Francisco history.

3. White Horse Tavern – New York, New York

Across the country in New York City, the Beats and Bohemians of the 50′s and 60′s flocked to the White Horse Tavern in Greenwich Village. Musical geniuses like Bob Dylan and Jim Morrison drank alongside literary minds like Norman Mailer, James Baldwin and Hunter S. Thompson. Jack Kerouac was thrown out on numerous occasions. Dylan Thomas’ portrait hangs over the bar, maybe to remind patrons to drink in moderation. In 1953 Thomas drank 18 whiskies, went home and promptly died 3 days later.

4. Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese – London, England

The Cheshire Cheese pub has been around for a really long time. It’s been serving up pints since The Great Fire of 1666. It’s literary history is equally long; Charles Dickens was a frequent visitor and even mentions the pub in A Tale of Two Cities. Over the years Mark Twain, Alfred Tennyson, Arthur Conan Doyle and Dr. Samuel Johnson are all reported to have been regulars. In the twentieth century WB Yeats and Ernest Rhys spear-headed The Rhymers Club which met here often. Inside, the pub is gloomy and dark, befitting it’s Dickensian image. Spaces are cramped and the tall should be prepared to stoop. It’s not without charm though: in the winter a roaring fire keeps patrons warm. Be sure to check out the subterranean vaults which date back to the 13th century.

5. Long Bar at Raffles – Singapore

The ritziest and most well-known bar in Singapore, famous for inventing the Singapore Sling, was also a favorite of colonial era writers from the founding. Rudyard Kipling stayed in the hotel when it was first built, in 1887. He enjoyed the bar but thought the rooms were a dump. It must not have been too bad because the celebrities kept coming: Herman Hesse, William Golding and and Joseph Conrad all spent time here.
The bar itself is elegant and old-fashioned. Despite the upscale interior boxes of peanuts top every table- and it’s totally expected to throw the shells on the floor. Somerset Maugham (author of Of Human Bondage) proclaimed that “Raffles stands for all the fables of the exotic east.”

6. El Floridita – Havana, Cuba

Hemingway has probably given more bars notoriety than any other author- the man loved to both travel and drink. El Floridita, Hemingway’s regular hangout during his time in Cuba, may be the most famous of his haunts. Even when he moved out to the suburbs, Hemingway would still drive into town to drink here. He wasn’t the only fan either: Ezra Pound and Graham Greene were also patrons. At El Floridita you can literally drink with Hemingway- there is a life size bronze figure of him at the bar. Be sure to check out the chummy photo of Hemingway and Castro up on the wall.

7. The Spaniards Inn – London, England

Looking for a little romance? The Spaniards Inn, in northern London right beside Hampstead Heath Park, was a favorite of the Romantic poets – particularly Lord Byron, Pierce Shelley and John Keats. According  to Inn legend, Keats actually wrote Ode to a Nightingale in the garden. The pub itself is probably the oldest on the list – it’s been a well known haunt since 1585. The peculiar shape of the inn and related guardhouse creates a perpetual traffic jam in the area.

8. Harry’s Bar – Venice, Italy

Once a refuge from fascism, Ernest Hemingway was a regular here (of course), but other customers included Truman Capote, Noel Coward and Orson Welles. Even today it is often visited by the cultural elite. Harry’s is known for inventing not only the Bellini (sparkling wine and peach) but beef carpaccio (raw beef). Be warned that the bar is known for being overpriced and touristy; when you dine here, you’re dining solely on history.

9. Davy Byrnes – Dublin, Ireland

In 1922 the Davy Byrnes pub was immortalized in James Joyce’s masterpiece Ulysses. Now once a year on Bloomsday, the novel’s devoted fans stop by for a cheese sandwich and glass of wine, just like their literary hero Leopold Bloom. James Joyce was a regular here himself, a fan of its excellent pub food and seafood. The bar is bright, modern and curvy, and is still quite popular with locals.


10. The Algonquin Hotel – New York, New York

The Algonquin Round Table was another famous literary group, which included playwrights, poets and actors including Dorothy Parker, George S. Kaufman and Harpo Marx. The group lunched daily at the Algonquin Hotel in Midtown Manhattan, and played cards there on Saturday nights. During the 1920′s they were one of New York’s coolest clubs, leading them to be dubbed “The Vicious Circle.” Today the hotel is a subsidiary of the Marriott, but it still maintains some of the glamor and tradition of the old days. The Round Table restaurant still contains the eponymous “round table” and murals of the glamorous former patrons.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Plotting for Pantsers

If you are like me, you probably start your stories with a general idea, emotion, or scene in mind and then go until you run out of steam. While the pantser method can free up your creativity and make for some truly authentic scenes, it can also cause sagging middles and weak endings.
Some of you believe plotting stifles creativity, but often end up with the same problems. Go ahead; give yourself permission to be a pantser. Get your ideas, scenes and thoughts out. Then, when you hit a wall or find your finished piece lacking, try the following exercise.
1)      Create a Plot Board – Buy a folding “science board” from your local office supply store. (If you don’t have access to one, you can use a sheet of poster board or  notebook paper.) Divide the board into four rows and then five columns – giving you a total of 20 squares. If you are using notebook paper instead of poster, try using @ 20 pages and hanging them up somewhere you can see all of the pages at once. If you are writing a 100,000 word manuscript, each square will represent an approximately 20 page chapter. (If you are writing a novella, simply eliminate a row. If you are writing a short story, you might eliminate two or three rows.) This exercise can also work for screenwriters.
2)      Label Your Plot Board - In the upper left corner of each square, label them in the following way: First square will be labeled inciting incident or catalyst. At the end of the first row (the fifth square) label 1st turning point. At the end of the second row (the tenth square) label 2nd turning point and at the end of the third row (the fifteenth square) label 3rd turning point. In the last row (19th square) you will write Black Moment and the very last square will be the Resolution. You may need to shift these by a chapter or so depending on the length of your manuscript (see step #1).
3)      Sticky Notes – I use the mini ones and you need about six different colors. I use pink for my heroine, blue for the hero, purple for female secondary characters, orange for male secondary characters, yellow for plot points and green for romantic points.
4)      Completing Your Plot Board – You can jot down bits of description, dialogue, scene directions, scene purposes, turning points, new discoveries or any other ideas on the sticky notes. Using a different color for each person is important (see #3) so that when you are finished, you can look at the entire plot board at once to see where you might have holes. For instance, what if there are no blue sticky notes for several squares? What if there is a plot turning point, but not a romantic turning point? One glance at the board lets you identify these weaknesses.
   Note: Just as some authors remove the number of squares, (see #1) some authors add squares for additional chapters or even for each scene within a chapter. 
Have you ever tried something like these story boards? Did it help?