Desk Duty

This article in the New York Times about a teacher in Minneapolis, Abby Brown, who designed desks that permit her students to stand or sit as the spirit moves them put me in mind of my own recent quest for the perfect work station.

Not long ago, I complained to a friend of mine who happens to know a few things about spinal alignment that since I’d started doing so much writing, my back hurt. She asked to take a look at my work set up. I showed her. She laughed. Apparently, a down-at-the-heels recliner that lists to one side, a Continue reading

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Coraline: A Very Short Review

This does have a tenuous comics connection, via novel author Neil Gaiman, but I read the book when it first came out and then lent it to a friend, so I went to the movies today with only a dim memory of what the story is about.  180px-coraline_preview_shotWow, has 3-D technology come of age!  The entire film is dazzlingly, beautifully done, leaping to vivid life.  Mr. Bobinsky and his jumping mice alone are worth the admission.

The film is great, but the story fully bears its own weight.  All the depth and nuance in the story itself springs from the novel — the weird Freudian nuances of mother-daughter conflict, the spidery quality of the Other Mother, the creepiness of black buttons.  The book stands in the long, long chain of British children’s books, in which the kids fall through rabbit holes or open wardrobe doors or discover mysterious castles behind local hedgerows.  As a result it feels familiar and yet very new.  Delightful all the way around — see it while it’s still in 3-D if you can!

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Road Trip Blog Bytes

Posting from the Potlatch hotel and the world’s crankiest wireless connection.

mtshasta-ss850870Mt. Shasta deserves a better picture than this.*

Rain and mist settled on a bank beside the highway and the sun came out just enough to create a rainbow that flowed down the slope onto the road and followed us for a hundred yards. Continue reading

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Twitter: the Google of Social Media

Remember AltaVista or Excite? Have you seen the Northern Lights? Do you ever consult Jeeves? Do you Yahoo? Probably not. 

I don’t remember where I was when Kennedy or Lennon were shot. I don’t remember my first kiss. I never remembered my wedding anniversary back in the day when I had a wedding anniversary once a year. I never remember anything important, but I do remember coming across Google the first time.

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Feedback Saturday

First off I’d like to thank everybody for their comments last weekend.

It’s been an exciting week at Book View Cafe.  We have started selling our “premium titles, (and have acutally sold some, go us!)”  So while we’re interested in all comments relating to how we can make our site better, or what you wish for in an online fiction site, this week I’d like to ask specifically about content.

If you’ve bought one of our premium titles, was it easy to purchase and to read? Are you enjoying it?  Here’s the place to give us a review.

Do you have a favorite BVC title or author?  Is there anything you’d like to see more of?  Anything you’d like to hear about future plans for available titles from our authors?

The floor is yours.  And thanks in advance.

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A Fantasy-writing Workshop

About six years ago, I would have said you couldn’t teach anyone to write, in the creative sense.  Then chance landed me with the second-year Creative Writing subject in my University’s then English department. After teaching that twice, and once adding the 3rd year follow-up- alas, axed almost immediately  – I’ve changed my take to, you can teach anyone with some aptitude how to write better.  And, further, you can show people how to become both capable of and comfortable with putting their own words on paper, even if they have almost no aptitude  and/or have never tried to do it before. Continue reading

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EVERGREEN: On Becoming a Professional Amateur # 15: Characters, Their Care and Feeding

In every work of fiction, characters assume different levels of importance. There are vital, primary characters (the protagonist, the antagonist), secondary characters (companions, love interests, foils), and (to use film terminology) bit players, walk-ons, and extras.

One way we signal the reader about a character’s relative importance is by whether or not we give them names. The professor is less important in the reader’s mind than Professor Denning and Professor Denning is less important than Professor Joseph Denning or Joe.

I’ve read several manuscripts lately in which the writer gave a minor character a name and detailed back story only to kill them off half-a-page after introducing them. When I ask why I’m often told, “I wanted him to be memorable.”

As writers we want to make all of our characters memorable, but when we flesh a character out by naming him and telling the reader his life story, we’re asking the reader to invest emotional energy in the character that is wasted if he immediately buys a ticket to the hereafter. As readers when we’re given details about a character’s personality and being we expect that knowledge to play into the story. When that expectation is thwarted, it causes us to disengage a bit.

How can you make a character memorable without overemphasizing their importance?

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The Tragedy of Travis the Chimp

Travis the chimpanzee, late of Stamford, Connecticut, is all over the news this week due to the shocking attack on his owner Sandra Herold’s friend Charla Nash, who is currently fighting for her life.  MSNBC has an excellent in-depth report on the incident.

Pete Wedderburn of the Telegraph UK asks “What part of wild do the owners not understand?”

TravisthechimpI honestly don’t know why people who keep wild animals as pets think that it’s safe, or what rationalizations they give themselves to justify that such arrangements are  appropriate.

Travis, by all accounts, was raised as a human child by Sandra Herold, whose own story is very sad.  Sandra lost her husband in 2004 and her daughter also died in an auto crash, so she was alone — except for Travis.

Sandra ate meals with Travis, watched television with him, and even shared aperitifs with him in stemmed glasses.  Before Travis attacked her friend, he had been out of sorts — apparently he even had a human disease:  Lyme Disease. Continue reading

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