Monday, June 23, 2014

My Upcoming Book "Queen of the Chess Cult"

My upcoming collection of short stories called "Queen of the Chess Cult and Other Stories" should be ready in a month or two. Here is a listing of the stories with a short summary. I'm still finalizing some of the titles. I could add or subtract one or two stories but this is the likely lineup for the book. No knowledge of the game of chess is needed. The stories are literary with aspects of other genres such as detective, science fiction, horror.

  • Introduction
    My ideas on the art of short story writing.
  • Queen of the Chess Cult
    The search for a beautiful queen who presides over a cult with a holy book listing the moves of the perfect chess game.
  • A Bowl of Stew
    A man and woman count down the progress of their dishes as the chef cooks them.
  • Klooster
    A sunny day at a lake house reclining in beach chairs with chess, sandwiches, beer, and a pretty girl.
  • Pawn Storm
    Falling from the sky are snowflakes like chess pieces.
  • The Chess Plague
    A plague devastates a town and especially its chess players.
  • The Old Player's Estate
    A chess player from the 1970s dies and his house and belongings are examined.
  • The Prisoner's Tale
    Terrorists capture a prisoner who explains his life story to his cellmate using chess pieces instead of words.
  • City of Chess Clubs
    A town with hundreds of distinctive chess clubs unlike anywhere else.
  • A Dimly-Lighted Cafe
    An old man waits vainly for chess opponents at a cafe.
  • The Man Who Gave Up
    A man gives up chess but is continually reminded of it.
  • The Screaming Cry of the Chessbird
    A giant bird terrorizes a metropolis.
  • The Unwrapping
    Friends unwrap gifts at a Christmas dinner.
  • The Infinite Chessboard
    This world is a chessboard whose squares change in size, number, and color.
  • Afterward
    My notes on the stories, their inspiration and so forth.

You Might Also Like:

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Writers Don't Need a Quiet Place to Write

Famous authors counsel aspiring writers to "find a quiet place to write."

I've been searching for this proverbial quiet place my entire adult life and haven't found it. That's why I stopped looking for it.

Most people, like myself, live in big cities, and therefore so do most writers. Noise is a common feature of modern city living. Many people live in apartments and condos. People live in close proximity to others. Noise is a common feature no matter where you go.

Who has an isolated log cabin in Vermont 50 miles from your nearest neighbor? Who has a soundproof room? Or an anechoic chamber? Very few.

Noisy surroundings are the daily reality of the modern city dweller and writers must adapt or simply stop writing except when you find that elusive quiet you "need" to write "your best."

The lack of a quiet place can be just an excuse not to write. You need to wait until you enter that rare environment where you have a bit of silence, otherwise you just can't write.

How can you be a writer if you only write when it's quiet? Writing while it's noisy allows you more time, more places, and more opportunities to keep writing. You aren't confined just to your "quiet den" at home, if you are one of the few who can claim to possess such a thing.

How much more writing can you accomplish if you wordsmith in a public place like a cafe, on public transportation, in a noisy apartment building or business office?

Every morning I write at various cafes around the DC areas, usually Starbucks. These cafes are always busy and people usually sit at the tables right next to me and converse with each other, yak on their cellphones, play music and whatnot. Yet I do most of my best writing right there in the midst of the noisy chaos. Most of the time I couldn't tell you what the people around me have said. That's the difference between listening and hearing. I hear all of it but listen to nothing but the words in my head.

I don't "wait" for quiet because, like Godot, it never arrives. I don't need quiet, and my advice to any writer today is you need to train yourself to write under noisy conditions because otherwise you won't write nearly as much if you wait for silence.

I've become immune to noise around me. It doesn't affect the words I put on the page. You create a "zone" for yourself despite the outside distractions. The point is to not be distracted by any type of noise. Anyone can do this. It takes the acceptance that the noise isn't going away and you need to spend time writing, and that means writing often while you are inundated with noise.

Train yourself not to be distracted or defeated by noise. Remain victorious over it. Write your best while people are shouting all around you.

You Might Also Like:

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Top 10 Places for the Obama Presidential Library

Where should Barack H. Obama's Presidential Library reside? News reports list several places that would like to have it. I thought it would be useful to compile a list of the locations that make the most sense.
  • 10. Detroit, Michigan
    The most liberal city in the country, so it would be an ideological match for Obama. Detroit is a burned-out shell of what it once was, a testament to its unending psychological commitment to liberal policies no matter what price is to be paid. But its proximity to Chicago hurts its chances greatly.
  • 9. Trier, Germany
    There is no reason the library couldn't be located in a foreign country. Trier is the birthplace of Karl Marx. What better place for the books and papers of the president most closely associated with socialism? And Obama is more popular in Germany than in any other country on the face of the earth.
  • 8. Mecca, Saudi Arabia
    If Obama is a Muslim as some suspect, this city would appeal on religious grounds. Despite the observations of many that Obama doesn't seem to be particularly faithful in either a Christian or Muslim sense. Some books you would expect in the library probably would be banned but then, so what.
  • 7. Jakarta, Indonesia
    Obama attended school here as a kid. His popularity in this country is still favorable despite everything, and he's family to them since he has an Indonesian stepfather.
  • 6. Nairobi, Kenya
    This is the birthplace of Obama's father. Michelle once called it president Obama's "home country." A slip of the tongue? If they want to go back to their roots, and get away from the USA, what better place than Kenya.
  • 5. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
    If zeal among voters means anything in the battle for the library, Philadelphia has the inside track. In the 2012 presidential election, Mitt Romney garnered not one single solitary vote from 59 Philadelphia voting districts! Sure, there must have been some fraud, but then, fraud has a definite appeal to Obama and his Chicago coterie.
  • 4. New York City
    New York makes a lot of sense. Manhattan appeals to Michelle's sense of spending her life behaving as a "lottery winner" as we've seen since the 2008 election. She can rack up a lot of bills in New York while presiding over library events. It's suitably liberal in an extreme way. Not many conservatives to worry about so she and Barack would be among their socialist friends everywhere they go. It also means plenty of media attention whenever she wants it, and she'll want plenty of it.
  • 3. Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts
    The Obama family has spent numerous vacations on this island retreat. Golfing, basketball, the social scene, dining out. It's a great place for a family that seems to be on permanent vacation, so why not build a library here as an excuse to never leave?
  • 2. Honolulu, Hawaii
    Obama was raised here as a teenager. But the real reason Hawaii is a front runner is because Michelle Obama would love to spend time here. She stayed in Hawaii for an extended Christmas vacation while Barack went back to Washington. It's expensive, remote, luxurious and not cheap. Those things appeal to the First Lady and may well trump all other considerations.
  • 1. Chicago
    Most cite this city because of Obama's history here. Chicago is where he held his first elected office. But that's not why this is the best spot for the library. Chicago leads the entire country as the city with the most golf courses: 347. And Obama has shown a stronger interest in golf than in anything else in this world. Welcome to Chicago, ex-president Obama.


You Might Also Like:

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Top 10 Things Never Say to a Bird

  • 10. What lovely plumage. You come here often?
  • 9. It's not you, you're fine. It's your friends.
  • 8. Can you not do that when I'm under you?
  • 7. Do you want a bread crumb or can you do without?
  • 6. The shower curtain at the bird bath is broken.
  • 5. I have a nice comfy bird cage in my house. Wanna try?
  • 4. Didn't I see you in the shopping mall the other day?
  • 3. I'm an ornithologist and I'd like you to take part in my study.
  • 2. Want to say hi to kitty?
  • 1. Don't you know any other songs?


You Might Also Like:

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Bestseller Or Literary Mode As a Writer?

Do readers and buyers of bestselling books want literary prose? Or do they prefer fast-paced writing without the frills and the deep thoughts?

Do readers expect good writing inside bestselling books? In most cases, I don't. There are some on the bestseller lists who are superior writers. But I would say most aren't.

A writer makes a choice. You write one way or the other. You Write with a different mindset when writing a bestseller as opposed to a work of literature. Combining the two is what passes through most writers' minds. You want both! High quality and high sales!

Great books have been bestsellers. But when I look at the top of the bestseller lists I don't see many that likely will stand the test of time. They will sell a lot of copies soon after publication but eventually will be all but forgotten.

Genre fiction demands that you write in a bestselling mode rather than literary mode, doesn't it? It seems literary prose can work against the necessities of a genre story. Or is it simply that not many writers have the skill or desire to pull it off? Most writers would rather sell a lot of books rather than great writers if that were the choice, wouldn't they? Most fiction that is published was written with the intent of selling a lot of copies, not being great writing and damn the sales.

But that's how most writers acquire an agent and a book deal. The potential for sales.

Do writers consciously make a decision in their minds, while they write, to go for lower-quality prose in the interests of potential sales? Isn't there a sense that if you write too well you are subverting genre fiction and your chances of sales decrease?

Some great writers became famous and therefore their books sell well. Writers like John Updike, John Irving, Vladimir Nabokov. Their fame translates to increased sales, despite their literary intentions.

Is it a good idea to start with bestselling manuscripts, go for genre fiction, and then later write literary fiction, if desired, when you've already built an audience? Is it harder to develop and audience if you start with literary prose as opposed to bestselling prose?

Some writers no doubt could never help themselves and always wanted a career as a literary author. They started that way because that was always their interest. Can someone move from bestseller mode, become famous, and then switch to literary mode? Who has done that? Don't all great writers start out writing literary fiction?

Imagine if Robert Ludlum had suddenly stopped writing thrillers and published literary fiction. Wouldn't that be odd? The sales of famous authors are ties to the type of fiction they produce. If they stop and switch to something else, most of their audience would leave them, wouldn't they?

Could it be I'm unfair to bestsellers? Are they written on a higher level than I think? Should I have a higher opinion of the literary quality of the top sellers in mysteries, thrillers, romances, science fiction? To me, the quality doesn't measure up to the likes of Bellow, Faulkner, Fitzgerald, Cheever and all the gang.

Bestselling authors aren't trying to be literary. It's all about intent. It's all about the choice you make as an author. Bestseller or litterateur?


You Might Also Like:

Monday, March 24, 2014

Malaysia Flight MH370: Indian Ocean Fate

It was announced today by the Malaysian Prime Minister that the Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370 went down in the south Indian Ocean, far from any possible landing site, and all aboard are presumed dead.

The fate of the plane is based on Inmarsat satellite data. The plane is believed to have gone down about 1,500 miles southwest of Perth, Australia.

What the plane was doing in that remote place and why has not yet been discovered. Either it was taken there deliberately by one or both of the pilots or the aircraft flew on autopilot until it ran out of fuel.

I speculated last week that the pilot Zaharie Shah deliberately flew the plane to a remote location as a result of his own emotional trauma. There is still no compelling reason to believe the pilot wasn't responsible for the crash.

Retrieving the plane's black box is considered crucial to discovering the true story of the plane's fate. The US Pacific Command is sending a black box locator to the south Indian Ocean in case a debris field is located.


You Might Also Like:

Friday, March 21, 2014

Top 10 Things Never Say to an Artist

  • 10. I have one just like that at home!
  • 9. You follow that popular YouTube video just like everybody else!
  • 8. It's like Norman Rockwell through the eyes of a child
  • 7. This painting explains to me why artists starve
  • 6. I've got that paint-by-the-numbers book, too
  • 5. Did you run out of paint, or what?
  • 4. I'll buy it but I really only want that magnificent frame!
  • 3. Do you have anything with zombies?
  • 2. My 6-year-old paints too and hers look just like yours!
  • 1. Isn't that upside down?

You Might Also Like: