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Blog Archives

How Not to Start Your Novel, Part 1

December 20, 2018
This is the first in a series of posts about how not to start your novel. One of the most common questions I see from new writers is how to start. I can't necessarily tell you how to start your novel, but I can tell you how not to, particularly if you want to find an agent or a publisher. I follow a couple of thousand people on Twitter, largely other authors, many of whom are self-published. The self-published people love to hawk their books, and I like to go to Amazon to “Look Inside,” which I do mainly out of curiosity. It interests me ...

Still Life with Fruit

December 20, 2018
Still Life with Fruit Oil on Canvas 50 x 60 cm 2008 Locaton: Procida, Italy   I did two like this, where I tried to ride the border between abstract and imagery. Back to Gallery                     Still Life with Fruit Oil on Canvas, 50 x 60 cm 2008 Location: Procida, Italy

Math III

December 19, 2018
Math III Oil on Canvas, 100 x 80 cm, 2008 Location: Procida, Italy I've always loved mathematics, and thought that the symbols made a wonderful abstract painting. This one hangs in my office here on Procida where I can look at it every day. Back to Gallery

Painting: Women with Too Much Time on Their Hands

December 19, 2018
  Women with Too Much Time on Their Hands Oil on Cavas, 50 x 60 cm, 2009 One of my favorite paintings. I often have trouble naming a painting, particularly one like this that lacks any imagery. But it reminded me of a group of women sitting around a table knitting, or something, and chewing the fat. Location: Prodia, Italy Back to Gallery

Printed Woman Deleted Scene

December 19, 2018
Every author has heard that the story usually starts with the second chapter, and they are advised to delete the first chapter. I did that with Printed Woman. Here is the original Chapter One.   “Assume everything is a lie.” The professor pointed to the hologram displaying an outline of the history of philosophy for the past five thousand years. The black robe of an instructor billowed as he moved. “That was the view of the thinkers of the third millennium. But what’s wrong with that notion?” None of the forty students moved. He ...

Reclining Nude with Star

December 16, 2018
  Reclining Nude with Star Oil and Venetian Turpentine on Canvas 100 x 100 cm 2009 Location: Venice, Italy This is one of my favorite works, but when we left Venice it had to stay behind. It hung in my office for several years, and is the background for my profile picture on this site. Venetian turpentine is very thick, and takes months to drip down until it finally stops. You can paint over it, but the the paint cracks as the glob slides down the canvas, giving an interesting effect. It may also entrain other paint it moves ...

Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley: an Examination

November 12, 2018
  Note: I have not read any reviews or analyses of this book, so all the observations contained herein are mine. To the extent they contradict others, I don’t care. To the extent they jibe with others, it is coincidence.   This, believe it or not, is the first time I’ve read this book. I had a rough idea what it was about, but it turned out to be vastly different than I expected. One thing that struck me was how silly a lot of it is. It’s a parody, really. The silliest thing was the use of “Ford” in place of “Lord,” with the symbol of ...

Edit to Avoid Bad Reviews

May 23, 2018
I read a book review today from a site that reviews books for self-published authors for a fee, the lowest of which is $97. For this fee, the author got a one star (out of four) review for his book. Why? Because the book, although it may have a decent story, was riddled with typos, word usage, grammatical, and punctuation errors. This author is what’s wrong with self-publishing, and why it has a well-deserved bad reputation.* Why would anyone publish such a book? Maybe out of ignorance, or out of arrogance, or maybe out of lack of funds to ...

Writing a Novel is Like Playing Chess

May 22, 2018
  I’ve been working on my chess game lately, and realized that playing chess bears a lot of similarities to writing a novel. Structure. Chess is very structured. Like a story, it is divided into three acts. There is a beginning (opening), middle game, and endgame. Strict rules govern movement of the pieces. Although are no rules as to how long a game can go (outside of the fifty move rule), it is rare to see a game of more than fifty moves, and most games last around thirty moves. Planning. In both playing chess and story writing, it’s ...

On Writing Science Fiction: What Would Aliens Look Like?

March 20, 2018
Traveling around the universe, if it is to be any fun, requires there to be aliens. The big question for science fiction writers is: What will they look like? In my view, they would look a lot like we do, for the same reason we look like we do. By aliens I mean creatures capable of developing societies, technology, and language, much the way we have. I don’t doubt that there microbial forms of life, or even more advanced creatures on other planets. That’s one thing. The real fun in science fiction, however, starts when there are aliens with ...

"The Hunger Games": Review and Analysis

February 26, 2018
  I know I’m late to the game on this one, but I decided to read it, and it warrants a review and analysis. This post is kind of long, but if you’re interested in learning something about writing from a famous book, hang in there. My main purpose is to critique the book from the standpoint of a writer. As a reader, the book was moderately entertaining, fast-paced, and had everything a reader would want, particularly teenage girls, to whom the thing is geared. From that standpoint, it’s easy to see why it was popular. As a writer, however, ...

Kindle Paperwhite Browser Issue

February 25, 2018
Here's an update on my Kindle Paperwhite. I still love it, but I had a problem with the browser. The browser is almost useless, but it does have some functionality, and should work. I could not find a fix on the internet or on the Amazon site, and Amazon "customer service" is totally unresponsive. I thought maybe I had to reset it, but I dreaded that, so I fooled with it until I figured it out. When I tried to load a website (this one, actually) the Web and Google portions of the browser locked up. In other words, I could do everything ...

Three Phrases to Avoid

February 25, 2018
Whether you are writing fiction, non-fiction, a business letter, a legal brief, or anything else, there are three phrases you should avoid. Two of them make you sound like an idiot, and one of them is unnecessary. There are times when this childish phrase may have application, such as its variant, “outreach.” One can reach out to a troubled person and try to help them. Fine. But the phrase has somehow come into fashion, particularly with journalists, to replace the words “contacted,” “called,” “talked to,” and others, which mean that you ...

Story Structure in a Movie: When Trumpets Fade

February 25, 2018
    One great place to study story structure is by watching and analyzing movies. Although novels don’t need to follow the structure as closely as screenplays do, it’s still instructive, and the closer your novel does follow this structure, the better off you’ll be. It’s also a good idea to try to achieve the same structure in your novel as you see in movies. For this analysis, I’m doing one you can presently see in its entirety on YouTube. I will provide an Amazon link to it in the event it’s taken down. All stories must ...

How to Punctuate Dialogue

September 23, 2017
The greatest technical issue I’ve come across recently on Critique Circle, is that many people do not know how to punctuate dialogue. It’s a new problem, and is widespread. If you want to be a writer, though, it’s basic to the craft, and there is no flexibility. And it’s quite simple. A section of dialogue consists of up to three elements. A gesture and/or expression; the quote; and a dialogue tag. Some may have all three, some may have only one. Let’s consider them each. Dialogue Tags in General A dialogue tag is the “he said,” or “she ...

On Writing Science Fiction: The Speed of Light

September 12, 2017
I like writing space opera. Space opera (for me) requires interstellar space travel. Any meaningful interstellar space travel requires that the characters be able to travel between points in the universe that are hundreds of millions or even billions of light years apart in the course of several hours. That means they must go faster than the speed of light. A lot faster. Hundreds of millions or even billions of times faster. But I read an article recently on NPR where it discussed being realistic in science fiction. That is, the ...

"Printed Woman" now Available

September 06, 2017
I'm pleased to announce that my latest novel, Printed Woman, is now available on Amazon in Kindle and Paperback formats

Not a Book Review: "Closing Time," by Joseph Heller

September 05, 2017
This is not a book review because I could not get through the book. It’s more of an analysis of what I did read of the book from the point of view of a writer. This book is the sequel to “Catch 22,” the iconic anti-war novel. “Closing Time” follows the same characters many years later. For example, Yossarian is 68 years old.   I like Heller’s writing in general, but I had a few issues with this book, and from these a few writing-related lessons can be learned. Old Men and no meaningful Women If the is book were written today, it ...

Story Structure in "Barfly"

September 05, 2017
I love to beat on story structure, partially because it fascinates me, and partially because I think it’s one of the most important things a writer must get right. Whether you plan your story in every detail or write by the seat of your pants, in the end, the story must have this structure. Movies are a great way to see it in action because they follow it religiously, and it’s quicker than a novel. It’s true that a novel does not have to follow the structure as precisely as a movie does, but the closer it is to it, the better.   The ...

Best Inexpensive Word Processor for Writers - Atlantis Review

March 10, 2013
Most writers don’t want to spend hundreds of dollars on a word processing program, and they don’t need to. There are many free or very inexpensive programs that do everything a writer needs, without all the bells and whistles of Word or WordPerfect. I used WordPerfect for years, and I still consider it vastly superior to Word, and I wish I could use it. But they sell it for about $250. So I started to look around for a good word processor that was free or very inexpensive. The one I found is Atlantis. It costs about $35, and it’s worth every ...

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