Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Five People You Meet in Heaven: A novel not to be Missed

The Five People You Meet in Heaven, a bestseller by Mitch Albom is a novel that if you haven't had a chance to read, you definitely should.

It is a short novel (I'd estimate 50,000 words) and it's an engaging story from start to finish. The lessons learned by Eddie, an amusement park maintenance worker who believes his life was a waste, I think will resonate with just about everyone.

I would break it down to five main themes:
1. Everyone is connected. What you do affects people, in ways you may not realize.
2. Sacrifice, it's something to aspire to.
3. Forgiveness: one must be able to forgive yourself and especially others.
4. Lost Love is still love.
5. Everyone has value and no life is a waste.

Sounds like common sense, but do you really believe those statements? And if you do believe them, do you know someone who doesn't?

It is one of the novels I have taught to seniors where I teach. Almost 90% indicate after reading The Five People You Meet in Heaven, that they really enjoyed it and, better yet, got something out of it.

If you're interested, here is the study guide I use: Study Guide Packet: The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom

There is a movie version available on DVD (Starring Jon Voight), and it is a good view after reading the novel. The content and order of the novel is ordered better and adds depth a film cannot. As in many instances, while the movie is good, the book is far better.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

The Unicorn song

Those raised in the era MP3s and digital downloading to iPods and other devices may not appreciate the difficulties more than a few years back when I was a kid, and one had to listen to the radio, hoping one of your favorite songs made it to the airwaves. Technically, one could call (dial) in and request, like everyone else, but when this song came out I was too young for that.

Yes, eventually there were records, 8-track tapes, then audio cassettes, later to be banished by CDs. They were expensive and I was a kid and, unless a favorite tune was on the radio station's regular play list, I was out of luck. Maybe that's why I don't really care much for music these days.

One song I do remember from the early 1970s was the The Unicorn by the Irish Rovers. I cannot remember exactly what show it was--a Lawrence Welk type program where they performed it. I did eventually pick up a cassette tape with the best of the Irish Rovers back in the late 1980s.

Here it is: The Unicorn song.

Maybe you remember it too. I guess it suggests my interest in reading and writing fantasy taking root even at an early age.

Around Christmas, I'll relay another favorite--but this one my mother would occasionally play from a vinyl LP record. There's also a Disney memory or two for future posts.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Quote: Darwin on Shakespeare

I have tried lately to read Shakespeare, and found it so intolerably dull that it nauseated me.” – Charles Darwin

I know there are more than a few modern high school students who have similar feelings. Shakespeare's plays can be taught in the classroom, but not by simply having students sit and silently read them--which is how I suspect Charles Darwin went at it. Sure, a student with an active vivid imagination can pull it off, but Shakespeare’s plays were meant to be viewed and heard by the audience, not read.

There is a reason that novelizations of movies are written, based on the script, and sold, rather than simply printing and binding the script for readers to purchase and enjoy.

Not much of a point, maybe. Maybe Darwin was commenting on Shakespeare's sonnets? Just an observation based on a quote of one historically famous person (Darwin) on another historically famous person’s works (Shakespeare).

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Behind the Scenes: Readers (of Flank Hawk)

One thing that has really helped me improve my writing and led to publishing successes is having great readers--folks who will take the time to read my writing and provide solid input.
From experience I can say that not everyone who shows interest and says they'd like to read and provide input on an unpublished work--sometimes they even ask to be a reader--actually follows through. There are a number of reasons they don't, but I firmly believe it's foolish to hold it against them. Oddly or, more accurately, sadly I've encountered some writers who do.
I think it's also important to try to match a reader's interests with what you've written. This is somewhat easy for me as, at least with my short fiction, I write in a variety of genres. Beyond that, it's important to have a variety of readers with varying experiences, both life and reading. To be sure they have to be individuals who won't hesitate to tell you what isn't working, in addition to what is. Praise is great and motivating, but constructive criticism makes an even bigger difference.
I do consider what each reader has to say. Often the readers provide written comments and feedback, but whenever possible I also like to sit down and talk with the reader. And while I do consider each reader's input, I don't always agree and their suggestions are not implemented. That's okay as the readers know my stand on this. However, if several come up with the same concern--it's definitely time to revisit that aspect of the novel or short story.
Today I'm going to highlight on those readers who provided input for Flank Hawk before I began submitting it. Of those below, all have provided input for other works, published and as of yet unpublished.
I count on each reader for their unique view and opinion, each having strengths in different aspects of a story's contents. All are well-read and provide in depth analysis in a number of areas, and I'm only highlighting a narrow scope of what they provide as readers. In any case, they deserve some recognition for their efforts in helping Flank Hawk make it into print.
In alphabetical order:

Dora Archer (above): Has a good eye for characters and characterization. Some of this comes, I believe, from being an author herself. Equilibrium is her debut novel. It also comes from her travels and experience.

Sandy Daily (above): Has a good sense for atmosphere, tone, and character consistency. She reminds me that sometimes my story might be getting too dark or grim. Sandy has read more books than can count, and that background is something I can count on when discussing my writing efforts.

Joanne Detter (above): Has a good eye for plot consistency, wording, and action sequences. She also gives some input on grammar ;) Joanne is one that I enjoy discussing authors and novels we've both read, analyzing their strengths and weaknesses, which I am able to incorporate into my writing efforts.

Stephen Hines (above): A talented YA author who is an expert at suggesting what is lacking in plot, structure, dialogue, and where I fall short with description. And yes, he is a major Steelers fan, but I don't hold that against him.

Jeff Koleno (above): Has a good sense for internal logic of how 'things' work, including world and plot consistency. In addition, Jeff answers a lot of my scientific questions, especially in matters of physics and mathematics.

Julie Roeth (above): Has an eye for character interactions, symbols, foreshadowing and overall story arc. Julie is well-read and has a wide variety of knowledge and experiences that makes her a font of insight and advice.

Bill Weldy (above): Has an eye for what works in an action scene along with overall pace and story direction. Bill has written a few short novels himself. They're pretty darn good and I hope he finishes his revisions and submits them some day soon.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Sales Analysis of Flank Hawk

Sales of Flank Hawk up through June 2010 break down the following way:

Sales through Bookstores and Barnes & Noble Online: 34%
Overseas (Outside the USA) Sales: 1%
Sales through 56%
Sales through Amazon Kindle: 7%
Sales through & Noble Ebooks: 2%

The information is based on my royalty statement to date. While it's difficult to break out further, I would guess that 15-20% of Flank Hawk's sales have been through bookstores, which I think is pretty cool. Okay, any sale means someone who's decided to give Flank Hawk a chance/read. Always cool!

Another observation is that about 10% of sales have been ebooks, although it appears that sales via the Kindle over the quarterly statements has been slowly but steadily increasing.

If you're interested in obtaining a copy of Flank Hawk, visit the following pages:
*Where Flank Hawk is Available
*Obtaining Signed Copies of Flank Hawk

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

President Lincoln and Vampires?

Okay, it's hard to argue against the fact that in recent years the use of vampires in fiction has really taken off--from YA to Romance and everywhere in between. With that being said, there seems to be a struggle for authors to find something new (that still includes vampires) while not rehashing the same old storyline with the same old characters, but with different names.

I've read a number of alternate histories, even about the U.S. Civil War, such as Guns of the South by Harry Turtledove. Maybe this one will be just as good.

While the 16th President of the United States could have used a bit of secret service help, he certainly appears to have had few WWF-style moves in him. Sharp trailer, definitely more catchy than Flank Hawk's ;).

For those who might be interested, I am busy working on the sequel to Flank Hawk. The working title is Blood Sword. And while vampires do exist in the world of the First Civilization's Legacy novels, Krish won't be facing one--okay, maybe something close...but you'll have to wait and see.