Tuesday, January 31, 2006

More Troubles in Memoir-Land

Something tells me that the James Frey debacle is only the beginning. I think the publishing industry is due for an adjustment, soon.

It seems like this kind of fraud, passing fiction as memoirs and posing as someone they're not is not just some isolated incidents. People are too trusting these days. Even agents and publishers are taking authors at their word, without any significant fact checking. But then again, how do you fact-check experiences and perceptions?

According to this article:


"In Hollywood, the culture allows people to dissemble and deceive and then they'll do another deal together. Those are the rules in Hollywood, but those are not the rules in publishing," says Morgan Entrekin, president and publisher of Grove/Atlantic, Inc.

Says Eric Simonoff, a literary agent with Janklow & Nesbitt Associates, "There is an assumption that authors of serious books - memoirs, works of history, book-length works of journalism - will approach their jobs with integrity and decency. Going forward, however, I suspect that when editors read a work of nonfiction that is too good to be true, they will think twice and ask more questions."


Here's some more sobering revelation (same article):

Ira Silverberg represents author JT Leroy, or at least the books that have been published under Leroy's name. Leroy is now widely believed not to exist, a literary invention impersonated by a bewigged woman in public appearances, while someone else secretly writes the books based on Leroy's supposed past as a prostitute and drug addict.

Silverberg had met the person who claimed to be Leroy, but acknowledges he never suspected he was being fooled. Now, he says, "There are these days where I scratch my head, and wonder about a lot people, 'Who was that I was just speaking on the phone with?' I second-guess myself more often."

But Silverberg speaks of a new client, a fiction writer from "the middle of America," whom the agent has never met and, noting that they have mutual acquaintances, doesn't plan on doing so.

"I have a nice relationship with him, I like the work and he's not telling me that he's an HIV positive, drug-addicted prostitute," Silverberg says. "There's no persona. He's just an average person not pretending to be anything."


I mean, how do people get so far in deceiving others? Don't they check background information? How about social security numbers? Where do the checks get mailed to? How could a non-existing person manage to not only get an agent, but also get a publishing contract and continue to receive royalties for years? It baffles to mind to see how gullible (yes, gullible -- "trusting" is too mild a word) people are in the publishing industry.

We writers should know. Many a writer has been scammed by con artists posing at legitimate agents or publishers. Maybe now writers can sit and laugh at how the table's been turned, that the publishers are being duped. But it's not really a laughing matter. I think this type of deceit is poison, and it is corrupting the publishing world on both sides. How can a writer trust anyone anymore? And how can publishers and agents trust writers?

It's a mess.

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Friday, January 27, 2006

First Love

I wrote this in a comment on Mac's blog:

Ada. We were only 10 when we first met. We went to the same school, rode in the same shuttle van, and laughed at the same jokes. Then on my birthday, she gave me a gift -- a small, square notebook with a bright yellow hardcover to write in. She said, "One day you will be a writer." I held dear to that notebook for as long as I could. The notebook is long gone now, but she stays in my heart.

We eventually met again when we were in high school -- she stayed at the same old school, but I went to a different, all-boy school. We hadn't seen each other for years until one day we literally bumped into each other at a restaurant. We talked, and we laughed at the same jokes again. I asked for her number and we went out. We went to our elementary class reunion, and I thought she was the prettiest girl there.

Two days before I came to the US, she took me to Stanley Beach. We watched the sun set as we said our goodbyes. I didn't know what to do or say. We just sat side by side, until the time came when we must leave our history behind. I never kissed her.

We exchanged a letter or two after I started my life in the US, then I never heard from her again. 15 years later, I found a letter among my parents' things. She had written me, one last time, but I never got the letter, and I never replied. To this day, I don't know where she is, what she is doing with her life. To this day, I have no idea how hurt she felt when she never received a reply from me.

To this day, the name Ada still makes me sad.

What's yours? And how it affected you?


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Thursday, January 26, 2006

Hot Topic

Woohoo! Right now my opinion piece just made it to the top of "Hot Topics" on BlogCritics/Books. Pretty neat. Go over and make a comment. Keep it a hot topic. ;)

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Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Tragedy in Florida Stirs Up Old Fears

Seven members of a single family perished today in a horrific accident in Florida. Apparently a semi-trailer slammed into a stopped school bus and a parked minivan, killing those in the van and severely injuring a few children on the bus. The weather was clear. The road was fine. And I doubt that there were any mechanical problems with the truck. That only leaves us one thing: human fault.

According to eye-witnesses, the semi was going way too fast, apparently over the limit of 60 mph, before it slammed into the stopped vehicles. There was no reason why the truck couldn't see the stopped bus and slow down. Since we don't know the details of the cause of the accident, yet, we could only speculate. My thought is that the truck driver was reckless.

We've all seen these reckless drivers before, out on the open road. As a matter of fact, that was the theme of one of Stephen Spielberg's earliest films, Duel. But we're not talking about road rage here. We're talking about people dying because some truck driver decided that he was king of the road with a 30-ton monster.

I have had my own close calls before. One time while I was on the highway, trying to get off an exit, I almost got side-swiped by a semi that was going at 95 mph, at least. It scared the crap out of me, and if it had hit my car, it would have been fatal for sure. And I'd say 7 out of 10 accidents I've seen on the road involved a semi in some ways. And I have seen enough of these monster trucks racing down the road at over 90 mph to believe there really is a problem, here.

I under that truckers have tight schedules to make and they work long hours, usually with little sleep. I am not sure if I could blame them for driving too fast or without sleep.

My father was a trucker, and I remember him pulling double shifts all the time. He was always tired, and the only time we would see him was the half hour before we went to school, when he would be in bed catching up with his sleep. I couldn't speak to him or hug him because Ma would say, "Don't disturb your father." At least I knew he was safe, at home with us.

So, I know the hardship. Trucking is not an easy job. It's not glamorous, nor does it pay very well. But it's a living, and it paid for many kids' college tuition, as my dad's job did. I have compassion for these hardworking men and women, for I see the shadow of my father in them. Hardworking, down to earth, no nonsense people who put in an honest day of work every time.

Of course, there are bad apples. There is no excuse for recklessness. When you see a stopped school bus, you slow down and stop. On the highway, you don't try to run off another vehicle at 90 mph. You don't tailgate someone and shine your highbeam on them. You just don't.

I put the blame of these behaviors partly on the trucking companies, though. The lack of training could be one thing. The lack of accountability is another. Companies need to be liable for their truckers' behaviors on the road. Once in a while I would see a sticker on the back of a semi that reads: "How am I driving? Give us a call: 1-555-555-5555" and I'd applaud. That's responsible and sensible. That makes the driver think twice about doing something reckless and stupid, because he will be reported and reprimanded (let's just assume the companies really mean it).

Also, in a world of fierce competition and cost reduction, companies would cut corners. They'd hire fewer truckers and have them work longer shifts. They would allow them fewer hours for sleep and meals, and require more hours on the road. Working conditions and benefits could also make the drivers more resentful, resulting in worse road rage when provoked. I don't think alcohol is part of the problem because DUI is strictly prohibited, but I suspect problems may still arise with off-hour drinking.

The bottomline is that trucking companies and drivers must realize there's a problem out there, and it's not isolated cases. Every day truck drivers got into accidents because of carelessness or reckless behaviors, and as more and more trucks get on the road, the problem multiples. Something like the Florida accident should never have happened. Perhaps a lesson can be learned, here. But such lessons are utterly tragic and costly.



Read about the accident here.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Is It Official?

OK, it seems like it's now official, and ahead of schedule! My novel, The Pacific Between (ISBN: 1-933016-32-9), are ready to be ordered and shipped. According to Amazon.com, it will be shipped within 24 hours. Whee!

I'm so psyched!

Ray

p.s. thanks for indulging me. But I can finally call myself a published novelist, now.

ETA: reviews:

- Plain Dealer
- January Magazine
- Other reviews and accolades


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Google Rebuffs Feds on Search Requests

In light of this news-worthy item, my friend Rob asked: Why aren't we upset with Google for having and retaining this information in the first place?

As a techie I can answer this question. All companies collect customer data, and it has nothing to do with privacy. Those records are always considered private data and there are very strict policies and regulations of keeping them as such. The reason why they collect user data (such as IPs, names, etc.) is that: 1) the data are used for aggregation analysis by demographics, etc. IPs, for example, are used for determining geographic or organizational information. They do not, for example, search WHOIS databases and get individual information (name, address, phone #s, social security numbers, etc.) even though they can. I mean, we can even extend the argument and ask why Internet providers keep that information? But businesses have their reasons and none of those reasons pertain to privacy issues. Again, most companies including Google, Yahoo, etc. have strict policies and regulations with regard to these data. Also, a lot of ISPs do not provide individual information -- dynamic IPs, IP masking, etc. At best, all you know is if the person comes from Hicktown, PA instead of New York. But internally, places like AOL could argument track every command you executed and every page you viewed or every site you visited merely by tracking your user account. It's already possible -- the question is, would they do it?

So yes, it's a wide practice. Everyone does that. Do you think your information is not stored on Playboy's database? Do you think when you surf a porn site, they don't already have a record of your IP, maybe even your name and address? They do.

Now cookies and stuff are somewhat different -- I can probably write a whole paper on it. In fact, many people already did. Google them (trying to be ironic here).

I think the issue arises when we consider what the data are being used for. Again, as a techie I can answer that question, at least from my experience. Most companies like Google use that data for market analysis and data warehousing -- their shareholders as well as advertisers require those aggregate data (web traffic, etc.) for everything from demographics to targeted ad campaigns to revenue projections to restructuring. Again, none of these are done at the individual level -- meaning, they don't seek individual information based on, say, IP addresses and email addresses and then send you unsolicited email or postcards. They don't/can't give out that information either.

Google ads make people nervous, too. I mean, how on Earth do they know I want to know more about imported Russian art? Again, it comes down to what data are being kept and how they are being used. Has my privacy and confidentiality been compromised. If you understand the working of how something like Google ads work, then you would feel more relaxed; but if you don't, then you might feel very nervous about your privacy.

One of my clients was a major direct mail company (you can guess which one). They have a huge database -- in fact, 70% of their business was about that database -- names, addresses, phone numbers, income, spending habits, what products they bought, what website they visited... that's their bread and butter so that the next time they can send you ads about lawnmowers because they know you've just bought a house, or a coupon for Red Lobsters because you dined there in the past 3 months.

Is it big brother? I am not sure. It depends on how they use that data, I guess. Again, companies like that guard their data like Coca Cola guards their secret recipes. They literally spend billions on security.

That's why I am nervous about these trends. It used to be that only ISPs and companies have access to this information, of customers who visit their servers. Now it seems like that kind of information is readily available for just about anyone. If you use any time of site tracking services such as Tracksy, you can track IPs and find information of those who came to check you out. So it's not anonymous anymore (unless you use an ISP like AOL).

So the short and long of the story is, companies have been collecting these kinds of data for ages. From the direct mail companies that have been around for over a hundred years, to banks and Internet companies. The Internet might be relatively new, but collecting and warehousing data is not.

So why are people not upset? Because when you go to that website, or when they buy something using their credit cards, or when they apply for a membership, they know that data would be stored -- but they trust that that data would be kept confidential within the company's vault. Institutions such as banks take that confidentiality and privacy issue very seriously, for example.

So it's a trust issue. We trust banks, don't we?

So the issue here is that if people trust Google with their data and their commitment to confidentiality and privacy, then Google goes ahead and hands that information to the government (let's assume they do), then that trust is broken. There is no way I am going to go to Google and search for "How to make a bomb" or porn anymore. I think that's the main reason why a place like Google is fighting the Feds because once consumer confidence is lost, they business would suffer. It's all about perception.

There's still a question of what and why the Feds want these data? If they just want aggregation, Google has already done all the work. They can already give information such as how many people from Hicktown, PA visited BigHooters.com in the last 3 months. But I don't think that's what the Feds are asking. So what exactly are the Feds asking, and what are they going to do with the data? I think that's why people think Big Brother.

The common concern is that even if the Feds are not requesting personal information tying to these data (search commands and sites visited), since the information is readily available in the company's database, will the Feds ask for those in the future? What's to stop them from doing that next, in the name of "war on porn"? Is there any cause for paranoia?

I think that's where the emotions come from. We just don't know.

But is it worthy losing hair over it? Probably not, at least not until the Feds start doing exactly that, and I think we'll sure hear about it. If that happens, how many hells do you think will break loose?

What If...

Kira and Joanne asked some really good questions about "What ifs." My reply on their blogs was this:

I have to say I'm a sucker for "what ifs," especially on a personal level. What if I were rich? What if I were famous? What if I had the perfect love of my life? What if I had the perfect life? What if I had sold a million and a half books? What if...

But sooner or later, I need to step back and think, why do I wish for something else other than what is going on, at present, in my life? Am I so dissatisfied with my own life that I have to think that way?

I am a great daydreamer. When I was a kid I daydreamed so much that it actually affected my schooling. LOL. But I think there's a difference between "dreaming" and "what ifs" though... Dreaming is a good thing, and it keeps my hopes high and motivates me. "I dream of being a writer" is a good thing. Now "what ifs" -- what if I did this and that and how would my life had turned out? What if... I think that kind of "regrets" or "wishing for something different" or "I wish my life was better" could be detrimental to our health and how we live life.

I agree with Jo that worrying about outcomes (or anything that is not in our control) is worthless. The best we could do is to do our best, and let the power that be to determine what happens next. It's not to say we should just sit on our hands and do nothing. Being reactive is not the answer. Being proactive is a good thing. But to stress over something we can't control (such as how other people behave, or "if I do this, something should happen like that..." it's not very healthy.

Unfortunately, I do that sometimes. Lately, I've been stressing about the "future," but in a negative way: what if no one wants to read my book? What if I am a failure? What if I can't finish my second? What if I don't make it? What if. I have allowed myself to sink to minor depression just by thinking these negative thoughts. I've taking that "worrying" gene from my mother. The older I get, the less I'm like my father (who doesn't worry about anything!) and more like my mother (who is a perpetual worrier).

The fact is, I don't know. I have no control over what will happen next or what will others do -- anyone who says "if you do this and that, you WILL be a best seller" or "if you do this and that, you WILL make millions and have a good life" or "if you do this and that, you WILL be happy" are not being truthful. There is no "WILL" -- there is only "MAY.' Sometimes, I guess that's my frustration -- I try to do everything right, but people still don't give me the time of day, and I wonder, "What if I am never going to make it?" I have to make myself stop.

I think "what ifs" could be helpful if we have good perspectives and use them in a positive way. Hoping for the future, but definitely NOT regretting the past.

-----

I have lived a rather calm life so far. Maybe a little too calm. Sometimes I crave excitement, success, fame, fortune... What if I were a big star and my pictures are on the cover of magazines? LOL (Yeah, I am an attention whore). I do ask what if questions, but I tend not to regret the past. I know there's a reason for everything -- and the biggest reason of all is that I'm here to experience life. Good, bad or ugly, I'm here for that purpose. It makes the bad things more bearable for me. And it makes it easily for me to not "regret" anything. But of course I do; I'm simply human. My "what ifs" though are usually about "alternative outcomes" instead of regrets. I don't ask "what if I hadn't come to the US?" or "what if I hadn't hit my head and gone into a coma?" Or "what if I hadn't done this or that? Or what if this or that didn't happen to me?"

My questions are more like "what if I had gotten married in my 20s like many of my friends did, and I had a nice family..." or "what if I went into writing or the arts in college?" OK, I take it back, these "alternate life" thoughts do seem to imply regrets. That I am not happy with my present life. I don't think it's true, though. I think I'm relative happy with what I've got. I know I am blessed...

Let me explain. I like my life. I think I've been very lucky and I have lived a "charmed" life in many people's life. I am relatively happy with where I have been and where I am heading. But like most people, I think about "what's on the other side?" I am curious. Though I love my yard, I do wonder if the grass next door is in fact greener. Would I be happier (because God knows, I have been unhappy about things)?

My family was poor when I grew up (we're still not rich by any standard), and so I was always surrounded by kids richer than I was, and I also compared myself to them. In Hong Kong, the environment I grew up in was extremely competitive. Not only in terms of academic achievements or intelligence, but also in terms of material and status. I never had the kind of shoes other kids were wearing. I never had clothes like theirs and my father never drove a fancy car like their fathers'. When you grew up being compared to kids like them, you started to wonder why your life sucked. And soon I stopped noticing what I had, that I was a wonderful, resourceful, intelligent boy full of possibilities and imagination.

Then I have to stop myself, again. I am taking the path I am taking because it's the path I am supposed to take. We could all look at other people and wonder why they have something we don't have. Why then seem so much happier? But there's no guarantees in life. Just because someone does something and finds what they want doesn't mean that's what *I* want or need. I have my own path, my own journey, and my own destiny.

My mother is a perpetual worrier and regretter. I think I've gotten part of that gene. However, thanks to my father, I've also gotten that happy-go-lucky whatever-will-be-will-be gene. So on some days, I am in battle with myself -- part of me wonders what might have been and why so-and-so is more successful than I am and why I can't be like them? My mom's talking. Then I'd stop myself and tell myself, Ray, you're one lucky son of a bitch, so why are you whining about? Yes, you don't have everything you ever wanted, but who does? There's always something else, even if you're the world's richest, most famous, most wonderful, smartest, handsomest person in the world, there's always something else. When will it stop? So quit your whining and count your blessings.

I do.

I won't list them here, but I know I am blessed. I need to remind myself, when I am down, that I am blessed. I still need to work hard toward my goals, and part of that goal is that I want to learn and experience life. But also need to know that stopping to smell the roses is also part of that experience.

So back to the what ifs? What if my life hadn't turn out this way? What if my life had turned out shitty? I think I would still be having this conversation with myself, because I believe I am here to experience and learn. I know, this all sound so "New Age" and so unlike my other "take no prisoners" type A philosophies. Maybe I am schizophrenic; I don't know. Sometimes I'm like, yeah, yeah, be active and go for what you want and just do it. And sometimes I feel like I should just stop, sit back, and let's see where life takes me.

What if?

Friday, January 20, 2006

Chinese New Year

Chinese New Year is almost upon us (January 29). Take this quiz and see how much you know about Chinese New Year and culture.

BlogCritics

I am now official a critic at BlogCritics (www.blogcritics.org). My movie reviews will now be syndicated on three sites: Actors Ink, Ray's Rave Review, and now BlogCritics.


Check out the first two reviews:

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Rejection = Something Is Wrong With Your Manuscript?

Quote:
Cathy C (on Absolute Write) wrote:
If agent after agent, editor after editor reads the query and asks for a partial, then asks for the full, at the very least you have a terrific query and partial. If nobody offers a deal thereafter, that's the point you have to stop and wonder why.

See, if the plot is a winner and the characters terrific, but there are a few grammar or dialogue issues, they'll probably take it anyway. If the writing is stellar but it has a few plot holes, or the characters don't sing, they'll take it anyway. If none of the first five queries take it -- it's time to consider the rewrites.


In my opinion (and experience), it's not always because there's something wrong with your ms. I hate to see people running off and do rewrites after they got 10 rejections. However, as writers, we should always be mindful of the quality of our work...

Anyway, there are many reasons why an agent won't take a ms.

1. The agent is looking for something specific -- he won't really tell you, but he knows it when he sees it;

2. The agent is looking for the next Grisham/King/Rowling/Clancey/etc.

3. The agent can only take one new client a year, and he's EXTREMELY picky, and unless you REALLY knock his socks off, you won't make it. It doesn't mean your book is bad -- it's just that it's not what he considers "WOW, I've GOT TO HAVE THIS"... and no matter how you rewrite the thing, you will never make it. Every agent is different -- you can never tell what really make him tick. But a lot of agents would tell you they must absolutely "fall in love" with the book, but they can't tell you what will make them do that. It's very subjective.

4. Your book might be the BEST thing since sliced bread, but ALAS! Another book has just like this one has already been written -- or worse, the agent has already rep'ed someone else who wrote something similar.

Cathy, I am not sure where you get the number "five"? Are you saying if after 5 rejections and no one wants to make you a deal, something is wrong with your ms? I think it's a little simplistic.

I have gotten great feedback from one agent who was willing to go a distance with my ms. At the end, she didn't offer me a rep because she didn't know how to place my ms. Everything looked great and she didn't think anything was wrong with it or it needed rewrites or anything. She thought it was a great story. She just didn't think she could place it because she represented mostly commercial fiction -- mine is marginally literary. One can argue that I should rewrite it to make it more commercial... but I think that's a dangerous way of looking at things.

Eventually, I did place my ms. and it's coming out next month. Sometimes you just have to get it to the right person at the right time.

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Monday, January 16, 2006

Two Years

It's really hard to believe that I've been blogging for two years now. It really doesn't feel that long. Of course, I only posted 22 entries in the first year, so that almost didn't count. It was pathetic. I had a web page back then (still do) so the blog wasn't really my focus.

When I started this blog, I wanted to write about my trials and tribulations as a newbie writer. I put up my goals, my New Year resolutions, and I tried to write about rejections and what I learned about the publishing business. Then I suppose I got bored. There wasn't really that much going on between submissions and writing my WIP.

Eventually, the blog evolved. Sometimes my posts have nothing to do with writing. Sometimes it's like a place for promoting my work, and I'd imagine people actually come here and read what I have to say (funny how we fool ourselves into thinking that way). In a way, it's rather therapeutic. In a way, it's also rather silly.

I don't know. Will this continue? Will this be something I'd be doing a year from now? Two years from now? The funny thing is that when I was younger, I NEVER wrote journals or diaries. I hated it. I had absolutely nothing to say to Dear Diary. It felt stupid. I always write, but back then I wasn't really much of a writer. Writing seemed to be a way for me to "impress" others, rather than to express myself. I suppose that's still true now. But I am more comfortable with myself now and it's not always about trying to impress someone else. For all I know, nobody reads this thing anyway so it's not like I'm going to impress anyone. But I write for fun, for the joy of it, and it's a wonderful thing to go back to the archive and read a snapshot of my brain -- WHAT WAS I THINKING?

So, my readers (yes, that means you, and you, and -- oh goodie -- you... all 3 of you), what is your blog story? How did you start? Why did you start? And what did you learn from the experience? Will you continue to do it? What do you want to get out of this?

Questions. Questions. Questions.

Now answer me.

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The Golden Globe

Yes, it's probably just a silly Hollywood dinner party where stars and filmmakers pat each other on the back for a job well done, while showing some cleavage or nice hair (oh sure, the awards are being given out by the Foreign Press, not Hollywood itself). What is interesting, though, is that this year the Independents rule! All five of the Best Picture (Drama) nominees are indies. What is more interesting is that four of the nominated films were adapted from literary works:

  • The Constant Gardener (novel by John le Carre)
  • Brokeback Mountain (short story by E. Annie Proulx)
  • A History of Violence (graphic novel by John Wagner and Vince Locke)
  • Pride & Prejudice (novel by Jane Austen)


Additional nominees include:

  • Philip Seymour Hoffman in Capote (based on In Cold Blood by Truman Capote)
  • Gwyneth Paltraw in Proof (based on the play by David Auburn)
  • Charlize Theron in North County (book by Clara Bingham)
  • Zi-Zi Zhang in Memoirs of a Geisha (novel by Arthur Golden)
  • Johnny Depp in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (novel by Roald Dahl)
  • Cillian Murphy in Breakfast on Pluto (novel by Pat McCabe)
I'm not trying to diss screenwriters, but I think it's remarkable that so many nominees are indies based on literary works, popular or obscure. Last year we saw Sideways (novel by Rex Pickett) and that was about it (Closer was based on Patrick Marber's play, and Finding Neverland, play by Allan Knee).

Is this a trend, or is it a fluke? Personally, I think it's a good thing that Hollywood is turning to literary works for inspiration. It helps obscure authors get some recognition, or the already-popular authors to get more mileage out of their books. The pedigree this year truly is impressive, from Capote to Dahl to Golden to Austen to Proulx, and the quality of these films are astounding. I for one am eager to see more literary works being adapted to the big screen. It's a win-win situation for both the filmmakers and the audience.

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Sunday, January 15, 2006

Happy MLK Day

I posted the following in January, 2003. It's been 2 years and a lot has happened (or not) since then. We're still at war. I still think our country is heading the wrong direction. We still have Bush in the White House. So I think it's a good thing that I'll bring up Dr. Martin Luther King's teachings again. I think we need to constantly remind ourselves that the world is an imperfect place, but we could all strive to do better.

Martin Luther King.

Meme

I've been memed! Matt tagged me with this meme, so I guess I'll have to do it. %$#()$%( did I tell you I hate assigments -- I was a berry berry berry bad student).

1. go to your archive
2. find the 23rd post
3. find the 5th sentence
4. post the text of the sentence in a blog entry along with these instruction
5. tag other people...

So here it goes...

She sighed, then rolled the scarf into a ball the size of her fist.

(Boring, isn't it? My 23rd post was actually a flash fiction I posted. Funny thing is, it was posted almost exactly a year ago. Wow, I've been blogging for just over 2 years now. Time flies. I only had 22 posts in the first year -- 2003. I guess I really didn't have much to say. But look at me now.)

Darnit, everyone I know has been tagged already. I guess it's Mark's turn..

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Facts or Lies

Karen Long, the Book Editor at the Cleveland Plain Dealer, wrote a great article on James Frey and A Million Little Pieces. We should read it.

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Thursday, January 12, 2006

James Frey and A Million Little Pieces

I usually don't like write about someone I disapprove of because I don't want to give them even more publicity, but in this case, I make an exception.

By now you must have heard of James Frey and the scandal surrounding his memoir, A Million Little Pieces. His best-seller was turned into a phenomenon (selling over 3.5 million copies, as one source said) after the book was picked by Oprah's Book Club. Now it's been revealed that at least parts of the book is fictionalized, and Frey himself has even admitted to it.

I find it appalling that a writer would go on national TV and blatantly lie and think there's nothing wrong with lying, passing what is fictional as truth. I also find it disappointing that Oprah continues to support and endorse Frey. I think she has done a disservice to writers, readers and everyone who has struggled with drug addiction and alcoholism.

My friend Lori said:

Whether or not you like Oprah is not really the issue. Her bookclub is a powerful marketing tool and, as an individual, she is a powerful, public persona. The fact that she continues to support a writer who has engaged in unethical behavior is disappointing and tarnishes her by association. If you agree, send a polite e-mail saying so and explaining why.

I think writers all over the world should write to Oprah and urge her to reconsider her support for Frey and his book. Oprah has tremendous influence and her support for something or someone unethical would only encourage other writers to do the same thing. I think if she gets hundreds or thousands or more letters from writers/readers around the world disapproving her endorsement of Frey, she might be willing to reconsider her position.

I sincerely urge that you email Oprah, and also tell all your friends and colleagues to do the same. Let's bring this up at the grassroot level and let Oprah know that unethical practice should not be tolerated, let alone endorsed.

Thank you,

~ Ray

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Time to Write

Finally. With all the publicity and promotional stuff out of the way, and a few more weeks before my first event, finally I have the time to get back to my writing. It's been quite a while. I've put aside my WIP for way too long, and I have a few short stories I need to rewrite and submit for publications. I still haven't heard back from Mundania but I am not going to stress about it -- I am not in a hurry. Book signings can wait.

I made a pact with myself that I must finish my new novel this year. It's way overdue. I can't wait to finish this one and move on to the other ideas, and I've got a few brewing right now. That's really what excites me about being a writer, and not the book signings and publicity and promotions and marketing. I have to remind myself that I am a writer first, a businessman second. Yes, they're all related, and I have to work hard on both fronts if I want people to know about my books and read them. But if I don't write these books, there will be nothing for people to read.

I realize I need to recommit myself to the craft of writing. The business side of things have distracted me for the past year and a half. Now that The Pacific Between is coming out, I can relax a bit and focus on my writing again. And I'm really looking forward to that.

~ Ray


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Tuesday, January 10, 2006

New E-Book Platform

This is interesting. The problem with existing e-book readers, which are based on LCD technology, is that it's hard on the eyes. After while, the glare and the flickering of LCD screens become tiring and annoying. With the new "e-paper," the manufacturer (SONY) says it will look just like paper and ink.

I've always liked e-books and readers because I'm a technophile, but I never really got into procuring and reading a lot of e-books because of the aforementioned problem -- that's the same reason why I can't on computer screens for too long. With this new iteration of e-paper technologies, I think they might very well be on to something revolutionary. The idea of being able to download books and take not one, not ten, but 100 books with you on your trips is very exciting. If they can make e-book readers comfortable to use over a long period of time (let's face it, when we "curl up" with a book, we spend many hours doing so in one sitting).

Monday, January 9, 2006

Another Review

Amy Brozio-Andrews' review of the Pacific Between appears on the front page of January Magazine.

In case it's no longer on the front page, here's the actual review link.


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Sunday, January 8, 2006

Rule of Four

I saw this meme both on Dawno's and Joanne's sites. It came from Making Light.


Four jobs you've had in your life:

1) Chinese restaurant waiter (surprise!)
2) Computer programmer
3) Math tutor
4) Model

Four movies you could watch over and over:

1) Cinema Paradiso
2) Jaws
3) The Lion King
4) Dr. Zhivago

Four Places you've lived:
1) Hong Kong
2) Atlanta, GA
3) Los Angeles, CA
4) New York, NY

Four TV shows you love to watch:

1) Six Feet Under
2) Scrubs
3) Battlestar Galatica
4) The West Wing

Four Places you've been on vacation:

1) Japan
2) Europe
3) China
4) Malaysia

Four websites you visit daily:
1) Absolute Write
2) Write After Dark
3) NVNC ID VIDES, NVNC NE VIDES
4) CNN

Four of your favorite foods:

1) Chinese brocolli
2) Pasta
3) Soup
4) Sushi

Four places you'd rather be:

1) Alpine countries like Austria
2) A cabin in the mountains
3) Japan
4) My parents' place

(ETA: pardon me, but in copy-and-pasting the meme I accidentally copied Joanne's opening sentence as well. I didn't mean to plagiarize her! Honest!)

Random Thought RE: Writing

If you spend months or years writing a book, and it takes your readers only a few hours to finish it, you might be on to something.

If your readers question whether your characters are real people, you've got them.

Don't worry if your readers don't get everything you want to say. Let them experience your story. Then let them draw their own conclusion. That's the best thing you could ever do for your readers.

Believe in yourself; 'cause if you don't, your readers won't either.

Chances are someone has already written a story like yours. The question is: did you write it better than that person did?

Stories are about people. Always.


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Friday, January 6, 2006

Surefire Way To Success

My friend Dawno gave me a great idea:

Buy 10 copies of The Pacific Between. Send one copy each to the ten people on the list below then send the list with the last name removed and put your name in its place. In just 12 to 16 weeks 1,347,257 copies of my book would have been bought, and I'll be a mega-best seller!!!

I'll start the list:

1. Santa
2. Dracula
3. CareBear
4. Kermit the Frog
5. Darth Vader
6. Casper the Friendly Ghost
7. Zeus
8. Helen of Troy
9. Father Time
10. Paulie Shore

(seriously, this might work... start your list NOW, I say)

Thursday, January 5, 2006

Microsoft, the Censor?

OK, we all know Microsoft is the evil Empire it positions itself to be. And we know the Chinese government is notorious with censorship. So it's a bit ironic, to say the least, that Microsoft would censor and take down a Chinese blogger's site. What is Microsoft becoming?

Read the original article here.

First Person Present Tense Revisit...

At the AW Water Cooler, there have been a lot of discussion in the past few months on the "First person-Present tense" narrative. It's interesting to note how some people are passionate for it, and how some are passionately against it. I think the problem is that many new authors think it's natural and "easy" to write in first person/present tense, but in reality, it's so much harder to pull off.

Yes, although it feels "right" to write in 1st/present (we all do that when we tell stories: "So I walk to the door and I see this huge spider staring at me...") but in reality it's much harder to pull off.

There are a few things against the author: 1) First person heavily relies on the narrative voice -- if your voice is not engaging, you lose your readers immediately; 2) First person is intimate -- your readers are stuck with the narrator throughout the whole thing; it can get old fast; 3) First person limits your POV -- you can't observe things that the narrator doesn't know or can't experience; you have to tell the story entirely from his or her POV; 4) your narrator can't die at the end unless the story is told from beyond the grave (e.g. Sunset Blvd).

Then you add the problems associated with present tense: 1) It's told in "real time" so you can't jump forward in time or do anything like dramatic irony; 2) your narrator is semi-reliable because it's first person and it's real time; 3) it's absolutely impossible to tell things the narrator can't know unless it's in the past.

But when done well, 1st/present can be very exciting, because the readers are going for a ride alongside the narrator. Think of the narrator as a tour guide and we're going on an adventure together. The readers get to experience everything the narrator does, including the emotional roller-coaster. So there are some stories that is best told through 1st/present. If you find a good match, it could be a wonderful experience for the readers.

The Pacific Between was written in 1st/present. Is it good? You be the judge.

There are some really good 1st/present novels out there. Fight Club, House of Sand and Fog, Time Traveler's Wife, some Stephen King's novels, to name a few.

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Wednesday, January 4, 2006

Fork Art

Not Fuck Art. That's porn. Fork.

Now, here's an unique idea and very pleasing artifacts...

Fork Art

I really like this piece:



And this is just great; should send it to some people in Congress:

Happy New Year!

I forgot to wish everyone a Happy New Year! How silly. But here it is.

If last year was like a false start, I hope this year is the "real deal."

False start. Last year, my book didn't come out in November as I'd expected. It was a bummer, and the extra four months' wait was a torture. Fortunately, there's only slightly more than a month to go. The end is near. Also, I submitted a short story to an anthology. In November, I received an email saying that the anthology had been canceled. Fortunately, they still wanted to buy my piece, but as an eBook. So hopefully I will see something materialize in 2006.

Also, I had hoped to finish the ms. of "A Long Way From Here" by December. It didn't happen because I was too wrapped up in the pre-release of The Pacific Between. I did manage to pass the 50,000-word mark this year. I am hoping to finally finish the first draft of ALWFH this year.

My goal this year is to get the words out about The Pacific Between, and get it into the stores. It's going to be fun.

Miners

The news about the trapped miners are just devastation, compounded by the horrible handling of the news about their rescue. It's sad and horrifying beyond words. My thoughts and prayers go to the victims and their families. My best wishes go to Randal McCloy, the sole survivor of this tragedy. I wish him a speedy recovery. What an ordeal.