Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Backstories

Incorporating backstories into your fiction is an art. There's no real right or wrong way of doing it. But there are some best practices.   But I'm not here to talk about those techniques.

I'm one of those writers who try to work everything out in my head, but sometimes there's just too much backstories to work through and keep straight. I find myself having to put my thoughts on paper (or in a computer file) to sort through all the stuff: the backgrounds, the interconnections, the relationships, the character sketches, etc. I also use a tool called Personal Brain to string everything together in kind of an organic way. It's a pretty good tool to lay out all these interconnected thoughts -- you can jump and set up links between thoughts.

If you find yourself struggling with lots of backstories in your head, try to set the actual manuscript aside and start on a new file/page, and start typing about the backstories, things about your characters, etc. etc. Free style. Stream of consciousness. Whatever that comes to your mind.

But just get it all out. And it will be a work in progress. As you continue with your main ms., you can refer to that and change things. But at least you'll have someone tangible, and not just a tangle in your mind.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Book Roast

Just a quick note.

I'll be roasted on Book Roast (http://bookroast.blogspot.com) on Tuesday, September 23.  The roast starts at 6 a.m. and goes on for 24 hours.  Participation will be done via blog comments.

At the end of the roast I'll also select a winner. Fabulous gifts await.

Come and have some fun. I'll be around all day answering questions and chatting with everyone.

See ya.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Library

I just checked WorldCat and found out that my book's in more libraries. There are actually six copies at the San Francisco Public Library. That's nice.

I should really hurry up and write more books before those disappear from the libraries. LOL.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Amish Country

I've been a Pennsylvania resident since the mid-80's and believe or not, I'd never been to the Amish country until this past weekend. Amazing, isn't it? I'd driven past Lancaster numerous times when I was shuttling between Pittsburgh and Philadelphia/New York City, but I'd never made a stop. I wonder why.

Anyway, Lancaster is quite an interesting place. Driving down Rt. 30, I couldn't help but notice the rows of shops and malls (even an outlet mall!) and chain restaurants and gas stations with relatively cheap prices (I later discovered that their gas was mixed with ethanol -- I guess the abundance of corn comes in handy). Looked more like Vegas. I took a picture of the Wawa station while a bunch of bikers were out in the front with their Harleys. I hope they didn't think I was being obnoxious when I took their pictures.

Once we got off the main roads, the landscape changed quite a bit. Corn fields, of course, was the staple here. Miles and miles and miles of them, and strong, tall, healthy cornstalks soaking in the hot sun. We stopped by an Amish BBQ place (there is such a thing), and ordered some traditional Amish dishes. I had a Bot Boi, which is basically a thick chicken stew with flat, square noodles. It was wet and mushy but extremely flavorful. I also had chicken corn soup which was marvelous. After dinner, we went shopping at the craft stores and got some handmade knickknacks and a whole Shoo Fly Pie, made of molasses and granular brown sugar. It tastes kind of like pecan pie without the pecans. YUM.

We also saw a few Amish people in their horse and buggies. I couldn't get my camera out quickly enough to snap pictures, though.

In a way, it's weird for me to talk about the Amish as if they were some kind of zoo animals. I really mean no disrespect. It's just that the whole thing about living in a parallel universe with a 21st century America while maintaining their way of life and religious belief -- it's fascinating. Talk about values and disciplines. I couldn't even maintain my workout schedule.

Too bad I didn't really have a lot of time but I intend to visit again.

Friday, September 5, 2008

United We Stand - Divided We Fall

This country is still divided and not because we differ in opinions and perspectives, but we're demonizing each other and calling each other un-American.

I think the Iraq War was the start of this great divide. Right after 9/11 and even during the Afghanistan War, we were united.

Folks, we are ALL Americans. We all want this country to prosper and thrive and be peaceful and for the people to lead good lives and for our children to have a future. We all want our freedom to choose.

I think the liberals are angry because they feel like they're being left out -- the rich is getting richer, and the poor poorer. Rights are being taken away from them, etc. We're fighting an unjust war and our boys and girls are dying for no reasons. That the Religious right and government are taking away their freedom.

And I think the conservatives are angry because they feel like their way of life is being threatened, their security eroding, and their jobs taken away. And the "other side" just don't know what patriotism is when it bites them in the ass. And that the BIG government is taking away their freedom.

Those of us in the middle may feel like we don't belong anywhere.

While 9/11 united us, the Iraq War divided us.

The fact is, not every conservative wants to take away people's right. And not every liberal wants to hand out free money. We have fought side by side and with each other before for a common cause.

Maybe eventually we'll all find that common cause again, and I just hope it's not another tragedy.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

The Republican National Convention

Wow.

I don't mean to get into politics on my blog so much. I don't want to be controversial, and I know politics is a touchy subject. After all, this is more about writing and my life, but how can I not let this election affect my life? It's probably one of the most important elections since I became a US citizen 10 years ago. There's history to be made, and lives to be changed.

Still, I watched the RNC with heightened curiosity. After the last 8 years, I wondered what they had to say. George W. Bush already shied away from the spotlight by only appearing in a satellite speech. And then I watched Fred Thompson talk about being a brave America by electing John McCain (as if Democrats were not fighting for this country as well). But that's all fine. They're doing what they do. They have to tell us they're the better party (BTW, I am not a Democrat).

What surprised me was not how red it was. What surprised me was how white everything was. Out of curiosity, I played the "spot the non-white people" game. In 15 minutes, I spotted exactly four African-Americans, and one Asian woman. Everyone else was white, and the average age was above 35.

My immediate thought is: This is not the America I know. Not the one I live in. Wherever I go, I see people of all ages and races and religions. Even in this town in the midwest, I see colors. I see Latinos, Asians, African-Americans, Indians, Caucasians. There are Hindus and Buddhists and Muslims as well as Christians. When I watched the RNC coverage, 99.9% were Caucasians. I didn't feel like I was part of that, even as they kept saying we were all Americans. Yes, we are Americans. No question about it. But I don't feel that I belong there. Because I'm not white.

I tried not to be biased, but I can't help it. When I looked at the convention floor and saw only pale faces, I couldn't help but feel that I didn't belong there. Is that the kind of America I want, that makes me feel like I don't belong?

And that was before I heard another speaker talk.