The Thirty Minute Blogger

Exploring Books and the Writer's Life, Faith and Works, Culture and Pop Culture, Space Science and Science Fiction, Technology and Nostalgia, Parenting and Childhood, Health: Physical and Emotional ... All Under the Iron Hands of the Clock and That 30 Minute Deadline

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Writers: Don't Overlook the Obvious

There come times in the lives of all writers that we dread ... those awful moments when we need to write but don't have a clue where to begin or what to discuss. It may be a book project (fact or fiction), an article, a class project, or some other assignment we've undertaken and now regret. The mind draws a blank and reels, the page remains empty, and flop sweat beads the brow and slicks the palms. What the heck do you do now?

You write about the obvious. Simple? Yes and no. So many times some of us writers tend to overlook the most obvious points we are writing about because we are so familiar with the subject matter. Surely, we thing ...wrongly it turns out... everybody knows this or that tidbit of obvious information. Naturally, I don't have to cover that ground! And then we're stuck. Or worse, we gnash our teeth when some other writer boldly states those obvious facts, figures, stories, etc. and receives accolades for them! Then we seethe and pound our foreheads against the keyboards and wonder why we didn't think of that.

Here's an example. I've written numerous books on antiques and collectibles, along with this children's book that inspired the creation of this infrequently visited blog (thanks for stopping by actually), and I had written four books on one particular nineteenth century ceramics line. I felt I'd covered it pretty well and was done with the subject. Then the publisher came to me and asked if I had leftover images from the four volumes. I told him I did and he suggested I write a pocket guide to the subject. Since the publisher is also my boss, I agreed. Then I was stumped. After four volumes, what was left to write about? Sweat began to bead my brows and slick my palms, until I had that oh so simple inspiration, state the obvious. Define the basic terms for the newcomer to the field. Identify the different dish forms used (the average Victorian dinner set had 101 pieces so there was plenty to work with). When I was done, I'd covered all the most basic of basic information. That little pocket guide sold quickly and well.

Never overlook the obvious. It always makes a solid foundation for an article or a book and many people really won't know the information you have, in your research, written off as too obvious for words.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Seeking Artists Leads to Curious SPAM

As an author and editor, I've been seeking artists for a book project. I've done this on several occasions and the results are wonderful. I hear from artists all around the world ... well, except from Africa but I'm working on that. The problem is, every time I do this I end up getting unusual SPAM as a result. These unwanted ads come in a few choice categories. They are:

1. enlarge your penis to attract women

2. buy Canadian drugs

3. buy a diploma online

4. Marina assures you she is a real girl and she wants to talk to you

Does this speak to the life of the average artists or does it reflect what people think of folks who seek them out for book projects? It's a mystery. Any insights out there?

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Book News and Other News

It is heartening to hear of sales of the book, Michael and the New Baby, to the target audience and positive response to the book's message. For a first time children's book author, this is a thrill! The reports are rolling in.

In other news, we here at M&NB took a three day news hiatus while attending to other important business. For matters of sanity and calm nerves, I for one highly recommend the experience from time to time. While it's essential to keep up with the antics of our nation and world, it is a welcome relief to take a little time off from the info flow and just live a small, human life and experience the world around you wherever you are.


Wednesday, August 19, 2009

America's Losing Her Mind!

Collectively, we're losing it folks! Divide and conquer is working well and today the suckers are born far more often than ol' P.T. Barnum ever counted on. Our technology and entertainment has divided us up into itty-bitty special interest groups and has warped our sense of reality.

We've confused entertainment and propaganda for news and are reaping the whirlwind as a result. I never used to believe that what appeared on TV and in movies could sway America's beliefs. However, I never counted on the relentless, ever present barrage of garbage that would pour forth from all of our clever high tech devices every hour of every day. News services crumble, declared unprofitable and are replaced by polarized, opinion services catering to one wing or another (far left or far right). Worse, many have come to confuse entertainers for journalists. Rush and Anne, Steven and Jon, they're all entertainers. They have one job to do, amuse some people enough to keep up their ratings. Yet many make the mistake of taking what they have to say as truth and allowing themselves to be guided by such. Folks, we're following a bunch of pied pipers and headed for a collective drowning in lunacy.

Don't believe me? GOOD! I'm blogging. I'm no journalist! This isn't news. This is my opinion. Still, I challenge you to listen to what people are saying at the water cooler, listen to what the "common folk" who make it on the news with one claim or another are stating as fact. A lot of what you'll hear is bizarre and void of common sense. Worse, you'll find many positions utterly devoid of any sense of community or sacrifice or service to others.

In my humble opinion, if we keep this up, the unreality of "reality TV" will soon become our collective reality ... and we'll all be completely, totally, utterly lost and ... perhaps ... barking mad to boot.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Writer's Alert: Book Material Given Away Free!

Writers take note, the British government has released its UFO files online. Here is a quick and easy source of material for a book on a subject that is currently in vogue. However, you have to be quick. Interest peaks for this topic every 30 years or so, the 1940s, the 1970s, the 2000s. Write your material now and find a publisher soon or you'll have to shelve your opus for another generation to wait for the next round of true believers to be born and reach book buying age.

That's a truth that really is out there!

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Discerning 3-year-old Approves of Michael and the New Baby!

Yes, it's true, Michael and the New Baby has been given the thumbs up by my wonderful, intelligent 3-year-old niece! (I have several wonderful, intelligent nieces, but only one who is three.) While the story was written for my six-year-old son, I can now honestly and happily report that the 3-year-old crowd will love it too.

For her appreciation of a well written tale, and her emphatic pronouncement afterward that she does NOT want to be a Stinky Roo, my niece is awarded the very first, soon to be highly coveted Digital NO award. Congratulations.

If you too wish to be awarded the rare Digital NO, send in your stories of children who have appreciated Michael and the New Baby. The best testimonials will win!

The Politest "Piss Off" I've Ever Recieved!

In my real life in the work-a-day world outside of children's book authorship, I'm a writer and editor for a publishing house. I am currently gathering artists in four disparate fields for four different books. In the process, I spend a lot of time contacting a variety of organizations online to get the word out. One particularly high end organization made me laugh out loud. They had the politest way of telling me I'd never hear from them that I'd every read. When I sent them my email, the response was "We will contact you at our convenience." The graphics accompanying this "piss off" line were impressive as well.

Needless to say, I've never heard back from those folks, and don't expect I ever will.

If you've found even more elegant ways to be blown off, let me know. Who knows, they may come in handy some day.

If you leave a message, I promise to get back to you sooner than that!

Celebrating a 40th Anniversary

It's time to start pumping some new hot air into this ol' blog. There's one week left in my intensive Introduction to New Testament Greek class so I don't have much time ... but, let's celebrate a 40th anniversary.

It was 40 years ago this year that Apollo 11 landed on the moon. Forty-one years ago that was the stuff of science fiction alone. Arthur Clarke, Issac Asimov, and others had written about lunar bases, lunar exploration, lunar mining, etc. but nobody had actually set foot on the lunar surface. Forty years ago, before the lander touched down, nobody was entirely sure if the LEM would sit on the surface or sink beneath a sea of dust. Forty years ago humans for the very first time looked back on Earth from the surface of another sphere to see our beautiful, majestic, and utterly unique (as far as we know) world floating in the incalculably large sea of space.
Further, 40 years ago, for the first time in human history, one individual, Michael Collins, was cut off entirely from the human race as his command module took him around the "dark side" of the moon. Radio communication was cut off and Collins was completely alone as no human had ever been before. Even an individual stranded on an island alone is still in the midst of humanity. Michael Collins was also the first who would have to come home alone if the ascent engine of the lunar module failed and left Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin stranded on the lunar surface.
Personally, 40 years ago this year, I was ten and missed seeing the historic first steps on the surface of the moon. I'd fallen asleep waiting for them to open the LEM's hatch. I've seen it many times since, but missed the original "one small step." Ah well.
Oh, by the way, Jim Slade, the illustrious illustrator for Michael and the New Baby, covered the American space program for many years, from Mercury through the space shuttle ... among other things. Did a terrific job too if I do say so myself ... which I do!
So here's to Buzz, Neil, Michael, the whole NASA team and all of humanity for that one giant leap. And here's to doing it all again soon ... and to taking that next giant leap to Mars. May we have the nerve, the will, and the foresight to do so!

Photo of the lunar surface as seen from one of the LEM's windows courtesy of NASA