Tuesday, August 31, 2010

ANNOUNCING MY FIRST BLOG GIVEAWAY!!!

Greetings!

I'm very excited to announce my very first blog giveaway.  And it is so easy, how could you not participate?!

Since finishing Nineteen Minutes the other night, I'm on the prowl for a book.  A good book.  One I can enjoy as I (hopefully) spend Labor Day Weekend lounging by the pool.

But, I have no idea what I want to read.  This is where you come in - my contest is simple:

Suggest a book.  Briefly tell me why I'll enjoy it.  Enter to win.

All you have to do is post a comment below, suggesting a book you think I will enjoy.  Briefly tell me why I'll enjoy it (without giving anything away, of course) and fill out/submit the form below that enters you to win this really cool prize:

A $25.00 gift card good at one of four different restaurants: On the Border, Chili's, Maggiano's, or Macaroni Grill.

Yup, it's that easy!  But wait, it gets even better.

If I choose the book you suggested, I'll notify you when I finish.  If I truly liked it, I will send you one of my favorite's in hopes you'll enjoy it just as much.

So, what do I like to read?
  • First, I encourage you to browse my Shelfari bookshelf (located in the right margin on this blog) to see what I've already read.  You can also view my full profile by clicking the link below the 'About Me' section to see a list of my favorite books.
  • The novel I am writing is Young Adult Fiction.  I do really enjoy the genre, even though my days as a young adult have expired.  I love anything considered coming of age.  And generally speaking, I prefer fiction to anything else.
  • I like books I can't put down.  I love "page-turners."
  • I'm being honest: I don't like books where the characters do nothing but babble about the sunny side of life.  Recommend that junk to someone else.  Chances are, you will have a better shot suggesting something that doesn't necessarily have a happy ending.  If the protagonist in a book is getting everything he wants - if everything works out according to plan - I guarantee I'll put it down.
  • I've never been a fan of "classic literature."  If it was on my high school curriculum, I'll probably pass.
  • I like to think.  I like to be caught off guard.  I like to fall in love with the main character and be taken on the journey rather than simply hear about it.
  • I do not like books loaded with literary jumbo - you can save the deep symbolism, irony, metaphors, and complicated quotations/monologues for a Linguistics Professor.
  • I don't typically like graphic novels, sci-fi, or fantasy.  However, I'm open-minded.
  • ABSOLUTELY NO VAMPIRES ALLOWED!
By recommending a book, you are eligible to register for the gift card.  BUT, you have to fill out the entry form.  Be sure to click submit at the bottom of the form.  ADDITIONALLY, you can receive additional entries for the prize by doing any or all of the following:
  • Advertise this contest on your blog (+3 entries)
  • Advertise or retweet this contest on Twitter (+2 entries)
  • Advertise this contest on Facebook (+2 entries)
  • I'll also add an entry if you become a follower of my twitter feed and/or my blog
Entries must be received by 11:00 PM on Thursday September 2.  At that time, randomizer.org will automatically generate a winner.  The winner of the gift card will be announced and notified on Friday, September 3.

Thank you in advance for participating.  Good luck to everyone!
This contest has been closed.  Thank you to all participants.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Nineteen Reasons I LOVED Nineteen Minutes

Last night, I finally finished reading Nineteen Minutes by Jodi PicoultI LOVED IT!  I have never actually blogged about a book before, because: (A) Who the heck am I?  (B) I have respect for all writers and the creative process, and (C) Who the heck am I?

HOWEVER, since I have nothing but gushing, positive things to say about this book, why the heck not?  Please note I am not trying to be profound or "scholarly;" I just want to share my initial reactions.  I'm also working very hard not to spoil anything, so my comments are brief.

So, here goes.....

Nineteen Reasons I LOVED Nineteen Minutes (in no particular order...)

1.  The topic addressed in this book is so important in modern society.  Personally, I feel all educators, administrators, and yes, high school students, should be required to read and dissect this work.

2.  The book is from the perspective of many characters.  Each character has a story.  They are developed so fully, I feel I know each of them personally.

3.  From the moment I began reading, I was immediately hooked.  There was no, "let me give it a few pages" with this novel.  I couldn't put it down.  And I couldn't stop talking about it.  I was telling everyone and anyone to read it.  That means I definitely like it!

4.  I learned a lot from this book.  I learned about the legal system, I learned about parenting, and I relearned about being a teenager in high school.  I learned actions have consequences and that everything affects everything.  And most importantly, I learned (or at least considered) that tragedies such as this do have their roots, and it is the roots that must be addressed.

5.  I was told everything I needed to know to understand the story.  There were no gaps or missing links.  The author provided gave the reader the background information necessary to understand how all the pieces of the puzzle fit together.

6.  While reading this book, I became a resident of Sterling, NH.  I was experiencing the events right along with the characters.  I was truly there.

7.  It was realistic and believable.  At times, I yelled at characters as if they were real people.  For a fictional story, it was pretty real to me.

8.  When I thought I had it all figured out, I was thrown for a loop.

9.  I read slowly because I wanted to enjoy the story.  I didn't want it to end.  When it did, I wanted to know more.  I wasn't finished with these characters.

10.  I experienced the entire spectrum of emotions when reading the novel.

11.  There is always another side to the story, even if you don't want to hear it.

12.  The author remained totally unbiased in her depiction of the events.  Never once did I see her own personal opinions leak through.

13.  My heart bled for Lacey.  I wanted to have a conversation with her.  I wished I had the ability to jump into the pages and give her a hug.  That's all I'm going to say.

14.  I found the character of Alex to be so intriguing.  She was truly a unique individual, in my opinion, and I really enjoyed her role in the story.

15.  It made me THINK!  Think, interpret, reflect, analyze, and evaluate.  Hello, Blooms!  We meet again.

16.  In all honesty, the ending left me unsettled, but completely in a good way.  Did I get what I wanted?  Do I wish it ended differently?  I HAVE NO IDEA!  It's kind of a cool feeling.

17.  I learned their is so much truth in "Never judge a book by its cover." 

18.  I enjoyed the writing.  The sensory details, the subtle humor in a dark plot, and the references.  I usually don't pick up on a lot of these things, but this time, I did.

19.  My reaction to the book surprised me.  It wasn't how I expected to feel, and those who know me well (and are familiar with the book) may be shocked at this statement themselves.  Since you are all going to go read it, I'm not going to elaborate or explain my final statement.  So without saying anything more, I'll simply say this:

I did not hate Peter.  The End.

I know a lot of you have read this book.  I encourage those of you who have to comment on this blog.  I'm not kidding - I loved this book.  I'm not ready to stop discussing it just yet; I'd love to hear from you and converse.

Additionally: This week I will be posting details and prize information for my first blog giveaway.  Please check back to find out how you can participate and register to win a cool prize!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Computer Addicts Never Die....

We just go offline!

Has this become your life?  Sadly, I'm pretty close. 





















Thursday, August 26, 2010

Another Year Wiser

That's right; I'm not any older, just better at this thing called life. ;)

Yesterday I celebrated my 27th birthday.  I was okay - I wasn't that bummed about getting older, and I didn't think much about 30 being around the corner - YIKES! 

So that was good.  I just tried to enjoy my day.

I took the day off from writing and did something I haven't done in a long time.  After my annual birthday massage (say what you will, those things are amazing), I went to Borders, ordered my favorite Carmel Javakula, treated myself to a warm snickerdoodle, and actually took a seat and - get this - READ!  I have been trying to get through the same book for over a month now.  (And sadly, my friend Michelle started reading it long after I did, and she is already finished!  She is waiting on me so we can discuss it.)

While at Borders, my second mother came to visit me, bearing a really good pastry from Wegman's.  She bought me an Americano (Hooray!  More caffeine) and we got to catch up.  (She also had sent me a FANTASTIC birthday card, but I can't post anything more about it for her own protection....)

Fast forward to....GIFTS!  I usually ask for money.  I mean, what do you really get a 27 year-old guy for a birthday gift??  But this year, I made a list.  I miss opening things - it's just more fun.


If you weren't aware, I'm kind of a huge fan of the Kentucky Wildcats.  Here are a few of my favorite gifts from yesterday:
Kentucky Jersey
Kentucky Hoodie

Kentucky Tee-shirt and cap
Also, if you weren't aware, I LOVE food!  Fortunately, Grandma was in town to prepare my favorites for my birthday dinner.  Trust me - it beats eating out!!!
Appetizer 1: Baked Pepperoni Pizza Dip (served with Tortilla Chips and/or raw red  peppers)

Appetizer 2: Stuffed Mushrooms


Entree: Shrimp Parmesan, served with a side of spaghetti, warm Italian bread, and as much extra sauce as desired

And finally, the cake: Marble!  (I'm very simple in that department...)

Thanks to everyone for all the birthday wishes, and to everyone who helped make my day special.  A special thanks to my great friends, Matt and Colleen, who took me out to the Brick House for some "adult-oriented" festivities after my awesome dinner.  It was a great day!

P.S. I am in the process of planning my very first blog giveaway.  Details will be coming soon, but stay tuned to learn how you can enter to win a really cool prize!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Ten Words You Need to Stop Misspelling (theoatmeal.com)

My friend Jillian shared this with me months ago. In honor of "Back to School" time, I decided to bring it back out for a few laughs.






















Friday, August 13, 2010

365 Days Down; (Hopefully) Less Than 365 To Go

I always wanted to write a book. One year ago today, I sat down and started.

My initiative was the result of four things:
1. Though not part of my plan, I was allotted extra free-time.
2. A reality star, who shall remain nameless, had just published a book. I remember thinking: If this person can do it, so can I.
3. My parents had recently attended a publishing party for a non-fiction novel.
4. I love writing.

I opened my laptop and began typing. Experimenting. Feeling my way around the task; trying to discover a path to take. If a student turned that piece in for a grade, I'd have given him a C. When I turned it into myself, I gave it an F. A high F, but an F nonetheless.  But I discovered I wanted to write YAL fiction, so that was something.

Attempt 1:

I typed for hours about a boy at a swim meet. Why? I have no idea! Maybe because I missed swimming? Or, maybe I thought it would uncover a story. It didn't.

The first words I spit out were a pathetic variation of the statement: "The weather that night was perfect." Honestly, that draft was so bad, I chucked it a few days later. There was nothing usable - just ten pages of single-spaced garbage.


Attempt 2:

I know! I'll write about a boy moving. After all, it happened to me - twice. Kids can relate, can't they?

::Insert game show buzzer sound here::

Number of pages wasted: 50. But this time, I double-spaced.

Attempt 3:

A little closer. I explored relatable teen issues. Unfortunately, the pages I typed sounded more like a self-help book. (Really; the first person to read it said so!) It was dry and failed to hook the reader. I had no connection to my character.


Blah, blah blah.......DELETE!

Attempt 4:

Closer... I was parked outside a Wawa. It was after midnight and I had just purchased a 20oz. coffee to recharge my battery. I opened my car windows, carefully sipped my beverage, and turned the radio on quietly in the background.

And then, someone started speaking. It was a boy, fifteen years of age. But he wasn't in the parking lot. In fact, we weren't in the same state. Where was he coming from?  Had he tapped into the radio? Maybe he communicated telepathically. I'm not sure, but I heard him. Loud and clear.

He claimed his name was Ryan Grant. He had depression, and I told him I could relate. An immediate connection was formed.

"Ryan" began ranting a mile a minute. Quickly, I hopped out of my car and grabbed a pen and notebook from the trunk. Then, I grabbed my coffee and sat on the curb, outside the Wawa, scribbling everything he told me.


Later, when I got home, I typed this:

"Ryan Grant sat quietly in his father's Audi sedan."

I liked it for about a minute - then, not so much. But I recognized I was MUCH closer to uncovering my story. And "Ryan" was going to help me do it.

Attempt 5:

Almost there. “Ryan” kept in touch. We bonded, and he started trusting me with more information. It turns out, his name wasn't Ryan Grant - it was Michael Kearns. But he needed to be sure I was on his side before revealing his identity.

And alas, I met my character. Heard his true voice for the first time. I knew how he spoke - his slang, his dialect, his vocabulary. Hobbies and interests were revealed. I discovered his personality, mannerisms, family and educational background, and the experiences that made him who he was.

I've never met Michael in person. We never speak via phone, e-mail, or any technological means. And we never will. When he wants to talk, he taps into my head. I can’t contact him; I wait for him to contact me. He does when he's ready.

Michael has a story he wants told. For some unbeknown reason, he wants me to tell it. Maybe it's because I know what he’s going through. Though my personal experiences are NOTHING like his, I can empathize, because I've felt his pain. Both of us have been dealt hands we didn't ask for.

Michael has given me full control and creative license - as long as I get his message across. I've promised not to reveal anything prematurely. He will let me know when I can. Until then, I keep working to make the piece perfect - and to make Michael proud.


Taking on this project involves much more than writing. The required research is astronomical. I've had to read articles and books; conduct interviews, fieldwork, observations, and network on so many levels. I’ve read and read and read to study my genre. I've also involved myself in the cause I'm tackling. I enjoy it all, but it takes time.

Then there’s the writing process itself. Most of the time, I stare at the screen. When my eyes hurt, I stare out the window (if I'm home) or at other people (if I'm in a bookstore.) Eventually, I'll be either (a) told off, (b) punched, or (c) arrested.  Eh, whatever.  Bring it on. 

I do a lot of prewriting. When I go back and read it, I'm lucky if I can salvage enough sentences to make one coherent paragraph. Usually, I end up with pages of trash.


But trash isn't for nothing. Even cut material allows me to learn my character. There may be situations the reader doesn't need to know, but as the writer, I must know it all. And after a year, I believe I do. Finally.

As a result, this draft has undergone many rounds of plastic surgery. Characters have been altered; characters have been cut. I started in first person, changed to third person, and ended up reverting back to first person. At one point, I had two drafts - one from each perspective.  But for me, it has to be told from Michael directly.  Although third person allowed more details and information to be disclosed, it lacked the intimacy I was going for.

I've cut pages to a paragraph. Rewritten chapters, deleted chapters, condensed and expanded. I've chucked scenes and replaced them with something better.

I never know when Michael is going to contact me, but I'm always ready. I have pads and pens everywhere - on both sides of my bed, in my car and bathroom, and plenty of scrap paper for anywhere else I might be. It’s a wonder I can decipher my thoughts when I need to.


Thankfully, I have talented peers to offer constructive criticism:

Now that I've begun the final trimester, I’m totally pumped. I look forward to hearing from Michael - learning the conclusion to his story, and fitting all the pieces of his puzzle together.

I've learned a TON. If nothing else, I've enjoyed (almost) every second of this journey.


Although it took time, I’m finally comfortable calling myself a writer. I only hope to one day be referred to as an author.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Some Things Never Get Old

It’s no secret how I feel about the field of education these days, but even so, the video below is hilarious. All jadedness aside, I remember the validity of the comments in this clip. And even though I’ve heard this a thousand times before, it never gets old.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

WHO'S FUNNIER: TEACHERS OR COPS?

These are actual comments made on student report cards by teachers in the New York City public school system.

1. Since my last report, your child has reached rock bottom and has started to dig.

2. I would not allow this student to breed.

3. Your child has delusions of adequacy.

4. Your son is depriving a village somewhere of an idiot.

5. Your son sets low personal standards and then consistently fails to achieve them.

6. The student has a 'full six-pack' but lacks the plastic thingie to hold it all together.

7. This child has been working with glue too much.

8. When your daughter's IQ reaches 50, she should sell.

9. The gates are down, the lights are flashing, but the train isn't coming.

10. If this student were any more stupid, he'd have to be watered twice a week.

11. It's impossible to believe the sperm that created this child beat out 1,000,000 others

12. The wheel is turning but the hamster is definitely dead.

COPS:

These 16 Police Comments were taken off actual police car videos around the country.

16. 'You know, stop lights don't come any redder than the one you just went through.'

15. 'Relax, the handcuffs are tight because they're new. They'll stretch after you wear them a while..'

14. 'If you take your hands off the car, I'll make your birth certificate a worthless document.'

13. 'If you run, you'll only go to jail tired.'

12. 'Can you run faster than 1200 feet per second? Because that's the speed of the bullet that'll be chasing you.'

11. 'You don't know how fast you were going? I guess that means I can write anything I want to on the ticket, huh?'

10. 'Yes, sir, you can talk to the shift supervisor, but I don't think it will help. Oh, did I mention that I'm the shift supervisor?'

9. 'Warning! You want a warning? O.K, I'm warning you not to do that again or I'll give you another ticket.'

8. 'The answer to this last question will determine whether you are drunk or not.. Was Mickey Mouse a cat or a dog?'

7. 'Fair? You want me to be fair? Listen, fair is a place where you go to ride on rides, eat cotton candy and corn dogs and step in monkey shit.'

6. 'Yeah, we have a quota. Two more tickets and my wife gets a toaster oven.'

5. 'In God we trust, all others we run through NCIC.'

4. 'How big were those 'two beers' you say you had?'

3. 'No sir, we don't have quotas anymore. We used to, but now we're allowed to write as many tickets as we can.'

2. 'I'm glad to hear that the Chief (of Police) is a personal friend of yours. So you know someone who can post your bail..'

AND THE WINNER IS....

1.'You didn't think we give pretty women tickets? You're right, we don't. Sign here.'