Friday, September 19, 2014

What Stephen King Taught Me About Writing

Thanks to Glenn Leibowitz for assembling these.

All of the below work is quotes from Stephen King:

On word choice
One of the really bad things you can do to your writing is to dress up the vocabulary, looking for long words because you’re maybe a little bit ashamed of your short ones.

Remember that the basic rule of vocabulary is use the first word that comes to your mind, if it is appropriate and colorful.

The word is only a representation of the meaning; even at its best, writing almost always falls short of full meaning. Given that, why in God’s name would you want to make things worse by choosing a word which is only cousin to the one you really wanted to use?

On grammar

Must you write complete sentences each time, every time? Perish the thought. If your work consists only of fragments and floating clauses, the Grammar Police aren’t going to come and take you away.

Take any noun, put it with any verb, and you have a sentence. It never fails. Rocks explode. Jane transmits. Mountains float. These are all perfect sentences. Many such thoughts make little rational sense, but even the stranger ones (Plums deify!) have a kind of poetic weight that’s nice. The simplicity of noun-verb construction is useful — at the very least it can provide a safety net for your writing.

Grammar is not just a pain in the ass; it’s the pole you grab to get your thoughts up on their feet and walking. Besides, all those simple sentences worked for Hemingway, didn’t they?
On reading

If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot. There’s no way around these two things that I’m aware of, no shortcut.

Reading is the creative center of a writer’s life. I take a book with me everywhere I go, and find there are all sorts of opportunities to dip in. The trick is to teach yourself to read in small sips as well as in long swallows. Waiting rooms were made for books — of course! But so are theater lobbies before the show, long and boring checkout lines, and everyone’s favorite, the john. You can even read while you’re driving, thanks to the audiobook revolution.

The real importance of reading is that it creates an ease and intimacy with the process of writing; one comes to the country of the writer with one’s papers and identification pretty much in order. Constant reading will pull you into a place (a mind-set, if you like the phrase) where you can write eagerly and without self-consciousness. It also offers you a constantly growing knowledge of what has been done and what hasn’t, what is trite and what is fresh, what works and what just lies there dying (or dead) on the page. The more you read, the less apt you are to make a fool of yourself with your pen or word processor.

On writing

By the time you step into your new writing space and close the door, you should have settled on a daily writing goal. As with physical exercise, it would be best to set this goal low at first, to avoid discouragement. I suggest a thousand words a day.

With that goal set, resolve to yourself that the door stays closed until that goal is met. Get busy putting those thousand words on paper... In an early interview (this was to promote Carrie, I think), a radio talk-show host asked me how I wrote. My reply — “One word at a time” — seemingly left him without a reply. I think he was trying to decide whether or not I was joking. I wasn’t.

In the end, it’s always that simple. Whether it’s a vignette of a single page or an epic trilogy like The Lord of the Rings, the work is always accomplished one word at a time.
On what to write about

Now comes the big question: What are you going to write about? And the equally big answer: Anything you damn well want. Anything at all…as long as you tell the truth.

Write what you like, then imbue it with life and make it unique by blending in your own personal knowledge of life, friendship, relationships, sex, and work. Especially work. People love to read about work. God knows why, but they do. If you’re a plumber who enjoys science fiction, you might well consider a novel about a plumber aboard a starship or on an alien planet. Sound ludicrous? The late Clifford D. Simak wrote a novel called Cosmic Engineers which is close to just that. And it’s a terrific read.

John Grisham, of course, knows lawyers. What you know makes you unique in some other way. Be brave. Map the enemy’s positions, come back, tell us all you know. And remember that plumbers in space is not such a bad setup for a story.

Friday, August 29, 2014

To My Faithful Readers

To My Faithful Readers,

As many of you know, I became a dad this year to two beautiful little girls. 
As a result, the sequel to “Hath No Fury:” “Moments of Rhythm and Magic” will be delayed a little further into 2015.
To carry you until then here is another VERY rough excerpt from “Moments of Rhythm and Magic”:

Even before going to the house he shared with his Grandmother, he stopped by Amy's house.  He was pretty certain that the Sellers family had moved when he tried calling Amy from Christie's house all those months ago.  Still, he had to try.  He found it dark and empty.  An aging "Century 21" sign stood outside. 

"Sorry man,"  Danny said.

"It's ok," Mark said.  Although he didn't feel ok.  He felt an incredible need to be in his old home. 

As he walked over he glanced at the old meeting place he and Amy had, the little hollow in the bushes.  It was where they had met countless times before their adventures.  He had  expected to see it overgrown, or worse, to see the bushes around it dying.  What he did see surprised him.  In the hollow now grew a bush with peach colored roses.  They were breathtakingly beautiful as they bloomed in the spring warmth. 

He loves you.

Mark had to work hard to hold back the flood of feelings that threatened to overwhelm him.  Determined to find something...some peace.  He soldiered on to his own house, Danny in tow.

He found his grandmothers house to be empty and boarded up.  Some of the exterior looked "blackened."  It appeared as though someone wanted to burn it, but either didn't know how, or was afraid to get close enough to do it properly.  Graffiti had already begun to show up in spray-painted words of all of them witches!  Mark wasnt sure why, but he didnt think these deeds were done by child pranksters, not in this neighborhood, but by someone older, who should know better.

Danny had offered to help him break in, but Mark still surprisingly had his key, which worked the door lock and deadbolt.

Mark reflexively called for Natasha, who, of course, didnt come.  The hint of incense still permeated the air, and for an instant, Mark found it comforting.  Warm memories of his grandmother and rituals filled his mind.  For an instant, he felt at home. It felt good, but somehow empty.

As they walked through the entry way they found the incense smell was was mixed with a musty smell and something really foul and rancid underneath.

The police in Kingston weren't the fastest operating, and this place was still a crime scene five months later.  It would not have given Mark comfort to know that his grandmother had already been dead before the grizzly events of that Halloween evening had occurred. His grandmother's body had been removed, but because it was still and active crime scene it had not been cleaned up yet.

Danny walked into the living room first, and, before Mark had a chance to see the room Danny threw him back.

What the hell are you doing?!  Mark yelled, genuine surprise and anger in his voice.

Mark, man, you dont want to go in there?  Danny said holding Mark in something of a bear hug.

Yes I do!  Mark protested.

No man, Danny insisted. dont!

---See you in 2015

Future Personal Computing Technology Trends

An earlier article, I mentioned how the smaller device (i.e. Smartphone) would become the centre of personal technology.  It certainly has gone that way over the past few years, with most consumers now carrying a Smartphone.  Cellular devices that are NOT at least first generation smart devices with screens are becoming more and more rare.  Even my parents are now iPhone users!
We still see the need, however for the tablet and the laptop (for a keyboard if nothing else).  There are still needs for larger screens and more human sized interfaces.  Many human interface devices interconnect via Bluetooth wireless protocol, which has recently become much more advanced and efficient.
We will see a shift in the next three stages of personal computing technology that will hinge on the advancement of wireless technology as a whole; all protocols, from Bluetooth to wifi to Cellular.

First stage – A shift in the center

As many of you know from some of the past articles, we love technology that is built into a watch.  It could be either a Dick Tracy or Knight Rider worship thing, but mostly because it’s really cool and convenient.  Even Steve Wozniak called out for Apple to look toward more wearable technology.
The first stage will see the center of the technology shift to the wearable device itself.  The wearable device will be the heart/brains.  The larger interfaces, handsets, tablets, keyboards, screens etc will be linked to this piece of wearable tech.
The wearable tech could either be a watch, glasses (Like Google Glass), pendant or something new.  This device will be the local memory, and network/internet connection.  Tablet and laptop-like interfaces will become as generic and interchangeable as Bluetooth earpieces are to our Smartphones.

Second Stage- Access from Anywhere!

The next stage will be more subtle, and it’s happening now.  Most of our files and information will be accessible from anywhere.  Cloud (such a trendy word) based information or internet accessible servers will be a local source for data and applications, and it won’t matter on what device you are on.
The wearable tech may shift to become the internet or network interface and the secure personal gateway to private information.

Third Stage- It’s all in your head

Several teams at Princeton and Berkley are making real advances in mapping out brain electrical configurations and mapping them to specific thoughts.  It’s a reasonable assumption that a mental interface bay be developed.  It may not completely replace hand gestures, voice, touch-screens or keyboards for quite a while (at least for business), but it may appear in the next 5-10 years for personal or consumer interaction.
Just don’t leave it on in your sleep!

This NEEDS to happen

As nice as all of our mobile technology is, all of our devices suffer from the need to be constantly recharged.  There is a huge market for portable batteries, solar panels and anything to compensate for the ever growing demand for portable power. 
Until a miniature, practical, generator, fuel cell or REALLY extended battery technology is developed, we will be constantly tethered.  

Friday, August 22, 2014

Is this how the thought police get started?

Now, I am not defending this kid or what he wrote.  This kid could clearly be in need of some real help or maybe he just has a warped sense of humor.

That isn't the point.

Immediately arresting this kid for writing something fictional in an assignment is in direct violation with the US Constitution.

For writing about shooting a dinosaur, S.C. high school student gets arrested 
NRMR1805/GETTY IMAGES/ISTOCKPHOTOA made-up story about a dinosaur and a gun got a 16-year-old student in South Carolina arrested and suspended.

Monday, August 11, 2014

I was Interviewed on NPR by Big Picture Science & SETI

Posted 8/11/2014
Two weeks ago I got approached by Dr. Seth Shostak from SETI and NASA.
He does a regular science/technology radio show for NPR and Podcast

He read the article I did for DVICE on Orwellian technology being used today and wanted to interview me as a technology expert.

My Interview was on NPR across the US all last week and is available on line to listen to here:

Listen On line here!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

The Next Evolutionary Step in Computer Platform?

The modern smartphone has more computing power and capacity than computers we used only a few years ago.  So why isn’t your Smartphone your primary computer?  There are a few reasons, the first is a mindset.  Many see these devices and their compact size and place them in the category of, “fancy phones with email.”  The second (and the biggest) reason is their small size.   While diminutive stature makes them great for taking everywhere, a thumb keyboard and 2-4 inch screen makes them a bad choice to work on large documents or to give presentations.

To try and emulate the functionality of a single computing platform, we sync data between devices. While this works for many applications, it adds time, extra steps and loss of data (in some cases) between mobile and desktop document formats.  It also begs the question of, why we are spending time synchronizing (even over the air) our new 32+ GB smartphones the same way we did with our 16mb Palm Pilots.  Many business users can easily fit their past few year’s worth of documents into a few Gigabytes of space.   

Not to dismiss devices like the iPad, because it’s truly a half way point, most people don’t strap an iPad to their belt every morning like they do their smartphone. 

The statistics show the popularity of the smartphone platform.  A survey conducted by IBM in October 2008 of Internet users in the US, UK and China found that over 50% of all users preferred surfing the web on their smartphone over their desktop PC.  In May 2008 cellular provider Verizon Wireless got a big boost in mobility and operating efficiency by replacing the eight pound laptops of 2,250 of their field technicians with five ounce Blackberry devices.

Devices like the Redfly Mobile Companion by Celio, the Celluon Laser Key, micro sized projectors and the Impatica Showmate can now give you a larger interface to your mobile device.  Are they are the precursors for heralding in the next generation of the computing platform?

Friday, May 9, 2014

So you've written a book...Now what? Part-2- A guide to publish, self publish or just what to do next.

 (If you missed Part 1 - Click here)
A guide to publish, self publish or just what to do next.


Your book's content will now be read by hundreds of people.  They will only be looking at the first three chapters, and in some
cases, the first five pages.  These pages MUST be "killer."  They need to really entice the reader to go further.  You may have a
"Harry Potter" after chapter 4, but if chapters 1-3 are boring drivel, you have just dramatically recuced your chances of ever
being read.

There are several paths you can take here and it all depends on your personal preference and perseverance.

If you are one (like me) that desperately wants to see their book in a "brick and mortar" book store, then you will need to take
the more conservative, conventional path of finding a writing agent and then a conventional publisher.  If you are impatient and
NEED to see your book in people's hands now, there is a no-cost/low-cost self publishing path you can follow.

Path 1:
In order to get your book in front of most large publishers, you really NEED and agent to represent you.  Even then, that is still
a challenge.  Some publishers will look a submission without an agent, but not many.  They depend upon recognized agents to act as
filters for them.  These people are mostly interns, working for the agents and making almost no money.

I got myself a copy of the guide to literary agents and also used this great web site: and began making alist of agents to submit to.

Work on your Query letter which may determine if anyone even looks at page 1.

Get your spelling and grammar up to scratch.  Even if you've got the next Stephen King Novel (Stephen King was an English
teacher), these readers at agents and publishers consider it insulting if you haven't even got your book "mechanically" correct.

Use your list to keep track of your submissions.  I used a spreadsheet.

If an agent or publisher demands money from you to start, run the other way.  A reputable agent or publisher will work on a

Don't be discouraged with rejections (or no contact at all) especially for fiction.


The odds are not in your favor no matter how great your story is.

This is why many authors choose path 2.

Path 2:
Some may choose this path out of an impatient need to get their book out.  Some choose it becuase they don't want to share their
profits with an agent as well as a publisher.  Either way it's understandable, if your book does well in the self-publish world,
it may attract a larger scale publisher or agent.

Most of the work for self publishing will require you to reformat your book into

To start, I recommend going with the worlds largest book seller, Amazon.  You can submit your book for Kindle here:

Amazon also has a printed book self publishing house called, Createspace.

With the ebooks becoming the most popular, you'll also want to submit to Nook here:

Look for Part 3 coming soon, including navigating Amazon and Barnes and Noble, and Promoting once you've self-Published.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Top 10 Favorite Time Travel Movies

These are not in order of most to least, just a general list of my favorites.

What are yours?

1. Time after Time- Early Malcom MacDowell.  H.G. Wells chases Jack the Ripper through time.
2. Back to the Future 1 & 3.  2 was kind of boring in my book.
3. Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure 1 - "Strange things are afoot at the Circle-k."
4. Time Stalkers- Made for TV movie that went to video.  Should spell, "echh!" but doesn't.  A well written story under-produced.  Man buys a genuine tin-type from the old west, except that a gunslinger in the picture is carrying a .357 magnum made in 1980.
5. 12 Monkeys - Twisted and different.   Well written and even better acted.
6. Star Trek IV- The scene at then end with the Klingon Ship de-cloaking over the whaling ship made it all worth it.
7. Somewhere in Time- Well written and realistic atmosphere
8. The Time Machine - The 1960, Rod Taylor version
9. Midnight in Paris- Go to Paris.  Discover all things are possible.
10. Frequency- unconventional with a lot of nice moments.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Do we really need 3+ 24 hour news networks?

I think this is what happens when you have a  24 hour news network, sooner or later you run out of things to talk about, even on an interesting topic...I suppose it beats another story about Justin Bieber...but not by much.  

CNN's Don Lemon: Is Black Hole Theory For Missing Jet 'Preposterous?':

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

So you've written a book...Now what. A guide to publish, self publish or just what to do next. PART 1

If you're reading this you've either written a book or about to finish writing one.  You may want to self publish or you may be seeking the more traditional path of trying to submit your book to a writing agent or publisher. 

But the bottom line:

What do you you do now?

1. Protect yourself and your work.
In the US, any work you create is technically yours under copyright law, however, if someone decided to steal your work, the burden of proof would be on you.  Your best bet (and your safest bet) is to invest the $35 and get an official Library of Congress Copyright registration You can do this part all on-line.  The piece of mind is worth it!

Once you have protected yourself with copyrights for your country (or countries where you will be submitting your work) you are safe to proceed with steps two and three.

Pharmaceutical Flavor of the month

In a recent study, one in five children (That’s twenty percent!) is on some type of medication to either combat depression, attention deficit disorder (we used to call it daydreaming), or hyperactivity. 
It seems like the pharmaceutical industry has stepped up to the plate to find a cure for the human condition.  

We have truly stepped into Aldus Huxley’s, Brave New World (written in the early twentieth century) where the entire population was addicted to “Soma” a drug which kept you even and happy.

Attention Deficit Disorder seems to be the diagnosis given so often to children.  Children who have imaginations and find their minds wandering are now being drugged so they will concentrate and focus on whatever information is currently being shoveled into them.  I’m not saying that a child doesn’t learn to concentrate, but I think we are medicating something and pumping chemicals into children, when maybe they just need to learn HOW to concentrate. 

Giving pills is easier.  It feeds the multi-billion dollar drug industry.  Plus, parents are both forced to work so much. Who has time to teach children something like concentration techniques?  

Monday, March 17, 2014

EZ Pass®, “1984” and…Star Trek

I don’t believe that technology itself can be evil or remove personal freedom, but I do think that some technology can be used for purposes that can enact that.  When the state of New Jersey deployed the automatic toll machine system, EZ-Pass, it was part of the original plan that the enormous cost of the system would be paid for by toll violators that got confused and went in the wrong lane accidentally, misread EZ-Pass transponders and ”speeders” through the gate.

Here is a system purchased by our government leader whose very existence is designed to be paid for my capitalizing on mistakes, manufacturer’s defects and speed limits (5 MPH) that were made artificially low, solely for the purpose of generating revenue.  

But this is only where the loss of personal freedom begins.

To begin with, the tags that don’t transmit properly are issued tickets.  These tickets are issued by a system that has the technology to take a picture of the “offender’s” license plate, cross reference their address and mail them a ticket.  If the system can locate their information from the license plate, why can’t it also simply locate their EZ-Pass account and charge it $.35 for the damned toll and not $35.00 for a ticket?
Next we have a system that can easily read the transponders at 55 MPH+, and they have slowed the tolls down to 5 MPH??  You cannot tell me that this speed is so artificially slow that it’s difficult to maintain.  Moreover, slowing down that much creates traffic tie ups that it was designed to elevate.  Moreover, it adds to the environmental issues that accompany toll booths.

Also, if you don’t think that this system will eventually be employed to time you from one point to another, think again.  Perhaps they do not do this today, but wait.  Printing tickets may not be the sole motivation for this timing.  Wait until the automotive insurance companies want this information to raise your rates depending on what kind of driver they think you are. 

Consider that we also now have a system that knows where you are and were.  It keeps logs and is easily searchable.  Yes, there is the public opinion that anything we do can be seen by a satellite anyway.  While it’s true that our current satellite technology can read the license plates off of cars, the face of the planet is a big place and someone has to have a reason to point that lens at a specific point.  It would be like taking a pair of extremely powerful binoculars from a three story window and looking for a specific ant. You could do it, if the optics were good enough, but how many ants could you monitor at once?

We are in the information age and “Big Brother is watching how fast you drive.”
How is this like Star Trek®?

In the original series episode “Court Martial” Captain Kirk stands accused of negligence in a 23rd century Court Martial and his primary accuser/witness is the computer from the Enterprise.  His lawyer boldly points out that we have the right to face our accuser, and this right is outlined in our Constitution.  But what happens when your accuser is a machine?

Here we are in the early 21st century and we have already begun to face a technological accuser.  Admittedly, it’s for a traffic violation.  But, is this just the beginning?

Friday, March 14, 2014

“Why? ….because it’s a tradition!” – Fiddler on the Roof

The area I’m going to touch on might get me burned at the stake in some circles.  The idea of following a “tradition” because it makes you feel good to do so is fine.  Keeping the tradition “with a vengeance” I have to question.

My first example is one I feel pretty comfortable with since I was raised Jewish, it is the act of keeping Kosher.  There is a long list of requirements for maintaining this tradition, but I’m going to begin with the bold headers that most people know.

1. Mixing meat and dairy:  This made a lot of sense once…when your bowls and plates were made of wood.  Wood is a very porous material and it absorbs some of the enzymes from food.  Putting a piece of meat down where you had milk yesterday could make you pretty sick.  So it was a very intelligent idea to keep sets of dishes separate for meat and dairy. 

Many Jewish families will still keep extra sets of dishes for meat and dairy.  Some extremists will go as far as to have separate shelves in their refrigerator, or if they have the money two different refrigerators (I wonder where the commandment for that is in the Torah).  I have met people who will get violently mad at you if you transgress this tradition (i.e. Use the wrong bowl for something).

Today’s cookware is ceramic, china, glass or similar (not porous).  We have anti-bacterial soap, and running hot water. 

2. Shellfish and Pork– Once upon a time there was a good chance you could get violently ill or die from eating these foods.  With modern methods of cooking and preparation, these are not a concern anymore. 

Following these rules simply “because it’s a tradition” is more an attempt for some folks to feel superior, that THEY follow the commandments of god and will be rewarded…unlike the rest of us “heathens.” 

If you think I’m wrong about this, or running off on some wild tangent, consider these factors.

1. If you were REALLY following all of gods commandments from the Torah, you’d be adding animal sacrifices (in some cases burning them) and smearing lambs blood on your doorposts for Passover.
2. When I had my first television it had rabbit ear antennae.  I used to have to adjust them for proper viewing.  It made sense and it worked.  Akin to “wooden bowls” of technology, I now have cable (ceramic).  Do I still plop a set of ‘ears” on my TV and adjust them?  Of course not; I don’t need them.  I don’t need two sets of dishes either.

You might argue that following these traditions makes you feel closer to god.  These folks also burn perfectly good food at Passover (food that is not Kosher for Passover).  Wouldn't God be happier if you gave the food to a hungry or homeless person?  Isn't that more spiritual?

There is no harm in keeping these practices, and I firmly believe that, as long as you don't hurt anyone else, What you do is your business, just don't look down on the rest of us for not doing it.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Aliens and UFOs

“The universe is big…I mean really big!  You may think it’s a long way down the street to the chemist, but that’s just peanuts to space!” – Douglas Addams

There is so much to day on this topic. 

To begin, most people recognize that with the universe being the size it is, the idea that we are “alone” is pretty absurd.  Most people also believe that intelligent alien life exists and that this planet has been visited by extra-terrestrials. 

In a Reuter’s news article from 2-3 years ago, a hacker in the UK was exposed.  This hacker’s sole reason for hacking was an attempt to gain information from US defense and space agencies surrounding the existence of extra-terrestrial life.  When asked whether or not he now believed that extra-terrestrial life existed, he responded with a firm, "ALIENS DO EXIST."

So this raises two practical questions:

1. What would it take to make the general public accept that extra terrestrial life exists and has visited this planet?
2. What impact would that have on the planet if it were revealed?  Panic?  Religious fervor? 

To the first question, who would need to make the announcement?  CNN?  ABC?  There have been many documentaries bringing to light evidence and testimony from reliable sources, but most seem to pull their punches in the end, not wanting to add their reputation to the credibility of their witnesses. 

To the next question, what impact would it have on the planet?  The economy?  Would it bring universal peace or panic?  Some believe we are being prepared by television and popular science fiction is laced with concepts and ideas that would prepare us to accept these beings.  While many Star Trek fans would argue that they have been ready for this information since the 60’s, I tend to agree with the line in “Men in Black:”

“A person can be smart.  People are stupid and panicky.” 

A crowd will usually act down to the level of the lowest intelligence of its participants.

The true religious zealots would still deny their existence, denouncing them as “work of the devil.” 

Most organized religions will need to redefine themselves if they want to remain in existence. 

“The world Universe was created in six days.”  

Friday, March 7, 2014

Angry Comedian Philosophers

Mel Brooks once described the roll of the “Stand-up Philosopher” (comedian) as “one who coalesces the vapor the human experience into a viable and logical comprehension.”  George Carlin defined the comedian as one who “thinks up goofy shit.”

Today’s popular comedians seem…well…angry.  When you have to start every sentence with: “You know who else I hate…”  And the list goes on for fifteen to twenty minutes alienating just about everyone.  Or the comedian needs to point out everything as if it were obvious, and “weren't you stupid for not realizing it.”

I’m really not saying that they are wrong for being angrier than in the past.  In my opinion, there seems to be a lot more to be angrier at.  In this powerful information age, we seem to know a lot more about a lot more things.  We have cameras everywhere and can transmit information faster than ever before and more channels to convey them.

I don’t want to get angry when I see a comedian anymore.  I get angry enough watching the news.  You know what I hate?  I hate people who go on with “…and you know who else I hate?”