Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Alan Rickman's Thank You to Joanne Rowling

I've seen this posted on a few different sites, but since I'm blogging about my attempts to write a book based on Rowling's universe, I thought I should mention it here too.

Well said, Alan.

What else can I say? Not only did I enjoy the Harry Potter series, but it was her books that led lead me to the discovery that I enjoy writing fiction.

I thank you too, Joanne.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Life As a Chemist

I want to be a writer someday, but right now most of my working time is spent being a chemist. For the most part, nothing much exciting happens where I work, but we did have a bit of action the other day.

Unfortunately, I was the one responsible for all the excitement.

I do research on fuel cells and one of the more common fuels for these devices is hydrogen. So when I disconnected one of our test systems without completely shutting down the fuel stream, the escaping hydrogen set off the laboratory alarm.

There was no danger involved. Hydrogen can be explosive when sufficient quantities build up in a closed area, but the amount I was leaking was almost a thousand times below that limit. Unfortunately, the nearby carbon monoxide sensor is also sensitive to hydrogen and its alarm level is set at a much, much lower level, so the alarm went off when it shouldn’t have. Inconvenient, but better to be safe than sorry.

Normally this wouldn’t have been any problem. Just a few flashing lights in our lab to let us know there was a leak. However, the company had just recently tied our room’s alarm system into the building’s main alarm system and so an “evacuate the building” message was broadcast throughout the entire building. Thank goodness it wasn’t raining that day.

Although the matter was quickly resolved and everyone brought back inside, I did have to explain all this to the chief engineer for the project. No fun!

Who ever said chemistry was all fun and games?

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Diagnosis: Is It Showing or Telling?

Lately, I've run across quite a few articles on showing vs telling and I'd like to share two of the best ones with you.  One of the posts is from April, which tells you just how far behind I am in updating this blog, but both of them come from Janice Hardy.  I read her blog every day and highly recommend it. I follow the feeds of nearly 50 blogs (no wonder I can't get any writing done!) and Janice's posts are the ones I bookmark most often.

In both posts, Janice describes some methods she uses to distinguish between showing and telling.  In the first article, she explains how POV can be used to distinguish between the two.  In the second article she demonstrates a another trick she uses to tell the difference.  She writes:      

One trick I use to show and not tell is to imagine myself acting out whatever it is my characters are doing. If I can do what they do, I'm showing. If not, I'm telling.

Be sure to check them out.  I'm still struggling with being able to spot the difference between showing vs telling, but with all these wonderful writing blogs out there, I'll get it sooner or later. 

I hope.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

What Makes a Book Young Adult, Anyway?

Even though I spend most of my time working on my Hogwarts book, I still occasionally think about what I will write once it's finished. After all, if I ever want to be published, I can't keep writing what is essentially fan fic. I do have a story in mind, but there is still one big decision to make -- the age of the main character.

My first instinct would be to have the MC be a twelve year old boy, which would make it a MG (middle grade) novel, since I think my whimsical writing style lends itself to that age group. But as the story involves learning about magic in a castle, I wonder if that will make it too much like Harry Potter.

I could easily have the MC be someone who just finished college, and that does have a certain appeal to me. After all, think of all those people who grew up with Harry Potter, but have since graduated from college and who desire to read stories similar to the HP series, but filled with characters closer to their own ages. Unfortunately, I've been told by a few authors that adults read mostly dark fantasy or high fantasy, with very little whimsicalness.

I could make the MC a teenager, which would make it more of a YA (young adult) book, but I've been told that YA books are heavily focused on female protagonists, with lots of emotional angst, and coming of age themes. Most importantly, they require being able to write in a YA voice. Don't think I would be very good at that.

Why am I mentioning all this?

Last week I picked up The Alchemyst: The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel, by Michael Scott. I haven't finished the book yet, but I already have one big question.

Is this book considered YA?

I mean, it was in the teen fantasy section, and the MC's are in high school, but they don't sound like high-schoolers at all. Scott occasionally reminds us that the MC's are young by giving them thoughts such as "she hated it when adults did that", but 99.9% of the time the MC's talk, act, and think like adults.

The book made the best sellers list, and there are three sequels, so it must be at least somewhat popular, so I can only see two possibilities. Either this book is not considered YA (so lots of adults or middle graders must be reading it instead) or YA books don't require all that much of a YA voice to be successful.

Anybody know the answer?

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Air Traffic Patterns

This video has nothing to do with writing, but it's interesting and I need to stall for time while I'm working on the real post.

It's a 24 hour map of the flight paths of all large planes compressed into a couple of minutes. Notice the patterns as day and night sweep across the planet.