Friday, December 19, 2008

Start a Story with a Brainstorm Draft by Lawrence Roth

I have had a couple of my stories published; therefore I boldly offer my advice on how to write stories. I put together a story structure tool for myself to use when I begin to brainstorm a story. This helps me to outline a story, develop a protagonist and an antagonist, and to eventually write a story.

This story structure tool was mostly adopted from the screenplay guidelines developed by Syd Field. I have added my own touch and modified the guidelines for writing a story. I have also changed the structure to reflect four acts instead of three. Syd Field actually does discuss a four act structure but he still calls it a three act structure. In Syd Field's structure he designates an Act 2a and an Act 2b which I converted to Act 2 and Act 3. Here is the structure with definitions that I use:

Act I. Provocation
Opening The opening summarizes and sets the tone of the story.
Catalyst The catalyst is an inciting incident that will change the direction of the protagonist's life.
First Plot Point The first plot point is a surprising development that will radically change the protagonist's life and force him or her towards confrontation with the antagonist.
First Pinch The first pinch is an incident that addresses the main conflict and increases barriers between the protagonist and his or her goal.
Act II. Escalation
Middle Plot Point The middle plot point is a reversal of fortune or revelation that changes the direction of the story further decreasing the protagonist's ability to reach his or her goal.
Second Pinch The second pinch is an incident, similar to the first pinch, that address the main conflict and increases barriers between the protagonist and his or her goal.
Act III. Confrontation
Last Plot Point The last plot point is the incident that forces the protagonist to finally confront the antagonist.
Showdown The showdown is where the protagonist has the final battle with the antagonist and either wins or loses.
Act IV. Resolution
Resolution The resolution demonstrates how the issues of the story are resolved.
Epilogue The epilogue ties up the loose ends of the story and brings closure.

I define a basic story as being about a protagonist who must confront an antagonist to achieve a goal. Therefore, to start the process of brainstorming a story I decide on a name for my protagonist and a name for my antagonist. Then I decide what the goal is.

After outlining the main events in my story I start what I call the Brainstorm Draft. The problem I have had in the past is that I have started writing many stories but encountered the inevitable writer's block and did not finish the stories.

In the Brainstorm Draft I write the story from beginning to end using the outline as a guide. When I come across writer's block and find logic gaps in the transition from one event to another I keep writing regardless.

I have written several Brainstorm Drafts where Acts I, II, III and IV have no logical transition between them. For example I started one story that began with a character in a warehouse distribution center with the next event having the character being trapped in an underground tunnel beneath a mansion. How did the character get from one place to other?

I did not know at the time and I did not care. I did use the outline I had established to give direction to the story. I do not worry about making a logical transition until I write the rough draft.

In the Brainstorm Draft if I need a character in a warehouse in one event and then in a tunnel in the next event then that is what happens with or without a logical explanation. The reason I do this is to get the story written.

The Brainstorm Draft does two things for me: It helps me develop the characters and the story. The brainstorm session which can actually take a few hours each day for a couple of weeks is by far the most fun. This is when the characters come to life for me. I get to know the characters and their little personality quirks. I also develop a better sense of the story. I visualize the events and locations where the story takes place. It is after the Brainstorm Draft that the real work begins. This involves putting the rough draft together, editing and making names for the additional characters born within the brainstorm draft.

Therefore, brainstorming a Brainstorm Draft gets the main events from the outline written down, develops characters and prepares the story for a rough draft.

About the Author
Lawrence Roth in an independent web developer who owns and maintains Lawrence has worked on various e-commerce and website projects. Lawrence writes articles and stories to submit to online publications.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Just Another Day

Before he sank into the black obscurity of unconsciousness, all Sam remembered was a blinding flash of white light and a wave of heat.

He woke up slowly, wondering if he was dead or alive. Then the pain hit him, along with the realization that, yes, he was alive. Alive and pinned under the rubble of bricks, plaster, and the other various debris from whatever buildings used to tower over the spot where he now lay.

Sam was an ex-soldier, Special Forces...a sniper in Vietnam. He had felt pain in the past and somehow knew that nothing was broken. Huge puddles of his blood were not evident, his vision was a little blurred, and his hearing was kinda shot. But all in all, he felt OK considering.

He began to move his arms and legs, and slowly the pile of bricks fell off him in clouds of dust. He made several attempts to stand upright, and finally caught his balance. It was about that moment he looked up and noticed the mushroom cloud of a nuclear explosion, about ten miles to the east, rising black-orange higher and higher in the pale blue sky. Sam sat back down.

He gazed slowly around trying to get a fix on where he was. Then throught the rubble, he noticed a glint of light, bright and golden. It was a cross sitting erect, by itself among the bricks and dust. ST Michael The Archangel Church. That was what had fallen on him...or saved him.

To be continued

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Bookstores For Sale

Two blocks from my apartment, in the basement of an old church, is a used bookstore for sale. At best, it is disorganized chaos, mismatched fixtures, with lots of room for improvement. The location is good, on the streetcar line and is located in the "Cultural District" which also contains, the university, state history museum, theaters and the art museum.

In most places I have lived, in other states, there was always at least one small, independent bookstore, usually a used bookstore. A few were more interesting than others, depending on size and type of books. Most had little or no seating for perusing, narrow aisles, and were dimly lit. But, they did have a certain unique character.

The owner of this particular bookstore claims to own over 350,000 books in storage! The content various and is mostlu paperbooks, but he also has an on-line presence. In researching this post, many are in this category, but there seems to be "niche" marketers specializing in rare/antique, textbooks, technical books, adult books, christian, new age, mystery, etc. I would imagine the local market would determine in part the specialty if any the bookstore would fill.

In addition some of these retailers, double as "gift shops" and related merchandise. My opinion would be to stick to just books.

There seem to be books available on start-up, wholesale buying (several companies use Abe books for pricing) . Many advice on buying a bookstore are available in E-book format as well. Have any of you readers ever bought, owned, or thought of buying a bookstore? I'd like to hear from you.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

My "Red" Grandma

My Finnish grandmother came to America in 1905, along with several brothers and sisters. They settled in Northern Minnesota. As long as I can remember, she told me wonderful stories about homesteading and the adventures of my grandfather, hunting, trapping, and enduring the cold dark winters of the Superior National Forest.

Eventually she met my grandfather and they settled on a homestead of 80 acres. My grandfather worked in the Mesabi Range Iron Mines, and they once lived in the town of Sparta, now named Gilbert. I was told they once had a small store and my grandmother taught school.

My father was born in 1915, and in 1916, the union workers at the mines went on strike, and eventually most were blackballed. I’ve assumed my grandpa was among them.

In 1917 my grandparents and toddler father, left Minnesota and their homestead, and returned to Finland, evidently to take part in the “Glorious Revolution”, the Finnish Civil War. They were Bolsheviks...Reds..Communists...and they lost. An uncle on my grandfather’s side became a member of Parliament from the Communist Party, renamed the Social Democratic Party.

In 1922 my grandparents and father returned to the USA, only to find their homestead in Minnesota, looted or burned down. (Was it retaliation perhaps for the strike and union membership?). Grandmother’s brothers and sisters lived in the Syracuse, NY area, so they moved there. My grandfather worked at the Sanderson Steel Mill, which eventually became Crucible Steel, the remainder of his work life.

In 1929, I was told my father (age 15), had been photographed for the local Syracuse newspaper, climbing a flagpole to attach the Russian Communist flag. You see, my father, was also a Communist. This was at one of the numerous Communist Youth Camps that flourished in New York State at this time. Upon reflection, this appears to be the “Camp” I spent many a summer at from my birth, to the birth of my oldest daughter, roughly from 1948 – 1972 swimming, water skiing, hiking, watching bonfires and when old enough, drinking beer.

In 1936 my grandma ran for Congress of the United States, as a member of the Communist Party, in Central NY. She lost. Her name, however, is cited in the “House on Un-American Activities Committee Hearings, 1955”. (McCarthy hearings)

I only found out about some of this recently, through research, and first heard of the Communist Party membership in 1976 from my father, when they visited the birth of my second daughter. I find it strange that they kept this “family secret” from me all those years, but it does explain some things I always wondered about. For example, the bronze table lamp my grandmother kept in her closet. It was the stature of “Mother Russia”. She also had an old crank RCA phonograph, and many 33 rpm records (like new), one being the Russian National Anthem. My sister and I were somehow forbidden to learn Finnish (perhaps my mother’s doing?). But my father, grandparents and their friends often spoke it.

It is all rather amazing. My grandma, who was only 5 feet tall and weighed at most 110 pounds, who made me pudding and baked Finnish breads, like Puula, told me stories about their life in Minnesota, and entertained me with her little parakeets through the years, all named “Cherri”. I have had two parakeets, one blue and one green. I named them both “Cherri”.

My little Finnish Grandma loved me unconditionally. She always got incredibly excited if I brought her violets, a simple gift, or even a visit as often as I could. I miss her terribly, even after the 25 years since she passed away.

Once she was a feisty young agitator, a socialist, a communist, a revolutionary……she was my “Red” grandma!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Research Libraries

I sometimes visit University Libraries, and have used several in the past for thesis research. Upon a recent visit to Portland State University Library, as I wandered through various subject areas and book stacks, I noticed that most of the books were 40+ years old.

That seemed strangely outdated. When writing my thesis in Grad School, my second draft, being a couple of years from the original, caused my advisor to suggested I insert fresher information/research sources.

Why then would a major university library maintain 40+ year old books? Of course some subjects, hard sciences like physics, chemistry, and or mathematics would change quickly. Literature, of course, contains many "classics" and would cover centuries. Social Sciences, would at first thought, have a slightly longer time frame than hard science to be considered out of date for research.

Is there any rule of thumb? Why yes, there seems to be.

I would guess that the main reason for not purging these old materials and replacing them with new, is funding. It would seem though, that current research materials would be a high priority for any major university library. The fact that many research items have gone "digital", may decrease the demand for material in "book" form.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Wordstock 2008

Portland's primer event for book lovers and authors is this weekend November 7-9, 2008.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

The Last Election of 2008

Election Day is finally here, thank God. Two years of hell, hours of negative commercials, and rants from folks like Rush Limbaugh. Tonight, the victor will take the spoils of all this home and put it on a shelf!

2008 is the first time I have voted since the fiasco of 2000, and it will also probably be my last vote, for many reasons. One being, who really knows what happens to that ballot once it leaves your hands? Can you say "Hanging Chads"?

I fail to appreciate "Representative Government".....that's not democracy, that's a ancient Rome. I would be content on removing all "Professional Politicians" and vote via the Internet, on all major policies. (Yes the Internet is safe for voting. You do your taxes, banking, and pay bills on it don't you?)

From my viewpoint, of the poor and working poor, the future of the USA seems lost in a fog of hopelessness and greed. 2012 approaches and many feel the End is near, in many ways. War, famine, overpopulation, depression, pandemic disease, etc. are just some of the many, and perhaps simultaneous crisis to End our world as we know it.

How does this affect our jobs, lifestyle, retirement, families and businesses?

Well, for one thing, strategic planning for worse case scenarios, can't hurt. Not planning and going ahead with wide eyed optimism may be the country, to the world, to your family, and yourself.

More in future posts.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

American Rune Mysteries Prove That Vikings Came in 1010AD

Forget Columbus Day, The Vikings came first! When is Viking Day?

Rune Mysteries America's Nordic Heritage There exists an encyclopedia of Norse anti-facts, locations of Archaeological sites, Historical accounts, maps and testimonials that document the existence of vast Viking Settlements in North American Colonies prior to Columbus.

The elitist Academicians and satirizing editors of the Smithsonian Institute, as well as the bureaucrats at the National Endowment of the Humanities have hidden them from us. The National Geographic is also guilty of false publications regarding the discovery of America.

Where ever the Vikings went, they left the Rune Mysteries. The records of Viking explorations from Iceland and Greenland penetrating far into America is clearly remarkable. The Vikings imported furs, lumber, ivory, oil, wine and fish back to the European markets.

Those Viking Colonies are clearly marked on medieval maps. Vineland, Norvera, Greenland Province, Venteland, Wineland and Suinlandia!. In the 16th Century the land of Vinland extended from the Gulf of the St. Lawrence to Florida. It was known as Norumbega, the "Northern Settlement."

Norse artifacts extended far into the interior to Minnesota and the Dakotas.

W.R. Anderson, president of the Leif Ericson Society, and editor - in chief of "Vikingship Journal" lives in Evanston, IL. Look him up on the net, to read more about our "Forgotten History."

Anderson does not own a PHD nor is he recognized as a Historian or an Anthropologist. Just dedication to the perseverance of our Nordic-Viking heritage.

Who were the first Americans and where did they come from? Answers to this question have taken us back to 100,000 B. C.??

But we do know that Eric, The Red, Thornaldson, born in Norway was banished to Iceland. In 982. He discovered Greenland. There were no Jails in Norway or Iceland, Punishment for manslaughter was banishment.

Eric followed in the wake of his cousin, Gunnbjorn Ulfson, who found Islands west of Iceland. Eric sailed further and found a large island and called it Greenland to attract other Vikings.

One of the later Greenlanders, Bjarni Herjulfson was blown off course and saw the American continent. He reported back to Eric.

In 1003, Lief Ericson recalled Bjanni's tale of land to the west and brought his ship.

Eric did not go because of his superstitious nature. On the way to the ship his horse stumbled throwing Eric to the ground. He viewed it as a 'Bad Omen' and stayed home. Leif sailed to what is bow known as Cape Cod on September 1, 1003. The Vikings landed and discovered America.

Lief's brother arrived in 1005 and explored as far south as Florida. He stopped near Savannah GA. and wanted to establish a colony. But he was killed by Indians by the Savannah River. Where ever the Vikings went, you can find artifacts of Rune Mysteries. More to follow.

Ellis Peterson AKA Ragnar Storyteller is a retired math professor and electronics engineer. He has been studying astrology, runes, radionics, metaphysics and alternate healing treatments for over 30 years. He is 70+, in very good health and lives in the boonies of the Pocono mountains with his wife Lory. His writings are unique and refreshing.

To see more of his writings visit his websites.



Or go to goggle and type in his pen name RAGNAR STORYTELLER for his listings. He is also a ghost writer and will write and article for you. Email Ragnar for his FREE 10 PART MINI-COURSE, "How-To use Quantum Physics in Your Every Day Life to Attract More Wealth, Health and Love, Now."

You can contact him at:

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Travel to the Edge

I would like to recommend a wonderful travel & photography series called "Travel to the Edge". Canon and the photographer Art Wolf, not only show many special and dramatic photos and videos, but travel to some of the most beautiful scenery on earth.

I especially liked the Patagonia and Japanese segments.

If you like exotic travel to natural environments and digital photography, please catch an episode of the fine PBS series.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

The Light is on, But No One is Home

I gaze discreetly across the semi-crowded room upon two middle aged females. Their dim beady eyes were dull and lifeless. Down trodden by life, poor health, or the faint glimmer of the intelligence of a gerbil?

They exchange words, incomplete sentences, “I need a pen, I need a piece of paper” the dimmer one mumbles in a childlike whine. “What? You carry a purse, but don’t have no pen?” says the other. I grimace. My six year old granddaughter is smarter than these two 40 year olds.

I wonder how they and hundreds of others I see on the street manage to tie their shoes in the morning, let alone muddle through life’s daily challenges. How do they make an intelligent, informed decision? Or do they go by instinct and emotion….I am hungry, I eat?

These squinty eyed, dim people, are a large portion of America. They are almost always, squinty eyed, by the way. Is it inbreeding, something in the water, radioactive fallout, the education system, or just bad genes?

I only know it is sad, disturbing, and growing. I’ll be more impressed the next time I meet a gerbil.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Watering Acorns

Sitting on a park bench, waiting for my bus connection, I gazed upon this old guy squirting water onto the soil from a squeeze ketchup bottle. His cart contained three gallons of plastic water jugs and a large coffee can. He was quite diligent. I thought, OK, he planted and is watering acorns, yet another crazy "street person". I looked up and all the trees in sight were Elms. Uh huh.

Next a blind man and a seeing eye dog came up and walked repeatedly right into the guys cart and trampled where he was working. The old guy says, "Hey, what are you blind?" and looks up. The blind guy apologizes and clomps away. I look around for the "Candid Camera".

I finally asked, "What, pray tell, are you watering sir?" Still thinking acorns. He replies, "I am catching worms. They cost $2.58 a dozen. I can't afford to go fishing otherwise." Whoa, a real nutter, I think.

He then stops and walks over to me and shows me his secret. A teaspoon of Coleman's powdered mustard and water mixed up in the ketchup squeeze bottle. I am intrigued, but still dubious. Squirt, squirt. I watch....out pops a six inch worm, again and again, one from every hole, in seconds of the application. Uh huh.

My bus finally arrived. I thanked him for the transfer of knowledge. Now I know how to catch worms in the middle of a dry day! More useful survival knowledge to add to my collection. Now where did I put that squirt bottle?

Sunday, August 10, 2008

ExploringTechnical Writing

Technical writing bears a special place in the writing world. It requires a diligence and knowledge base that goes beyond a little research; even people who call themselves 'technical writers' many times end up taking confusing jargon and changing it to, well, more confusing jargon. Good technical writing requires the author to be neat, organized, and above all, concise.

In the beginning, technical writing primarily referred to writing about technology in the form of content like end-user manuals, white papers, system design documents, web sites, and similar materials for companies like engineering firms and IT companies. In the last few years, however, technical writing has evolved and drifted into many other fields such as finance, business, marketing, and more.

Like any type of writing, technical writing requires preparation. You have to identify your target audience and ask questions like: who is your reader? How well do they know the subject matter? Are there multiple audiences?

After you've assessed your audience, you need to ascertain your purpose. Why are you writing this document? What is your goal? What do you want your audience to know or be able to do when you're done?

Researching a topic is essential before you write an article, report, or other material, and technical writing is no different. In fact, you could argue that technical writing requires more research than other types of writing because, in order to write about a technical subject, you need to know it well. Getting acquainted with completely new software, for example, can take hours of research. This is why a company might choose a field expert with no writing experience over a professional writer; they're already intimate with the subject, and may know how to communicate it well.

However, this can backfire. If an expert software engineer writes an instruction manual for a piece of software that's going to be marketed to average consumers, but only other software engineers will understand the material, its useless.

Though some shy away from technical writing, it can be enjoyable. Writing about cutting-edge gadgets, new technologies, new software, evolutions in business and marketing, and any number of other topics can be both rewarding and captivating.

If you're interested in technical writing, do the (surprise!) research and find examples, tutorials, classes; whatever resources you can use. Practice translating highly technical jargon to ordinary language or take a technical writing course. Learn how to avoid the sinkholes and swamps of jargon and create truly concise, understandable writing that speaks clearly to its audience.

Source: - Free Articles Directory

About the Author
Aurora Mae Brown writes for AM Professional Writing Services, a Los Angeles based company that provides press releases, technical writing, business writing, website content, SEO articles, and more. See for more information.

Monday, July 21, 2008

7 Universities Providing Access to Free Literature Courses Online

Taking a literature course is similar to reading, but it is a much better way to delve into the books you love. Begin studying literature today with one or more of the free online literature courses offered at universities like MIT and UC - Berkeley.

1. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (

Major English Novels Course

MIT's OpenCourseWare program offers access to more than 80 free literature courses. One of the most recent is the Major English Novels Course, which features readings, assignments and concentrated study of the novel genre. Registration is not required.

2. Western Governors University (

Literature Course- Parts I and II

Western Governors University's Liberal Arts Department offers a downloadable literature course that is free to everyone. Course topics are split into ten modules and include everything from poetry and drama to fiction and literary ethics. Registration is not required.

3. The University of Utah (

Introduction to Shakespeare

The University of Utah's free literature course is a comprehensive introduction to the works of Shakespeare. The course is easy to download and includes seven lessons, reading assignments and other accessible resources. Registration is not required.

4. University of California, Berkeley (

Shakespeare Course

UC Berkeley webcasts select courses every semester. The Shakespeare Course includes 32 lectures on Shakespeare and readings of his best works. All webcasts can be downloaded in mp3 format or heard on a free version of RealPlayer. Registration is not required.

5. University of Sheffield (

Criticism and Literary Theory Course

The University of Sheffield's Department of English Literature provides free access to a great literary theory course designed for intermediate and advanced students. Course materials include an introduction, notes from lectures and links to relevant articles and resources. Registration is not required.

6. Open University (

Approaching Prose Fiction

The free literature course offered by the UK's Open University introduces you to studying literary texts at a university level. The course takes about 20 hours to complete and includes several units of study. Registration is not required.

7. Utah State University (

Introduction to Writing

Utah State University doesn't offer a free course completely devoted to literature, but you can access an online interpretation of the university's English 1010 course. Materials include a PDF of the English 101 handbook, reading assignments and more. Registration is not required.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Timeless Classics.......?

To quote a movie character, "Just cause it's old, doesn't make it classic!"

I'll put an asterisk next to the ones I have ever read. Uh huh.

Timeless Classics

An old Chinese proverb says, 'A book is like a garden in the pocket.' Many of us who have valued reading in our early years derive enjoyment from reading to our children, and now, as I do, to our grandchildren. Books are voyages of discovery and transforming instruments to all of us.

A few years ago, the National Endowment for the Humanities asked schools around the country to send reading lists of their favorite books. Noticing how often books that other generations have enjoyed appear on these lists, we decided to make this compilation of tried-and- true titles. The works herein, published in 1960 or earlier, have delighted generations of readers.

Some have asked, 'Is the book dead?' as we move into new computer technologies. Not at all. Print text will co-exist with these new mediums.

As concerned parents, educators, and counselors, we must continue to emphasize the importance of access to good reading in order to shape our students’ learning process, enhance their understanding of American heritage, and open up a new world of self-fulfillment. As Aldous Huxley said, 'The proper study of mankind is books.'

There are some excellent older books that are missing from the list, because they appeared too infrequently in the school selections: Kate Douglas Wiggin’s Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, for example; Dylan Thomas’s A Child’s Christmas in Wales; Frederick Douglass’s Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass. Despite the absences, we hope this compilation will nevertheless bring hours of pleasure and enlightenment.

The titles presented for suggested extracurricular reading provide a solid foundation and hours of enjoyment for students and scholars of all ages.

We at NEH hope that the 'Timeless Classics' booklist will continue to be a rich source of material for everyone.

Sheldon Hackney Chairman

'Books are humanity in print' ...Barbara Tuchman

'Literature is an investment of genius which pays dividends to all subsequent times.' ...John Burroughs

'All that mankind has done, thought, gained, or been: it is lying as in magic preservation in the pages of books.' ...Thomas Carlyle

### Kindergarten through Grade 6 ###

Adamson, Joy Born Free

Aesop Fables*

Alcott, Louisa May Little Women

*Andersen, Hans Christian Fairy tales

Atwater, Richard and Florence Mr. Popper’s Penguins*

Bailey, Carolyn Sherwin Miss Hickory

Recommended for K-3, either for reading by children or for reading to them.

*Barrie, J.M. Peter Pan

Baum, L. Frank The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

*Bemelmans, Ludwig Madeline series* A favorite of mine!

Bond, Michael A Bear Called Paddington

Boston, L.M. The Children of Green Knowe

Brink, Carol Ryrie Caddie Woodlawn

Brown, Margaret Wise Goodnight, Moon*

Brunhoff, Jean de The Story of Babar*

Burnett, Frances Hodgson The Secret Garden

*Burton, Virginia Lee Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel*

Butterworth, Oliver The Enormous Egg

Clark, Ann Nolan Secret of the Andes

Cleary, Beverly Henry Huggins series

Coatsworth, Elizabeth The Cat Who Went to Heaven

Dalgliesh, Alice The Bears on Hemlock Mountain* The Courage of Sarah Noble*

De Angeli, Marguerite The Door in the Wall

De Jong, Meindert The House of Sixty Fathers The Wheel on the School

*Dodge, Mary Mapes Hans Brinker, or the Silver Skates

Du Bois, William Pene The Twenty-One Balloons

Edmonds, Walter D. The Matchlock Gun

Estes, Eleanor Ginger Pye Moffats series

Farley, Walter The Black Stallion

Field, Rachel Hitty, Her First Hundred Years

Fritz, Jean The Cabin Faced West

Gilbreth, Frank B. and Ernestine G. Carey Cheaper By the Dozen

Gipson, Fred Old Yeller

Godden, Rumer The Mousewife*

Grahame, Kenneth The Reluctant Dragon* The Wind in the Willows f

Gray, Elizabeth Janet Adam of the Road

*Grimm, Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm’s Fairy Tales

Hawes, Charles The Dark Frigate

Haywood, Carolyn Betsy series*

Henry, Marguerite King of the Wind Misty of Chincoteague

Keith, Harold Rifles for Watie

Kelly, Eric The Trumpeter of Krakow

Kipling, Rudyard Captains Courageous Just So Stories for Little Children* The Jungle Books

Kjelgaard, Jim Big Red

Knight, Eric Lassie Come Home

Krumgold, Joseph ...and Now Miguel Onion John

LaFarge, Oliver Laughing Boy

Lamb, Charles and Mary Tales from Shakespear

Latham, Jean Lee Carry on, Mr. Bowditch

Lawson, Robert Ben & Me Rabbit Hill

Leaf, Munro The Story of Ferdinand*

Lear, Edward Book of Nonsense*

Lenski, Lois Strawberry Girl

Lewis, C.S. Chronicles of Narnia series

Lindgren, Astrid Pippi Longstocking series

Lofting, Hugh Doctor Doolittle series

*London, Jack The Call of the Wild White Fang

*MacDonald, Betty Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle*

MacGregor, Ellen Miss Pickerell series

McCloskey, Robert Blueberries for Sal* Homer Price Make Way for Ducklings*

McSwigan, Marie Snow Treasure

Meigs, Cornelia Invincible Louisa

Milne, A.A. The House at Pooh Corner* Now We Are Six* When We Were Very Young* Winnie-the-Pooh*

Minarik, Else Holmelund Little Bear

Montgomery, L.M. Anne of Green Gables

Mukerji, Dhan Ghopal Gay-Neck, the Story of a Pigeon

Norton, Mary The Borrowers series

O’Hara, Mary My Friend Flicka

Pearce, Philippa Tom’s Midnight Garden

Perrault, Charles Cinderella*

*Potter, Beatrix The Tale of Peter Rabbit*

Pyle, Howard The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood

Rey, H.A. Curious George series*

Richter, Conrad The Light in the Forest

Selden, George The Cricket in Times Square*

Seuss, Dr. The Cat in the Hat* (Seuss is the anti-christ,banned in my family!)
Sewell, Anna Black Beauty

Sorenson, Virginia Miracles on Maple Hill

Speare, Elizabeth George The Witch of Blackbird Pond

Sperry, Armstrong Call It Courage

Spyri, Johanna Heidi

Steinbeck, John The Red Pony

Stevenson, Robert Louis A Child’s Garden of Verses* Kidnapped Treasure Island

Travers, Pamela L. Mary Poppins series

Van Loon, Hendrik The Story of Mankind

White, E.B. Charlotte’s Web Stuart Little

Wilder, Laura Ingalls Little House series

Williams, Margery The Velveteen Rabbit*

Wyss, Johann Swiss Family Robinson

Zion, Gene Harry the Dirty Dog*

Grades 7 and 8
Alcott, Louisa May Little Men

Bagnold, Enid National Velvet

Blackmore, Richard D. Lorna Doone

Boulle, Pierre The Bridge over the River Kwai

*Bradbury, Ray Dandelion Wine Fahrenheit 451 The Illustrated Man Martian Chronicles

Buchan, John The Thirty-Nine Steps

Bunyan, John The Pilgrim’s Progress

Carroll, Lewis Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland Through the Looking Glass

Clark, Walter The Ox-Bow Incident

*Cooper, James Fenimore The Deerslayer The Last of the Mohicans

Curie, Eve Madame Curie: A Biography

Dana, Richard Henry Two Years before the Mast

Day, Clarence Life with Father

*Defoe, Daniel Robinson Crusoe

*Dickens, Charles A Christmas Carol

Douglas, Lloyd C. The Robe

Doyle, Arthur Conan Adventures of Sherlock Holmes

*Dumas, Alexander The Count of Monte Christo The Three Musketeers

Du Maurier, Daphne Rebecca

Edmonds, Walter D. Drums along the Mohawk

Ferber, Edna Cimarron

*Forbes, Esther Johnny Tremain

Forester, C.S. The African Queen The Hornblower series

Frank, Anne Diary of a Young Girl

*Frost, Robert Poems

Gallico, Paul The Snow Goose

Gunther, John Death Be Not Proud

Guthrie, A.B. The Big Sky

Haggard, H. Rider King Solomon’s Mines

Hansberry, Lorraine Raisin in the Sun

*Hemingway, Ernest The Old Man and the Sea

Hersey, John A Bell for Adano Hiroshima The Wall

*Heyerdahl, Thor Kon-Tiki

Hilton, James Goodbye, Mr. Chips Lost Horizon

Hudson, W.H. Green Mansions

Hughes, Richard A High Wind in Jamaica

Hugo, Victor The Hunchback of Notre Dame

*Irving, Washington The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

Keller, Helen Story of My Life

Kennedy, John F. Profiles in Courage

Kipling, Rudyard Kim

Knowles, John A Separate Peace

*Lee, Harper To Kill a Mockingbird

*London, Jack The Sea Wolf

Lord, Walter A Night to Remember

*Malory, Sir Thomas Le Morte d’Arthur

Maxwell, Gavin Ring of Bright Water

McCullers, Carson Member of the Wedding

Michener, James The Bridges at Toko-Ri

Mitchell, Margaret Gone with the Wind

Nordhoff, Charles and J.N. Hall Mutiny on the Bounty

O’Dell, Scott Island of the Blue Dolphins

Orczy, Baroness Emma The Scarlet Pimpernel

Paton, Alan Cry, the Beloved Country

Pyle, Howard Men of Iron

*Rawlings, Marjorie Kinnan The Yearling

Renault, Mary The King Must Die

Roberts, Kenneth Northwest Passage

Saint-Exupery, Antoine de The Little Prince Wind, Sand and Stars

Saki Stories

Schaefer, Jack Shane

*Scott, Sir Walter Ivanhoe

*Shelley, Mary Frankenstein

*Smith, Betty A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

Steinbeck, John The Pearl Tortilla Flat

Stevenson, Robert Louis The Black Arrow The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

*Stoker, Bram Dracula

Thurber, James The Thurber Carnival

Tolkien, J.R.R. The Hobbit The Lord of the Rings

*Twain, Mark The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn The Adventures of Tom Sawyer A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court Innocents Abroad Life on the Mississippi The Prince and the Pauper

*Verne, Jules Around the World in Eighty Days Journey to the Center of the Earth Mysterious Island 20,000 Leagues under the Sea

Wallace, Lewis Ben-Hur

Washington, Booker T. Up from Slavery

*Wells, H.G. The Time Machine War of the Worlds

Wharton, Edith Ethan Frome

Wilder, Thornton The Bridge of San Luis Rey

Wister, Owen The Virginian

Yates, Elizabeth Amos Fortune, Free Man

### Grades 9 through 12 ###

Agee, James A Death in the Family

Anderson, Sherwood Winesburg, Ohio

Austen, Jane Emma Northanger Abbey Pride and Prejudice Sense and Sensibility

Baldwin, James Go Tell It on the Mountain

Balzac, Honore de Pere Goriot

Beckett, Samuel Waiting for Godot

*The Bible Old Testament New Testament

Bolt, Robert A Man for All Seasons

Bronte, Charlotte Jane Eyre

Bronte, Emily Wuthering Heights

*Browning, Robert Poems

*Buck, Pearl The Good Earth

Butler, Samuel The Way of All Flesh

Camus, Albert The Plague The Stranger

Cather, Willa Death Comes for the Archbishop My Antonia

Cervantes, Miguel Don Quixote

*Chaucer, Geoffrey The Canterbury Tales

Chekhov, Anton The Cherry Orchard

Chopin, Kate The Awakening

Collins, Wilkie The Moonstone

Conrad, Joseph Heart of Darkness Lord Jim The Secret Sharer Victory

*Crane, Stephen The Red Badge of Courage

Dante The Divine Comedy

Defoe, Daniel Moll Flanders

*Dickens, Charles Bleak House David Copperfield Great Expectations Hard Times Oliver Twist A Tale of Two Cities

*Dickinson, Emily Poems

Dinesen, Isak Out of Africa

Dostoevski, Fyodor Brothers Karamazov Crime and Punishment

Dreiser, Theodore An American Tragedy Sister Carrie

*Eliot, George Adam Bede Middlemarch Mill on the Floss Silas Marner

Eliot, T.S. Murder in the Cathedral

*Ellison, Ralph Invisible Man

*Emerson, Ralph Waldo Essays

Faulkner, William Absalom, Absalom! As I Lay Dying Intruder in the Dust Light in August The Sound and the Fury

Fielding, Henry Joseph Andrews Tom Jones

*Fitzgerald, F. Scott The Great Gatsby Tender Is the Night

Flaubert, Gustave Madame Bovary

Forster, E.M. A Passage to India A Room with a View

Franklin, Benjamin The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin

Galsworthy, John The Forsyte Saga

Golding, William Lord of the Flies

Goldsmith, Oliver She Stoops to Conquer

Graves, Robert I, Claudius

Greene, Graham The Heart of the Matter The Power and the Glory

Hamilton, Edith Mythology

Hardy, Thomas Far From the Madding Crowd Jude the Obscure The Mayor of Casterbridge The Return of the Native Tess of the D’Urbervilles

*Hawthorne, Nathaniel The House of the Seven Gables The Scarlet Letter

*Hemingway, Ernest A Farewell to Arms For Whom the Bell Tolls The Sun Also Rises

*Henry, O. Stories

Hersey, John A Single Pebble

Hesse, Hermann Demian Siddhartha Steppenwolf

*Homer The Iliad The Odyssey

Hughes, Langston Poems

Hugo, Victor Les Miserables

*Huxley, Aldous Brave New World

Ibsen, Henrik A Doll’s House An Enemy of the People Ghosts Hedda Gabler The Master Builder The Wild Duck

*James, Henry The American Daisy Miller Portrait of a Lady The Turn of the Screw

Joyce, James Portrait of the Artist As a Young Man Dubliners

Kafka, Franz The Castle Metamorphosis The Trial

Keats, John Poems

Kerouac, Jack On the Road

Koestler, Arthur Darkness at Noon

Lawrence, D.H. Sons and Lovers

Lawrence, Jerome and Robert E. Lee Inherit the Wind

Lewis, Sinclair Arrowsmith Babbitt Main Street

Llewellyn, Richard How Green Was My Valley

*Machiavelli The Prince

MacLeish, Archibald J.B.

Mann, Thomas Buddenbrooks The Magic Mountain

Marlowe, Christopher Dr. Faustus

*Maugham, Somerset Of Human Bondage

*McCullers, Carson The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter

*Melville, Herman Billy Budd Moby-Dick Typee

*Miller, Arthur The Crucible Death of a Salesman

Monsarrat, Nicholas The Cruel Sea

O’Neill, Eugene The Emperor Jones A Long Day’s Journey into Night Mourning Becomes Electra

*Orwell, George Animal Farm 1984

Pasternak, Boris Doctor Zhivago

*Poe, Edgar Allan Short stories

Remarque, Erich All Quiet on the Western Front

Rolvaag, O.E. Giants in the Earth

Rostand, Edmond Cyrano de Bergerac

Salinger, J.D. The Catcher in the Rye

Sandburg, Carl Abraham Lincoln: The Prairie Years Abraham Lincoln: The War Years

Saroyan, William The Human Comedy

Sayers, Dorothy The Nine Tailors

Shakespeare, William Plays and sonnets

*Shaw, George Bernard Arms and the Man Major Barbara Pygmalion Saint Joan

Sheridan, Richard B. The School for Scandal

*Shute, Nevil On the Beach

Sinclair, Upton The Jungle

*Sophocles Antigone Oedipus Rex

*Steinbeck, John East of Eden The Grapes of Wrath Of Mice and Men

Stowe, Harriet Beecher Uncle Tom’s Cabin

Swift, Jonathan Gulliver’s Travels

Thackeray, William M. Vanity Fair

*Thoreau, Henry David Walden

Tolstoy, Leo Anna Karenina War and Peace

Trollope, Anthony Barchester Towers

Turgenev, Ivan Fathers and Sons

Twain, Mark Pudd’nhead Wilson

Updike, John Rabbit Run

Vergil The Aeneid

*Voltaire Candide

Warren, Robert Penn All the King’s Men

Waugh, Evelyn Brideshead Revisited A Handful of Dust

Wharton, Edith Age of Innocence

*White, T.H. The Once and Future King The Sword in the Stone

Wilde, Oscar The Importance of Being Earnest The Picture of Dorian Gray

*Wilder, Thornton Our Town

*Williams, Tennessee The Glass Menagerie A Streetcar Named Desire

*Wolfe, Thomas Look Homeward, Angel (Another favorite, introduced to me by my wife)

Woolf, Virginia Mrs. Dalloway To the Lighthouse

Wouk, Herman The Caine Mutiny

Wright, Richard Black Boy Native Son

Friday, June 20, 2008

A Meteorological Fiction

Until 2001, I spent my career as a research meteorologist, delving into areas as diverse as cloud physics and weather modification, numerical weather prediction, and artificial intelligence. Over a span of more than thirty years, I'd written numerous technical articles. But nearly seven years ago, I retired from my job with the Naval Research Laboratory.

Why did I retire? At the time, I was doing some of the most fascinating research I'd ever done. However, I knew that unless I quit then, I'd miss a dream I'd been harboring for decades: that of writing fiction. (At my retirement luncheon, several colleagues jokingly suggested I needn't have retired to claim that distinction.)

For years prior, in association with author/mentor Arline Chase, I'd written short stories to learn storytelling skills. It's one thing to write a story, but quite another to write one that is enthralling and keeps the reader riveted. Regrettably, most of what we write in technical journals - although less so for the Bulletin - is hardly stay-up-all-night-turning-the-page material. Another way to put it is that fiction has to be fun, at least for the genre of fiction that I chose for my first novel.

After retiring, I spent another year writing short stories exclusively. But in 2002, I tackled a novel. Those of you who read fiction know there are various genres. During my short story period, I tried many of them: humor, fantasy, young adult, romance, mystery, and thriller. I concluded that I had the most success and fun writing thrillers. What is a thriller? Here's a good definition: A novel of suspense with a plot structure that reinforces the elements of gamesmanship and the chase, with a sense of the hunt being paramount. The common thread is a growing sense of threat and the excitement of pursuit. Those of you who enjoy books by Tom Clancy know that he writes thrillers.

So, with genre in hand, I had to choose my topic. In fiction, a common saw is to write what you know. What did I know? Meteorology. And so, for months, with coconspirator Robin Brody (a meteorologist who continues to be my primary reader), we debated ideas worthy of a thriller, together with a plausible premise. After months of discussion, we had the makings of a story.

As the author, I had one nonnegotiable requirement: Enough of James Bond-like spies - I wanted the protagonist to be a meteorologist. If the world had to be saved (and it often does in a thriller), I wanted our discipline to be up there - in lights. Why choose a meteorologist? The choice is obvious. The qualities that manifest our ranks are many: intelligence, attention to detail, the ability to integrate and make sense of disparate sets of data, training in both theoretical and numerical processes, and a thorough appreciation of science in general. One other important quality is our ability to accept frequent failure, and criticism; who among us who has made a forecast wouldn't agree? What more could you want from a protagonist who must decipher complex clues and save the world in the process?

Of course, I gave my protagonist, Dr. Victor Mark Silverstein, a few added gifts: I gave him a photographic memory (I've always wanted one of those) and a genius IQ (something I could have used). The most fascinating characters are not perfect, however. They become interesting and more human because of their faults. Silverstein is arrogant because he knows he's smart, and he often uses his talents to manipulate people. As you might suspect, this combination can get him into trouble. There to save him is his associate, Dr. Linda Kipling, also a meteorologist, who possesses complementary skills - and is fearless.

Fiction is either "plot driven" or "character driven." The best books are both. I tried for a balance. You can imagine that meteorology shows up in the plot, whereas human interactions (often involving moral/ethical dilemmas) provide the character-driven aspect.

Two-and-a-half years later, I completed Category 5 (iUniverse, 2005). Obviously, the plot concerns hurricanes. I won't give away the premise; suffice it to say, the bad guys are doing bad things with hurricanes, and it's up to the good guys to stop them.

As an aside, I've concluded that it is impossible to publish a book with no errors. Readers have spotted a few. I'm proud to say, however, that not one of them (yet) has been meteorological. I can't take the credit. Robin Brody and several other meteorologist reviewers saved me from embarrassment. (Note, however, my fortuitous forecast for 2007's Hurricane Noel, for which my book's east coast track is close to the observed, including "…threading the needle between Cuba and Haiti…")

To make my story more realistic, I visited all chapter locations except for two remote sites (Christmas Island and the Suez Canal) and the CIA. For example, at the end of Category 5, considerable commotion breaks lose in Bermuda. My wife Becky and I spent a week there scouting appropriate sites (someone had to do it) and taking their GPS coordinates (they're listed at the beginning of chapters). If you use Google Earth (or go to my Web site, where I've summarized the images), you'll see where I imagined the action occurred. Enter the coordinates for chapter 6 (32°22′02″N, 64°40′39″W), and you'll find yourself at the Bermuda Weather Service (where the staff was most helpful). Do the same for chapter 3 (41°01′03″N, 28°58′17"E), and you'll be looking at the approximate location for the Pandeli Restaurant, located in the Spice Market in Istanbul, Turkey. My wife and I had a nice lunch there. In other instances, I "construct" a building in a location I've scouted. The chapter 8 coordinates (32°18′20″N, 64°47′20″W) in Bermuda identify the concrete fortress where the final showdown occurs.

Following Category 5, I wrote a sequel called Prophecy (iUniverse, 2007), published in July. Although this time the problem facing the world is not meteorological, I chose to keep my meteorologist protagonists. The skills that make us what we are transfer easily to other areas of science - in this case genetics, DNA, and the genome.

However, I must say I feel guilty about deviating from meteorology, and have decided to make amends with the third book in the series. Because it seems to be the meteorological topic of this decade, I've decided to tackle global climate change. Robin and I have developed a premise worthy (we think) of a complex thriller. And, if a fictional character is going to be doing the heavy lifting in resolving a climate crisis, I'm going to make darn sure that he or she is a meteorologist. We deserve the recognition!

(This article by Paul Mark Tag was published in the December 2007 issue of the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society and is reprinted with permission).

About The Author

Until he retired in 2001 to write fiction full-time, Paul Mark Tag’s work revolved around meteorology and his career with the Naval Research Laboratory. Prophecy is his second novel, following his thriller, Category 5. Tag lives in Monterey, California, with his wife, Becky. Visit

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Nine Excellent Reasons for Technology in Education

Two events prodded me to write this. The first was my involvement in formulating a technology plan for a technologically advanced local school. During this process I became increasingly concerned that while the school intuitively knew it should improve in this area, it did not really know why.

The second event was an email I got from a teacher concerning my web site Math Open Reference. In it she said, to paraphrase: 'Thank you so much! Now I have something to do with those laptops they gave me!.' You can visualize the scene: a school decided to move technology into the classroom so it gave the teacher the computers. This is putting the solution before the problem. Again I wondered if this school really knew why they wanted the technology. In what way precisely would the education be better?

So here they are. Nine fundamental reasons why I think technology is important in education. Hopefully, they can act as the rationale for technology plans in schools. If you disagree, or find things missing, my contact information is at the end.

Reason 1. Expansion of time and place
In a typical high school a student has access to a teacher for one hour each day. That means she has access to the teacher approximately for 6% of a 16-hour waking day, and even that time is shared with 25 classmates. But she has access to the Internet 100% of the time. That's a lot better — some twenty times better. Yes, technology is no substitute for an inspiring teacher. However, on-line materials are FAR more available. As shown above, some twenty times more available.

Using the traditional textbook + classroom approach, the places where learning can occur are limited. A portable wireless computer has access to the teacher's course material and the entire Internet almost anywhere. And this is a vastly larger resource than can be practically carried on paper in a backpack.

Bottom line: information technology allows learning anywhere, anytime; not just in one particular classroom for one hour a day.

Reason 2. Depth of Understanding
Interactive simulations and illustrations can produce a much greater depth of understanding of a particular concept. When virtual manipulatives are used in a classroom setting they can go far beyond chalk and talk. Using a projector, the teacher can conduct onscreen investigations and demonstrate concepts far more easily than with just words and arm-waving. For example see Subtended Angle. Combine this class demonstration with access to the same tools over the web, and the student can reinforce the ideas by playing with the simulations themselves, any time, any where.

Reason 3. Learning vs. Teaching
Technology allows the tables to be turned. Instead of teaching (push), students can be given projects that require them to learn (pull) the necessary material themselves. Key to this is the ability to get the information they need any time anywhere, without being in the physical presence of a teacher. This project-based pull approach makes learning far more interesting for the student. I have seen firsthand how students cannot wait to get out of regular classes to go to the after-school robotics project.

Reason 4. New media for self-expression
In the old days, students could write in a notebook, and what they wrote was seen only by the teacher. Using modern technology, they can: make a PowerPoint presentation, record/edit spoken word, do digital photography, make a video, run a class newspaper, run a web based school radio or TV station, do claymation, compose digital music on a synthesizer, make a website, and/or create a blog.

Reason 5. Collaboration
A vital skill in the new digital world is the ability to work collaboratively on projects with others who may not be physically close. This can best be done using modern computer tools such as the Web, Email, instant messaging and cell phone. Rather than laboring alone on homework, students can work in small groups wherever they happen to be and at any time. They are doing this already – it can now be formalized and taught as a vital skill. Many university projects are undertaken by teams spread around the world. Your students need to be prepared for this.

Reason 6. Going Global
The worldview of the student can be expanded because of the zero cost of communicating with other people around the globe. The internet permits free video conferencing which permits interaction in real time with sister schools in other countries. From an educational viewpoint, what could be more important than understanding other cultures through direct dialog and collaboration?

Reason 7. Individual pacing and sequence
Students are, of course, all different. Information technologies can permit them to break step with the class and go at a pace and order that suits each student better. Without disrupting the class, they can repeat difficult lessons and explore what they find interesting. With time, it will become more like having a private tutor rather than being lost in a large class.

Reason 8. Weight
Three textbooks and three binders easily weigh over 25 pounds. A laptop computer weighs about 5 pounds and provides access to infinitely more material via its own storage and the Internet. A 40Gb hard drive can hold 2 million pages with illustrations; the Web is unfathomably large. Right now, students are getting back injuries lugging around a tiny subset of what they need in the form of black marks printed on slices of a substance not all that different from the papyrus used by the ancient Egyptians. And it's just static boring text.

Reason 9. Personal Productivity
Students need productivity tools for the same reasons you do. They need to write, read, communicate, organize and schedule. A student's life is not much different from that of any knowledge worker, and they need similar tools. Even if they are never used in the classroom, portable personal computers will make a student's (and teacher's) life more effective. To cash in this benefit, schools need to go paperless.

In summary, if education is about knowledge and intellectual skills, then information technology lies at the heart of it all. We have only just begun this transition. School will eventually look very different. Get ready.

Email: John Page
By John Page
July 1, 2007

Saturday, May 24, 2008


Alone without being lonely, quiet yet
welcoming a brief sound in the silence.
Music surrounds the solitude,
an internal and external phenomenom.

Emotions ebb and flow like a mystical tide
desire for companionship sometimes dispells
the need for solitude, a guest to unite lonely beings into a whole
that is beyond singularity and greater than the sum.

The sounds, the feelings, the wonder of just thinking,
thought without direction momentary aberations of time and space
amazement at imaginary journies or perhaps insanity.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Writing in Portland

Please check out these interesting links about writing in Portland, OR.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Everytime I See My Pansies


This reminded my of my beloved grandma, who loved not pansies, but Violets!

Every time I see my pansies
Vivid in the golden sun,
You are with me in my garden,
And I am once again a child.

Vivid in the golden sun,
Their beauty brings me close to tears,
And I am once again a child
Learning to assume your grace.

Their beauty brings me close to tears
As I join hands with you in love,
Learning to assume your grace,
Dancing to your inner music.

As I join hands with you in love,
You are with me in my garden,
Dancing to your inner music
Every time I see my pansies.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Coming soon: Podcasts

Coming soon, in about two or three weeks, this blog will be available by Podcast.

The content will be new, different, and yet similar to the blog. I hope to include more original content, with writings, video, and original music.

Stay tuned !

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Portland "Rose Festival"

Hey folks this will be my first "Rose Festival". There are lots to do and see, including "Fleet Week". I look forward to it!

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Shifting Beams of Light

The light seeps through the cloud covered sky, while rain drips like tears off the dying blooms of spring.

The disrupted reflections of life fade into the distance and into the past. Another day in paradise.

Finally at the bottom of the well of sadness, a gleam of hope slowly rises. A room alone for the first time in 40+ years awaits in the new month. Pessimism keeps emotions in check until the final bell rings dimly in the distance, a nearby church tolls the hour.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Blog Writing

Blogging has become quite a popular event for a lot of people online. Blog writing is effective and gives a personal touch to a specific theme and information that the reader is invited to comment on. This type of writing is an artistic approach that can be less formal than the normal article writing. It should, however, provide beneficial information to the reader. People express their views and feelings in blog writing. They make strong points that they may or may not agree with such as political viewpoints.

Blogs are first used to introduce who you are and then provide a forum to post vital information and receive good comments. Of course, you will get the occasional spam, but for the most part, people who comment are sincere and want to provide additional information. Blogs have been around since the 1990’s and have gradually become popular as people have realized the effectiveness of its use.

Owning a blog to post your articles is one of the best forms of advertising your product or service. Blogs are free resources. It is easy to set up. Blogspot and wordpress are the two most popular ones.

Blogging is similar to keeping a personal journal. People can identify with you more in your blog if you make it a personal or business affair. The theme of your blog depends on whether you will make it more personal or more businesslike.

Blogs have moved a little from the personal effect as more people began using it as a way to promote their businesses and provide good content. The search engines love blogs because they provide such fresh and honest content.

So more and more people are using blog writing to advertise their business. A business blog should have a specific theme and not be packed with different types of articles that are not similar. If you are selling health products, for examples, you should write about health and fitness. The information you provide on your blog will let the visitor see how knowledgeable you are. You will be considered an expert of your blog. Someone who visits your blog will want to buy from an expert.

You can syndicate your blog through RSS technology. Individuals can sign up to your RSS feed and get the latest post and articles directly in their email inbox. You can submit your blog to blog directories and RSS feed directories to get maximum exposure. The RSS feed directories will provide an avenue for more people to subscribe to your blog and get fresh content each day.

When writing for a blog, be sure to consider your audience first. Write around your product or service. You don’t have to write blatant sales messages. Research additional information and provide it to your readers, especially hard-to-find facts and benefits.

You also have the capability to use pictures in your blog and the visual aspect of your blog can prompt the visitor to make the purchase after reading your article posts.

Make your blog creative, interactive and interesting by posting articles that benefit the reader.

About the Author
Ben Heart is one of the leading Article Marketing specialists from ArticlesBase. is a free articles directory, answers all your article submission needs. Learn more about Article Marketing from our eBook - The Entrepreneur's Guide to Article Marketing -

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Friday, April 18, 2008

National Library Week! April 13-19, 2008

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Borders Web Site for Info

Wow, a web site just about Borders books!

Uh Huh!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

For Sale? Bookseller Borders Hires Finance Firms To Review Options

Andrew Albanese -- Library Journal, 3/26/2008

Private equity firm involved

Sales are down

Barnes & Noble may be interested

Bookselling chain Borders announced last week that that it has hired J.P. Morgan Securities and Merrill Lynch to help launch a "review" of its strategic alternatives-which could include the sale of the company or some of its divisions. In addition, Borders reported that Pershing Capital, a private equity firm with a large stake in Borders and two board seats, has agreed to lend the company $42.5 million and to acquire Borders's Australian, New Zealand, Singapore, and Paperchase subsidiaries for $125 million-if Borders cannot find a better deal.

"The review process will include the investigation of a wide range of alternatives," read a Borders statement, "including the sale of the company and/or certain divisions for the purpose of maximizing shareholder value." Officials, however, added that there are "no assurances that a transaction of any kind will occur." Borders reported that fourth quarter income from 2007 was $84.7 million, down from $87.7 million in the previous year. Borders group CEO George Jones acknowledged that 2008 "will be a challenging year for retailers due to continued uncertainty in the economic environment."

Meanwhile, LJ sister publication Publishers Weekly reported that rival bookseller Barnes & Noble, while not yet approached regarding Borders, told reporters in a year-end conference call it could have interest in buying its rival. B&N also recently reported an off year, with net income down nearly 10 percent for the fiscal year ended February 2, 2008. B&N CEO Mitch Klipper told reporters that B&N's bottom line was hit in the fourth quarter by the "rapid deterioration" of music sales, and that customer traffic at B&N stores was down slightly.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Researching Your Memoir: How to Mine the Material of Your Life

I did a lot of work on mine. I had photos, about fifty typed pages, etc. Then I realized last year that no one cared about it or me. I threw it all in the dumpster. It appears that my 59 years of life are irrelevant!

Life is the raw material from which all writers work. Personal experiences and relationships with people often stir the urge to create and inspire the stories we put on the page. Whether you’re working on a memoir or a work of fiction based on your life experiences, the first place you will probably look for material is inside your mind, within your own memories.

But memories tend to blur and fade, making writing about your past difficult to do without research. Research can reveal details and eliminate inaccuracies that you may not remember correctly. Plus research helps you develop your material from a one-sided account into a multidimensional story so it resonates with people besides yourself and your family.

If you’re working on a memoir, or a story based on your life, consider looking in the following four places for information that will not only help shape your story, but also give it depth and dimension beyond what you can remember.

1. Personal Journals

As a kid, I was so worried that someone might find and read my journals that I often destroyed them. The thought of someone discovering my innermost feelings horrified me—after all, sixth grade can be pretty traumatizing. But now that I’m a writer struggling to know myself and my stories, there’s nothing I regret more than throwing my precious material into the garbage.

When assembling a memoir or other work based on your life, personal journals are often the most valuable resource you can have. So if you don’t already, start keeping a journal. Although you may not think you have anything significant to write about each day, just jotting down the date and a few notes about what you did will prove to be helpful for determining dates and timelines of events when you start writing your memoir.

If you have journals from your past, or even from your family members, you should haul them out of your attic and read them cover to cover. For writers, journals are like goldmines. They can help you recall events and your personal feelings and thoughts from that time in your life. A journal can even help you determine what your story is really about by revealing themes, potential story lines, and other important details about you and your life that you may not remember at first.

2. Photo Albums

Family photos are another invaluable resource for memoirists, so dig yours out and start looking. Photos help writers on several levels. First, they can help you remember people and events from your past. They can also be used to put faces with names, which can be used in descriptions. Photos can reveal personalities and clues about people and places that you may have forgotten or overlooked at the time.

For example, you might notice that your uncle isn’t smiling in any pictures. What does that tell you about his character? Is that consistent with your memories of him? You may also be able to mine valuable details about the locations where your life story unfolded, such as your childhood home, your backyard, or your college dorm. All these details will be captured in the backgrounds of your old photos.

Organizing photos can be a big job in itself and every person’s photo collections are likely in different states of order, so do your best to work with what you have and what’s applicable to your project. You may also have to contact family members and friends to put names with some of the faces and identify locations that appear in your collection of old photos.

3. Newspaper Archives

When researching family histories and personal stories, many writers look for obituaries and wedding announcements in their hometown newspapers. But newspaper archives can offer a writer much more than obits. If you’re looking for information about a specific event, newspaper archives are often the best place to look for a local perspective. And just leafing through the old pages—or microfilm reels—can stir old memories and ideas about your personal history.

You can use newspaper archives to help create accurate pictures of your life story’s setting by looking at what and who were making news at that time in your life. Clippings can jog memories of people and events that may have played a role in the story you want to write. Newspapers can even reveal interesting stories that deepen and expand your personal history.

Your hometown’s library should have a complete archive of the local newspaper, most likely preserved on microfilm or microfiche. The newspaper, if it’s still in operation, may also have a comprehensive archive. Many newspapers offer their archives online, but the available dates may be limited and the search functions may not be as extensive as you need. You may have to contact the newspaper for information about using their archives. If you no longer live in your hometown, consider visiting for research purposes because some newspaper archives aren’t available any other way.

4. Interview Family and Friends

Even though you may be writing your own life history, getting your friends’ and family members’ perspectives on the events you write about will help you create a story with more depth and breadth. It will help ensure the events you recreate on the page are accurate beyond your own memories, which tend to shift and blur over time. And your story will be less one-sided with insight from other people who witnessed the events of your life.

Start by talking to your family and friends about the events you’re writing about, and see what they remember. Parents and grandparents, as long as they’re still around and able, will be able to provide invaluable insight on events of the past. Even old friends and neighbors, if you can track them down, are great resources when you’re writing a personal or family history. They may even be able to refer other helpful people and resources, such as diaries or family photos that you may not have known about.

When you approach friends and family members for information, think like a reporter and create a list of questions to give your interviews some structure. Talk about what they remember, and cover everything from conversations that took place to weather that day. But let your interviewees go off on tangents that seem interesting or important. And make sure you take good notes or record your interviews so you can transcribe them later.

Telling Your Stories

Everyone is interesting, and everyone has a story to tell. But telling an interesting personal story means looking beyond your memory of what happened in your life and finding deeper meaning and different perspectives through research.

As you write your memoir or novel based on your life, search beyond what you remember and look for material that will round out your narrative beyond what parts stuck with you. Your research may reveal story lines, themes, and details that you may have overlooked. Research takes work, but the results will pay off with a story that resonates with larger audiences and reflects the events of your life with greater accuracy.

About The Author

Melinda Copp is a freelance editor, writer, and author of the e-book The WRITE Way to Author a Profitable Book. For a free sample of the e-book, sign up for her free monthly newsletter at

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

In our grasp - how the interent and new technology will democratise publishing.

I am an author. It’s about six months since I first held a copy of my book in my grasp. It was a project I had lived with, on and off, for twenty years. I wrote the book in the 1980s and forgot about it until November 2006. I retrieved it, decided to finish it and then there was our publisher. So, in my grasp, there was the book. It was a strange feeling. It felt like it had a life of its own, as if it had nothing to do with me any more.

I am proud of my novel. It’s not autobiographical, but many of the events in the book did happen. But, of course, I re-ordered them, changed them, made them fit the overall idea that I decided would underpin the book. I would not be so crass, so clichéd, as to say that it is “based on real events”, but I would claim that it contains a lot that derives from my personal experience. The book is my way of communicating that experience, hopefully in a way that goes beyond merely listing a series of events. There’s meaning there, somewhere – at least I hope there is.

Writing, obviously, is a form of communication. Creative writing is personal communication. It offers a particular, yes, a personal view of existence. When we write, we claim that we are special, that we have something special to say. There would be no point in doing it, otherwise.

So what might I be able to communicate? What is so special about me that might motivate others to read about the experiences I relate? Who is this person, resplendent on the cover of the book?

Well, I was born in 1952, so that makes me 55 years old. I was brought up in what was then a mining village in the north of England. The home we lived in had no garden. You walked directly from the front room onto a main road. We spread cinders from the fire across the back yard to fill out the puddles. My mother had to go out and lift up the washing line with a prop to let the coal wagon through. We had an outside toilet with torn up newspaper on a nail. We had no bathroom, and running water only in the kitchen sink. Baths were taken once a week in a galvanised tub set in front of the kitchen fire. The cellar used to flood and I spent many hours sailing the tin bath in that subterranean sea. Tell ‘em that you lived in a shoe box in the middle of the road and do they believe you? No.

But it turned out that I was quite good at school. I was accelerated. I did my eleven plus at nine and went to a grammar school. From there I won a scholarship to London University where I studied Chemical Engineering. Yes, I am a mathematician and a physicist. End of conversation…

But I didn’t want to design oil refineries, so I trained as a teacher. I have always been conscious that I am a product of the 1944 Education Act. Had that legislation not sought to widen access to education then I would probably have become an electrician like my father or gone down the pit like my grandfather. For me the 1944 Education Act changed everything. So I went to university. I was always conscious of this opportunity that had never been available to previous generations of my family. That’s why I decided to teach. I wanted to help other poor people to empower themselves, as I thought I had done.

And then I went to Kenya. I did two years as a volunteer in a self-help secondary school in Kitui District, eastern Kenya. I became a head teacher after just three months and so, as a 22 year old, I found myself running a school with 180 students, 120 of which were full-time boarders. I had six full-time teaching staff and five ancillary staff. I had to construct a science lab, library, kitchen, dining room, two teacher’s houses and a large concrete water tank. I did all the school accounts, extracted fees from the students, paid the staff, handled governors’ and parents’ meetings in Swahili etc. It was quite an experience. Things that happened in those two years formed the basis of my book and, indeed, my next book awaiting publication. It’s thirty years since I wrote the second book, incidentally, though I revised it this year having retrieved my original hand-written manuscript after 15 years of separation. Ten years ago I threw away the two copies of the book that I had typed. At the time I needed to offload luggage. And now it will be published.

After Kenya, I went back to London where I met my wife. We lived and worked in London for 16 years. I taught in schools and colleges and was involved in some very interesting spare time projects.

Then, in 1992 we upped and went to Brunei in South-East Asia. We lived there for six and a half years and then moved to Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates for three years. Then we gravitated here to Spain, and have been here for five years. I have taught mathematics and information technology throughout, but I have also studied. I have a Master’s degree in education and a PhD in social sciences, specialising in the psychological aspects of economic change. So here I am, a maths teacher who does computers, grounded in educational theory and a specialist in how economic change impacts the individual’s identity, beliefs and culture. Perhaps I am unique, but then we all are, because we are all individuals and have an individual and thus individualised experience.

A pause here to say thank you and for being patient while I talked about “me”. But what’s the point? How does this come together? Well let’s start with the 1944 Education Act. And let’s remember that it’s only 150 years or so since economically developed countries actively tried to widen access to education. Prior to that it was a controlled, utterly exclusive path, open to only a miniscule fraction of the population. It is still true that 95% of all scientists who have ever lived are alive today. This statistic is a direct consequence of a deliberate global widening of access to education in the last century, which itself has led to an amazing flowering of knowledge and discovery. Human population and life expectancy have soared. In Brunei, for instance, life expectancy rose from 40 to 80 years in one generation. Yes, “progress” results in environmental pressures, social tensions, conflict, perhaps, but personally I would not want to return to a life expectancy of 40, and neither would I volunteer to forego the technology that so enhances the quality of my life. Our ingenuity got us here. It will take us somewhere else as well. But if that ingenuity is not literally “schooled”, not presented with opportunity to develop and express itself, then it will be wasted, never realised. So it is my assertion that all of this human transformation, most of which is positive, came about primarily as a result of wider access to education.

I am also a social scientist. If physical sciences observe natural phenomena with a view to categorising them and extracting patterns of predictability and behaviour, then social sciences do the same with groups of people. It’s harder to categorise in the social sciences because the targets keep moving. Societies tend to change before they have defined themselves, certainly before they have succumbed to description, let alone analysis. The mechanisms of the physical world are relatively constant, if stubbornly hard to reveal, whereas those of the human world are a seething pot of bubbles.

There’s an approach to social sciences called phenomenology. What it uses for data is individual experience. I’ve done a bit myself. It takes many hours of work to conduct interviews, transcribe them, analyse them and then reflect upon the content. When, as a researcher, you try to contrast the phenomenological data provided by people here and now with that of the past, you quickly realise that there really isn’t anything to work with. If access to education only increased a hundred or so years ago, access to the means of recording individual human existence really has never widened. It remains restricted, access to it controlled in the way that education used to be the privilege of the few.

If you want to communicate your own personal and particular experience, you write something. Speech is both free and common, but it’s ethereal: once spoken it’s gone for ever. Until the end of the twentieth century, individuals who wanted to record experience first had to secure access to education to learn literacy. They then had to have enough time off from securing the necessities of life to write. And finally they would be presented with the highly unlikely task of finding a publisher, someone who was willing to invest money in the production of a record of that highly personal experience. Interesting it may be. Marketable it generally was not. In addition, the publisher doing the paying usually demanded the call of the writer’s tune, so the individual part of that individual experience was generally dropped as the publisher inserted his own requirements.

But where are we now? New technology means that we can produce books with little investment. The print-on-demand technique currently produces relatively expensive books, but that will soon change. Electronic self-publishing can be free. The blogosphere is something entirely new. And, as a consequence, for the first time in human history, the voices of ordinary people, living ordinary lives, having ordinary experiences can be heard. The word ordinary, by the way, is illusory. What we really should say is “particular”, “individual”, “different”, or “interesting”.

Currently there is no phenomenological human history. It does not exist. We are witnessing its birth. Imagine a hundred years from now being able to say that 95% of all the authors who have ever lived are currently alive – and all because of changes in technology at the end of the twentieth century, allied with the initiative of a few visionaries at the time who saw the potential. So thank you to all five of the founding partners of our publisher for being prime movers in a revolution, a revolution to make the voice of the ordinary, the particular, the unique individual heard. Thanks to you, it’s now in our grasp.

Article Source:

For a century Wider access to education has changed the world, opening up the possiblility of participating in human intellectual life for millions of people who otherwise would have merely repeated the ways of the past. Now the internet, new technology and the vision of a few far sighted individuals is opening up access to publishing and promises a flowering as great for future generations.

About the Author:
Philip Spires Author of Mission, an African novel set in Kenya I was born in Wakefield, west Yorkshire in the United Kingdom and grew up in Sharlston, then a mining village. After London University I lived in Kenya. Then I taught in London before moving to Brunei and then the UAE. Since 2003, I have lived in Spain, completing a PhD and my first published novel, Mission.