Wednesday, 30 May 2012

LEAP Into The Furture

New tech startup "Leap" is stirring the web with the introduction of their LEAP MOTION device which allows you to control your computer without the need for a mouse or keyboard.


"Leap represents an entirely new way to interact with your computers. It’s more accurate than a mouse, as reliable as a keyboard and more sensitive than a touchscreen.  For the first time, you can control a computer in three dimensions with your natural hand and finger movements.

This isn’t a game system that roughly maps your hand movements.  The Leap technology is 200 times more accurate than anything else on the market — at any price point. Just about the size of a flash drive, the Leap can distinguish your individual fingers and track your movements down to a 1/100th of a millimeter.

This is like day one of the mouse.  Except, no one needs an instruction manual for their hands."

This is nothing original with regard to the technology (Microsoft has successfully used this technology for their Kinect gaming systems) but something like this has yet to be done soley for computers and the average consumer. As a writer, I'm excited by this because it opens up a whole new way for me to present (not necessarily write) my work to readers. I firmly believe that tech giants, Apple, Sony and Microsoft, have groomed the buying public to expect innovation and interaction with their products, regardless if it's something as archaic as books. With touchcreen devices, e-readers and all the other technologies out there, it seems backward not to take advantage of them. How? Well, that will be up to you.

As a gamer and pc user, this is absolutely AMAZING! It'll be fun to try my most favorite games and surf my favorite sites using nothing by my fingers.

You can find our more about LEAP MOTION technology by visiting their website. And you can check out the device in action:

Monday, 28 May 2012

The "That's Nice" Stigmata

I met a couple in their forties last week--beautiful, smart and impeccably dressed--at a NGO meeting I had to cover for the company. They were sitting next to me taking notes on their iPads (I use pen and paper--the old fashioned way) and we managed to strike up a conversation. They asked me who I worked for, how young I was, if I was related to the fast food family McDonalds, if I had a girlfriend and then they finally got around to asking what were my goals?

"I'm writing a novel."

"Oh, that's nice," she said flatly.

"Very good," he added.

And then they quickly changed the subject to something else.

Well, excuse me beautiful couple who's smart and impeccably dressed, but writing a novel is not's frickin' AWESOME! It takes sweat, tears, a little bit of blood and a few hours of facials just to get the thing done. I might not be working on the next great piece of modern literature but, darn it to hell, I'm writing something that matters! So take that beautiful couple who's smart, impeccably dressed and who I wanted to be like in ten years before you said "that's nice" and turned me off but whom I still kinda wanna be like...


Monday, 21 May 2012

Genres Galore

After hopping from Middle Grade to YA and now to Women's Fiction (go figure!), I've had a fantastic time pushing the envelope on my ideas and writing. I recently had to look up what exactly Women's fiction is and was startled to discover that there are SO many different genres under the umbrella of Fiction.

Today I want to share those with you because it is truly fascinating just how many Genres there are.

Chick Lit: 

Chick lit describes its intended readership as much as its story’s content. Chick lit often has light-hearted, amusing tales of dating woes, career foibles, and personal antics as they relate to the problems of average female 20- & 30-somethings: finding the right career, the right man, and the right attitude. The stories are usually fun, down-to-earth, quirky, and entertaining—a good beach read.

Similar to romance, the central conflict of chick lit often includes love and relationships; however, unlike romance, it is rarely rooted in pure fantastical romantic gratification.

Commercial Fiction: 

Commercial fiction uses high-concept hooks and compelling plots to give it a wide, mainstream appeal. Commercial fiction often has the “ouuuh” factor: summarize what happens in your novel is a single, succinct sentence, and you invariably get, “ouhhh, that sounds interesting!” Plot (the events) and story (the overall tale) are first and foremost; characters’ choices and actions create heightened drama that propels the reader forward with urgency.

Like literary fiction, the writing style in commercial fiction is elevated beyond generic mainstream fiction. But unlike literary fiction, commercial fiction maintains a strong narrative storyline as its central goal, rather than the development of enviable prose or internal character conflicts. Commercial fiction often incorporates other genre types under its umbrella such as women’s fiction, thriller, suspense, adventure, family saga, chick lit, etc. Commercial fiction is not the same as "mainstream" or "mass market" fiction, which are both umbrella terms that refer to genre fiction like science fiction, fantasy, romance, mystery, and some thrillers.

Crime Fiction: 

Crime fiction centers its plot on the perpetration of a crime. There are two main subgenres of crime fiction: detective fiction and true crime. True crime focuses its story on the crime scene and the criminal mind. Lurid crime scenes, graphic violence, con games, organized crime, and the criminal underworld are all familiar elements in true crime fiction. Detective fiction, on the other hand, focuses its narrative on the professional or amateur investigators seeking to solve the crime and bring the criminal to justice.


Fantasy uses imaginary worlds and mystical creatures within its storyline. Familiar characters of fables and mythology such as princes and princesses, knights, dragons, giants, faeries, goblins, gnomes, wizards, and witches often show up in this genre. Magic, spells, swords and sorcery, supernatural powers, talking animals, and fanciful kingdoms are welcomed stereotypes.

Historical Fiction: 

Historical fiction is often a work of literary fiction or commercial fiction in which the plot and story transpire during a distinct era in the past. True historical fiction portrays conflicts and characters that depended on a particular time period for their existence (Civil War battles and heroes, slave trade in colonial America, 18th-century British royalty, 1960s civil right leaders, etc.) These conflicts and characters are inseparable from the author’s decision to set the story in a non-contemporary era; the historical time and place influence the unfolding narrative and the characters' struggles within it.

Historical fiction is a careful balance between fact and fiction; and although characters and events may be exaggerated or completely made up for the sake of a good story, accurate historical facts and details lend credence and legitimacy to the overall tale. Although literary or commercial fiction often incorporates historical elements into their stories for atmospheric effect, this is not the same as historical fiction, which uses historical settings and time periods to establish its core conflicts.


Horror fiction has one inelucable goal: to scare its readers. Its chilling pendulum swings with a broad arc, and uses a wide range of techniques to terrify and titillate its audience. From extreme blood and guts, graphic violence, murder and mayhem to psychological suspense, criminal underworlds, supernatural folklore, erotica, and surrealism, horror often portrays the base, subversive side of its fictional world.

Literary Fiction: 

If you marvel at the quality of writing in your novel above all else, then you’ve probably written a work of literary fiction. Literary fiction explores inherent conflicts of the human condition through stellar writing. Pacing, plot, and commercial appeal are secondary to the development of story through first-class prose.

Multi-layered themes, descriptive narration, and three-dimensional characterization distinguish this genre from all others. Literary fiction often experiments with traditional structure, narrative voice, multi-POVs, and storylines to achieve an elevated sense of artistry. Although some literary fiction can become "commercial" by transcending its niche market and appealing to a broader audience, this is not the same as commercial fiction, which at its core has a commerical, marketable hook, plot, and storyline—all developed through literary prose. Literary fiction often merges with other fiction types to create hybrid genres such as literary thrillers, mysteries, historicals, epics, and family sagas.


Multi-cultural can be a tricky genre to simply pin down because it can mean different things to different literary agents and publishers. Most insiders will agree that multi-cultural fiction is a code word for books that possess racial and ethnic diversity within the depiction of its characters, cultures, and conflicts. This includes African-American and Latino fiction. In addition, books characterized as multi-cultural often fall under the broader genre umbrella of commercial fiction, romance, chick lit or literary fiction. Waiting to Exhale, House on Mango Street, and Joy Luck Club are all examples of multi-cultural fiction as well as commercial/literary fiction.


Mysteries typically focus on the process of solving a crime, rather than the details of the crime itself. The puzzle behind the crime is central to the plot. Amateurs or professional investigators perform the sleuthing, and often a single protagonists or a whole host of characters recur in popular serial titles.

Unlike crime/true crime fiction which explores the world of the criminal mind, mystery focuses on the investigators or detectives determined to bring the criminal to justice.


Romance is a specific fiction genre in which the central conflict revolves around the love story between a man and a woman. The settings are often exotic. The characters are regal and glamorous. And the ensuing story is inevitably dramatic—even melodramatic. Furthermore, writing style aids the passion of the climactic conflicts and events, and catapults the reader through a gratifying romantic fantasy. And a happily ever-after ending is requisite.

If you didn’t intentionally set out to write a romance novel, it’s probably not a romance. There are specific publishing houses dedicated to the publication of this genre, as well as agents who specialize in the sale of these novels. Subgenres include contemporary, suspense, time-travel, futuristic, paranormal, Western, historical, regency, and gothic romance. Romance is also a member of the general grouping of “genre fiction,” “mainstream fiction,” “mass market fiction,” “category fiction,” and "mass market" fiction.

Science Fiction: 

Science fiction incorporates various types of science into its story, settings, characters and the challenges that they must overcome. Scientific details, facts, and rules are either adhered to or broken, but either way, they contribute to the contextual storyline as well as the world created within the novel. Science becomes a character itself.

Unlike its genre cousin, “fantasy,” science fiction utilizes scientific elements based in reality—not simply imaginary fables or mythology. However, it is true that science fiction often stretches the bounds of known scientific laws and discoveries, and thus, science fiction sometimes incorporates both science and fantasy into its fictional world. For this reason, they are often paired together as a single genre. Science fiction is also included in the general grouping of “genre fiction,” “category fiction,” “mainstream” fiction,” or “mass market fiction.”


The dramatic conflicts of thrillers/suspense are fraught with peril: a life-threatening danger that jeopardizes the protagonist, his or her loved ones, or even the whole world. The stakes are often large—death and destruction to lives, the downfall of an entire nation, an ecological disaster. However, thrillers can also simply portray riveting psychological tension between two opposing characters. Thrillers and suspense fiction are paired together because thrillers often utilize suspense elements in the development of the story—evil lurking just around the corner that motivates the protagonist to hunt down and capture the villain-at-large.

Although both thrillers and mysteries often involve the protagonist solving a crime and bringing bad guys to justice, the central conflict of thrillers/suspense focuses on developing an urgent sense of imminent jeopardy rather than solving a mystery or the detection of a crime. Thriller/suspense protagonists must win at all costs against a menacing, pernicious threat—or else things are going from bad to worse, and fast. Subgenres include psychological, supernatural, military, espionage, political, medical, legal, erotic and literary thrillers. Thriller/suspense is also included in the general grouping of “genre fiction,” “category fiction,” “mainstream” fiction,” or “mass market fiction.”

Women’s Fiction: 

Women’s fiction is just that: fiction about women’s issues for a female readership. However, it is not the same as chick lit or romance. While utilizing literary prose, women’s fiction is very commercial in its appeal. Its characters are often women attempting to overcome both personal and external adversity.

Although women’s fiction often incorporates grave situations such as abuse, poverty, divorce, familial breakdown, and other social struggles, it can also explore positive aspects within women’s lives. Romantic love stories are also part of women’s fiction, and although love stories are found in chick lit and romance, the mature depth and tone of their development within women’s fiction set them apart from other genre classifications.

Saturday, 19 May 2012

Can Facebook Survive Going Public?

Yesterday, Friday 18th May 2012, Facebook (FB) went public on the stock market. The company had an evaluation of 100 billion going in and has since garnered much criticism for that number. Needless to say, Facebook's stock is worth more than that of Google and McDonalds, but despite all of the hype and fanfare, FB's stock has only risen by 0.23% a mere 0.61% change as of this write up.

This brings us to the matter at hand: Do you think Facebook will survive the next five years? or will it fizzle out like Myspace and Friendster?

I think only time will tell. I was actually expecting the social networking giant to command the DOW (it kinda is) but it's gains have fallen way short of expectation. There are reports that Mark Zukerberg's defiant and intrepid behavior is to blame for the lack of trading in the stock, evident by his lack of commitment to "dress up" for the occasion. But that's fodder.

The true question is, how will this affect us, the users of Facebook? The company has long been under fire with regard to privacy issues and, sad to say, that will not stop anytime soon. What does FB going public mean to the users? Well, for one thing, it means more ads; and more ads means a higher risk of spam and infringements on your private information.

Monday, 14 May 2012

First Loves Blogfest: A Wicked Love

First of all, I must give thanks to Alex J. Cavanaugh for hosting this blogfest. Thanks Alex!

My "firsts" might seem a bit unconventional, but that's because I was a pretty weird child to begin with, and is in no way, shape or form, a reflection on my parents. Bless their simple hearts, 'cause they tried their best with me. 

First Movie: Jurassic Park

Aw man, I loved this movie. I remember going to see it with my buddies and getting freaked the fuk out when the dinosaurs started killing people left and right. It was awesome! I've seen every single one and I still think about them today. This movie further incited my love of dinosaurs and I probably collected every single dinosaur merchandise imaginable. 

Until I realized these extinct behemoths were nothing compared to the mystical creatures of Pokemon. Long live Pokemon! 

First Song: Going Under Evanescence. 

Love Evanescence! Love Amy Lee. I was a fan of this band since day one and I am still a fan of them to this very day! In my opinion, Amy Lee has THE best female pop rock voices of all time. 

First Book: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

Seriously, you guys should know this. I sing this novel's praises almost all the time. No other novel in the history of books has left the impact on my life that this one did. I love the story, the characters and absolutely brilliant writing. If this novel were human we'd most definitely be married. 

First Love: Sarah.

What can I say about Sarah that hasn't already been said (I blogged about it). We knew each other since we were five and we became a couple when we were fifteen, but apparently I wasn't good enough for her so she cheated and now we're over. But, yeah, she was my first love--I won't lie. Sometimes I still think about her and, truth be told, I will never forget her. I mean, how can you forget the person you lost your virginity to? 

And those are my firsts. My first movie, my first song, my first book and, of course, my first and oh-so-tragic first love. 

Have a great day and I can't wait to check out your firsts.

Saturday, 12 May 2012

Attachment Parenting: A Noob's Opinion

So this thing is blowing up right now. A pretty blonde woman in jeans and a tank top is breastfeeding her almost four year old son on the cover of Time Magazine. The headline reads: Are You Mom Enough? (which, to me, is irrelevant) with smaller words that describe how attatchment parenting drives women to extremes.

Now, this is a very interesting topic and could potentially lead to some big fallouts due to varying opinions clashing. I, however, will be honest in my opinion but will do so with a bit of rapport. Okay, here goes:

This. Is. Weird.

And has everything to do with the act itself. I have not been sensitized to this "movement" so I, of course, will find it immoral; however, just because I or the majority don't understand "the movement" need not mean you stop doing YOU.

My mother stopped breastfeeding me and my sisters when we were two but my aunt stopped breastfeeding her middle child, Bradley, when he was six. I distinctly remember playing firetrucks with my cousin at the feet of our parents and hearing my aunt say on the matter: "Sometimes when I'm lying down taking a five he'll come beside me and nurse." I don't remember what my mom said or what my reation was at the time, but looking back at that moment I am utterly shocked. A six year old boy still breastfeeding? Well, if word had spread to the playgroud he would've been made fun of to no end. But perhaps the bigger question is this: Can a woman still lactate five years after giving birth? And why would you breastfeed your child at that age?

To answer both questions: yes, a woman can lactate for long periods of time, and these women often feed their child well over the "normal" age because of nutritional values and a thing called attatchment theory. I won't go into great detail but this basically means that a mother purposefully allows her child to become emotionally and physically attached to her in order to foster good socio-emotional development later in life. So even more simply, the mom does this so the kid can have healthy relationships in their adult life. Not healthier, just healthy. Of course, this whole thing can backfire and the kid can basically become a pshycopath (learn about that here) but that is rare. Also, depriving your child of maternal love and care can cause a slew of problems in children, including hostility, depression and conflict issues. After learning all this, it makes you wonder what's the point? Moms have been raising their children normally for centuries and they turned out all right (save for a few bad parents) so why go to this extreme? Why feed your baby well into their toddler years? Why smother them every hour of everyday? One word, people: Love. It's as simple as that.  

So back to the debate over the Time cover. Some folks claim this is sexualizing something that isn't sexual, but I don't look at this image and think, she's hot let me get her naked. My first reaction was: What the fuck? But has since evolved into: Meh. It doesn't bother me anymore. And it shouldn't bother me because this woman loves her kid and she is not afraid to show it. This whole attachment parenting thing is mothers loving their children too much. And that's absolutely okay. I live in a community where mothers leave their children at home with their teen daughter in order to go clubbing; I know mothers who have not, and do not, breastfeed their babies at all! Sure, it's shocking to see a woman breastfeed a toddler (on the cover of Time, no less) but it's not the end of the world and it certainly isn't going to impact your life negatively.

Monday, 7 May 2012

What Keeps You Going?

There's a saying that goes: when the going gets tough, the tough get going. But there must be some inspiration behind that.

It isn't always easy finding the strength to keep going, that's for sure; whether it be climbing that insurmountable mountain, reaching the finish line of the New York Marathon or simply getting out of bed to go to work everyday, finding the strength to keep going is, well, tough.

Lately, work has been beating my ass and I'm so tired and frustrated. Sometimes I feel like quitting and running off to a beach in the Bahamas for a week (month, year -- a millennia!) but, alas, I have bills to pay.  It sucks when you want a break and you can't get it, especially when your sanity is hanging by a flimsy, silky spider's thread.

But I keep going because I love what I do. It is as simply as that.

In truth,  I guess that's why we all do what we do? Virtue. Honesty, integrity, courage, compassion...they drive us, lift us, enfold us and carry us through the darkest of times. So do the people we care about. If virtue is the soul of our drive, then those we love the most are the flesh and blood. And it doesn't matter if it's you, your children or that special someone -- we keep going because we can -- because we must --; because when the world and everything around us seem lost in translation...we have the body and soul to tough it out.

Friday, 4 May 2012

The Quality Of Fantasy

Let's be honest, coming up with ideas for a novel is as easy as going to the bathroom while constipated (ya, not a pretty picture). Far worse than this is doing so for the fantasy genre. In an age where everyone--and I do mean EVERYONE--has seen it all, almost nothing is original and, in most cases, derivative. So, the most obvious question is raised: has the quality of fantasy diminished?

Well, Mr. Alec Austin seems to think so. Some of his points are spot on, while others are quite subjective--I thought such a subject would arouse a rather thought provoking debate.

(Mind you, his post is a bit old, but it raises some good questions).

Formulaic Series" . . .it is dominated by series, and that most of those series are formulaic and of low quality . . ."  

Epic Fantasies (EF) are so large that it is almost impossible to stuff everything into one book. EFs are constructed upon four common ideals: world, magic, characters and conflict. It would take a very large tome or an insanely skilled writer to define and describe their world effectively in a single novel. Of course, almost everyone thinks they can write a great EF, and are often the ones who litter the bookshelves with horrible and mundane clones.

I read somewhere that Mr. George R.R. Martins 4th book was so large--about 1400 to 2000 pages--that the publisher refused to publish it, stating: "...we could not make a profit from something that huge." As a consequence, he had to split the book into two separate novels.

Most epic fantasy novelists would love to write one book, but sometimes it's the publishers who insist that there be a squeal and, of course, you all know the reason for this. ($)

"The traditional response to why much epic fantasy is bad is that the genre is exhausted, with each new book or series drawing on the same patterns as its commercially successful predecessors . . ." 

I am wrapped in ambivalence on this one. Almost every EF title out there is some clone of LOTR. Take, for instance, the Inheritance Cycle. For his psychic dragon he drew upon the concept of Brent Corville's Jeremy Tatcher Dragon Hatcher (an excellent read BTW) and critics often refer to the "Tolkeinesque" feel of the novel. I am elated that he is such a young writer (GO CHRISTOPHER!), but most writers nowadays intertwine their own preconceived ideas (preconceived because almost nothing is original) and add that to the concepts of old.

Don't get me wrong, there are those who simply write based on trends (Twilight clones, DaVinci clones, and soon the Hunger Games mimics) in an effort to emulate the same results. But you're not like that are you? No! Of course not. You're the kind of person who spends (7) years developing an idea, honing your craft, revising, learning about the business and ensuring your totally kick-butt concept is as good as it can be.

Or am I the only one?

Definition: " . . .stories set in secondary or invented worlds which are distant or otherwise distinct from the world in which we live our everyday lives. To this definition we add the adjective epic . . ."

He's right, stories that intertwine everyday normality with that of a make believe world is not "epic" it is simply just fantasy.

Common Failings" . . .every work of literature must be judged primarily, though not exclusively, by its own laws . . ." 

Just because the main focus of your book is not emotionally driven, need not mean that you exclude the quintessential human attributes which will make the reader connect with your story.

" . . .this is not the same as saying that the author of an adventure story is relieved of the obligation to portray emotionally convincing characters because characterization is not the main focus of their work . . ."

Language"There are two primary ways in which authors can misuse language in epic fantasy. The first is to have the narrative voice slip into a tone inappropriate to the subject being discussed. The second is to have the characters speak in a way that is inappropriate to their character and circumstances." 

I surmise he is referring to those really hardcore epics like Tolkein or Martin where the entire story begins and is entirely consumed by the magnitude of the fantasy world. For us MG Fantasy Novelists, we have to keep the language suited to our readers. (i.e 8-12 year olds) Using the aforementioned knowledge of 'Common Failings' we must include characters that relate to our readers--whether they be from our world or another, so in some instances we are forced to make a fairy say "cool", or an elf say "wicked-sick!" Of course you must have a good reason as to why they would know these words.

Setting". . .unless the story being told is a fairy tale or fable, the world it is set in should be firmly based in some combination of history and myth, not merely copied from the world of another writer or vague memories of high school history classes . . ."

I'm sure anyone who knows the EF genre will agree.

Character" . . .no matter how fascinating the world a story is set in may be, if the characters it concerns are uninteresting or underdeveloped, the story will be a failure . . ." 

If you read the tons of reviews surrounding the Harry Potter franchise you will come across a person venting how connected they felt toward the books' characters. This, apart from the relatable settings of the book: school, rivalry, games and dramatic friends are what made HP a HUGE success. As for twilight? Well. . .let's not go there.

This need not mean that one should go and write a story about magic and vampires in schools--seeing that a learning facility is the relative factor--; its already been done, first of all, and you are neglecting that it's not just a school what makes these books successful, but the relationships of the characters and the: "oh I can totally identify with that!" mantra which make a book, well, good.

Mr. Austin goes on to talk about Narrative Structure and Familiarity and Strangeness but these two are highly subjective and I rather let you decide.
If anything, let this post show you that there is more to a good book than what he describes. Dare I say, a good book consists of lots of love, lots of sweat and lots of magic--something that's hard to derive or pilfer.

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Is Talent Inherent Or Developed?

Before I get into it, I want to thank Jaycee for the amazing work she did on my brand spanking new blogheader! Isn't it great? It was one of the prizes for winning the Oh My Hero Blogfest and I couldn't be happier. 

Yesterday me and some friends were playing Tera Online and kept bickering back and forth about my best mate Cory's inability to sing. We were busy killing stuff and he was singing his heart out on the guitar behind us--terribly, I might add. We've told him many times before he CANNOT sing but he insists he will get better with practice. So another of my friends told him that singing is a talent you have to be born with, and it got me thinking...Is this true?   

In my case, I was always good at writing and drawing. I used to mess up my mom's walls with stories and characters I drew using Crayola. I was particularly fond of angels (still am) and it showed. Another testament to my inherent aptitude was my gravitation to all things writing. In High School, I chose English, Literature, Economics, Art and  Business as my classes. I hated Math, but did it 'cause it was compulsory. I've won awards for my Essay writing skills and even chose a profession that required me to write.

I know many people say that no one is born a good writer - they are made so - but I dunno. There are some people who understand the craft better than others right off the bat. If you watch or read a singer, dancer, writer or artist's interview, many of them will express their proficiency in the craft at a very early age.

So I want to know what you think: Are we born talented or do we develop it?
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