Monday, December 30, 2013

The End of 2013

I started this blog as part of a New Year's Resolution for 2013, and even though I haven't posted as much as I'd have liked in the past two months, I'm still pretty proud for maintaining the site. I mainly wanted to start it in order to form a platform for my writing, because a long term goal of mine is to consistently write fiction. 

And so far the blog has helped. I've gotten a decent number of page views as well as some encouragement with the stories I've posted. I've also put more time into editing my book, which is currently getting a heavy editing from a good friend. 

So while I haven't posted as much or written as much as I'd like in the past two months, during 2013 I did write:

  1. 4-5 short stories
  2. 42 blog posts
  3. Two full drafts of my novel.
  4. A lot of notes and planning for my next novel
Additionally, my most recent short story (which I'll post for free here in a couple weeks) came in around 18,500 words, which should really count as 2-3 short stories. I was shooting for 22 for the year, so I didn't quite hit that part of my resolution, but I think that might've been a bit ambitious! (Next year I'm going to focus more on writing consistently rather than on the number of stories I write.)

The past two months I've been delving a little further into another passion of mine—photography. So as a end-of-the-year present, I'll post some pictures I've taken and you can feel free to download them. Print them or use them as screen-savers or do whatever you want with them, just don't sell them! I suggest clicking on them for a more enthralling experience. (Dimming the lights and playing  Tran Siberian Orchestra might help as well.)


(Here's the Cathedral in St. Paul. I used HDR techniques for this shot.)


(An overlook of St. Paul, with a gnarly oak framing the city.)

(This is my cat.)

(Here's a house in St. Paul decorated for Christmas. It snowed the day after this photo! Bummer)


(This is a coffee house called the Bean Factory, using HDR photography)


So what did you do in 2013? Or what do you want to accomplish in 2014? 

Anyway, have a Happy New Year! In 2014, create something that has never been imagined!

-Daniel



Saturday, November 16, 2013

It's Been A While, But For Good Reason!

Hello all!

I know it's been a while since I've written a new post (and I'm sure you've all been dying to see what I've been up to in my life), but it's been for a good (okay, a decent) reason. 

I enjoy updating the site with new posts, but I found that I was getting so obsessed with posting weekly or bi-weekly that it was preventing me from writing. So I decided to not put up another post until I finished the short story I was working on. And that ended up being about 18,000 words in length, so it became a little more than a short story. 

Still, I'm excited to have finished it. I'm going to try to not think about it for the next two weeks, then do an edit and second draft. After that, I'll probably post the whole thing here for a little while, and then I might try to get it published. 

In the meantime, my friend, whom I've mentioned earlier, is painstakingly working through my first novel, editing it and writing out helpful hints. It's a huge favor, and I'm indebted to her for it. So I'm not going to be thinking about that either, until she gets through it. 

So now I'm planning on starting a new novel. I've been thinking about the plot for a while now, and I'm excited because I think it's going to be in first person (which I don't normally like as much, but I think it will work well), and it's not going to be Sci-Fi or Fantasy—just straight fiction. It'll be interesting, and I think I'll be a better writer after writing it!

If you want some eye-candy, and if what you consider eye-candy is night photography, here's a photo I made by stitching together 99 star pictures I took in October while camping in Minnesota. 

Enjoy!



-Daniel 

Monday, September 30, 2013

My Elusive Voice . . . a Book Update . . . And a Cool Picture.

Hey Everybody!

So here's a post with some thoughts about my writing—namely, how my style tends to replicate the style that I am reading. 

But first, if any of you are following the progress of my book (tentatively named Never Upon A Time), here's a little update: 

I recently gave a copy of my manuscript to a friend who is an English teacher and works with students that are around the age my book would be geared toward. She just let me know that she read through it once, to get an overall feel for the story, and is now about to go through it again in order to edit the novel. 

She said she liked the book and was excited that I had written a novel (until I asked her to read it, I had only told my wife that I was working on a book). But she also pointed out that the book followed an odd POV. For the most part I was going for Third Person Limited (you narrate the book as someone watching the story play out, and you can see the thoughts of one primary character), but I sometimes wrote chapters in Third Person Omniscient (you narrate the book as someone watching the story play out, and you can see the thoughts of all characters). This was leading to some confusion, especially since I was switching fairly rapidly between characters thoughts, so it's something I'll probably take a close look at when I go through the book for a fifth time. On an up note, though, she told the plot line to her eight grade class, and she let me know they seemed intrigued. 


(Here's a cool pic for no reason in particular. It's an HDR shot of my dining room, with a ink outline filter)

Okay, enough of that. Now for what I was getting at earlier in the post, the part about my recent thoughts about writing. 

Recently I perused through some of the short stories I've written throughout the year, and I couldn't help but notice a large difference in style from story to story. At first I found this odd, being I am the author who wrote all the tales, but then I thought about the books I was reading as I wrote the stories. And I realized the tone of my writing was imitating the tone of the books I was reading. 

For example, I was reading a lot of Neil Gaiman early in the year. He tends to write long sentences that have multiple tangents which are inserted via commas. Like this one from American Gods:

     "Fiction allows us to slide into these other heads, these other places, and look out through other eyes. And then in the tale we stop before we die, or we die vicariously and unharmed, and in the world beyond the tale we turn the page or close the book, and we resume our lives."

And then I was re-reading one of my favorite series, Phillip Pullman's His Dark Materials series (starting with The Golden Compass), and I found myself using paragraph-long sentences to describe scenes that often follow this pattern:
   
     Say something about a character approaching a setting then insert colon: then write a ton of stuff about the scene; separating each thought with a semi-colon; using a lot of vivid and creative imagery.


At first I was a little worried when I realized my writing was pin-balling around to match whatever it was I was reading, but I've recently heard that this is a fairly common phenomenon, and it mainly shows that you, as an author, are making observations of what you enjoy in other writers and using those observations to become who you are. And you're voice will stop behaving like Peter Pan's shadow the more you write!

So . . . anyone else experience this? 

-Daniel

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Non-Writing Post . . . Some Photography

As the title suggests, this post doesn't have much to do with writing. I still am writing, and am about to get back to work on a short story, but for now I thought I'd share some pictures I took recently. 

As well as being a hobby writer, I am also a hobby photographer. And while I'd like to turn into a paid author and do that as a living, I really don't care to try to make money taking pictures. It's purely a for-fun pastime. 

I especially enjoy taking pictures at night. It allows for interesting lighting you don't get with the sun. Also, when I wonder the streets and forests at night, I get a strange, warm, intoxicated feeling which leads me to believe I might be part wolf. 

So, here are a few of my recent photos, most of which will look better if you click them:


(St. Paul Cathedral—this is actually two pictures merged together. If you look long enough, you might be able to notice where. Although it's not the dark line to the right and above the door. Don't know what that is.)

(This is on a golf course near my house)

(This is the Steppingstone Theatre in St. Paul. I used two others like this to make an HDR pic, which is down further.)

(A pillar. If you couldn't figure that out.)

(The St. Paul skyline, from the east looking west.)

(This is a much loved pub near my house.)
I also recently tried my hand at High Dynamic Range photography (HDR). I used three pics with different lighting and merged them together using a free program called Luminance. After playing with the different filters in the program, this is what I got: 


(Steppingstone Theatre,  HDR)
I'm still learning about HDR, and I'm not sure if this pic looks cool because of the merged pictures or the filter used on the merged picture. I know the detail is boosted along with the contrast in certain ranges, but, like I said, I do this as a hobby, and I'm just doing it for fun!

Finally, here's an HDR shot of my living room, which I uploaded into Photoshop and applied an ink outline filter to, along with some other stuff that I've already forgotten:


(Weird, huh?)
Well, that's all for now. I'm gonna get a workin on writin. After all, this is the official Author Daniel Goldberg blog! 

-Daniel

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Best Background Ever . . . and my Twitter Handle

First of all, if you look to the right, you can find a "Follow @_DanielGoldberg Twitter" button that I added to the blog. I don't post a lot of stuff on Twitter, but when I do, it's pretty awesome. For example, here's a Tweet I sent out during the football games last Sunday:

"Watching a rerun of the 2011 and 2012 MN book awards #BestNightEver #WhoNeedsFootball #Channel2Rocks #lotsofhashtags #StillHaveSpaceForMore"

So . . . yeah. I'm pretty fun to follow.

Anywho, you may have also noticed the background image for my site is new. It used to be just black, and now it's that crazy lightning picture I took down in Tucson. I've tried to change the background a few times before, but when I loaded my own image into blogger, it just did that stupid looking tile thing, and I wanted the pic to take up the whole background. 


(This was the original picture I used for the background of the site, although I've cropped it a bit.)


I figured out how to do that from this blog. It's pretty easy, if you have a blog and want to do something similar, I suggest giving it a try. It helps to have an image that's about 200kb in size, so you may need to resize your image. I did that using Photoshop, but I think there's a way to do it with paint, too. 

That's all for now. I'm currently working on a SF story. Normally my short stories are slightly bizarre fantasy, but I thought of an interesting plot set in the not too distant future, and I'm having some fun with it. 

Hope you're having fun creating something new!

-Daniel

.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Phew! Done With Book! Pretty Much . . .


Well, I haven't posted anything for a few weeks, and it's because I've been devoting my time toward finishing up my book, tentatively called Never Upon A Time. And now I can say . . . drumroll please . . . that I've finished it! (Pretty much).

I'm in the process of giving a copy to a friend who is an English teacher. She enjoys the genre (YA) and knows what a lot of kids are into right now. So once she goes through my book and gives me some suggestions/grammar and spelling corrections, and after I fix those things, then I'll be completely done. 

Here's a timeline on the book progress: I started the first draft at the end of September 2012, and finished that mid December; then I spent two months writing a second draft (rewriting most of the first half of the book); my third draft was more of an edit, but I did add two large sections to the second half, and then I gave the book to my wife to read/edit (this was completed around May? I think?); finally, this summer, I finished working on her suggestions and got the book to where it is now, a fairly polished novel that I'm proud to have written. Overall time—just under a year. 

I've mentioned this before on the site, but one thing I expected when I finished the first draft of the book was an overwhelming sense of accomplishment. I had written a book—a lifelong dream. But that really didn't happen. I just jumped straight into editing/redrafting, and didn't feel like I had climbed a mountain at all. 

I am proud, when I sit back and think about having written a book, but I learned two things that are almost more valuable: I love writing; and I recognize in order to get good at it, I need to write a lot more. 

And that's perfectly fine by me. 



(Here's a pic of the sky, for no reason in particular.)

-Daniel

  

Monday, August 26, 2013

Here's a Quick Shot of Inspiration: No Syringe Necessary


In my last post I discussed some how-to-write books and my thoughts overall on that niche. I think the general consensus I felt from people commenting on Google+ and via email was that most people enjoy the inspiration and suggestions in such books, but it's best to not read too many—perhaps one to two per year. 

One thing I forgot to mention, in the department of inspiration, was one of my favorite speeches by Neil Gaiman. Technically, it's also a book (and an artistically pleasing one at that), but it was first a speech. And unlike the book, you can get the speech for free. 

So here it is. An encouraging sermon by one prolific purveyor of speculative fiction.



I've watched the speech several times, and it always makes me excited to go forth and create something new! That is, in my opinion, one of the most magical aspects of writing fiction—the fact that, by merely thinking, we can create people and worlds and stories that, up to the moment we thought of them, never existed. 

As for things I've been up to recently, my wife and I went to the Minnesota State Fair and got to see a bunch of animals and try some weird food. I had some bacon ice cream as well as mini-doughnut beer (the rim was dipped in cinnamon sugar). But I was wondering if people from around the country recognize what these are, pictured below? They are much loved in Minnesota and Wisconsin, but I've heard a rumor that a lot of American's don't know what cheese curds are. Thoughts?
(Deep fried cheese curds at the Minnesota State Fair)
-Daniel



_

Monday, August 19, 2013

Books on Writing Books


There was a length of time where I got sucked into reading books about writing books—you know, books with titles like, Write Your Novel, 10 Things Every Writer MUST Know, How To Write A Novel Blindfolded Only Using Your Left Pinky . . . those sort of things. 

It was a black hole, really. I felt like if I read just the right book, I'd find all the secrets to busting out a bestseller. 

The main thing I learned, however, was that reading books about writing was stopping me from writing. Simply reading good fiction and writing regularly did a lot more to help my stories and tales. 

Still, I came across a few books I really enjoyed, and I thought I'd share them.

1)
(bird by bird, by Anne Lamott)

One of the main reasons I enjoyed this is because, even though I was searching for magical tips on making me a better writer, this book offered little advice to the actual nuts and bolts of writing. Instead it instilled a realistic mindset of writing (if you're writing for money or fame you're not going to enjoy writing) and at the same time was quite inspirational. 

Here are a few quotes:

"Almost all good writing begins with terrible first efforts. You need to start somewhere."

and

"I don't think you have time to waste not writing because you are afraid you won't be good at it."

and finally

"You are lucky to be one of those people who wishes to build sandcastles with words, who is willing to create a place where your imagination can wander. We build this place with the sand of memories; these castles are our memories and inventiveness made tangible. So part of us believes that when the tide starts coming in, we won't really have lost anything, because actually only a symbol of it was there in the sand. Another part of us believes we'll figure out a way to divert the ocean. This is what separates artists from ordinary people: the belief, deep in our hearts, that if we build our castles well enough, somehow the ocean won't wash them away. I think this is a wonderful kind of person to be."

The first two quotes are meant to spur us to sit down and write, the last one helps us understand why we feel so fulfilled when we do so. 

2)
(On Writing, by Stephen King)
The funny thing is, I'm not a big Stephen King fan. And yet I thoroughly enjoyed this book. The first third is a well written memoir about King becoming an author, which, by the end of it, has you dreaming with a smile on your face about getting a phone call from your agent letting you know the paperback rights for (Insert the name of your book here) have sold for four hundred thousand dollars. Especially if you are living paycheck to paycheck like King and his wife were.

The middle third of the book is actual writing advice, which I found mostly helpful. For one, King is big on setting a chunk of time aside every day to write—he explains your muse is much more likely to extol magic if it knows where and when to find you. 

Also, here is a quote from the book that I completely agree with:

"Can I be blunt on this subject? If you don't have time to read, you don't have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that."

The last third of the book is about the new perspective he gained on life and writing after a terrible accident, which was also inspirational. 

The one problem I had with the book was King's view on outlining/plotting—he doesn't believe in it. He believes you should start with a nugget of an idea for a story (he likened it to a fossil), and discover the rest of it by writing it out. Plotting, he believes, leads to a "less true" story, and should be avoided. I have no problem with seat-of-the-pants writing, and in a way did it for my novel, but I don't think it should be thought of as the one true way to write.

As for books that work like a writer's workshop, the one I've enjoyed the most is:

3)
(Steering the Craft, by Ursula K. Le Guin)

I know this post is getting long, so I won't go into too much detail on this one. 

For the most part, I'm not a big fan of writing-exercise books (I feel like just reading a lot and writing a lot should take care of improving your writing ability), but if you ever sit down to write and can think of absolutely nothing to write about, it helps to have a little guidance. Plus this book helps you think about pacing, repetition, and the actual sound of your writing.





There are many other writing books, and I know I've just listed perhaps the two most popular above, but I don't want you getting sucked into the black hole of reading about writing. So I'll just leave you with this—the greatest secret of being a writer that is included in every how-to-write book: 

If you want to write you need to write. 

It seems obvious, but it's true. A lot of people (and I've been guilty of it) spend more time daydreaming about selling a book than actually writing the damn book. 


Finally, you should definitely avoid this book:


-Daniel 



Sunday, August 4, 2013

Book Update—The Reverse Outline is Complete!


Well, the title says it all, really. If you've been reading my blog posts lately, you will know that for the past month or so I've been working on reverse outlining my book—which is where you make an outline of the finished draft in order to gain a stronger understanding of what needs to be fixed/rearranged/added/deleted in the novel. 

Anyway, I've just finished. So that's exciting. And by finished I mean I'm done with the reverse outline process, not editing the book. Now I need to look at the hundreds (literally) of notes I took while re-reading the manuscript and reword sentences, fix grammatical errors, combine a few chapters, and add some descriptors (I noticed I used a lot more descriptors in the second half of the book compared to the first, which I found interesting).

I'm guessing this will also take a while, but I feel like once I finish doing that I will be actually done with the book (I used to think writing the first draft would leave me with most of the grunt work finished, but that was really just the tip of the iceberg). After that I'll send it to a friend to read and then start trying to get an agent. 

One interesting thing I should note is how I re-read my book. I did a good chunk of the reverse outline while on vacation in Arizona, and so I didn't want to bring my big binder of loose paper that is my third (and most current) draft. Instead I saved my paper as a PDF and transferred it to my eReader (a Nook) and took notes in an Ironman 2 kids notebook that was really cheap. I feel like this actually helped compared to outlining the actual Word document because it prevented me from trying to re-write sections as I was reading, which, in the past, has prevented me from making very much progress. Whenever I noticed something I didn't like, I just left a quick note about what page it was on and what I didn't like, then moved on. 

Anyway, this is my first book and my first time using various editing methods, so I thought I'd just share some observations from the experience. 

Have a super awesome day!

And, in case you were looking for a picture of a dude and his cat playing a complex board game, here you go . . .

(Leo playing PowerGrid)

-Me


Monday, July 29, 2013

Thought Provoking Question on Local Brewery's Billboard

I'm going to leave this up for you to decide, but I think I may have just been published. It's not a novel or a short story—I'm not even sure you could call it flash fiction (although it has to be something). 

I just had my thought provoking question selected to be printed on a local brewery's billboard, and yesterday—a simple day where I was just trying to complete a simple task (buying a chicken breast)—I came across my writing published high in the sky for all to read. 

Here it is . . .


(I got a lot of odd stares as I spent a while across the street taking pictures of this sign)
So, a little background info: Summit is a popular local brewery in St. Paul that's been around for a little over 25 years. They have an ad campaign that follows this formula: Ask a thought provoking question—then Get to the Bottom of It over some nice brews. On their website you can make your own suggestions for questions that have confounded mankind for millennia and then they choose a few to print on billboards throughout the Twin Cities (Minneapolis and St. Paul, if you're not from around here). 

I spent a long while on their website suggesting thoughts that have left me flabbergasted, and this is the one they chose. I mean, if you think about it (not that you really want to), well . . . how is it possible? You know, with all the quills and . . . never mind. You get the idea. 

Now, after looking like an idiot standing across the street taking a picture of my provocative billboard, I was left with this asking in my mind: does this count as my first time being published? Thoughts? I have a short story accepted for publication, but it's not yet been published.

So, what do you think? Let's get to the bottom of it!

Until next time,

-Daniel

P.S. Here's a cool picture of a leaf I took a few days ago:


(Nice to see the individual cells for a change!)

Saturday, July 20, 2013

First Time in AZ

(Photo from the hotel room. Thirty second exposure.)

Okay, so this is my second time to Arizona, but the first time I never left the airport so that doesn't really count. 

My wife had a conference for her work in Tucson, and I was lucky enough to tag along. Having no work myself, I spent a large chunk of time working on the reverse outline of my book (reverse outline = outlining a finished draft). I finished a little over a third of the book, and so far I'm glad with what I've written. The reverse outline process has helped a lot in figuring out the pace of the novel as well as which chapters might be better consolidated, separated, or deleted altogether. 

The biggest help, I think, is the pacing. After each chapter, I write what the primary purpose was (action, background info, processing what just happened, etc)—this really helps prevent four chapters of Action-Action-Action-Action or Background info-Background info-Background info. 

I know the idea of outlining a book that's already written may sound crazy or like a lot of extra work, but it's given me a lot of confidence in what I've written. It is a decent amount of work, but I think it's worth it. 

(I had my most recent draft on my Nook, and I took notes in my sweet Ironman 2 notebook)

One of the things I realized as I was reading the book was that I never gave myself any credit for actually finishing a novel. Once I finished, I just went straight to editing and working on other short stories. Writing a book is something I've always wanted to do, and I've done it. And I'm a little bit proud—even if nothing more comes from the book . . . but hopefully something does!

While in Arizona, we also did some sightseeing. Here are a few photos. 

(Pano at the Grand Canyon. You may want to enlarge this by clicking!)

(Annie being adventurous on Tucson Mountain.)

(Annie and me at the Grand Canyon)

I'm back in Minnesota now, and it's hard to find time between my job to work on the novel. I'm hoping to finish the reverse outline by the end of July, as well as finish the slight revisions I'm noting along the way.

Later!

-Daniel

Friday, July 5, 2013

Happy 4th of July Weekend!

This is a short post, and it's a bit tardy. 

Anyway, Happy 4th of July . . . Weekend! 

Here are a few shots of the fireworks in St. Paul, MN.


My wife and I watched the fireworks from the Smith Street Bridge, also known as "The High Bridge."





So that's all for now, hopefully everyone is getting some time to read and write (if that's what you're into!). 

-Daniel

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

The Ocean at the End of the Lane review, and some other things.

I actually finished this book a while ago, but things, as they always are, are a little hectic. Anyway, here's my review along with some more updates. 



I read The Ocean at the End of the Lane in two sittings in two days. It's not a terribly long book, but still, that alone is a sign of how much I enjoyed the novel. I'm not going to give any spoilers, but there are some in the link I post below to Gaiman's NPR interview. 

It reads almost like a kids tale, and that's because it follows the life of a seven year old through some fantastical events. But it's not a children's book (In an interview with NPR, Gaiman said one of the primary reasons this book is a book geared for adults is because it isn't about hope, but instead helplessness). 

This book could be described as a folk tale for adults—something Gaiman is well known for and I am happy to read more of. One of the things I like most about this work is Neil's ability to subtly write about the abnormal. When something strange or unusual occurs, it's done in such a way that you often don't realize you've stepped into the fantastical side of fiction—much like when a song gets stuck in your head that, as you think of it, you realize was playing in the background at the grocery store. 

Also, the book has depth, but I have a hard time explaining that quality. There were many moments when I would stop and think I just understood something deeper, only to find that I can't recall what it was I just thought I understood.  When I try to reread it to again experience that emotion, I discover something new altogether. And any book that creates this kind of reading experience is one I consider worth reading. 

If you're curious, I felt that, in comparison to Gaiman's other work, this novel is somewhat like The Graveyard Book, and especially like his short story When We Went to See the End of the World by Dawnie Morningside, Age 11 1/4, which is in his anthology of short stories called Smoke and Mirrors. Both are excellent. 

* * *

Those stars should be centered, but I'm lazy. It's a page break. 

Anyway, as for what I've been up to as of late . . . I have been re-reading my book, working on the reverse outline process (which is where you outline your finished draft to get an idea of what's working and what isn't) while taking into consideration my wife's suggestions. 

Also, I recently went backpacking with my brother. While I didn't get any writing done, I always find myself creatively stimulated after traveling to the north woods of Minnesota. Many of my stories have to do with mystical occurrences in the woods, and these forests are often what I'm thinking of as I write. Here are a few photos from our trip. 


(My tent at our campsite. From where I'm taking the picture, my heels are in the lake.)

(This is the lake we camped at, Bear Lake.)

(Some night photography on cliffs.)

(More night photography, this time with my brother and I as ghosts.)

(The tent in the morning.)

(My brother (left) and I on an overlook in the middle of nowhere in Northern Minnesota.)

(Do I look much bigger than my brother in this shot?)

(Self Portrait. You can see a sliver of Lake Superior to the right of my left ear.)

(Minnesota's state bird—the Loon.)

(This is the cliff where we took our night shots.)

(Sunset at our campsite—this is two shots merged together, if you're wondering.)
So that's all I've got for now. Hopefully by my next post I'll be further along in finishing the third draft/reverse outline of my novel. 

Until then, have a happy Fourth of July!

-Daniel

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Look What Came in the Mail!

This is going to be a short post. Because I have some reading to do, and don't want to waste too much time writing. 

Yesterday, I came home from work at midnight and saw there was a package on our table. This is what was inside:
(Neil Gaiman's newest novel. The page sticking out from the side is the tracking sheet from UPS, not a loose page!)

(And there's Mr. Gaiman's John Hancock. Or, as John Hancock might say, there's the Neil Gaiman)

I got the signed copy through a bookstore in Massachusetts that Neil mentioned on his blog. Needless to say, I am quite excited. 

I thought about reading the whole book as soon as I opened the package, but after page 70 or so, I realized I wasn't absorbing everything like I wanted to, and so, reluctantly, I put the book down and went to bed. 

So . . . back to reading now!

-Daniel