Saturday, October 8, 2011

Steve Jobs: Celebrate His Life and Accomplishments

Good morning,

I am a huge MAC and iPhone advocate and user. I was shocked and saddened by the death of Steve Jobs, the co-founder and former CEO of Apple. I’ve been flipping back and forth since the announcement of his death (Wednesday, October 5th, 2011) on whether or not I should dedicate a blog post to this brilliant and fascinating man and this morning I decided I would.

Steve Jobs - 1955 - 2011

The Silicon Valley entrepreneur reinvented the world’s computing, music and handset industries and changed the way millions of people live each day around the world. He had his own way of doing things and was known for his temper and as being someone who always got what he wanted.  I came across the following quote and thought it was worth sharing:

Early Years:

·       Born on February 24, 1955 in San Francisco to Abdulfattah John Jandali, a Syrian immigrant, and Joanne Simpson who was a graduate student.
·       Later adopted by an Armenian family of Paul and Clara Jobs. He grew up in a middle-class suburb with the two loving parents.
·       Nurtured in Silicon Valley and probably never imagined that the training he received during his childhood days would help in shaping his future.
·       He learned to read before he started going to school, but school came as a shock for him ad he never liked the authority that he encountered at school. Luckily, a fourth grade teacher who caught his interest by assigning fascinating projects lured him back to learning.
·       His dad, Paul, also did his part by teaching Steve how to build things, disassemble them, and put them together.
·       Neighbors, who worked in the Valley’s electronics firms, taught Jobs that the TV was not made with a magical want, but was painstakingly designed by humans.
·       As a teenager, Jobs started working at HP. Later, he got a job at Atari, the video-game company, which was just getting started. But Jobs did not see the electronics field as something that will let him use all of his artistic powers.

Apple Was Born:

First Apple Computer
·       Everything changed when Steve Jobs got interested in what Steve Wozniak was doing. Wozniak, a high school friend, was thrilled about personal computers, and was designing one of his own but he had no intention of commercializing his project. That is where Steve came in.
·       In 1976, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak and industry vet Ronald Wayne, founded Apple. Steve’s first achievement after that was the introduction of the Apple I in 1976. A small group headed by Jobs, Wozniak and Wayne worked to invent Apple’s first computer, which was little more than a circuit board.
·       In 1977, the Apple II came out and was an instant hit. The company was becoming popular and the new computer was a fully assembled desktop computer, which came equipped with a handsome case.
·       In 1984, Jobs officially unveiled the Macintosh, which was the first computer to integrate a graphical user interface (GUI) and a mouse.
·       In the same year, Apple IIc was also released which was a slimmed-down version of the Apple II and was much more portable.
·       In 1985, John Sculley, who was running Apple at the time, fired Steve Jobs. Jobs later said, “You’ve probably had somebody punch you in the stomach and it knocks the wind out of you and you can’t breathe. That’s how I felt.”

Career Changes:

·       After being fired from Apple, Jobs refused to stay down and he started Next, which was a company that designed and sold next-generation workstations. Unfortunately, the Next computer never became popular, even thought its operating system was impressive.
·       Jobs paid $5 million to George Lucas and bought a computer graphics studio, which we all know today as Pixar. Jobs invested $5 million of his money into the company and it was morphed from a software company into an animation studio. Pixar has since churned out a string of hit family films such as Toy Story (1995), which was the first blockbuster, Toy Story 2, Monsters, Inc. (Two-Disc Collector's Edition), Finding Nemo (Two-Disc Collector's Edition), and The Incredibles (Two-Disc Collector's Edition). Jobs sold Pixar to Disney for $7.4 billion in 2006.

Pixar's Toy Story

Return to Apple:

·       Event though Next never became a popular household computer, it was Next that helped Jobs to get back into Apple, when Apple bought Next and Jobs came back into the fold in 1996.
·       In 1998, Apple unveiled the candy-colored iMac and it was a runaway hit. The all-in-one design is still used by today’s iMac. The new machine had sent out the message that simplicity, beauty, and power would be behind the company’s comeback.
·       Jobs encouraged Apple designer Jonathan Ive to work the cube shape into the Power Mac line, and in 2000 the company unveiled the Power Mac G4 Cube. That machine was perhaps the most beautiful computer ever. But unfortunately it was a rare failure. The reason might be because Jobs let his aesthetic instincts overwhelm his sense of the marketplace. And also it came with a price tag of $1,800, its disk drive had problems, and the case developed stress cracks easily.
·       2001 and onwards is when Jobs really showed his brilliance. That year, everyone witnessed the unveiling of the Apple Apple iPod touch 8 GB (4th Generation) NEWEST MODEL, which was a small music player. The first player came with a 5 GB hard drive and a mechanical scroll wheel. The device didn’t sync to Windows machines. Nobody would have ever thought that the device would completely change the music industry.
·       Jobs created the iTunes music store, which was the first successful service that sold music over the Internet. The iTunes store has sold billions of downloaded songs.
·       In 2001, we witnessed the surfacing of Mac OS X which was a complete departure from earlier Mac OSs and definitely a next generation OS. It was appealing to those who were fluent in Windows, but it came with enough of Apple’s well-established interface conventions to keep the Apple fans interested.
·       Also in 2001, Apple retail stores also began opening and there are now over 300 Apple Stores around the world. These stores boost sales and fuel the Apple culture. 

Fight With Cancer Begins:

·       In 2004, Steve Jobs was diagnosed with a rare form of pancreatic cancer. After what appeared to be a successful initial surgery, Jobs gave an address to the Stanford graduating class of 2005, which is considered by many as the best commencement address in history, as evidenced in the following quote: 

No one wants to die, even people who want to go to Heaven don’t want to die to get there”, he said. “And yet, death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because death is very likely the single best invention of life. It’s life’s change agent; it clears out the old to make way for the new … Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life”.

iPhone And The Apps Store:

·       After the treatment of his cancer, Steve took Apple’s biggest risk yet — the developing of a mobile phone. He wanted to come out with a device that combined the media savvy of the iPod, with the interface wizardry of the Macintosh, and a beautiful design. The end result was nothing but spectacular. The Apple iPhone 3G 8GB - Unlocked
was unveiled in 2007, and Apple’s handsets have completely changed our expectations of how a smartphone should look, feel and perform.
·       In 2008, Apple released the iPhone SDK, which allowed developers to create their own apps for the handset and sell them through the App Store.

More Health Problems - Liver Transplant:

·       Everybody started to notice that Jobs was getting thinner, and seemed weaker. He was definitely suffering from health problems, which didn’t stop him from keeping on a steady pace of innovation.
·       After his liver transplant, he returned to Apple and his first appearance was in an iPod event. And rumors were that the company was coming up with something big and indeed it was something big!
·       In April 2010, Jobs introduced the Apple iPad (first generation) MB292LL/A Tablet (16GB, Wifi), the tablet computer. The shockwaves of that introduction are still evident even now as manufacturers are churning out iPad rivals of their own. But so far, they haven’t brought out anything that can match Apple’s greatest device.
iPad Launch

Steve Jobs Steps Down:

·       Earlier this year, Tim Cook became the temporary CEO and Jobs freed himself from everyday responsibilities. But he would still be involved in product design and strategic direction.
·       In June, Jobs gave his last public speech, talking about iCloud.
·       On August 24, he let the company’s board know that he could not resume the CEO role.

Steve Jobs was married to Laurene Powell and was the proud father of four children, three from his marriage to Laurene. You can find more interesting facts in the book entitled, "Steve Jobs", #1 bestseller on the New York Times list.

R.I.P. Mr. Jobs – the world already misses you!


Friday, October 7, 2011

Happy Friday :-)

I think today's post is going to be me ranting about some common errors that irk me not as a writer but as a reader of books, which I adore. 

Rant One – Typos, Grammatical Errors, Editing Misses

Have you ever been reading a really good story, so good that you aren't aware of the noises around you because the story has captured you so completely, the pace is great and your heartbeat is racing and you can't wait to find out what happens next and then you stumble upon a grammatical error and all is lost? This has happened to me and I have to remind myself that this isn’t always the author's fault as their work has been through editing with the editors and it should be 100% perfect....shouldn't it? When this happens it detracts from the story and from the quality of the product being sold. It also makes readers wary of the next book they may read from the same author if the book is published by the same publishing company. I mean how can a professional editor not catch these obvious errors?

Rant Two -- Story Line Errors

Another example of what really frustrates me is authors who create wonderful series and then slip with the story line (e.g., in book one they stated one of the characters had a university degree, but in book five it was suddenly a college they attended). This may seem like a small slip, but if your reader is really enjoying the characters and they are believable, it can ruin the entire story for them because it reminds them that the story is fiction and not real. Once this happens, their interest in reading more of the same series could certainly fade.

Rant Three -- Empty Adjectives (or Adverbs)

These are words that promise emphasis, but too often they don’t deliver and end up sucking the meaning out of the sentence. Examples that come to mind: actually, totally, absolutely, completely, continually, constantly, continuously, literally, really, unfortunately, ironically, incredibly, hopefully, finally.

To demonstrate, consider the following sentence: “It was, in fact, the only row that actually opened onto the creek.” This sentence attempts to emphasize “in fact,” and “actually”, but they just muddle the sentence. You could remove them both and the word “only” can carry the burden of the sentence with efficiency and precision.

That is not to say that empty adjectives / adverbs are useless. In dialogue, they may sound appropriate, even authentic, but if you're not watchful, they can make your characters sound wordy, infantile and dated.

Rant Four -- Flat Writing

Flat writing is an indication that you’ve lost interest in your own narrative and if you aren’t excited about the story, how can you expect your readers to want to keep reading? If you begin to notice that your writing is veering this way, take a break from writing and see if you can’t refuel your story line. Spend time thinking about how to give the story depth, texture and character or you will end up having sentences like: “He wanted to know but couldn’t understand what she had to say, so he waited until she was ready to tell him before asking what she meant.” This sentence is trying to convey something but the writing is so flat that nobody reading it will likely take the time to figure out what that may be. You can’t “fix” a sentence like this with a few replacement words. Instead, you need to rewrite completely.

Rant Five - Crutch Words

I recently read a novel that used the word "macabre" repeatedly throughout the entire book in places sometimes where it wasn’t in line with the balance of the sentence and after awhile I was frustrated with that word, the story and the author. I mean, really is everything repellent macabre? I doubt it, and even if that is the essence you are trying to convey, I'm sure there are many other words in the English language that could be used that would probably have more impact. This type of error will really disappoint and frustrate readers after a while and will detract from the story you've worked so hard to tell.

Rant Six – Phony Dialogue

Be careful of using dialogue to advance the plot. Readers can tell when characters talk about things they already know, or when the speakers appear to be having a conversation for our benefit. Instead, dialogue should be used to offer glimpses into the character that can’t be provided through description. The dialogue should highlight the character's hidden wit, thoughtful observations, a revelation and should work towards “showing” us what the author can’t “tell” us.

Rant Seven – Lists

“She was entranced by the roses, hyacinths, impatiens, mums, carnations, pansies, irises, peonies, hollyhocks, daylilies, morning glories, larkspur…” Well, she may be entranced, but our eyes are glazing over.

If you’re going to describe a number of items, turn up the visuals. Lay out the scene as the eye sees it, with emphasis and emotion in unlikely places. When you list the items as though we’re checking them off with a clipboard, the internal eye will close.

Rant Eight – Show, Don’t Tell

If you say, “she was stunning and powerful,” you’re “telling” your reader something. However, if you say, “I was stunned by her elegant carriage as she strode past the jury – shoulders erect, elbows back, her eyes wide and watchful,” you’re “showing’ your reader, which enables them to visualize the picture you’re trying to paint.

Handsome, attractive, momentous, embarrassing, fabulous, powerful, hilarious, stupid, fascinating are all words that “tell” us in an arbitrary way what to think. They don’t reveal, don’t open up, don’t describe in specifics what is unique to the person or event described. Often they begin with clichés.

What frustrates you as a reader?

Have a great day!


Thursday, October 6, 2011

Product Review - "45 Master Characters - Mythic Models for Creating Original Characters"

Happy Thursday!

I know I just blogged about this book on Monday ( "45 Master Characters - Mythic Models for Creating Original Characters" written by Victoria Lynn Schmidt) but I'm so impressed with it that I thought it was worth another mention!

I hate to admit this but up until a day or two ago I thought that I had a very strong vision of "who" the main character was in the book I'm writing. However, after reading the first several chapters of "45 Master Characters" I realized that I do still have a bit more work to do in developing my main character as well as a couple other ones in my draft.

By using some of the tools presented in this book I can bring my character from an idea on a page to a person that readers will react to and remember which is definitely what I want because this book will be the first in a series of books. I want to ensure that my main character is memorable and "45 Master Characters has given me tools to develop what should drive someone like her, what would motivate her to move out of her usual comfort zone and what obstacles would continue to drive her character and my story. Lastly, it also guides you in terms of what type of character personalities would best compliment her so she can find her way.

To give you an idea of the topics that are covered, here is the table of contents:

  1. Getting Started
    1. What Are Archetypes, and Why Should Writers Use Them?
    2. How to Use Archetypes 
  2. Creating Female Heroes and Villains
    1. Aphrodite: The Seductive Muse and the Femme Fatale
    2. Artemis: The Amazon and the Gorgon
    3. Athena: The Father's Daughter and the Backstabber
    4. Demeter: The Nurturer and the Over Controlling Mother
    5. Hera: The Matriarch and the Scorned Woman
    6. Hestia: The Mystic and the Betrayer
    7. Isis: The Female Messiah and the Destroyer
    8. Persephone: The Maiden and the Troubled Teen
  3. Creating Male Heroes and Villains
    1. Apollo: The Businessman and the Traitor
    2. Ares: The Protector and the Gladiator
    3. Hades: The Recluse and the Warlock
    4. Hermes: The Fool and the Derelict
    5. Dionysus: The Woman's Man and the Seducer
    6. Osiris: The Male Messiah and the Punisher
    7. Poseidon: The Artist and the Abuser
    8. Zeus: The King and the Dictator
  4. Creating Supporting Characters
    1. Introduction to Supporting Characters
    2. Friends
    3. Rivals
    4. Symbols
  5. The Feminine and Masculine Journeys
    1. Introduction to Archetypal Journeys
    2. Plotting the Feminine Journey
    3. Plotting the Masculine Journey
  6. Appendix
    1. The Feminine Journey Worksheet
    2. The Masculine Journey Worksheet
    3. Journey Differences
    4. Societal/Gender Differences

For the small investment (from $6.29 - $10.08) this writing resource it is more than worth it and I've made getting your copy easy - just click here 45 Master Characters



P.S. With the tools from "45 Master Characters - Mythic Models for Creating Original Characters" maybe you can avoid needing this kind of muse? :-)

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Location, Location, Location ~ Not Just a Business Decision

Happy Wednesday!!

Picture this - you've mapped out the main ideas of your story line, you have work diligently to develop believable characters, you know the type of venues (office setting, park, restaurant, etc.) that need to be included in your story - all that is left is to decide where this story will take place and the location you decide upon will either add to your story or detract from it depending on how accurately you can portray the location. This can be a difficult decision to make and for some reason the real life importance of "location, location, location" often described to face challenges in the business world comes to mind for me. I don't want to ruin the impact / effect of my story by placing it in the entirely wrong place.

There are so many things to consider, such as:
  1. Should you choose a place that you are very familiar with (where you grew up or have visited frequently) or a place you've never been or experienced?
  2. New York
  3. If you choose a place you've never visited how will you be able to make it seem as if you have?
  4. What can you do to become more familiar with the details of landmarks?
  5. Does your story line demand a specific climate (e.g. if you have an Olympic skier in your story they wouldn't likely live in Florida)?
  6. Can you utilize the location to add to your story line or is this place just going to serve as a backdrop?
  7. Will readers be able to relate to this location? 
  8. Does your story require that your main character travel to many different places?

This list is by no means exhaustive and the good news for all writers is that the decision is completely up to you! In the book that I'm working on, my character travels from one location in Canada to another location and has to be constantly "on the move" for various reasons and, luckily, I have visited these places and can describe landmarks in detail and name streets; making the scene believable. So, for this novel I'm set. However, if this wasn't the case, and there have been times I've considered changing the location to more familiar places located in the United States, how would I prepare myself to be able to "sell" the location to readers? Some tools I could use are:

  • Google Maps
  • Vegas
  • Geographical Maps
  • Wikipedia
  • Internet Searches
  • Family / Friends (if they have traveled to the destination)
  • Other Authors
  • Other Blog Authors
Again, not an exhaustive list but a start.

What tools would you utilize to explore a place you've never been?

Happy writing everyone :-)


Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Balancing Writing and Life

Good morning :-)

I'm sure every writer out there has had to deal with the pressures of every day life and how those pressures sometimes either get in the way or prohibit writing all together for days on end. So, how do we do it?
Where do you find the time to write that chapter or review the character your working on? How to you keep track of all the little things that you still need to look into and follow-up on?

Some writers that I've spoken to use fancy software while others just keep notes in a booklet or on index cards. I've found both ways work for me, but neither way takes care of the "finding the time" when there is a time crunch. I am a mother of two children and work full time outside of the home. During regular work weeks the week can be quite busy between working all day, picking up the kids from school, making dinner, doing homework and baths by the time I have any "me" time the day is almost done and I need to get to bed in order to be rested enough for the next day. Being creative at 9:30 - 10:00 at night after having a full day just seems impossible some days. My answer during these times is to keep small "post it notes" on my iPhone of things that still need to be done, ideas for a character or even chapter development ideas. Another way is to carry a mini- recorder around that you can speak into when the thoughts come to you.

Whatever works to get the job done I guess. What things do you utilize to manage your writing time?

Have a great day everyone!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Character Development

Happy Monday!!

I met with my dear friend Katie over the weekend and we got to discussing how a character evolves and she lent me a copy of a book called "45 Master Characters" written by Victoria Lynn Schmidt, which I will now need to get a copy of because it is a very valuable tool that I will surely use over and over again!

This book teaches you how to take your characters from an idea that is very one dimensional to a character that has emotion, flaws, reactions, etc. It teaches writers how to avoid the common mistake of stereotyping their characters or from putting to much of themselves in the character they are trying to create.

I want characters that are compelling, interesting and unique in my story. They need to feed off of secondary characters and "45 Master Characters" teaches you which personality types can best challenge and shape your main character.

Simply, this book is a must have for any story teller! Order yours today by clicking on the link below.

Have a great day!


Sunday, October 2, 2011

What is Your Writing Process?

Good day to everyone :-)

I have a question about character and /or story development and want to know what other writers out there do to develop characters. I'm finding that my main character, which is based on a real person that I don't really like much, has evolved from someone the reader would hate to someone the reader may actually understand and sympathize with. I never intended for this to happen but through the creative process somehow it did. Would you leave it like that or would you go back and change the parts that started to mess up the scale between good and bad?

When I sit down to write, I don't tend to sensor my thoughts a lot and what comes out comes out. This is how I got to this stage. Being that this is my first book, I had a basic outline for the story and figured as the story evolved the rest would "fill in". Maybe this is not the best approach I don't know.

Anyhow, if you are a published writer or someone writing their first novel and you don't mind sharing your writing process, please leave a comment.

Hope everyone is having a great Sunday!