Saturday, May 31, 2014

Keeping It Clean in Young Adult Novels

Sometimes I'm a bit perplexed when critics or reviewers knock a young adult novel because the language is considered too clean. In other words, simply not realistic.

I'm certainly not naive to believe that some young adults don't have potty mouth. It's almost like an act of rebelliousness. After they mature, many of them clean up their acts. 

But I know plenty of kids who don't cuss or use language that many would consider insulting or abusive toward others. Maybe they are mature for their age.

Or maybe they have been raised in a home where the parents and other family members set an example by refraining to use questionable words. 

As an aside, Vice President Joe Biden regretted saying, "This is a BFD" at the signing of the Affordable Care Act, adding that his mother would have totally disapproved! Hey Joe, my mom would have reacted the same way.

And that can be the same in the fictional world. Not all kids cuss and talk dirty. Many, if not most, are well-mannered and considerate. 

I wouldn't expect to find questionable language in a Christian novel (or any other religious-based novel) unless it was totally relevant to the story.

And I believe some authors -- perhaps acting as de facto family members -- try to set an example for their young readers by showing that you can keep it clean when talking to others, expressing anger or happiness, or any other verbal emotion.

I've been reading reviews of some books where folks thought the language was too adult. I don't have a problem with language if it pertinent, rather than gratuitous, to the story.  

I also think that kids may hear enough foul language in their lives from music, movies and from their peers that reading a clean novel might be somewhat of an escape for them as well.

Before I wrote "Shooting Star," I told several friends that I planned to write a novel that would be clean and inspirational to young people, much like the books I read when growing up by authors I admired such as Clair Bee and John R. Tunis. I thought their novels influenced me a great deal in terms sportsmanship and how to treat others, and I considered my novel as sort of a tribute to them.

And I took the same approach with "The Bully List," even though it would have been easy throwing in a few expletives here and there because of the subject matter.

I'm not being critical of authors who have used "realistic" dialogue in their novels. Whatever works for them is what they should write.

Your thoughts?

Until the next time...


Friday, May 30, 2014

As Good as Your Last Shot

   One of the best lessons I ever learned from some of my photographer friends is: “You’re only as good as your last shot.”

    I try to keep that in mind when I go out and take photographs, be it of nature, family, travel, or random shots when I’m out and about. What that means to me is to try to make every click of the shutter count because that could be the last photograph.

   Now that doesn't mean every photograph I take is going to be good. I’m not a professional by any means, but I try to frame potential images in the viewfinder to get the best possible result. In other words, the initial cropping comes before I even snap a photo. 

   One of the great things about digital cameras is that you can delete those embarrassingly bad photographs before you download them on a computer. Or, if they do make it to the computer, they can be zapped into cyberspace.

   I've been fortunate to have friends who are professional photographers, mostly from news organizations. I've enjoyed listening to them talk about craft and figuring out what makes a good photograph.

  And I’m sure most, if not all, would agree that the last shot counts. And when you give it some more thought, perhaps the saying can apply to other things in our lives as well.

  Until the next time…

Monday, May 19, 2014

Spotlight on Kenny Loggins

One of the most talented singer-songwriters in rock music has to be Kenny Loggins

From his days as part of Loggins & Messina in the 1970s to his solo years to his collaborations with others, Loggins has accomplished quite a bit in music.

His first song to gain notice was "House on Pooh Corner," recorded by the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band in the early '70s.

Then came his years with Jim Messina, the former member of Buffalo Springfield and Poco, when they formed one of the top duos with songs such as "Your Mama Don't Dance," "Thinking of You," and  "My Music." During their four-year run, they sold 16 million albums

After they parted ways in 1976 (but with reunion tours in 2005 and 2009), Loggins found success as a solo artist with such hits as "Whenever I Call You Friend" (a duet with Stevie Nicks) and "This Is It." 

He co-wrote "This Is It" and "What A Fool Believes" with Michael McDonald and "Whenever I Call You Friend" with Melissa Manchester. "What A Fool Believes" earned a Grammy for "Song of the Year" in 1980 and Loggins won a Grammy for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance the following year for "This Is It." 

And then came the memorable movie songs that Loggins penned in the 1980s including "I'm Alright" (Caddyshack), "Footloose" (Footloose), "Meet Me Halfway" (Over the Top), and "Danger Zone" (Top Gun).

Blue Sky Riders
Loggins, who is 66, still tours as a solo performer and with the Blue Sky Riders. He also is writing a children's book.

Although he has recorded 12 platinum albums and has songwriting credits for nearly all popular genres, Loggins has never been nominated to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame despite being eligible since 2001. Shame on you, voters!!!

Here are some of Loggins's great songs:

Until the next time...

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Writing Reviews

One of the best ways to see your words in print is by writing reviews. 

I bet a lot of folks have written book and music reviews for websites such as Amazon and Barnes & Noble. And I'm sure, at least from my experience, that you get asked frequently by the aforementioned companies to write reviews and/or rate products after you've made a purchase.

I've written quite a few reviews for Amazon, and if you've read my blog and seen some of my Facebook posts, you know that I request reviews for my books and those of other authors. That's one of the important ways we get the word out about our works. I also write book reviews on Goodreads.

But there are many other places to express your opinions, and leave you eloquent prose,  such as retail establishments such as Wal-Mart and Overstock. I left a review on a panini press I bought at Walmart. I recently purchased some water filters for my refrigerator and was asked to leave a review about the product.

One of my favorite places for reviews is I generally check out places on towns I plan to visit to see what others recommend. I feel like I'm returning the favor by leaving reviews on the places where I visit.

While I don't get paid for the reviews, I feel like it's a service to other consumers. I especially enjoy reading book reviews since many newspapers (at least where I live)  have reduced the amount of column inches they devote to books (and the arts). 

Another reason I like to read reviews is that most of them are written by regular folks rather than hard-boiled critics. I'm not sure if Jeff Bezos, of Amazon, would agree with me but I believe one of the many reasons for the success of his company is allowing feedback (reviews) from his customers on the millions of products it offers.

Any places you recommend for reviews?

Until the next time...

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Writers Write

I must confess, right from the start, that I haven't been productive the past two months. It was my goal to write one short story a week, beginning on March 1, and continue at that pace for two months. 

Alas, two months later, I've only written one short story. Some writers will shrug their shoulders and say, "Sometimes life gets in the way."

And other writers will retort, "So what? Keep writing. Writers write!"

Well, I plan to get back to my original goal, but with everything pushed back two months. 

It's not that I haven't been writing -- and this is not a rationalization -- because my job involves writing and editing. I write every day. I've been so busy with other things that I haven't written that many blog posts since I made that earlier declaration. 

But that's going to change. Now. Besides the short stories, I also plan to start on a novel in the next few weeks, after I've worked out a broad outline. 

I guess the point I want to get across, and I heard this from a minister many years ago, is to "keep on keepin' on" until you reach your goal.

Until the next time....