Tuesday, August 28, 2007

The Joy Of Writing.

I am not sure how others view writing but for me, writing has always been therapeutic and I derived a certain amount of satisfaction and definite joy from it. While I have always wanted to write short stories and even poetry since I was young, it was only recently, about 6 months ago when I got my personal desktop, that I was able to actually fulfilled this ambition through my various blogs and articles submission. Be it writing a short story or a post in a blog, the completion of a piece of writing always gives me tremendous satisfaction.

In society, writing is essential as it connects us to culture, people, knowledge, work and at times, gives meaning to life. It is a process of turning experiences into text and allows for communication of thoughts and feelings. Writing is an act of discovery, an act of joy and a catalyst for imagining and creating the future.

With that in mind, here is a piece of poetry, "The Joy of Writing" by Wislawa Szymborska, a Polish poet, that I would like to share with readers. Incidentally, this piece won The Nobel Prize for Literature in 1996.

The Joy of Writing
Why does this written doe bound through these written woods?
For a drink of written water from a spring
whose surface will xerox her soft muzzle?
Why does she lift her head; does she hear something?
Perched on four slim legs borrowed from the truth,
she pricks up her ears beneath my fingertips.
Silence - this word also rustles across the page
and parts the boughs
that have sprouted from the word "woods."

Lying in wait, set to pounce on the blank page,
are letters up to no good,
clutches of clauses so subordinate
they'll never let her get away.

Each drop of ink contains a fair supply
of hunters, equipped with squinting eyes behind their sights,
prepared to swarm the sloping pen at any moment,
surround the doe, and slowly aim their guns.

They forget that what's here isn't life.
Other laws, black on white, obtain.
The twinkling of an eye will take as long as I say,
and will, if I wish, divide into tiny eternities,
full of bullets stopped in mid-flight.
Not a thing will ever happen unless I say so.
Without my blessing, not a leaf will fall,
not a blade of grass will bend beneath that little hoof's full stop.

Is there then a world
where I rule absolutely on fate?
A time I bind with chains of signs?
An existence become endless at my bidding?

The joy of writing.
The power of preserving.
Revenge of a mortal hand.

By Wislawa Szymborska
From "No End of Fun", 1967

*For more poems of startling originality, read Wislawa Szymborska's "View With A Grain Of Sand"

Related Post : The Fear Of Writing - Even Literary Greats Make Mistakes

Sunday, August 26, 2007

This Week's Bestsellers.

A Review By My Den
This is My Den's compilation of this week's top 5 bestsellers, according to Times bookstores, MPH and Amazon.com, for fiction and children. Numbers in brackets are the previous week's positions :

No.1 (1) For One More Day by Mitch Albom.
This is the story of Charley, a child of divorce who is always forced to choose between his mother and his father. He grows into a man and starts a family of his own. But one fateful weekend, he leaves his mother to secretly be with his father - and she dies while he is gone. This haunts him for years. It unravels his own young family. It leads him to depression and drunkenness. One night, he decides to take his life. But somewhere between this world and the next, he encounters his mother again, in their hometown, and gets to spend one last day with her - the day he missed and always wished he'd had. He asks the questions many of us yearn to ask, the questions we never ask while our parents are alive...
Available here : For One More Day

No. 2 ( 2 ) Next by Michael Crichton.
By the bestselling author of Jurassic Park, Crichton once again focuses on genetic engineering in his new thriller. With a clever blend of fact and fiction, Next is a breathless tale of a new world where nothing is what it seems and challenges our sense of reality and notions of morality. In an ambitious effort to show what's wrong with the America's current handling of gene patents and the laws governing human tissues, the author interweaves many plot strands, one involving a California researcher, Henry Kendall, who has mixed human and chimp DNA while working at NIH. Kendall produces an intelligent hybrid whom he rescues from the government and tries to pass off as a fully human child. A page-turner with intellectual substance but relatively lame when compared to his other bestsellers.
Available here :Next

No. 3 ( 4 ) The Afghan by Frederick Forsyth.
Set in the very near future, veteran Forsyth's latest thriller of modern terrorism, is a cut above most other post-9/11 spy thrillers. The discovery of a threat of catastrophic assault by al-Qaeda on the West, compels the leaders of the U.S. and the U.K. to attempt a desperate gambit to substitute a seasoned British operative, Col. Mike Martin, for an Afghan Taliban commander being held prisoner at Guantanamo Bay. The intelligence agencies will try to do what no one has ever done before, pass off a Westerner as an Arab. It will require extraordinary preparation and then extraordinary luck, for nothing can truly prepare Martin for the dark and shifting world into which he is about to enter....Filled with remarkable detail and compulsive drama, The Afghan is further proof that Forsyth is truly a master of suspense. Available here : The Afghan.

No.4 ( 5 ) A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini.
After 103 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list and with 4 million copies of The Kite Runner shipped, Khaled Hosseini returns with a beautiful, riveting, and haunting novel that confirms his place as one of the most important literary writers today. Propelled by the same superb instinct for storytelling that made The Kite Runner a beloved classic, A Thousand Splendid Suns is at once an incredible chronicle of thirty years of Afghan history and a deeply moving story of family, friendship, faith, and the salvation to be found in love. Born a generation apart and with very different ideas about love and family, Mariam and Laila are two women brought together by war, by loss and by fate. As they endure the ever escalating dangers around them, they come to form a bond that makes them both sisters and mother-daughter to each other and that will ultimately alter the course not just of their own lives but of the next generation. A stunning accomplishment, A Thousand Splendid Suns is a haunting, heartbreaking, compelling story of an unforgiving time, an unlikely friendship and an indestructible love...Available here : A Thousand Splendid Suns.

No.5 ( 7 ) The Quickie by James Patterson.
Lauren Stillwell is not your average damsel in distress. When the NYPD cop discovers her husband leaving a hotel with another woman, she decides to beat him at his own game. But her revenge goes dangerously awry, and she finds her world spiraling into a hell that becomes more terrifying by the hour. In a further twist of fate, Lauren must take on a job that threatens everything she stands for. Now, she's paralyzed by a deadly secret that could tear her life apart. With her job and marriage on the line, Lauren's desire for retribution becomes a lethal inferno as she fights to save her livelihood and her life. Patterson takes us on a twisting roller-coaster ride of thrills in his most gripping novel yet. This story of love, lust and dangerous secrets will have readers' hearts pounding to the very last page. Available here : The Quickie by James Patterson.

No.1 (1) Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows by J.K.Rowling.
The brilliant, breathtaking conclusion to J.K. Rowling's spellbinding series is not for the faint of heart. Revelations, battles and betrayals await in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows that no fan will make it to the end unscathed. Deathly Hallows is an odyssey the likes of which Rowling's fans have not yet seen, and are not likely to forget. The heart of Book 7 is a hero's mission, not just in Harry's quest for the Horcruxes, but in his journey from boy to man. Harry faces more danger than that found in all six books combined, from the direct threat of the Death Eaters and you-know-who, to the subtle perils of losing faith in himself. A spectacular finish to a phenomenal series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is a bittersweet read for fans. Available here : Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows.

No. 2 ( 2 ) The Mysterious Cheese Thief by Geronimo Stilton.
Follow Geronimo Stilton as he investigate the disappearance of the Stilton cheese all around him. Will he find the mysterious cheese thief or be in for a big scare? Putrid cheese puffs and mystery,what an adventure! Available here : The Mysterious Cheese Thief.

No.3 ( 4 ) Harry Potter and The Half-Blood Prince.
A darker book than any in the series so far, this book moves the series into murkier waters. While Rowling has long been praised for her cleverness and wit, the strength of Book 6 lies in her subtle development of key characters, as well as her carefully nuanced depiction of a community at war. In Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, no one and nothing is safe, including preconceived notions of good and evil and of right and wrong. A series that began as a colorful lark full of magic and discovery has become a dark and deadly war zone. Book 6 casts a mean shadow over Quidditch games, silly flirtations, and mountains of homework.
Available here : Harry Potter and The Half-Blood Prince.

No. 4 ( 9 ) The Mouse Island Marathon by Geronimo Stilton.
The funniest Geronimo Stilton book ever with him joining the marathon! Follow Geronimo as he nabbed a thief, got chased by flies and mosquitoes, saved a rodent from an earthquake, saved a drowning rodent and win the marathon all in one day! Available here : The Mouse Island Marathon.

No. 5 ( 10 ) The Dangerous Book For Boys by Conn & Hal Iggulden.
A mammoth bestseller when it was released in the United Kingdom in 2006, The Dangerous Book is a guide book for dads as well as their sons on lore and techniques that have not been lost in today's digital age. Covering boyhood skills such as building tree houses, learning how to fish, finding true north, building go-carts and even answering age old question on how to deal with girls, this book recaptures Sunday afternoons, stimulates curiosity and makes for great father-son activities. Available here : The Dangerous Book For Boys.

* For non-fiction bestsellers : This Week's Top 5 Non-Fiction Books available here

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Thursday, August 23, 2007

What Is J.K.Rowling Working On Next?

Now that the saga of the boy wizard is truly over, here is an interesting snippet on what to expect from J.k.Rowling, the wildly successful author of the Harry Potter series :

The Straits Times 21 Aug 2007
London - Pen and notebook in hand in Edinburgh cafes, Harry Potter author J.K.Rowling has been seen working on her latest work : a crime novel, the Sunday Times reported.

Ian Rankin, a fellow author and neighbour of Rowling, was quoted as telling a reporter at an Edinburgh literary festival : "My wife spotted her writing her Edinburgh criminal detective novel." Famous for his own police novels set in the Scottish city, he said he had not discussed the project with Rowling personally and declined to reveal how he had learnt about her plans. "It is great that she has not abandoned writing or Edinburgh cafes," he said.

When Rowling created her boy wizard story, she was a struggling single mother who wrote in cafes to save on the heating bill at home. Now Britain's richest woman, worth US$1 billion, according to Forbes magazine, her seven Potter books haven sold more than 335 million copies worldwide.

Writing a criminal novel? Let's wait and see if Rowling's next piece of work will be as engrossing and successful as her Potter series. In the mean time, for die-hard fans of J.K.Rowling and Harry Potter, here are some interesting reads :

Conversations With J.K.Rowling by Lindsey Fraser.
In an easy-to-read Q&A format, the author of the Harry Potter books reveals what it was like growing up, school days, her family life as well as her career as a writer. This is the first and only true telling of Ms. Rowling's history from her birth in Chipping Sodbury near Bristol, England, to the stories about her favorite and least favorite teachers in school to the funny misunderstanding in her first fan letter. Conversations With J.K.Rowling available here.

Fact, Fiction and Folklore in Harry Potter's World by George Beahm.
For fans who want to know more about the myths, folklores, legends, and Muggle history embedded in the Harry Potter novels, this book is a treasure trove of fun and tantalizing trivia covering the fabulous beasts, creatures, wizards, magical artifacts and magical places in the Harry Potter world. This fascinating book belongs on the shelf of every Muggle who wants to know about Rowling's inspiration for the wildly successful series. Fact, Fiction and Folklore in Harry Potter's World available here.

Hidden Myths in Harry Potter by David Colbert.
An illustrated map and guide book to the hidden legends behind the Harry Potter series. Together with a beautifully illustrated poster-sized map, it takes readers on a worldwide treasure hunt to uncover those hidden clues and the accompanying Book of Secrets reveals even more incredible facts behind the magical places and people. Hidden Myths available here.

Related Post : French Teen Detained Over Harry Potter Translation

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Life After Harry Potter.

A Review by MyDen
So you have finished the last Harry Potter book. Suffering from withdrawal symptoms? Re-reading the entire series and reluctant to return to the mundane Muggle world? Well, no need for further and unnecessary suffering, as here are other new fantasy titles vying to be Harry's heir.

The Black Book Of Secrets by F.E. Higgins
This book received a lot of attention and comparisons to Harry Potter when it was released last year and with it's healthy appetite for gory descriptions, reminds one of another beloved British writer, Roald Dahl. The protagonist is a street urchin, Ludlow Fitch, raised by his drunken parents to be a pickpocket, who managed to run away when Ma and Pa try to sell his teeth. He is taken under the wing of an ecentric and unusual "secrets" pawnbroker who accepts junk and secrets from the impoverished townfolk. Thus begins an intriguing blend of adventure, fantasy and historical fiction. Higgins creates a fascinating novel peopled with colorful characters and imbued with clever plot twists. The reader’s interest is sustained throughout the book, and the novel’s climax is both excellent and surprising. With Higgins planning the story over 3 or 4 books, expect a sizeable readership for this engrossing series. The Black Book Of Secrets is available here.

Twilight by Stephanie Meyer
A mix of fantasy and old-fashioned romance, this book has already spawned two sequels with a fourth book coming out next year. It was such a hit in the United States that an accidental early shipment of the third book about a week before it's release date resulted in online fan sites voluntarily shutting down to prevent spoilers. The book stars 17 year-old Isabella Swan, who moves to a new high school and meets the handsome Edward Cullen. His mysterious ways eventually leads her to discover that he is a reformed vampire who substitutes animal blood for human blood. The series is driven by the complications of love between a vampire and a human. Meyer has achieved quite a feat by making this scenario completely human and believable. She begins with a familiar premise (the new kid in school) and lulls us into thinking that this will be just another young adult novel. Meyer's writing lifts this wonderful novel beyond the limitations of the horror genre to a place among the best of young adult fiction.
Available here :
New Moon (Twilight Book 2)
Eclipse (Twilight Book 3)

Saturday, August 18, 2007

French Teen Detained Over Harry Potter Translation.

With the euphoria over Harry Potter, here is an interesting article from The Sunday Times 12 Aug 07, regarding the detention of a French teen over the illegal translation and posting online of Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows within days of its July 21 release.

"PARIS - Was it wizardry that guided him? Or too much free time? Whatever it was, a French 16 year-old was accused of accomplishing a mystifying feat in translating all 759 pages of Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows within days of its July 21 release and posting it online.

The problem: It was illegal and the teen spent a night in jail last week and faces charges of intellectual property violation. Author J.K.Rowling's lawyers say networks of other illegal Potter translation span the world, seeking to profit from the boy wizard's global appeal, and are growing more sophisticated with every new new tome.

The alleged French teen translator, a high school student in southern France, likely has less sinister intentions. "He just wanted to get the book online and did not appear to be seeking commercial gain," Aix prosecutor Olivier Rothe said. The boy apparently compiled the entire translation himself, he said.

The teenager, whose name was not released because he is a minor, was picked up following a complaint, then was released after questioning, the prosecutor said. He added that the boy could face charges for violating intellectual property rights.......

.....French police had identified an organised system of online translation networks where unofficial and decent translations of Harry Potter are posted onto website networks and then onto peer-to-peer networks. The manager of these networks derive profit by attracting advertisers. Such translators are becoming more organised as each new book is released and as file-sharing becomes more prevalent..."

Fans in several countries have already posted unofficial translations of the Deathly Hallows online, including in China, where publishers fear it could lead to counterfeit books. Worldwide, the Potter books have sold more than 325 million copies, have been translated into at least 64 languages and have been spun off into a hit movie series.

Related Post : What Is J.K. Rowling Working On Next?

Friday, August 10, 2007

August Sizzling Reads.

A Review By MyDen
With time on my hands as i am on leave, i managed to catch up on my reading and the following are 3 of the hottest books for August :

The End Of Mr.Y by Scarlett Thomas.
Voted as one of the best young writers, Scarlett Thomas's narrative is a breathless one that propels you relentlessly like a bullet train. About a smart young woman, a voracious reader, who stumbles upon a rare book by an obscure Victorian writer and her fantastic journey. She discovers that the book contains a secret to accessing the "Troposphere", a sort of universe of the collective unconscious and she attains the ability to leap into the mind and bodies of other living beings. This book is a literary equivalent of the science fiction movie, The Matrix, and is a rollicking adventure story with ideas about sub-atomic particles, existence and reality. A delirious valentine to the pleasures of reading. The End of Mr.Y is available here.

The Religion by Tim Willocks.
A historical fiction, The Religion refers to the Order of Knights of the Hospital of St John of Jerusalem where they earned their rights in history when 700 of them defended Malta against an 8,ooo strong Ottoman army led by Suleiman. That great siege in 1565 is the setting for this rowdy entertainment. It's main protagonist, Mattias Tannhauser, is an apostate, first by force then by choice. Willocks gleefully describes the horrifying effects of medieval warfare and its impact on the human body with stomach-churning details. By exploring so vividly the clash of the civilisations divided by religious fervour, this work of fiction makes history, contemporary and in light of the current world situation, this book is aptly relevant. The Religion is available here.

City of Bones by Cassandra Clare.
An odd mating of Gothic horror and romance, City of Bones has beautiful and mysterious strangers, horrible monsters and a magical parallel world. It begins with the 15 years old protagonist, Clarissa, witnessing a murder where the victim disappears into thin air. Strange occurrences surrounds her where her mother goes missing and she is attacked by a monster in her own home. The first book of a planned series, City of Bones is a pleasurable gothic read as you explore the magical parallel world with Clarissa. City of Bones is available here.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Structure And Components Of A Story.

A Review By My Den.
Further to the writing tips mentioned in my earlier posts ( The Art of Writing Fiction and Tips on Writing Fiction ), today's post highlights the components of a story. While aspiring writers should be equipped with a certain amount of technical knowledge to be effective, i would like to suggest that aspiring writers need not be too bog down or be unduly worried about the technical aspects of writing but to just go ahead and write for the enjoyment it brings. I am sure you will pick up further writing tips along your own writing journey, just as i did. While more experienced writers will have better insights, the following are the conclusions that i had gathered in my short writing journey. A story is essentially make up of the following components :

* Theme
* Plot
* Setting
* Characters
* Dialogue
* Point of view
* Style

A theme is the main idea or meaning behind a story. The theme of a story is often abstract and not addressed directly in the narrative. It is imparted to the story by the concrete events and dialogue occurring in the story.

A plot is the organization of events that will take place in the story. Plot and characters carry the elements of the story. The plot must be believable, plausible, interesting and most importantly, engaging. It is a sequence of events connected in a cause-and-effect manner. Generally, the plot consists of a series of increasingly more intense conflicts, a climax (the most intense part of the story) and a final resolution. The plot must be advanced as the story unfolds and in general, the closer to the end of the story the climax is placed, the better.

The setting is the place, time and in some cases, the environment in which the story takes place. The setting should be specifically described in detail to make the story seem real, to set the atmosphere and mood of the story. The setting also exert limitations on the characters and helps to establish the basic conflict of the story. It can be used for contrast, having something taking place in an unexpected place. In general, the more unfamiliar the reader is with the setting, the more interesting the story is.

Characters are the people or animals in a story. A well written story will have characters that readers can identify with and care about as they seem so real. Characters should be introduced early in the story and the more often a character is mentioned, the more significance the reader will attach to the character. The nature of characters can be brought out through description, actions, thoughts and dialogue of the characters.

Dialogue is the spoken words of the characters in the story and it makes fiction seem real. Interior dialogue is what a character is thinking. Dramatic dialogue is a character thinking out loud, without response from other characters. Indirect dialogue is the narrator telling what a character said. Dialogue should be used to develop character or to advance the story. It should not be used just to hear characters talk. A small amount of dialect in dialogue can be used to establish the nature of the character but should not be overuse as dialect can be difficult to read. The level of use of language by the characters i.e. pronunciation, diction, grammar etc, is often used to characterize people in a story. The form of dialogue use should be varied to keep the reader interested.

Point of View
Point of view is the relative identification of the narrator with the characters. A first person point of view has the main character telling the story or a secondary character telling the main character's story. Everything that happens in the story must be seen or experienced by the character doing the narration. The reader's judgment of other characters in the story will be heavily influenced by the narrator. A first person point of view gives a sense of intimacy to the story. Third person point of view can be objective or omniscient. An objective narrator describes actions but not the inner thoughts or feelings of the characters while an omniscient narrator can describe all the actions of all the characters and their inner thoughts and feelings as well.

Style is the writer's use and the method of using the language. The choice of words can help set the tone and pace of the story. Mistakes in language will greatly detract from the story being told. Shorter, concrete words tend to be stronger and provides sharper definition while long and flowery words tend to be abstract. Writing in a concise, precise, concrete, and specific manner will flesh out the story better. In general, the longer the work, the less important language becomes. Above all, the writer's work must tell a story. A writer should not be too concerned with the words used than with the story the writer is trying to tell. However, a combination of a good story with good language used, will be a delight to read.

Characters & Viewpoint by Orson Scott Card
A great book for budding writers, Characters & Viewpoint, is full of explanations, instructions, viewpoints as well as entertainment. If you want to write stories that are engaging and full of imagination, then I highly recommend that you read this book. A valuable, informative and entertaining guide, it is fun to read and easy to understand. Orson Scott Card makes informative and lasting insights into the creation of each character. This is not just a STEP A to STEP Z version of writing instructions but breaks down the elements of writing for many want-to-be writers. It is also filled with little anecdotes and any writer, no matter how experienced, would benefit from this book. Its an excellent reference that forces the reader to THINK.

*Related posts :
- The Art Of Writing Fiction
- Tips On Writing Fiction

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