Monday, January 25, 2010

Short Stories vs. Novels

Which do you prefer, and why? Personally, I prefer novels, both to read and write. Don't get me wrong, I love a good short story, especially if it's engaging, but in 10,000 words or less, it's difficult to keep suspense high while simultaneously giving me a meaningful connection with the characters on the page. In "A Rose for Miss Emily" the author did a great job of doing that, but I have very few examples of stories that I've read where I truly engaged with the story.

That's not to say that the stories don't exist, but with as little reading time as I have, I've CHOSEN to focus my energy on novels by authors who really inspire me! Some of my teachers in college, on the other hand, told that they had very little free time to spend reading, so they decided that reading short stories fit into their lifestyle better because (and I think this is what I hear) they were able to get more reading finished with their limited time.

Personally, I would rather read a chapter every night until the book is done than read a short story because I like the suspense that gets me to go from one chapter to the next, and I like seeing the constant changes that the characters go through.

As far as writing is concerned, I never got the hang of writing a good short story. In fact, as far as dynamic plots go, I had to spend two years on my most recent novel to finally figure out how to create one that isn't just plain boring. I'm writing a short story now, and I wish I could turn it into a novel, but I don't want to start another year-long project until I know whether or not I need to set the current one aside. Anyway, the short plot and the extreme lack of detail about the setting and character backgrounds makes it difficult for my brain to formulate something that's less than 50k words long. I know it's important to leave a lot of stuff out of a short story because it only bogs down the narrative and makes editors and consumers alike simply throw it away.

What's your preference? Which would YOU rather read, and which would you rather write?

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

A late post

So, when I got home last night, I didn't have time to put up this post. I had VERY important things to do with my wife. Sorry, but better late than never, right? Anyway, this is a video blog week for you. Enjoy :)





Oh, and sorry the picture is cut off a bit...the width of the Blog template is too narrow and I don't know how to fix that.

Edit: 12:26pm 1/19/10 I removed the music from the video.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Overwhelmed in thought

I have too many things working through my brain at once. I'm trying to finish up that query letter, and I've been working on the Flatiron City short story all morning. I'm also distracted by things that I need to do around the apartment before I have people over...on Thursday. Thing I really should have done over the weekend, but that's beside the point. I feel particularly ADD this morning, simply because I can't focus on one thought at a time.

On the bright side, I've made some real progress on my projects! I also have a printer (thanks mom!), and I got a new ink cartridge for it last night. That means I don't have to send queries out to JUST the agents who accept e-queries. I can snail-mail them in!

Sadly, I am out of coffee. I also have things to do before I can go to work, so I'm going to get to those things.

Monday, January 11, 2010

And the year begins...sort of...

Yes, I know it began a couple weeks ago, but this past week was kind of weird for me. Anyway, I made some revisions to the book, and I restarted my query letter. It's STILL driving me NUTS! I think I'm making real progress, though, so I MAY be able to send it out later this week. That doesn't mean I'm not getting frustrated. Who would have thought this part would be so hard?

Anyway, I promised you all a Flatiron City story. This is a short that I wrote for school a couple of years ago, as it's been edited for the class and as part of my attempt to get it published. It's not exactly the type of story you'd read in a magazine, so I'm going to put it up here.

So, without further ado, "My Shop, My Rules" by Giles Hash:

Snow fluttered to the ground as Katsuro Hanaka unlocked the Hanaka Nippon Tea Gallery in the center of Evan’s Park. In better weather, the faux Japanese paper walls and curved, sloping roof would be enjoyed by passers by as a wonderful accent to the scenery on the top-level, open-sky courtyard of Flatiron City’s west tower. Today, though, the residents of the giant city-in-a-building would avoid the cold.

Katsuro never expected to make much of a profit; back in 2098 when he opened his doors, Katsuro served perhaps twenty guests a day, in comparison to other specialty drink shops who served between 200 and 2,000 a day. He opened the shop because in England, where he grew up, the upper class valued tea almost as highly as vintage wines, and he had family in Japan who could supply him with inexpensive, high quality tea. So when he moved to FC after a year in Tokyo with his father’s brother and sister-in-law, Katsuro endeavored to bring this underappreciated product to the United States. Though his original target market was the rich residents of the top ten levels of the west tower, most of his business came from the CU Flatiron students in the north tower. After word spread of the Japanese Englishman’s potent blends of herbs, spices and tea leaves, the studious minds of the university flocked to the gallery for help on their all nighters. Since tea contains less caffeine than coffee, the students could drink more of it without the sudden post rush crash. Plus, Katsuro knew what herbs to blend in to enhance learning. Two and a half years after opening his doors, at the age of twenty two, Katsuro just doesn’t care because his dad, a successful Japanese software engineer in London, gave him a healthy allowance that he’d invested wisely. So now Katsuro enjoyed the tea shop as a hobby, living mostly off of his father’s money.

Outside, the snow thickened and stuck to the ground and Katsuro started to consider just taking the day off, but then a gentleman in a nice business suit squeezed through the door, the smell of cold snow and frozen foliage wafting in behind him. “Good morning, Katsuro,” he greeted distractedly, brushing the snow off of his pants with his fedora.

Katsuro nodded automatically, even though his guest couldn’t see through the fog on his glasses. “What’ll it be today, Tom?”

When Tom’s glasses cleared, he walked up to the counter and gazed at the menu for a second. “The usual,” he sighed.

Katsuro grabbed an open tea bag and mixed an infusion of apple, cinnamon, and an herbal mixture to promote concentration. The spicy cinnamon and apple aroma slowly permeated the shop as Katsuro accepted Tom’s money in exchange for the steaming brew.

Tom grinned at his cup and took a seat, blowing on the tea as he set it on the the table. He pulled out his Blackberry while the drink cooled and flipped through the daily news. “Stocks are looking good,” he said cheerily.

“Yeah?” Katsuro returned. “How much have you made today?”

Tom laughed. “Not enough.” He tapped his blackberry a couple of times, flipping to different stories, and then set the phone next to his tea. “Have you ever considered selling your shop?” he asked. “I mean, you never really have a lot of customers.”

Katsuro shrugged. “Nope. I like this job too much.”

“Hmm,” Tom replied. “Must be nice to have a rich dad.”

Katsuro chuckled, settled in behind his counter and checked his watch: nine o’clock. He’d been open an hour already and only served one customer. “It’s going to be a slow day,” he commented to nobody in particular, but as soon as those words came out of his mouth, over a dozen students tumbled in from the cold.

It took Katsuro a minute to gather his wits since he’d never had that many people in the store at one time. “Alright, you all know the drill. Order one at a time, be patient, and no one will miss out on my magic.”

Everyone laughed, shuffling their book bags and jockeying for a spot in line. After several minutes of confusion, a short girl with curly red hair stepped up and smiled kindly. “Hi, Katsuro.”

Katsuro smiled back, “I didn’t expect to see you until this evening, Susan. You are still coming, right?”

Susan nodded enthusiastically. “I’m not passing up free sushi with a cute stranger.” She shifted her weight, angling her hips flirtatiously. “Still your treat?”

“When a gentleman makes an offer, he never rescinds,” he answered regally. Katsuro tilted his head to the crowd behind Susan, “Are they friends of yours?”

Susan shrugged. “I know a couple of ‘em.”

“Don’t they all have class?”

“Not till this afternoon. They all heard I was coming up, so they decided to follow me and see if you live up to your reputation.”

“Well, if you don’t order soon, I won’t get the opportunity.”

Susan nodded understandingly. “So what should I get?”

Katsuro thought for a moment, and then slid back to his ingredients, throwing green tea leaves, ginger and crystalized honey into a loose leaf tea bag. As he added water just shy of boiling, the scent of tea and ginger filled the shop, momentarily bringing the guests to appreciative silence. “It’s on me,” Katsuro winked as he handed the drink to Susan.

Susan’s nostrils tingled as she inhaled sweet steam floating up from her hand. “Thanks,” she grinned. She moved to the back of the group, allowing a tall, gangly young man with pimples and unkempt brown hair, to step up.

“D-do you serve Red Rocks Coffee?” he asked.

Katsuro ignored the young man’s question and hollered, “Next.”

“Hey,” the young man sputtered.

“Just tea,” Katsuro explained. “Back of the line. That’s the rule for ordering coffee. NEXT!”

A mildly handsome young man put his hand on the awkward youth’s shoulder, grinning. “We told you, Will. Back of the line, just ‘cause you didn’t listen.”

The crowd laughed as Will sheepishly took up his place next to the door. “I didn’t believe you guys,” he explained.

It took another twenty minutes for Will to get back to the counter. “So, what’ll it be?” Katsuro asked.

Will smiled in good humor. “Mint mango infusion?”

Katsuro whipped up Will’s order and sent the gaggle out the door, the strong smell of teas, herbs and spices lingering in their wake. After wiping down his counters and mopping up the mud in the seating area, Katsuro returned to his spot behind the register.

After only ten minutes of peace, another rush of customers tumbled into the store, and a steady stream followed for several hours, finally tapering off around two. Katsuro cleaned up the mess again, and then pulled out his lunch and casually inventoried his stock, mentally preparing a tea order for the following day. Just as he finished the sandwich he was munching, though, another rambunctious group of people entered the store, laughing haughtily. “It’s damn cold outside, and the snow’s up to my shins,” Katsuro mumbled, “why the hell am I so busy.” Turning to the obnoxious people crowding his doorway, Katsuro informed them, “The special of the day is Earl Grey.”

A blond man wearing a turtleneck sweater and khakis turned to Katsuro and asked, “British accent and English tea. And I thought I’d walked into an asian shop.”

Katsuro could feel the sarcasm splashing around the room, and the man’s companions all laughed as if he was a standup comedian. The entire group looked as though they felt that they were better than this shop, and better than the cold, and even better than the thousands of dollars of clothes that they wore. The men all wore expensive watches, and the women wore too much makeup and gaudy jewelry, one of them was even wearing heels, as if to say the snow better not make her stumble.

“Go get the owner for me,” the blond man commanded.

“I am the owner,” Katsuro informed him.

“Really?” The blond man’s brow furrowed slightly. “How old are you?”

“Does it matter?”

Blondie shrugged. “Guess not. I want some coffee.”

“No coffee. Just tea.”

“I know,” Blondie smiled. “I want to turn this place into a coffee shop. Have you ever thought of selling?”

Katsuro thought a moment, trying to decide how to proceed. Finally, after some consideration, Katsuro pressed a couple of buttons on his iPhone and the music in the store grew softer, changing to a Transient Sage trance remix of Mozart’s “Eine Kleine Nachtmusik”. “It’s not for sale,” Katsuro said, turning back to his inventory.

“You haven’t even heard-” the man started, but Katsuro cut him off.

“I don’t care. I’m not going anywhere. Now, do you want tea, or not?”

Blondie blinked. “I want to buy this shop.” He moved toward the counter as he talked. “The city officials won’t allow any other businesses to open up in the park, and this is prime real-estate being squatted on by this useless,” he looked around and asked one of his companions, “what is this, a ‘tea gallery’? What does that even mean?”

“It’s like a coffee shop for intellectuals,” Katsuro supplied. “After the United States decreased their reliance on oil, coffee became the most consumed commodity in the country. Now, if something is common, that means it isn’t special. Tea, uncommon in America, is therefore special, appreciated by only the most sophisticated intellectual minds. I opened this shop to provide this european and asian delicacy to the fine citizens of this city.”

Blondie stared, his face turning red. “Are you saying that if I drink tea I’m better than coffee drinkers?”

“No,” Katsuro shook his head, “It’s called marketing, like the diamond industry in the early twenty first century. You convince your customers that your product is special, and if you’re successful, business booms. Good coffee shops are everywhere, but where else are you going to find a unique shop like mine in this vast city? Besides, if I sell, none of the students in the north tower will leave campus, and other companies will lose money. That’s bad for business, and the city won’t like that.”

Blondie sneered. “I think-”

“I don’t care,” Katsuro snapped. “I’m not selling my shop. Today’s been the busiest day since I opened up, but even if I’d only served two people, I wouldn’t consider packing up. Now, I’m tired and I have work to do, so either buy some tea or piss off.”

Blondie whispered something to one of his cronies and the entire group took a seat. “I don’t feel like leaving yet. I think we’ll just stay here until you decide to listen to my offer.”

Katsuro ignored Blondie and wiped down his counter. Getting angry, Blondie slammed his hands down on Katsuro’s rag. “You don’t seem to understand who I am.”

Lightning flashed in Katsuro’s eyes as he glared at the man right in front of him. “Enlighten me,” Katsuro grinned, stepping back a foot, daring Blondie to move.

The young man shuddered, apparently unused to people standing up to him. He looked over to his friends for help, but they all stood their too stunned to back up their fearful leader. “Fine, don’t sell,” he snapped. “But don’t be surprised if you’re shop suddenly starts falling apart. There’s a lot of electronics in here, and it would be a shame if it burned to the ground.”

Katsuro actually burst out laughing. “Are you threatening me?”

This time, Blondie grinned. “The city may think you’re good for business, but you and I both know that accidents cost a lot of money, and if enough of them happen, the city won’t insure you anymore.”

Behind the group of rich investors, the door opened again and a large police officer walked in. Blondie turned and shivered, but not because of the cold, and his skin turned whiter than the snow still falling lightly to the ground.

“Is everything alright, Mr. Hanaka?” the officer asked.

“It’s fine,” Blondie insisted, “We were just-”

The officer held up his hand. “I’ll get to you in a moment.” Turning back to Katsuro he said, “Dispatch says you have a hostile presence in the store.”

Blondie’s skin turned from white to a sickly green. Katsuro looked from the officer to Blondie and said, “Yeah. The whole exchange should be recording to the police database.”

“What’s going on?” Blondie squeaked.

“You’re right,” Katsuro said to Blondie, “there are a lot of electronics in the store,” Katsuro held up his iPhone, “and this controls all of them, from the locks, to the music, to the security system that automatically sends video and audio to the police if I push this button, here.” He pointed to a little orange button on the screen that said, *PANIC* underneath it. “Extortion is a crime. The officer will be arresting you now.”

Blondie complained like a teething child as he was cuffed, but he didn’t put up a fight. His entourage followed him out the door, each one on their phone, trying to get a hold of the best lawyers in the state. Katsuro leaned against his counter, enjoying the music and laughing merrily to himself. He looked around his shop once more and then groaned, “I just mopped.”

-------------

Like I said, a little rough, but it's better than reading what I might throw together for you in the fifteen minutes I have left before I have to get ready for work :) Anyway, I have more query writing to do.

Friday, January 08, 2010

Less changes than I thought

Alright, so I've revised the story just a little bit, and I think it really improves the overall plot. Since time is not in my favor, however, I'm going to get ready for work and I'll return to the query letter on Monday (I think I'll post an FC story for you all to read, though). Then I'll get in to the short story again.

Overall, it's been a pretty productive week!

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Not again!

Alright, so now that I've put my revised query up in the forums, I have come to realize that the book needs yet ANOTHER round of revision. This is a major change that will take relatively minor effort: I need to increase the age of the protagonist from 13 (14 in the final two chapters) to 15 (&16). Of course that means the other characters are ALL getting older, but that's something I can deal with. And the more I thing about this change, the more I like it.

You see, the older the characters are, the more life-experience they have, which makes them more interesting, and therefore makes them easier to personify on the page, and therefore justifies the length of my novel. HOWEVER...I will be looking for things to cut. It'll break my heart, but I might just have to remove some of the scenes that I've grown fond of. And I thought I was done with edits until I got an agent.

:P

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Back to the grindstone

My vacation is over. My grandfather is gone. My book remains unpublished. But this is a new year!

There are many things I would like to talk about, my grandfather being one of them, but I have so much running around in my head, along with a query letter that I STILL have to finish. Bear with me as this post may feel disjointed.

Harold Thomas Hash, better known as Tom, lived his life in service of others. First he joined the U.S. Air Force at the age of 19, and while he served our country in the Philippines, he met a man named Jesse Miller, a survivor of the Bataan Death March during WWII. Jesse sat down with my grandpa and a handful of other airmen and taught them about someone named Jesus. I don't know the whole story of the other men gathered there, but the short story for my grandpa found him leaving the air force to become a full time missionary to the men and women of our armed services over seas.

As long as I've known my grandfather, I can look back and see him as one thing: a living example of who Christ wants all men to be. That doesn't mean he was perfect, but in every story I've heard, and in every examination I made throughout my life, I never once saw or heard him make one judgmental comment about anyone. In fact, from what I can recall of the stories my grandma used to tell me, even though grandpa's first purpose was to teach The Word of God to the men and women that came to his home, he never forced ANYONE to agree with him or live the same lifestyle he did. He simply opened the doors to his house, told the soldiers, sailors, and airmen, "I realize you're far from home, so please feel free to join us."

I want to be like my grandpa. I want to teach other men and women about who Jesus really is without making them feel judged by me. After all, I'm just as imperfect as the next guy.

In this blog, my goal is to connect with my readers. I don't intend on making this about politics or personal gripes from my social or work life (though that's happened in the past). I especially don't want this place to be my platform for preaching at people. But I can't let my grandfather go to rest without saying something about what a great man he was. And I can tell you, he never lived what he believed as a matter of faith, he lived it as a matter of fact!

Monday, January 04, 2010

Delayed...

I have a funeral to attend today, so my Monday blog post will be up on Tuesday this week.