Showing posts from December, 2013

You Have a Dream? Find Your Way, Make it a Happy 2014!

2013 is soon over, much happened this year, much that was wonderful and much that was awful, but what I want to remember from 2013 is this fantastic lesson coming to us from the brave Diana Nyad, who did something this summer that nobody thought was possible.

She swam non-stop for 53 hours from Cuba to Florida, thus achieving at the age of 64 the dream she'd had since she was twenty. Amazing! And remember, this is a dream that champion swimmers have had for the past 75 years without anyone ever achieving it

Here's her TED talk about it (done in December), enjoy it!

She's right: Never, ever give up! This applies not only to sports, but to everything in life.

Happy 2014!

The Secret to Writing a Good Story: Lessons Learned from "Great Expectations"

Last night, I watched on TV the latest adapatation of Dickens' masterpiece, Mike Newell's 2012 film of Great Expectations, and I was reminded of  the basic ingredients for a writing a good story - nay, in this case a great story! If you haven't seen it, here's the international trailer:

The film, while very good - the actors are excellent, the settings atmospheric - was a relative success (see Rotten Tomatoes'rating here and The Guardian's review here), I suspect because the producers assumed too much knowledge of Dickens' book on the part of the audience. As a result, there were cluttered, hard-to-understand  passages, with the resulting risk of losing the audience.

But back to Dickens and his great coming-of-age story of a humble orphan who's drawn upward in society by an anonymous benefactor and discovers that becoming a gentleman is not a key to happiness. Why is it such a good story? Simple:
It addresses universal human preoccupations: love, social mo…

Christmas Lights...My Gift to You, Beloved Reader!

I just wrote a Christmas tale based on a real episode in my life - very short, a 3 minute read! It was published on ReadWave and immediately started "trending". Here's a screen shot of the title page:

And here's the beginning of the story:

"I banged on the door like mad. My parents were in there, in the big room where we never went, the room reserved for guests, and I wanted to be with them. Why didn’t they let me in? Brita tried to stop me but I wouldn’t listen to her. I banged harder. 

Dad stuck his head out, he was frowning. “Will you stop that?” he yelled. “Now wait, like a good little girl.” And he slammed the door shut. 

Brita took my hand and pulled me back. I could feel the tears welling up. She kneeled down and smiled. I loved her kind blue eyes and the brown curls of her hair that let her ears stick out. She was the first person I saw in the morning and the last at night. She gave me my breakfast porridge and tucked me in bed...."

To find out …

The Challenge of Changing Genre: Two Authors' Experiences - Robert Stone and Suzy Turner

Writers do change genres, say going from romance to thrillers, and when they do, they risk losing their fans. That's why publishers generally insist on writers taking on a new pen name. 

But some don't. 

Notably, Robert Stone, dubbed a "literary giant" by the Wall Street Journal (see article below), hasn't bothered. He has just come out with a short thriller, "Death of the Black-Haired Girl" in contrast to everything he's written before (complex dramas with multiple narrative threads coming together). 

Moreover, he's stacked the chances against himself: he hasn't published a best-selling novel in 15 years and his previous novel came out in 2003. He admits he's slow and procrastinating... Yet on Amazon, his new book is steadily gathering reviews (23 at the time of writing this post) and is ranked #19 in literary psychological fiction and #31 in literary thrillers. Doing pretty well. I would say he hasn't lost his readership, even thoug…

La Traviata Russian Style: La Scala Was Not Happy!

On December 7th, La Scala, probably the most famous opera house in the world, opened the gala season with Verdi's La Traviata sung by German soprano Diana Damrau, recently acclaimed at the Metropolitan Opera. The premiere was attended by Giorgio Napolitano, the Italian President and Jose Manuel Barroso, the EU Commission President. 

The voices were wondrous, Verdi's music magnificent, but Damrau missed her entrance in the second act (!) and the contemporary direction by Russian Dmitri Tcherniakov was heartily booed by the upper balconies. Actually the director, Daniele Gatti, got some boos too.

I wasn't there but watched it on ARTE TV's direct transmission and saw it all. Fascinating.

Here is a picture of the opening:

Act I had some odd costumes, including Annina (Violetta's maid) jazzy bright red-haired, close cropped:

When it came to Act II, things became acutely bizarre, with the scene set in the kitchen of a country house that looked like a Russian datcha.  Al…

Bitcoin: Is it Really a Currency?

Bitcoins are the latest geeky fad - only, it's no joke, a digital currency worth millions of real dollars and often used in illegal transactions, most famously by the Silk Road website, a sort of black market e-Bay in the dark Web that was recently shut down for illegal activities. It was making something like $2 million real dollars a month yet all transactions were in bitcoins.

Ever since the US Congress took a look at it, bitcoins have acquired a semblance of legitimacy and have become all the talk on Wall street and in the media. One bitcoin is now worth well over $1,000, outperforming gold, and reports are that the Chinese love it and are quite willing to use it. Bitcoins are theoretically in limited supply - 21 million is the total - as a result of so-called computer "mining", i.e. solving algorithms - a method apparently invented by some unknown Japanese geek some years ago, or so the rumor goes.

Geeks have set up a magazine to help spread the word about it - they …