Friday, May 31, 2013

Is there an Age Limit to Success?

I have been thinking a lot about age recently. This is partly because I am turning thirty next year and my list of goals is still somewhat the same as when I was twenty. What I have found is that life does not move as fast as I would like. I think the other part is that, while I love my job teaching teenagers, they make me feel old on many days. There’s nothing like quoting a line from Schrek and having it go over their heads. Titanic? What’s that? One student told me that “The Lion King” was a “classic.” The student made it out of my classroom alive, but my ego was definitely bruised. 

It’s like I have hit a panic button. The clock is ticking, days counting down to the moment when I should officially give up on my dreams. Hearing all of the graduation speeches I heard last week left me wondering about the duration of dreams. Most of the friends I know gave up on their dreams a long time ago. It seems like that started happening around twenty-five. This only propelled my belief that I was near “the end,” as silly as that sounds. In fact, I remember asking my mom when the time I should give up is and accept defeat. She, God love her, replied “never.” 

So, I decided to do some research for my blog post this week. My main concern was the age of current authors when they first published (interestingly enough this did not always match when they became a big star). I looked up seven different authors.  I started with young adult authors, Stephanie Meyer and JK Rowling. Then I switched to fantasy. Finding a trend, I searched New York Time Bestseller and looked up a few off that list. They all came out the same. While a few made a break in their twenties—Stephen King was 26, Jim Butcher 29, and Nicholas Sparks 29—most were in their early thirties. 

A blog I read gave a neat chart of authors, some of which I had already looked up. Most are in their thirties and forties with a few in their sixties. Maybe I am silly for being excited by this revelation. But in my own mind, I figured everyone should break it into the big time in their twenties. I think this is societal influences, though. We see singers in their teens make it big a lot. Actors, same thing. Society seems to flaunt that success should come before thirty. That, by the time thirty rolls around, maybe we should find new dreams. I was happy to discover this is not the case. 

After doing this post, I can feel myself calm down. Thirty is not the time to give up. If anything, it is the time for things to finally begin. Who knows, maybe I will be the next example an aspiring author lists for never giving up on a dream. 

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Garth Brooks' "The Dance"

Wow, my post is late today. Sorry! I have been talking about dreams and life challenges, so immediately thought about Garth Brooks' song "The Dance." I listened to country music in high school, and this one was my favorite. It still strikes a chord with me, even though my music interests have changed. I think it's because the message resonates with me. Life can suck at times, but it all makes up a fantastic ride.

"The Dance"
By Garth Brooks

Looking back on the memory of
The dance we shared 'neath the stars above
For a moment all the world was right
How could I have known that you'd ever say goodbye?

And now I'm glad I didn't know
The way it all would end, the way it all would go
Our lives are better left to chance
I could have missed the pain, but I'd have had to miss the dance

Holding you, I held everything
For a moment, wasn't I a king?
But if I'd only known how the king would fall
Hey, who's to say? You know I might have changed it all

And now I'm glad I didn't know
The way it all would end, the way it all would go
Our lives are better left to chance
I could have missed the pain, but I'd have had to miss the dance

Yes my life is better left to chance
I could have missed the pain, but I'd have had to miss the dance

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The Hidden Treasures of Switching Points of View

Today I read a short publication where the author re-wrote a scene from her novel in another character’s point of view. It’s the first time I really wanted to read a re-write, maybe because it was just a scene. I remember when Stephanie Meyer was going to rewrite the entire book Twilight through Edward’s perspective. I didn’t really feel an interest in it, but I am not one who re-reads books either.

As a writer, I spend a lot of time deciding on a point of view. In fact, I was writing a novel once and it just wasn’t coming together. Then, on a reader’s idea, I switched the point of view and everything opened up. Think how different Silence of the Lambs would be from Hannibal’s perspective—maybe good and bad. Or what about The Wizard of Oz from the Lion’s perspective? The entire story could change while the events stay the same. They’ve done a few movies to showcase this. The only one I can think of at the moment is Crash, but there are others. The thing to consider is if the story is stronger in one point of view as opposed to another. If it’s a murder investigation and the character is a bystander who doesn’t have access to evidence…well, that could be incredibly boring.

I think readers, and publishers for that matter, would think switching points of view would be easy for writers. After all, we are supposed to know our characters better than any reader. We should know their fear, their conflict, the desires that push them forward. But the switch is still hard. How would the situation be different through another’s eyes? What are their responses? What revelations would be made that were unavailable before? And, more importantly, why did they react the way they did--remembering you can't change the events already written?

I think it would be a good exercise, especially while in a writer’s block, to re-write a scene in another perspective. After all, the characters I know the best are the ones who control the viewpoint. It is their thoughts I record and their feelings I project. Who knows what hidden treasures may arise from switching perspective…if only for my own background benefit.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

My Favorite God: Hermes

I'm not sure why, but Hermes has always been my favorite among the Olympian gods. I think that's partly why he is the only Olympian god who has an actual character in my series, instead of just a country title. My love for him came while building his throne for an art project. Scepters on either end, a rolled scroll for the chair, and winged boots for the base.

I love the idea of winged shoes. The mythology is that it would make him travel faster as he traveled between other worlds. Every now and then, I see the symbol at track races or on shoe ads. I don't typically view birds as "fast," but running with wings is too cool to analyze.

His role amongst the gods seemed minor. A messenger between them and the god of travelers. Not something people would miss tremendously if he were to disappear from mythology. And yet, there he was amongst my favorite. I think I like the idea that the big gods like Zeus had to rely on him. If he wasn't around, they couldn't conduct business, so, in a way, his absence would be missed.

Hermes, the messenger of the gods. Maybe it speaks to the writer side of me, but he is by far my favorite.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Monday's Quote

With all the graduation preparations last week, I devoted most of my quotes on the pursuit of dreams. The one I picked to showcase here is actually from an unknown author: "The road to success is dotted with many tempting parking places."

I like this quote because I think it speaks to the main reason dreams don't happen...or at least take longer to happen. Life has many distractions. I know I have been caught up in them. Some are good distractions (college for instance), and some not so much (spending the day watching my favorite TV show re-runs). I tend to shout something at my students that I think I can apply to my own life: "Focus!"

Happy Monday everyone.

For more quotes, follow me on Twitter: @WriterBJKurtz

Friday, May 24, 2013

Pursue Dreams, but Don't Forget to Live

This time of year is always filled with mixed emotions for me. As a teacher, May is the month of graduation speeches. The future of our society stands beaming on top of a stage, proclaiming their open futures and dreams. And why shouldn’t they? They have a new world open to them with endless possibilities. It wasn’t that long ago I listened to my graduating class’ speeches. Now, about to leave my 20’s, I have seen dreams soar, demolish, and left forgotten. I have seen life throw curve balls as well as open doors never imagined during graduation.

With all the discussion of dreams, I began to realize something. No one discusses two things. One, how dedicated you must be to achieve dreams. The world will not hand it to you. You have to work. You have to maybe even bleed and cry a little. And you have to stay persistent because the world will show it’s easier to give up than to achieve. It will challenge how much you truly want that dream. 

The second thing no one discusses is what you do in the meantime. Reading blogs and author interviews this week, I have been bombarded with a recurring thought. Don’t strive for greatness, or even success. The chances are so slim in the publishing world of being a bestselling author, or having a book adapted to a movie, that it is best not to set this as the one thing that’ll bring happiness. I can see the logic in the thought. If this is the only thing that will bring happiness, then life is going to be long, difficult, and frustrating. And, at the end, maybe even unrewarding. Finding myself at the end of life with a lot of regrets and wasted effort is one of my deepest fears.

This week I also encountered an equally scary idea. What success exists outside of the pursuit of a dream? In other words, I have been pursuing the grand success of a writer for over ten years. But what else is there to my life? What else have I accomplished? I have found that the idea of getting to the end of my life with only my writing is not something I want to do. But, for me, I get wrapped up in my passion. I forget that life is about more than writing—even though my brain automatically disagrees with that statement. But, if I focus solely on my ambitions, then I can forget to cultivate friendships. I can push away opportunities to grow as a person. I can miss out on life experiences. I can forget that some things are more important.

So, my wish for all of the new graduates is to pursue their dreams; to never give up and settle for ordinary. But, most of all, do not to forget to live. Life has a lot to cherish. Goals should just be one piece in the mosaic.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

It must be Spring

I know that it is officially spring when my Palo Verde tree starts to bloom. It is a little late this year, but well worth the wait. I hope your May is as beautiful as the ones in Arizona!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

New Atlantis Novel:

I decided to share the first chapter in my second of the atlantis series. Hopefully to be published soon:

Chapter One

2846 AT
The air still held the coolness of the fall. The black mountains protected the valley much as a crib protects a child as coyotes prowled the night. While some stars twinkled in the sky, unseen storm clouds camouflaged most, engulfing the land in complete darkness.

Dirt resting on the rooftop dug into her arms as she lay on her stomach peering at the building across the street. At this late hour, downtown streets were free from the hustle of the day. Concrete buildings, all bearing the column architecture of the capitol, rested in darkness. Jocasta shifted her attention from the building in front of her, glancing at the desert spreading behind her. The faint glow of a campfire on the outskirts of town told her they still waited despite the threat of rain.

She could see them clearly in her mind, five men with their sandals resting beside them. Her men would take any opportunity to rest, not knowing the next time it would appear. A small breeze brushed a few stray strands of hair out of her face. She took in a deep breath, taking in the sweet smell of bone-dry dirt rejoicing at rain. A mile away?

Jocasta sighed. It’s time. She turned back to the building, placing her eye next to the scope of the shooter. She inched the sight upward until the only lit window came into view. Inside, an oil-lamp hung from the ceiling, it’s steady flame illuminating the room. Next to the door she knew led into the hallway stood a wooden chair with a flat seat and reamed back. Jocasta doubted anyone was actually supposed to sit in the chair. 

A maple desk on the far left dominated the room. Through the mountains of documents, she could just make out the top of the leather chair resting behind. Hanging behind the desk was a scenic picture of Zeus’s beautiful desert, more than likely drawn by a local artist.

Looks so much like a regular office, she thought. On the opposite side of the room stood a locked cabinet, plaques and medals cluttering the top. She couldn’t see the plaque faces due to the angle, but could imagine the name Highest Chair Paeonia etched into the marble. A large bookshelf rested beside it. The thick, books with worn and faded bindings looked lethal should the shelf topple, yet the shelves didn’t even appear warp under their weight.

No details gave away the façade of an ordinary office. Surely, there must be something that indicated many life-altering decisions were made within this room. This place, after all, belonged to the capital building of Zeus and the possessions within to Highest Chair Paeonia, leader of the nation’s court system.

Jocasta had just about memorized every feature within the room when the door finally opened. Patience is a learned trait, she thought with a sigh. Paeonia, her dark-brown hair pulled into a tight bun, entered with a bulging folder tightly grasped in her fingers. Half-circled glasses rested upon her pointed nose. Jocasta didn’t have to see the paper to know it was undoubtedly her speech for tomorrow morning, her final verdict on a case that had the whole world talking. She walked over to the desk, adjusting the folder to better see as she settled into the chair. She leaned back, her eyes seeing only the words in front of her.

With a steady hand, Jocasta focused on the target, took a deep breath, and pulled the trigger. Her gun snapped, sending the small glass blade sailing through the air. Shards of glass fell from the window, marking its path seconds before the jagged edges embedded into the Highest Chair’s chest. She dropped the papers upon impact, her lips parting in a small gasp. A small red dot appeared on her silk blouse, uniformly expanding.

Jocasta’s pulse slowed as she watched a shaky Paeonia stand, the red spot beginning to drip onto the documents on her desk. Her hands braced her body against the desk. With hands on any furniture within reach, Paeonia guided herself toward the door. As she reached the middle of the room, Jocasta’s shooter snapped once more. This time, the blade slit the jugular vein before shattering against the wall.

Paeonia swayed, blood seeping past her fingers as she tried to cover her neck. She continued to fight, her eyes focused on the door. She staggered forward, resting her free hand on the golden handle. Before she could open the door, her legs gave out, and her body fell to the floor.  

Jocasta watched her until a guard came rushing in to find the Highest Chair dead on the floor. Within seconds, she disassembled the shooter and placed it gently in a black bag. She left the rooftop and mounted a horse waiting below as the rain began to sprinkle down.

Click here for a look at the firsrt in the series.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Does Fulfilling Dreams equal Money?

This week, I wanted to focus on dreams and the future, mainly because it is graduation week at the high schools in my area. Therefore, I did a search to keep with my theme of introducing a different god. What I found was gods for money or fortune. There were no gods for prosperity. The only goddess I found in charge of the future was Antevorta, an obscure god that I couldn't find much about.

I find this an interesting concept. In a society that held gods for everything, where is the god for fulfilling dreams? Or does setting a "dream" automatically equal striving for fame and success? Friday's blog post was going to relate to this topic, but I thought I'd pose the question.

If you could create a god or goddess for prosperity, what would the duties look like? What does it mean in your eyes to pursue happiness?

Just something to think about on this Tuesday morning.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Monday's quote

"Destiny is a name often given in retrospect to choices that had dramatic consequences." ~ J. K. Rowling

I like this quote because, often times, we feel our destiny is decided for us. Whether I become a great author is up to the stars. Whether I get the job promotion or meet my soul mate. All of this, at times, feels out of my control. It's whatever the universe decides. It's a romantic...and yet a little depressing...idea, but one I find is inaccurate. Life is full of luck and chance, yes. But I believe we make our own destiny. We make choices that lead us down paths. Our life should be defined by our persistence and the choices we've made. Not by some foreign entity. Happy Monday!

Friday, May 17, 2013

Hero vs Superhero: how a flawed Hero can strengthen the story

When I think of a “hero,” I tend to turn them into a “superhero.” The images of Superman, Ironman, Robin Hood, and even Joan of Arc come to mind. They are the perfect individuals fighting for a cause. They live to serve others and they always win in the end…well, maybe not Joan of Arc, but follow me. They put their lives on the line without hesitation. They are strong, they are beautiful, and everything I want to be. They rise above all fears.

Even heroes in books tend to follow this. The most recent is Jack Reacher in Lee Child’s series. He may not be good looking…even though the movie changed this by giving the role to Tom Cruise, but that’s an entirely different rant….but he has all the other qualities. He is tough. He is smart. And he can kick the butt of ten men at once while defusing a bomb and saving the girl. Okay, maybe an exaggeration, but still. He is the superhero hero.

I think this character is the easiest to write. After all, I, as a writer, manipulate events. I can make everything go the right way. I can role play. I can be my hero, going through my worst fears and struggles and come out victorious. It’s fun to write that type of person, and it’s fun to read that type of person.

But I have found recently a new type of hero is more captivating. The flawed hero. What’s funny is I typically find them in young adult books. The first was Katniss Everdeen in the Hunger Games series. She is not the perfect character. She doesn’t know how to handle love interests. She doesn’t know what she wants in life. She doesn’t want to conform to society, but she doesn’t want to battle it either. She is a huge contradiction. But, she is still more “super” than flawed.

As I am reading the Divergent series by Veronica Roth, I am captured by the imperfections of the main character. She actually loses a battle she faces in the beginning of the novel. Imagine that; a hero who loses every once in a while. Seeing her fail actually increases the suspense. What if she fails in something much bigger…more life threatening? What if her flaws finally prohibit her from being the hero of the story? Deep inside, I as a reader know this would be story suicide. But it still raises the stakes. It brings a little reality into fiction. Yet, she is also flawed as a character. She is selfish at times, emotional and clueless at times. But she is stubborn and fierce. She doesn’t’ conquer her flaws, but is more real with them.

I can’t be afraid to write flawed heroes. We are all flawed in one way or another and must compensate. The trick is balancing the reality of human nature with the entertainment factor that demands the hero to win. It’s a delicate balance, but worth the effort.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

A Great Book

I know when I have encountered a great book. It's when I hate my job (which I typically love) and am annoyed at life because it is taking me away from the world I am visiting and the characters I'm following. Such is the case with Veronica Roth's book Divergent. Such an awesome read. I'm only half way through, but I am obsessed with finishing it!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Breaking out of a Shell to Market

When I first started writing, someone told me to "know your market." At the time, I thought, well, of course I know my market. They are young adults who enjoy reading fantasy. That was a good enough definition for me. I am starting to realize that knowing a market means more than just defining them so simplistically. It means interacting with them. What do they love? What are they talking about? What do they do for their spare time? Where do they hang out? What things do they value over others?

I was born an introvert. I would rather hang out with my characters who won't judge me or betray me. It's hard for me to interact. It's hard for me to market. So, the thought of combining the two scares me on many levels. But, my 20's have been built on one philosophy: challenge myself to grow. It started small. I joined a church group. I signed up for conferences to go alone. Things of this nature. I am still the same person, that will never change. I don't think I will ever desire for the spotlight. But if I don't challenge myself, then life will be boring and routine.

Dreams should be hard to achieve. Life will ask how much we really want it, how much will we work to get it? For me, discovering my market is yet another way to not only achieve my dreams but also make me grow as a person. And how could that be wrong?

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Hera, the Mother of all Gods

Okay, so technically Hera is not the god of mothers, but as Zeus' wife, that puts her as the leader of them. She is known for her beauty, her symbol being the peacock. It is said the peacock's feathers look like eyes, her eyes watching. And she had to watch, keeping track of Zeus affairs and betrayals.

What I like most about Hera are her imperfections and contradictions. She was the mother of Hebe, the goddess of youth, a good thing. But then she was also the mother of Ares, the god of war. She was the goddess of marriage, and yet her marriage was rocky at best. She would attempt to kill any illegitimate children of Zeus . She stood so strong, he couldn't control her, only try to out strategize. She is both good and bad, someone who would make an interestingly flawed character in any novel.

But she fought for family...even if her methods were questionable. For that, she fit into her role of Queen of the gods nicely. And for that, she is easily a "motherly" figure on Mount Olympus...but maybe not in the nurturing sense.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Monday's Quote

“Who would you be but who you are?” ~ Terry Brooks, The Black Unicorn

I like this quote not only because it comes from a great Fantasy novel series, but also because it speaks to me as a writer. Yet, I think it speaks to anyone with a dream. We just celebrated Mother's Day yesterday, and I am blessed with a mom who continues to tell me to follow my dreams. Since graduation, I have watched many friends give up and settle for ordinary. I refuse, partly because of her insistence. But I also refuse because of this quote. Who would I be if not a writer?

I was never "normal" or "popular." I would like to say I always lived proud of who I am, but high school is a cruel place sometimes. I can say that now I do. I live proud to be a writer. I am proud to be different, even if that means giving up on what society determines is best for me. Who can I be but what I am? That is a great question, and one I live my life by.

Want more quotes? Follow me on Twitter: @WriterBJKurtz

Friday, May 10, 2013

The Art of Naming a Novel

What is in a name? I almost never title my novels when I first begin writing them. I want them to take shape. I want to know what underlying message. That’s my thought process, then, about a third of the way through, all the glorious ideas about titling goes out the window and I settle with something basic. I laugh at the titles I pick because, for a while, they followed a “The Blah of Blah” format. An unpublished, and rightly so, murder mystery I wrote in middle school was titled “The Murder of Stone Creek.” Then, of course, there’s “The Curse of Atlantis” and “The Lord of Nightmares.” What’s funny, is when I discuss these books, I tend to shorten them: “The Curse” and “Nightmares.” I purposely decided to break from this trend. The sequel to The Curse is “Defending Zeus.” The one after that is “Innocence Lost,” so apparently I have fallen into a two word trend now.

There is too much pressure behind a title. It has to have intrigue. It also has to highlight the subject of the novel. I think that’s why I have such a hard time. I like to admire other authors. For instance, Marry Higgins Clark decided to use song titles for her novels. I had read five books before I figured this out. And I only did because the song is mentioned in the novel as a part of the murder mystery. I was so excited, I listened to it. I remember liking the book better, but thought the concept was a good idea. But, I imagine it would be harder to find a song to match the topic of the book…unless it’s a love story.

I have been reading Jim Butcher’s Dresden series. I enjoy his titles because they seem to have a double meaning. “Dead Beats,” is a common cliché and yet he manipulates it to mean something more literal. “Fool Moon” is another play on words along with “Grave Peril” to name a few. I like the double meanings, especially since they are not truly understood until the books are read.

Another book whose title I admire is “Heart of Darkness,” which is funny because I despise this book. I actually have had to read it twice, but can say I only made it through once. My mind wanders as the description rolls. Anyway, the title is good because of the multiple meanings. The Heart of Darkness in the literal sense is the center of the jungles of Africa where Europeans interacted in the ivory trade. I have also heard the title referred to in terms of skin color. But it can also represent the corruption and darkness of character. In fact, literary scholars love this contrast. The whitest people are the darkest characters in the novel.

How does one come up with a good title? I don’t know, but if someone develops a talent for it, they can make a decent living.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Inspiration from Sara Bareilles

One of the most haunting songs I use when writing is from Sara Bareilles called "City." I first love the song because of the emotion she throws into the lyrics. It's a desperate plea, and that comes through. It is also one of my favorites because I often find myself restless. I don't like what I have accomplished so far in my life: longing for a new city, a new job, a new path. My dreams have not been achieved yet and my impatience is telling me that this is not acceptable, no matter the progress I've made. Yet the song is also a reminder of how the world can easily take advantage and lead someone astray...try to change them. I love this song because she longs for someone to ground her, to help her not lose herself or her life. She wants to find rest, something I also desire for.


There's a harvest each saturday night
At the bars filled with perfume and hitching a ride
A place you can stand for one night and get gone
It's clear this conversation ain't' doing a thing
Cause these boys only listen to me when i sing
And i don't feel like singing tonight
All the same songs

Here in these deep city lights
Girl could get lost tonight
I'm finding every reason to be gone
Nothing here to hold on to
Could i hold you?

The situation's always the same
You got your wolves in their clothes whispering Hollywood's name
Stealing gold from the silver they see
But it's not me

Here in these deep city lights
Girl could get lost tonight
I'm finding every reason to be gone
There's nothing here to hold on to
Could i hold you?

Calling out somebody save me i feel like i'm fading away
Am i gone?
Calling out somebody save me i feel like i'm fading

In these deep city lights
Girl could get lost tonight
I'm finding every reason to be gone
There's nothing here to hold on to
Could i hold on to you?

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

The Toughest Part about Writing

As I am writing through my fifth novel, I have come to an understanding that there are two things that make finishing a novel hard.

1. Finding the time. I imagine maybe bestselling writers who write full time do not have this issue, but I do. I also hear this from a lot of writers I know. Life is demanding. I have complained about it on this blog many times. For me, the creation is not hard. Yes, I get stuck sometimes. Yes, I have to fight with my characters to figure out what story they want to tell. But, I must be crazy, because I enjoy that. My trouble is finding the time to sit down with my characters and record their movements. Certain times of year are worse than others. August and May are bad because I teach. School is kicking back up in August and ending in May. Both are stressful for their own reasons. Another bad month is December. The holiday season and the end of the first semester of school make for a disastrous writing atmosphere. I look forward to the summer, when I have more time. But, as I have said before, it is also important to make time, even when it feels impossible.

2. Having the confidence to continue. This business is tough. I often wonder if one of these days a rejection letter will come and that will be the one to finally break my spirit. It hasn't happened yet...mainly because I am just as stubborn as my father. I go through cycles. I can drive forward seeing only the good and the passion in my work. Then I will go through spells where I dip into darkness, seeing only what I perceive is the flaws in my writing and the mounting rejections from magazines and agents. In these times, I, of course, don't always look at the present, but the entire group as a whole. I try to remember that many people write...and of them a whole lot are really good. Doesn't mean I'm not. I am just competing for attention, and, for someone who prefers to be alone sometimes, that is hard. I have to maintain the confidence in myself and my work. I have to remember that life is a roller coaster and I am along for the ride.

I wish life can be like the story's I write. It is a lot easier to create circumstances and manipulate people's reactions for the sake of the plot. Most of all, it is great knowing the ending as I plough through. But, I guess that would make life no fun. The excitement is in the ride. I just have to remember my love of writing and try not to let the outside factors push me down.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

The World on His Shoulders: Atlas

One mythical character I can definitely relate to this time a year is Atlas. He is the god who holds the world on his shoulders. All the pictures of him depict a man who looks like a body builder, the world stretching from one shoulder to the other and towering above him. I think many people can relate to his burden. My chiropractor told me last week that he sees people walking in, shoulders sagging. He believes they are physically weighed down by other people’s opinions. We don’t carry the world, but we carry the pressure of fitting in and being accepted.

May has always been a tough month for me. In school, it was the month leading into final exams. Most exams were high stakes, the ultimate determining factor summarizing my entire semester. Now, as a teacher, May has become the month of deadlines. Everything is coming to a close at a quickened pace. We power through with the promise of a relaxing summer. I can feel the weight of the world on those days.

I wonder if that is how the story of Atlas came to be. Sure, part of it came from the question, how does the world stay in the air? But, I imagine it has deeper meaning than just explaining physics. We are all Atlas at times, straining against the world. The challenge in life is to rise, lift the weight like it is nothing more than a beach ball. Or perhaps we need to toss it aside completely and just enjoy life.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Monday's Quote

The most popular quote on my facebook page is a funny classic: "Do not meddle with the affairs of dragons, for you are crunchy and taste good with ketchup."

This, of course, is a take off J.R.R. Tolkien's famous quotes "Do not meddle in the affairs of wizards, for they are subtle and quick to anger."

I think the funniest quotes come from famous lines. Happy Monday everyone!

want more quotes? Follow me on Twitter: @WriterBJKurtz

Friday, May 3, 2013

How to Get Through Classic Literature

Going through school, I enjoyed reading the “classics,” but I did become an English major. Sure, some were torture. I, for one, have read Frankenstein more times than I would like to count…although reading it through an “identity” perspective—an argument that Frankenstein and his monster were one in the same character—was the most interesting. The language creates the challenge. They may be cutting edge in their time period, but so much has changed. Today, the publishing world emphasizes action with a balance between description and dialogue. Jane Austin is mainly dialogue, which was valued in her time period. Others like Heart of Darkness are about the beauty of language and sentence structure.

One classic I still remember reading is Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck. I was a sophomore in high school. I hated it; called it boring. That is, until we had to interview someone from the great depression for a corresponding paper. I interview my dad’s client, a kid during the time. He actually described his parents packing everything they own into a truck and moving around to find work. He brought the story to life. From then on, the book was easier to get through and one of my favorites. I think the ability to relate is another problem people have with the classics.

My favorite classics so far are Emma, Pride and Prejudice, and The Crucible. I think what made The Crucible fun were the class discussions. I loved the movie adaptation of Pygmalion—My Fair Lady. Another movie adaptation I liked better was the 1995 version of Othello with Sir Kenneth Charles Branagh playing Iago. His acting ability stole the show.

However, I find great value in my classic’s background. I feel it adds an edge to my plots. If I only read today’s work, then I feel I would be too prone to mimic what is already out there, blending in with other writers competing for the spotlight. The plot structure of the classics is vastly different. Not to mention, they took risks in I just don’t see that often today. With that being said, I don’t think anyone should mimic their prose.

I find reading classics is too hard now that I’m not in school. I need the “requirement” feel to help my motivation, especially since I read mainly suspense and fantasy novels. For this reason, I love when movies come out. I’m currently reading The Great Gatsby because I saw the movie trailer. It gives me a hard deadline, just like a class. Plus, it gives me the joy of seeing the novel on the big screen. Last year, I did the same with Emma. The year before was The Three Musketeers…although I’m not sure what book they were following for this newest adaptation—flying ships, not in the book! I have found myself thoroughly enjoying the novels I have experienced as a result. I would recommend this method to any wishing to encounter the jewels hidden in classic literature.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

The Parthenon

A few years ago, I visited the Parthenon...okay, not the real one. I am a broke teacher and can't afford that trip, although that is on my bucket list! No, this one was in a park in Tennessee. We didn't get to go inside, but the outside was pretty amazing. If you are ever near Nashville, I highly recommend going to see it. Oh, and those two tiny people at the front are my parents. :)

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

How Classic Literature Can Enrich Writing

I was watching an interview with a writer once...I wish I could remember who it was...where he said his background in classic literature helped his writing style. This stuck with me because I remember someone saying I have a very "Greek tragedy" quality about my writing. I always respond that's because I read a lot of Greek tragedy's in high school: Romeo and Juliet, Othello, Julius Caesar, Antigone. Yes, they are mainly Shakespeare, but that's most of the required reading throughout high school nowadays.

I think there is value in the classics. Are they hard to get through? Yes. Are there things about them that are outdated as far as writing style? Yes. But when looking at the plot, I feel a writer can learn a lot from their structure. Today’s works seem about the action and romance. I do believe this is important so my writing stays current. But I love books that have the gut dropping surprise at the end. Classics, especially tragedies, are about pushing the boundaries of status-quo. Romeo and Juliet kills off their main characters. That’s a huge no, no in today’s publishing world…and yet maybe killing off one is a possibility. The Hunger Games has a lot of tragedy in the series, none more shocking than the last book. She had a handle on what would rip at the reader’s emotions.
Readers want to be inspired. They want to be touched in some way. Classics seem focused on this. I feel it is important to have a broad range of reading. Only then can piece together what works in each to help strengthen my own genre. The trick is plowing through the tough language to get to the meat of what makes a classic good.