Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The Endurance of Shakespeare

I went to an outdoor production of Macbeth the other evening performed by a well known and talented theatre company.  The weeknight production was virtually sold out.   The language can be difficult to follow and comprehend so it is probably a good thing that many people study the play in high school or college.   But  the theme of greed and blind ambition  and the subsequent descent into madness is unmistakable in its clarity and depiction.  

Books and documentaries have been produced about the true identity of William Shakespeare.   Some believe he a pseudonym for another writer.  The name Christopher Marlowe has been bandied about and has some believers.   The information as to the education and background of Shakespeare leads some to  believe that  he was incapable of producing the great literature that he did.

In any event, what an honour it must be to still be remembered and still performed over four hundred years later.   As could apply to the great composers,  I sometimes wonder what the authors and poets of the past would think if they knew their work was being studied and treasured today.


Sunday, August 26, 2012


I read an interesting blog article recently about a writer who went astray using photographs on her blog, without permission  or payment, that someone else had taken.    Without going into the details, I will just say that she endured serious consequences which were eventually solved by a considerable amount of money.   She  wasn't aware that photographs not specifically designated as free use, belong to someone.

A number of years ago, in another life, I took some courses on costuming for the film industry.  I was surprised to be told that the film business has departments that spent considerable time obtaining permission to use names, locations and even ideas.   Any logo had to be 'greeked' (This meant covering the logo with duct tape  or painting them out or something  similar).  Of course, now, logos are all part of product placement and a source of revenue for the film  and T.V. industry.

The movie and music industries struggle with film piracy which I have read is almost out of control, especially in some countries.     Torrent sites, as they are sometimes called, also allow individuals to download books without payment to the author.    It is difficult to know how these issues will be resolved.  My public library, especially with the inter-library loan system, provides free access to many, many books, CD's and movie DVD's.   That's a partial solution.   I did read, though, that that some publishing companies wanted restrict libraries to only twenty-three (I believe that was the number) e-book borrows before the e-book had to be purchased again.   This is unlike paper books, which can be borrowed until they fall apart.  But I digress.

This photograph has nothing to do with this blog post other than that it was taken by someone I know and I definitely have permission to use it.

                                                        Alhambra, Granada, Spain

Wednesday, August 22, 2012


One of the writer blogs I follow, had an interesting post recently about social media which I felt compelled to contribute to.      If I can attempt to paraphrase Jody, she was unhappy that social media was becoming less about being social and more about promotion and sales.   You won't find me on facebook or twitter promoting my books.   It's not that I don't like discussing my books with readers or others or considering issues that are raised in them.   That's part of what I do here.   But a heavy duty sales pitch--no thanks.   

Thousands of books are being published every day and many writers feel it is difficult for them to be noticed or stand out from the crowd.    But creating shallow relationships through Twitter or Facebook is no guarantee that those people will buy your book and I can't help but think that engaging in these interactions for this purpose would make many people feel dishonest.


Sunday, August 19, 2012

Size equals Value?

I've come across a number of reviews for various books where the main reason given for complaints or a low rating has to do with the length (in pages) of the book as compared to the price.  That is, the price should be less for a (relatively) low page count.   I've tried to think of another place where this logic is present in the minds of at least some consumers of the product.   The Mona Lisa is a relatively small painting compared to, say, The Blue Boy.  I'm sure less paint was used.   Do critics mention this when comparing the two works of art?

Early rock bands, in the days when radio ruled, sometimes struggled to cut their songs back to 3 minutes.  Too long and the band risked losing air time to shorter works that allowed for more commercials.  Today, individual songs are less expensive to purchase than an album.

Television shows seem to have strict requirements;  no deviations allowed for longer or shorter.

With movies, unless it is Lord of the Rings, continuing for more than two and a half hours risks being deemed to be dragging.   The upcoming The Hobbit is being divided into three movies, presumably resulting in more revenue.

With food, some all-you-can-eat buffets focus on quantity perhaps to the detriment of quality, but I have seen some expensive gourmet dinners wherein the  artistically arranged components leave plenty of 'white space' on the plate.  They may also leave the diner still hungry.

I remember reading once that early writers were paid by the word.  I believe that is still the practise with some magazine articles and short stories.   One author gave that as the reason that his heroes required five shots to 'get the guy'.  Each 'bang' was another five cents.

What is your opinion?   Should size or length (in time) be a determination of price and if so, to what extent?

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Bees and Colony Collapse Disorder

Taking us on a journey through the catastrophic disappearance of bees and the mysterious world of the beehive, this engaging and ultimately uplifting film weaves an unusual and dramatic story of the heartfelt struggles of beekeepers, scientists and philosophers from around the world . . .  Here's a preview:

Queen of the Sun


Sunday, August 12, 2012


Planting seeds is a small act of faith for gardeners today.  We look at the package, we study the picture on the front, maybe we even read the instructions as to the depth of implantation and the angle towards the sun.  We have faith in the product and if disappointment  awaits us--well, so what?  

But have archaeologists and anthropologists discovered what made the first person in each little isolated community in pockets of settlement across the globe take that first step, that first action, to move that society from the nomadic life of hunters and gatherers to the beginning of a settled community, a society, a civilization?

What an act of faith or inspiration it was for that person to take that kernel of wild maize and instead of eating it or perhaps saving it for later, to instead stick their finger in the soil, carefully drop in the seed of a future plant and then cover it from sight.  When that first seed germinated, then sprouted and finally grew to harvest, it was a turn in the wheel of time.


Wednesday, August 8, 2012


I read a post on another blog to the effect that books were gradually becoming digital products and soon would be entirely in that format with the exception of a few very particular items, like special editions or some children's picture books.   In a comparison with music, the delivery method of physical copies of novels seems to have changed little over the past century.   No doubt, those familiar with the intricacies of actually bringing a book to a physical form via a printing press could point out many differences.   But to the public that consumes the book, the differences appear to be of style and font and paper quality.   A book is still a book.

But consider music; now there have been changes in format.  Music, after all, within recollection of many was once vinyl, then briefly 8-track, next cassette, then compact discs.  Change was the norm.   Of course, it was annoying, not to mention expensive, to have to upgrade every few years.  Similarly for home movies.  How many people were left with an extensive collection of videos and nothing to play them on after their VCR broke down?


But digital is something completely different.   Nothing to hold, nothing physical to lend around to your circle of friends and relatives, nothing to fill your bookshelf and make you look erudite.     Is smaller and more compact better?   Minimalists would say yes.  No heavy boxes to lift on moving day, no spare rooms devoted to long forgotten media.  But is out of sight, out of mind?   Dozens of books, residing on your Kindle or other device can lie dormant for a very long time.  They are easily purged, unread, in a frenzy of digital housekeeping.   What about the charities, like the Rotary Club and hospital auxiliaries which rely on annual booksales to supplement their fundraising?

The deciding factor in the end may be the reality that digital products tend to be cheaper.  How cheap?  That's a post for another day.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

COUNTING ON DANGER : Third Jaswinder Mystery released!

There's a slightly modified title and cover from the one I provided a sneak peak of over a month ago.   There always seem to be a few last minute revisions.  Here's the final cover:


This is the cover that will go with the soft-cover version.   For the e-book you'll only see the front cover but the back cover blurb will be available on-line.   Jaswinder and Manisha head to Las Vegas for a well-deserved vacation but find more than they bet on.  Check out both versions on Amazon.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

A Question of Choice

I'm just back from a vacation in Guatemala at this time.  This is the country of the Maya and the pyramids are something to behold.   In my travels in this mostly hilly and mountainous country I have passed many small villages and communities and innumerable cornfields.   I look at the faces of the people standing in the doorways or sitting outside small cinderblock homes with corrugated iron roofs and wonder about their choices.   It is easy to assume, coming from a developed capitalist society, that many there would like to move here.   There may be some but surely there are others who value the pastoral life that seems to be present in Guatemala.   Or is their life  one of endless labour to keep food on the table?    I did see that many people, even in the most remote locations, had cell phones.   I have a feeling they are much cheaper than I would pay.   Someone told me that in a year round warm climate most days are spent outside so housing is not a priority.

But going back to the title of this entry, I consider the issue of choice.   I could choose to move to Guatemala.   Many developing countries welcome westerners with sufficient funds to be financially independent.  But the woman standing in the doorway of a small cinderblock house does not likely have this choice.   To the contrary, many depend on remittances sent from the United States.  To me, that is an aspect of my life I value a great deal; the freedom to make choices.   I think that may be reflected in two of my books.  In A New Premise, Manmohit   sees no escape from his controlled life, at least not initially.   One of the main characters in  When Bees Die, Faye, feels trapped in her job and her life, especially since she remembers what life was like before everything changed.   It is only the threat to her child that forces her to act.

Throughout history, individual people and societies have seemed stuck or trapped in a system or way of life that is unproductive or even desperately miserable.   Issues like global warming and ecological disasters, species extinctions and  climate change seem unavoidable.   More than two thirds of the Mayan civilization disappeared over a short period of time some thousand years ago whether from warfare, natural disaster, excess population growth or diminution  of the water supply.   Sounds familiar.   But one can wonder what the end result will be this time around.

                                                                    Tikal, Guatemala