Thursday, August 8, 2013

I didn't used to read biographies.

I used to dislike biographies. In the library, I avoided them like some people avoid grapefruit juice. Then I started reading about the cinema and found that most cinema books were so heavy with incomprehensible theory that I reached for a book about Alfred Hitchcock. It wasn't a book about feminism and Hitchcock or violence and Hitchcock. It was about Hitch, from his birth to his death and every fear of eggs in between. I read it, I enjoyed it, I sought out more biographies. Soon, I broadened my scope. I went from the biographies of film directors to the biographies of film producers, then writers, and finally, earlier this year, I read the autobiography of a Latino guy from Texas.

The cinematic biographies gave me what I didn't find in the books "about cinema", i.e. they described the actual process of making movies, and how the production and business of filmmaking influenced the content of films. Suddenly, the lack of lighting wasn't a deliberate choice by the immigrant German Expressionist director but a cost-cutting measure that happened to turn out stylish. I don't think that lessens the magic of the movies any more than knowing something about honey bees lessens the magic of watching them buzz around a garden full of flowers.

For me, the study of cinema has always been too focussed on theories, screens-as-mirrors and philosophy, and too little on the nuts, bolts and budgets.

Biographies and autobiographies were my answer.

P.S. The first biography I ever read was about the hockey player Eric Lindros. It was for an elementary school book report. The book was short. That's why I chose it.

Monday, August 5, 2013

My 1950s in Cinema

Have you heard of Letterboxd? It's a social networking site for people who watch movies. It's like Goodreads for Godard fans. You can log what you watch, rate what you've watched, make lists, follow and be followed and all that other standard social networking stuff. The selection of films is good but not great. Nonetheless, for me the site's proven to be a fun way to wrack my brain and remember all the films I've seen. I've started with 1950s and made a list for each year's releases. Organised links are on my Lists page. My Letterboxd list page is here.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

The Boy Who Spoke Mosquito

"The Boy Who Spoke Mosquito", my macabre short story about bullying, has been chosen as a Staff Pick over at Readwave.

Once in third grade they held Duey Pepper's head inside a terrarium for seven minutes while Mr Winters went out for a cigarette. The yellow snake hissed and slithered and looped itself around Duey's neck as everyone sat silent and watched. When Mr Winters came back Linda Martins put up her hand and answered a question about the geography of the United States. Duey didn't put up his hand. Duey never put up his hand. Duey never talked except to Oliver, though no one ever heard them. Oliver was Duey's only friend. By fourth grade they started on Oliver, too. I saw it. Pushing and slapping him in a circle, asking him...

Friday, July 26, 2013

Love Degree: Editor's Choice 2013

Love Degree, my cell phone novel about a lonely university student discovering love, has been selected as an Editor's Choice for 2013 on the website textnovel.

Now's a good time to read it.

(Alternatively: here)

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Love Degree is Online

My cell phone novel, Love Degree, now has its own website.

Love Degree is an English-language cell phone novel about a lonely third-year college student who’s about to get the education of his life–in the most important course of all: love.
A cell phone novel is a literary form popular in Japan that consists of sparsely-written short chapters telling melodramatic stories. Most cell phone novels are romances and, due to the form, quite poetic.
Read Love Degree at!

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

The Cheapest Spaghetti Western Novel

50% Off in July!

$1.50 @ Smashwords

Fenimore rode into Hope Springs wearing a dead man's poncho on a drunken horse. He carried two guns and seven coins: six grimy ones for the six men who'd taken from him, and the seventh for the woman he'd loved, who'd sold him out for a future full of dollars.

He was looking for work. What he found was a feud. He made himself useful.

Monday, July 1, 2013

6 Websites To Post Your Writing


Usually my second stop after Amazon, where you can't post writing for free (the minimum is $0.99). Smashwords allows for free and "pay what you want" options, and also distributes to sites like Sony, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and the Apple store. You can use the Smashwords Channel Manager to choose where you want your writing to show up. I usually opt out of Amazon and Kobo, and upload to those sites separately. Smashwords minces the file you upload (an HTML, for example) and makes it available as Epub, Mobi and a variety of other formats.


I like this site. It looks great, it's intuitive and it spits out your story as an Epub, Mobi and PDF. It keeps statistics and makes neat graphs of the downloads of your stories, and I always end up racking up the views. There's also a "Send to iPad" button, but I've never used it and I can only assume that it does what it sounds like it does.


Easy to use and has a pretty layout. All reading is done on the site, and it tracks the number of reads and makes it easy for people to share the stories they like. When you first upload something, your story shows up on the front page. Having a good cover image and possibly friends on the site help boost your story's popularity.


I found this at the same time as I found Readwave, and the sites seem similar to me. Booksie looks slightly worse but is slightly more functional. Although it can generate ebooks from your stories, the formatting and characters end up so screwy for me that I consider Booksie ab online-only reading site. Like Readwave, you see the number of reads. Like Readwave, there's a gentle social network aspect to the whole thing.


I haven't used this one yet.


This is a strange one. Although you can post anything you like, from a story to a novel, the site is mostly about cell phone novels. As far as I know, it's the only English language site that does offer cell phone novel downloads. What is a cell phone novel? It's a type of writing done in bursts of Twitter-length chapters that is crazy popular in Japan.