Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Best concert, book and movies of 2011

Since the year is over. Thought I would share my views on 2011 with respect to music concerts, books and film.

            This year I was lucky enough to see Eric Clapton at the MGM in Vegas. Jeff Beck at Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater. Rod Stewart in Vegas at the Forum and Andrea Bocelli in Tampa.

Winner for best concert – Jeff Beck.
            An incredible performer at age 66 emits high energy and is considered one of the best guitarists in the world. Beck is one of three noted guitarists to have played with The Yardbirds; (Eric Clapton and Jimmy Page). He also formed The Jeff Beck Group with Rod Stewart and Beck, Bogert & Appice. Interestingly he does not use a pick but instead gets incredible sounds from his fingers and the vibrato bar on his Fender Stratocaster. Curious fact: Jimmy Page played bass for a short time with Jeff Beck in the Yardbirds.

Winner for best book – Top Secret America: The rise of the new American security state. Dana Priest and William Arkin.
            Both authors are relentless reporters. Priest has won two Pulitzer Prizes for her work. In this book they uncover the explosive growth of America’s secret world since 9/11, it’s staggering. The waste, redundancy and domestic surveillance steps the government is taking is scary. The novel focuses on the Pentagon’s secret army that has killed more terrorists than the rest of the US forces combined. After 9/11 Congress gave a blank check to America’s secret security agencies with no public accountability. We worry about the government checking our email…oh it’s much worse than that. All the money, in the hundreds of billions and over 800,000 employees doing “Top-Secret,” work and guess who they’re focusing on next??? Us…!

Winner for best movie – Martyrs
            Okay, this is not a new movie (2008) but new for me. I saw it this year, heard about it for a while and it is the best horror to come out in years.
            This is a disturbing movie!!!!!
It’s a French film written and directed by Pascal Laugier. It is being ranked as one of the scariest movies ever made. The last 30 minutes is gruesome, some say the most intense ever filmed. It’s not the bloodiest but it’s intense. The reason why the torture is happening is so unexpected…it’s brilliant.

As a side note here’s a few of my favorite Netflix streaming movies:
            Let the Right One In
    The Horde
    High Lane

Norm Applegate author of:

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Improve Your Writing Right Now: 5 Steps

Lately I've been posting some tips to improve your writing, these five are excellent.

1. Avoid cliches like the plague: You can’t omit them altogether — and you shouldn’t try — but take care when recasting a tired word or phrase into something fresh and new. When calling attention to hypocrisy, instead of reciting the cliche “This is a case of the pot calling the kettle black,” you could write, “Keywords: pot, kettle, black.” You can also play with words, referring to an especially distraught drama queen as a trauma queen.

2. Avoid filler phrases: Delete content-free wording like “be that as it may,” “to all intents and purposes,” and “in the final analysis.” These prolix protrusions pop up naturally in speech to bridge a gap between one thought and the next, but although you’re forgiven for including them in a first draft, there’s no excuse for letting them pass inspection when you review your writing or edit someone else’s.

3. Avoid verbosity: Watch for wordy phrases like “in order to,” unnecessary words and phraseslike currently and “that is,” and smothered verbs (constructions in which a noun can be transformed into a verb, such as “offered an indication” when indicate will do.)

4. Avoid redundancies and repetition and saying the same thing twice: Take care to avoid doppleganger words in stock phrases — common, like filler phrases, to spoken language but inimical to good writing — like “actual fact” and “completely finished.”

5. Avoid repetitive sentence structure: Craft your prose in such a way that phrases, clauses, sentences, and paragraphs flow smoothly (avoid a Dick-and-Jane style of writing reminiscent of text in primary-grade reading books) — and consider the visual impact of your writing.

Norm Applegate author of:

Source: Dailywritingtips

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

This Book is a Gem

This book is a gem. It’s about zombies. It’s well told. It’s how the Victorian upper class deal with the undead.

I’m impressed by an author who can stay true to a time period like R.G. Bullet has done. But first a little bit about him. R.G. Bullet was born in Berkshire, UK. After living in nine different countries he has finally settled in Miami Beach, USA. He is addicted to tea, reading, writing, motorbikes and shamefully, Call of Duty.

Having published five novels, two are of The Keeper series and the other three; The Caldecott Chronicles, I suspect he’ll have another out shortly.

I had the pleasure of reading The Caldecott Chronicles Excerpt 1 of this short story series. I read the Kindle version and the graphic drawings; which are only a few come across excellent. The paperback is 120 pages. But it’s what’s in these pages, a hilarious, unique take on the zombie genre.

This is a tale of the undead set in 1899 from the Earl of Rothshire’s journal. It’s fun, graphic, very detailed and the references to the British era are brilliant. Here’s a sample of how R.G. Bullet describes a scene.
The undead and certainly unwashed are traipsing across overgrown lawns intent on ripping the very flesh from the Earl’s body, scooping his brains out and eating his remaining horse.
Very nicely done. Hard to imagine a zombie book written better than this.

Bottom line, The Caldecott Chronicles are a special find. 

Norm Applegate author of:

Monday, December 5, 2011

5 Tips for Cleaning Up Your Writing

Here are five quantitative quick tips about improving your writing functionally, before you even get into improving the quality of your prose:

1. Always Use Serial Commas

The policy of preceding every item in a list but the last one with a comma is commonsensical (read a previous article about the serial comma). Confusion is possible when you don’t and highly unlikely when you do. What if, using a non-serial-comma style, you write about more than two things when one of the things consists of more than one part or ingredient? (“The choices are roast beef, turkey, and ham and cheese.”) Do you insert a serial comma for clarity (and introduce an inconsistency) or leave the sentence as is for readers to stumble on? Adherence to serial-comma style eliminates the dilemma.

2. Minimize Capitalization

Job titles are capitalized only before names. Names of academic majors aren’t capitalized unless they are already proper nouns, like names of languages (“English”) or references to regions (“Asian studies”). Generic names of entities (“the hospital,” “the organization,” and so on) are lowercased. Yes, capitalization is a minefield; when in doubt, look it up, and search on this site for “capitalization” for many articles on the topic (including this one).

3. Repair Comma Splices

A comma alone cannot separate two independent clauses in a sentence. Break the clauses into distinct sentences, or separate them with a semicolon or an em dash — or a comma and a conjunction (and, or, and so on) — but not with a comma alone. For more information on this topic read 5 Ways to Fix the Comma Splice.

4. Omit Extraneous Hyphens, and Insert Necessary Ones

“Decision making,” “problem solving,” and similar compound nouns require no hyphen, unless they precede a noun as a compound modifier (“decision-making procedure,” “problem-solving aptitude”). “Near collision” and other similar constructions don’t, either, with the same exception (“near-collision statistics”). Established compound modifiers usually don’t require a hyphen even before a noun (“high school student”). Confused? Here’s a simple rule: Look it up. (And check out this DailyWritingTips article and find others on the topic by searching on the site for “hyphens.”)

5. Limit Displays of Emphasis

Words can be italicized to indicate that they are being used to refer to themselves, not the things they stand for (“Note the word emphasis”), or to signal a foreign term (“Wunderbar” means “wonderful”), or to make sure the reader understands that something is really important. Words can be initial-capped to indicate irony or other humorous intent. (“The rent-a-cop exuded the air of an Authority Figure.”) Boldface is appropriate for introducing new vocabulary or otherwise calling attention to an unfamiliar term but is best limited to textbooks and guidebooks. But all-caps are invariably excessive, “scare quotes” are seldom necessary, and be judicious about otherwise calling attention to words and phrases.

Norm Applegate author of:


Into the Basement

Source: Dailywritingtips

Monday, November 21, 2011

A Disturbing Expose on Counter Terrorism. Gave it 5 Stars!

Dana Priest and William M. Arkin, have written an incredibly important book. “Top Secret America.” Bottom-line, they have unveiled JSOP, Joint Special Operations Command, the pentagon’s secret killing machine and the growth of America’s post 9/11 counter terrorism agencies. Frightening.
            Priest is a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner and along with Arkin, they expose the secret buildings, unlimited funding in the billions and sadly how no one in Congress is accountable.
            Some worry about surveillance by Goggle and Facebook! It’s nothing compared to what the government is doing in the name security. Not sure what we are getting for the vast dollar amount spent by Congress. Close to a trillion dollars has been spent!
            The CIA, NSA and who knows how many other secret agencies involved missed the “Arab Spring.”
            The book is a must read for anyone interested in where our nation is headed.
            Dana Priest and William M. Arkin deserve another Pulitzer.

Norm Applegate
Author of Shockwave

Sunday, November 20, 2011

7 Sentence Structures

Sentence structure can be categorized into seven patterns: one simple, three compound, two complex, and one compound-complex. Here are examples of each pattern with accompanying formulas, all to help you think of how to craft sentences in a greater variety of syntax:

1. Simple sentence (independent clause): “I went for a walk.”
(An independent clause is set of words that includes a subject and a predicate. It can be a sentence or part of one. A dependent, or subordinate, clause is one that cannot stand on its own but provides additional information to supplement an independent clause.)
2. Compound sentence, IC+CC+IC (independent clause plus coordinating conjunction plus independent clause): “I went for a walk, and I was soothed by the gentle night air.”
(Coordinating conjunctions are words that link one independent clause to another to form a compound sentence. These words can be recalled with the mnemonic FANBOYS and include forandnorbutoryet, and so.)
3. Compound sentence, IC+S+IC (independent clause plus semicolon plus independent clause): “I went for a walk; I was soothed by the gentle night air.”
4. Compound sentence, IC+AC+IC (independent clause plus adverbial conjunction plus independent clause): “I went for a walk; consequently, I was soothed by the gentle night air.”
(Adverbial conjunctions are adverbs that serve, when following a semicolon, to link independent clauses. They include consequentlyhowevermoreoverneverthelesstherefore, and thus.)
5. Complex sentence, DM+C+IC (dependent marker plus clause plus independent clause): “Because I hoped to be soothed by the gentle night air, I went for a walk.”
(Dependent markers are words that provide a relative context for a subordinate clause. They include after,althoughas, “as if,” becausebeforeifsincethoughuntilwhenwherewhether, and while.)
6. Complex sentence, RP+C (relative pronoun plus clause): “Whatever doubts I had about taking a walk dissipated when I was soothed by the gentle night air.”
(Relative pronouns are pronouns that relate a subordinate clause to the noun it modifies. They include who,whomwhosewhoeverwhosoeverwhomeverwhichwhatwhatever, and sometimes that.)
7. Compound-complex sentence, DC+IC+CC+IC (dependent clause plus independent clause plus coordinating conjunction plus independent clause): “As I headed out for a walk, my doubts about doing so dissipated, and I was soothed by the gentle night air.”
There are, of course, many variations to these patterns; even a simple sentence, for instance, can begin with the object in the example converted to the subject of another simple sentence: “A walk was my next order of business.”

Norm Applegate author of:

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Amazon Lending Books - good or bad for the author?

Change is difficult. I'm sure we're going to see a lot of chatter about this one...I'm not so quick to say lending books is bad. Bad for who? Not for Amazon. Maybe not for the publishing company. They are being compensated. Amazon has been working a deal with them. Not all companies are participating, yet. I predict all the big ones will! 
Question: what does it mean for the author?

Think about Apple's iTunes. The music industry was against it. Now look. Buying a single song for $0.99 works. Artists, record labels, everyone is benefiting.
Think Netflix. Streaming movies...brilliant!
Are we surprised books are next? Shouldn't be. It just how does everyone in the supply chain get compensated. here's the article from Fox News.

As the e-reader and tablet wars heat up, Inc. is launching a digital-book lending library that will be available only to owners of its Kindle and Kindle Fire devices who are also subscribers to its Amazon Prime program.
The program will be limited, at least at the beginning, in what is available to borrow. Amazon will initially offer slightly more than 5,000 titles in the library, including more than 100 current and former national bestsellers, such as Stephen R. Covey's "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People."

None of the six largest publishers in the US are participating. Several senior publishing executives said recently they were concerned that a digital-lending program of the sort contemplated by Amazon would harm future sales of their older titles or damage ties to other book retailers.

Moreover, Amazon will restrict borrowers to one title at a time, one per month. Borrowers can keep a book for as long as they like, but when they borrow a new title, the previously borrowed book automatically disappears from their device.
The new program, called Kindle Owners' Lending Library, cannot be accessed via apps on other devices, which means it won't work on Apple Inc.'s iPad or iPhone, even though people can read Kindle books on both devices. This restriction is intended to drive Kindle device sales, says Amazon.

The program, which is effective Thursday, comes a few weeks before Amazon ships the Kindle Fire tablet on Nov. 15, which is a direct competitor with the iPad.
The lending library reflects a broader effort by Amazon to lure consumers to Prime, a service that costs $79 a year.

Amazon Prime began as a membership plan to offer package-shipping perks. Then, earlier this year Prime added a video-streaming feature to the subscription. Nearly 13,000 movies and TV shows are now available under the streaming feature.
Amazon, the market leader in e-readers, made Kindle titles available to libraries beginning in September and libraries said the impact already has been significant.

At the Seattle public-library system, e-book borrowing rose 32 percent in the month after Kindle books became available, said Seattle's electronic-resources librarian Kirk Blankenship. E-book borrowing had typically been rising 10 percent or 15 percent a month, he said.

Norm Applegate author of:

Monday, October 31, 2011

Do you go with a small publisher or self-publish?

An author friend of mine asked for some help. Her question was: do I go with a small publisher or self-publish? For me it’s self-pub but read my thoughts…

Don't pay a publisher any money! Everything they can do; you can do.

1). Editing! Pay an editor! Quality is important. Here's the name of the person I used on my last book, SHOCKWAVE. She's not free...For me she was worth it. I'm going to work with her again on my next book.
Deborah Levinson, she a friend of mine on my Facebook site. She is good.

2). Cover work! check out the cover for Shockwave, my thriller and short story Jumpers. Nice work...
Contact James Rone at tell him I sent you. He's an art student in Phoenix.

3). Use Amazon...they are the largest book distributor in the world.
Amazon Kindle for ebook. Look up Kindle Direct Publishing.
Amazon's Createspace for paperbacks. Here's the facts...1% of my sales are from paperback. Yes, it all about ebooks now. I self publish on Createspace so I have paperbacks to give away.

4). Product Description: I looked at a pile of book descriptions on Amazon. I believe what I’ve done works. I combined what I liked from a number of successful authors. Look up my books on Amazon and you'll see the description I use. Lots of stuff for people to read...

5). Price…the ebook price for a new book is $2.99 your older stuff $0.99. However you might consider starting at the $0.99 price point. I know it's cheap but that seems to be the market, check out authors on Amazon not the big names, the indie authors. HEADS-UP - This may be shifting. Some authors are raising their ebook price to find the sweet spot, the right number of sales at the maximum price to generate the most profit. Remember, at $2.99 on Amazon you get 70%. At $0.99 it’s only 35%.

6). Go to Smashwords and format your ebook yourself from their guidelines. They have the best outline for formatting an ebook and publish on Smashwords. That gets your book into Apple's iPad, B&N. Sony. Diesel and Kobo...

7). Start a blog, use Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads and any other sites you have time to post stuff on.

...that was a lot of stuff...hope it helps.

all the best