Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Book ratings

As a parent, I have often wanted to find some kind of rating system for books to find out if I should let my kids read it. All I can find are websites that give reviews and rankings. Just about every book has someone that gives it a one star and someone else that gives it five. But that doesn't help me. I want to know how much language, sex, drugs and violence a book has. I finally gave up looking and decided to start my own. I've already put my rating for Dan Brown's Angels and Demons on my writing website (www.berinstephens.com). I'm still working on developing a list of rules so that I can get some consistency, but there are still a lot of things that are subject to interpretation. If this takes off, I hope to get help from others who are like-minded, since there is no way I can read enough books by myself.

I don't plan on giving reviews. All I want to do is give people an idea of what it has in it so that they can make informed decisions. Like me, for instance, I don't mind a little violence and gore, but I am sensitive to too much swearing and sexual scenes. Someone else may be exactly the opposite. I decided to not put a top end to the scale, like from 1 to 10, since there is no way I would ever read anything anywhere close to what would be considered a ten.

Anyway, we'll see what happens with this idea. I am currently working on The Candy Shop Wars by Brandon Mull, so that I can get an idea of how a young adult book compares to an adult. Then, I plan to read Fablehaven 4, also by Mull, and Twilight by Stephanie Meyer. It's not that I really want to read a book about vampires and romance, but I keep hearing so much positive and negative about the book that I feel I need to find out for myself. I guess then I need to reread the Harry Potter books, both to give ratings and to do an analysis from a writer's perspective.

Thursday, April 23, 2009


I spent last weekend visiting Kansas City and Branson Missouri. I went with the American Leadership Academy show choir under the direction of Rick Lunt. On Friday night, we did our show before the Duttons, and then on Saturday we played it for the competition. Unfortunately, our group didn't make it to the finals, which I think they should have, but they learned a lot and had fun.

For me, it was just great to get out and see a couple of states I've never been to (Kansas and Missouri). My grandfather grew up just 30 miles from Branson, so it was neat to see the area he used to live in, though I'm sure it's vastly different. I was going to see if I could get a job there, but I couldn't find any openings for bluegrass saxophonists.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Two minds

When I went to BYU's Life the Universe and Everything in February, they had a panel on podcasting for writers. At first I thought that I didn't want to hear that, because, even though I'm about to be published, I'm not an experienced enough writer to do a podcast about it. But, as I sat there and listened to them, I realized that I am an expert in something that I can podcast about: Jazz improv and saxophone.

Anyway, today I started working on my first jazz improv podcast. I wrote down what I want to cover in the first one, now I just need to record some samples, make a pdf of the exercises, and record the lesson.

Yesterday, since I now have more time to think about my novels, I decided to start a new outline for book 2. It went pretty well until today. My problem still is that I can't think about two things at once. After I finished what I wanted to do for the jazz podcast, I started working on my outline again. As I tried to focus on it (trying to come up with a Dragon system of government), my mind kept drifting back to jazz education. Finally, I just gave up and practiced my sax. If anyone's wondering, I played harmonics, did throat flexibility exercises, I worked out on 60 scales, then played All of Me in 12 keys from memory, then improvised it in all 12 keys. It felt good to practice again.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

April fools

I have done absolutely nothing for April fools day. I haven't even thought of anything to do to my kids. There's still time, though.

The main thing I found out today is that my book's release date is being moved back from July to November (April fools?). It's a little disappointing, but as I thought about it, I realized this can be a blessing. I've been getting nervous about how fast July was coming and how much work there was still to do. Now, I have time to look things over more and make the novel better. It also gives me time to work on some other projects that I want to do for my music teaching. And I'll be able to practice my sax more.