Sunday, July 15, 2018

There is a story to tell about the Craftsman war machine. The vast expanse of herbage remains unmowed; the story, therefore, remains untold. Instead, I might discuss the discussion that I led today after the regular instructor called to ask if I would take his class. The text message came while I was laboring with the latest mechanical manifestation of the war machine's taciturnity. I agreed. I enjoyed preparing for the discussion. It concerned a great story, a story of love and loyalty, jealousy and pride, friendship and fidelity, treachery and terrible carnage--I styled it as what we would've got if William Shakespeare had written Star Wars; it was just that good--meaning the story, not my discussion of it. I did have a terrific time leading the discussion; I can only hope the participants found it worth their valuable time. 

That's not what I'm going to write about. I promised a review of Pride of the Samurai by Kenneth Jorgensen. Let me do it now. I see that I can also loan that ebook to someone. I would be happy to do that if I knew how; and who would like to read it.

But first, here's a picture of a local building--I'm going to work this into the second book in the Finding Jack series. There are elements in it that I think will fit well in the story.

I should preface my review of PoftS with a brief synopsis of my expertise on all things Japanese. I've known several people who spent some time in Japan. I can locate Japan on a map or globe. I once had a Japanese roommate--mostly what I can say about him is that he bought a lot of rice--he bought it by the bag, the 100 pound bag. The primary source of my expertise is James Clavell's Shogun; I saw the miniseries, and I read the book--so I got that going for me. So, as you can see, my qualifications and expertise concerning all things Japanese, and particularly feudal Japan, are beyond question. I even remember several a couple phrases in Japanese that I learned from watching Shogun. If that doesn't convince you, then wakarimasen as to what will.

Fiction featuring fantasy in feudal Japan has never been something that I've pursued for pleasurable reading--until now. PotS begins an epic fantasy: The Kusunoki Chronicles, of which there are 4 books (so far). I've only read this first one; I can't say what the others contain. PotS begins the adventure of twin brothers, Akashi and Kanto. Akashi learns that he has the power to work the tama, a magical power that seems to emanate from the Japanese homeland--some might think of it like "the force" from another popular series which has some roots in a similar culture. The use of the tama is forbidden; it's not forbidden in the sense that a sincere apology and some meaningful probation time are demanded; it's forbidden in a way that a stirring of the innards with a short sword, or a permanent separation of the skull from the shoulders is mandated--and that also goes for the people who knew about it and didn't tattle. 

Anyway, in addition to the usual discovery of the forbidden power and the sort of apprenticeship that goes along with it, the story tells of the Kunusoki family and some of the politics of the time. The characters are almost all interesting and constantly developing. The dark side of the force in this epic comes from the foreign invaders. These viking-like enemies have a great magical power; they seem to go through the armies of the homeland like a shotgun blast through a screen door. Akashi, and other shinobi (users of the tama) may be the only power that can resist the invaders.

As I said in a previous post, PotS is the best book of fiction that I've read so far this year. I give it five stars. I am now committed to reading the next book in the series. 

On a different topic, I am also pleased to say that I got to sign a couple paperback copies of Smoke this week--I hope to sign more in the near future. 

Sunday, July 8, 2018

"Your bum looks really nice."
"Get in the left lane and turn right, here."
Those were two of the many strange phrases that I heard my daughters say this week in Rexburg. That first phrase actually referred to fourth daughter's hair bun (b-u-n), not bum--which made it significantly less disturbing that what I thought that I had heard. The second sentence was given to me by 2nd daughter as she directed me to one of the finer haute cuisine establishments in the aforementioned burg--Little Caesars Pizza where we ordered the "Extra Most Bestest" but actually received something well short of that hyperbolic superlative; the pizza was good, it just wasn't of the kind represented by the box in which it was presented. And she may not have included the comma--in the sentence, not on the pizza as that would have been an additional topping requiring a concomitant cash outlay.

What took us to that city at the feet of the majestic Tetons? (Those familiar with the area will recognize the profligate use of poetic license in that description--which is exactly the sort of dissolute dereliction of descriptive device that can get one's poetic license revoked, or suspended for 90 to 180 pages). It was just the little matter of herding another daughter into the marriage chute preparing another daughter for launch into the starry realm of marital bliss. Lift-off isn't for another month, but certain preparations were required. She is about to slip the surly bonds of single life, to move the familiar "me" back two spaces on the hierarchy of concern...behind "we" and "he" as he is about to do the same for "we" and "she."

Why would they do such a thing? Who knows? Who can say what drives seemingly normal persons to discard the comfortable "me" for the more troublesome "we"? What is that peculiar mix of chemicals and cogitation that renders "me" so plain, dull, and undesirable that it can only be remedied with "we"? Of course, it's not just any "we," but a particularly desirable combination that forms the "we." A "we" so pressing that the very thought of it being left unrealized torments the heart and soul. It is a yearning so profound, a desire of such depths, an ache of such magnitude that the mind can almost completely deny access to reason and other distractions--including eating and drinking. Love reached, but not grasped, plows the deepest of all of worry's furrows; unremitting and relentless, the sharp blade scores the fleshy heartsoil to the tender core.

Fortunately, the hope and expectation for the attainment of the "we" conquers all, driving the loving pair to master, carry on, breakthrough, and surmount all obstacles. If both hearts are willing, flesh and blood can overcome. The worrisome torment of fear and failure is vanquished in the ecstasy and euphoria of love at last grasped, held, and attained together. The time spent apart, with its accompanying distress, renders more pleasingly and potently sweet the eventual union of two hearts and souls into the absolute "we."

And, for those who care, Smoke is now available in paperback:

I had to make some slight modifications to the cover for the paperback and tinted the title with a smoky fill while I was at it. There's no time like the present to get your copy. I'm in the process of preparing Justice in Season for paperback. Writing of the sequel Justice Resurgent is still in progress.

Sunday, July 1, 2018

As I contemplate that day that is the hub, the Ogygia of summer that separates all of the season that came prior to that day from the following day from which the final voyages of the season are launched, I remembered what I had written last year after the local July 4th festivities:

 I do it because I am minting memories. We take this hot summer day and put it beneath the steel press of patriotism, stamping upon it the indelible impression of our flag and national identity; we remember the blood and treasure spilled to obtain and to secure the liberty and inalienable rights upon which this nation was founded; we honor not only the founding fathers, but those still living among us who have served to secure the freedoms for which so many have given the last full measure of devotion. There is plenty of time for pleasurable pursuits, but short is the time to honor those who have offered more than mere lip service to liberty...

It still has meaning for me. I don't expect that there will be free hamburgers or a wondrous fly-by, but those who served will still march. We will still salute them. 


The sequel to Justice in Season is coming along. I borrowed an idea--to put it in the least reprehensible light, or engaged in a little literary larceny, to speak more accurately--from Shakespeare. In Hamlet, the Bard presents a play-within-a-play; that's the purloined provision--not the same play, just the idea for a play as a means of subtly communicating an idea to an audience, or a part thereof. Just a few more chapters for an important plot complication, and I'll be ready to blast toward the exciting conclusion.

Speaking of exciting conclusions. I recently completed Louis L'Amour's Passin' Through, and Guns of The Timberlands. I enjoyed both of these tremendously. I don't remember what caused me to read Passin' Through, but Rachel K's review of GoTT got me interested in reading GoTT

PT is told from the first person point of view. After writing Smoke (mostly) from the first person point of view, I relished a good read of L'Amour using that view. GoTT uses the third person narrative, allowing the reader insight into what the various characters are doing and thinking. I find the first person view more intense with the ability to draw me into the story like Apollo's hand in "Who Mourns for Adonis?" seizing the Enterprise.

GoTT actually strongly reminded me of The Mountain Valley War--which I discussed a few weeks ago. GoTT involves Clay Bell protecting his range land from a greedy baron bent on stripping the land for a quick profit. Eventually, six-guns and bare knuckles settle the dispute with an eloquence that mere words were unable to achieve. Both books use the same formula with a slightly different twist. Of those two, I preferred GoTT.

PT actually kept me wondering.  It's about a cowboy who needs to lie low after proving that he was no easy mark for a pistolero with connections. He finds himself at a ranch occupied by two women. They're interesting. There is some dispute as to the actual ownership of the ranch. Plenty of bullets fly, and several men irrigate the soil with their corpuscles before the conclusion. I found the mystery intriguing and entertaining, if not difficult to unravel. I also liked the horse with the death's head brand.

The protagonists in both books face difficult odds against opponents with connections and clout. They solve problems not only with physical skill, but with mental prowess as well. Both feature romances that end in the expected way, even though the characters have little if any time for romancing--they fall in love quicker than Kirk on an away mission. They're both good reads, but I savored PT just a little bit more.

As long as I'm mixing TOS references and Westerns, I better include this:

Sunday, June 24, 2018

This week we went to see Think-Red-Hibble-Stew.

We had an inauspicious start. I left my house and office keys locked in the office--of course, I hadn't realized this at the time. I passed my wife on my way home; she was going the opposite direction to pick up daughter after some practice or something. When I arrived at the house, I found it locked. When I couldn't find my keys, that's when I realized that I had removed them from the lock in the office door...and placed them in the pocket of the jacket that I leave at the office, instead of placing them in the pocket of my pants--which I wear home.

So I cooled my heels on the front doorstep and waited for wife's return. It provided me with an opportunity to read my newest download: Pride of The Samuri, Book 1 of the Kusunoki Chronicles. I'll do a more complete review on it later. I'm nearly done with the book now, and IT. IS. EPIC. My review will probably say something like this author may be on of the few whose stuff I enjoy reading more than my own. It's incredible.

Speaking of incredible, or rather The Incredibles II: I've been waiting 14 years to see this movie. I've said that I really don't like superhero movies. They're all explosions and special effects and more explosions. The actors seem to be mere props to be thrown around by other superheros/villains, and explosions, etc. I still believe that. I don't like superhero movies...with one exception: The Incredibles was totally awesome. The original movie had great characters and a clear story unadulterated by social justice genuflection. It also had that cool 60s style movie music that evokes ghosts of James Bond and other over-the-top cinema fare.

(This isn't my favorite of the music, but it will do for illustrative purposes)

 A lot has changed in 14 years. I knew that I would be disappointed with the sequel. I knew that it would fall well short of the magnificence of the original. I knew that they were going to ruin everything with the sequel. I knew the movie would make me wish that they had never made a sequel. I knew that I would leave the theater feeling like a four-year old child whose favorite toy, a peddle car, had been run over because his stupid cousin had pushed and left it under a real car (Yes, I'm still mad about that). So my expectations were low...and yet I hoped.

The movie opened after a 14 year intermission right where the original had left off. The Underminer had just appeared; the family had to leap into action. That led to my first favorite line, "Trampoline me!" I'll let you speculate on the context. The story ran fairly parallel to the original with the difference being that ElastiMom gets the call to elicit illicit superhero arms instead of IncrediDad. Dad has home duty, which elicited another favorite line, "I'm formulating!" Violet and Dash have their own problems, and Jack-Jack is everyone's problem. Eventually, the family has to come together to defeat the evil Screenslaver. The movie makes a relevant and not-so-subtle statement about a modern condition, but doesn't become a nonstop in-your-face freight train hauling the audience to the Peoples Republic of Social Justice According To [Insert Pet Cause Name/Supporters Here].

There was, however, a train, or monorail, or levitating train or something like that. Of course, there were also a motorcycle, a super cool car, a neat boat, and other assorted nifty-do things.  All the old voices were back and nailing it. My favorite surprise was the voice of Bob Odenkirk as Winston Deaver. Better Call Saul is one of my favorite Vidangel treats.

The family oriented message of the movie remains strong. The animation is fantastic. The music is great. Did I like it? Well...we got to the theater late (see the story above about being locked out of the house) and had to sit near the front of the theater at entry level; the kid to my right kept going out and coming back with popcorn in a bag and/or bags of chips to rattle; people kept coming in late and walking in front of me, and getting up during the movie and walking in front of me going in and out; and some genius in front of me had brought her four-year old to the theater with those shoes that have flashing lights in them that activate every time the kid's feet touch the floor (and that kid was walking back and forth a lot); and not once did I seriously contemplate the bashing of heads against armrests, the breaking of teeth on seatbacks, nor even the uttering of colorful-but-true-and-hurtful words with sufficient vitrolic verve and venom to slay the entire families of the obliviously rude cretins for seven generations--and it wasn't just because I'm a nice person, which I am, mostly. It was, to state the obvious, incredible. I highly recommend it as the best movie I've seen in theaters so far this year; Two thumbs up; Five stars--and nearly as good as the original.

I do have a review of L'Amour's Passin Through to do, and an update to the status of Smoke in paperback. The short answer for both is: They're coming soon--just not as soon as I had hoped.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

"When I was a boy I had a dream about all the things I'd like to be...When I was a boy I had a dream..."
"When I was a Boy" from the album Alone in The Universe -- Jeff Lynne's ELO.

I had planned a reframe of Fallen Angel (1945). Directed by Otto Preminger. Starring Alice Faye, Dana Andrews, and Linda Darnell. However, I was seized by a strange melancholy (it came from behind the refrigerator and glommed onto me with manifold tentacles of misty, many-hued memory). When that happens, Alone in The Universe has a few songs to help channel that feeling to the surface. The Time album, also from ELO, makes for a good chaser. The latter is good for a meander down memory lane to a time when I wore a younger man's clothes (yeah, I stole part of that phrase from Billy Joel's "Piano Man"--which also holds some special memories of younger days that I may noted in a previous post).

Instead of the reframe, I'm just including a few of the many great screenshots I took, and adding a sprinkling of musical quotes and commentary. 

Otto Preminger had a gift for lighting great shots; the light and shadow play upon Linda Darnell's features like a beautiful sunrise upon the chrome and paint of a 1955 Thunderbird (and I mean that in a good way--not insinuating she looks "tired," has a few miles on her, or has her top down).

"I'm so glad I found you. I just wanna be around you. All my life."
"All My Life" from the album Alone in The Universe -- Jeff Lynne's ELO

I think she was looking for the Heidi audition.

"Alone in the universe. All alone in the universe. That's how it feels when you are gone..."
"Alone in The Universe" from the album Alone in The Universe -- Jeff Lynne's ELO.

"With its ivory towers and plastic flowers, I wish I was back in 1981. I wonder. Yes, I wonder. Is this the way life's meant to be?"
"The Way Life's Meant to Be" from the album Time -- ELO.

"I believe things are going wrong, and the night goes on and on. All your dreams have flown away, and the sun won't shine today."
 "The Way Life's Meant to Be" from the album Time -- ELO

This shot looks like he has just found a girl's head and is wondering if it would look better on the mantle or the shelf. 

"You should be so happy. You should be so glad. So why are you so lonely, you 21st century man?"
"21st Century Man" from the album Time -- ELO.

"Many places I have been. Many sorrows I have seen. But I don't regret, nor will I forget, all who took that road with me."
"The Last Goodbye" from The Hobbit album -- Billy Boyd.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

A sky painted in watercolor gray looked down upon me with all the joy of a boy who had lost his favorite toy. It was threatening to cry. I knew that I had only a limited amount of that currency issued to each of on a daily basis to complete the daunting, but not overwhelming tasks before me. In fact, I would say the tasks were merely whelming, definitely not overly so.

It was like this, see. Last Saturday the mower went on strike again. It had had some complaint about needing a new starter motor. I had immediately broken off negotiations...and ordered a new starter motor. The local apothecary of parts had said that they would have to order it. I had decided that I could do that on my own. So I did.

Saturday, I returned to negotiations with the new starter motor in hand. I made a blood-free presentation. It went so efficiently that my wife couldn't believe that I finished as soon as I had. The biggest problem had been a set of bolts on the engine cover were masquerading as 10 mm but which were in in fact 3/8 inch; those guys had taken the 10 mm at first, but when things got tough, they just shrugged their shoulders and refused to tighten up. I brought out the 3/8 and showed them who was boss, but good, see.

Overcome by the sheer brilliance of my proposal, the mower accepted it immediately by roaring into action. I still needed to battle the two weeks worth of wild jungle growth that is my lawn before the sky let loose with its tears. My yard is like The Ponderosa meets The High Chaparral--if the former were covered in lush grass and the latter boasted thistles and morning glory in lieu of cactus and chaparral, and had a gopher.

Although I had neither Hoss, Little Joe, Buck, nor even Blue to aid me, I rode into battle on the Craftsman war machine determined to conquer or die do as much as I could before the rain came. The yard knew that resistance was futile, but resist it did. Fortunately, it used the Mahatma Gandhi method--its resistance was entirely passive. Unlike the British, I had no conscience to whisper against the wholesale massacre of the little green grassy fakirs. It was slow going, but I maintained the massacre at the best possible speed with no remorse whatsoever.

Finally, the gray sky finally couldn't hold its water any longer. It began with a light sprinkle like the first tears of sadness welling up and trickling down childish cheeks. I continued the massacre unmoved. Gradually, the tears increased until great gouts of tears fell as the sky sobbed uncontrollably. I was over half finished with the task. Moved by moisture rather than remorse at my murderous mayhem, I relented while the storm passed.

When the sky had stopped its whining, I let the turf dry a while while I whiled away the time at other things, including making sure a couple of my books were now on sale at Barnes & Noble for the Nook.

Finding Jack is now available at B&N for Nook.

Justice in Season is now available at B&N for Nook.

I resumed the mayhem at the earliest opportunity because the crybaby heavens still had that gray look of sadness that threatened to break into a fit of weeping at any time. In fact, the weeping began before I had finished mowing. I carried on the labor of slaughtering the herbaceous army arrayed against me and my war machine in spite of the heavens' lament. I finished wet and weary, but triumphant over the foe.

Of course, my murderous work was yet incomplete. There remained a gopher to confront. I didn't want to face that saber-toothed menace without backup. When the sky had finished its bawling, I took a small boy to use for bait help me set the trap. He likes to carry the shovel. In a matter of moments we had laid a cunning trap for the clawed ruiner of turf--which sounds like a good name for a literary character: Claude Roowener of Turf, Earl of Clay.

This morning I checked the trap. Claude will ruin no more turf.

Don't forget, Smoke is on sale on Amazon, but the sale ends the 12th. After that, you'll have to part with at least $2.99 to peruse the pages of that work which is destined (or not) to become the literary gem of the century.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Quick Countdown. Only a few hours left to purchase this gem at $2.99. Starting tomorrow, and for only a few days, it will be on sale for $0.99. Get it now at $2.99 while you still can. Or get it tomorrow for only $0.99. It's a win-win. Pick your price. Limited time only. Get the book. Post a review.

Smoke, by Stanley Wheeler, a tale of lipstick and lead, romance and mystery told from inside the head of the impromptu detective (mostly), with a little help from his favorite authors.