Sunday, December 9, 2018


*

This weekend began (and completed) the Christmasification--or is it Christmasization?--of the estate. Fils and his children Kned and Comedienne joined us to erect the brand new yuletide pine constructed of genuine and completely man-made materials. The fun also included the festive luminizing--or is it lumification?--of the exterior timber and mansion house perimeter. A word (or several) about those sobriquets: Fils is self-explanatory; I thought Kned (pronounced either with, or without the vocalized "K" ) sounded better than "dead president;" and Comedienne was the alternative to "Dickens' French girl"--also, she did comedic things like waking us up in the middle of the night several times in order to grace us with renditions of her greatest hits--which sounded a lot like the vocal tracks on a death metal album. She's a scream--literally. We were thrilled to have them. The vocal tracks were inconsequential in comparison to the joy they brought.

Fils and I did discover that putting the Christmas lights up might have gone more smoothly if we had either had more help, or been smarter; but we managed. At the completion of the job when we viewed the lights at night, I remarked, "I was hoping that they would look better than that." He responded, "I guess we had different visions about what we were doing." I don't know what he meant by that. I had visions of a luminous staff with celestial swirls of white light in the large tree accompanied by graceful arcs of warm red cheer in the smaller tree. At dark, we saw a crooked white staff with haphazard white lines in the vicinity next to some red scribbles. It was like Lite-Brite meets a broken Spirograph--two disappointing toys from my childhood (which I never owned but which were never as fun to try as they appeared to be on television). I did take another look at those lights. From one angle, the lights on the large tree reminded me of a dragon with wings outstretched; granted, that took some imagining, but who's to say it's not a Christmas miracle?

We also had our first fire of the season in the fire pit. Louis and Lucien (The Corsican Brothers), the children of my daughter the Ice Queen and her husband Thor, were at the house last night. They enjoyed the fire and roasting marshmallows. In point of fact, the brothers preferred throwing things, including marshmallows, into the fire as opposed to merely roasting them. The fringe benefit was that we could send the brothers back to their parents smelling strongly of smoke--which the Ice Queen hates. Good times!

***
The big news, of course--cue the trumpet fanfare--is that Justice Resurgent is now available for $0.99. Click the book cover image to go to the big river sales site for the book.

*The picture at the top of the post is a Remington-Beals .44 caliber--the type of pistol used by McBride in Justice in Season and Justice Resurgent.

I have mixed feelings about this book. When I did the re-read/corrections, there were parts I really liked; there were parts that I did not love; but the ending really decided me--I think it's the most moving ending that I've written to date.

***
Finally, last week I was nearly finished with Feval's Le Loup Blanc. I finished it the next day.
General Thoughts: See below.

Story in a nutshell: A noble of Bretagne in northwest France lets his hatred of the Kingdom of France lead him to leave his estate in the hands of a duplicitous "relative" named Vaunoy while he goes to challenge the king to personal combat. The estate is supposed to pass to the noble's grandson. The scoundrel Vaunoy wants it all to himself; he not only attempts to kill the grandson, he also kills the loyal dog--so we know he's beyond redemption. Grandson is rescued, only to immediately disappear. Grandson returns later without knowledge of his birthright. Le Loup Blanc and others help restore him to his rightful estate and title.

Do I recommend it? Yes. There are a number of interesting characters and this story strongly resembles that of Robin Hood and the return of King Richard. The grandson returns like King Richard. Vaunoy holds the power like King John. Le Loup Blanc and the men of the forest resemble Robin Hood and the merry men. Marie has the role of Maid Marian. The likenesses aren't exact, but the similarities are strong. I rate it: A Valiant Variant of the Robin Hood/King Richard story.

***
What did Ricardo Montalban say with regard to Paul's epistles to the saints of Corinth?
He called them fine Corinthian Letters.


Sunday, December 2, 2018


A cutter ship is featured in the new novel in progress. Below is picture of a model of a cutter I found on the internet--I can't remember from whence it came. The cutter has taken some serious damage in the recent chapter of book, but I suspect it will recover at some point. The sloop that appears in the first chapter will not recover.


The book has progressed to chapter 7 and is paused there while I get Justice Resurgent published. The corrections recommended by the proofreaders are nearly done--20 pages left to go. I thought that I would have it completed yesterday, but reality intervened. Additionally, the story felt flat and somewhat thin on description; I reached out for some feedback regarding my doubts and received encouragement to publish; so it will post sometime next week. I'll put it up initially for $0.99.

***

The highlight of the week was this:
A local chain store runs a weekly contest. This week we won the treat pictured. I'd never had them before. I looked at the bag: coconut milk, gluten free, dairy free. I figured it was probably taste free as well. I imagined a flavor like toilet paper tubes with the texture of sandpaper. As you might imagine, I was quite excited to try them. 

Surprise: The rolls were delicious with a mild coconut flavor that was not too sweet. The delicate little rolls (made with rice flour) melt in your mouth. I think that is the best of the treat prizes that we have won. Naturally, I wasted no time in consuming them.

***

 Not quite a book review. I think I'm nearly finished with this book. I'm just starting chapter 32.
I've quite liked this book. I had previously read the first book of Le Bossu by Feval -- upon which the movie En Garde (as it's called in English, but Le Bossu in French) with Daniel Auteuil is based--and had enjoyed it--I think there are about six parts. When I got the complete works of Feval, I decided to read them in order--Le Loup Blanc is the first book in the compilation. I'm only at 4% read of the compilation and I know this book concludes within that 4% range. The ebook of this single title can be found on the big river site for free. The compilation is available for a couple dollars.

***

Part of the reason I didn't finish the corrections to Justice Resurgent on Saturday was because of other activities. My wife and I delivered to friends some treats that she had made. That activity was followed by a high school basketball game with a wild and successful finish for the home team. Finally, we concluded the evening at a presentation of an old time radio show fundraiser for a local talent group. The entire show delighted. The mystery show was outstanding with a terrific cast.

I have to confess that my favorite part of the show was the singing of Secret Love by a talented young lady. I thought that it was quite as good as Doris Day's version (which is the only version I've previously heard, and which is included on the digital album that I have. Doris Day sings it here:
Although I don't think that song is referenced in Smoke, one or two other songs that Doris Day made famous are prominently featured in that novel. Did I mention the Smoke paperback would make a great Christmas gift. The link is above on the left.

***

Also The Duelists in on Prime. I had to watch it immediately upon discovery---more on that later. For now, suffice it to say that I recommend it.

Sunday, November 25, 2018


This movie punches you in the throat from the start and then makes you try to swallow a wad of nickels wrapped in Silly Putty through the rest of the show. The movie to which I refer goes by the name of Wonder, and is based on the 2012 book of the same name by R.J. Palacio.

My daughter wanted to go see this film when it was in the theaters. I wasn't interested. Now that I've seen it, I think it should be required viewing for everyone--especially kids. Most of the show centers on Auggie, the ten-year old boy suffering from a facial deformity who is enrolled in school for the first time as he is entering 5th grade. His story delivers the punch right to the trachea. The film also gives us the perspectives of his older sister and her problems; her friend's problems; and the boy who attempts to befriend Auggie. The stories are compellingly woven together and pulled tightly around the throat to keep the viewer from swallowing the putty-wrapped coins throughout the entire movie.

Fabulous!


Book Review
I also finished The Color of Magic by Terry Pratchet.
General Thoughts: Another book that I got to read for free. An entertaining romp without much direction--like a series of short stories rather than book chapters. The tourist leads the way. There's a wizard (of a sort), a barbarian, dragons (of a sort), and a variety of other flora and fauna.

Story in a nutshell: A tourist with a trunk made from sapient pear wood leaves a trail of destruction in his wake. A wizard and a barbarian (among others) are caught up in that wake. There's a full synopsis here.

Do I recommend it? Mostly. The book has some humor; it's not lengthy and doesn't take itself too seriously. It's a fun read. I rate it: Pure 80's Pop. It has a beat to which you can dance, sounds funny, and leaves you ready for more of that unfulfilling fare.
***
And now for the real news:
I've received back the manuscript for Justice Resurgent. I'll make the corrections this week and may have it available on Amazon before the end of the month. In the meantime, get your copy of Justice in Season. Justice Resurgent takes up shortly after the end of Justice in Season with the adventures of McBride, Vaughn, Emily, Harmony, and Shorty in the fight against the outlaws of Boise City and the Payette River valley.


Sunday, November 18, 2018

With a number of years under my belt (as well as on top of my head, upon my brow, at the corner of my eyes, in my back, and hanging over my belt), I suspect that I know more now than I knew as a teenager; I'm just not as confident in what I think I know as I was then. I think Dickens was actually referring to being a teenager when he wrote:

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness...

It was indeed the best of times. The teenage years were largely fun and relatively carefree. It seemed like the worst of times because there were a lot things that tasted like canal water and ashes--speaking purely figuratively of typical teenage experience regarding the things society and future productivity as an adult required. Of course it was the age of wisdom; teenagers knew everything (and still think they do). It was the age of foolishness because nobody would pay attention to the simple solutions which they knew to be supremely true that would fix everything.

Adolescence is a bridge of ignorant confidence--with rickety guardrails at best--to the suspicious shore of  hesitant adulthood. In some cases, that bridge extends well past the shore into the 30s and 40s before the hard knocks, slaps, kicks, and punches of reality sufficiently illuminate the territory to dispel both the ignorance and the confidence.

There is more to be said about this, but I'm not going to say it.

***
On to less important things.

First, I'm nearing the 30,000 word mark in the new novel and am writing in the sixth chapter. I'm rather enjoying this particular journey.

Second, Justice Resurgent will go live before the end of the year--maybe before the end of November.


Book Review
I finished reading The Elven by Bernhard Hennen.


General Thoughts: The book aspires to be Tolkienesque. It re-imagines elves and the elven world in a way loosely based on Norse mythology. I read the Kindle version which I got for free through Prime. The hard copy is 765 pages long, but it seemed like a mere few thousand pages while reading it.

Story in a nutshell: Two elves love the same elven woman, Noroelle. She has been unable to choose between them for over 20 years. There's some boring courtship. In short, there's nothing that makes the reader at all interested in any of these three. A human is pursued by a supernatural beast into the elven realm. Some elves, including the two lovesick friends, help the human defeat the beast. They have some degree of success, or maybe not. Noroelle gets banished. The rest of the book is the quest to find Noroelle by the two elves and the human. The story takes hundreds of years--both for the characters as well as actual reading time.

Do I recommend it? No. The book isn't horrible; that may be the best I can say for it. I contemplated abandoning the book every time I read it through nearly the first 50% of the book. The writing wasn't terrible, neither was the story. It was a quick read in the same way that the Indy 500 is a drag race. Of all the characters, only the human character had any depth, and he was a viking in the classic stereotype (although, I have my doubts as to whether the vikings had any stereos--the word never even came into use until 1823, according to Meriam-Websters). The story wandered as if it were being made-up on the fly. Even after the long, long adventure (did I mention that it's extremely long) and spending oodles of time with these characters, I never liked them; I never liked the elves in general or any of them in particular. When the end reached the inevitable conclusion (although there were some unexpected twists along the way), I really didn't care. The conclusion dragged on, and on, and on. I rate it: A Massive Feast of Sawdust--the table is loaded to overflowing; one can eat and eat and eat and never enjoy a bite.

Sunday, November 11, 2018


Writing, like passing gas, is best pursued in solitude. I've read a lot of the former which closely resembles the latter delivered via keyboard. I digress; that was not my point at all. My point, gaseous though it may be, is that writing can sometimes be a bit lonely. It's one man (or woman) and the barren, desolate arena of the blank page. The seats of the coliseum remain empty. The midday sun blisters the brain with an incessant intensity as the pressure to populate the stands and to create the spectacle drums relentlessly. Who should I invite to the arena? What is the nature of the spectacle? Is it a combat or a performance? Will anyone other than me ever care to read this? Why would they? So, should I bother?



Of course I'll bother. Writing isn't a choice; it's more of an affliction. No. Writing is a joy. Writing fiction is to slip the surly bonds of the mundane to soar on the turbulent yet fickle wind of imagination with characters who become friends--invisible, nonexistent friends, but friends nonetheless. I tried having an invisible friend when I was a child; it didn't work for me; I could never get past the fact that he didn't exist. Even after I gave him a name he was a lousy friend--he wouldn't do squat for me: no chores, no eating my vegetables, no playing with my sister so I wouldn't have to--nothing (Although, maybe I was expecting too much from an invisible nonexistent entity). Eventually, I forgot to pretend that he was there, because he never was. On the other hand, even as child, I do remember making up stories with characters who also didn't exist, but who did adventurous things that I would never get to do; they were much more fun than the invisible kid who never cleaned my room (I thought that he did once, but it turned out to be my mom who cleaned it).


Let me reshape these vapors back to my original point. Writing is a solitary activity for me. The arena frequently grows crowded with characters and fast, furious action; the stands fill with adoring spectators, and I have a great time with the characters in my head as they spill their adventures across the formerly blank page into something short of reality but to which the act of writing gives an aura of permanence. Whether any actual person will ever care what the alternate-reality French girl of my novel says to the dragon huntress, or whether she escapes from the clutches of the cunning and murderous lord of mysterious power remains enigmatic.

The reward at the end of the lonely journey is to have someone read the writing and validate the trek by expressing appreciation or criticism of the work. Of course, once they do make such an expression, I make sure they regret it by trying to talk about the story and characters with them until they have to chase me away by hurling sharp stones and sharper imprecations in my direction. All of which leads, finally, to my purpose, or purposes of my aeriform observations.

First, my wife has finished reading Smoke. She has grown weary of my interrogations. Before she became so fatigued, she did, like all of the other women who have given me feedback on the book, reveal that she liked Pip more than any other character. Surprisingly (to me at least), she also liked Joan more than Monica. Second, I get around waiting for the validation until the end of the journey by asking a few people to read excerpts and tell me what they think. Some actually do. The feedback gives me a tiny shot of excitement to resume the journey with ardor. (Don't ask me who Ardor is or why he or she is on the journey; some guests may have a purpose even if they weren't invited--what's an arena for if nobody gets thrown to the lions?).

Because it's good to get confirmation that you're describing this:


rather than this:


before you get too far into the carpet sample (or gaseous cloud). While each certainly has its purpose, one is a poor substitute for the other.


Sunday, November 4, 2018


I am enjoying viewing via Vidangel The Last Kingdom series. I finished the last episode of season one this week. There were many annoying points in getting to this season finale, including, but not limited to, Uhtred losing his head and doing stupid things in anger so that Alfred can react by imposing a ridiculous punishment--such as having the only two competent commanders in his army fight to the death. Fortunately, an attack by the Danes upon Winchester prevented the completion of the punishment and both Uhtred and Leofric survived to become key players in Alfred''s defeat of the armies of Skorpa and Guthrum.

I read Bernard Cornwell's book of the same title upon which the series is based several years ago. It's a whole series of books but I only remember reading the first book. I was reading it at the public library during my lunch break. We moved away, and I can't remember if I got to finish it or not. I would like to read the series, albeit more cheaply than what I see for the book or ebook prices. Others have already written at length about the series--and I haven't checked to see what they say. I'm only addressing the final episode of the first season because it struck the perfect chord.

The picture below is from the culminating battle. It represents that perfect chord, the most satisfying moment of the first season when Alfred and his Saxons triumph after his return from the marshes. I note the second most satisfying moment of the season was earlier in the same episode when that sack of rancid gall known as Odda the Younger finally found peace through steel; his own father had to let the air out of him with a fatal thrust to shut the traitorous coward's mouth.


The journey to the season finale was frustrating and laborious, but Alfred's triumph with Uhtred's crucial assistance cleared away all those frustrations. The previous long struggle, the loss of the capital, the disappearance of Alfred to the marshes, and his quiet return to call the English (or the men of Wessex) to arms at Egbert's Stones proved to be very inspirational, blending all the strands into the perfect concluding chord. I wondered if Tolkien had based Aragorn's rallying of the Army of the Dead upon Alfred's gathering. The triumph of Alfred and the army provides the emotional payoff for the season--superbly rendered. It was a bit of a Henry V moment: "If we are marked to die, we are enow to do our country loss; and if to live, the greater share of honor."

In other news, my primary proofreader has returned the draft of Justice Resurgent with her notes and corrections. She is always very helpful. She had good things to say, and admitted that she cried when--well, obviously I can't tell you or it will ruin impact. So the sequel to my first book is nearing publication.

The new novel has moved along rather well this week. A lengthy third chapter brings together the strands from the first two chapters and sets up the course of the adventure. I think a reader should have some idea of where the story plans to go by the end of the third chapter. I found that having outlined the novel in general, I can now outline each chapter in more detail before writing it and the writing then goes much more quickly. Chapter four is outlined and underway. The direction is to Boston Harbor--hence the picture above. The main characters is this story are unlikely to say a line from Henry V that amuses me: "...but I will sell my dukedom to buy a slobbery and dirty farm in that nook-shotten isle of Albion."


Sunday, October 28, 2018

I don't know where I found this, but Halloween time seems like a good time to use it.
I'm not sure if it was a photo taken at a Star Fleet party, or an image from an unaired episode involving the Enterprise returning to earth circa 1800 and Kirk having difficulty remembering the finer points of that Prime Directive thing. 

In addition to writing a very satisfying chunk of the new novel, I caught a couple documentary movies on Prime, and finished a very good book. 


This movie was great if you're into history in general, and the French Revolution in particular. I didn't realize that it is the 2nd part of a two part deal. The movie appears to have been filmed in English--but is in French with English subtitles. It features Jane Seymour as Marie Antoinette, and Sam Neil appears briefly as LaFayette. There are others I recognize but I don't remember their names at the moment. Perhaps the first half provides more explanation; this part begins in the terror with no explanation about who is doing what or what the sides are etc. Nevertheless, I enjoyed it very much. It also reminded me of the "Slice-O" brand guillotine ad that a friend and I did for economics class when I was a sophomore in high school. On a more serious note, I think there are some present day parallels with the events and attitudes depicted. I'll leave you to watch it and draw your own parallels (if you have that sort of artistic ability--I can only draw flies). 

This film is more like a movie and less like a documentary. The Terror is shown is some fairly disturbing detail. The camera cuts away before the terrible contact of the guillotine's blade, the pitchfork's tine, or the skull to the wall--but the sound is still there. On the one hand, Robespierre eventually got what was coming to him; on the other hand, Danton's speech may have been the best part. The link to the movie is at the bottom of the page.


This movie was interesting. It's more documentary and less movie. I highly recommend it. The link to the movie is at the bottom of the page.

Book Review
Young Washington by Peter Stark
General thoughts: I can tell that I have a marked preference for a book when I neglect the other books that I'm reading in order to focus on only one. It's like having a plate full of various fine foods, and finding that you enjoy one of them so much that you consume it entirely and ignore the others. This book took me away from the other books on my current reading plate. I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I have only one criticism. The author does a lot of speculation about how Washington might have been feeling at various times, asking a lot of rhetorical questions and such. That annoyed me intensely. Fortunately, the bulk of the material is factual, historical, well documented, and presented in a manner that is clear and relates an exciting story.

Story in a nutshell: The young future president's commission to take a message to the French to vacate the Ohio River Valley results in a splitting headache for Jumonville that no amount of aspirin can cure. The young officer is forced to surrender to the French and Indians, and sets off a global conflict between the French and British. He whines quite a bit, acts heroically, and whines some more. He seems to be the lone hero of Braddock's debacle, but never could get himself appointed as a Royal Officer. He goes through experiences that undoubtedly helped prepare him to command the Continental Army.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely! Nonfiction is almost always better than fiction, but this history is better than much nonfiction as well. A quarter of the book is made up of bibliography, footnotes, index, and additional notes. The story reveals how busy Washington was; it sheds more light on both his character and his exploits than I was taught in any classes that I ever took. I rate it: Mandatory Meat for the history gourmand.