Sunday, April 21, 2019

Nature changed her mind. She had written a wonderful spring week with abundant sunshine filling days with the warm supple feel of a baby's smooth cheek. She had brought not only green but striking yellow hues about which bees and assorted other insects turned to and fro in their ecstatic aerial dances. She had a change of heart on Friday. She ferociously rewrote, adding plot complications that included gray skies which brooded in a dark funk above the landscape before lashing out with furious winds and unleashing airborne oceans to remind us that April is a capricious child prone to sudden (and sodden) tantrums. Nature is all about character development. She writes in epic colors with the voice of thunder and tempest without ever forgetting the details that bring her characters to life--and yet she is not nearly so eloquent as the empty tomb.

In other words, it was too wet to mow and too wet, windy and rainy to spray the weeds. I did manage to repair a cabinet door and launch into a game of Song of Drums and Shakos (Large Battles) on Saturday while the wretched wetness reigned outside. The Austrians were supposed to be fighting a defensive battle but they seized the initiative and have relentlessly taken the fight to the French. It's a fun and fairly simple game. It's not quite as fun as the wild beast I created by combining Age of Eagles with elements of Rogue Stars, but it is simpler and quicker--although, I think the rules could have been more clearly written that they were.

I should have been writing but I made my thousand words per day during the week. I'm at 19,000 words. That's nearly a quarter of the way through Power to Hurt, the sequel to Threading the Rude Eye. I still expect to have it ready by the end of July this year.

Given recent events, I've included a few pics of Notre Dame Cathedral taken when we were there in May 2017. My other pictures of the place would be from 1983 or 84 (I'll have to find them).

Sunday, April 14, 2019

"I am sorry to think that you do not get a man's most effective criticism until you provoke him. Severe truth is expressed with some bitterness."

I cast a book into the chasm this week. I never heard it hit the bottom. Although that may sound like a reference to the way I publish my own books, it's actually about a book that I was reading which I cast off; I'm not going to finish it. The story ceased to interest me. I didn't like the characters and I discovered that I didn't really care where the story was going. It was a book that I picked up for free and thought it would be a quick read, a break from Brandon Sanderson's Oathbringer.  I saw that I still had 22 hours of Oathbringer left and I needed a break. Even a tasty main dish benefits from an interesting side dish. I chose the free book as the side dish. At about 40% or so through that book, I saw that I still had approximately 11 hours of reading left. I considered the characters--there wasn't one that I liked. The main character, while sympathetic, acted too foolishly to tolerate any longer--I really think his own people would have killed him. He was, I believe, about to go on and become mighty and powerful in a war that seemed too contrived to me and which featured that which has a tendency to push me toward the realm of daydreaming about whether I would rather have a root canal or a kidney stone--demons. It featured demons. So into the chasm it went. Many people have rated it highly and the author has a nice style. It just wasn't for me.

Brandon Mull spoke in one of Sanderson's videos about characters. If I remember correctly, he said something like, "I make up stories about imaginary people doing things that never happened, and I want others to care. How do I get other people to care about what a centaur says to a 13 year-old girl in my story?" (I've put that in quotes but it's not an exact quote). He placed characters at the head of his five point list for writing a great story. The story lives or dies by its the characters. One of my sample readers congratulated me on the excellent character development in the early chapters of Threading The Rude Eye (He said that he liked the battle scenes too, but this bit is about characters). He may not have heard the French girl's accent in his head quite the way I did when I wrote it, or admired her caramel colored eyes, or enjoyed the subtle and not so subtle insults delivered by the former Japanese peasant become-successful-English-businessman, but he did enjoy something about the characters. If he can find some interest and pleasure in learning about the players in my story, my creation has been at least partially successful. I'm confident that he'll like where the characters go and the arcs through which some of them will travel. The action and combat in a story are fun to imagine and to write, but if the characters don't matter, the combat and its results lack importance and impact.

I know what you're thinking:

Speaking of combat (which is my understated way of segueing into a completely different topic) I engaged in an epic battle in the ongoing campaign against the prolific growth of plant based lifeforms surrounding my home. It was the first battle of the season. The enemy had gathered in numberless hosts. The Craftsman warmachine fired to life with the first turn of the key. It did insist on a shot of go-juice, and a morale boosting harangue in the form of compressed air blasted into three of the four tires, but it performed without protest. While I listened to episode 2 of Supernova in the East from Dan Carlin's Hardcore History podcast, the warmachine slaughtered the grassy foe with both blades whirling like twin cyclones that spewed verdant corpses like a grossly efficient abattoir roulant. (It occurs to me that "roulant" is not an English word; it should be--it sounds better than saying a "rolling abattoir"--although, "slaughterhouse on wheels" probably conveys the idea just as well but then I don't get to sound like a pretentious bore who slips in foreign words for artistic effect while attempting to fill that empty void where self-worth is supposed to be located. "Empty void" is redundant but I like it for the three syllable emphasis that using "void" alone would not achieve).

Finally, sometime this week I slipped in (meaning I "found time for," not that I "stepped upon and fell to the ground as a result")a little Charlie Chaplin. I thought this was a scream. My favorite seen was the duel/wrestling match. The title is "A Burlesque On Carmen." Enjoy it if you get time.

And uberfinally, the progress on Power to Hurt continues with the 14K mark having been passed.

Sunday, April 7, 2019

"The more thrilling, wonderful, divine objects I behold in a day, the more expanded and immortal I become."

Speaking of thrilling and wonderful objects, take a look at this:

Which you can get here (hatchet and knife not included). Immortality is looking me in the rude eye and I intend to expand. As far as the expansion goes, I fell short of my goal for the week on the sequel, but I did more than double what I had last week. I'm just over 8,500 words in -- so it's ten percent finished; I'm in chapter three.

As you can see from the picture, my paperback copy came this week, honestly I set the paper size larger than I intended so the book is a little thinner than I had planned. Rather than change it, I'll make each book in the series that size--and I'm looking for reviews. The ebook is only $0.99.


On another thrilling front, I dismembered three corpses this week.

These three individuals had been hanging around my house for some time now. I was getting a little annoyed with the way they threw shade in my direction. I waited, knowing that I could get the drop on them without too much effort. When I started the chainsaw they quivered but were too scared to move. It was like they was rooted in place, I tell ya. I do got to confess that two of them were already dead and the third was so sick that it couldn't have been saved by even the best soigeon.

The first day, my son Paul Bunyan and I cut off all the limbs from the one what was still breathing. We was going to put the blade to the torso, and we did, a little, but we had inferior cutlery that wasn't suited to cutting through a body of that size. So anyway, my son knew a guy who had what we needed. He came back another day with the improved hardware and we cut down all three like it was the St. Valentine's Day massacre. It got a little messy but we didn't mind too much. My son did most of the cutting.

We piled the smaller body parts where we could put the torch to them when we get ready; the rest we're saving for special occasions to dispose of when we got family over and need something to throw on the fire. We like our celebrations. We'll put the torch to the smaller parts later this month.

This seems like a good time to give a little review of The Highwaymen.

I saw it via vidangel so that I could filter out the unpalatable parts--which in the case of this movie was mostly language but you might want to filter some of the violence if you want to avoid scenes of bloodshed.

Costner and Harrelson play Frank Hamer and Maney Gault, the Texas Rangers who helped put an end to Bonnie and Clyde. The movie is shown almost entirely from the point of view of these two. If I'm capable of doing basic addition and subtraction (and that is a matter of reasonable dispute), I calculate that Hamer was 50 years old and Gault was age 48 in 1934 when these events took place. Costner and Harrelson play the pair as old men who appear to be in their 60's. It worked for dramatic effect in my opinion.

The film is stunning in a way that doesn't draw attention to that fact. The camera angles, broad shots and narrow shots, are excellent without resorting to peculiar angles or perspectives. The sets/locations are beautiful in a plain and apparently authentic way. I'm no authority on the way things looked in 1934, but the film looked good. The old cars are always beautiful. Notably, there really aren't any good shots of Bonnie and Clyde until they look up into the camera (which is substituting for the eyes of Hamer and Gault) just before their very timely demise. They look like a pair of jr. high school kids skipping class.

The Hamer-Gault relationship is done well but not over done. They share some nice banter. Harrelson is of course the more talkative of the two. His character in speaking with other characters provides background about the pair of rangers. There were a couple quotes that I wanted to remember--but didn't.

I've previously mentioned the 1967 Faye Dunaway, Warren Beatty Bonnie and Clyde movie. This movie is nice contrast to that romanticized version of the criminals. If you're looking to see the seated herky-jerky dance by Bonnie and Clyde to the rapid staccato of several machine-guns, you won't be disappointed--but that scene isn't as memorable for me as it was in the 1967 movie. 

Sunday, March 31, 2019

“...Deal mercifully with any whose wounds are too serious to treat. Put tomahawks in their hands before you send them to Valhalla. We’ll escort the wounded to town before we continue the chase. First we’ll construct a pyre.”
--The last words we hear from the Supreme Commander in chapter one of the sequel to Threading The Rude Eye (Tentatively entitled, Power to Hurt)

All of which means that not only is the first book available, the sequel is underway with the first chapter nearly complete--and serious carnage happens. (Serious Carnage -- should be a cartoon character name).

I spent about 5 hours Friday night and Saturday morning working on the paperback version -- I got an email last night or this morning telling me that the paperback is now also live for purchase. I'll order my copy tomorrow and post a picture when I get it. I went to significantly more effort getting this one into paperback than I did with Smoke. It looked fabulous on the screen. I hope the finished product is even better.

I said I was nearly done with the first chapter; that's correct. The new books is at 4K--it would've been double or triple that word count but for the fact that the flu fairy paid me an unsolicited visit and I thought it unwise to allow my fevered brain and trembling limbs to venture into the fictional world of my creation and thereby inflict the characters with tribulations any more severe than I have already planned for them: Things will get bad--very bad--for Alex and the crew. No point in giving them the flu too.


Finally, two unrelated items. 
First, from H.D. Thoreau:
"We are sometimes made aware of a kindness long passed, and realize that there have been times when our friends' thoughts of us were of so pure and lofty a character that they passed over us like the winds of heaven unnoticed; when they treated us not as what we were, but as what we aspired to be."

Second, for no particular reason, a partially painted woodland Indian
Picture taken a week or two ago during actual game play of A Song of Drums and Tomahawks. The woodland warriors were victorious over my frontier fighters.

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Pain. With each step a horned demon hammered jagged spikes deeper into my thighs. All the while a lesser imp blew new fury into the coals beneath the burgeoning blister behind my toe. Later I found new agony. I'm no medical doctor but I'm pretty sure that there are places upon the human body that are not supposed to surge with electric pain at every step. I have located what I believe should be one of those places--but it does. I believe the root cause of the affliction can be attributed to the men and boys who forced me to attend the ten mile hike. A mountainous route would have resulted in the acquisition of demons far less dedicated to their work than those who joined me along the graveled road upon which we trod. It's only the demon of the surging voltage of torment that troubles me. That fiend didn't make its presence felt yesterday until well after the 21K plus steps had been completed. I'm hoping to lose it in some labyrinthine dream tonight.

I tried exorcising (unsuccessfully) the demons last night by watching this:
This 1955 film is a tight little tale of love, hate, and murder--the three sides of the love triangle. Vera Clouzot is particularly good as the weak-hearted wife Christina who joins the mistress played by Simone Signoret in a plot to kill her abusive husband. The film is in black and white and in French with English subtitles. Signoret plays the hard-as-nails Nicole, mastermind of the plot. Paul Meurisse plays the brutal husband and schoolmaster Michel. (Every time he moved or spoke, I thought of Jack Webb).
The other characters at the boarding school are solid characters even though they don't get much screen time. Clouzot and Signoret are the stars.

It's a five-star film in my opinion. If you don't mind subtitles (or you like to hear some French that's spoken fairly clearly) you'll enjoy this superb piece of film history. If I had the time, I would enjoy doing a reframe with the black and white images to accompany my own made-up story.

I have no time to do such a reframe because my writing time is dedicated to the sequel to:
which is available on the big river site for only 99 cents. (Click the image to go to the site). The tentative title to the sequel is Power to Hurt--but that could change. The sequel takes up right where Threading The Rude Eye ends.

I include the dedication from TTRE:

Mere words fall short of expressing the gratitude that is due to all those who have helped me along the way in bringing forth this book. Those who instilled in me a love of both history and fantasy should bear most of the blame. However, those who have engaged in the lesser crimes of encouraging and enabling me along the way must share a portion of guilt. I will refrain from naming names lest I incriminate those who persist in considering themselves but innocent bystanders or reluctant witnesses. While the ultimate product is my full responsibility, my wife (who allowed me time to write) and my children and friends (who read samples and provided half-hearted criticism) must live with a knowledge of their complicity in that which follows.

In the reading in progress, I'm part way through S. Michael Law's The Founders Revolution and I could resist no longer the call of Sanderson's Oathbringer. Both are excellent so far.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

“Arise, arise, Riders of Théoden!

Fell deeds awake, fire and slaughter!
spear shall be shaken, shield be splintered,
a sword-day, a red day, ere the sun rises!"

Saturday was a red day. Stalwart shield maidens arose in their flamboyant gladiatorial war skirts and vibrantly colored tops, armed with flashing pom-poms and crowned with ornate oversize bows to clash above the painted hardwood on a drab gray foam battlefield in a fierce no-quarter contest of talent, skill, and will. Fell deeds indeed; heroes fell. Hopes fired and dreams slaughtered. Wills were shaken. Hearts splintered. A glory day, a red day, the sun rises on new champions!

In other words, Saturday was the state championship cheerleader competition. Among the tremendously talented athletes, in one division two teams stood out: the blue team and the red team. Blue, the returning champions, may have been the best team in any division in the state; the red team had imbibed of the sweet succulent vintage of victory in the past; they returned to the battlefield with a thirst for that transformative taste of triumph. Every other team yearned to garner those same laurels but only one had a chance to topple one or both of the titans. The fantastic fight and strenuous struggle to vanquish competitors and capture the title played out throughout the afternoon and evening upon the gray mat.

At the end, after the battlefield with its invisible wreckage of damaged dreams, ghosts of wounded pride, and memories of hallowed heroes had been rolled up and removed from the hardwood, the shield maidens gathered to await the casualty count. Most of them knew that they had taken wounds but hoped that they had given as good as they had got and then some. These were the moments of inner tension, the battle with the turmoil within, self-doubt, apprehension, and a recollection of how superbly the other competitors had performed. Would the blue team walk away with that title that seemed theirs for the taking in spite of the best efforts of the other contenders? It seemed so as the various categories within the competition were being announced. In the three events that determined the championship, blue took two firsts; red had a first and a second. Blue was headed toward a repeat victory. If blue took first or second in the final announcement, they would walk away once more with the championship trophy. It seemed a foregone conclusion...until the moment when the voice introduced the blue team as the third place team in the event. 

A sudden uncertainty reverberated through the scene as if a grand hammer had struck the gong of possibilities. Could red reach the victory crown or had blue still finished ahead? As the announcer gave the second place finish in the event to the spoiler, a brightness dawned upon the red team as of the first light on the fifth day at Helm's Deep; they could win; they could win it all if they finished first in the event. They would have two firsts and a second against blue's two firsts and a third. A mighty grasp  of Fate's unseen hand gripped the throat in that limbo between the ecstasy of triumph and the dark despair of defeat. Hopes longed to fly skyward on victorious wings but remained chained to the leaden possibility of disappointment.

The proclamation of red as the event winner dissolved the chains of doubt. Red soared to victory, to triumph, to the pinnacle of success. Red had seized the championship by virtue of hard work, skill, dedication, luck, and willpower. Blue (as well as other teams) had all those things as well in as much abundance. Somewhere along the way little things made the difference. Little things add up--there are a lot of little things. They say, "Don't sweat the small stuff," but it's the small stuff that determines those narrow margins of victory between champions of the highest caliber. Can you calculate ability by the blister, skill by the sweat-soaked shirt, or talent by the teardrop? No magic formula can render the intangibles that coalesce to make champions anymore than a hammer can forge a cloud. Although there can only be one champion of the day, every competitor wins a bit of courage, a ration of character, and whiff of victory's aroma for having struggled and strained to reach for the prize.