Sunday, May 19, 2024

About Time

 

 


 My, my, my, look at the time. It's that time of the week again. A blank blog whispers for attention. Time is slip sliding away, and slipping, slipping, slipping into the future. Who invented time? Was it a conspiracy by clock makers to sell their previously worthless wares? When did time start? Will it end? Could we have measured time in a different manner than seconds, minutes, hours, and days? Is it true that the first sun dial was actually a wrong number? 

These may not burning questions. Although, that could be a unit of measurement--the time it takes for on object of a particular size, shape, and weight to burn could be 1 burn. That could be useful. It's visual. In fact, I believe candles have been used to mark the passage of time, which is useful at night when the power is out for the sun dial--but that still doesn't answer the question, "Does anyone really know what time it is?"

Time flies--which may explain the delays at the airports. Time waits for no man--but it's been known to loiter for a lady. Time is what keeps everything from happening all at once--but how long would that take? If time didn't exist, would patience still be a virtue?

_____________________

In case I forgot, here's an interview featuring me.

On the writing front, the latest novel proceeds. I hope to finish in a week. I continue to add details to my upcoming presentation on forging unforgettable stories. It has been a helpful exercise. When I get a feeling that something isn't right with some section of writing or character, I can ask questions based on material in the presentation to arrive at the precise nature of the shortcoming. In fact, I don't have to ask questions; I read it and realize what's absent in the literary alchemy.




Sunday, May 12, 2024

 Fun Fact:

Bohemond and his Norman troops scale the walls of Antioch, 

Gather round and hear the tale of the taking of Antioch in the spring of ten-ninety-eight. A fair Norman prince, Bohemond was--although of the generic sort as far as that title goes. During the first crusade, it was, that gathered princes stormed the gate. For many long months the knights and their armed kith had laid siege to their Turkish foes. Another Iliad it was, with the conquerors held long at bay. No Trojan horse did breach the wall, but an armorer willing to betray. 

Fayruz succumbed to promises of gold made by Bohemond the bold. The host of Christendom feigned a retreat from impregnable Antioch. It was but a ploy to terminate the lengthy deadlock.

Bohemond and his chosen returned to clandestine ropes lowered by Fayruz in the dark of night. The revenants climbed into the tower, keen to engage in the fight. They threw open the gates and broke the lock, inviting their host into Antioch.

They took the city and put a portion to the slaughter, slaying many, sparing neither son nor daughter. Yet the elation was short lived as a new enemy approached. The besiegers became the besieged, surrounded by a numerous host.

With city stores exhausted from their own successful strangle, the princes scrounged for food and sustenance in every corner and angle. Amid this desperation, pilgrim Peter had a vision of a holy lance. Deep in a hole within the church he found the relic that would provide a fighting chance.

Driven to desperation and instilled with religious ardor, the soldiers sallied forth with ambition to conquer. The Frankish army charged the stunned enemy, who divided by their factions to escape and to flee.

_________

If you gathered from the above that I'm reading Dan Jones' Crusaders, you would be right. The poetic mayhem--for how else can the inconsistent meter and roving rhyme be described?--is entirely of my own manufacture.


 

Sunday, May 5, 2024

The Fall of Generals

 

Benjamin West's The Death of Wolfe

 The Fun Fact today returns us to the French and Indian War and Wolfe's attempt to take Quebec.

In September 1759, Wolfe was moving forces up river, but Montcalm believed that was a diversion and that the British attack on the French stronghold would once again be directed at Beauport. In fact, that was what Wolfe had wanted to do. His brigadiers, however, said, "Don't" to that plan--thus extending the conflict (drama) and creating tension, for those of you interested in story techniques. Therefore, Wolfe, like a true literary hero, pointed out the cliffs at Anse au Foulon west of Quebec to Monckton as the place were that general would lead his troops in an assault. Monckton reacted with "Suspicion" to the idea, not knowing the overall scheme of attack and what Murray and Townsend might be assigned.

September 12, the brigadiers told Wolfe, "Don't Be Cruel" and demanded some details on his plan. Wolfe was not forthcoming with specifics, letting them know that he would be with Monckton's troops, and that Murray and Townsend would follow with their troops if the assault proved successful. Wolfe prepared his will and dressed in his best uniform. At midnight he determined "It's Now or Never" and gave the word to execute the transport of troops to the landing site. 

His plan, which did not seem the best option at the time, required moving his soldier in a flotilla of boats down the swift Saint Lawrence River to on a rocky shore in the dark, to scale a steep cliff, and form up on the plain above without being spotted and driven away before they could so assemble. Understandably, the generals were not filled with "Burnin' Love."

By way of distraction, British guns bombarded the defenses at Beauport where the French continued to expect the assault. French sentries noted the passing of boats in the darkness and cried out. However, someone on the British boats replied in French, and the sentries did not raise an alarm. By four in the morning the advance force of 1800 men, among whom was Lt. Col. William Howe leading a detachment of light infantry. Howe would command the British forces for a time during the American War for Independence.

A detachment of Canadian militia opened fire on Howe's light infantry, and Wolfe halted the landing. However, Wolfe's adjutant, Major Isaac Barré (who would be wounded in the cheek and lose his right eye in the coming battle) ignored Wolfe's command and continued sending troops up the cliff. If there is a hero of the battle, perhaps it's Barré rather than Wolfe.

Montcalm heard the shooting, but continued to believe it was a diversion from the true point of attack at Beauport. Nevertheless, he did order a battalion back to a position west of Quebec. When the sound of battle became more convincing, the French General rode with 4500 regulars and militia to the Plains of Abraham to confront Wolfe and the 4,000 British of Monckton's and Townsend's commands who had climbed into position.

Montcalm had sent orders for Bougainville and his troops to come and attack Wolfe from the west, trapping him between the two French forces. Unfortunately, the hammer refused to wait for the anvil, and simply cast itself into the flames. Montcalm sent his line of troops against Wolfe's red line in a frontal assault.

When the French had closed to within 150 yards, the first rank of French attackers dropped to one knee and fired a volley into the British line. A ball struck General Wolfe in the wrist, shattering the bones. The French reloaded and continued the advance. At 60 yards, the British flanks began to fire. At 40 yards, the British center unleashed a blast that halted the French advance and sent into a precipitate charge to the rear.

Wolfe, before falling with mortal wounds in the intestines and chest, ordered a bayonet charge to destroy the running French. Montcalm fell with wounds to his leg and stomach, to die the next morning. Wolfe died on the field.

Command fell to Townsend, who ordered the British forces to regroup. Bougainville withdrew.

The garrison of 2,200 soldier, sailors, and militia had rations for three days to defend Quebec and its 6,000 inhabitants from the British invasion. The garrison chose to "Surrender" on September 17 with a relief force of 5,000 only a dozen miles away. The English granted the French troops safe passage to France and the militiamen were permitted to join their families.

Just in time for winter, the British had made themselves masters of the ruins. The British fleet left. Townsend said, "I'm Leavin'," and returned to England, and Monckton went to New York to recover from his wounds. James Murray was left in charge of a starving city with a French army to the west and no hope of immediate aide.

--I've consulted my highlights from The French and Indian Wars: Deciding the Fate of North America by Walter R. Borneman, Chapter 13 for this fun fact episode.

*"Don't," "Suspicion," "Don't Be Cruel," "It's Now or Never," "Burnin' Love," "I'm Leavin'," and "Surrender" were hits by what great American performer? 

_____________

I've just started reading Dan Snow's Crusaders, and I'm listening to Alan Dean Foster's To The Vanishing Point

In the writing war, I'm down to the final 10-15K words on the bugmageddon novel. I've also had an interesting idea that will put a twist on a couple characters in the Tomahawks and Dragon Fire Series.



Sunday, April 28, 2024

Wayne Turmel

 Interview with Wayne Turmel

Author of

The Urban Fantasy Series Werewolf PI and more

Please tell me a little about your current work in progress.

My work in progress is scheduled to be out December 8. It’s the sequel to my Urban Fantasy Detective Thriller, “Johnny Lycan and the Anubis Disk.”  Book 2 is called “Johnny Lycan and the Vegas Berserker.” Johnny has to leave Chicago for Las Vegas. He runs into witches, a psychic pawn broker, and something even bigger and meaner than he is.. and he’s a werewolf!

(I note that Mr. Turmel's 3rd book in the series, Johnny Lycan and the Last Witch Finder, is currently on pre-order at Amazon)

Where did you get the idea for this book or series?

I’ve always loved detective thrillers, and Lycans (werewolves and shapeshifters) are my favorite Urban Fantasy Trope. I literally had a dream one night I was a werewolf in a fight trying to save someone… and the rest came from there. I think a writer’s greatest gift is to ask “what if…” and keep asking it until he gets to something really unique.

Do you write in more than one genre?  Boy, do I. It’s almost like I have literary ADD. Most of my books have been non-fiction, in the business and communication space through my day job at the Remote Leadership Institute. My first three novels were historical fiction, one (The Count of the Sahara) set in the 1920s, and the other two (Acre’s Bastard and Acre’s Orphans) during the Crusades. Then I switched genres for Johnny Lycan. And my published short fiction is all over the place.


Tell me about something that you believe makes your writing unique or worthy of attention. Gosh, that’s a tough question to answer without sounding either pretentious as hell or falsely modest (which my mother informed me was a sin as bad as bragging.) Honestly, I believe that since I spent over fifteen years as a standup comedian before joining the adult world, humor is integral to what I do. Even in historical fiction, people find things funny and often laugh in the most horrible situations. Johnny Lycan has elements of fantasy, horror, and violence but it’s also funny. Imagine having claws the size of hams, with seven-inch claws but  being stopped by something as prosaic as a door knob!

Is there anything about your personal history or personality that manifests strongly in your writing?

Obviously, the humor is something I couldn’t stop if I wanted to (and I don’t, although it sometimes needs to be wrangled into submission.) More importantly, almost all my protagonists are written in the first person, and it’s clear that they all suffer some degree of imposter syndrome… that they aren’t up to the situation they face and don’t know if they can make it. Wonder where that comes from?

What else would be helpful for readers to know about you?  I am a pretty open book. I take both my fiction and nonfiction seriously, and I think they are of equal quality. I know this makes it hard to classify me as a writer, but my ego won’t let me write under a pseudonym. I work really hard on my books and my brain needs the endorphin release when people tell me they like my work. If people check out my Amazon Author page they can judge for themselves, I suppose.

Excluding your own work, what underrated author or book would you recommend that more people read? Why?  There are so many indie authors who do good work but aren’t recognized, and it depends on what genre people enjoy. I think Jeffrey Walker’s “Sweet Wine of Youth,” Trilogy, spanning WW1 and the early 1920s deserves an audience.

Which of your books do you most highly recommend? Why?   You do realize that’s a completely unfair question, like asking which of your children you love most. Being the father of an only child, I’ve been spared that misery up until now. I think Acre’s Bastard is a really thrilling adventure story, but because it’s about a ten-year-old, people assume it’s a children’s story or a YA novel. It’s definitely written for adults, and I think if they read it, they’ll be intrigued enough to continue on with Acre’s Orphans.

Which break, event, decision, or fortuitous circumstance has helped you or your writing career the most? The biggest decision (and I have made it multiple times) was just to say, “the hell with it,” and give it a try. Whether that was my show-business career, leaving Canada for the US, writing books, or deciding to just up and move to Las Vegas a few years ago.  One of the things my wife (the Duchess) and I talk about all the time is that we have very few things we’ve wanted to do in life that we didn’t try. God knows, we didn’t always succeed, but people regret what they don’t do or try more than they do the things they tried and failed at.

What question do you wish you would get asked more often?  I wish people would ask, “Can we buy your books in bulk?” but I don’t think that’s what you really want to know. Really, I would love people to understand how to best support indie authors. The biggest way is by leaving reviews and ratings. I know it sounds pathetic, but with the way the book sites operate, the number of reviews is considered a leading indicator of whether people are interested in the book. Leave a review, it’s like applause for the author and actually helps more than you think.


Do you have a catch-phrase or quote that you like? What is it? And why do you choose it?

My personal motto is “Pain is inevitable, misery is optional.” It’s been attributed to everyone from the Buddha to the Dalai Lama to Robin Williams. Whoever said it first, it’s true. Everyone’s life contains good and bad. Denial only works for so long. It’s how you choose to respond to the bad stuff that determines whether you will be miserable or reasonably happy. I choose reasonably happy.

________________________

Thanks to Wayne for participating, and don't forget to check out his books on Amazon.

In my war against the blank page, I recently finished a flash fiction sword and sorcery story that I'll submit tomorrow. I hope to complete the bugmageddon novel next month. Don't forget to pick up your copy of the Wyrd West anthology, featuring my story, "A Matter of Letters." While you're at it, you can get PinUP Noir 2 as well with my story, "Monica on My Mind."





Sunday, April 21, 2024

Marengo

 

 A little Pub Battles Marengo from CommandPost Games this week.

The Marengo Map spreads out large and beautiful. The year is 1800. France is at war with Austria. Bonaparte deftly handled the Austrians in Italy a few years before. Now he has risen to the position of First Consul of the French. With part of his army across the Bormida River from Alessandria, where General Melas has massed an Austrian army nearly double the size of Bonaparte's force, Napoleon has blocked Melas' supply lines. Melas must attack or maneuver away. A double agent man, for whom I know neither the name nor number, provided false information that Melas would maneuver. Based on that information, Bonaparte sent part of his forces away to monitor other possible avenues for Melas.

Instead of Maneuvering away, Melas attacks the divided French force.


 I've never been disappointed with any game I've played that is a re-fight of Marengo. I've played with Napoleon's Battles and a few other miniature rules, including my own homebrew sets. However, Pub Battles Marengo has the advantage of being playable in an hour or so. The game sets up quick and it plays quick. As you can see in the picture below--the final positions of the game I played last week--the game uses wooden blocks. They're much easier and quicker to use than the chits or counters or miniatures used in other games I've played.

What makes this battle such a ripping good time to play? The Austrians cross the river in overwhelming force against the French advance forces under Vandamme and Lannes. These generals have have to delay the Austrians so that Napoleon, who's back at the other end of the long battlefield, can bring the reserve to the fight. The reserve is also a small force but includes the idominatable Consular Guard. Additionally, Murat and some French cavalry, including Kellerman's formidable cuirassiers, are on hand to lend assistance. Even with the reserve and the cavalry, the French are outnumbered. 

Napoleon may have an ace, or at least a face card up his sleeve. He has sent for Desaix's division to return at the double time with no dawdling along the way. Can Lannes and Vandamme delay the Austrians without being crushed and dooming the French army to defeat? Can Napoleon prevent Melas from reopening his supply line? Will Desaix arrive in time to save the French from the Austrian war machine?

Below is scene from midway through this week's game. I randomly altered the Austrian order of battle for greater uncertainty for the French. The lone white block just to the right of the upper center is an Austrian baggage train. That blue line extending toward it is an attempt by the French to get to that baggage train. If successful, the French will win the game. If unsuccessful, they may at least force Melas to divert troops from the French baggage train that he is threatening. Because of the nature of the game, neither can be certain that the units they're threatening are in fact baggage trains. It's a gamble.

What's so special about baggage trains? First, if you lose one, you lose the battle. If you have a line of supply, you can unpack the train and use it to rally troops, so they can live on and fight another round. However, once they're unpacked, the trains can't move. If you have to pack one of them up after you've unpacked it, you lose. I find this adds even great urgency and uncertainty to the battle.

Below is a picture from later in the battle. As you can see, the French didn't get to Melas' baggage train, but they did force him to defend it, relieving the threat to one of their own baggage trains. Bonaparte is blocking the left hook by the Austrians shown on the lower right of the map, and Desaix has arrived and advanced at the far left edge.

However, Bonaparte's baggage train is under threat. The French unpacked the trains earlier, so they can't move. They're committed to the battle and can't retreat without devastating losses.

The picture below shows the end of the battle.

Thanks to the daring charges by the French cavalry and the valiant efforts of the infantry, the Austrian losses exceeded their will to fight. They broke with 50% casualties to their infantry. Although Bonaparte's and an Austrian baggage train were seriously threatened, the Austrian army broke before either could be taken.



 

 

Sunday, April 14, 2024

Wrestling Ouroboros

 


The winners of my flash fiction contest will be announced tomorrow in my newsletter (click the newsletter link at the top of the page to get signed up for it). 

The war began this week. I rolled out the war machine and replaced the deck belt. The illustrations and directions I saw for completing the task required detaching the deck. Naturally, I did not do that. Although I'm sure it would've made the replacement operation easier, it would've taken more than twice as long to remove and replace the deck. The method I chose, after removing the ouroboros-esque item from the simple packaging in which in had arrived by post from the big river site, was accomplished on my knees by feel with limited visual assistance.

I placed the new belt as I removed the old one. The theory being that I would be sure to match the course of the old one by proceeding in that manner. My hypothesis proved correct--mostly. I did run into a little trouble manipulating the two belts in removing the old one from the pulleys and adding the new one. They got tangled. Theoretically, I could've done it without that complication. However, in actual practice, murphy's law manifested itself, or maybe the two belts became animated by jinn or manipulated by unseen gremlins. I think I had to put on and remove the new belt from one of the pulleys at least three times. You would think I was working with forty foot phone cords and a team of drunk ferrets - but it was only me, myself, and I. At any rate, victory was mine without any smearing of corpuscles or shredding of dermal layers--win-win. I bent both belts to my will.

The old belt had been slipping in tall grass (which aptly describes the yard for the first battle of the year) and I discovered that it had not only stretched but was severely cracked. I probably would've broken soon. It's only been in heavy use for 12 years.

The new belt worked fine and the war machine attacked grass and weeds in a frenzy of indiscriminate slaughter. I mowed half of the yard that evening, and then Saturday, instead of only mowing the second half, I had to mow the entire thing. The jungle had rejuvenated after only a few days. The seasonal war is live once again.

On the writing front, a few more chapters of the bug novel have been drafted and posted for my skirmish team's review, and I still have two short stories out without final decisions on publication status. Which reminds me that I also have a story from a year ago at a publisher who seemed to want to publish, but has experienced unspecified delays without providing a new publication date.

I've reviewed and adjusted my presentation on Forging Unforgettable Stories. I've included my opening sentences of the presentation in my newsletter for subscriber comment. I could share some of it here but:



Sunday, April 7, 2024

Ladyhawke

 

I know I just did a movie review last week, but the eclipse approaches for some (not me), and Ladyhawke is available to stream for free on tubi. It's as if the planets have aligned. So, it's a sword and sorcery movie from the 80s for the win. Directed by Richard Donner. Written by Edward Khmara, Michael Thomas, and Tom Mankiewicz

We begin with the true star of the show. The character is Phillipe Gaston, played by Ferris Bueller--apparently he took another day off to go to Italy to film this gem that is supposed to be set in the south of France. Why start with him? First, because he is the star of the show, getting more screen time and lines than any other character (by my gut reckoning), and because he's the character that makes the show worth watching.

His witty banter and conversations with God are the best reasons for watching the show. Second, when the movie first came out, my neighbors saw it and told my parents they enjoyed it and that Phillipe reminded them of me. I'm not sure if they thought I was a pick pocket, an escape artist, an amoral wit, a lock pick, or an entertaining conversationalist (which is what I'm going with). Phillipe is all of these. 

Our hero escapes from the dungeons of Aquila--a fortress city presided over by its bishop (played by John Wood).

After his departure via the sewer, the hero is nearly recaptured as he boasts of his evasion and offers to buy drinks for all patrons of the establishment. His cheer takes a turn when the patrons reveal themselves as the bishop's guards tasked with capturing and/or exterminating the thief. He is saved from death by Etienne Navarre, the former captain of the guard. 


 Phillipe begins to have his suspicions about his new companion when he disappears for the night, the host of the hovel where they stay tries to kill him but is instead slain by a black wolf, and a beautiful woman mysteriously turns up in the barn. 

Navarre (played by Rutger Hauer), has plans to kill the Bishop of Aquila and believes Phillipe can help him get inside the fortress. 

Phillipe eventually learns that Navarre's hawk becomes the woman who appears at night, and that Navarre becomes the wolf from sundown to sunrise. The hawk is wounded by a crossbow bolt during a fight with the guards. Navarre is also wounded in the same place. He sends Phillipe off to find the monk Imperius (played by Rumpole of the Bailey) at a ruined castle to tend to the bird.


 

Imperius reveals that Navarre and the woman, named Isabeau (played by Michelle Pfeiffer), were lovers. A priest, Imperius, revealed that secret to the bishop who was madly obsessed with the woman. When she spurned his advances, he sought dark magic to put a curse on the lovers, which resulted in their current predicament. The condition has been going on for about two years. Imperius believes he has found a way to end the curse--but the bishop must be alive for the event, which must occur with the eclipse

At the ruins, Imperius works on ladyhawke in her lady form, removing the bolt. The bishop's guards arrive, making their rounds as carolers or perhaps looking for handy packages on porches. During the search they discover Phillipe and Isabeau--along with the fact that one should walk on the left. She has a narrow escape from a high tower, saved only when she falls and transforms as the sunrises in the instant before she crashes on the rocks below. Phillipe is saved by the timely arrival of Navarre and his double-barrel crossbow. (I know crossbows don't have barrels - maybe it's an over and under).

Navarre is having none of Imperius' crazy scheme to crush the curse with a total eclipse of the heart sun and leaves without the monk. Phillipe goes with him, telling the monk to follow. As Phillipe gets to know Isabeau, the bishop hires a trapper to kill the black wolf. Isabeau nearly steps in a trap, and the trapper tosses stones on numerous traps around Isabeau. The black wolf arrives, but the trapper's trap traps the trapper, being the last trapping the trapper will ever trap.

Phillipe hasn't succeeded in getting Navarre to buy into the monk's method of madness, so the pair resolve to capture Navarre in his wolf form. The plan goes awry when the wolf breaks through ice on the lake and Phillipe gets clawed badly during the rescue. 

Into Aquila they go at night, with Navarre as a caged wolf, and Imperius convincing the guards that this is not the droid wolf they're looking for. Phillipe takes the sewers to the cathedral. Navarre heads for the cathedral to slay the bishop while Phillipe comes up from the sewer to unlock the cathedral doors from within. As you might expect, and in accordance with the tested and true method of drawing out the drama to create tension, things do not go smoothly. An extra dollop of drama is served by the fact that Imperius has been instructed to kill ladyhawke if the church bells begin to ring, because that means Navarre has failed.

Phillipe does get the doors unlocked in time for Navarre to ride Goliath into the cathedral. An old enemy in the guard, the new captain, also rides in to fight him. The horseback clash doesn't last long, and soon both men are unhorsed. Although he slays the new captain--with help from Phillipe, there are other guards to protect the bishop and to ring the bells--and ring they do. Imperius has the bird in hand--not having elected to pursue two in the bush--with the knife poised to strike.

Navarre, realizing the eclipse is the real thing (what with the celestial event being perfectly lined up with the cathedral window broken only minutes earlier by a flying helmet) and not merely some imitation soft drink, yells for Imperius not to kill the bird. Of course, Imperius can't hear him, being some unspecified distance away.

The fight continues. Navarre takes out the guards and sets upon the bishop, who reveals a handy-dandy spear point at the end of his holy staff. Isabeau appears and the couple, both in human form, confront the bishop. Imperius proclaims the curse broken. Naturally, the bishop isn't keen on the new arrangement and opts to roll for an attempt to skewer Isabeau. His dice result in a tragic failure. Navarre launches his sword with all three dice coming up gold. The sword punches the bishop back a few yards, carrying him off his feet, into a chair or some other upright piece of wooden furniture, and pierces both bishop and furniture to the hilt. It's not just a bad day at black rock, it's a totally terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day for the bishop, who has seen his last eclipse in mortality.


That's pretty much the end, except for the hugging and lifting and spinning, which went on a little too long in my opinion, and Imperius and Phillipe leaving after thanks and a kiss on the cheek from Isabeau.

Like I said, the best reason to watch the show is for Phillipe's dialog-- none of which I've spoiled for you by including it here, which I think certainly reflects well on me.

Ladyhawke represents the best of 80s sword and sorcery. It's not too silly to enjoy, but it is humorous. The acting is very good and the script is entertaining. Ladyhawke is good clean fun--it's like the crews behind Conan the Barbarian and The Andy Griffith Show joined up and made a fantasy flick the whole family could enjoy.

___________________

The bugmageddon novel has passed the halfway mark. My space cowboy story must not have made the cut because I haven't heard back and I believe contracts went out for that anthology a couple days ago.

I have completed assembling my powerpoint presentation on forging unforgettable stories. It's pretty terrific--at least in my head.