Sunday, February 24, 2019

"Wrong or right, they have the might, so wrong or right, they're always right, and that's wrong... right?"

If you've ever seen the musical Camelot, you know that King Arthur spoke the line above as he contemplated some wrong to right, some peril to face, and what use to make of knights. I had never seen the show before. It was a recording of the musical play, not the 1967 movie that also starred Richard Harris--which I've also never seen. I highly recommend this musical. It makes me want to reread The Once and Future King which I haven't read since I was in jr. high school. My wife had seen this film before and even knew most of the songs. Apparently she used to sing a few of them with her sister.

Earlier today, I mentioned Camelot as an introduction to the line with which I opened this post to a room of 14 year old boys; they all wondered what Camelot was. They had never even heard of Camelot. At least they heard of King Arthur--they just didn't know diddly about him, it seemed. (They didn't even know Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade--which forced a detailed explanation of the reference to: "He chose poorly.")

I shall have to watch Camelot again...and again...and again; there's some good stuff in it.


on the other hand, was a movie that neither my wife nor I had previously seen. We had pretty low expectations going in and our hopes hovered only slightly higher--mediocrity would have been a win. This film gushes hilarity like ichor from a punctured aorta--and the victim never runs out of blood. We laughed all the way through it. How come I've never seen this? This is the funniest thing I've ever seen Bill Murray do. The car chase alone is a screaming, pants-wetting laugh fest. Murray's performance as a member of a Russian dance troupe delivers an entire series of comedy-club blows to the head that made me feel like an entire nursery of baby harp seals.

Murray plays a Blockbuster Video clerk who goes to the UK to see his brother, a successful banking executive. His brother gets him placed into a live street theater television show for the night. Murray, mistaken for a hit man, unwittingly wades into a swamp of international intrigue, blackmail, and murder. He thinks it's all part of the television show and believes the others involved are actors. Meanwhile, the real hit man has taken Murray's place in the television show and murders an actor in the first scene. Cops, hit men, and assorted  bad guys pursue Murray to the incredible end.

I know that if I watch it again, it won't be as funny; "I'm therefore going [to do it] anyway." --to borrow from James T. in ST3:The Search for Spock.


I could say more about the state of the novel but I won't. Although, I am wondering about volunteers to for beta readers of a flintlock fantasy set during the American Revolutionary War. 

Sunday, February 17, 2019

This book has been my companion for at least a couple months. The title of the book comes from something Washington said after the war.

Another book about the American War of Independence? Indeed. I acquired both the kindle version and the hard copy. I'm glad I did. Ferling's Almost a Miracle ranks among the best single-volume treatments of the conflict that I've read. The book provides background on the politics, personalities and international ramifications behind the decisions. The options available to the parties are discussed at length in many cases. In some instances, such as Cornwallis' reasons for refusing to leave Yorktown until it was too late, the author provides the statements given at the time, as well as the justifications given with the benefit of hindsight. This is an excellent book. I think I prefer it to another favorite, Leckie's Washington's War, because it does not focus on Washington as much as that work.

I give the book 5 out of 5 stars. Being a treatment of the whole war, many details about specific battles are omitted but I found sufficient information to make the accounts of the battles meaningful. A little less than half of the book consists of notes and bibliography. The writing style is engaging, easy to follow and never boring. The account never bogged down in useless detail or irrelevant quotes. There are many quotes from the people involved which provide great insight into their thoughts and rationale for their actions.

I would have liked more biographical detail about some of the participants. Some great information was included; I hoped for more. Nevertheless, I thoroughly enjoyed the book and will continue to refer back to it often. I did see a couple of single star and two star reviews on Amazon for this book--incomprehensible; I can't believe that they were reading the same book that I read.

My reading queue includes Francis Parkman's The Conspiracy of Pontiac and the Indian War after the Conquest of Canada (which I've already started), and The Founder's Revolution by Michael S. Law. On the lighter side, I have Andy Peloquin's Trial of Stone, Ambrose Bierce's Can Such Things Be?, and Frostborn: The Gray Knight by Jonathan Moelle to consume. I have Brandon Sanderson's Oathbringer to tackle but I know it will take a lot of time and monopolize my attention; I'm saving it for something but I don't know what. I also want to the read third book of the Jorgensen's Kusunoki Chronicles: Might of the Barbarians.

More importantly, after an entire week without writing on my work in progress which followed a week in which I fell a couple thousand words short of the goal for the week, I devoted time yesterday to making up the deficit from the previous week. I expect to finish writing the book this week. Because of some changes from the story as outlined and the decision to breakup the story differently than I had originally envisioned, I had to make some decisions about the stopping place while bringing the book to an exciting conclusion. I've figured that out. It should finish out at just over 80K words.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Stories from the stock photo folder.

It's Twilight Zone meets Mayberry. I don't know who put this picture together but it must have a great story to go with it. 

Mirror Universe Spock is performing a mild meld on Barney Fife. Is this also a MU Barney or has has MU Spock engaged in both time travel and universe hopping?  Perhaps he's extracting from the deputy the location of the one bullet he keeps for his revolver. Maybe Spock desires to know why everyone is avoiding Aunt Bea's pickles. On second thought, it looks like Barney is in the engineering section of the Enterprise. Barney has been transported to the MU. He has traded places with Dr. McCoy and drained the universe of color. 

Here's how it looked before the Barney Rift opened.

I don't know if Barney can get back. Kirk and the rest of the crew are doomed -- maybe they all shifted to Mayberry; unless Scotty can construct a starship or transporter from stone knives and Otis' alcohol saturated corpse Federation law is coming to Mayberry.

I like this next picture better.

The thing you need to understand about this picture is that the kid who's wearing his teammate's cleat between his legs never actually jumped.

Finally, my personal favorite, the cover of my slightly humorous noir detective novel Smoke.

I don't know how this picture ended up in my stock photo's folder. That folder is reserved for strange things I find on the internet--like the two pictures above. This book is my favorite of the novels that I have written thus far. I am enjoying writing the work in progress but Smoke is the book that compelled me to stop in the middle of writing Justice Resurgent and write it instead--the story demanded that I write it. I'm not sure whether it was the first person point of view that I used in most of the book, the post-war 1940s setting, the detective story framework, the literary references, or the memorable women characters who play prominently in the story that makes it so memorable for me. Writing, reviewing, and implementing the editing suggestions eventually drains my cup of enthusiasm for a book--except for this book. If I had to go back and read one of my creations again, I would choose this one. If I pick it up and read a few lines, I'm hooked all over again and have to exert some real self control to put it down and walk away.

I have to admit to some disappointment with the cover. I do love it but had hoped for something better. I shot the picture for the cover in my office with high-end photography equipment. "High-end photography equipment" meaning a medium resolution smart phone camera. My daughter and a lady from the theater who was in a play with me at the time came over to the office and we shot some photos. I wanted to include a feminine hand with pink fingernails. The hand was to hold the cigarette with smoky coils ascending. First, I forgot to have the nice lady put on the pink fingernails that I had purchased for the project. Second, the smoke from the cigarette refused to be effectively captured in the photos. Third, the cigarette was a prop cigarette (generously provided by another theater friend) filled with cocao husks or llama droppings or something and smelled like a fire at the garbage dump (that's the prop cigarette that was filled with...and smelled like... My generous friend did not smell like a fire at the garbage dump). Fourth, I was nervous about having two other people help me with it so I rushed through it to keep from wasting their time. All things considered, it turned out pretty well.

There's a link in the upper right hand corner of this blog to look at and/or purchase the book on Amazon should one so desire. Don't kid yourself; you desire.

Sunday, February 3, 2019

The novel in progress has passed the 70K word mark. I note that my most recent publication, Justice Resurgent was only 74K words and is the shortest of my books. Justice in Season as originally written was about 95K words but I cut it back to 89K words. Finding Jack-The Orb was over 88K words. Smoke, my favorite work so far, was 95K words. I anticipate reaching the end of the new novel somewhere between 80K and 90K words--it's part of a series so I'm adjusting the break point between books. When I read a book, I don't care so much about word count--unless it's way too long with a lot of slop that should've been eliminated. I only track the word count on my own books to keep my writing goal steady and manageable, and to make sure that I'm publishing something with enough words and pages, i.e., enough story, to be a worthwhile investment for a reader.

Speaking of books: I should review two.

Let me begin with 1632 by Eric Flint. It was available as a free ebook. I had heard about it and had seen it at the used bookstore but that was it. The price in this case was too good to ignore.

This book didn't dawdle in getting to the story. I don't recall a lot of getting to know the characters before the big event from which the story is generated. The city of Grantville, West Virginia and its environs of the year 2000, lands in Thuringia of the year 1632. Not much time is spent anguishing over the how and why of the sudden relocation--which is good; after all, the least interesting part of Gilligan's Island was the 3 hour tour. Luckily, Grantville has some major assets to help its citizens cope with the disease, incessant warfare, and all-around sack of suck that made life in Northern Europe of 1632 filthy, brutal and short.

The strongest part of the book for me concerned the establishment and preservation of American freedom and justice in a time whn the divine right of kings alloyed with might makes right. The Americans have to ante up with the might to preserve their rights and lives. They attempt to extend the same rights to those around them. The politics and warfare of the age are of interest. The Americans eventually have to go "all in" at the gaming tables of kings and roll the iron dice of war with some of the major players of the day. The purple testament gets a new chapter.

Most of the characters are well done. King Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden figures prominently and presents an intriguing figure. Some of the American characters represent certain points of view in the politics of the republic and are given more time or development according to how sympathetic the author seems to be to those points of view. Other interesting characters include a doctor, and a cheerleader who doubles as a sniper. 

The moments in this book when the founding principles of the United States are put on display, argued and defended really shine. Those moments would make it a 5 star book. Unfortunately, there are other moments that eclipse some of those stars. Several of those moments include some profanity that only detracts from the story in my opinion. Another is Gretchen. She's a great character but the author dedicated entirely too much time to the description and admiration of her physical attributes. I had to skip over some of the more explicit descriptions of her and her activities. The story is exciting and fairly fast paced. The battles, large and small, unfold with descriptive vigor and verve.

I rate the book based on its strongest features:  It's not Red Dawn, it's Red, White and Blue Dawn.

 I've worried about reviewing Cthulhu Armageddon by C.T. Phipps for a couple weeks.

The author was kind enough to provide me with a free copy of his book. I also offered to do a review. My thoughts here reflect my honest opinion uncolored by the awesome cover of the book, the author's kindness in providing the free copy, or the fact that I think he would be a fun guy to have in a table top RPG.

I started the book intrigued with the prospect of experiencing a "Post Apocalypse Western" as noted on the cover. That sounded cool to me. The silhouetted figure on the cover looks like a cowboy. I enjoy westerns (I've even written a couple). I expected some six-gun action, a quick draw or two, and some lever-action rifle shootouts with mutants biting the dust by the dozen and horrific creatures soaking up lead like the sandpit at the firing range. One should never judge a book by its cover.

While the cover piqued my interest, the foreword annoyed me. The author used the foreword to introduce himself, set up the world in which the story would take place and to pay some backhanded homage to H.P. Lovecraft. I had two problems with it. First, put the introduction in an Introduction or Author's Note, and use a Prologue to set up the world if necessary--which it shouldn't be. Second, save the virtue signaling; I don't need to know how the author's personal views differ from those of the dead guy from whom he's taking his inspiration.

The first chapter put the story on the road with the virtue signal still flashing. I couldn't see any other point for the descriptions given for those supporting characters--they all died like lemmings leaping into a meat grinder--they were the redshirt casualties before the opening credits (Yes. I'm being redundant, but I like it that way). Inevitably the story picked up and the signal burnt out. The story dug itself out of the hole into which the foreword and first chapter had flung it. The descriptions and actions scenes came alive. I trudged on in hope of finding the western that I had been promised; a cowboy hat doth not a western make. The main character wore a cowboy hat but it never figured into the story or had any apparent purpose.

I finally gave up the trudge. I couldn't find any characters that I cared about or that were even interesting enough to make me stay. I must say that I'm not a big fan of the Cthulhu Mythos; my interest is superficial. I've read some Lovecraft; he's not my favorite. So maybe it was a mistake for me to think that I might like this book. The final straw hit me as I thought about the dialog that I was reading. The conversation didn't flow for me; at best it was just an accumulation of things that the author wanted the characters to say. I never felt like the dialog was taking me anywhere or adding to the story. The occasional humor the dialog may have been intended to produce didn't work in my opinion.

I rate it: Full of the dark hopelessness of Lovecraft but without the understated charm. I do note that the book has 61 reviews at the big river site and 63% of those are 5 star reviews. I stopped just short of halfway through. I think the Mad Max portion of the show was about to start but Elvis and my ability to care had left the building.