Friday, March 31, 2017

Yo Soy!

I have to give a little shout out to my 9yo and my almost-7yo: Porter and Tristan.  Last night was Open House at the elementary school.  Both boys are in the dual language immersion program, and are learning Spanish.  We started at the Tristan’s classroom, but pressed for time, we didn’t really get to interact much.  However, when we went to the Porter’s class, most of the parents and students were gone, so there was a lot of interaction with the teacher.  While Porter was puttering around and showing me various things, his teacher started to ask Tristan questions in Spanish.  Tristan replied to her in Spanish, and I was just awe-struck.

I’m sure the questions and answers were pretty basic stuff, but still, having that degree of communication mastery so early in TWO languages is damned impressive to a guy who is pretty English-centric.

Well done, boys!

Thursday, March 30, 2017

But Why Didn't You!?

With deepest, most heartfelt apologies to Miss Jane Austen:

And apologies to all blondes!
It is a truth universally acknowledged, that an author, in possession of a good story, must be in want of a critic.  Whether that critic is a professional or not hardly matters.  The story, being the thing, and the internet, being another thing, critics and readers alike—both of which are often interchangeable—will assert themselves into the life of the author whether he, or on the most fortunate occasion, she, wants such insight or not.

There are, of course, two schools of thought as to how best manage such well-meaning intrusions.  The first, of course, is to politely thank the reader-become-critic, welcome their insight and sagacity, provide them tea and biscuits, and listen attentively, perhaps scribbling a note or two for later revisions.

The second, is to slam the door on the foot, nose and audacity of the critic, insisting, all the while, that the story was not meant for their rude, uncouth and unkempt hands, which had more acquaintance with dung than with soap and a good scrub brush.  After all, such a writer writes stories for themselves, and no one else—should others happen upon the story, trade hard-won currency for the privileges of reading it, that, in itself, is gift enough.

But why didn't he write it the way I would have written it?
However, there is a third school, quietly biding its time, waiting in the wings, humble and contrite.  When such an excited and excitable reader bounces within the earshot of the writer, asking questions of, “Why did your characters do this thing, when clearly the other thing that they could have done would have made more sense, although it might have ruined the rest of the story as you told it?”  Then, in the face of such tenacious zealotry, the acceptable answer a writer of this school may provide is, "Why not?" Even a reasonable, rational alternate explanation doesn't trump the writer-as-historian and the published chronicle of what did happen.

That is to say that history is rife with “what ifs” imagined by the general, if ill-informed public, and by the learned men and women, atop their ivory towers.  Two entire sub-genres of fiction—historical fiction and alternative-history—are dedicated to these very questions of intellectual pursuit.  This is not to say that the writer, either inside or outside these frames, is wholly without fault.  They are not.  But, indeed, some of the subtler questions of character dialogue, setting, and plotting should be allowed a certain reasonable suspension of disbelief.

Thus, for those who see only two schools of ability, it is the fondest hope of this author that a third, option has been presented and may, under the right circumstances, be travelled upon by writer and reader alike.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Cover Quotes For The Win

Nothing says it all like that!
Cover quotes are pretty snazzy.  They aren’t necessarily needed, but they can help to provide some reassurance to the reader that the book they’re holding is worthwhile.  It was great to get quotes for my books from such literary luminaries as Nick Cole and Joe Clifford for your reading enjoyment:

With McCandless, the action doesn’t stop from the get go.  And get going it does.  Taut, tight, pulse pounding, this struggle between good and evil reads like a thriller.  Non-stop action.

Nick Cole, author of CTRL ALT Revolt! Winner Dragon Award 2016

McCandless’s Hell Becomes Her reads like Tarantino’s fictional Fox Force Five in novel form, if 5 became 3, and there were more angels. McCandless’s follow-up to Tears of Heaven, Hell crosses genre like space and time, injecting heavy doses of pop culture and wry humor, with snappy dialogue, non-stop action, and exotic if not wholly romantic locations. The result is a dizzying hybrid of sci-fi, superhero, and good ol’ fashioned private eye fiction, tied together by the noblest pursuit of all: the preservation of innocence.

Joe Clifford, author of the Jay Porter Thriller Series

Nick and Joe, thank you so much for taking the time and saying such kind things!

Monday, March 27, 2017

A Brief Treatise on the Nature and Appeal of Klingons

I find your lack of faith . . . disturbing.
This is just a quick discussion on why some audiences really enjoy Klingons. There are a lot of quotation marks on words and phrases in this one—more than I "usually" use—because at the heart, Klingons tap into a bit of myth that isn't necessarily based in reality.  We'll get to that toward the end, but it seemed appropriate to mention at the beginning so that the author's intent was a little more clear.

Klingons tap into a lot of things that audiences like, and like to see expressed. They are, fundamentally, another version of the “noble savage” myth—an idealized version of an individual—a warrior—born out of a “race” of individual warriors, who has the ability to indict our “civilization's” rules and speaks a kind of brute-force justice, but never steps over the line to unjust brutality such as against children or the weak. It's always been a sarcastic term, as there's no such thing as a “noble savage” society which is intrinsically better than any other, but we love the idea that our natural state has been corrupted (by whatever institutions) and that we can learn a “better way” from those who stand outside of it.

What's great about the Klingons, especially as TNG and DS9 explored them, is that their society is actually no less corrupt. It was politics, and not justice, that forced Worf's father, Mog, to make the decision to take on dishonor, while the House of Duras was allowed to flourish. Kahless, the Unforgettable, “returns” as part of a plot conceived by the priests of the Boreth Temple to rally the Klingon people back to their faith.

One of my favorite episodes is “Children of Time” which presented a future “colony” based on the crews' decedents, including those of Worf. Obviously, Klingon DNA was in short supply, but the “Klingons” were embodied as a philosophy, rather than a genetic heritage—the idea being that Klingons offer an ideal to aspire to, which is something we quite enjoy viewing, exploring and discussing.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

The Book of Viking Myths—by Peter Archer

Got Vikings?
“The Book of Viking Myths: From the Voyages of Leif Erikson to the Deeds of Odin, the Storied History and Folklore of the Vikings” by Peter Archer is the perfect collection of myths and legends from the eponymous “Vikings”.  Anyone who has ever had an interest in Norse mythology, but isn’t yet ready to read “The Prose Edda” in the original in Old Norse, this is the book for you!

Archer opens by providing the reader with a brief background of the history of the Vikings.  He provides a thumbnail sketch, but like the rest of the book, his conclusions are based on years of research, a deep understanding of the “Viking world” and supported by other experts in the field.  Each section is well-organized and accessible.  Archer not only provides information on some of the more famous Viking myths, but touches on some of the more influential figures that have been passed over for the showier characters.  “The Book of Viking Myths” delves into origins and influences, reflecting that this mythology didn’t appear or exist in a bubble, but was touched by the various cultures the Vikings visited, and in turned, left an indelible mark on the world.

Peter Archer’s excellent “The Book of Viking Myths” offers readers a unique understanding of Norse mythology, allowing the reader to jump in with both feet, and whet their appetite for more.  While certainly academic, Archer brings the myths to life in such a way that even a causal reader will be better for having picked this book up!

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Malta - Azure Window

Obvious tourist is obvious!
A friend of mine, something of a world-traveler, posted a few weeks that Malta’s Azure Window had collapsed into the sea.  I was saddened to hear this, although it’s more of an aesthetic tragedy than anything else.  This prompted me to find the pictures I had taken when I visited Malta nearly four years ago.

At first, thanks to my clever filing system, I wasn’t able to find them at all.  Today, while I was doing some other work for a friend, and inadvertently saving to a completely unrelated file, I found them. Apparently, I was trying to share them with friends and family. 

As Green Day told us:

So take the photographs, and still frames in your mind
Hang it on a shelf in good health and good time
Tattoos of memories and dead skin on trial
For what it’s worth it was worth all the while

It’s something unpredictable, but in the end is right,
I hope you had the time of your life.

I'm really thrilled to have these images "back" as it were.  I remember standing there, amid hundreds of other people to have my picture taken.  I would have remembered the image anyhow, but it's very nice "for what it's worth it was worth all the while."

Monday, March 20, 2017

Writerz With Attitude

Oh, really?
With apologies to, well, everyone:

Damn, it feels good to be a writer.
A real writer keeps a world tight.
A real writer gets the characters in sight.
Cuz a real writer is always ready when inspiration strikes.

Damn, it feels good to be a writer.

And everything's chaotic in the mind of a writer
'Cause writers gotta juggle a dozen plots
Up twenty-five-hundred k every day,
Cuz a real writer will wake up in the night,
Grab a pen and a paper just to write.

And all I gotta say to you is,
Damn it feels good to be a writer.

Thank you!

Thursday, March 16, 2017

In Which I Ruin Someone's Day

Demons.  Amiright!?
Burning flaming hellfire!

I just spoiled a reader.

Not just any reader either, but a very dear friend who has supported me from way, way back in high school.

I didn’t mean to do it.  I was just trying to share what I thought was a bitchin’, awesome, badass bit of dialogue.  But there it is and it can’t be taken back.  I apologized, removed the offending tweet and post and hoped that the 20-off minutes the spoiler was up didn’t ruin anyone else’s day.

If it did, I am so, so very sorry.

We definitely learn from our biggest mistakes.  They embarrass the hell right out of us, and we set out to not repeat them again.

Or maybe that’s just me.

Damn, damn, damn.

Sorry again Tish.  I’ll make it up to you (and everyone else) in the third book.  I’m about 25,000 words into it, with the goal of hitting 70,000 pretty quickly.  I hope that provides some compensation for this egregious error in judgement!

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

I "Slept In"—Dancing Cow

Generally, I don’t need an alarm to get up.  That’s not a brag, it’s just that I’m usually so on edge about being to places on time that my body simply freaks out if I think I’m going to be late.

Just ask the wife.

Well, obviously that didn’t happen this morning.  I woke up around “6:00am”.  That’s in quotes, because that’s totally a fake time.  That’s Daylight Stupid Time.  In standard time, I woke up a leisurely 5:00am, and I still had time to relax a bit before the morning rituals had to be conducted.

Those virgins ain’t gonna sacrifice themselves.

Suffice to say, that I’ll now have to set an alarm until my body realizes that the rest of the world is being stupid about Daylight Stupid Time.


Here’s a dancing cow.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Watch Out for DST Zombies

Arbitrarily waking up an hour early is arbitrary.
No witty, funny, or boring post today.

A more wretched hive of dumb and stupidity you will never find.

I’d go back to sleep, but there are too many zombies on the road.

Be careful out there for the next week or three while we all attempt the stupidest transition for the dumbest reasons of dumminess.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Renting Movies - Storks and Trolls

Begone.  You have no power here!
Having kids is expensive.

Do they teach in school?

Well, let this be your lesson for the day.

Clothes, food, shelter, and endless supply of shoes with the toes worn through.  (But why the toes?)  More food, school supplies, field trips, more food.

And then there’s the entertainment.  In the early days, it’s easy, because their eyes don’t see well, they don’t have an opinion, and you can veto their vote.  Plus, you probably already have stuff in your collection—provided you have a soul—that will appease most kids of various ages.

Then they get older.  The punks.

Strong, smart, clever female protagonist? Yes please!
They start seeing ads for movies, and those ads are cunning, clever, downright evil.  Sometimes, that works out pretty good.  Moana is an excellent film, and probably deserved a much wider audience and more accolades than it received.

But it’s damned, damned expensive to take three or four or even five people to the movie theater and have it be an enjoyable experience.  The youngest one never sits still.  The oldest one always pouts that he didn’t get something.

They all want treats and snacks and desserts.

Staying home and renting has suddenly made a reappearance for us.  That’s how we watched Trolls and Storks.  These two movies had decent premises but mediocre executions.

Pretty much how I watched the film.
Straight-up about storks who used to deliver babies, but don’t anymore.  Now they deliver packages, like some kind of Amazon-gone-wild.  The defining moment was when a stork, Jasper (voiced by Danny Trejo) went rogue, and wanted to keep one of the babies.  That baby, Tulip (Katie Crown) now 18 is old enough to be cut free, and it’s Junior’s (Andy Samberg) job to do it.  If you think that’s enough plot to go with, there’s a young boy who wants a baby brother (with ninja skills!), his career-driven parents who mostly ignore him, an accidental baby produced by Tulip who has to be delivered, Tulips “missing” family, and a pack of wolves who can form anything (Keegan-Michael Keyand Jordan Peele).  There are some real shining moments, clever dialogue, and so forth, but with so much going on, the movie just never really takes off.

Prehensile hair is totally a thing!
By comparison to Storks, Trolls is incredibly straight-forward.  The titular Trolls live in a state of perpetual bliss, with hugging on the hour.  Twenty years previously, they fled to their current home from the giant Bergens who would eat the Trolls in order to feel happy (no subtext here at all).  Princess Poppy (Anna Kendrick) leads the Trolls in singing, dancing, scrapbooking, hourly hugging and evening parties.  Branch (Justin Timberlake) is constantly doom-and-gloom about the return of the Bergens.  Spoiler-alert: Branch is right.  A Bergen, Chef (the excellent Christine Baranski) stomps in and captures a dozen of the Trolls to win back her position and somehow make herself queen.  Meanwhile, the Bergen scullery-maid Bridget (Zooey Deschanel) pines for Bergen Prince Gristle (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) who pretty much doesn’t notice her at all.  Poppy and Branch go on a quest to save the captured Trolls, and there are a lot of song-and-dance numbers, most of which parents will know some if not all the words.  The movie has some clever bits of dialogue, and the voice actors are always fun to listen to, but the plot doesn’t even start to get complicated.

In both cases, my boys were very entertained, and we made an evening of it.  Each time, I’ve been very glad that we didn’t shell out to see these movies in the theater.  The 24-48 hour rental window is nice, and since these are digital rentals, I don’t have to worry about returning them at 11:59 PM in the middle of a winter storm.

Friday, March 3, 2017

#MIND Freebie and New Release Blog Tour with @Jennnixon

Free March 2nd through March 6th!
Friend and fellow author Jenn Nixon has her latest release this weekend, and with it, she's offering her first book in the series, absolutely free!

You're welcome!

Excerpt 1

“I had a feeling I’d see you again,” the voice called.
Dina looked around the wooded area, feeling confused for a moment. It seemed familiar. Across the marsh, Liam was leaning against a tree, casually dressed, hair slightly less shaggy than it had been last time, hands shoved in his skinny jeans. A light mist lingered over the grass, a taste of salt in the air. How did she get here?
“Didn’t think it would be this soon,” he replied with a shrug.
The Gut surrounded her. She didn’t remember coming here, yet she was in the Bay Hook. Solid ground beneath her feet and the stench she breathed in, all real. “Why, uh . . . did you come back?”
“The real question is why did you call me here?”
“What are you talking about? You were already here, and I didn’t call. I don’t even have your number.”
“Want it?” he asked, smirking, then shook his head. “No, wait . . . oh. Uninhibited speech, foggy backdrop, extra flirty. I get it.”
“Get what?”
“We’re dreaming. You’re asleep right?”
“No,” she spat, spreading her arms, twisting in place. She pulled a cattail-punk out of the ground and shook it at him. “We’re in the Hook, hello, don’t you see the trees? Can’t you smell the marsh?”
“You must have been thinking about me, which is normal, frankly, given the circumstances. But how the hell are you keeping me here?”
“I’m not doing anything.”
“Dina, did both your parents have psionic abilities?”
“Only my father, why?”
“Curious,” he said, moving toward her, gray eyes sweeping up and down. “What about his parents, either of them?”
“I don’t know. What does it matter?”
“People don’t normally share dreams. You’re strong—”
“Why does everyone keep saying that?” Dina threw her hands up in the air and walked away. “Who cares if I am or not? There’s some dude out there burning up people, and I don’t have time to tramp around the swamp with E.T.”
“What did you say?”
“Nothing. Doesn’t matter. I’m outta here.”
“Wait, Dina,” he said, catching up and surpassing her. He grabbed both her arms to stop her. “You really are dreaming.”
Everything around her was too real to be a dream. She felt the pressure of his fingers, even the sinking feeling of her feet on the soft ground. “So this isn’t the Gut, it’s a dream? Right, and you’re sharing it with me, sure.”
“You’re amazing!” He laughed boyishly. “Even after all you’ve seen, you’re still questioning everything.”
“Then prove it to me. Call me, here’s my number,” she said, mentally sending the digits to his head.
Liam smiled at her. A sweet, sincere smile that made her smile back before shrugging.
Her eyes popped open. The ceiling of her bedroom stared back. “Oh, what the hell?”
Dina sat up, brow furrowed. She reached toward the nightstand for her phone. Was it going to ring? It had felt as if she had been there, standing in the grass with Liam. She shut her eyes, trying to bring the images back, but they were already fading.

Had she just shared a dream with Liam? 

MIND:The Beginning (Bk1) – Free March 2nd through 6th 

After Dina Ranger loses telepathic contact with her twin brother, Duncan, she breaks into his apartment and stumbles onto a special government unit responsible for monitoring the psychic population. She’s offered a job where she can use her psionic gifts to help people.

Stranded on earth over a hundred years ago, Liam of Shria is searching for a metal needed to repair his ship when he finds Dina inside an alien escape pod and narrowly saves her after she trips the alarm.

As the mystery and their relationship deepens, Liam helps Dina learn the truth behind her abilities while uncovering a plot to rebuild an ancient weapon, exposing dangerous secrets about the alien presence on earth that may change the future forever.

Jenn Nixon is a member Liberty States Fiction Writers.

Sword Types and Describing Them

Type of sword? BIG!
As is often the case with some of these more detailed entries, a discussion about the term “broadsword” (which isn't really a kind of sword) kicked this one off into high gear.  As usual, this is a fleshed out and more fully developed entry that touches on the typology of swords, and using them in writing.

Anymore, I shy away from calling a sword anything but a sword.  As a young author, I used various terminology, and used it wrong.  Worse, breaking out swords in your fantasy world by terminology is something of a crutch (whether you know it or not), which lets you get away with not accurately describing a sword or other weapon.

Let’s boil this down into simple terms.  Swords are tools, and as such, weren’t categorized by their users and owners until academic study came along (see Oakeshott typology). For comparison, the English longbow wasn’t called anything but a “bow” or a “war bow” because it was just another tool in the army’s arsenal. The greater majority of swords were essentially “mass produced” anyhow, and not of great quality. They were handed out as needs dictated, just like modern armies equip their soldiers, and intended to be returned after they were done being used (or collected from the field from the cold, dead corpses).  As discussed previously, the sword was actually a secondary weapon—spears and later polearms were the mainstay of any decent army.  If you were of higher rank and wealth, you’d have a sword made, and then it would be higher quality, individualized for your needs (based on region and your requirements of length and whatnot), and likely you’d have at least two made (one long and one short) along with customized armor, etc.

There are plenty (hundreds) of books that go into the typology of swords, and all the various bits and pieces . . . which most soldiers/warriors simply didn't know or care about.  They wanted a good blade that would spill their enemy's blood while keeping their own safely inside where it belonged!  If you'd really like to get into the proper naming terminology, the following video is a decent enough primer to get started:

These days, because I know more (or enough to be dangerous to myself) unless a character’s sword is significantly different from others (like the film Conan sword), or the type of sword (due to historical considerations) is reasonably unknown to most audiences (or both, like the falcata in Tears of Heaven), I leave it mostly up to the reader’s imagination, and stick to “sword” or “short sword” designations.  This allows the reader to come up with their own version of what kind of weapon the character is using, which generally lends to a more “realistic” experience for the audience.