Elen sila lumenn omentielvo!

Thursday, May 25, 2017

"The stars always exact a price": AMONGST THE STARS is out!!!

AMONGST THE STARS is out today! Details at ForgottenStars.net! #amwriting #AmongstTheStars #ForgottenStars #sciencefiction #spaceopera #indiebooks

What are you waiting for? The book is available now! Find out what happens next in the saga of Princesses Tariana and Margeth and their trusty pilot, Lt. Rasharri!

Details at ForgottenStars.net!

The Force will be with you always: STAR WARS at 40

D19 of #IGWritersMay: Novel aesthetics. I make no secret that at its heart, THE SONG OF FORGOTTEN STARS is really my love letter to STAR WARS. (This is a page from the book THE ART OF STAR WARS.) #amwriting #starwars #sciencefiction #spaceopera #Forgotten

I didn't see Star Wars on opening day. In truth I don't even remember exactly when I saw it, but it was later in the summer of 1977. We had just moved from Wisconsin to Oregon, and in that time I was not even aware of this enormous movie phenomenon whose popularity was sweeping the nation.

I finally saw it, though, with my sister, who is six years older than me.

I didn't like it.

It was very loud. It opened with big words flying through space and then there was loud spaceships and talking robots (one of whom only talked in beeps and whistles). There was a girl in white and a bad guy in black whose breath sounded weird. There was a desert planet with weird dwarf-creatures and a kid named Luke who lived with his aunt and uncle. (The uncle could be pretty gruff if Luke was goofing off, to which I could relate.) There were more loud spaceships and one really really big spaceship shaped like a giant ball. There was a guy dressed in black and white who helped the farm kid, and this guy had a giant ape-man friend. There were swords made of light and even more spaceships and a big battle in space.

All of that, and I didn't understand a lick of it.

In my defense, I was all of five years old at the time.

Until Star Wars, my movie experience was pretty much limited to stuff like Bugs Bunny Superstar and Disney live-actions like The Shaggy DA (which contained a hoot of a pie fight). Then there was this movie with loud spaceships and robots and a farm kid and a bad guy in black and...well, I had no idea what to make of this movie.

Luckily for me I had my sister, who is six years older than me.

She went all-in for Star Wars. She ate it, drank it, breathed it. She talked about it a lot, and gradually her enthusiasm began to win me over. She explained the story to me because I hadn't understood it all that well, and I decided that I wanted a part of her enthusiasm for my own. So I went with her to see the movie a second time.

I have never ever ever recovered.

I've been thinking a lot about Star Wars as it nears and achieves 40 years, and I find myself relating to it most as a storyteller myself. As a writer I tend most to look at Star Wars through the prism of story. Many stories have had a deep effect on me, on the stories I want to tell, and the way I go about telling them, but none moreso than Star Wars, even as the Star Wars story itself has changed over the course of its four decades. Most of the core ideas are still there, though, as Star Wars is now no longer in the hands of its creator, George Lucas. Star Wars is still a tale of heroic adventure unfolding in the sky. It is still a tale not just of the wars but more well-focused on the people fighting that war. It is a tale of improbably redeemable villains, of the way our paths mirror those of our parents, and of finding love in the face of desperation. It is a tale of family.

I can't help thinking in most, if not all, of these terms every time I write a story, no matter which genre it's in. Star Wars made me want to be a storyteller (what is playing with action figures, if not storytelling?). It also taught me that stories can focus at times on more mystical matters, and it taught me that story is an excellent way of addressing the challenges people face in their hearts. Most importantly, though, Star Wars taught me about heroes and quests and the wise elders who try to guide the heroes on their way.

Other stories have come since Star Wars arrived, and many have come to places almost as near to my heart. It's not only stories, either; it's all of creative art, really:

Lloyd Alexander's Prydain Chronicles
The Lord of the Rings
On Her Majesty's Secret Service
My Fair Lady
Much Ado About Nothing
The House with a Clock in its Walls
The Lions of Al-Rassan
Mary Stewart's Arthurian trilogy (plus The Wicked Day)
Berlioz's Symphonie fantastique
Rachmaninov's Symphony No. 2 in E minor
Invisible Touch by Genesis
Once and Again
Princess Mononoke

These are all things -- and there are more -- that are at the center of my creative life, but none has ever quite dislodged Star Wars as my Prime Mover. Star Wars is, and continues to be, my Platonic Ideal of what story is.

Even so, I haven't always kept as close an eye on Star Wars as a massive universe as many. I've read only a small handful of all the many novels and comics written over the years, and I haven't played any of the video games. For me, my appreciation focuses pretty exclusively on the movies themselves, and not just the wonderful Original Trilogy but also the admittedly uneven -- but still, in my eyes, uniquely compelling -- Prequel Trilogy and even to a smaller extent the recent "Rebirth" movies, The Force Awakens and Rogue One. Those form the core.

Star Wars is as strong now as it ever was, and it is very likely even stronger. It has more fans than ever, and it is now in the hands of a corporate power whose pockets are deep enough to maintain it at a very high level for decades to come. More fans are created every day, it seems, and yet...I do have to admit to feeling a certain level of possibly grumpy oldsterism. Sure, you kids can love Star Wars and in fact I hope that you will, and that your love for Star Wars will lead you to other things. But I came in on the ground level. My memories may be hazy, but I do remember a time before Star Wars.

I believe that every story one writes -- or rather, every story that I write -- should be, in one way or another, a love letter, either to someone or something. The Song of Forgotten Stars has many influences, but it is ultimately my love letter to Star Wars. If not for Star Wars, there's no way I would be writing this story. It's not just about the internals of Star Wars, though: it's about the way Star Wars impacted me and shaped my life and helped reflected certain relationships in my life. Put it this way: There's a reason why the two main characters in my Forgotten Stars books are two Princesses, one of whom is six years older than the other. It's a dynamic that makes sense to me on a lot of different levels.

I also know, from reading a lot about the making of Star Wars over the years and about the life of George Lucas in particular, that the way by which a creative work comes into existence is often a messy one. Lucas's manner of creation is eerily similar to my own, or maybe vice versa. Lucas is someone who starts out by following ideas in any direction they might go, and only gradually whittles things down and discards this notion or that idea until a streamlined story starts to emerge. I work the same way, at least in part. My rough drafts are often very messy and they always contain entire ideas that I remove entirely, for one reason or another. Lucas has done so much mixing and matching of ideas over the decades (remember that for him, Star Wars is 47 or 48 years old, depending on where he dates The Beginning) that he at times seems to be misremembering his own history. I know how he feels. There are times when an idea seems so organic that it's hard to claim it for my own. Even if it is.

So thank you for forty years, Star Wars! And may the Force be with you, forevermore.

Something for Thursday (40 years of STAR WARS edition)

A longer post about Star Wars is forthcoming later today, but for now, let's let John Williams (and Michael Giacchino) show the way! Happy birthday, Star Wars!

Tuesday, May 23, 2017


HOLY CRAP THE SOON-NESS YOU GUYS!!! #AmongstTheStars #ForgottenStars #sciencefiction #spaceopera #indiebooks #amwriting

Nobody Did It Better: Thank You, Sir Roger Moore

Sir Roger Moore has died.

I've loved all the James Bonds, to be honest. My favorite is George Lazenby, but I appreciate each and every actor who has played the part. There is a special place in my heart for Roger Moore, though, because he was my first Bond, and you don't forget your first. That initial Bond experience for me was Moonraker in 1979, and I've been a James Bond fan ever since.

Here's Moore as I first saw him:

Oddly, Moore's first film as Bond is the Bond film I like the least -- in fact, I dislike Live and Let Die so much that to this day I do not own a copy of it, and I don't think I ever have. This isn't Moore's fault, though. He's actually very good in the movie, and my distaste for it is based on other complaints. Moore's reputation as Bond is unfortunately skewed: many see him more as a comic figure, when the Bond films had a lot more broadly comedic moments than in the Connery (or Lazenby) years. (Witness Jaws flapping his arms after his ripcord breaks in the clip above.) It always struck me as unfair to blame Moore for faults in the writing of the scripts, to be honest, and the Bond films of the 70s were all written with that kind of broad comedy that often bordered on outright slapstick. This started with Sean Connery's last turn in the role, Diamonds are Forever, and didn't end until 1981's For Your Eyes Only toned things down significantly. That film and its successor, Octopussy, are two of my absolute favorites, and I even have a soft spot for the troublesome A View to a Kill, which starts trending to over-the-top comedy again.

Witness this clip from For Your Eyes Only, when Moore's Bond gets the drop on a vicious hit-man who has been dogging him throughout the film:

That is as lethal a moment as anything that Connery's Bond ever did, and it's worth noting that no matter who plays him, James Bond is rarely that cold. But Moore could play it.

Moore's Bond was an enormous part of my geek childhood, and I wouldn't be a Bond fan if not for his work. So thank you, Sir Roger Moore, for your wonderful work, and I hope there are some wonderful ladies and nifty Q gadgets awaiting you!

Tone Poem Tuesday

I've featured this before, of course, because Alexander Borodin is a relatively newly-discovered favorite composer of mine. But I find myself returning to this work often, not only because of its beauty but because of its depiction of two groups of people, traveling opposite directions on the same road, meeting each other and spending a bit of time before departing again as peacefully as they met.

Borodin described the work thusly:

In the silence of the monotonous steppes of Central Asia is heard the unfamiliar sound of a peaceful Russian song. From the distance we hear the approach of horses and camels and the bizarre and melancholy notes of an oriental melody. A caravan approaches, escorted by Russian soldiers, and continues safely on its way through the immense desert. It disappears slowly. The notes of the Russian and Asiatic melodies join in a common harmony, which dies away as the caravan disappears in the distance.

Here is In the Steppes of Central Asia.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Symphony Saturday

Sir Arthur Sullivan has a hallowed place in the history of classical music for his work in setting the librettos of W.S. Gilbert to music, resulting in the enduring operettas of Gilbert and Sullivan, which are probably the greatest musical achievement of Victorian England. Sullivan didn't just write operettas, however. He was a prolific composer who wrote a number of operas, oratorios, various orchestral works, and this single symphony, which he considered titling "the Irish Symphony". He didn't officially choose that title, and in fact it didn't end up being attached to the work on a de facto basis until after his passing.

The symphony is a youthful work and as such it is uneven and in places clearly inspired by Sullivan's musical models -- in this case, Mendelssohn and Schumann. Nevertheless, the piece is an engaging listen. I'm not familiar enough with Sullivan's more mature work to know if and where you can hear in his Symphony hints of what is to come later on when he writes, say, The Mikado or Iolanthe, but Sullivan's Symphony is a pleasantly typical Romatic-era symphony, with some moments of pleasing lyricism -- particularly in the opening, when a portentous opening in the low brass yields to an almost ethereal chord in the strings.

Here is Sir Arthur Sullivan's Symphony in E Major, the "Irish".

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Something for Thursday

I'm seeing this movie tonight on the big screen...so here are a couple of selections from that oh-so-wonderful camp classic, Flash Gordon!!!

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Twenty Years

When we took our vows, twenty years ago today, she didn't like coffee and I didn't want a dog.

Go figure.

Happy anniversary, my love!

Twenty years ago today. Happy anniversary, my love. The sun rises in your eyes!

Happy Valentines Day to my beautiful wife! This was taken last summer. We probably need a photo of us with the dee-oh-gee....

Wife and Dee-oh-gee on a nice Christmas walk! #Cane #DogsOfInstagram #greyhound #ChestnutRidge #OrchardPark #wny #winter

Posing with Patience (or is it Fortitude?)

The Wife, with horse. #eriecountyfair #Wife

The Wife enjoys a bit of quiet. #CapeMay

Pumpkinville: Happy wife, irritated Daughter

Guess what happened to me today....

Death by Kitteh

To the sea!

Nose to nose!

Hurry up and pay for the popcorn.

I Get Hit in the Face with a Pie (on National Pie Day).

Couples all around

Wife 2

Arrival at Pumpkinville

Spot the non-family member!

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Tone Poem Tuesday

Max Bruch's Scottish Fantasy exists somewhere in the space between tone poem and concerto, with its prominent and technical part for solo violin. It's not a concerto, however; its structure more casts it as a fantasy on a number of Scottish folk tunes. Bruch was a prolific composer in the Brahmsian tradition, although not much of his music is heard today. His Violin Concerto is a mainstay in the repertoire, and the Scottish Fantasy has not disappeared either. The nature of the work puts me in mind of Berlioz's great symphony Harold in Italy.

Monday, May 15, 2017

In other news....

Two developments:

:: Amongst the Stars: The Song of Forgotten Stars Book III will be available on May 25! As is my usual practice, the book will be in paperback first with e-books to follow a couple of weeks later. And I am planning to start selling signed copies of all my books through ForgottenStars.net!

I'm calling it, folks! MAY 25 IS RELEASE DAY!!! #amwriting #ForgottenStars #amongstthestars #sciencefiction #spaceopera #indiebooks

Front cover:

IT'S MY FRONT COVER YOU GUYS!!! #amwriting #ForgottenStars #AmongstTheStars #sciencefiction #spaceopera #soon

Back cover copy:

ANNNNNND, the back-cover copy! I wrote the HELL out of this book, folks. I can't wait for it to be out there! #amwriting #ForgottenStars #AmongstTheStars #sciencefiction #spaceopera #soon

I've already posted the first two chapters to ForgottenStars.net, and there will be a third chapter up later this week, probably Thursday.

:: The jury is still out on this particular development on the home front. I'm sure we'll get it all figured out, but for now, things are a bit of a whirlwind at Casa Jaquandor.

Meet the source of the whirlwind: Carla, aka Dee-oh-gee 2.0.

Carla. Sigh. #Carla #DogsOfInstagram

What is this 'popcorn' of which you speak? #Carla #dogsofinstgram

So there we are.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Symphony Saturday

I seem to recall once owning a set of Franz Berwald's symphonies. They made no impression on me whatsoever in the occasions I tried listening to them, and I'm not even sure if I still own the CDs. I'm not even sure what led me to listen to him again now, in 2017, but I did, and I'm glad I did so.

Berwald is a virtually canonical example of an artist whose work was obscure in his lifetime to the point of being almost completely ignored. Berwald, a Swede who lived from 1796 to 1868 -- a decently long life in that time -- couldn't even earn a living as a musician, instead making his way as a surgeon and then as a factory manager. Of his four symphonies, only the first was played during his lifetime. He didn't toil in complete obscurity; he had a few champions here and there, but virtually none in his own homeland.

His four symphonies certainly don't deserve their obscurity, and one wonders just why they were so roundly disregarded during his lifetime. They are not massive works, nor do they place undue demands on the performers; their harmonic language is interesting but would surely not have been unlistenable in a musical climate that was trending toward Tristan. The world of art is a capricious one, and it is hard to escape the notion that what separates those who achieve recognition and those who do not is some celestial roll of the dice. (Enduring legacy? That's another matter entirely.)

I present two of Berwald's symphonies here: the Third in C major, titled "Sinfonie singulaire", and the Fourth in E-flat major, called "Sinfonie naive". Both symphonies abound with life and rustic nature, and it's even tempting to hear -- since Berwald was Swedish, after all -- tantalizing hints of what would come decades later when Sibelius or Nielsen.

Here are the Third and Fourth symphonies of Franz Berwald.

Next week...I'm not sure. I want to do some more homework before I start in on Mahler.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Something for Thursday

It seems odd to me that one of the greatest Hollywood film composers, Jerry Goldsmith, had to wait until thirteen years after he died to get a star on the Walk of Fame, but there it is.

Here is some Goldsmith, who is almost always worth hearing.

Tuesday, May 09, 2017

Tone Poem Tuesday

Here is an oddity of sorts. I can't really say much about it, because I have found almost no information whatsoever about it online. It is a symphonic poem called Visions, by Jules Massenet. Massenet was a French Romantic who is best known for his operas, and for the "Meditation from Thais", which is one of the most famous solo violin works in all of classical music and a staple on "Music for a peaceful mood" compilations. Massenet was a gifted melodist whose work tends to exhibit high craftsmanship. Debussy eulogized Massenet thusly:

He was the most genuinely loved of all our contemporary musicians. His colleagues never forgave him for having such a power to please; it really was a gift. Massenet realized he could better express his genius if pastel tints and whispered melodies in works composed of lightness itself.

Visions is a late work in Massenet's life, and it was never published. How it saw the light of day, I have no idea; nor do I have any information about its composition or its inspiration. All I have here is, quite literally, the music, which is meditative and playful and ultimately dreamlike, with an offstage solo violin and an offstage soprano. It's a highly meditative work that seems a cross between Romanticism and Impressionism, or between the symphonic language of Europe in the 1800s and the glass-like textures of Ralph Vaughan Williams to come. There is something compelling about this piece, which I found simply by doing a YouTube search for "Jules Massenet". I ended up listening to it three times in succession as I worked.

Monday, May 08, 2017

And now, a sunset

Just because.

(And I guess it's not technically a sunset, but rather a dusk sky.)

Sky tonight #sunset #clouds #sky

Saturday, May 06, 2017

Symphony Saturday

Alexander Glazunov's seventh symphony is named the "Pastoral", and as such it evokes inevitable comparison with Beethoven's own Symphony No. 6. Glazunov's is clearly not the equal of Beethoven's, but how could it be? This is not to say that Glazunov's work isn't worth hearing, because it most certainly is. It is pastoral music heard through the prism of Russian Romanticism as opposed to Viennese Classicism. Lyrical, folk-song melodies abound, and the symphony often has that wonderful Russian feel of "sustained build". There always seems to be a spot in the best Russian symphonies when you can feel the energies gathering for an inevitable release. Listen in particular for some really thrilling writing for the timpani and the chant-like opening of the second movement, which sounds almost like a chorus of monks as they gather for prayer.

Here is Alexander Glazunov's Symphony No. 7 in F Major.

Next week: a small step backward, chronologically, to look at a Swedish composer with whom most are probably unfamiliar. (Including me!) And soon...Mahler.

Thursday, May 04, 2017

Something for Thursday (May the Fourth edition)

It's Star Wars Day, people!

(Warning: This next one is for if you need TEN HOURS of the Cantina Band!)