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Monday, June 17, 2019

Where the hell have I been?

Why, right here.

DONE! To the beta readers the second draft goes! #amwriting #writersofinstagram #sciencefiction #spaceopera #forgottenstars

And while I've been right here, I've been focusing on applying first edits to The Savior Worlds in order to be able to get the book out to the beta readers, and today, off it went! Whew.

So, what have you all been up to?

Thursday, June 06, 2019

Something for Thursday

I missed last week, boo! But I'm back this week, yay!

Setting aside the Song Challenge thing for a while, here's a nifty bit of movie music...for a teevee movie, anyway. Back in 1983 there was a miniseries on NBC (a two-part movie, basically) called V, in which alien "visitors" appeared in giant ships to contact humanity. Their stated reason for visiting was benign, or so they said, but they quickly turned out to be liars who took over the planet and assumed control as they started robbing the Earth of its liquid water (which, the show told us, is "the rarest, most precious commodity you can imagine, and Earth is blessed with an abundance of it") and harvest humans for food. Now, ignore the ludicrous nature of the show's SF premise (there's a shitload of water out there in the universe), the show was a lot of fun and it had some sober things to say about the nature of resistance in the face of evil. But the first installment left things unresolved, so along the next year came V: The Final Battle, which wrapped up the story over three nights. After some really convoluted stuff in the plot department (the first series was much more tightly written), the humans finally achieved victory by developing a biological agent that would poison the Earth's atmosphere to the aliens (the "Visitors") but be harmless to humans. The humans dispersed this stuff via hot air balloons in a nifty sequence that was pretty entertaining for a war show, eschewing a giant final battle for a more passively peaceful way of depicting victory. (There was action stuff that played out alongside this, of course, because you had to have some kind of action finale.)

The scene in which the balloons launch at dawn is accompanied by this music, which is as charmingly 1980s as you can get, with synths and drum samples and sounds that mimic whale songs, before the soaring melody arrives. It's hard not to be cheered and buoyed by music like this. This is the kind of thing I grew up with, folks!

Here's "The Balloon Theme" from V: The Final Battle.

Wednesday, June 05, 2019

Tone Poem Tuesday (Wednesday, I forgot-to-post-it-yesterday Edition)

Yeah, I just straight-up lost track of my days yesterday. It happens!

Here's a famous piece by Gustav Holst, probably his most famous work after The Planets. He wrote two Suites for Military Band, and both have become essential staples in the repertoire for the concert band or wind ensemble. This one is the First Suite, in E-flat. Enjoy!

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Letchworth in Spring

The other day we traveled to Letchworth State Park, a stunning place where the Genesee River flows through a massive, deep canyon and over three cliffs on its way north to Lake Ontario. It was a stunning, perfect day to be in one of the most beautiful places I know.

Here's what Letchworth looks like in spring.

Canyon at Letchworth #letchworthstatepark #geneseeriver #nature #hiking #trees

Middle Falls at #letchworthstatepark. Water is high and muddy! Lots of mist in the air, and the falls' roar is much louder. #waterfall #nature #hiking #trees #river

Rainbow in the mist #letchworthstatepark #waterfall

Letchworth canyon, looking north #letchworthstatepark #ilovenewyork #geneseeriver #nature #hiking #trees

Upper falls #letchworthstatepark #ilovenewyork #geneseeriver #nature #hiking #waterfall

Wolf Creek, Letchworth #letchworthstatepark #ilovenewyork #geneseeriver #wolfcreek #nature #hiking #trees #stream #runningwater

The Wife, the Dee-oh-gee, and me #Cane #dogsofinstagram #greyhound #greyhoundsofinstagram #letchworthstatepark #ilovenewyork #geneseeriver #nature #hiking #waterfall #overalls #dungarees #biboveralls #pointerbrand #overallsarelife #hickorystripe

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Tone Poem Tuesday

It's interesting how many of the great composers push others out of the limelight, isn't it? If not for Antonin Dvorak, likely the greatest of Czech composers, the music of Bedrich Smetana might be better known today. Dvorak's work is always more refined and frequently touched by genius, where Smetana's is earthier, maybe just a bit less memorably melodic, and occasionally awkward. That doesn't make it bad, though--not by a longshot. Here is one of the tone poems from Smetana's symphonic cycle Ma Vlast (My Country), "From Bohemia's Woods and Fields."

Monday, May 27, 2019

Larry Havers, and other Memorial Day thoughts

An annual reposting of some things pertaining to Memorial Day. First, a remembrance of a soldier I never knew.

Fifteen years ago I wrote the following on Memorial Day, and I wanted to revisit it. It's about the Vietnam Veteran whose name I remember, despite the fact that I had no relation to him and clearly never knew him, because he was killed four years before I was born.

Memorial Day, for all its solemnity, has for me always been something of a distant holiday, because no one close to me has ever fallen in war, and in fact I have to look pretty far for relatives who have even served in wartime. Both of my grandfathers fought in World War I, but both had been dead for years when I was born. I know that an uncle of mine served during World War II, but I also know that he saw no action (not to belittle his service, but Memorial Day is generally set aside to remember those who paid the "last full price of devotion"). My father-in-law served in Viet Nam, but my own father did not (he had college deferments for the first half of the war, and was above draft age during the second). So there is little in my family history to personalize Memorial Day; for me, it really is a day to remember "all the men and women who have died in service to the United States".

One personal remembrance, though, does creep up for me each Memorial Day. It has nothing at all to do with my family; in fact, I have no connection with the young man in question.

When I was in grade school, during the fall and spring, when the weather was nice, we would have gym class outdoors, at the athletic field. On good days we'd play softball or flag football or soccer; on not-so-good days we'd run around the quarter-mile track. But the walk to the athletic field involved crossing the street in front of the school and walking a tenth of a mile or so down the street, past the town cemetery. I remember that at the corner of the cemetery we passed, behind the wrought-iron fence, the grave of a man named Larry Havers was visible. His stone was decorated with a photograph of him, in military uniform. I don't recall what branch in which he served, nor do I recall his date-of-birth as given on the stone, but I do recall the year of his death: 1967. I even think the stone specified the specific battle in which he was killed in action, but I'm not sure about that, either.

That's what I remember each Memorial Day: the grave of a man I never knew, who died four years before I was born in a place across the world to which I doubt I'll ever go. And in the absence of anyone from my own family, Mr. Havers's name will probably be the one I look for if I ever visit that memorial in Washington. I hope his family wouldn't mind.

I looked online and found these images, first of Mr. Havers's obituary and then of Mr. Havers himself. The things you remember. I wonder what kind of man he was. He has been gone for more than half a century. His name is not forgotten.

Mr. Havers's service information can be found on the Virtual Vietnam Wall here. He was born 14 October 1946 and died 29 October 1967, in Thua Thien.

Next, my annual repost for Memorial Day.

Tomb of Unknown Soldier

Know, all who see these lines,
That this man, by his appetite for honor,
By his steadfastness,
By his love for his country,
By his courage,
Was one of the miracles of the God.

-- Guy Gavriel Kay

"The Green Field of France", by Eric Bogle

Well, how do you do, young Willie McBride,
Do you mind if I sit down here by your graveside?
And rest for awhile 'neath the warm summer sun,
I've been walking all day, and I'm nearly done.
I see by your gravestone you were only 19
When you joined the great fallen in 1916,
I hope you died quick and I hope you died clean
Or, Willie McBride, was it slow and obscene?

Did they Beat the drum slowly, did they play the fife lowly?
Did they sound the death-march as they lowered you down?
Did the band play The Last Post in chorus?
Did the pipes play the Flowers of the Forest?

Did you leave a wife or a sweetheart behind
In some faithful heart is your memory enshrined?
And, though you died back in 1916,
To that faithful heart are you forever 19?
Or are you a stranger without even a name,
Enshrined then, forever, behind a glass pane,
In an old photograph, torn and tattered and stained,
And faded to yellow in a brown leather frame?

Did they Beat the drum slowly, did they play the fife lowly?
Did they sound the death-march as they lowered you down?
Did the band play The Last Post in chorus?
Did the pipes play the Flowers of the Forest?

The sun's shining down on these green fields of France;
The warm wind blows gently, and the red poppies dance.
The trenches have vanished long under the plow;
No gas and no barbed wire, no guns firing now.
But here in this graveyard that's still No Man's Land
The countless white crosses in stand mute in the sand
To man's blind indifference to his fellow man,
And a whole generation who were butchered and damned.

Did they Beat the drum slowly, did they play the fife lowly?
Did they sound the death-march as they lowered you down?
Did the band play The Last Post in chorus?
Did the pipes play the Flowers of the Forest?

And I can't help but wonder, no Willie McBride,
Do all those who lie here know why they died?
Did they really believe when they answered the call,
Did they really believe that this war would end wars?
Well the sorrow, the suffering, the glory, the pain
The killing and dying, was all done in vain,
For young Willie McBride, it all happened again,
And again, and again, and again, and again.

Did they Beat the drum slowly, did they play the fife lowly?
Did they sound the death-march as they lowered you down?
Did the band play The Last Post in chorus?
Did the pipes play the Flowers of the Forest?

Friday, May 24, 2019

Bad Joke Friday

How about another Star Trek joke, with a different franchise altogether thrown in just for good measure?

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Something for Thursday

Yup, the usual. Very busy at work and also very busy at home, what with editing books and other things! I finished manuscript markups on The Savior Worlds, but now I'm finishing up the manuscript markups on Deliverance, Eh? (not the actual title), which is my supernatural thriller about a kayaking expedition in the Alaskan wilds that goes wildly, horribly wrong. Also in the last few weeks we've had our wedding anniversary, a trip to Rochester for the Lilac Festival, and my appearance as part of the Geekiverse team at Nickel City Con! (Post about that coming up on the Official Site.)

Why all this writing activity? Because I want to get back to my original goal of having a book a year ready for release, at least for the next few years. That means that I had to get a nice backlog of manuscripts together, so I can start polishing them off, one by one. Right now there are five of them:

1. The Savior Worlds, being Book IV of The Song of Forgotten Stars.
2. Deliverance, Eh? (not the actual title), being the above-mentioned supernatural thriller.
3. Through the Pale Door, the second John Lazarus novel
4. Orion's Huntress, the first installment in a new series of space operas
5. Lighthouse Boy (not the actual title) Part I, first half of a fantasy duology

That's a lot of writing waiting to be processed and released into the wild, I can tell you!

But anyway, back to the song challenge. This one's a bit heavy: A Song That Makes Me Think About Life. Well then! Here are a few of those.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Tone Poem Tuesday

Film music today: a symphonic suite comprising the music of Joe Hisaishi, written for the great Hayao Miyazaki film Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind. Hisaishi is one of my favorite composers, and this suite is representative of why.

Friday, May 10, 2019

Bad Joke Friday

I need to find more of these, because apparently more exist. If you're not up on your Star Trek: The Next Generation lore, there was a two-part episode where Captain Picard was sent on a special mission and replaced by Captain Jellico (Ronny Cox), who was a very strict, by-the-book kind of captain. Everybody hated him, but by the end he did manage to win over some respect from the crew by the time Picard returned.

But someone has decided to use screenshots from that episode to have Captain Jellico telling bad jokes, like this. I love it!

Something for Thursday (Friday Edition)

So yesterday I was asked (well, I was asked to do this before yesterday, but yesterday was the day) to work not at The Store but rather to fill in for a guy who was on vacation at another location of The Store. Fine...except that The Other Store is in Niagara Falls, NY, and Casa Jaquandor is about 35 miles south of NF, NY. So I had a 45-minute commute, and then an 8-hour shift, and then a return-home commute that took an hour and twenty minutes because of road construction on I-190 through downtown Buffalo. (Couldn't I have taken I-290 around Buffalo? Sure...but it's under construction! And so's the Skyway out of downtown! Huzzah!) So by the time I got home, walked doggos, cooked dinner, showered, walked doggos again, all I wanted to do was drink rum and do some edits on The Savior Worlds.

So here's today's entry into our ongoing song prompt thing, A Song From The Year I Was Born. Ready for some way-back hits from 1971? Here we go!

Tuesday, May 07, 2019

Tone Poem Tuesday

William Grant Still, who lived from 1895 to 1978, is one of the most prominent and important African-American composers. He was prolific, writing five symphonies and eight operas in addition to an impressive array of other works. His is an important voice from the time when jazz was emerging and when the American musical vernacular was starting to move beyond its European-dominated roots.

This suite, the Danzas de Panama, is a chamber work that is heard here performed by full string orchestra. The suite of four selections uses folk source material from Panama, and Still creates the appropriate air of folk dance here, albeit combined with the traditional sounds of the Western orchestra.

Here is Danzas de Panama by William Grant Still.

Thursday, May 02, 2019

Something for Thursday

So, time to get back to our on-again, off-again song challenge! If my reckoning is correct, we're up to A Song I'd Sing With Someone In A Karaoke Duet. Well, I'm honestly not likely to ever sing karaoke in any foreseeable future, but if I did...well, this category vexed me a bit which is why I'm actually so late today with this post. Only one song really leaps to mind for me as one that might get me up to the microphone (and a bit of alcohol infused into my system would also be necessary), and it's this one, from Grease. Am I sure? Yes I'm sure! Yes I'm sure down deep inside!

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Tone Poem Tuesday

I know I've featured this work before, but it's so good that it bears returning once in a while. Ottorino Resphigi was an Italian composer most active in the early 20th century, but he wasn't much of a modernist: he preferred to cloak musical forms from the Baroque eras and before in the more modern sounds of the Romantic orchestra and harmonies. As such, Resphigi turned out music that sounds compulsively fresh no matter how many times I listen to it. His tone poem The Pines of Rome takes its genesis from the great pine trees to be found in that city, and the movements are of interesting character. The first is playful, while the second takes a solemn turn that suggests the orders of a Catholic monastery. In the third movement we have an atmospheric nocturne that features, towards its end, a bit of recorded birdsong; and then in the fourth movement there is dawn and powerful culminating triumph.

Resphigi's music is atmospheric and impressionistic, and though it doesn't quite abide with memorable melodies, it is full of what Wagner might call "melodic moments of feeling". This is music of power and mystery and pure magic. Here is Ottorino Resphigi's The Pines of Rome.

Sunday, April 28, 2019

For National Poetry Month, a poem.

From An Anthology of World Poetry, edited by Mark Van Doren, a French ballad. No poet is named.

"The Bridge of Death"

"The dance is on the Bridge of Death
   And who will dance with me?"
"There's never a man of living men
   Will dare to dance with thee."

Now Margaret's gone within her bower,
   Put ashes in her hair,
And sackcloth on her bonny breast,
   And on her shoulders bare.

There came a knock to her bower door,
   And blithe she let him in;
It was her brother from the wars,
   The dearest of her kin.

"Set gold within your hair, Margaret,
   Set gold within your hair,
And gold upon your girdle band,
   And on your breast so fair.

For we are bidden to dance to-night,
   We may not bide away;
This one good night, this one fair night,
   Before the red new day."

"Nay, no gold for my head, brother,
   Nay, no gold for my hair;
It is the ashes and dust of earth
   That you and I must wear.

"No gold for mu girdle band,
   No godl work on my feet;
But ashes of the fire, my love,
   But dust that the serpents eat."

They danced across the Bridge of DEath,
   Above the black water,
And the marriage-bell was tolled in hell
   For the souls of him and her.

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Of Cackling Emperors and other things....

OK, so now that I'm done cranking out the words every day in a final push to complete a novel draft, what should we talk about? about the teaser trailer to Star Wars Episode IX that dropped a few weeks ago?

If you haven't seen it, here it is:

As with all teasers, there's simultaneously a lot to unpack there and...there's nothing to unpack there. Teaser trailers are designed to tantalize in any of a hundred different ways, and since this thing showed up online during the Star Wars Celebration fan festival, the Interwebs have been all a-tizzy as they try to read the tea leaves.

Well, never one to leave a muddle of wet tea unscrutinized, here are some random thoughts of my own!

1. As the Lucasfilm logo fades in we hear breathing. It's Rey, and our first glimpse of anything in the trailer is Rey herself, standing alone in the middle of a desert wasteland. This is already reminiscent of the first shot of the trailer for The Force Awakens, in which we saw Finn also standing alone in the middle of a desert wasteland...but where Finn looked visibly afraid and distraught, Rey's manner is one of calm. She is relaxing into...a moment.

2. Luke Skywalker's voice: "We've passed on all we know," and Rey pulls out her lightsaber. It's the Anakin-and-Luke model that she's been sporting through this trilogy, was broken in two when she and Kylo Ren Force-battled to claim in in The Last Jedi, so now it's been reforged. The lightsaber is now Anduril to the original Narsil, if I may.

3. Luke, continued: "A thousand generations live in you now." This establishes that Rey is, after all, the last Jedi. It's all down to her.

4. Onscreen text: "Every generation has a legend." This calls back to the "Every saga has a beginning" line in that first trailer way back in 1998 for The Phantom Menace. Interesting choice, given the lengths this creative team went during the TFA build-up to differentiate their movie from the Prequels.

5. A TIE ship zooms across the same landscape, approaching Rey. It's flying right-to-left, kicking up a cloud of dust. This echoes the pod race from TPM, but reversed (the pod race mostly went left-to-right), and also the attack of the Resistance X-wings from TFA, when they streaked across a lake and kicked up water spray (and also went left-to-right).

6. The TIE ship bears down, Rey runs, we don't see who's flying the ship although I guess we're supposed to assume it's Kylo Ren, and then...Rey does this big slow-motion backflip toward the ship, with her lightsaber ignited. Hmmmm. This is not the type of action move we've ever really seen in a Star Wars movie. We cut away as the music erupts into a powerful rendition of Princess Leia's theme, which is, for all intents and purposes, the Star Wars music of choice for really big emotional beats.

7. A ship flying through mountains to a city at night on some planet. No idea. Someone online noted a similarity between that ship and the one that Rey envisioned during her Force-dream in TFA, the ship that presumably carried her parents away as young Rey screamed "Come back!" But I don't know.

8. Kylo Ren in action. I guess we have to see him, but Kylo Ren remains for me one of this trilogy's least well-executed factors. He's reforging his mask, he makes a power move in a fight with his goofy lightsaber.

9. Finn and Poe on some desert planet. The same one Rey's on? Maybe. Finn seems to be holding Rey's staff, and Poe Dameron is standing behind him on a rock outcropping that looks a bit like one of those from Obi Wan Kenobi's skulkings-about on the planet Geonosis way back in Attack of the Clones. Hmmmm....

10. The Millennium Falcon, flying through hyperspace as LANDO F***ING CALRISSIAN laughs with glee. I'm not gonna tell you I'm not excited to see Lando in action again, because I am! I do continue to think that this trilogy's use of the classic characters has not been handled as well as I would like. But anyway, the Falcon exits hyperspace but we don't get to see where. Hmmmm....

11. Onscreen text: "The Saga comes to an end." Well, yup, I suppose. I continue to view this story as not the third part of a saga but as a tacked-on thing added on by someone other than the author. Unfair? Maybe. But this trilogy, even with all its merits (and it does have them, even if most of them are in The Last Jedi), just doesn't feel to me like an organic continuation of what went before.

12. A series of quick cuts: speeder vehicles including ones so small they look like Quidditch brooms, Poe and Finn and C-3PO in some kind of action shot, and then...fingers caressing what looks like one of the medals Luke and Han got for blowing up the Death Star in ANH, and Rey hugging Leia. I'm interested to see how this movie constructs a satisfying narrative for Leia out of pre-existing cut footage from the last two movies, now that Carrie Fisher is gone.

13. A wide shot of our heroes! Rey in the foreground, with Finn, Poe, C-3PO, BB8, some new droid, and Chewbacca all behind her. They have the classic "There it is!" expression that all movie adventurers get when they crest the last rise before whatever it is they're looking for.

14. Then we cut to the other view: what they're looking at. It's an ocean shore, with crashing waves and...way out amongst the rocks...a giant piece of metal wreckage with a particular indentation in it, circular. It's a crash chunk of a Death Star.

15. Luke: "No one is ever really gone." Cut to black, and....

16. The unmistakable laughter of Emperor Palpatine.

17. The trailer ends with the title card: STAR WARS, and then the episode's subtitle: The Rise of Skywalker.

OK. Operating under the assumption that this teaser is designed to create all kinds of misdirection and speculation-fodder for thoughts that will turn out false, we should go down the rabbit hole anyway! But first, here's a cool moment from the trailer's first screening at STAR WARS Celebration. The fans are cheering and going nuts...and then the lights come back on and there, on stage, all by himself, is actor Ian McDiarmid, who played Palpatine in the first six films. It's a great moment, and really, shouldn't we all admit now that McDiarmid created one of the iconic villains in movies in Palpatine?


"ROLL IT AGAIN!" Love it!

All right. So. The trailer.

Again, most of this will almost certainly be false.

First, the title: The Rise of Skywalker. What does that mean?

Well I don't know, but I do not think it will mean that Rey's backstory from TLJ, of being a nobody born to worthless parents, will be retconned. A lot of fans seem to think that JJ Abrams is going to be using this movie to walk back all the stuff that many fans recoiled against in the last film, but Abrams was involved in TLJ's production. He executive produced it, and Kathleen Kennedy has overseen all of these movies. Rian Johnson was not simply handed a wad of cash and told "Come back to us with a Star Wars movie."

Plus, the creative team has made no bones about their using this trilogy to put the entire "Skywalker Saga" to bed, so that moving forward after Episode IX, any new Star Wars stories will be non-Skywalker tales. I'm fine with that, to be honest. It's a big galaxy, after all. Lots of stories to be told.

But the title is The Rise of Skywalker, so if the saga is ending, what can be rising? One fan theory has the Jedi ending entirely with a new brand of Force-users coming in the wake of these events, called "Skywalkers". Maybe. Or maybe this title simply refers to the Skywalker family's final coming-down on the light side of the Force, after decades of being good then bad then good then bad again.

The problem there is that in this movie there's only one Skywalker descendant left, and that's Kylo Ren. If he's the one who is supposed to balance the Skywalker clan's books with regard to the Force, it implies that he gets a redemption arc, which I'm not that interested in seeing, on pure story grounds: We already had a Sith redemption arc with Darth Vader. And these films have been a lot more up front with Kylo Ren's evil, right down to his murdering his own father, Han Solo. Can Kylo Ren be redeemed? Of course he can. These movies have already established it. But for me, a Kylo Ren redemption arc would feel like one more echo of the Original Trilogy in a trilogy that has too many such echoes already.

Maybe Rey, when all is said and done and all of the remaining Skywalkers have died, takes on the name herself, kind of like how in Titanic Rose took the surname Dawson when she arrived in New York on the Carpathia, in tribute to Jack Dawson who died saving her from the sinking ship. In that way the Skywalkers would end...but they would also rise. Maybe.

Second, what about that Death Star?

I'd hoped that we could have a Star Wars story that does not involve a giant planet-destroying weapon, and yet, here we've got a wrecked Death Star. Fan speculation here centers on just which of the two Death Stars we've seen destroyed this is: Is it the one from A New Hope, crashed on Yavin IV or another of Yavin's moons? Or is it the one from Return of the Jedi, crashed on Endor after its destruction? And if that's Endor we're looking at, are the Ewoks all dead, having been wiped out in a planetary calamity of a big piece of Death Star falling out of the sky?

Maybe it's neither.

There was a lot of galactic history outside of just the movies. Remember that the Prequels established that the Death Star was at least in the conceptual stage as far back as Attack of the Clones, and that we saw the very beginnings of a Death Star shell under construction at the very end of Revenge of the Sith, whose events took place a full two decades before the Original Trilogy.

That shot has always been slightly problematic, hasn't it? Is that supposed to be the very Death Star that would later show up in A New Hope? Did it really take twenty years to build it?

Maybe the one in the Episode IX trailer is neither of the two Death Stars from the OT. Maybe it was a prototype. Remember above, when I noted that the rock formation that Poe is standing on looks more than a little like some of those seen on Geonosis, the planet where the Death Star was first designed.

From The Rise of Skywalker

From Attack of the Clones

Again, I'm probably completely wrong in this, but this is what makes it fun!

So, what if our heroes are on Geonosis, where construction first began on the Death Star? According to the new canon established by Disney after their kinda-reboot, the Empire eventually moved Death Star construction away from Geonosis and sterilized the planet, killing all of the Geonosans. But maybe a prototype that was never operational was scuttled, and maybe that wreckage fell onto an already-dead planet, winding up at the edge of a Geonosan ocean.

Remember, from Rogue One we know that Death Star development took many years and ran into huge technical problems that were only surmounted once Galen Erso was brought in by Orson Krennic to figure out how to make the superlaser work. So maybe the crashed Death Star is one that was never close to working...but there's something important about it.

Maybe...Kyber crystals, which power many weapons in the Star Wars universe, from lightsabers to Death Star superlasers.

Much rumor about Episode IX has at least part of the plot revolving around a secret mission that our heroes are entrusted with by General Leia Organa. Maybe that mission is to find the crashed Death Star and recover its Kyber crystals, for the Rebellion to use against the First Order. Maybe this time it's the Rebellion that's trying to build a super weapon, which would actually make sense, given how the Rebellion's numbers were reduced in TLJ to the carrying capacity of the Millennium Falcon.

So, enough about Death Stars. What about our friend the Emperor? Old Papa Palpatine? Well, I was a bit surprised to head his laughter, along with everybody else. I'm less thrilled about this, since we've already had a Palpatine-back-from-the-dead story (in Dark Empire, a comics series that came out in the 90s and became an accepted part of the "Star Wars expanded universe," as the non-film content before Disney's Lucasfilm purchase came to be known). Also, a very-much still-active-after-all-these-years Palpatine negates yet another of the happy-ending outcomes of Return of the Jedi, if it turns out that Darth Vader's self-sacrifice wasn't to kill Palpatine but to just inconvenience him for a few years.

No, I'm not in love with the idea of Palpatine showing up again. he is, apparently. In some form.

Backing up a bit, we have Supreme Leader Snoke, murdered by Kylo Ren in TLJ. I've been pretty open about my frustration regarding Snoke and his personification of what I see as some serious worldbuilding errors in this trilogy. Snoke is completely without backstory of any kind, which has always annoyed me. I've always been bothered by the fact that these movies give no explanation for how the triumph at the end of Return of the Jedi ended up being pretty much meaningless and that the galaxy went to shit anyway. We're given this evil Force user (Snoke never actually claims the mantle of "Sith"), with no hint of where he came from or who he is or anything at all. And then he's killed and that's that for Snoke.

Or is it?

First of all, I've wondered if Snoke actually was killed in TLJ, because Luke Skywalker clearly establishes that for a Force user of sufficient power, projecting a physical copy of oneself across the universe is a thing. Maybe Snoke was doing that and thus was never in that Throne Room.

But maybe Snoke was just a simulacrum operated by Palpatine, or a mere puppet for Palpatine...or maybe Snoke actually was Palpatine. Maybe Palpatine has been a disembodied Force spirit who moves from one body to the next. Heck, springing off my point just above...maybe Palpatine was Force-projecting a copy of himself into the Throne Room in Return of the Jedi! Maybe Vader wasn't throwing anybody into the shaft at all!

Well, probably not. But if Palpatine's around in a way similar to the way that Yoda and Luke and others are, maybe this makes Kylo Ren the proxy stand-in for the entire line of Sith, just as Rey is for the Jedi.

You never know...and all this navel-gazing may end up completely refuted by the next trailer. I guess we'll see...but we're a mere eight months away from this movie's release. Revealed, all shall soon be....

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Something for Thursday

And...we're done!

And...BOOM! The first draft of ORION'S HUNTRESS is DONE!!! #amwriting #writersofinstagram #sciencefiction #spaceopera #orionshuntress

I've been cranking out the words for the last couple weeks in order to bring this one to its conclusion, and this morning, conclude it, I did!

So here's a bit of cheerful triumphalism. (Sorry about the vuvuzela things.)

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Tone Poem Tuesday

I know, I know, I know. Long time, not much content. In my defense, though:

BIG day! #amwriting #writersofinstagram #sciencefiction #spaceopera #orionshuntress

This can only mean one thing: I'm writing my ass off, getting the first draft of Orion's Huntress done. Above is a screenshot from the Session Statistics tool that Scrivener (my main writing program these days) gives. For me, anything over 2000 words is a big day, and I've been averaging 1500 or so a day for the last week and a half. I'm close, folks. I am so close!

So what does this mean for Tone Poem Tuesday? A piece of familiar music that doesn't need a lot of introduction? Why, yes! So turn up your speakers and watch the pretty people in Egyptian dress as they perform the Triumphal March from Verdi's Aida.

After this draft is done I won't be doing any first-draft writing for a long time as I have a bunch of manuscripts that need first mark-ups, so hopefully I'll settle into a more consistent schedule here. Meanwhile...Excelsior!

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Tone Poem Tuesday

Not a tone poem this week, but an actual symphony, one written originally for a very large wind band for an outdoor ceremonial purpose by Hector Berlioz. This work, called the Grande symphonie funebre et triomphale, was actually one of Berlioz's most popular works during his lifetime, although like everything he else he wrote that wasn't the Symphonie fantastique, it languished out of the repertoire for many years after his death. The symphony consists of three movements: a funeral march, followed by a "funeral oration" (including a lyrical part for a solo trombone), and then a triumphal march which Berlioz later edited to include optional strings and chorus. While there is no connection between this work and the Cathedral of Notre Dame, it seems to me that this work suits the mood surrounding yesterday's disaster at that great building: grief, and mourning, and the certainty that the building will rise again as it has more than a few times in its 800-year history.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Something for Thursday

Yes, we missed last week. And yes, we're back in the saddle this week. Sticking with our song challenge, this week's entry is A Song That's a Classic Favorite. Lots of ways to interpret that, aren't there? Here are a couple oldies that I like a whole lot.

Tuesday, April 09, 2019

Tone Poem Tuesday

Sorry for the late posting, but geez, I'm having a busy bunch of days here. Wowza.

Anyway, here's an old favorite of mine. I haven't heard a lot of Edward Elgar's music, but whenever I listen to him I come away thinking I need to listen to him a lot more. Elgar wrote this piece while spending several months in the Italian Riviera with his family. I don't know the first thing about the Italian Riviera, but in this piece I hear adventure and wistful remembrance and drama and excitement. This concert overture reminds me of the very best film music from that form's Golden Age, and for me, that is a compliment.

Here is "Alassio (In the South)", by Sir Edward Elgar.

Monday, April 08, 2019

"January, 1795" by Mary Robinson (a poem)

Mary Robinson (1757-1800),
painted by Thomas Gainsborough

One of a series of occasional posts for National Poetry Month.

One of my major resolutions for 2019 is to read more poetry. I've always enjoyed poetry and I always try to read some here and there, but this year I'm trying to be even more serious about it, even to the point of starting a poetry reading journal in which I record thoughts about poems as I read them. I'm also reading some books about poetry in an ongoing attempt to strengthen this particular literary muscle of mine.

I discovered this poem purely serendipitously: by thumbing through one of my copies of The Oxford Book of English Verse. (I have multiple editions of this book, because its contents have not been constant through the many years of its publication, and alongside the eternals are the lesser-so works, and poems are like music in that many that deserve to live on don't always do so). I found a single poem by a poet named Mary Robinson, of whom I don't remember ever hearing before. Here is the poem:

January, 1795

Pavement slipp’ry, people sneezing,
Lords in ermine, beggars freezing;
Titled gluttons dainties carving,
Genius in a garret starving.

Lofty mansions, warm and spacious;
Courtiers cringing and voracious;
Misers scarce the wretched heeding;
Gallant soldiers fighting, bleeding.

Wives who laugh at passive spouses;
Theatres, and meeting-houses;
Balls, where simp’ring misses languish;
Hospitals, and groans of anguish.

Arts and sciences bewailing;
Commerce drooping, credit failing;
Placemen mocking subjects loyal;
Separations, weddings royal.

Authors who can’t earn a dinner;
Many a subtle rogue a winner;
Fugitives for shelter seeking;
Misers hoarding, tradesmen breaking.

Taste and talents quite deserted;
All the laws of truth perverted;
Arrogance o’er merit soaring;
Merit silently deploring.

Ladies gambling night and morning;
Fools the works of genius scorning;
Ancient dames for girls mistaken,
Youthful damsels quite forsaken.

Some in luxury delighting;
More in talking than in fighting;
Lovers old, and beaux decrepid;
Lordlings empty and insipid.

Poets, painters, and musicians;
Lawyers, doctors, politicians:
Pamphlets, newspapers, and odes,
Seeking fame by diff’rent roads. 
Gallant souls with empty purses;
Gen’rals only fit for nurses;
School-boys, smit with martial spirit,
Taking place of vet’ran merit.

Honest men who can’t get places,
Knaves who shew unblushing faces;
Ruin hasten’d, peace retarded;
Candor spurn’d, and art rewarded.

I read this poem three times in a row the first time I found it, and I've been returning to it ever since. More than that, this single poem has made me keenly interested in Robinson herself, who seems to have lived quite a colorful life. She wasn't just a poet. She was an early feminist, and an actress (she would be nickanmed "Perdita" after she did notable performances in that role in Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale), and later she became the mistress of the Prince of Wales, before he himself went on to become King George III. Though she eventually died in poverty, Robinson has come in for reappraisal in recent years. I have even been reading her own memoirs, and so far they are fascinating (I am only in the early going, before she had struck out on her own after a childhood of paternal neglect and maternal overwork.)

But back to January, 1795. The poem is simply a word painting, creating a sense of a specific place (London) at a specific time. There are no sentences in the poem, just fragments comprising a series of quatrains which are themselves comprised of rhyming couplets. Throughout Robinson juxtaposes specific details, often combining a beautiful one with an ugly one: "Lofty mansions, warm and spacious; / Courtiers cringing and voracious." This structure puts me in mind of Charles Dickens's amazing opening line to A Tale of Two Cities: "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times...." I wonder if Dickens had occasion to read Robinson's poem.

Stay tuned for more poetry!

Tuesday, April 02, 2019

Farewell, Vonda N. McIntyre (From the Books)

Science fiction and fantasy author Vonda N. McIntyre has died.

I feel that I've done McIntyre a disservice all these years. I've read a lot of her work, but none beyond her well-known tie-in books in the Star Trek and Star Wars universes. But on the other hand, she wrote all those books voluntarily and she wrote some of them so well that they stand up even outside their tie-in status. And what's so bad about tie-in work, anyway? There's a reason the Trek and Wars franchises are so well-established. I do own a couple of McIntyre's non-Trek books, and I should probably make reading them a higher priority.

One novel of hers that I especially liked was her original Trek novel Enterprise: The First Adventure, in which she told the story of how the very first voyage of the starship Enterprise under the command of Captain James T. Kirk went. This novel posed a number of challenges for McIntyre: she couldn't rely on the tried-and-true relationship tropes of Trek. Kirk and McCoy were already good friends at this point, but neither knew the Enterprise's Vulcan science officer; there couldn't be any hint here of "I have been, and always shall be, your friend." McIntyre also wrote a Lt. Sulu who didn't even want to be on the Enterprise, and Commander Montgomery Scott who was so skeptical of his new Captain and so possessive of "his" ship that he nearly let his attitude force Captain Kirk to order his transfer off the finest ship in Starfleet.

Another thing McIntyre did in this book is to show that Kirk's ascent to commanding the Enterprise wasn't just a straight-line thing that involved no sacrifice at all. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, which McIntyre novelized, established that there was one woman in Kirk's past life who was much more than a momentary conquest. Dr. Carol Marcus might have been the love of his life, and she was the only one (that we ever knew of) to bear James T. Kirk's child. So in Enterprise, Vonda McIntyre wrote a wonderful scene in which Kirk is torn between his dream of command and a woman he loves. It's the kind of amazing character writing at which McIntyre excelled. She made you care about these characters. Her writing is full of scenes like this, and now I have to wonder even more what magic she was able to conjure with characters of her very own.

Here's the scene.

Carol turned, uncharacteristically flustered. "Jim--!"

"Hello, Carol." He stopped. He wanted to say everything to her, or he wanted to say nothing. He wanted to make love with her, or he wanted never to see her again.

"Talk to you later," Dr. Eng said, and made a diplomatic exit.

"How are you feeling, Jim?"

He ignored the question. His heart beat hard. "It's wonderful to see you. I have to leave soon. Can we...I'd like to talk to you. Would you have a drink with me?"

"I don't feel like having a drink," she said. "But I will go for a walk with you."

Jim paused beside Gary, still hoping he might awaken. [That's Gary Mitchell, Kirk's best friend who was his First Office in the episode "Where No Man Has Gone Before," before his character died.] "Get well, my friend," Jim said, and left Ms. Chapel the note to give him when he regained consciousness.

They did not have to discuss where to go. Jim and Carol walked toward their park.

Without meaning to, exactly, Jim kept brushing against Carol. His shoulder touched her shoulder; his fingers touched the back of her hand. At first she moved aside.

"Oh--" Carol said impatiently the third time Jim touched her. She took his hand and held it. "We are still friends, I hope."

"I hope so too," Jim said. He tried to pretend the electric tingle of physical attraction no longer existed between them, but he found it impossible to deceive himself that much. Being near Carol made Jim feel as if a powerful current case a web over both of them, exchanging and intensifying every passion.

"Are you sleeping any better?" Carol said.

Jim hesitated between the truth and a lie. "I'm sleeping fine," he said.

Carol gave him a quizzical glance, and he knew he had hesitated too long. She had held him too many times, when the nightmare slapped him awake in the darkest hours of the morning.

"If you want to talk about it...." she said.

"No. I don't want to talk about it," he said in a clipped tone. [This all happens in the aftermath of a bad incident that left Kirk emotionally scarred.]..."No," he said again, more gently. "I don't want to talk about it."

Still holding hands, they reached the small park and set out along the path that circled the lake. Ducks swam alongside them, quacking for a handout.

"We always forget to bring them anything," Carol said. "How many times have we walked here--we always meant to bring them some bread, but we never did."

"We had...other things on our minds."


"Carol, there's got to be some way--!"

He cut off his words when he felt her tense.

"Such as what?" she said.

"We could--we could get married."

She looked at him; for a moment he thought she was going to burst out laughing.

"What?" she said.

"Let's get married. We could transport to Spacedock. Admiral Noguchi could perform the ceremony."

"But why marriage, for heaven's sake?"

"That's the way we do it in my family," Jim said stiffly.

"Not in mine," Carol said. "And anyway, it still wouldn't work."

"It's worked for quite a number of generations," Jim said, though in the case of his own parents the statement stretched the truth. "Carol, I love you. You love me. You're the person I'd most want to be with if I were stranded on a desert planet. We have fun together--remember when we went to the dock and snuck on board the Enterprise for our own private tour--" At her expression, he stopped. "It's true."

"Yes," she said. "It's true. And I've missed you. The house is awfully quiet without you."

"Then you'll do it?"

"No. We talked about this too many times. No matter what we do, it wouldn't make any difference. I can't be with you and you can't stay with me."

"But I could. I could transfer to headquarters--"

"Jim..." She turned to face him. She held both his hands and looked into his eyes. "I remember how you felt when you found out you're getting command of the Enterprise. Do you think anyone who loved you would want to take that away from you? Do you think you could love anyone who tried?"

"I love you," he said. "I don't want to lose you."

"I don't want to lose you, either. But I lost you before I ever met you. I can get used to the quiet. I can't get used to having you back for a few weeks at a time and losing you over and over and over again."

He kept seeking a different solution, but the pattern led him in circles and he could find no way out.

"I know you're right," he said, miserable. "I just..."

Tears silvered Carol's dark blue eyes.

They kissed each other, one last time. She held him. He laid his head on her shoulder with his face turned away, because he, too, was near tears.

"I love you too, Jim," she said. "But we don't live on a desert planet."

That's how you write a heartbreaking farewell scene...and it comes very early in the book, before we even see Captain Kirk on the bridge of his new ship. McIntyre knew how to set the emotional stage for her stories.

I really do owe her a reading with newer eyes....

Tone Poem Tuesday

I am really stretching the idea of a "tone poem" with today's selection, because what we have today is not an orchestral piece at all but rather a choral one, with much of it being a capella (there's a piano at one point). I heard part of this work whilst driving home the other day and I just had to share it here, where it sort-of ties in to April being National Poetry Month. American composer Morten Lauridsen set five poems by German poet Rainer Maria Rilke, each of which deals with the subject of a rose. Lauridsen--who was a forest ranger and firefighter before he turned to music--has this to say about this piece:

In addition to his vast output of German poetry, Rainer Maria Rilke (1875-1926) composed nearly 400 poems in French. His poems on roses struck me as especially charming, filled with gorgeous lyricism, deftly crafted and elegant in their imagery. These exquisite poems are primarily light, joyous and playful, and the musical settings are designed to enhance these characteristics and capture the delicate beauty and sensuousness of the poetry. Distinct melodic and harmonic materials recur throughout the cycle, especially between Rilke's poignant “Contre qui, rose” (set as a wistful nocturne) and his moving “La rose complète.” The final piece, “Dirait-on,” is composed as a tuneful chanson populaire, or folksong, that weaves together two melodic ideas first heard in fragmentary form in preceding movements.

Lauridsen's composition is deeply intimate and full of harmonic resolution; modern dissonance has no place here. The music is almost luminous at times.

Here is the text of one of Rilke's rose poems (he apparently wrote more than five, so how Lauridsen chose which ones to set, I don't know), as sourced from poetry blogger Clarissa Ackroyd.

THE ROSES (Rainer Maria Rilke, translated from French by Clarissa Aykroyd)


One rose alone is every rose,
one, but manifold meaning:
perfect and irreplaceable,
framed by words of being.

How could we ever speak
without the rose,
of sweet interludes in constant farewell,
or of our hopes?

(Original French)


Une rose seule, c'est toutes les roses
et celle-ci: l'irremplaçable,
le parfait, le souple vocable
encadré par le texte des choses.

Comment jamais dire sans elle
ce que furent nos espérances,
et les tendres intermittences
dans la partance continuelle.

Here is Les chansons des roses by Morten Lauridsen.

Monday, April 01, 2019

April Fool's Day! (and the beginning of National Poetry Month)

It's April Fools Day! I'm not a huge fan of this day as a celebration of pranking people, seeing if you can embarrass them or get them to believe some false news story or the like. But I'd be all for a day in which we celebrate laughter and All Things Funny, whether it's sophisticated wordplay or gonzo silliness or a good old pie in the face. Here are a few things that always hit my funny bone:

(Here, on an episode of Cheers, Sam finds that his bar has been bricked in as a prank by Gary of Gary's Old Town Tavern...but all is well because he's got an Irish band coming....)

And here, because National Poetry Month is starting today, is a poem about laughter by Ella Wheeler Wilcox.

Momus, God Of Laughter

Though with the gods the world is cumbered,
Gods unnamed, and gods unnumbered,
Never god was known to be
Who had not his devotee.
So I dedicate to mine,
Here in verse, my temple-shrine.

'Tis not Ares - mighty Mars,
Who can give success in wars;
'Tis not Morpheus, who doth keep
Guard above us while we sleep;
'Tis not Venus, she whose duty
'Tis to give us love and beauty.
Hail to these, and others, after
Momus, gleesome god of laughter.

Quirinus would guard my health,
Plutus would insure me wealth;
Mercury looks after trade,
Hera smiles on youth and maid.
All are kind, I own their worth,
After Momus, god of mirth.

Though Apollo, out of spite,
Hides away his face of light,
Though Minerva looks askance,
Deigning me no smiling glance,
Kings and queens may envy me
While I claim the god of glee.

Wisdom wearies, Love has wings --
Wealth makes burdens, Pleasure stings,
Glory proves a thorny crown --
So all gifts the gods throw down
Bring their pains and troubles after;
All save Momus, god of laughter.
He alone gives constant joy,
Hail to Momus, happy boy!

I'll be posting about poetry off and on throughout the month. I don't promise a post every day, but most days.

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Something for Thursday

Our ongoing song challenge this week brings us to A Song You Like That's a Cover By Another Artist. So here are a few covers that I particularly like!

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Remembering William Goldman

William Goldman died last year. He lived a long and brilliant life as one of the finest screenwriters, penning such films as All the President’s Men, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Marathon Man, and what might be his most beloved work, The Princess Bride. That last is doubly special because not only is the movie wonderful, but it’s an adaptation of a novel of Goldman’s as well. The novel works wonderfully on its own, and Goldman’s adaptation isn’t just a slavish transliteration of the book to the screen, but rather a loving creation all its own, that has its own focus and its own way of making use of its own medium to tell its story.

Goldman tends to be beloved of storytellers in many mediums, and not just because he was a great storyteller himself. He was also great at writing about storytelling, and this is borne out in two books of his that I consider essential reading for anyone interested in writing, or in film, or in the general enterprise of storytelling to begin with. Those books are Adventures in the Screen Trade and Which Lie Did I Tell?.

Here is a wonderful anecdote from the making of Marathon Man, a thriller Goldman wrote (again, adapting an earlier novel of his) about the pursuit of a Nazi war criminal. The film starred Laurence Olivier, Dustin Hoffman, and Roy Scheider. Here is Goldman:

Last Olivier story.

He and Roy Scheider were rehearsing a scene. In the story they are very close to voilence, but both are still trying to figure out what the other one knows. The dialog went like this:

OLIVIER: We must talk. Truthfully. Are you to be trusted?--


OLIVIER: --Was that the truth? Or are you trying to upset me?--

SCHEIDER: --I know why you’re here—and I know that sooner or later you’re going to go to the bank--

OLIVIER: --perhaps I have already been.

Schlesinger [director John Schlesinger] interrupted them. He said, “Larry, that’s supposed to go fast, and after Roy says the line about the bank, you’re taking a pause before ‘Perhaps I have already been.’ Don’t take the pause.”

Olivier said “Of course,” and they started into the dialog again. And then he stopped. “I have a problem about not taking the pause.”

We waited.

“I’m trying to find out information. Roy says, ‘I know why you’re here.’ And I need to find out what that means. Then Roy says, “I know...” And I’m listening. Then he says, ‘I know that sooner or later...’ And I’m still listening. Now he says, ‘I know that sooner or later you’re going to go...’ And I’m still listening. Finally he says, ‘I know that sooner or later you’re going to go to the bank.’ That pause I’m taking is to give me time to register the information about the bank.”

“I understand,” Schlesinger said, “But we’ve got to get rid of the pause.”

Olivier turned to me, then. “Bill,” he said, “could I suggest an alteration in the line? Would it be all right if I changed it so that the line went, ‘I know that you’re going to go to the bank sooner or later?’ You see, then I could register the word bank while he was saying ‘sooner or later’ and I wouldn’t need the pause.”

Obviously it was fine with me and the line was altered and we went on without the pause. And probably this two minutes of rehearsal explained at length doesn’t seem like much put down in black and white.

But that moment—when the actor of the century asked me would I mind if he switched six words around—is the most memorable incident of my movie career. Olivier. Calling me “Bill.” Olivier. Asking me would I mind.

That’s high cotton….

Goldman knows, in Which Lie?, that The Princess Bride might well be the project of his most likely to carry his name into Time. He writes lovingly about that film, focusing in the end on the sad story of Andre the Giant, who so wonderfully played Fezzik in the movie. Andre died a few years later, and was greatly mourned. Here is part of Goldman’s tribute:

Andre would never come out and say that wrestling might not be legit. He fought 300 plus times a year for about 20 years, and all he ever admitted was that he didn’t like being in the ring with someone he thought might be on drugs. When he was in his prime, men who weighed 250 or 300 pounds would hurl themselves on him from the top rope and he would catch them and not budge.

But even seven years ago his body was beginning to betray him. There is a scene at the end of The Princess Bride where Robin Wright—and yes she is that beautiful—jumped out of a castle window, and Andre was to catch her at the bottom.

The shot was set up for Roin to be lifted just above camera range and then dropped in Andre’s arms. Maybe a foot. Maybe two. But not much and Robin was never that heavy.

The first take, she was dropped and he caught her—and gasped, suddenly white like paper, and almost fell to his knees. His back was bad. And getting worse, and soon there would be surgery.

Andre once said to Billy Crystal, “We do not live long, the big and the small.”


Next, two bits of inspiration, because every book on storytelling should make people feel better about this most ancient of human enterprises (I suppose there’s one human enterprise that’s older than storytelling, but who knows—stories had to play a part in that one, too). This comes at the end of Adventures in the Screen Trade:

I think there’s a wave of talent rising now. Thousands upon thousands of young men and women who literally love film. I realize this is a book about Hollywood, so obviously there has to be a happy ending. Only I’m not tacking this on. I believe that wave is upon us and that it’s not going to be stopped. And to all that talent, let me say, where the hell have you been and I wish you joy…

...and may you ignore the critics when they attack you, and pay no attention to their praise…

...and may you please remember when your scenes are sludge, that screenplays are structure…

...and may you have peers as willing to improve your project as you must be; treat them kindly, for they will save your ass many times over…

...and may you always remember “it’s only a movie” but never forget that there are lots worse things than movies—like politicians…

...and may you be lucky enough and skilled enough to make some glorious moments for all those people sitting out there in the dark, as earlier craftsmen created such moments for you…

...and finally and most of all…

...may all your scars
be little ones….

And finally, this. It’s a sidebar at the very end of Adventures in the Screen Trade.

Writing Time

The one thing I think all writers like to talk about is their work habits. When do you write? For how long? Where? Endless questions. So I want to spend a minute now on the basic problem facing us all: doing it.

When I began, at twenty-four, the work always came out in a burst. The Temple of Gold took less than three weeks. A year later, Your Turn to Curtsy, My Turn to Bow, less than two. And in between, nothing much happened that bettered the human condition, just going to the movies, a double feature a day, sometimes two, everything on 42nd Street or the Thalia on West 95th. Two years basically wasted until the next book, which was Soldier in the Rain.

I was having a career, God yes. Three novels published by age twenty-eight, two of them million-copy sellers in paperback, the third into a movie.

What I wasn’t having was a life.

I never had a real job so whenever I wanted to write, I could. Morning, night, all night if I watned—and I suspect it I had continued that way, I was heading for disaster.

There is no wrong when it comes to work habits. It doesn’t matter if you use a Mac or a quill pen. There is no best way to go about storytelling. Bergman writes from ten to three and in ten weeks, he’s got a screenplay. Graham Greene, another hero, counted words. Yes, you read that right, he counted each and every word until he reached his magic number—three hundred. And when he got there, guess what, he quit for the day, in the middle of a sentence or not.

They had the one thing writers need most: discipline.

My great editor, Hiram Haydn, was a very busy man. He started or ran publishing houses, had a wife and a bunch of kids, was editor of The American Scholar.

And wrote novels.

He was my editor from Soldier in the Rain through The Princess Bride, was a wondrous father figure for me. Once we were talking about a novel of his, The Hands of Esau, that he was so close to finishing, and I asked him how long since he began it and he said probably eight years.

How do you stay the same person for that long, I wondered?

You just do the best you can, he replied. You hope.

When do you write?

Sunday morning, he said. Every Sunday morning.

That was the only time available to him. The rest of his life was kids and work and family and commuting and meetings and dealing with crazy writers; Sunday morning was all he could carve out, so he played it as it laid.

You have to protect your writing time, he said then.

That’s the best basic advice I can give to any writer. You have to protect your writing time. You have to protect it to the death.

I think it should always be the same time. Each day, each night, each whatever. Can be half an hour, more when you’re on a roll, probably shouldn’t be less. I know a brilliant young writer who has zero problem writing. Her problem is sitting. Her computer is surrounded by a mine field and she will come up with the most amazing reasons not to try to cross it. And no, she is neither crazy nor along in her problem--

because the easiest thing to do on earth is not write.

The need for a schedule is simple: You’ll have hours, days, when you just sit there, but eventually, you come to know that your writing time is not and things begin to happen as you sit there.

And if you manage to suck it up, if you decide you must get your stories down, then there is one other thing that’s crucial: don’t talk about it. Tell no one.

Once others know, they will look at you strangely, they will question you, they will ask you terrible questions--

--how’s it coming?

--is it fun?

--when is it going to be finished?

--I bet it’s fun

--when can I see it?

You don’t need those words buzzing around your ears. So keep the start of your career secret. Keep the time sacred.

Remember: nobody made you be a writer.

Now, I myself am pretty firmly a member of Team Write Every Day, but you can’t always do that and you shouldn’t feel shame if you can’t do that. But in that case, the best compromise is Goldman’s Team Write At The Same Time Each Day/Week/Whatever, because there’s another, shorter term for members of Team Write When You Feel Like It. That term is nonwriters.

One last bit. In discussing the script to Casablanca in Which Lie Did I Tell?, Goldman says as an aside, “I wish to God I’d written lines as glorious as ‘I was misinformed.’”

Well, here’s the thing about that. Casablanca famously boasts that wonderful last line, “Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.” That is an amazing final line, and I consider it one of the two greatest last lines in movie history.
The other? It’s by William Goldman. Here’s the scene, after the Grandpa has finished reading the book to The Kid:

THE KID: Grandpa?

The Old Man stops, turns.

THE KID: Maybe you could come over and read it again to me tomorrow.

GRANDFATHER: (a beat) As you wish.

And his smile is enough. As The Grandfather steps out the
door, tipping his hat--



Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Tone Poem Tuesday

"Crap, do you think he forgot about us?"


"And he just remembered to post a Tone Poem for Tuesday?"


"Do you think that means he'll retreat to his default 'I forgot to post something' mode and give us an overture by Franz von Suppe?"


"Ooooh! I hope it's Light Cavalry!"


Thursday, March 21, 2019

Something for Thursday

Our song challenge continues, and this week it's A Song You'd Like Played At Your Wedding. Well, my wedding was twenty-two years ago, so here's a song that was played at my wedding. The Wife and I danced our first dance to this song. Here are the Righteous Brothers with "Unchained Melody".

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Tone Poem Tuesday

I heard this work on the radio this past Sunday, and I made a note to look up what it was. Sadly I didn't remember to do that until Monday, when St. Patrick's Day was already over, because it turns out to be In Ireland, a rhapsody for flute, harp, and orchestra by Sir Herbert Hamilton Harty. Harty was an Irish composer who wrote in the post-Romantic vein, but he had the misfortune to live in a time when Romanticism was well and truly a thing of the past, so as Modernism was taking hold, composers like Harty were often forgotten. This is a pity, because his music is dramatic and picturesque. Not everything can be remembered, but not everything deserves to be forgotten, either.

Here is In Ireland.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Happy St. Paddy's Day!

It's St. Patrick's Day, y'all! And I'm proudly wearing green:

The wearing of the green! Happy Saint Patrick's Day, y'all! #stpatricksday #wearingofthegreen #ootd #overalls #dungarees #biboveralls #vintage #dickiesworkwear #hickorystripe #overdyed #overallsarelife

Here's some music:

Friday, March 15, 2019

Bad Joke Friday (Ides of March edition)


I saw this joke on Tumblr. I can't credit it because it's got over 12,000 notes (which means that it's been passed around that many times and tracing it back to the originator is an exercise in futility). I paired the joke with the painting because, hey, neat painting.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Something for Thursday

Back at it with our Song Challenge! This time it's A Song I Like From the 1970s, which is pretty broad, innit? There are a lot of directions I can go here because that's the decade I was born, so a lot of this stuff is familiar to me on a pretty elemental level. I'll try not to go overboard, but here are several 1970s-era songs that I like a great deal, starting with one that as a kid I didn't realize that it's about...what it's about. I figured these folks were having an afternoon snack of a piece of candy or something. It wasn't until I listened to the song anew as a twenty-something (I'm very sure I didn't hear the song at all between the time I was 5 and the time I was 25) that I realized just what kind of delight these folks were discussing in terms of afternoon enjoyment.

Here's a wonderful Jim Croce song that has to probably be explained to young listeners hearing it for the first time. Operator? "You can keep the dime"? What's all that about?

Let's see...well, we have to have the Bee Gees, and this is my all-time favorite Bee Gees song.

And then there's John Denver! I think there was a time when I didn't love John Denver. I think it was however much time elapsed between my birth and the first time I heard John Denver.

Ballads about 1970s events? We've got those, too:

And I'll leave off with this bit of pep by ELO, "Mr. Blue Sky".

Pi Day!!!

(NOTE: This is a repost of last year's Pi Day post. I didn't get a chance to generate any new content--i.e., shoot a new video in which I get a pie in the face in the midst of a lesson about Pi--this year, but hey, last year's video is still pretty funny, if I do say so myself!)

It's Pi Day, everyone!

It is also Albert Einstein's birthday and, sadly, this year's edition marks the passing of Stephen Hawking, about which I'll have more to say later. But for now, let's celebrate Pi!

Calculate Pi yourself!

NASA's Pi in the Sky Challenge

A few videos:

(That one's titled "Pi Day" but the video has nothing to do with Pi so far as I can see, but it's a cool video anyway, so there it is.)

And finally:

Happy Pi Day, everyone!