Tuesday, July 25, 2017

My Influences... And Yours?

I'm back at LitReactor with a new article. Please share, stop by there/leave a comment, write home to mom, etc. Here's a sample:
Like many writers, I was reared on a never-ending veneration for big guns such as Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, James Joyce, and Virginia Woolf. Authors who’ve passed some ‘immortal’ litmus test for stuffy academic types to get overly excited about. Harsh? Perhaps, because most of the top tier lit club have deservedly earned their marks. But along the path I’ve learned some of the best prose originates from sources other than these writing titans. Here are two actors—who apparently fancied putting pen to paper over starring roles—and one journalist that I would stack up with the best of the best and have returned to often for inspiration.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Royal Excursions

We stopped at the charming Royal Oak Bookshop where I picked up the eclectic trio of Visiting Mrs. Nabokov (1993) by Martin Amis, The Backgammon Book (1970) by Oswald Jacoby and John R. Crawford, and a math book on Algebra. We also went to a nearby park where we enjoyed about an hour until the sun heated things up a little too much. Still, a fun excursion.
Royal Oak Bookshop in Front Royal, Virginia.

Bookstore's Simone making Ava feel welcomed.

At a nearby park heading off for other worlds.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Interrogation

I'm publishing Glenn Gray's next book Transgemination and he talks about that and a lot more in this interview with S.W. Lauden.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Subversive, Expressionistic, and Harrowing


“Gotta Light” is a subversive, expressionistic, and harrowing episode with prolonged scenes—even by Lynch standards—of no dialogue. “As soon as you put things in words, no one ever sees the film the same way,” he was quoted as saying in The New Yorker. The sobering result: we hear the eerie, discordant “Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima” by Penderecki as we bear witness to the first atomic bomb test at White Sands, New Mexico, on July 16, 1945, and are pulled into the mushroom cloud among the swirling atoms of hellfire and destruction.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

13 Is Who's Lucky Number

I'm not familiar with her work but have heard that Jodi Whittaker is a fine actor. I'm looking forward to her portrayal but more importantly a fresh direction to the series that I thought had become very stale last year. If you haven't already seen it, here's the big reveal that sent shock waves through the universe. Your thoughts? And not long ago, I rated my Time Lords in this order:

Matt Smith
Tom Baker
David Tennant
Patrick Troughton
Jon Pertwee
Peter Davison
Christopher Eccleston
Paul McGann
Peter Capaldi
William Hartnell
Sylvester McCoy
Colin Baker

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Our Visit To Luray Caverns

Drapery formation, about 1/8 inch thick.

Dream Lake.

Water reflection of stalactites.

Speleothems of stalactites, and columns.

The wishing well.

Did You Hear The One About...

I have a dry sense of humor and in conversation can be witty if “I’m on” but note to self: no more joke telling. For god’s sake, just stop! Yesterday a humorous number died a painful death as soon as it left my lips, and the drive-by expression on the recipient’s face, well, it’s a look I’ve never got used to seeing. Now that I’m closing in on the half-century mark, it’s time to throw in the towel and just accept the fact that I should never begin any conversation with the words, “Hey, did you hear the one about …”

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Cranmers At The Park

Our daughter snapped this photo of little d and me at the park, today, playing backgammon. We were under the pavilion where a nice breeze kept us comfortable ... a pleasant break from the ninety degree temps with humidity. I brought two books to read, The Dark Tower and Orwell's Facing Unpleasant Facts, but much more enjoyed gammon with the mrs and going for a walk with the photographer.

Hope you are all having a top weekend.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Books Acquired, Manners Lost

We were at McKay’s in Gainesville, Virginia, enjoying the atmosphere among the stacks of secondhand books with a swirl of all sorts of people devouring a common passion. Ava and d headed toward the kid’s section where they hit a motherlode of ‘Junie B. Jones’ which has totally enamored our daughter. Me, being in an essay and memoir frame of mind, I bought Roger Ebert’s Life Itself, E.L. Doctorow’s Creationists, Sloane Crosley’s How Did You Get This Number, and Facing Unpleasant Facts by George Orwell. I read so many fictional books as a freelancer that I find myself more and more in the non-fiction section for entertainment.

Small observation: it used to be when someone passed in front of you in an aisle there would be a polite, “Excuse me.” That was the norm … or at least it’s how I seem to remember it. Look, I’m not someone who longs for the good old days. I know people are people and remain largely unchanged, but I don’t believe I’m mistaken that common courtesies in libraries and bookstores were the standard and only occasionally would someone fail to live up to it. Agree? Disagree?

Friday, July 7, 2017

Love you, d

And a happy anniversary to this lovely lady. We are celebrating ten years. Love you, d

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Hooch

Met a truck driver today, in passing, who travels with a one-year-old conure parrot. The bird, Hooch, sat in a cage next to the driver, Turner, in the cab. No need to feel sorry for Hooch being in a cage though, the clever bird knows how to open the door any time he pleases, as he much prefers being perched on Turner’s shoulder. When Turner gave Hooch a playful toss in the air, the bird flew up then landed on my shoulder! And Hooch kept saying “aye,” Turner explained that the bird’s way of telling him that he wants food. These two are good friends and meeting them was a unique, inspiring experience. 

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

72 (This Highway's Mean)

Becoming Cary Grant

Do you enjoy documentaries? I do and can watch just about anything on any topic as long as it is done well. In the case of Becoming Cary Grant (2016), I very much admire the subject and director Mark Kidel has crafted an evocative film that uses Grant's home movies, interviews with relatives, and words from an unpublished autobiography. The Showtime presentation is currently available on Amazon Prime and here's a NY Times review that sums it up quite well.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Low-Key Fun

Is everyone having a super 4th? I hope so because the Cranmer's are kicking it albeit a bit low-key... the way we like it. We went to two different parks for the little one and had a blast at the swimming pool too. I brought along a book—Thomas Paine: A Political Life—and manage to squeeze out a backgammon win against Little d. Very satisfying because she puts up a mighty fight. And now for some fireworks!

*You on Twitter? Today is a perfect day to follow The Quotable Paine that I contribute to almost daily. Radical Paine's Common Sense (1775-1776) is the pamphlet that convinced the rebels to start this whole American experiment.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Where The Breakers Are

I am putting together my next write-up on Stephen King's THE DARK TOWER VII that will appear on Macmillan's Criminal Element blog around noon tomorrow. For the most part a solid section that includes our heroes preparing their next move.
"We go through the door to Thunderclap station," Roland said, "and from the station to where the Breakers are kept. And there ..." He looked at each of his ka-tet in turn, then raised his finger and made a dryly expressive shooting gesture.
"There'll be guards," Eddie said. "Maybe a lot of them. What if we're outnumbered?"
"It won't be the first time," Roland said.
Our passages for the week included Part Two, I: The Devar-Tete – VII: Ka-Shume and I hope you will join us to discuss or just stop by and listen to our palaver. A lot transpired including the return of Randall Flagg, Mordred Deschain hunting Roland and company, and our team wandering through the eerie chamber where the now quieted remains of the wolves of the Calla are suspended. 

And the Tower looms...

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Gram Parsons - Return Of The Grievous Angel

Immutable And Ineluctable

Richard Burton. Say the name and Elizabeth Taylor jumps to mind. But there was so much more to the man besides Liz & Dick, scandal, and great acting chops that were highlighted in movies like The Spy Who Came in from The Cold, Where Eagles Dare, and 1984. He was a damn fine writer and he's included in an upcoming article I'm putting together over this holiday weekend. Here's an except from his life-long journal that was published in 2012:
The more I read about man and his maniacal ruthlessness and his murdering envious scatological soul the more I realize that he will never change. Our stupidity is immortal, nothing will change it. The same mistakes, the same prejudices, the same injustice, the same lusts wheel endlessly around the parade-ground of the centuries. Immutable and ineluctable. I wish I could believe in a God of some kind but I simply cannot. My intelligence is too muscular and my imagination stops at the horizon, and I have an idea that the last sound to be heard on this lovely planet will be a man screaming.
How sobering is that, right? And there's many more entries like that in The Richard Burton Diaries. And the dead live again, Richard's words are featured daily on Twitter which I regularly check. Burton ... fascinating guy. Back to work I go on a piece I'm calling My Unlikely Writing Influences.

The Doctor Falls

I haven’t remarked too much on Doctor Who this season because I thought it was a lackluster ride. The actors were ready but the scripts, for the most part (besides a stout debut), were meandering, lifeless. Not so with the climatic “The Doctor Falls” that had plenty of action, heartfelt emotion, and one helluva final surprise that I won’t spoil here. Most poignant scene was a solo Twelve (Peter Capaldi) preparing to do battle with an outnumbered enemy (anyone for an upgrade?) saying that he goes, “Without hope… Without witness… Without reward.” Refreshing in this age when humanity seems to be all about winning as opposed to doing the right thing. Mention is, appropriately, made to the leader of the free world.

It would seem we have said goodbye to Bill (Pearl Mackie) for the time being. I thought she was excellent but like the idea of companions with shorter duration's. That being acknowledged, I don’t want to see Nardole (Matt Lucas) disappear just yet. He was a superb foil for Twelve with just the right amount of snarky wit. Back to that conclusion. Wouldn’t it be awesome if that older gentleman ended up being a companion to Twelve in the Christmas episode and for a few episodes into the next season. Yeah, here’s hoping.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Ada

At a used bookstore today, I ran across The Calculating Passion of Ada Byron by Joan Baum. Long been enthralled with Ada (1815-1852) known as the first computer programmer. Here's an excerpt from the book:
She had also dared to dream, to imagine what computers might do with their power to repeat and loop and change course in midstream. And she had exercised her imagination when time and place were against her, when women were excluded from the halls of learning and generally dissuaded from pursuing subjects like mathematics, even in the drawing rooms.
Never heard of Ada? Here's a fun, short documentary, narrated by Hannah Fry, that spotlights this remarkable 19th century mathematician.

In 1977, When Voyager 1 And 2 Blasted Off, I was...

I was seven years old, in '77, and fascinated with the space program especially the Voyager missions. Of particular interest to that early me was the gold-plated audio-visual disc on both Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 that contained the sights and sounds of our world intended for intelligent life. From The Atlantic is a fascinating article about one reporter's attempt at Solving the Mystery of Whose Laughter Is On the Golden Record.

Friday, June 30, 2017

The June That Was

I'm hoping you all had a great month of June, I did. Our daughter graduated from kindergarten which, as you can imagine, was the highlight. She loves school and told us today she can't wait until summer vacation is over to go backfingers crossed that attitude stays through 12th grade, right?

Beyond that I released Nik Morton's Continuity Girl through BEAT to a PULP books and published a final short story from the late William E. Wallace. Also, I continued to work on a Thomas Paine project (I help run The Quotable Paine on Twitter) and am nearing completion on Glenn Gray's Transgemination. That novella is "a must read for fans of retro sci-fi/horror B movies, woven with real science, as only Glenn Gray can do.

I expanded my reach as a freelance writer with an article appearing at LitReactor. As I've mentioned before this is a big deal for me because I've respected the top tier quality that appears there, especially the work of Keith Rawson.

Okay, on to July ...

Duolingo's New Approach To A Difficult Language

I may look into this: Duolingo invented a new way to teach one of the most difficult languages to learn.

Haruki Murakami: Hardboiled, Surreal, and Bewitching

My article: Hardboiled, Surreal, and Bewitching: 3 Haruki Murakami Short Stories

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

The Tower Looms

We begin our reread of The Dark Tower VII at Criminal Element. An excerpt:
The Dark Tower is very close, but our ka-tet is spread far and wide. Roland and Eddie are in 1977 where they have just finished meeting with the author Stephen King. In 1999, Father Callahan and Jake are about to storm The Dixie Pig lounge where Susannah is being held along with Mia, who is about to give birth to an unholy demon: this child has the DNA combo of Roland and Susannah and a “co-father” in the Crimson King. So, we are very close to our destination, the stakes are high, and it’s anybody’s guess who will live to see The Dark Tower. 
The Dark Tower looms on the horizon for both our ka-tet and you, our loyal readers, as we count down the days to the premiere of The Dark Tower film. The plan is to finish the series on the Tuesday before the premiere, so we'll be splitting The Dark Tower into four sections (about 200 pages each) and meeting here at our usual time (Tuesday at 12 p.m. ET) to discuss major themes, motifs, and reactions.

Subliminal Advertising

Book Cover Has Some Extremely Clever Subliminal Advertising.

Eight Writers On Why They Run

Peter Hessler, Joyce Carol Oates, Malcolm Gladwell, and others weigh in about finding inspiration on the trails.

I Before E Except After C: Uh, Maybe Not

Nathan Cunningham: i before e except after...w? 

Thursday, June 22, 2017

My New Gig

I'm very pleased to say my first article for LitReactor is now live. Big deal for me because I've admired the high quality output that is their standard. Please take a look when you get a chance.

Monday, June 19, 2017

No Sizzle, Just Fizzle

The acting throughout this show has been one triumph after another, with special mentions going to Kristin Chenoweth, who was a bright spot, along with Emily Browning, who was a standout through the season. It pains me to say this because I’ve always enjoyed Gillian Anderson’s roles, but Media has been a bit of a letdown, especially the breathy impersonations of starlets—there’s no sizzle, just fizzle. 

More of my article here.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Closing Time

Those who knew William E. Wallace, knew he was a straight-shooting, no bullshit kind of man. That honesty pervaded his fiction writing where he composed gripping, hardboiled perfection. I had the honor of publishing a short story called "Fundamental Breach" for BEAT to a PULP and was jazzed when he said he had another for me though I knew I wouldn't be able to publish until this year. I'll never forget what he wrote back, "I will send it to you. Let me know if it works. I probably won't be around anymore in 2017, but I would love to have something appear out of nowhere after I am gone -- "ghost" written, so to speak. . ."
That matter-of-fact bluntness tore me up to read. I wish I could have worked with him more but I feel fortunate for the times I did. He had such a driven spirit, continuing to spin stories and play slide guitar right up to the end. Sir, thank you, for not just your incredible output as a writer but for being a damn fine human being that I called friend. 
And, here's one more from William E. Wallace … "Closing Time."

Nik Morton's Continuity

Nik Morton talking about BEAT to a PULP's next release Continuity Girl can be found here.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

From Westlake with Love

Once again, I'm talking 007:
The James Bond I prefer, the “real” James Bond, is the one that exists outside of the bloated, by-the-numbers films. The highly profitable franchise produced few faithful adaptations, the genuine articles being Dr. No (1962), From Russia with Love (1963), the loyal-in-gritty-spirit For Your Eyes Only(1981), and Casino Royale (2006). Otherwise, cinema JB is a cartoonish, pale comparison to the Bond that I highlighted in “The Gadgetless and Tired Assassin.”

That’s the 007 who has the feel of a tired public servant who's one martini away from turning his gun on himself or drinking himself into an oblivion. Not a handsome man—he has a visible scar on his face—but undeniably charismatic. He’s particularly ruthless, as in “The Hildebrand Rarity” (1960) where he covers up a murder by dumping a body overboard. There’s no bullshitting that the secret agent has a license to kill, and he takes the opportunity to use it if need be.

For the rest, click here to read From Westlake with Love: Exploring Donald Westlake's Lost Bond Novel, Forever and a Death.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Dean at 100

I take a look at Dean Martin's Westerns on what would have been his 100th birthday.

Song of Susannah Part II

The Dark Tower: Song of Susannah is zipping right along and I certainly appreciate all of you clicking over and upping the web traffic. Keeps me gainfully employed.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

The Most Interesting Man in the World

I enjoyed this human interest article on The Most Interesting Man in the World. You may remember he was the spokesman for Dos Equis beer for a number of years. Sample:
During the course of his career, he worked with Burt Lancaster and John Wayne, Shelley Winters and Joan Fontaine; caroused with playwrights Tennessee Williams and Arthur Miller; crossed egos with Dustin Hoffman; painted houses with Nicholas Colasanto (the guy who played Coach on Cheers); slept with a bevy of starlets, including Tina Louise, who played the hot marooned actress on Gilligan’s Island, and “six vegetarians, nine Buddhists, 18 nurses, six teachers, countless receptionists and one runner-up to Miss Florida.”
And full article here.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Across the Rio Grande

I feel AMERICAN GODS is blowing it. The Coming to America segments have been my personal favorites thus far in the first season of GODS, so much so that they often steal the show. But what a disappointment this week’s opening turned out to be.

Maybe it was the slow-mo action scene that lacked any palpable tension as a group of immigrants crossed the Rio Grande. Beforehand, there was a bit of praying, a quick shot of hand holding, and some grave instructions but little else. When one man who can’t swim begins to drown, Jesus is already there to lift him up, and then we see Christ walk across the water.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Magic!

I've always enjoyed magic and use to practice quite a bit so I understood the beginning of this magicians act... and then he blows me away with the rest. Incredible.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Getting Rid of Ticks

We have begun using a natural product called Cedarcide to keep the ticks away and its been working. The tiny terrorists loathe the cedar oil and we haven't had a case (knock on wood) in several weeks. I also spray the yard to combat the ongoing invasion. If you are in an area where ticks are prevalent, I recommend this product.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Lemon Scented

Without exception, the opening vignettes to American Gods are mini-masterpieces destined to be viewed time and again as inquiring minds seek to know more about these nearly forgotten fables—expect lots of YouTube hits.

In a compelling animated segment, the very first god comes to America circa 14,000 BC. A tribe of people crosses the land bridge from Siberia, following the wooly mammoths in hopes of finding food for their starving people. Atsula and her clan carry an effigy of their god, Nunyunnini, while they make the treacherous journey across the frozen, barren landscape. Her baby dies along the way, and when they finally arrive in the new land, she becomes the ultimate sacrifice to a bison-like spirit so her people can live—only to confront a tribe that had come before them. They defeat the newly encountered rivals and take their food, and then they leave behind Nunyunnini to be forgotten over time. The scene, like other Coming to America sections, was in variance from the novel.

Ay, dios mio!

If there was one thing that stood out in this week’s episodes, it was those regurgitation scenes. Ay, dios mio! More than once as Special Agent Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) is passing from the Black Lodge back to the land of the living.

In what can only be described as a surreal trip for Coop, he gets sucked through an electrical outlet and rides the current until he switches bodies with a lookalike named Dougie Jones. The hapless Dougie was enjoying the company of a lady of the evening, Jade (Nafeesa Williams), who is washing up when Coop arrives and takes Dougie’s place. And there begins possibly the vilest puke scene ever delivered on camera (and if you can point to more disgusting exhibits, I’ll just take your word for it). Dougie is swept away to the Black Lodge, where the one-armed man, Gerard (Al Strobel), explains, “Someone manufactured you,” and bears witness as the doppelgänger disintegrates into nothing more than a little round ball.

Hope you click over here for my review of episodes 3 and 4 of Twin Peaks: The Return. 

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

CONTINUITY GIRL

The latest release from BEAT to a PULP and Nik Morton is now available for kindle pre-order. Print to follow.

What has gone before . . .

In our future, Kyler Knightly and his uncle Damon Cole are field agents for Continuity Inc, a private organization that obtained the contract when the government Time Corps was deregulated. CI is dedicated to protecting human history.

They use the Zygma projector to travel through time and must carry a focus object from the period they’re targeting.

Kyler is also a dreamer with passive psychic talents, a precognitive.

The head of the group is an Artificial Intelligence character, Sennacherib, which possesses an organic interface, sharing the body of a two-spot octopus in an aquarium tank! Their offices are in the West End of London, a disused theater.

The third book in the series brings two more exciting time-travel adventures for Knightly and Cole of Continuity Inc.

CONTINUITY GIRL


Kyler is accompanied by the delectable yet mysterious Tertia Beynon. Their mission is to trace an academic who has traveled to Roman Britain in 192 AD. Precog suggests that an interfering event in this past will radically alter the future. Arriving at Hadrian’s Wall in the freezing winter, the pair encounter blood-thirsty argumentative locals and then obtain the aid of Governor Clodius Albinus in their trek on the northern side of the wall. Here they are confronted by Ambrosius, a druid who possesses arcane power.

Nothing seems simple. Action abounds, with brutal sacrifices, deadly swordplay, a fraught chariot chase and an attack by a pack of wolves.

With all this going on, will they be able to save their future in time?

“What an exciting zip back to the past with some really neat time travel twists! The story may be short but it’s packed with plenty of entertaining ‘what ifs’ and action near Hadrian’s Wall. And for good measure, the conclusion just might be something you don’t expect!” —Nancy Jardine, author of 'The Celtic Fervour' series

WE FELL BELOW THE EARTH

Our duo are helped by Tertia and Chief Inspector Irving. Corpses drained of blood point to a clue, a letter from Bistritz in 1897. Kyler and Cole are sent to Transylvania.

The conclusions are inescapable: it seems that the discovery of time travel—even though it’s regulated and Continuity Inc strives to protect history—heralded in a sequence of parallel time-streams. Where before these time-streams were ‘what if’ scenarios, now they’ve split into different realities. In some, fiction is fact.

The deaths, the blood and gore point to vampires being real, and they’re certainly not your idealized romantic sort. The evil blood-suckers are intent on feasting in Kyler’s present and spreading their contagion ...

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Git Gone

I found the first few episodes of American Gods lacking but the show finally hit its stride with number four, "Git Gone." Below is a sample of what I wrote for Macmillan's Criminal Element blog. Go ahead and click over for the remainder of my two 1/2 cents:

There's a real slow turning of the narrative page here (yet when slow is done right, it can be exciting, à la Twin Peaks) that wasn't clicking in the first three episodes, and the compartmentalization of the book that kept the reader enthralled just didn’t have the same effect in the show. For someone who likes it when filmmakers stay true to the book, I have to admit that I’m glad they expanded the Laura Moon character in “Git Gone.” It provides a much-needed backstory to her relationship with Shadow, and it made this episode the first exceptional one of the series.

Monday, May 22, 2017

CHROMATICS "SHADOW"

Twin Peaks: The Return

Ahead of David Lynch’s revival, I went back and binged on the original series, interested to know if it would still capture me like it did 27 years ago. I was only a few years older than the fictional 17-year-old Laura Palmer when I sat with my mom and best friend Erik each week, religiously invested in Special Agent Cooper probing Laura’s grisly death. My mother didn’t laugh at the dark humor that Erik and I enjoyed over the slain girl’s mom wailing long past when other directors would have yelled “cut!” We had grown up on Lynch’s Blue Velvet and were more than prepared for the dramatic swings—after all, Dennis Hopper snuffing up oxygen through a mask is practically normal. Still, both generations were glued-fast to the intrigue.
My full review is at Criminal Element.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Do Some Damage: Writing, Self-Promotion, and Real Life

Do Some Damage: Writing, Self-Promotion, and Real Life: By Court Merrigan , Guest Post I haven't updated my blog since December 15, 2014, and it's been a lot longer than that since I...

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Q&A with Court Merrigan

After many months of work (and obviously much longer for Court), we finally get to enjoy the release of THE BROKEN COUNTRY—just out today. Not sure what it is about? Then click over to this interview we did for Criminal Element.

At Outpost 16

Jake is feeling unsettled about spying on Ben Slightman The Elder and Andy while they’re conversing in private. After Ben Slightman the Younger falls asleep, Jake slips away with Oy—sniffing like a bloodhound—to follow their trail to a seemingly abandoned building. It’s labeled Outpost 16, which Jake assumes was erected by the Old Ones. There, he finds more North Central Positronics, LTD signs and tech. On the door itself: WELCOME TO THE DOGAN. Uh-oh. Here we go, as they say.

Inside, fluorescent lights snap to life, revealing skeletons in tattered brown uniforms—soldiers of sorts who’ve long since given a damn about what they were guarding. More shocking than the gruesome remains are the 31 screens monitoring various locations in the region, including Calla high street, Our Lady of Serenity Church, and Took’s General Store.
Rest of my reread of Wolves of the Calla can be found at Criminal Element.

The Broken Country

Our latest BEAT to a PULP release is a partnership with the talented Court Merrigan with one very looong title. You ready? Ok, here it goes: The Broken Country: Being the Scabrous Exploits of Cyrus & Galina Van, Hellbent West During the Eighth Year of the Harrows, 1876; With an Account of Mappers, Bounty Hunters, a Tatar, and the Science of Phrenology.

Set in post-apocalyptic 1876, The Broken Country tracks the scabrous exploits of the outlaws Cyrus and Galina Van. The pair kidnaps a naïve, young scion and head west in pursuit of gold, glory, and respect. Along the trail they met Atlante Ames, a mapper who euthanized her own father and now seeks her twin brother, himself gone outlaw in the ravaged West. In cold pursuit rides the implacable bounty hunter Hal, who takes scalps in the name of Jesus Christ and the science of phrenology, and the contemplative Buddhist assassin Qa'un, paying off the bloodprice he owes Hal … bounty by bloody bounty. Cyrus and Galina's hard road west comes to a head in a dynamite-tossing, six-gun-blazing shootout at the old train depot in Laramie.

A dark journey to a time when wagon trains have retreated and the Old West is haunted by bonepickers and starving tribes, The Broken Country is unlike any other book you will read this year. And we have never written a truer statement than that last sentence. Here's the Amazon link to buy either print or ebook.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

The Outlaw Marshal is Returning

Nik Morton discusses writing about someone else's series character. That someone else is me and I couldn't be happier when Nik breathes continuing life into Cash Laramie.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Lilac

I've mentioned planting a lilac and d and I managed to get the tree (some call them shrubs) in the ground yesterday. Not the exact right time for lilacs but we will nurse her carefully.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Happenings

A busy week that keeps getting just a little more hectic. On the work front, my interview with Court Merrigan is complete and I'll let you know when that shows up on Criminal Element—the BEAT to a PULP offices are bustling with managing promotion for THE BROKEN COUNTRY. In addition, we are finishing the cover and final formatting for Glenn Gray's TRANSGEMINATION, an out of this world ride from the author who's knack for the outlandish knows no bounds, and we are also ramping up our Thomas Paine project. I'll have more details on these very soon. Not to forget, there's a sci-fi offering on the way from Nik Morton featuring Knightly & Cole and we'll have the bloody return of The Lawyer though his vendetta trail may have to wait a few more months since I'm writing that one with a title I particularly like, The Honorable Killer.

If you are looking for a mystery and a detour from the beaten path I recommend Sebastian Fitzek's The Nightwalker that I reviewed here. The psychological thriller still has me pondering some passages months after the read. Year end best, easily.

On the personal side, I'm continuing to clear out fallen trees from our property and general landscaping to beautify. We bought a lilac that I had wanted to plant yesterday but hope to get in the ground later today with d and Ava's help.

There are also scheduled doctor's appointments and dental visits that have me a bit on edge, because one involves our little one but hopefully all will turn out ok. So, guess, I better get moving and turn a few pages. And as mom would say, "Arrivederci!"

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Decompressing

The sun is finally striking through and that will give me an opportunity to clear out some brush on our property (nicknamed the High 'Chalet') and plant a lilac we bought last week. Landscaping gives me a welcoming decompression after a long day in front of the screen. Also, I'm learning to break off at 5 p.m. and just not think about deadlines and relax. (That's MUCH easier said than done when you work for yourself.) Family times goes into full swing with board games like backgammon, Scrabble. Or reading something purely for entertainment that has nothing to do with reviewing like my current evening diversion, The Little Book of Mathematical Principles by Robert Solomon. Also, Little d and I are slowly whittling our way through the first season of Raising Hope and the final season of Doctor Who featuring Peter Capaldi as Twelve. So as I like to say from time to time: "Easy, you know, does it, son."

—and now let me spin around the web and see what everyone else is doing.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Visitors

Yesterday, at 12:58 pm, the first hummingbird of the year, a male, popped in from 'hyperspace'. Magical creatures. In the hummingbird's backdrop were two vibrant blue-jays, several yellow finches, and a lone woodpecker going to town on a steel beam in the yard—that's got to smart just the tiniest. I often work from the kitchen that overlooks this buzzing landscape and am happily distracted by these visitors.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

The Dark Tower Trailer #1 (2017) | Movieclips Trailers

A Broken Interview

Today, I'm beginning an interview with author Court Merrigan ahead of THE BROKEN COUNTRY's release on May 16th—our back and forth will be posted on Macmillan's Criminal Element site. And the ebook pre-order is available now and print to follow soon.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

I'm Talking Wolves...

Just a quick refresher: the wolves are on their way, and our ka-tet are not a unified force. Roland calls them broken. Mostly because of Susannah, who isn’t aware that she has a new personality lurking within named Mia who has a baby on the way. This happened, as you remember, because Susannah got pregnant while having sex with a demon to hold open a transom that allowed Jake to cross over. Roland and Eddie know, and now Jake has seen his comrade dining on a rat like it was fine cuisine.
Read The Dark Tower: Wolves of the Calla Part V, by, you guessed it, me. Right here.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Liking Twelve's Tenth

I watched Doctor Who's "The Pilot" and liked it a lot. The setting with Twelve working as a university lecturer fits like a glove, Pearl Mackie as Bill Potts was instant likability (and that comes from a card-carrying Clara Oswald fan), and Matt Lucas as Nardole is alien funny forming with Twelve and Potts an unusual, quirky trio. Hey, there's granddaughter Susan in a photograph on his desk. Believe I read somewhere they are bringing back Carole Ann Ford. How we are all on board is that, huh? Oh, and the Douglas Adams nods were spot on. Yeah,  Peter Capaldi’s final season (tenth of the new series run) as Twelve is shaping up rather nicely.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Gods

I'm rereading Neil Gaiman's AMERICAN GODS ahead of the April 30th television adaptation on Starz. I will be doing an analysis of novel vs. series for Macmillan's Criminal Element. 

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

That Brutal Unpredictability

A Free Soul (1931)
Renowned gamesman Barclay Cooke (1912-1981) called Backgammon “the cruelest game.” Memorable hyperbole? Perhaps. But vital skills are needed to play: intense concentration, clever strategy, and an ability to see ahead to possible traps—and still the probability of the roll can level the steel nerves of even the finest. That brutal unpredictability translates well to the mystery, crime, and thriller genres, and of course, with sport slang like post mortem, premature burial, under the gun, shot, hustler, and hit, backgammon is practically crying out for a spotlight with the criminal element.

Read more on my favorite game, by me, here.

THE BROKEN COUNTRY: BEING THE SCABROUS EXPLOITS OF CYRUS & GALINA VAN, HELLBENT WEST DURING THE EIGHTH YEAR OF THE HARROWS, 1876; WITH AN ACCOUNT OF MAPPERS, BOUNTY HUNTERS, A TATAR, AND THE SCIENCE OF PHRENOLOGY

Latest title (and a long one at that, right?) from BEAT to a PULP books and Court Merrigan:

Set in post-apocalyptic 1876, THE BROKEN COUNTRY tracks the scabrous exploits of the outlaws Cyrus and Galina Van. The pair kidnaps a naïve, young scion and head west in pursuit of gold, glory, and respect. Along the trail they met Atlante Ames, a mapper who euthanized her own father and now seeks her twin brother, himself gone outlaw in the ravaged West. In cold pursuit rides the implacable bounty hunter Hal, who takes scalps in the name of Jesus Christ and the science of phrenology, and the contemplative Buddhist assassin Qa'un, paying off the bloodprice he owes Hal … bounty by bloody bounty. Cyrus and Galina's hard road west comes to a head in a dynamite-tossing, six-gun-blazing shootout at the old train depot in Laramie.

A dark journey to a time when wagon trains have retreated and the Old West is haunted by bonepickers and starving tribes, THE BROKEN COUNTRY: BEING THE SCABROUS EXPLOITS OF CYRUS & GALINA VAN, HELLBENT WEST DURING THE EIGHTH YEAR OF THE HARROWS, 1876; WITH AN ACCOUNT OF MAPPERS, BOUNTY HUNTERS, A TATAR, AND THE SCIENCE OF PHRENOLOGY is unlike any other book you will read this year.

Creating The Never-Ending Bloom

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Black Thirteen

Callahan stops his traipse down the bloody memory lane to show Roland the crystal ball. Roland has Callahan take him to Black Thirteen without Susannah present, afraid that the demon in her belly will grow stronger.
Faintly, Roland heard the chime of bells—a sound so beautifully hideous it made you want to grind your teeth against it. For a moment the walls of Pere Callahan’s church wavered. It was as if the thing in the box had spoken to them: Do you see how little it all matters? How quickly and easily I can take it all away, should I choose to do so? Beware, gunslinger! Beware, shaman! The abyss is all around you. You float and fall into it at my whim.
Our ka-tet continues forward at Macmillan's Criminal Element. 

I'm Throwing In With Shetland

Looking for a new crime drama series to watch and tired of the same old? Try, Shetland that's currently on Netflix. The BBC program stars Douglas Henshall as Detective Inspector Jimmy Perez and besides the fine acting, plotting, there's the incredible scenery. I expound more in my review of COLD EARTH by Ann Cleeves who is the architect behind it all.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Rocks

On our recent trip to the Smithsonian, we saw just a fraction of the natural history museum. We ended up spending most of our time in the invertebrate and geology exhibits. Ava loved the live tarantulas so much, she asked for a Mexican orange-kneed—not a pink toe—variety for a pet. And as for the rocks, all three of us were mesmerized by the meteorites, gems, and minerals.

Here’s a picture of a section of columnar dacite. What’s so interesting to me about it is how it’s formed from lava flow and its mathematical properties. When the lava cools, it shrinks and fractures creating vertical columns of crystallized dacite in various polygon shapes.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Many Come But...

Most of my Blogger posts still generate a few hundred visits and depending on the topic a few thousand often stop by. One thing that has never changed, in the decade I've been perched here, is the number that leave comments which is normally less than other social networking sites. I'm surprised that Blogger hasn't updated their platform to something similar to Facebook, Instagram, etc. Make it less of a hassle and more inviting for comments. I realize Blogging is considered dated but I still enjoy this corner of the world and have met most of my enduring online friends here.

Anyway, there's my random Tuesday morning thought.

Friday, April 14, 2017

A Book List

I’ve been asked to recommend a list of books. Tall order. This list could change next week or even later today. But these fifteen have had a lasting impression. Disclosure: I published three and two others are written by good friends.

The Adventures of Augie March (1953)/Saul Bellow

Herzog (1964)/Saul Bellow

Slouching Towards Bethlehem (1968)/Joan Didion

I Shall Not Be Moved (1991)/Maya Angelou

Despair (1965, English translation)/Vladimir Nabokov

The Posthumous Man (2012)/Jake Hinkson

The Age of Reason/Thomas Paine (published in three parts: 1794, 1795, and 1807)

Monte Walsh (1963)/Jack Schaefer

Donnybrook (2013)/Frank Bill

American Gods (2001)/Neil Gaiman

The Little Boy Inside and Other Stories (2013)/Glenn Gray

The Talented Mr. Ripley (1955)/Patricia Highsmith

The Girls of Bunker Pines (2014) /Garnett Elliott

The Haunting of Hill House (1959)/Shirley Jackson

All Those Hungry Mouths (2015)/Keith Rawson

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Razor Sharp Teeth

Little d and I are proofing Nik Morton's "We Fell Below the Earth" and learned that people are quite passionate about vampire teeth. Should they be front and center like Nosfertu or sport them on the lateral incisor as seen in The Lost Boys and True Blood? Then there's the classic canine set like Lestat in Interview with the Vampire and now the Vampire Diaries? Who knew?!

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

René Descartes Says...

I'm reading “Discourse On Method” (from a prized 1910 edition of the Harvard Classics) by René Descartes (1596-1650)  and came across the following timely quote:
It is useful to know something of the manners of different nations, that we may be enabled to form a more correct judgment regarding our own, and be prevented from thinking that everything contrary to our customs is ridiculous and irrational, — a conclusion usually come to by those whose experience has been limited to their own country.

Wolves At The Door

The ka-tet dine with their perspective employers, feeling out the sharecroppers and the mysterious Father Callahan and learning that Thunderclap is somewhat of a dead zone populated by the wolves. When Eddie excuses himself to take a dump in the woods, he discovers Andy is quite the stealthy robot. Startled while still squatting, the gunslinger has a couple of questions for the apologetic machine—the most troubling of which regards the wolves: “... how do you know when they’re coming?”

The normally genteel machine turns haughty, “What’s your password, sai Eddie?” Turns out the bot is restricted from divulging this information under directive nineteen (there’s that damn prime). So, I’m making the call early: Andy is in cahoots with the wolves. Agreed? Of course, I’ve come to not trust any machine with a North Central Positronics, LTD label.
Here's a link to follow for the rest of my article on Stephen King's Wolves of the Calla.

Past Voices

I'm reading a Harvard Classics featuring Descartes, Voltaire, Rousseau, and Hobbes. Most days on Twitter I follow accounts dedicated to Samuel Pepys, Richard Burton, and actively contribute to a Thomas Paine page. Waiting to be read are memoirs by Anais Nin and Charles Darwin. Put bluntly, I enjoy reading dead people ruminating about the minutiae of their daily lives, cultural events of their day, and whatever else passed their radars. Question: I'm looking to expand beyond the mostly white guys and looking for women essayists before the 20th century and writers from countries outside the US. Any suggestions?

Sunday, April 9, 2017

The Salvation (2014)

Jon (Mads Mikkelsen) is a Danish settler whose wife and son are murdered by two thugs just released from prison. Jon kills both in revenge. One of the ex-con's brother is Delarue (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), a gang leader who is working to remove the entire populace of Black Creek for Standard Atlantic Oil Company to bottle the crude that’s bubbling about town. Riding with Jon is his brother Peter (Mikael Persbrandt). Together they make a formidable opposition though Peter eventually sacrifices himself for Jon's safety. With every gesture, Mikkelsen pumps fresh life into the genre, and, here’s hoping there are more Westerns in his future. Eva Green plays Delarue's mute sister-in-law, Madelaine, who serves as his accountant and is sexually abused by him. Strong acting all around in THE SALVATION, but Ms. Green deserves extra mention for conveying such a wide range of emotion without any lines.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Odin aka Wednesday

Odin the Wanderer (1895) is such a commanding piece by Georg Von Rosen. Odin, in Norse mythology, goes by numerous names including Wednesday. In AMERICAN GODS, Mr. Wednesday is played by Ian McShane. What a great casting choice that is, right? I've enjoyed McShane performances for years including his acting in VILLAIN (1971) opposite Richard Burton, LOVEJOY (1986-1994), and DEADWOOD (2004-2006).

Friday, April 7, 2017

War

My continuing studies of Thomas Paine unearthed this always timely passage from Rights of Man (1791):
"That there are men in all countries who get their living by war, and keeping up the quarrels of Nations, is as shocking as it is true; but when those who are concerned in the government of a country, make it their study to sow discord and cultivate prejudices between Nations, it becomes the more unpardonable."

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Broken Down

My jeep decided to give up the ghost today, but, thankfully, while I was waiting to be rescued I had Gaiman's AMERICAN GODS with me. Forgot how much I enjoyed this novel and the thirty minutes zipped along to my father-in-law showed up. Now, wonder how much the old beast is going to cost for repairs. It's an electrical issue. Oy vey!

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

What Happened To My 444?

Here Is the World's Favorite Number.

Some Lincoln Common Sense

I am reminded of a conundrum posed by Abraham Lincoln: If the tail of a dog was called a leg, how many legs would a dog have? Lincoln's answer was: "Four, calling the tail a leg doesn't mean that it is one." Raymond M. Smullyan, WHAT IS THE NAME OF THIS BOOK

American Gods

I just got the green light to review the adaptation of Neil Gaiman's American Gods (2001) that is premiering April 30. Doing something a little different, I will be comparing the characters and plot from the novel with the show. Hope you will join me for the ride.