"Wind stirs the bamboo,
But once the wind passes,
The bamboo is silent.
Geese land in the chill pond,
But once the geese fly away,
There are no reflections.
In the same way,
Once the red dust passes,
The mind is still.
~ Deng Ming-Dao
Last week I shared the story of a member of the EOC (Easily Offended Committee) in my writers' group who had gone out of his way to be offensive, hurt my feelings, question my life experience, and make me look bad in front of the group. At the time of that writing, it was recent and raw, and I hadn't come to terms with it yet. Now I have, with the help of my dear wife and partner in every hi-jinx and shenanigan that life has thrown my way since 1975. Sometimes, it seems, you're too close to a thing to see it. That's when you need to borrow someone else's eyes. I was struggling with these comments, and the fact that writing has been becoming more and more of a chore by the day, and she pointed out, "You don't have to write. You don't have to do anything anymore but just relax and have fun. Why don't you take a year off, and see how you feel about it then?"
Lots of guys criticize their wives, some in fun, some in earnest, but I'll have none of that! My wife is wiser than Solomon as well as being sexier than Cleopatra, and I listen to everything she has to say. A "hiatus," she calls it. Liberation, I call it! Tomorrow, I'll be 68; today, I'm free.
Of course, it won't happen tomorrow. Beyond the Rails III: Slayer of Darkness, is nearly finished, would have been finished, but I need to rewrite the ending to bring the saga to a full stop as the third book in a trilogy. Period. That should occupy me for the rest of the week, then comes a period of proofreading, spelling, grammar, and punctuation checks, and the process of cleaning up the historical anomalies and finding the exact right word for every situation. I need to write the blurb, design a cover, then it's load it on CreateSpace, and wave bye-bye. This, what did she call it, a hiatus, probably won't start until November.
All of which begs the question, what am I going to do with this blog? Don't know. I can tell you what I won't be doing. I won't be giving writing lessons, telling you all how to develop characters, which viewpoints belong in which scenes and the like, and keeping everyone up to date on my latest work-in-progress like some kind of omnipotent literary guru. For three years, I have had a great amount of fun pretending to be this skilled and dynamic author, preening like an international bestseller before my handful of fans, and it's been an enjoyable ride. It has also been complete shite, and it's time for me to stop parroting things I have read in the how-to books of successful authors, and get on with enjoying the time I have left.
That said, I have ideas. Stingaree will probably be published if I live long enough, and there are other projects bubbling in the mud pits down on the lower levels. There are times when I'm left to my own devices, such as all day Thursday, when grandma goes to visit the local grandkids at their house. There's nothing to say that I can't switch on the word processor instead of the Xbox. Time will tell, but writing is no longer going to be an unpaid job that my life is structured around in retirement. Nor will it be a public process. Hanging out in a place where I can expect to be challenged, insulted, and called a liar in every way but use of the actual word is not an activity I intend to pursue further. I will have considerably fewer alpha-readers due to this, and those critiques and discussions that I am able to have will be held in private. Drop me a line if you'd like to sign up.
So, the blog? Well, the title isn't specifically literary. I had this blog before I self-published, and it had nothing to do with writing. It will return to its roots, if it does anything at all. I read, Bonzo and I watch TV and movies, I play games, both board and video, and I live in a tourist mecca. I may occasionally regale you with reviews and such. By the way, in Taoism, the world view I embrace, the affairs of the world are often euphemistically referred to as red dust.
I'll begin the first blog of the new look with a book review. Enjoy!
I recently read a smashing good book called Brutal Valour: The Tragedy of Isandlwana (The Anglo-Zulu War Book 1) by James Mace. This is a long book, 504 pages in paperback, and I found every word entertaining as well as informative. Mr. Mace, a life-long historian and author of seventeen books on various historical periods, gives us handful of characters to follow through the grand adventure, soldiers of the legendary 24th Regiment of Foot, on their way to South Africa where they will bear instrumental roles in High Commissioner Sir Henry Bartle Frere's illegal and unwanted (by the Crown) invasion of Zululand on a contrived pretext. I am assuming these are fictional characters, as I have not been able to locate them in the historical record, although that is probably the case with most privates.
Most Americans are familiar with the Battle of Isandlwana through the movies Zulu and Zulu Dawn. There was also a NOVA documentary about the battle that tried hard to show the Zulu side, but no matter the focus, I have always been of the impression that the battle was a sudden affair with one of Lord Chelmsford's isolated columns caught in the open and wiped out by a vastly superior force. Mace has the advantage of writing almost 140 years after the events, and has done an incredibly thorough job of collecting and collating records, facts, and anecdotes from sources that have lain unmined for much of that time. The result is a fabulous adventure story that joins the young recruits of the 24th in England, and follows them to South Africa while simultaneously telling the story of Sir Henry's subterfuge, and Lord Chelmsford's arrogance and incompetence in splitting his already inferior forces in the face of an enemy known to be highly organized and well-led. His only fear that he expressed during the campaign was that the Zulus wouldn't fight. The detail presented in this story is enormous, and you never once feel as though you're reading a textbook. Every facet is presented, from the initial campaign that burns an isolated village, shifting Chelmsford's arrogance into high gear, to the morning of January 22nd, 1879, when the 1,500 British and colonial troops camped on the shoulders of the hill known as Isandlwana had their "What's that noise?" moment, as 35,000 blood-lusting Zulus who had been brilliantly maneuvered into position after decoying the bulk of Chelmsford's force away from the scene, crested a ridge a mile away and headed straight for them.
If you are curious about this British war that is largely unknown to the majority of Americans, if you love a rollicking good adventure story, if you are interested in colonial goings-on during the reign of Victoria, this book is for you. I can't wait for Book 2. I'll be right there to snap it up.
And that does me for this week. I'm thinking of going to a monthly schedule, or maybe no schedule at all, posting whenever I come up with something. Until then, play nice, look out for one another, and above all else, get out there and live life like you mean it!