View from the end of our street, February 22nd, 2019

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Tuesday with Friends

          This blog seems to have become a promotion for my new blog.  So be it, I'm too old to worry about it.  Come get acquainted with Maxwell Grantly, the Cogpunk Steamscribe, Movie Babble, Nerd Lunch, and Gum Trees & Galaxies.  They're really worth the visit...  Wanna take a ride?


~ Jack

Friday, August 9, 2019

The Building of Nexus

          Good morning, friends.  I've been banging on about a series that may get picked up by a publisher, and I've finally put together an article covering what it's actually about.  My hope is that it might appeal to fans of horror, sci-fi, action, and fantasy.  Time, as they say, will tell.  Here's the link:


          Enjoy the read, follow the site if you find it interesting, and keep on the lookout for updates!  I'll link important developments here, but Riding the Blimp is where the action is on this particular project.

Read well, and write better,
~ Jack

Friday, August 2, 2019

Day 8 at the New Digs

          I'm a week into my project of getting a new blog up, read, and followed. In eight days I've posted essays about myself, my writing style, a contest whose top ten prizes are publication by a dynamic new house, and five of my fellow writers, all with opinions worth reading. This is a standing invitation which will be repeated frequently to drop in for a visit, and maybe even leave a comment. I love guests and will answer them all!





https://ridingtheblimp.wordpress.com/

Read well, and write better,
~ Jack

Friday, July 26, 2019

Fitting Out My Library

          Just a quick note to the faithful to let you know that in anticipation of my upcoming publishing contract (which I still may not get, though the signs remain hopeful), I have dusted off my old WordPress site to use for promotions.  There isn't much there, just my bio and a page promoting my older works, but I have high hopes for the future, and anyone who wants to be in the know when I post the best news in decades can drop by and bookmark or follow.  Fingers are crossed . . . that's all that's left for me to do!  Come see me at https://ridingtheblimp.wordpress.com/

~ Jack

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Forever Learning

            I have reason to believe that as a writer, most of my readers are writers and reader themselves. I posted a piece on Writing-dot-com today that I'm going to share here for anyone with a passing interest. Settle back and enjoy the ride as I talk about research, and how best to use it.

*          *          *

         As a writer, I am constantly trying to learn, to gather more information, more skill, more expertise, if you like, about the Craft. As a reader of more writers' blogs, pages, and websites than most people imagine there are, a myriad of tips from these various writers cross my desk, and it is a simple fact that no one person can make use of all of them. Some contradict each other, and in any case, if you try to incorporate every suggestion you receive into your personal writing style, you will soon be so confused that you won't even know what your writing style is anymore! So I thought that I would periodically look at some of these words of advice, break them down, and maybe help some of our younger members digest them, and decide which are right for them. So let's begin this series with an easy one.
         

"You think you’re pretty talented. You think you’re pretty smart. And you are. But the best way to fail at being a writer is to spend all your time proving you know what you’re doing rather than learning from the people and resources around you. Stop posturing. Start practicing. And have fun.
 
                    ~ JOE BUNTING, founder of The Write Practice

         This seems pretty unimpeachable. I've often said that when you write, you're weaving a magic spell around your reader, but you're also doing something else: Whether you're writing romance, horror, or a technical manual, you're presenting yourself as an expert in the subject, and your reader expects you to deliver. If you're a soldier who served in Desert Storm or a retired homicide detective, and you're writing a fictional story based on your experiences, you're obviously on solid ground, but what if you write of fantastical worlds that don't exist? I used to write steampunk, and I'm pretty sure that there's no one alive who has engaged in aerial battles between dirigibles; the heyday of that was the First World War. Now I write horror. Who among us has battled a werewolf, or hidden from a gill-man on a foggy waterfront night? So how do you become an authority on a subject like this, and make it believable?
         There are two touchstones that must be followed to deliver that vital immersion that discerning readers demand.
         First comes research. You've decided that you want to tell a steampunk story of expats hauling cargo on a dirigible over Kenya. That never happened. How can you research it? Well, dirigibles have existed from the turn of the last century to modern craft like the Goodyear blimp, and you can read and watch videos on a wide range of aspects surrounding them. Steampunk machines will by definition be steam powered, and you can research that. You can research Kenya, the natives, the history, the geography and animals, and you'd damned well better if you want anyone to take your writing seriously!
         Next comes the whole notion of being consistent. You've now done all this research, you have anecdotes and factoids coming out your ears, and I guarantee you that if you've done your research right, you're going to have at least twice as much material as you need to tell an engaging story. So consistency means developing the story you want to tell, establishing what aspects of all that research you want to play up, and making sure that gets delivered on the page. It also means deciding how much of that fascinating research to leave out. I once read, or more accurately tried to read, a steampunk novel which had several historical figures in cameo roles; it's a steampunk trope. The problem was that, once the author had done the research, he didn't feel that it was enough that his knowledge of the subjects brought those characters to life. There was a scene where the protagonist needed to consult with Alexander Graham Bell. He goes to the great man's home, and during his walk up the driveway, gives us three pages of Bell's life history. Honestly, it read like the script for a Kevin Costner movie and I don't think I made it to page 30. Don't... Just don't.
         Consistency also applies to individual story elements. Once you've established how something unique to the story works, make sure it works the same way every time we see it; that way you won't have to deliver six pages of exposition. An example will suffice. Consider Star Trek's tricorder. No character ever took a fifteen-minute segment of the show to look into the camera and give a detailed explanation of what the tricorder does, and that is as it should be. This device is a normal part of their lives, an unremarkable tool (to them) that helps them in their daily tasks; the Lone Ranger doesn't discuss the breed of his horse before he rides off on it, either, and no one expects him to. He isn't amazed by it. We see them using the tricorder a few times, and come to realize that it is a combination recording device and access point to their version of the internet, placing vast reams of data at their fingertips. You see this being done, you accept it for what it is, and it becomes a story device. Imagine how cheated you'd feel if they found themselves in a tight spot, and suddenly revealed that the tricorder could also remotely control the Enterprise and perform major surgery, as well as fly off and function as a drone. My own Nexus stories' chronambulator is a prime example of this. It performs one function very well, but does nothing else, no matter how badly they might need it to. Bottom line: Research is the foundation. Learning. Learning your world, using what you've learned to create its rules and denizens, then using your rules to build your story.
         Here are a couple of minor points to end on: I'm still looking for a term to cover the sub-genre of horror that I find myself writing in, one that describes what you can expect to find in my stories, but that is clear and concise to anyone seeing it for the first time. I write stories about creature-based horror, rather than human players or possessed objects, etc. These creatures would send a chill up your spine on a dark and stormy night, but the stories are about an agency that hunts them as the menaces they are. I've been leaning toward Action/Horror; Kyanite wants to call it Speculative Horror. I don't particularly if they call it macaroni, so long as they want to publish it!
         Finally, one of my favorite cyber-friends is one Christopher "C.W." Hawes. He is a prolific author in multiple genres, and he is currently concentrating on the Pierce Mostyn Paranormal Investigations series, with Book Five, The Medusa Ritual, due to release on Amazon this Monday, July 29th. Pay him a visit at https://www.cwhawes.com/ - Check out his blog and don't forget to click the tab to see his book catalog. If you like to read, chances are strong that he has written something for you. And leave him a comment. He always answers, and his scintillating conversation is half the fun.
         And that's 30 for today. Now, get out there and write like you mean it!

Semper audax esse,
*Hotair2* Jack

Saturday, July 6, 2019

Southern Steam

"You can't find Port Reprieve on a map.  It exists in a southern United States that became a permanent Confederacy, a place outside of your view of reality.  But the Scribblers Den writers have traversed the barrier and done their research.  We have returned, with tales told about the people of that far flung Earth where America is divided, Alabama hosts the world's strangest port city, and every sort and flavor of curiosity roams its dusty streets.  Take a tour through our words down unpaved roads to adventure, tension and danger in the Southern Steam surrounding Port Reprieve."

So reads the blurb for Southern Steam, a collaboration by some of the members of Scribblers' Den, a steampunk writers' guild spanning two continents.  As to the world itself,  let your mind float back to 1864 on the coast of Alabama as the American Civil War rages.  But this world is about to take a sudden divergence from the one we find so comfortably familiar.  As the siege of Mobile gets into full swing, the city is bombarded mercilessly by shifts of Union mortar boats anchored in the lee of Marsh Island.  CSS Tennessee makes an attempt to shoo them away, but despite braving the swells off Cedar Point, is no match for Farragut's four monitors.  In consequence, the siege continues until the city of Mobile is a smoking pile of rubble.  Upon the arrival of more naval and marine forces, Farragut successfully runs the batteries and gains access to the harbor, and is scouting the best site to make a safe amphibious landing while remaining in striking distance of a strategic location when a delegation arrives by fast steamer to notify him that in light of the recent British and French intervention, hostilities are to be suspended.  The cease-fire documents are signed in one of the tobacco warehouses on the shore of Weeks Bay, in actuality the Fish River estuary, and within a few days, all vestiges of Union military power have departed.  With Mobile, and most of the smaller towns around the harbor, in ruins, a new town springs up as refugees from the surrounding area take up residence along the shore on both sides of Fish River.  They name their new city Port Reprieve.

A score or so stories were created for Port Reprieve, and five of the best, all created new for the anthology, are included here.  They are:

          Stars and Bars by Steve Moore
          The Stench Street Rebs by William J. Jackson
          Hoodwinked by N.O.A. Rawle
          The Aeronaut by Bryce Raffle
   and Sea Story by yours truly.

Southern Steam is currently available in Kindle format for $2.99; the anthology editor is working on a paperback format, and appropriate announcements will be made when it becomes available.  So if you're a fan of alternate history and epic adventure, hop a freighter and pay a call to Port Reprieve to experience a blast of Southern Steam!

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Transitioning Again

          First and foremost, HAPPY MOTHERS DAY to all the gentle warriors who have chosen to travel that path.  I have heard it called the hardest, most fulfilling job anyone can ever have, and I'm in no mood to argue.  Enjoy your special day!

          Now I come to the business of this blog. Jack's Hideout was my first internet presence, begun on March 28th, 2011.  I have changed the focus over the eight years I've been delivering random essays, and most of them are in place, although I have removed those with links to long-gone items, and a few whose relevance has been lost to time.  And sometimes I have stopped posting for long periods of time, usually when I've been dazzled away by some newfangled website that's caught my roving eye.  Well, that's going to happen again for a while.

          Friends and followers will know that I'm primarily a writer by interest, and much of this blog and my others are focused on that.  You will also know that I've gone through a long dry spell in terms of inspiration and production, and have been blogging here about odds and ends that have caught my eye.  Well, inspiration has returned with a vengeance, and I am currently engaged in producing a series of 1920s horror stories in the form of novellas, roughly 20,000-word outings that bridge the gap between short stories and novels.  They concern the activities of a team of monster hunters who are sent from their agency to deal, quietly and above all without engendering panic, with creatures from other realms, planes, and dimensions that have crossed into our reality and are creating various forms of havoc.  These are being considered for publication by a horror publisher who I'm not going to name at this time because, frankly, I'm superstitious about jinxing my own chances if I make a premature announcement.

          Nonetheless, I am following the publisher's guidelines until I have a definitive answer, and one of them is that he, the publisher, demands exclusive rights, which means it is not to be published anywhere else.  He has generously given his permission for me to post the stories on writing.com for members-only reading so that I can receive constructive criticism before I submit them.  Those who would like to read (and even comment on) my work can join for free by going to https://writing.com and filling out the form.  There is no obligation, and I've been there, with some gaps, for over five years and never had an issue with security or hacking of any kind.  There are currently two stories, one complete (Possession of Blood), and the other in progress (Creeper).  Possession is complete, and is likely to be submitted and removed in 1-2 weeks.  Creeper is under construction, and is about one-quarter completed, so that will be up for a while.

          To reiterate, you must have a writing.com membership to read those two stories, but now that I'm deeply immersed in writing once again (and insanely happy to be here!), I have other works there that can be read by all, including my full Beyond the Rails series, and some other short works, as well as the blog that is now receiving all of my attention.  My handle there, as it has been in so many places, is Blimprider, and you can click in and read my on-site blog, Riding the Blimp, at any time; I cover all manner of subjects concerning the Craft of writing, and post every Sunday morning.  I'd love to see you there!

          The upshot is that much of my writing time, time I used to use to blog here, is being taken up with these new activities, and the prospect of professional publication is dazzling my eyes to the point that I want to focus my energies there, so this blog is going back on hiatus for a while at least.  Get over to writing.com to check me out, and drop me an e-mail if you'd like to chat, either using the contact form here, or at blimprider@yahoo.com.  Busy I decidedly am, but never too busy to spend time with a friend!

          So, that's 30 for now.  Click those links and come see me at my home away from home.  Grand adventures are waiting to be had!

~ Jack

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Examining Why We Write

From today's issue of Pointless Overthinking:

"The topmost reason for people to write is appreciation and approval.  It is present in the background of every writer.  But here’s the important question…
Is it what drives us?
"Having a simple desire of being read or acknowledged, according to me, is safe.  But there’s a problem when you become dependent on it.  I had started to derive my sense of self-worth and confidence from it.  I realized this a few weeks ago.  And again a few days ago. (I’m a constant realizing machine you see!)
"Someone who read my posts on WordPress sent me an email about how my posts were proving to be useful.  A personal mail.  It was a big deal for my ego.  I liked the appreciation and felt worthy!  I still remember that feeling of pride.  There’s no problem in acknowledging the appreciation.  But when your sense of self-worth becomes dependent on it, that’s problematic."
Drop in to view the whole article, an essay of profound wisdom, at

 https://pointlessoverthinking.com/2019/04/13/is-writing-your-passion-really/

Thursday, April 4, 2019

Easy Reader

          My old friend, book editor Lynda Dietz, launched her new blog this morning. If you write and would like some free tips from a dynamite editor, or if you're a reader curious about the things that authors have to deal with to bring you that boffo, knock-em-dead novel you're enjoying, this is the site for you. Here's your chance to go backstage during the creation of a story and see the engine being built. Well worth bookmarking if you're into books at all!

https://easyreaderediting.com/blog

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Goldfinger: 007 Nukes the Fridge

Major Spoilers Ahead!

          Last night my wife and daughter joined me for a home screening of Goldfinger (1964), the third outing of superagent James Bond, a production that cost as much as the two previous films.  I can't honestly say that was a fact that helped it at all.  I figure that everyone interested in a 55-year old film has probably seen it already, but my daughter hadn't, so pay heed to the spoiler warning; I'm not kidding!

          So I bought the first three movies in a DVD package because Bonnie was into the nostalgia, and I wanted Sidra to see the process that had started the franchise toward its modern form.  In the first movie, Dr. No (1962), the U.S. space program was in its infancy and having trouble, as some unknown actor was tampering with the guidance controls of the missiles.  This is a straightforward plot for a spy movie, and 007 was brought in to investigate the murder of a fellow agent, said investigation leading him to the main plot.  The sets they designed for the big bad's hideout could have been a bit more realistic, but they weren't bad in comparison to other presentations of the time.

          In the second outing, From Russia with Love (1963), we see what is in my opinion the most realistic and believable Bond, as the nationless SPECTRE organization, masquerading as the Soviets, has a beautiful code clerk lure him into a fatal trap by dangling a top secret code machine as bait with the caveat that Bond must retrieve it (and her) from Russia.  The features of this movie are plausible action taking place against a grounded plot, culminating in one of the most spectacular fights in cinema history.

          And then came Goldfinger.  Apparently having decided that realism is boring, the production company all but turned this movie into a live-action cartoon.  The plot is ludicrous.  Auric Goldfinger (Gert Fröbe), a gold magnate obsessed with wealth and the metal itself, has hatched up a plot to rob the U.S. Gold Repository at Fort Knox, silly enough by itself.  Or maybe not, because after 007 tickles this plot out of the villain, his real plan comes to light:  He intends to detonate an atomic bomb inside the vault, rendering the entire gold supply of the United States too radioactive to get near for at least half a century, and multiplying the value of his own holdings by ten.


          If the plot is over the top, the principals are no less outrageous.  The henchman, Oddjob, a Korean superman in an ill-fitting tuxedo, is played to subtle perfection by Japanese-American athlete and professional wrestler Harold Sakata who won a silver medal in weightlifting for the U.S. in the 1948 London Olympics.  Oddjob's "gimmick," (and don't all the Bond villains have to have one?) is his steel-brimmed top hat, which he throws like a Frisbee to cut the heads off of statues, and drop fleeing victims in their tracks.  Short in stature but larger than life, during his climactic fight scene with 007 in the vault he is pummeled with bars of gold bullion thrown from a range of under ten feet, battered with a wooden pole at least 6" in diameter, and attacked with a steel control lever from a piece of machinery, remaining all the while unaffected by anything 007 tries.  The superspy finally electrocutes him when he grasps his hat to pull it from between two steel bars by touching a live power cable to the metal.


          The first two Bond Girls had the attractive, if "normal" names of Honey Rider and Tatiana Romanova.  Played by Ursula Andress and Daniela Bianchi respectively, they were likewise deemed too pedestrian for this production, and so the new Bond Girl would be played by Honor Blackman.  Well-known to British audiences as Kathy Gale, the first female member of The Avengers, a serious brawler who predated Mrs. Peel by a number of years, the name of this capable young lady would be the sensible, down-to-earth "Pussy Galore," a name that still holds the undisputed championship for female names in the Bond franchise.  In fairness, it was the 60s; you could only subject a woman to this today in a porn movie!  If Oddjob is Goldfinger's right hand, Miss Galore is his left, at least until the legenary power of the Bond Wiener brings her back to the light in the course of a single application.  Without her turning, Goldfinger's plan succeeds, and he kills at least 60,000 people in the course of carrying it out.

          The movie also takes the spy gadgetry provided by Q (Desmond Llewelyn) over the top with the infamous Aston Martin DB5 and its equally infamous ejection seat, but that's a minor point compared to the rest of it.

          Sean Connery would play Bond three more times (four, if you count Never Say Never Again) in Thunderball, You Only Live Twice, and Diamonds Are Forever, and while the plots were as wild as Goldfinger's, the Ridiculous was dialed down a little.  Leaving out the deliberate spoof Casino Royale (1966), we saw George Lazenby take a turn in On Her Majesty's Secret Service, and none of these movies was particularly bad, being fun action rides through adventures at the edge.  In fact, Lazenby's Secret Service marked a return to the almost-serious, but Lazenby had made it clear that he would only play Bond once.  Roger Moore was brought in to take his turn as the secret agent, and it was Katie-bar-the-door after that!

          So, Goldfinger . . .  How was it?  Hokey as all hell, especially if you're binge-watching in order and you've just finished From Russia with Love, but it's a fun ride for all of the hokum, and an important piece of the canon if you're a younger viewer who missed the origins and are curious about how 007 got to where he is today.  This was the moment when the whole notion of "serious" spy movies was left in the wake, and every film became a contest to outdo the last.  Don't get me wrong, I love the Bond franchise, but I also see it for what it is, a fantasy world based on espionage.  It is also one of the most fun franchises ever devised, and my advice is to jump in with both feet, hang on tight, and enjoy the ride, because whatever else he, in all his incarnations might do, he will never, ever disappoint!

Monday, February 18, 2019

Family Reunion

"The bond that links your true family is not one of blood, but of respect and joy in each other's life."
 ~ RICHARD BACH

           I've always tried to imbue my children and grandchildren with a sense of fun, excitement, and just general enjoyment of life.  There have been times when I've wondered how much success I was really having with that, but here, you be the judge . . .

          It began a couple of weeks ago.  Our younger twin who lives in Colorado texted his mom that he was sending her a package, that he had put a tracker on it, and he would advise her when it was delivered so that we wouldn't leave it sitting outside.  He mentioned it a couple more times, then early last week told her that it would arrive Friday.  Late Friday morning, he texted her that it was being delivered.  I went out to collect it and there he stood with two of his children.

          Seems his wife had some family business to attend to in the area and he had accompanied her with the kids.  He had Friday and Sunday to himself, and would be with us both days.  This was a wonderful surprise, and his keeping this a secret since October, when planning began for their trip, is a pretty impressive feat in itself.  Friday was spent catching up on years of separation, and when he returned Sunday a whole other plan was in play.  See, two of his brother's kids, Kris and Venus, were born in February, 14th and 19th respectively, and we had long-planned a joint birthday party for Sunday, when he returned with all three of his young'uns and joined the party.

          We had and carried out plans to take some group photos as the evening wound down.  We only had one camera with a timer so that we could all be in it, and unfortunately, the kids had been playing with it and run the battery down during the day.  This meant that it only had power for one timed photo.  We would have tried a few more shots and chosen the most perfect, but that was off the table.  Luckily, the one we were able to get was serviceable, though I couldn't even crop it because we could barely get the camera back far enough to get everyone.  Nonetheless, we're very happy to have the whole extended family in one shot.



























          Down in front are Dude the Insane Beagle, Brian Jr. (the oldest), and Anna (Alex's oldest).
          Around the back, L to R, are yours truly, Angel (Brian's 3rd) holding Comet the chihuahua, Venus (Brian's 2nd), Kris (Brian's youngest), Sidra (our youngest) Alex Jr. (Alex's 2nd) Alex (our second), Brian (our oldest), Bonnie, the matriarch peeking around Maddie (Alex's youngest), who the camera barely caught.

          It was a tight fit, and we would have liked to have had some choices, but we're thrilled to have this one, and to have had two wonderful, unexpected days with our extended family.  The kids played games, both board and video, and the old folks chatted into the wee hours remembering cherished tales of yore.  There's really nothing to compare with this, and we wish them all a safe drive home when they roll out for Colorado tomorrow.  This is what life's all about.

          And what's the point of this post?  Not much, just an exuberant "yahoo!" in celebration of us all still being around to gather in love once more.  It was, as you might imagine, a wonderful weekend; I sincerely hope things are going as well for all of you.  Wishing you all the best life has to offer, and a reminder to get out there and live life like you mean it!

Friday, February 15, 2019

The Medusa Ritual

The Office of Unidentified Phenomena




          In The Medusa Ritual by C.W. Hawes, Dr. Rafe Bardon, director of the uber-secret US Office of Unidentified Phenomena, sends his best agent, Pierce Mostyn, to retrieve a book of deadly arcane knowledge before its owner can use the tome to unleash a reign of terror upon America and the world.

          C.W, Hawes, prolific author in several genres, has begun serializing, free of charge, his latest novel on his website.  The Medusa Ritual is a story of the investigation of paranormal occurrences rife with mystery, danger, action, and the unexpected.  This is a magnificent value, a full size, nothing-held-back sample of the author's work.  His hope that you will like it enough to climb aboard for the series, but whether that happens or not, you will come away at the end of the process with a complete novel sure to be worth every bit of the price!  I have known Christopher for a while, I have read his work, I have reviewed him on Amazon.  I wouldn't steer you wrong; this is an author of quality who won't disappoint.  Three installments in at this writing, he has already begun to weave an inescapable web of intrigue and terror.  The thrilling adventure begins here; don't be left behind!