Thursday, July 24, 2014

Medical Mayhem Mauls Writing Schedule

TV Trope
 Back in June I got a physical. Ever since, it's been procedure after procedure for a variety of bodily malfunctions from an MRI to physical therapy to a chiropractor to a colonoscopy to this new prostrate biopsy thing on Monday. No half measures for me.

Good progress on my H.P. Lovecraft homage, as well as the aforementioned Dark Urban Tales. But maintaining momentum is tough when you're stranded in a doctor's office. They're often run like Disneyland, where you're moved into a room, giving one the illusion of movement, but then abandoned there for long periods. Thank God for Kindle!

So far, none of the medical findings have been serious, just vexing and time consuming. Enough. Away. To the lumber yard! (Or the next draft.)

Monday, June 30, 2014

More on Dark Urban Tales

Image: taptoe
In between battling neighbors over noise issues and loading up my schedule with medical appointments, I managed to wedge in a little writing over the last few weeks. I am having a delightful time crafting new short stories for Dark Urban Tales.

Three previously published shorts will be included:

"Death Honk"
"Fresh Ideas"
"Bummed Out"

In addition, there will be narratives about:

The fate of a dietary zealot in a cineplex inhabited by strange,
junk-food loving creatures.

An actor pursuing romance as his play collapses around him.

The Office meets Locked Up: Raw in a company where the most
vital rules are not written in the corporate manual.

A job applicant at a daycare center must outwit amoral
children steeped in Machiavelli.

Young urban professionals discover you
can't militarize the police without a little collateral

As mentioned, this will be my first softcover book, in addition to eBook formats on Amazon and Smashwords. For all the labor, the excitement hasn't dimmed.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned Showcases Solid Writing

Everything Ravaged, Everything BurnedEverything Ravaged, Everything Burned by Wells Tower
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Nine short stories of relationships, status, and control are characterized by sharp writing and a good eye for metaphor. Tower's tales often involve change and a character's need to adjust as in "Executors of Important Energies" where a son must deal with a father's fading memory as well as the unexpected addition of a stranger to the relationship.

Other stories involve the consequences of infidelity, antagonistic brothers seeking common ground in the killing of a moose, and jaded Vikings hoping to find serenity in raiding one more island. A funny, dark, hopeful collection of well-crafted yarns.

View all my reviews

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Kaiju Apocalypse Cuts Too Many Corners

Kaiju ApocalypseKaiju Apocalypse by Eric S. Brown
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Action for action's sake marks this eBook that draws heavily on story elements from films such as Pacific Rim and Starship Troopers. Rising seas have broken the Earth up into island nations. But Kaiju, big monsters, are destroying Mankind's redoubts one by one. With only a single refuge left, the military launch a final, desperate mission with humanities' survival at stake.

Stock characters leave you no one to root for. Contrived story elements can pop up at any time. Cliched prose included such ancient phrases as "frayed nerves," "swarmed like locusts," and something exploding "like an overripe melon."

If you don't read widely, you might not mind the various flaws. But it seemed like the book was rushed into print without benefit of copy editing or proof reading. Good cover art, but the authors might consider building a tale worthy of the image.

View all my reviews

Saturday, June 07, 2014

Dark Urban Anthology Coming Up Soon

Image: Free Wallpaper
 Maybe even next on the publishing calender. Last week was a grind, as I wrote out a second draft on a short story that billowed out to over 6,000 words. As of today there will be eight stories in the projected anthology, including three previously published and five original. The theme is dark urban fiction. Not horror, but psychologically disturbing—much like my neighbors and certain members of  state government.

My H.P. Lovecraft comedy-horror tale simmers now on draft six. I'm giving it another week, then I'll see if I'm motivated to continue. It will be a full-length book released in soft cover and eBook formats sometime later this year. And that's the state of that for now.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Fishy Praise for The Little Book of Big Enlightenment

An Amazon affiliate site has the following to say about:

The Little Book of Big Enlightenment

"For anybody who is searching for a fantastic and trustworthy The Little Book of Big Enlightenment with cheap value, you arrive towards the best destination. We offer you with lowest value The Little Book of Big Enlightenment which you could be seeking. Now we have accomplished the basic research in your case to be certain that you will obtain the most edge from us."

Why can't you "with cheap value . . . arrive towards the best destination?" I'm guessing this means obtain a copy of the "Little Book" today and learn how Big Spirit hopes to stop you from obtaining rapid spiritual enlightenment in the time it takes you to read 67 pages.

Or it could be urging you to buy a frog-shaped cookie jar. Be your own judge.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Keith William Nolan's Writing Honored Vets

On this Memorial Day, I repost an entry from Jan. 2012 on Nolan. I still intend to write about my 2000/2002 experiences in Cambodia and Vietnam working for the State Department and the Agency for International Development, and how you can see the history of the war written in the cratered earth. But that project will blossom when the moment is right. For now, let this post be my Memorial Day tribute.

 There was a time when I burned through military history books by the gross. I read famous authors like Band of Brothers' Stephen Ambrose and not-so-famous guys like Keith William Nolan. My history book reading has fallen off lately and so I just learned Nolan died three years ago from cancer. His specialty was the Vietnam War and his works relied heavily on interviews with American veterans who fought there.

Ten years ago, I had vague plans of producing a film based on Nolan's book about Operation Buffalo, which centered around the ambush of a Marine company in 1967. As I was returning to Cambodia for a project with State Dept./USAID and Warner Bros.—a story in itself—I made plans to visit the battlefields in neighboring Vietnam.

And so I contacted Keith William Nolan and asked for an option to develop a project based around his 1991 book Operation Buffalo: USMC Fight for the DMZ. I mentioned I was a former Marine who had served during the Vietnam era.

He let me have the option free.

That is simply not done in these parts.

By email, I thanked him for his generosity. In time, I toured the landscape of Operation Buffalo, a dangerous patch of ground still peppered with Viet Cong mines and booby traps as well as unexploded American and North Vietnamese artillery shells. I walked the narrow, red dirt lanes on which B Company was ambushed in an action that grew into the bloodiest day for the Marines in Vietnam.

I drew a crowd of Vietnamese, hardly any who had lived there back in the day. (Most had been relocated in 1966, the year prior to the fight.) At one point, I was invited into a hut and asked to tell a few elders what I knew of the event. With kids and dogs yelling outside, I spoke in bursts of English which my interpreter translated into Vietnamese, explaining how a battalion of North Vietnamese lured an understrength Marine company into an trap that wiped out two platoons and shot to pieces a second company that came to help. Many of the Marine M-16 rifles malfunctioned, and men were cut down desperately trying to remove jammed rounds from their weapons. Some enemy troops infiltrated Marine positions dressed in captured American uniforms. Their assault was backed with flamethrowers and heavy artillery—based in nearby North Vietnam.

As the sky grew darker outside, we drank tea and smoked cigarettes. Reciting Nolan's book from memory as best I could, I told how the Marines returned the next day to retrieve the bodies of their dead and that turned into another fight. More reinforcements poured in on both sides, culminating in a massive North Vietnamese attack preceded by an artillery barrage. The Marines mowed down the charging troops, sealed off breaches in their lines and held. The enemy withdraw back to safety in North Vietnam. Marine patrols from the hill base at Con then set out once more to sweep the area, and the pattern of Operation Buffalo would be repeated in minor and major keys for the next several years.

Outside the village kids gathered around as I reemerged from the hut. There was a huge freaking spider the size of a catcher's mitt hanging in a web attached to a nearby pole. I refused to look at the monster. I feared the kids would knock the hulking arachnid down with a stick and chase it toward me to see what the tall foreigner would do.

I came home and the option expired and my movie idea eventually migrated into a rather large folder of unfinished products. Nolan wrote ten books on the Vietnam War, but never made a pile of money. His publisher wanted him to write about "popular wars" because Vietnam didn't sell. But Nolan felt he had an obligation to veterans who were often treated quite shabbily, called "baby killers," and depicted in the media as drug addicts, psychos and losers. He felt someone had to tell their story.

He stayed true to that calling.

A non-smoker, 44-year-old Keith William Nolan died of lung cancer. He left behind a little girl.

Nolan's books are more than just the story of battles, interesting to history buffs like myself. They are our heritage, our nation's story, told by those present, their deeds preserved for kids like Anna Britt Nolan.

One hot August night, I was at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. Little gifts, flowers and tokens are often left at its base by families, friends, and old comrades come to visit the names of the dead. Apparently a grade school class had passed through earlier and left various letters on lined paper in huge kid scrawl. One in part read: "Dear Grandpa, We saw the Vietnam Wall. I'm sorry you could not tell your stories."

Keith William Nolan could.

(Below is information on a trust fund set up for Nolan's daughter. If you can, please donate.)

Anna Britt Nolan Trust
c/o First Bank
6211 Midriver Mall Drive
St. Charles, MO 63304

Images: Two-Seven Tooter