The Lucky Lad

adventures in dysthymia

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Misadventures in Computing

Within a couple weeks I had not one, but two, of my desktop PCs crash badly. First, my office computer, a not particularly powerful machine that I sometimes wrote on, and often used for editing and design work, as well as being my primary internet computer. Eventually I was able to get it up and running but in the process lost every file on it — some backed up recently, some not. So it goes.

As long as I needed to reinstall the operating system, I decided to switch it over to Linux and installed Ubuntu. Now, it will be my primary computer for online use, and for light office duties. Not so much in the cold of winter when I tend to hide in my bedroom and work on the laptop! It is sitting in the art studio area now and should remain there.

And I did replace it in the office with a faster and more powerful computer which is far more satisfactory for working with graphics (music, too). Bought as a refurb, which I think is the smart way to go for someone like me. But what do I know? :)

So — shortly after, I go into the music room/recording space, which I had neglected somewhat over the past year, and the dedicated music computer is quite defunct. Tried every possible solution but I am afraid it is not coming back. Now this was not a new PC but it meshed with my equipment. 32 bit, running Vista, with loads of good in and out solutions (digital) and Firewire. I am afraid this makes my old interfaces obsolete. Much of the equipment will not work with 64 bit architecture and/or Windows 10 and, of course, Firewire is pretty much a thing of the past.

I did crank up my even older, retired music computer, running Windows XP, and it worked as well as ever. I’ll use it for a while. It does provide a Firewire port but not enough computing power to run the M-Audio Lightbridge that was largely the center of my setup. So that particular piece of equipment is now pretty much a doorstop. Some USB-based stuff will still work on that machine (but not on the newer ones).

The fact is, the new office computer would do a better job and I may mix on it; I don’t go into the music room much in the coldest part of winter anyway. Sometime toward Spring I shall have to think about a replacement computer and probably a new interface setup. All I use on the newer machines right now are simple stereo USB devices (small mixers, actually) that will work on anything without special drivers. In truth, that is all I need most of the time. So I’ll be thinking about it, watching for deals, etc. It’s likely I’ll stick with Windows for recording, and use my copy of Adobe Audition 3 as long as it will work! But there, too, I’ll need to move on eventually.

In other news: I am somewhere around 85% finished with the narrative on the next novel, ‘Woman of the Sky.’ I say ‘narrative’ rather than first draft because I am constantly rewriting as I go so there is no real second draft. Just editing, proofing, designing.

And ‘The Ways of Wizardry’ is still set for a January 6 official release, but it can be purchased right now at the Arachis Press store. A lot of the publishing stuff got delayed thanks to the computer problems but we’re back on track — until the next problem, of course.

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

Hell is Naked Review

Review of the novel HELL IS NAKED, by Jean James and Mary James
Woodrock House 2017 — Print ISBN 978-0-984605-6-2

This is essentially the short review I might eventually post on GoodReads and Amazon.

As ever, an admission up front that the authors are relatives. Mary James is my niece, and the musical artist known as Mean Mary.

“Hell is Naked” is a fast-paced crime novel set in the world of the Los Angeles film industry — as seen from the vantage of extras, rather than stars. It seems authentic in its portrayal (both authors have worked as extras) of that setting.

Also authentic is the portrayal of the central protagonist, retired cop Warren Roberts, now working as a private investigator. His SWAT background is drawn from life (another family member). Roberts is in LA looking for a missing girl — ostensibly for her father. We can all guess that things are not going to be that simple!

And we can guess that all hell breaks out pretty quickly (whether it is naked, I couldn’t say). Plenty of action, in the city, in the desert hills and the Pacific waters around it, follows, with a sprinkling of comic relief. Much of that is provided by our protagonist himself. The plot holds together well, events pushing it forward, as our characters attempt to solve the underlying mystery as they run.

Well-written, readable, good characterizations, decent dialog, and a compelling plot. Recommended.

“Hell is Naked” is officially out on December 12


Woodrock House
13097 Highway 45 N.
Finger, TN 38334

Friday, November 17, 2017

A Choice of Narrators

I faced a dilemma when I began plotting WOMAN OF THE SKY: I had two major characters and was uncertain which to have as narrator of the story. There was Gordie, young castaway turned trader turned king-in-all-but-name, and there was Rahiniti, Kohari dancer adopted into Mora society. Rahiniti has been a unifying character of the Mora Trilogy, but this third and last novel is the one where she steps to center stage.

If Gordie were the main protagonist and first-person narrator, I could go with more direct action and adventure. Yes, the fact that he is male plays a part, but also Rahiniti is simply not the sort to get involved in that sort of thing. She is not trained as a fighter, would not have any reason to be on a battlefield. The female protagonist of the previous novel, ARROWS OF HEAVEN, was a fighter and took part in more than bit of action.

However, Gordie is simply not a very interesting guy to have telling the tale. There is tragedy in his life and he feels the pain of loss, but he is not introspective. He makes his choices and moves on. Rahiniti, on the other hand, has a rich inner life and plenty of thoughts to share. Moreover, she is in a better position to comment on what has gone before, as Gordie was never a part of what went on in the Mora nation, having his own interests well to the north.

So I went with Rahiniti and some major events have to be told third person, rather than directly, by messengers, by friends. We are with Gordie at neither of the naval battles that take place in the first half of the book and must rely on second-hand accounts. Those bits of action in which Rahiniti has a part — kidnapping and assassination attempts, and the like, she observes more than having an active role. If the book sometimes seems closer to a ‘relationship’ novel than a fantasy adventure, so be it.

There is no point in second-guessing these things. I made my choice and moved on, and am not even tempted to change. Currently, I am about two-thirds through the narrative, and expect to finish without any problems — I know where the story is going. Worked that out well ahead of time!

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Halfway and More

I’m about halfway through writing the narrative on what should be the next novel (further than that in terms of plotting/outlining, of course). That will be titled WOMAN OF THE SKY and is the third book in my Mora Trilogy, finishing off that particular arc of interrelated stories. Once again, most of the characters, including the main protagonist, are of an Oceanic heritage — Polynesian, Proto-Malay, Aboriginal Australian.

All these peoples, however, have been in another world for varying amounts of time, and cultures have developed in their own directions there, as well as influencing each other. If one is sick of pseudo-European Medieval all-white fantasy epics, I offer an alternative! No ‘white saviors’ appear among my ‘natives,’ either (though the whole Malvern/Mora sequence begins with a bit of a Robinson Crusoe setup, as I wanted a 'modern' narrator with whom the reader could identify).

Only my Donzalo novels tend toward that popular European epic theme. That is one reason I set them in a post-medieval world, similar to the late Renaissance (i.e. the Sixteenth Century), and in a milieu more like that of central Europe at that time, a bit of a backwater. And yes, most of the people in that world are fairly white, though the Mura are vaguely ‘Asian,’ and Lady Fachalana, a lead character, has ‘southern’ blood. It would not surprising that nobles and royals would be of more mixed heritage than those they rule, as marriages between nations are common, both for political reasons and simply because the powerful get about more.

The soon to be released (Jan 6) THE WAYS OF WIZARDRY likewise has protagonists whose ancestors came from Oceana. It is the same world — most of my tales are set in the same world — but millennia later.

When will WOTS be out? No telling. Some other project might come along and slow things down. Shoot, a truck might run over me tomorrow. So it will be ready when it is ready — but highly likely to appear in 2018.

Thursday, November 09, 2017

From Self-publisher to Publisher

For three decades or so, I did the traditional writer thing. I sent stuff off and sometimes it was rejected and sometimes it saw print. But there were long waits and I had little control over what happened to my work. That is why I decided, eventually, to go the self-published route.

That is not to say that I didn’t continue to submit my writing. I had pretty much dropped out of the magazine article thing by the turn of the millennium, but I have had poetry and stories published over the decade and a half since. But I also put out my own first collection of poems in 2004. Printed it myself, that one, on a good laser printer. That was mostly to give to friends or perhaps sell a copy or two at readings.

Then I got serious. I went to a print-on-demand provider (Lulu, whom I still use), and eventually set up an actual publishing company, Arachis Press, purchased ISBNs, went more or less professional about it. This approach had already become common in the music industry and I could see print was going to go the same direction. The digital age assured that; not only the digital delivery of music files or ebooks, but also the ease of producing physical media as CDs or POD books.

Printing presses and vinyl stamping machines were no longer needed. Moreover, sales online could replace distribution (to some degree) to book stores and record shops. I do continue to have most of our products distributed anyway.

I’m actually to the point now where I am going to be publishing books with other people’s names on them. That had always been my intention, truly, but I was too busy writing my own stuff to get around to it. Not a lot but maybe a couple titles a year — we’ll see how it goes. I’d prefer to go with poetry right now, for the most part. So I’m keeping myself busy though I am supposedly retired.

And now I’d best get back to writing.

Wednesday, November 08, 2017

Wizardry Chapter

I'm putting up a short chapter from the upcoming 'The Ways of Wizardry' for the amusement of anyone who might drop by. This is somewhere near the middle of the tale. 'Ways' will have a January 6 release date.

27.

“There’s not much at Arlak-Port,” reported Borob. “Ships stop there to take on loads of lumber or turpentine. That sort of thing. The ports further east see more commerce.”


“Like the one the dwarfs were headed toward,” said Im.

“They need not have gone all the way to the sea,” Xido felt. “I’m sure there are trade centers inland.” He looked about. “Temple towns like this serve that purpose to some degree.”

“So it is,” agreed the priest. “The road east is well marked and much traveled. You should have no trouble finding your way.”

Na gave up. “Very well. To this shrine we will go. Or at least a different port!”

“To the shrine of Banat itself I can not give you accurate directions. I know it lies somewhat north of the road, in the hills above the Lantabee River.”

“Which takes us away from the sea. Ah, well.” Xido rose from his place by the fire. “There will be those who can direct us further as we draw near. In the morning?”

Both Na and Im nodded agreement. Borob let his eyes linger on the woman for only a moment before deciding to rise as well. “I think I shall not see you again before you go. I sleep with my fellow priests tonight, and with the memories of a festival well worth attending. Farewell.” With that he plunged into the throng of revelers celebrating the eve of the Festival of First Fruits. This apparently involved much fire and much dancing and a fair amount of wine.

“We’ll miss the festival tomorrow,” observed Na, once Borob disappeared.

“It’s all religious stuff then,” Im told her, having quizzed a priest earlier. “The celebration is tonight.”

“We’re not going to sleep with all this racket,” decided Na. “We might as well celebrate too.”

“Don’t get separated from me, Im,” Xido warned.

The boy nodded. He knew well there was still danger. Part of him wanted to go find Qu’orthseth and start the next leg of their journey right then. He wouldn’t ask that of his companions.

“What is that stench?” asked Na, as they joined the crowd.

“Someone is burning sulfur,” was Xido’s answer. “I’ve no idea why. A ritual maybe.”

“You need to be all-knowing like your cousin Banat,” said Na.

“All-seeing,” corrected Xido. “And to see is not to understand.”

Im had to ask, “You’re not really cousins, are you? That’s like what you were saying about ancient gods visiting different worlds.”

“Exactly. Perhaps very distantly, we are related. Maybe all life everywhere is.” Xido stopped to survey the happy throng all around them. “Life is the important thing. Banat was saying something along those lines. Existence. Whether one believes that Being is an ultimate god or not.”

“Not all those here believe in life,” said Im.

“That is so everywhere. These followers of Asak, or of Dekata or the other gods of the Void, are just more straightforward about it.”

“Dekata?” asked Na. “Is that a goddess?”

“Goddess of darkness and hatred. Some call her the daughter of Asak.” He looked about. “I don’t see any of her priests here. Or priestesses, more commonly.”

“But anyone here could be a follower,” mused Na. “Not really different from any crowd, anywhere.”

“That is so.” A great blaze of a bonfire lay ahead, and musicians played for those who cavorted in clumsy, drunken dance, played on flute and drum and bells. Na and Im gaped; dance in Hirstel had been very formal, exact movements passed down from their ancestors.

Xido, however, jumped right into the moving mass, writhing and jumping with the others. Im did not think he could do so, even with the aid of much wine. Na, however, looked like she was considering joining in.

Someone slipped between the two of them, an Ildin man, nondescript save for being somewhat fat. A knife appeared in his hand and drove into Im’s side. Screams. People fell back, as Im slumped to his knees. That may have saved him from a second, fatal thrust.

Na careened into the would-be assassin’s back, throwing him off balance, sending him staggering forward a couple steps. The man recovered and turned back, intending to finish his work. Too late! Xido bounded forward and grasped the assailant by his neck. With one arm, he lifted the fat Ildin from the ground and shook him.

“Who sent you? Speak!” he ordered. His muscles were tensioned rawhide ropes beneath the glistening black skin.

“I serve Dekata!” the man choked out. “An assassin of the temple.”

There were gasps from the crowd. It was widely believed that Dekata’s priests could be hired for murders and vendettas.

Xido regarded the man dangling from his outstretched arm, gasping for breath. Then, with a twist of his wrist, he broke his neck and dropped the body to the ground.

“We leave now,” he said. “How bad is the boy’s wound?”

Na was kneeling beside her young companion. “I do not know. I am trying to stem the flow of blood.” She was holding her own skirt against the wound.

Xido looked at that flow. “At least the color is good. Ah, his arm caught the worst of the blow.”

“And then the knife glanced along the ribs,” finished Na. “We’ll not lose Im tonight.”

“That is good to hear,” spoke the young sorcerer, before passing out.

Tuesday, November 07, 2017

Early Reads

I came across a mention of a children's book, 'The Story of Hiawatha,' an adaption of Longfellow's epic poem and remembered it as being one of the books I loved when I was five or six, one of the first books I read on my own. I kind of skipped the picture book phase and went right to chapter books


The other one would be 'Cowboys and Indians.' Both large-format books, with fabulous illustrations and good writing. 'C and I' was illustrated by the artist, Gustaf Tenggren, who was responsible for the look of Disney's 'Snow White.' It also had some fine and thoughtful poetry in it. Hiawatha had some fine illustrations too. Here's one:


Imagination fodder for youngsters, both books, and undoubtedly influential in where I went later, reading-wise. I also read pretty much all the Thorton Burgess ('Mother West Wind,' etc) books as soon as I could read.

By the nest year, I was plowing my way through the adult books in my folks' library, but I do fondly remember these.