“So Anyway ..”, by John Cleese – Review

Before anything else is said, if you are a Monty Python fan first and a John Cleese fan second, this book might be disappointing for you. The author covers his life from fetus through the O2 reunion show, but the section concerning the Pythons is very abbreviated (less than five pages). Who knows, maybe details there will be in a different book.

Regardless, this book is well written (and why wouldn’t it be given the author is first and foremost a writer?) plus an easy read. I very much enjoyed reading anecdotes about Cleese working with many of the UK’s premiere old-school comedy talent. I was familiar with their work but not that they had been affiliated with Cleese early in his career. It was also interesting to read that some of my favorite Python sketches were previously performed on other shows prior to the formation of Python.

One book scene I can definitely picture, Cleese and Chapman writing a sketch. Cleese not sure sketch is funny and keeps asking Chapman if it is; Chapman stating unequivocally that it is, with the dead certitude he showed on-screen many times in memory. Amusing mind video. It is one of the famous sketches, so I won’t spoil it.

All told, I would buy the book knowing the above, maybe you should too.

“Dirk Quigby’s Guide .. Afterlife”, by E. E. King – Review

I thoroughly enjoyed the book, with its abundant references to song lyrics and popular culture, both cited and uncited, with many Easter eggs to be discovered. I think being immersed within this author’s stream of consciousness would be hugely entertaining. 

The content is broadly humorous, although it tackles a very serious issue. I am usually able to ignore the fact most religions declare themselves the only truth, with dire consequences for all others. It is appalling how many “heavens” allow for the righteous to directly view the ongoing suffering of those who weren’t. Kind of a Romanesque dinner theatre for the rest of time. With humor, it is easier to digest without a competing emotional reaction (anger, disgust, etc..)

I do think the book ended abruptly, I could have gone on. But then entropy was having its way with Dirk’s angelic relationship anyway, so it wasn’t long before something climactic happened. I’m just glad she didn’t kill the cat in a fit of pique! Destroying the world is definitely a better choice.

Quote

From a book I am currently reading.

“..Artists create pictures or books, sending soul, imagination, and ideas into the world, fancying them less finite than flesh..” E.E. King

Very well put, in my opinion!

December and 2018 Wrapup

Ringing out the old, which came in with a roar and exited with a whimper. Even though there are perfectly good reasons for the fall-off, I desire for it to have been otherwise. (Of course, I would still want BoP and Martyrs to be where they are today. If we’re wishing, may as well go whole-fig.)

Daily production of new words in the month of December.
Current status of titles under construction
How the work load was distributed over 2018

Happy New Year everyone!

“Thanks .. Mr. Kibblewhite”, by Roger Daltrey – Review

Before saying anything on Roger Daltrey’s memoir, “Thanks a lot Mr. Kibblewhite”, you have to be a fan of The Who to get the most out of the book. It is well-written and accessible, perhaps due to excellent editors, and it represented a marked improvement over Pete Townshend’s effort. As a fan, it is great to learn some of the backstory which I saw only from the audience.

Mr. Kibblewhite was an school administrator who canes young Daltrey as a child and expels him with the classic sendoff “You’ll never amount to anything, Daltrey!” True to form, the insult provides the motivational power to propel Roger to the top. As stated in his interviews, he is actually very thankful to Mr. Kibblewhite. I think everyone in our generation (yeah I went there) had someone whose early skepticism spurred us on. The story is told with a warmth which seems very genuine as well.

It covers the time period from childhood to 2016. He backs up Pete Townshend’s take on Pete’s child pornography charges, and perhaps he knows best, but I didn’t find Pete’s account completely credible myself. 

I found it interesting Roger’s concert tour work with the Who didn’t make him much money over the years. To hear him tell it, touring was a crapshoot to walk away with any cash at all, especially while Keith Moon was alive. Although, after Peter Grant and Led Zeppelin broke the code on how to make touring a winner, The Who’s thieving management should have paid attention. It is very profitable when properly managed.

From his perspective, he had to tour to make money, while Pete and presumably John were able to clip coupons at home from songwriter royalties. I don’t doubt Roger made contributions in the studio, I’ve heard the demos Pete made, the Who’s band deal should have made a provision to share in the royalty stream, even if unequally. Or Roger could have written some songs on his own. Regardless, the read is an enjoyable ride and a must for any Who fan.

November 2018 Production

The month of November represented a transition month. I get to put my publisher and editor hats down for a bit and get back to writing. Most of November had zero new writing, so for this update I’ll list only the projects and their associated word count.

Balance Off Plumb is currently available for pre-order for many of the ebook sales channels, the print version is in final formatting and full launch is scheduled for 12/14/2018.

Martyrs al-Sabra is with the beta readers; I am making final changes to the manuscript as the comments come back. At its current state of development, I expect it to be available mid-to-late January 2019.

Pandora’s Children needs the final chapter before going into edit. Currently the target date for release is March 29, 2019.

Next month, I’m hoping to have my regular reporting charts showing good December results!

“Wolf Hall”, by Hilary Mantel – Review

The book is a historical fiction told from the perspective of Thomas Cromwell during the realm of Henry VIII. The timeframe covered in this volume 1 of 3, spans latter days of Cardinal Wolsey through the execution of Thomas More.

I very much enjoyed the book and would have given it 5 stars but for the extremely distracting dialogue attribution style of the author. As one example, she constantly uses “he” to indicate Cromwell, but also uses it for characters in proximity even when confusing. Now there might be some arcane literary purpose in all of this but, for the rest of us mere mortals, it makes the book almost inaccessible. I found myself stopping, reversing tracks and parsing out who is actually speaking over and over again. I persevered because I enjoyed the story in spite of the annoyance. It took me more than twice as long to read this book than it should have.

Takeaway, I would recommend because the story is otherwise well-conceived and enjoyable. Just be forewarned reader frustration is part of the mix.

Martyrs Scene Details

People have asked how I decide to cast action scenes, or where the detail ideas come from. I’ll illustrate my process with two scenes from my upcoming Martyrs novel.

In Martyrs, terrorists are shooting random people across the country with deer rifles. The first shooting occurs in Roseville, California. How did I pick Roseville? I simply followed the terrorists’ decision tree. They had selected the top forty metropolitan areas in the United States, then would randomly pick from those forty at random time intervals. I made a random city-selection program and let her rip. Sacramento metropolitan area came up the winner for the first attack. Roseville came up because a site selected itself, it had to offer cover for the sniper, with an easy escape route. Using Google maps, I found the following location.

It creates a perfect setup for the terrorist. They park in the Home Depot lot, take their rifle across the field at night, shoot someone in the WinCo foods parking lot then reverse tracks in a clean getaway. This particular scenario, I actually got to visit in person to see how well the actual situation would have worked.

In the daytime, the WinCo food parking lot is visible across the field. At night the field would be very dark. Across the field, our terrorist could easily remain unseen until he found the right victim.

Needless to say, the reality of the location was very gratifying from a story perspective. Now as it happens, I have relatives who live in Roseville. They might not be pleased by the site picked, and, who knows, they may even have shopped here once or twice.

The second shooting was set for the Atlanta, GA metropolitan area. In that case, I selected a location in Stone Mountain GA for the action.

In this case, the shooter is targeting a private school, parking in the back of a Walmart, walking down a fireroad through the woods, then inserting himself in woods next to the ball field or play area.

A closeup of the end location, the play structures on the left, the baseball diamond on the right. In the story, the sniper takes the left option, then escapes through the woods back to the Walmart.

Throughout the novel, I used Google maps a lot, along with wikipedia entries for locations. It helped underscore and test whether some of the things I imagined happening were really possible. One sad conclusion was that too much of it was in fact very possible.

Changing gears, last chance to climb aboard the beta version train. I’ve got it ready and will be sending it to those who contact me. This is your last active opportunity to nip this whole story line in the bud, people!

Martyrs al-Sabra Plot

It’s probably about time to be unveiling the overall plot for “Martyrs al-Sabra”. The book is a fairly lengthy thriller (the first manuscript came in at 260K words). My editor carved off large chunks with her chainsaw, but it is still pretty long.

Set after the Presidential Election in 2020, when a woman is first elected President, a new group of terrorists are targeting America and it isn’t business-as-usual.

Farid Monsour al-Haj is a Palestinian orphan who was adopted and raised by one of America’s elite families from the age of five. Growing up in Northern Virginia, he attends the finest schools and is a success in all he attempts. Throughout it all, he is encouraged to maintain his cultural identify by the Royces, his adoptive parents. Farid is increasingly torn between the demands of his Palestinian heritage and those who welcomed him into the mainstream of America. He works as a television news reporter/commentator, helping explain the daily news from a Muslim point of view.

His childhood friend, Justin Simons, is an FBI Special Agent assigned to the Joint Terrorism Task Force.

When the new group of terrorists announces themselves to the world, led by the shadowy figure known only as “The Hammer of Islam”, they take the name of a massacre of Palestinian schoolchildren in Gaza City, the Martyrs al-Sabra. When the terrorists make good on their attack threats, the country is torn apart.

Can a lifetime of friendship protect against divided loyalties?

Beta readers will be seeing it hopefully no later than October 31, 2018.

Finished BoP Review!

Today, I finished reading, and rating, the last of 921 short stories submitted for the Bubble Off Plumb anthology. More than 2.5 million words of short story delight. I will post statistics on story ratings separately on the Feral Cat Publishers website within the next few days.

Tomorrow starts the negotiation of contracts with selected authors, as well as the horrible duty of sending rejection notices to everyone else. In fairness, the anthology concept generated a much larger response than we ever anticipated. We’ve learned many lessons on what to do next time.

On other fronts, the Martyrs edits are back in hand, which means a beta version will be completed shortly for reading. I have a core group already interested, but there is always room for a few more. Send me a note in the contact form if you would want to volunteer as a beta reader. I’ll reciprocate by sending you an autographed print copy with my thanks, once it is final. I’ll prepare a synopsis of the thriller’s plot in the next few days.