Fathers and Sons: a look at literary fathers on Fathers Day

It's always interesting to learn about a favorite author and see "the story behind the story."

For example, once one learns about the life of J.R.R. Tolkien, his writings take on a deeper meaning.  Mordor wasn't just a place of imagined evil, it existed on earth and Tolkien - along with millions of other soldiers - lived there for a time.

He seems to have been a wonderful father, putting his formidable writing and artistic skills to work to amuse and entertain his children.  Certainly his son Christopher has shown a fanatical devotion to his father's legacy.

Of course not all writers make good fathers.  The Waugh family, for example, seems to have been a mixed bag.  A year or so ago I happened to read Alexander Waugh's "Fathers and Sons."  It's something rather unique - a family autobiography.  Alexander is the son of Auberon Waugh and grandson of Evelyn, who is one of my favorite authors.  The book provides a fascinating glimpse behind what can only be called a literary dynasty.

Alexander lacks the fame and output of his ancestors, but he writes in the same bitingly witty style.

Though he isn't a published author, I owe a tremendous debt to my father.  He introduced me to Mark Twain, Vladimir Nabokov and lavishly supported my Tolkien reading habit.

More importantly, he taught me how to write a news release, how to edit my own copy and how to take criticism in stride.

That last part is key, and something a lot of my contemporaries can't do.  Too much of today's child-rearing seems to consist of telling kids that what they do is wonderful whether it's good or not.

My father never hesitated to challenge me.  I remember lamenting how a professor marked me down for what I thought was a perfect essay.  Instead of backing me up he read it through again and said:  "It's not as good as you think.  Take another look."

For most of his life he worked as a newspaper copy editor and those guys are ruthless in their work.  You have to have a thick skin to take what they dish out.  My dad gave me that ability and it's been incredibly useful to me.  It is no exaggeration to say that I could not have written what I have without him and the quality of my work would be much lower without his guidance.

I may not amount to much as an author, but I've really enjoyed writing.  It's a great way to pass the time and work through ideas and reflect on life.  I couldn't have done it without my dad, though.


We need Adam West's Batman more than ever

Adam West has passed away, and while it's another grim reminder of the remorseless march of time, he certainly lived a full life.

Like Roger Moore, he became typecast, but what a great role to be stuck with.  His was the arguably the most entertaining and enjoyable Batman ever to don the cape.

Sure, it was campy, but I have to respect how West could sit there in that silly outfit and maintain absolute seriousness while being suspended over a pot of dry ice or whatever other bizarre contraption he confronted.  That takes a lot of skill.

The Baby Boomers ate it up and younger folk like me loved watching the re-runs. 

Of course like everything else, the Boomers had to ruin it by deciding that superheroes weren't silly kid stuff but Stories of Deep Meaning.

Thus we have the current endless crop of comic-book adaptations, each vying to be the most serious, joyless, violent and explosion-packed version yet put on film.

When I was a kid, I liked comic books, but I was never that into it.  By the time I was a teenager, I'd moved on to more serious reading and I thought the people obsessing with "graphic novels" were a little odd in the head.  I have since confirmed that belief.

Let's face it: superheroes are lousy literary characters.  They don't really have a past, they have an "origin story."  There's no overarching life story, just a series of endlessly repeated episodes, which often include repeated deaths and resurrections.

They aren't even characters, they're just properties to be exploited.

Just when the "definitive" version moves through the screen, a new one rolls down the assembly line.  It's just boring now.

Back in the 60s, though, no one took comic books seriously.  They were goofy kid stuff, and making a live-action show required a well-developed sense of humor.

Adam West got the joke and shared it with us in a way no one else could.  Rest in Peace.

A Man of Destiny will be a free download tomorrow

Tomorrow, A Man of Destiny will be free to download on Amazon.  This is a great (and risk-free) chance to get into the series.

Rise of the Alliance went live last week and I hope to have the third book up by the end of June.  I just got the edits back on Book Four, and if things work out, it will be published in July.

If you grab the download, please leave a review or a comment here.  The feedback I've gotten back from my proofreaders has been very good, but I'd like to know what other folks think. 

If you like it - let people know!

If you don't - keep it to yourself, okay?


Memorial Day

I try to keep this site focused on writing and entertainment - light and happy fare - but every now and then it's important to address more serious matters.

It's easy to focus on the vacation aspect of Memorial Day Weekend.  The weather has been nice and it's a great chance for an early taste of summer or the last bit of spring cleaning.

Still, it's also about remembering our fallen.  If nothing else, please take a moment to remember our honored dead and their families.

Ace of Spades - a - lanche!

Yesterday my books were featured in the Ace of Spades HQ book thread.  The Moron Horde (that's what they call their readers) were also the first people to know that A Man of Destiny will be available for FREE DOWNLOAD starting this Thursday.

I'm indebted to the book thread curator OregonMuse for managing to fit my stuff in.

In other news, Rise of the Alliance will shortly be available in paperback. 



Thoughts about the late, great Roger Moore

Most of the commentary on the late Roger Moore have naturally focused on his time as James Bond and regard him fondly in the role.

Partly I think that's a function of age.  For Generation X (my generation) he was James Bond.  Sean Connery was only accessible in edited for tv movies that didn't do his films justice.

It was Moore's misfortune to take over the franchise at the genre's lowest ebb.  The Bond films started out as conventional spy thrillers with a few gadgets thrown in but quickly took on an air of utter fantasy.  By the time Moore took over, the image of cat-suited minions running around a hollow volcano while the hero looked for the self-destruct button was firmly seated in the public consciousness.

It was a very 60s conceit and ill-suited to the post-Vietnam, post-Watergate, stagflation environment.  A new breed of paranoid thrillers were coming out that were far more realistic and therefore tense.

Jame Bond therefore became almost a parody, a send-up of a secret agent with a lovable cast of characters (like the goofy Sheriff Pepper from Lie and Let Die) who got carried over into subsequent films as crowd-pleasing jokes.

His later Bond movies were his best and some of the best in the franchise.  I think those are the ones many of my generation recall.

I'd like to point out another move of his that gets very little attention:  ffolkes.

It's an odd name, and one that doesn't suggest tense action, but that's exactly what you get.  According to IMDB, the alternate title was North Sea Hijack, and that's basically the story - the hijacking of a pair of oil rigs in the North Sea.

Anthony Perkins plays the hijacker and Roger Moore is the very eccentric special operator sent in to solve the problem.

Moore plays the anti-Bond:  bearded, woman-hating, austere.  He does great and it's a taste of what he could have done with Bond if he had better writing.

It's a good film if you get a chance to see it.

Rest in Peace.


Rise of the Alliance is now available

Rise of the Alliance is now available for your (digital) reading pleasure:


The paperback copy will be a few weeks as I have to review the proofs.

I suppose if I was totally squared away, I'd hold the digital version until the paperback was ready, but so far my hard copy sales have been negligible.

Anyhow, take a look, download a copy and let me know what you think!

Book Four is finished!

Last week I wrapped up the first draft of Book Four of the "Man of Destiny" series.  That is the final installment (or so I hope).

I've sent it off to my volunteer proof-readers for comments and corrections.

While I'm waiting to hear back, I'm moving forward with the publication of Book Two, "Rise of the Alliance."  It should come out in May, hopefully in the next couple of weeks. 

For those interested in the numbers, the total word count of the four-book series is a little more than 260,000 words and depending on the book size, that's well north of 1,000 pages.   In other words, just a warm-up for George R.R. Martin, but a lot of work for a part-time writer like me.

With luck, the remaining three books will come out one each month.  If there's sufficient interest, I may do a single-volume compilation and maybe add some extras in it (like charts or maps or something).