Greetings! Welcome to the Chateau!


Within its corridors you will find insight into the books I have written, the books I am writing and the books I am thinking about writing.

It is also a place where I can offer insights into my favorite authors and - in the case of my game Conqueror: Fields of Victory - I can explain my rules and offer new variants.

Scroll down or check the sidebar for my latest posts.

Nonfiction:

Long Live Death: The Keys to Victory in the Spanish Civil War

Fiction:

Three Weeks with the Coasties: A Tale of Disaster and also an Oil Spill

Battle Officer Wolf

Scorpion's Pass

The Vampires of Michigan

The Man of Destiny Series:

A Man of Destiny

Rise of the Alliance

Fall of the Commonwealth

The Imperial Rebellion

Wargaming:

Conqueror: Fields of Victory, Revised Edition

Other Writings

Bleedingfool.com features

 


This year I'm thankful for the Rosary

As an (ongoing) convert to Catholicism, I'm still exploring many aspects of the faith.   Just as it took me time to understand, accept and eventually implement the full slate of beliefs, I'm still learning about all the different forms of worship.

For example, I've yet to experience a Latin Rite Mass.  I know, I know, in certain circles that's practically a mortal since, but I'm hard-pressed just to make my weekly parish Mass.  Going farther afield will have to wait just a little longer.

Over the last couple of months events in the world really started to get to me, and so I once again began to tune out the world.  I also wondered why the forces of darkness were almost everywhere advancing from victory to victory.

As I pondered this, I noticed our bishop continuing to stress the importance of the Rosary.  I had of course said a few of these over the years, but I found them time-consuming and my attention wandered.

However, the military strategist side of me noted that multiple authorities (I'm talking saints here) have highlighted the fact that the Rosary is one of the Church's most effective spiritual weapons.  That being the case, how could I forgo using it giving the increasing operational tempo of spiritual warfare?

I think part of the issue was the environment.  I started saying the Rosary with Gregorian chant playing in the background, and I found a quiet part of the day in which to do it. 

And then I understood.  I am not yet at the point where I say one every single day, but I find that having it there, and praying it several times a week has given me an incredible sense of calmness.

This Thanksgiving Day, I look back on the last 12 months and can say without hesitation that things for our family are vastly improved.  We have so much to be thankful for.  Most people will focus on the health of loved ones, or their physical comfort and financial security, all of which are important and we should be grateful for them.  However, I'm thankful that God was there for me when all of those things were fading and some I feared might never return.

Have a blessed Thanksgiving.


Where did all the fun go?

As I bounce around enjoying various vintage movies and TV shows, I can't help but notice an ingredient that seems sorely missing on modern entertainment.

Fun.

The old shows didn't always have much in the way of storylines, tropes were common (indeed, that's where they came from) and continuity was often downright abysmal.

But it was entertaining, and you enjoyed your time with it.  I think a lot of episodic TV worked that way despite whatever shortcomings there were in the show.  I'm not the first one to observe that TV actors were more approachable than those in movies because you saw them at home rather than in a room with a bunch of strangers where they towered over your, larger than life.

The first two seasons of Miami Vice were great not because they were realistic or developed the characters, they were great because they were fun - the music, the look, the characters - all of it got you in a good mood and you looked forward to that mood again.

Most current entertainment is aimed at "educating" (i.e. hectoring) the audience, lecturing them on how they should behave.  Characters are chosen based on wokeness points, not actual charm or relatability. 

Indeed, there's a whole subtext that conventionally affable, pleasant-looking people are bad. 

Maybe part of the problem is that the writers are writing what they know - they are miserable people, so they pour that into their shows.  They have body anxiety, so they write characters who either are filled with self-loathing or get constant unearned praise (Mary Sue).

Whatever the reason, I haven't seen a show in years that would make me want to watch network TV.


Savoring Joseph Conrad's Almayer's Folly

I may have to add a "Conrad" tag, because along with J.R.R. Tolkien and Evelyn Waugh, I really enjoy the writings of Joseph Conrad.

It started in high school, blossomed in college and then mostly slept through adulthood.

Recently, I obtained a copy of Almayer's Folly, his first novel.  It is superb.  In fact, I would argue that it has been unjustly overlooked.  As a story, it keeps you guessing, and the description and prose is outstanding.

Yet for some strange reason, his later work has eclipsed it.  Everyone wants to fixate on Heart of Darkness and Lord Jim.  Both books are good, but so is Almayer's Folly.

One of the areas where it stands out is in its representation of female characters.  Conrad typically does not have a lot of women in his stories - which is understandable, because so many of them take place at sea.  This particular work, however, delves into the female psyche, and a friend tells me that the book is seeing a revival in feminist circles because it not only has strong women, but strong non-white women, which is for some reason important right now.

The last time I checked, most women in the world weren't white, but most of the ones that speak English are, which would seem (to me, at least) to explain the discrepancy.

In any event, it's a good read, full of vivid description and exactly the kind of book I needed to take a break from the craziness of the world.

 

 


Veterans Day, 2022

Later today I will be playing "Taps" for the last time as an active service member.  Amidst all of the changes of the past couple of years, this is one that has come in an entirely unexpected way.

Just as with storytelling, how an experience ends can have a profound impact on how one looks back on the whole thing.  I've written before about how a botched conclusion can not only wreck a particular film or book, but trash the entire franchise.  I'm talking about you, Star Wars.

As I wrap the 21st and final season of "A.H.Lloyd's Remarkably Uninteresting Military Career," I'm definitely getting same vibe as watching the lamentable last season of Miami Vice.

Maybe it will look better in re-runs.

On the positive side, I will have a lot of spare time and  more much more latitude to vent my spleen on military affairs.  This opens up new areas of writing as well as more time with which to do it.

Speaking of writing, Walls of Men is now undergoing its final edit prior to being formatted for publication.  It's been through my hands and those of two test readers, but reading it aloud has found a great many areas of improvement.  I think this will be standard practice for me from now on.


The Democracy vs The Republic

For whatever reason, this election cycle one of the slogans being trotted out is that "democracy is at stake."

Setting aside the political hype, it's interesting to me because more than a century ago, "The Democracy" was the common name for the Democrat Party.  Andrew Jackson essentially refounded the Jeffersonian Democratic Republicans and did so on populist ground, sweeping aside the more aristocratic Federalists.

The Democracy dominated national politics, and it was only their split over slavery in 1860 that allowed the new Republican Party to win the presidential election and become a national political power.

Also of note is that when referring to the country as a whole, the term "republic" was by far the most common.  Pro-Union rhetoric emphasized that The Republic is in danger.  A camp meeting song was repurposed as The Battle Hymn of the Republic.

And when the war was over, the primary organization to support US veterans was named The Grand Army of the Republic.

Meanwhile, The Democracy was dead.  That term ceased to exist after the war.

I just find it fascinating how these things pop up.

By the way, if you want a great overview of the Civil War, I highly recommend anything by Bruce Catton.  He's really good.


A Strange November

This is the mildest start of November I've ever seen.  It is no unusual for Halloween to be balmy (or freezing), but the long streak of warm weather is uncanny.  I keep running into people who smile at the weather and then shudder at the thought that we'll be "paying for it later."

Perhaps.  Sometimes there are mild winters.  A succession of these added fuel to the global warming movement (which was strange, since mild winters are a good thing - more please!).

I don't like to bring up current politics, but I will note that while huge sums of money are being spent on campaigns (my mailbox is hit with glossy fliers every single day), no one seems really interested in it.  The "yard sign wars" are the most restrained I've seen.  I don't know if it's people not caring, the campaigns not spending money or what, but the political signs have robust competition from contractors and the virtue-signalling Yard Sign Calvinists.

(Speaking of which, after decades of pondering, I've realized a similar term describes the hatchback covered with leftist bumper-stickers - Bumper Sticker Calvinism.)

My little burg's most common sign is in favor of the library millage renewal, which will certainly pass.

I'm not going to complain about either, and I'm approaching Election Day with more calmness than a felt a month ago.  I must keep reminding myself that God ultimately decides who wins, and if "my cause" loses, I should embrace that cross and also ask myself what lesson we are being taught.

In the meantime, I need to keep going on walks and even take a few bike rides while I still can.


All Hallows Eve, 2022

After the disruptions of the last two years, I find I'm much more appreciative of the little things in life.

I'm not even talking about sunsets or things like that, just that the grocery store has what you need in stock at any given moment - and you can even afford to buy it.

Halloween has always enjoyed a prominent place in our family, since it's just so much fun.  Thus, when the pandemic made everyone paranoid, it was a particularly heavy blow.  This year was our first "normal" Halloween since the Before Times.

It was great.  Parties, costumes, bonfires and all the things we once took for granted I am now treasuring.

I'm also more attuned to the spiritual side of the day, and look forward to attending Mass tomorrow.  I think a lot of religious people are finding renewed interest in simple things like in-person worship and partaking of both the Body and Precious Blood of Christ.

I can only hope that Thanksgiving and Christmas provide further restorations of the ancient traditions.  We need them more than ever.


Time for a new 40k discussion forum?

For two decades, I got my 40k fix at one of two discussion sites.  First there was Portent, which started in the 1990s and was for a time the premier news and discussion site for all things Games Workshop.  Sometime in the Aughts, the proprietor had enough, and sold the site to some of the administrators.  That became Warseer.  There was a seamless transition - new accounts were needed but everyone kept their handles and so things went.  I eventually lost interest in being "current" in 40k, but continued to chat with 2nd edition enthusiasts.

I also developed Conqueror: Fields of Victory on Warseer, and the site hosted a "sticky" threat where one could actually read how it came about and discussion about what mechanics it should use.

Alas, a few years ago there was an attack on the site that knocked it down for months and when it came back, most of its users had gone away.  Since then, a few straggled back, but it was mostly a ghost town, a vast site populated with conversations that were frozen in time.

Further complicating efforts to revive it, the site owners refused to authorize a much-needed reorganization, nor were they punctual about updating site credentials, which meant users had to click through warnings to even get there.

It's been down for a bout a week now, and while it has not year reached the "site not found" stage, I fear the end is not far off.

It's a reminder that the internet is by its nature a very temporary thing, and a beloved site with thousands of users can vanish in the blink of an eye.  Warseer may yet come back, but I think it will only continue its zombie existence. 

A large part of the problem is the competition by facebook (the site has a page) but I have no interest in giving my content to tech billionaires.  I guess I should check to see if any of the other contemporaries are still out there.


When the original can't be improved: Tolkien's The Fall of Gondolin

I'm trying to limit my exposure to politics (with mixed success), and one way I'm keeping my spirits up is revisiting the writings of J.R.R. Tolkien.

I recently re-read his posthumously published The Fall of Gondolin, edited by his son, the later Christopher Tolkien.

All of the professor's work improves on repeat reading, and this was no exception.  I was able to appreciate its form, language and genius behind the earliest of his tales of Middle Earth.

What is perhaps most striking about the tale is that it never got a full revision.  After its initial composition during WW I and final edit in the 1920s, Tolkien never returned to the story, despite major revisions to the peoples and events surrounding it.

Late in life, after Lord of the Rings was completed, he started a new version but halted when the main character, Tuor, reached the fabled city.

The story of the sack is uncharacteristically grim and bloody.  Perhaps this is due to its proximity to the Great War, which was surely fresh in his mind.  Of particular interest was the tank-like steel serpents, whose armored hides protected the troops within and whose many limbs allowed them to slither forward until they reached the walls and bent slowly upwards to disgorge their cargo.

The elves themselves are different, some bent, others blacked by heat, and the tone of the tale is one of foreboding and hopeless valor in a losing cause.

Obviously, I cannot speak for him, but I can say that when I write fiction, I mentally enter into a particular place, and I can very much see him wanting to complete the revision for artistic reasons but being unwilling to place him in the same mental space necessary to do it.

We can look at his strong Catholic faith and assume that for the most part, he escaped the horror of the First World War relatively intact.  Yet English reserve has its limits, and Tolkien himself referenced how impossible it was to be unchanged after having almost all his close friends killed.

It may have only been when he reached the city of Gondolin itself, that the reality of what he had to do caused him to set the project aside one more time.

I may be wrong, and certainly there were other areas of work that demanded his attention, but I think that is at least a plausible reason why that particular part of his writing was left in its original state when so many other areas received constant and thorough revision.


Warhammer 40k: a second look at psykers?

For reasons known only to themselves, during the 1990s the Games Workshop design team decided that both their flagship fantasy battle game and their rising space opera spin0ff, Warhammer 40,000, needed to use the same sort of card-based magic system.  For the 40k version, the term "magic" was discarded in favor of "psionics" or "psykers."

It was not popular.  During the entire time Warhammer 40k 2nd Edition was current, I only used the psyker rules twice, both against the same Eldar player.

It really came down to efficiency.  The psyker rules added a lot of complexity to the game with little to show for it.  In a medieval fantasy environment, throwing fireballs is a big deal; in a game with tanks, rocket launchers,  and flamethrowers, a fireball is just another hand grenade.

I should add that in both 40k games where psykers were used, they were ineffective.  Again, D&D style magic doesn't make much of an impression on people throwing miniature black holes around the battlefield.

[The opposite was true in the 5th edition of Warhammer Fantasy Battles, where magic came to dominate the game - much to its detriment.]

So why am I taking a second look after all of these years? 

The answer is that there are technically two sets of psyker rules for 40k 2nd edition.  The deluxe set with all the cards does not interest me, but in the core rule book, there is a simplified system that would add minimal complexity but allow psyker characters to assume a battlefield role.  That's why I'm interested.

You see, as the years have passed, I've gotten interested in exploring more aspects of the game.  One area that I've never even touched on is using the basic psyker rules.  I don't think these will make much of an impact on game play, but I like the idea of it adding some color to the campaigns we run.

It also presents the opportunity to use previously sidelined unit and character choices.  Many of these had aspects beyond psionic use, but since they were priced with psyker abilities in mind, they've been idle.  This provides a chance to expand my battlefield options a bit. 

Yes, it also opens some space to collect a few additional models, but that's not much of an issue.  I generally don't use GW models and I've got so much stuff kicking around the collection that I don't think it will amount to much.  The most likely impact is that I will get out some of the unfinished stuff and repurpose it as psykers. 

The longer one collects, the larger that 'reserve' becomes.  Mine is not as big as 25 years of collecting would indicate because when we moved into our present house, I sold off a lot of the excess.  Indeed, I've continued to do that periodically as part of my drive to reduce clutter.

In any event, I think it offers some interesting possibilities and look forward to seeing what happens.