Books

Leaving Ford for Waugh

Over the last several weeks I've been re-reading Ford Madox Ford's Parade's End series.

I've now reached the final book, The Last Post and it is just as disappointing as I remember.

Ford's series follows the pre-war and wartime experiences of Christoper Tietjens, a Yorkshire aristocrat with an unhappy marriage and outdated scruples.  He's an amusing, well-drawn character and the books are chock full of amusing social commentary.

The first book, Some Do Not- is a bit long-winded because Ford tends to jump back and forth in time and indulge in lavish description punctuated by lengthy internal monologues.

The next two books - which center on World War I itself - are much better.  They are focused, funny but also poignant.

Taken as a trilogy, it's an excellent work, which is why some critics (apparently including Graham Greene) cut the fourth book out of the series.

I agree with that assessment.  The Last Post is nominally about what happens to the characters after the war, but it is told from the point of view of Christopher's eldest brother Mark, who has grown so disgusted with the world that he has faked a stroke and now lies mute in bed, moving only his eyes.

He thinks a lot, though, and we get to follow his thoughts, which loop back and forth, and repeat themselves in a very tedious manner.  The whole book could have been condensed into a short story, but Ford is indulging himself, introducing the perspectives of Mark's wife, the gamekeeper, handyman, maid, etc. 

All of which is painfully detailed and rendered into various dialects.

I simply can't get into it, so I'm quitting early and turning back to one of my favorites, the Sword of Honour trilogy by Evelyn Waugh.  I intend to write a lengthy comparison between the two books because they are very similar.

Given my work and family schedule, I've abandoned serious writing for the time being.  I've begun a series of pieces for bleedingfool.com that will run on a weekly basis and I'll let you know when they go live.

 


More thoughts about writing a fantasy novel

The change of the weather is putting me in a creative mood, and once again I'm at a loss for what to write next.

As I've pondered this question, I realized that the main reason I haven't gotten more than a few pages into a fantasy novel is because of Lord of the Rings.

I first read it in middle school and I've re-read it dozens of times in the years since, most recently earlier this year.  Each time I do so, I'm impressed by the quality of the work and instead of inspiring me to write something on similar lines, I am forced to recognize that Tolkien's masterpiece is the first and last word in the genre.

Obviously, there's a thriving market for fantasy books, and I've read more than a few, but they all struck me a second-rate when compared to the work of the master.  The essential problem is that I can't think of anything to say that Tolkien hasn't already said better than I ever could.

I admit that at one point I was gearing up for a Game of Thrones-style work, but my motivation barely got me to to 15,000 words before failing.  I found the Game of Thrones worldview demoralizing and writing something like it was unpleasant.

Since I write primarily because I enjoy it, I dropped the project.

At the moment I'm re-reading Ford Madox Ford's Parade's End series.  Perhaps it will give me some insight on what I want to do next.  I'm somewhat torn between doing a sequel (or prequel) of an existing work, or striking out with something new (hence the ongoing discussion of fantasy).

The advantage of the sequel is that there's a built-in audience and it's fun to revisit an earlier book.  On the downside, that sort of thing requires careful attention to continuity.  Starting from scratch, on the other hand, offers maximum creative freedom.  Having been recently bound by the constraints of non-fiction, that's what I'm in the mood for at the moment.


The uncanny parallels

I try to keep this blog free of politics, but the last few weeks have brought out a series of very alarming parallels between the current situation in America and that in pre-Civil War Spain.

As Stanley G. Payne pointed out in great detail in his Spanish Civil War, by 1935 the Spanish Left reached a point where it believed that no other party should be allowed to govern Spain.  This repudiated the constitution that they themselves had written only recently.

Time and again, they broke laws, ignored customs and always chose to escalate rather than calm.  Payne goes through an entire checklist of "off ramps" the Left ignored, any one of which could have avoided the resulting carnage of war.

The fact of the matter is that it is difficult to push a war on people who don't want one.  The Man of Destiny series was written in calmer times, but I recognized that one of the fatal flaws in the Star Wars prequels was how arbitrary and random the start of the Clone War was.

Thus when I began telling my story, I spent all of the first book and half of the second chronicling the downward spiral, including opportunities for both sides to de-escalate.

All historical parallels are inexact and one can rightly note that the standard of living, technology, international reach of modern American cannot be compared with that of Spain in 1936. 

Still, I cannot deny that part of the frenzy that drove me to write Long Live Death was a desire to get out in front of events and supply the book as a cautionary tale.  Spain's leaders in 1936 did not have many examples of how a seemingly united and peaceful society can disintegrate into conflict.  We do, with not just Spain but the breakdown of Yugoslavia serving as grim reminders that the bonds that keep nations together can collapse with frightful speed.

I will conclude by asking those of a religious bent to include a plea for reconciliation, forgiveness and renewed unity in your prayers.  We need all the help we can get.


Long Live Death is a Best Seller!

Sales are starting to trickle in for Long Live Death, largely thanks to a big plug from the bookworms over at Ace of Spades HQ.

Naturally, they've already found typographic errors - ah, for the luxury of copy editor!

Still, it's the #1 New Release in History of Spain and Portugal! 

It's up to #3 for Best Sellers in History of Spain and Portugal.

How about that?

I'm actually a Best Selling Author.

Whoa.

 

 

 

 


Now Available: Long Live Death

This is somewhat of a "soft launch" because the book went 'live' a week ago but I was too busy to do anything about it.

Nevertheless, Long Live Death: The Keys to Victory in the Spanish Civil War is now available exclusively on Amazon in paperback and e-book.

I'm sure you're as tired of me talking about it sight-unseen as I am writing about it.  Now here's your big chance to see what I was up to.  Let me know what you think!


Behind the curve on Bleeding Fool

The publication of Long Live Death left me a bit distracted, so I forgot to link to my two latest posts over at Bleeding Fool.

Those who remember my fondness for North and South will be amused to see that I've broached the topic over there - albeit in a shorter, funnier format.

Going back almost a month ago, I did a fun nostalgic romp on Zardoz.  Embrace the strangeness while you still can!

Apologies to anyone who missed out, now you can catch up!


Where's my fantasy novel?

With Long Live Death moving to final publication, I'm already thinking about my next project and once again I'm pondering writing an epic fantasy tale.

Why haven't I already done one?

It's a good question.  I'm huge Tolkien fan, spent countless hours playing Dungeons and Dragons growing up, and of course I even did a take on Beowulf.  It's not like I'm a stranger to the genre.

So what's the hold up?  I've done sci-fi horror, space opera, vampires, military fiction and even a romance novel.  Oh, and an entire book of fantasy miniatures rules!  Where's the obvious tie-in to Conqueror: Fields of Victory?

The answer is that because I've spent so much time doing gaming and roleplaying, every time I get going on fantasy story, I get sidetracked (and then bogged down) on world building.

It's weird.  I can write other genres without having to explain the setting in meticulous detail, but when it comes to fantasy, I have to be all Tolkien and discuss language evolution and the date of the ruins.

I've probably written more fantasy material than anything else by far.  Almost all of it was background for DnD campaigns.  In my more mature phase as a writer, I've got give manuscripts that could fit into the description, none of which got very far.  They all come to a screeching halt over setting considerations. 

Until I figure that out, fantasy remains closed to me.

 


Why did Amazon jack up their cover creator? I miss Createspace

When I first started self-publishing, Amazon had two options.

You could go direct to digital, or use their paperback portal, called "Createspace."

The latter had a much more flexible way to develop a book cover, and since you could port paperbacks into the Kindle system anyway, that was the way I always went.

But that's gone away, so now cover options are pretty terrible.  I'm thinking of just doing the whole file on my own.  Well, after this book, that is.  Right now I just want to finish.

I suppose the ugly truth is that e-books pretty much dominate publishing these days.  What's not to like?  Money without actual printing costs.  I certainly sell more e-books than paperbacks, but I myself do not buy e-books.  I'm a traditionalist, I guess. 

Obviously, this is coming up because Long Live Death is inching towards publication.  I may yet revise the cover, but I'm going to see what I can squeeze out of the Amazon interface first.  Three Weeks with the Coasties used a default cover, but it worked with the subject matter.  The same was true of The Vampires of Michigan, but I want something a little less abstract.  We'll see how it goes.