Saturday, September 22, 2018

Andi in the Multiverse

I'm around 30.000 words with the adventures of Andi and Elliott. No, I don't have them traveling through alternate universes. That's merely Elliott's approach to helping her assuage her conscience. I've added in Joe King and his wife, retired Philadelphia vice detectives, to track down Janie. I've started doing some serious research into the subject of human trafficking, which is even uglier than I thought it was.

I'm probably beating the horse to death on the subject of sin and redemption, and probably religion is playing a more pronounced role in my characters' lives than is currently fashionable. But without sin there can't be redemption -- we're all imperfect, some moreso than others. Andi is developing as, I think, a likable young woman with a justifiably bad conscience. Elliott has a little complexity to his nature. I don't like making my characters exceptionally rich, but he works hard and comes from a prominent family, which makes knowledge of Andi's past becoming known more of a threat. It also gives him the resources to finance the search for Janie.

As an aside. I want to pull my books from Smashwords, where they sit amidst a pile of junk -- poorly written books, gay and lesbian stuff, "erotica" (that in the heady days of my youth would have been described as pornography), fantasy, and the usual post-apocalyptic vampires. You're known by the company you keep. I'm also looking into getting them into print and marketing them in the Poconos.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Better now, I think

The ideas keep coming, lots of them discarded, but I'm writing again. I'm going to put the books I've written on Amazon, and I'm looking into their "print on demand" option. If I can handle the costs, I'll do that, which'll put my books on paper.

Del and Kenan are now on a ship off Novy Kruz, around the 80,000 word point, heading for the blowoff, if I can keep all the pieces moving right. They're about to take down one bad guy. I still trying to figure why they're not taking down the big bad guy too. I had a reason when I started this part, but I've forgotten what it was.

The book I'm working on now involves Andi and Elliott. They're meeting up after a ten year hiatus. He's a nice fellow, and Andi is a nice girl who wasn't nice in her teen years. She was her brother's personal sex toy from the time she was twelve, and he started renting her out when she was fourteen. When she was sixteen and a half she trafficked, sold off like a cow with her friend Janie, for a life hooking in Amsterdam and Berlin -- from where they could be sold off to any other destination. It's a pretty nasty background.

This demands a lot of character development. Andi's a nice, pretty, intelligent girl, who was led wrong from an early date. She carries an enormous guilt over those teenage years, both for what she did and for the loss of Janie. On a bad day, her self worth is dipping into negatives. When she escapes from her training house, which she doesn't realize was Elliott's doing, she enlists in the Army, trains as a combat medic, and goes to Afghanistan. She reenlists, trains as a practical nurse, and goes back to the 'Stan. When she's discharged, she goes to New Mexico and trains as a registered nurse. So she's actually made something of herself, trying to put the sins of her youth behind her.  Still, she doesn't date, lives a solitary life with her cat in her old student apartment. She's now scared to death of sex and by extension men.

Elliott isn't scared of sex. He's scared for Andi. He was the one who bought out her contract. He had expected to take care of her and assist her in getting her life on track. Instead, she ran off, effectively dropped off the face of the earth. He had thought she was dead, and he had mourned her for ten years, throwing himself into his own work as a micromechanical engineer working in the field of gene surgery. I'm at that point in development now. I'm hoping it will all come together in the end without too much reliance on coincidence, deux ex machina, or space aliens.

Monday, April 30, 2018

Writer's Block

I'm coming out (I think) from an extended writer's block. That doesn't mean I haven't been writing anything, just that I haven't been finishing anything. There's a difference.

I've also been reading, not so much my usual diet, but some amateur attempts, trying to compare the quality of my own writing with others. A part of that's been ego massage -- some of what I've been reading has been outright crap. There's been a continual stream of stories with too many (and too descriptive) sex scenes. There's been lot's of misplaced apostrophe's on display, pronoun approximation, and misspelings. Lots of heroines have been saved by millionaires and vice versa.

On the other hand, there have been a few that I've liked. One is Island Mine, which was recommended by a friend of mine. It's a science fiction story, nicely paced, with sympathetic characters and a nuclear blowoff. Some agent should pick it up and make some money.
How far will governments go when you have something they want? All Waylon Eckermann wanted to do was to go to college and figure out the rest of his life. It wasn't going to be that easy, not even with a little extragalactic help.
Then I read two other stories the same guy wrote and I was disappointed. I hope Island Mine is the third work, and not his first effort.

Tangent by Gina Marie Wylie is nearly as good, though it's fan fiction, using the story line of H. Beam Piper's Lord Kalvan of Otherwhen. It follows a man and four young girls stuck in a world where North America was settled by Indo Europeans, rather than Indians, with a later migration by the redskins so they can be battling the Aztecs.

The Mountain, recommended by a (another) friend, was a surprise, found on an erotica site. There's sex in it, but it's part of the story and it's not described stroke by stroke. It's also part of the story -- they think they're going to freeze to death. It was very well written, nice story line, and well worth the time. It's another story that should make some agent rich.

Then there are my own efforts.

Poor Del's still stuck, as they're about to chase down the criminal mastermind just as the empire is about to strike back. It's time to kill off a few sympathetic characters and I'm hesitating to pull the trigger.

When we went on vacation to Canada last year we stopped at a steakhouse. In a booth behind us there was a deaf old man who'd been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer (he was discussing this on his phone so loudly we couldn't hear out own conversation!) So now I'm also writing Grampy, which is his story, set in about a year. He's got the death sentence, and he has a granddaughter Francine, whom he wants to marry his partner, John Ward. Frankie and Johnny don't like each other, so the romance will span the last days of Grampy's life.

Then there's the romance of Lenie and Ben Cooper, back in Palo Pinto County. I think I'm going to change their names, since I started it as a prequel to Dolly of Palo Pinto and now the characters have taken on different personalities and they're strong enough to stand on their own.

I'm also going to rewrite the first part of Mistress Peterson. Actually, I'm going to delete it. The story stands on its own without it, and parts of it would fit in Cinderella and the Devil better.

Monday, June 5, 2017

The Idea Grinder

I've been struggling with the same cold for the past ten days. I went to the doctor today, finally. My lungs are clear, my sinuses stuffed. The nice lady doctor told me it's probably viral, but she gave me an antibiotic just in case it turns bacterial. Rest, liquids, the usual.

I've got an idea for another book and I'm trying to lay out the timeline. Its hero and heroine are a couple background characters from Dolly of Palo Pinto, Ben Cooper and Lenie Garcia, along with her father, Mando, the Gonzales brothers, and my usual cast of characters. I'm having a problem laying out the timeline, but I've gotten myself interested with the first three chapters, so I'm hoping it comes together.

I still haven't forgotten Del of Kerao. He's gotten back from his trip, Netti's with child, Baito's married, Del's fingered the bad guy but he hasn't laid eyes on him yet physically. Now I've got to figure how to write the blowoff, bringing a handful of strings together in the big clash between Empire and Loyalists. I think I keep putting it off because I've got to kill off a character I've come to really like. If I don't, then the sequel won't work.

I'm also poking over the idea of The Bigamist's Wives. It'll be based on a true story (not out of True Crime Tales, just a story I know.) Having poked the idea, I discover I don't know quite enough about the story. So far we've come up with seven wives, but there my be more. There are six children I know of for sure, plus three or four more probables. I'm pretty sure there are kids with each of them. There are a few mistresses in there as well. There's lots of story, but not a lot of point of view, since the common element is the guy. He's dead now, so I can't ask him, and I can't write it from his point of view because I don't like him. I'm tempted to name him Raskolnikov.

The Bigamist, I think, isn't really going to be Rodion Raskolnikov, even though he does have an enormous ego. His crimes don't involve murder, at least not that I know of, but the serial abandonment of his numerous progeny. His interest isn't the kids, but the women. He's a serial seducer, and I think he's too soft-hearted to say no and too prominent to run away when the subject of matrimony comes up. His resemblance to Raskolnikov comes in his assumption that he's smart enough to get away with it, which in fact he mostly does.

Perhaps the way to tie it together would be for one or two of the kids to do a little research, and then all I'd have to do would be to build the scenarios.

I think I'll write the Ben and Lenie story first though.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Captain Ravenshaw, or the Maid of Cheapside

Some books are interesting. Some are amusing. In the best of them you can fall into a time and place you've never been, and in the very best of them you can have laugh-out-loud fun.

Here's roaring Captain Ravenshaw, an officer whose unit has been disbanded, set afoot to live by his wits in Elizabeth Regina's England. He falls in with a poor scholar, Holyday, after a dispute culminating in a flung capon in a tavern. Falling in with three other gents of quality they free a country fellow, in town without his wife's permission, from the watch after curfew. Then they come upon a Faire Maiden, being accosted on the street, have a little fun roaring at the accosters, and let her go scampering back to her father's house from which she's run away.

Now that's the setup. Ravenshaw's a bully boy with a foul reputation. Holyday's a poor, mostly meek scholar who's scared of women. The guys in the alley are a couple of hard gents getting ready for a sea voyage that'll maybe make them rich -- think Drake, Hawkins, Grenville -- unless they're lost at sea or eaten by natives or something. They're not above kidnapping cute girlies roaming the streets after dark. In fact, one of them, Jerningham, is fascinated by the girl and must have her, by hook or preferably crook, since he has no intention of offering matrimony to the daughter of a merchant.

Ravenshaw, being an actual gent rather than having merely been born to that station, is determined not to let that happen. Maid Millicent, who seems to be about seventeen or eighteen and is pretty as a portrait, ran away from home rather than go through with her engagement to Sir Peregrine Medway, who's, I'd guess, around seventy but trying to appear forty, or maybe even thirty. Ravenshaw's determined not to let that happen either.

The convolutions that follow are laugh-out-loud funny. You think you know who's going to get the girl in the end. Then you don't. Then you do. The only certainty is that Sir Peregrine's not going to spend any time lying between those comely young thighs.  I may not have ever read an adventure novel quite so adventurous, and given my love of Sabbatini that's saying a lot.

Monday, May 29, 2017

The Lone Star Ranger

This is kind of a goofy book. It's certainly not Grey's best. It's not one of those books you want to read a second, or even a third time, like The Light of Western Stars. For one thing, it's two romances in one. For another thing, the ending is crappy.

Buck Duane is the son of a famous outlaw, and he's inherited his father's speed with a gun. In the first chapter the innocent young Duane is called out by a dumbass cowboy named Bain. The two have a shootout in the street. Duane shoots Bain in what is clearly a case of self defense. Bain made his brag that he was going to kill Duane. Rather than hang around and make his case, he grabs a horse his Uncle Jim's prepared and lights out of town. I know it's just setup so that Duane can become a famous outlaw, but Jeez! A false accusation, or mistaken identity or something would have worked better, without much more typing!

So that's the setup. Duane falls in with the Bland gang, down on the Rio Grande, in a cattle rustling operation. Duane, being pure of heart, doesn't want to be a part of it. Bland is holding pretty young Jennie prisoner. He's using her as a scullery maid and Mrs. Bland mistreats her. He has to make love to Mrs. Bland -- which in 1915 still meant sweet-talking her, just like it did in the 1870s, when this is set. Well, by golly, Duane manages to rescue Jennie in the midst of dozens of vicious outlaws, gets himself shot through the body, and Jennie nurses him back to coherence if not health in an old hut out in the middle of nowhere. Then they ride for safety, find a friend on an isolated ranch, she again nurses him, this time all the way back to vibrant health. They ride again, amidst descriptive Zane Grey verbiage, to take Jennie someplace where she can get back to her family.

I think Grey probably wrote all this in 1912 or 1913. He got bored with it -- this is my guess, not history -- and set it aside to write something else. He needed some money or he had a contract in 1914 or 1915 and he figured "I've got a half-written manuscript.I might as well finish it." Maybe it was "I've got to come up with 100,000 words, and I've got two novelettes, so maybe I'll glue them together somehow." Regardless, he's got Duane riding hell bent for Naugahyde for the Neuces with Jennie, but then
Suddenly there came an unmistakable thump of horses' hoofs off somewhere to the fore. Then a scream rent the air. It ended abruptly. Duane leaped forward, tore his way through the thorny brake. He heard Jennie cry again—an appealing call quickly hushed. It seemed more to his right, and he plunged that way. He burst into a glade where a smoldering fire and ground covered with footprints and tracks showed that campers had lately been. Rushing across this, he broke his passage out to the open. But he was too late. His horse had disappeared. Jennie was gone. There were no riders in sight. There was no sound. There was a heavy trail of horses going north. Jennie had been carried off—probably by outlaws. Duane realized that pursuit was out of the question—that Jennie was lost.
And with that bit of deathless prose he pretty much writes Jennie right out of the book. That really cheesed me off when I got to the end. Jennie was sweet, she was pretty (naturally), she was spunky once she was rescued, and she was loyal. All we get is unsubstantiated rumor that Jennie died shortly after being kidnapped. He tracks down and shoots a guy named Sellers, who kidnapped her. but no circumstances are elaborated. The poor girl could still be alive, at about the age of 120, hiding in some mesquite hut, waiting for Duane to come and rescue her, though probably not.

Duane goes into a funk, as you'd naturally expect, but since this is a novel you'd expect poor Buck to be reunited with Jennie after trials and tribulations, with his name cleared, at the end of the book. It didn't happen, even though it should have. Instead, Buck kind of goes wandering through a few adventures, never killing an innocent man, until Captain McNelly offers him a free pardon if he'll join the rangers.  Thus endeth the first part of the book.

After that comes the second half, where Buck's a ranger. A bad guy named Cheseldine's running a rustling operation that's go the Big Bend country treed. The guy's a criminal mastermind, by gum. Chances are a thousand to one against Buck getting out alive, or even breaking the case. Buck ID's the bad guy through a process of pure, dumb luck. It's Colonel Whatsisname... Oh, Longstreth. Buck runs into him as he's bringing his Beautiful Daughter®, Ray, which was probably short for Raylene or something, and his niece, Ruth, to his home from his other home in Louisianna. Raylene has no idea her father's a criminal mastermind. Ruth hasn't caught on yet, either. All the answers keep plopping into Duane's lap, except for the time he's eavesdropping on a conversation between the Colonel and his ruthless henchman, Floyd, and the adobe crumbles out from under his hiding place and he has to go hide in Raylene's room, where they kinda sorta declare their love for each other and he hides in the closet.

Ray's an okay lady love, I guess. She makes a pretty good Beautiful Daughter®, though she's a bit lightly drawn. But the second part of the book is such a hurried jumble you don't really grab onto her like you did to Jennie. You don't grab onto Longstreth like you did to Bland, nor to pardner Fletcher like you did to pardner Euchre. Buck's inner torments over being a gunny start to wear. He could take the train to New Hampshire and spend the rest of his life never getting close to a gunfight.  His penchant for eavesdropping also gets under the reader's skin. Finally, rather than shoot the Colonel, or arrest him and have him brought to trial and hanged as a criminal mastermind, all he has to do is give up the land and cattle he stole and go back to New Orleans or Baton Rouge or wherever he came from and has more of them. I don't know how that resurrected the guys he ordered murdered, like Laramie, who gave Buck so much of his information and who left behind a wife and five children, one of them in diapers.

And I have no idea what the hell happened to Ruth. Maybe she's with Jennie.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Mason of the Bar X

Some books a person remembers for a long time. They bear reading and rereading. Others are kind of middle of the road. Some, a body has to wonder how they got published. Mason's the latter.

This was published in 1920. The Virginian had been around for years. Zane Grey, Max Brand, and B.M. Bower were writing. Mason reads like a six-reeler from the picture show.

Jack Mason, the scion of a banking millionaire, gets the choice of going to Dad's old friend's ranch and making good or getting disinherited for his scapegrace ways. This is kind of standard opening number 28 for westerns. In the better ones, Jack would go west, learn how to be a cowboy and a man, maybe fight a grass fire, deal with a stampede or two, track down some rustlers, and win the love of the beautiful daughter of the rancher.

In this one, Jack hangs around the house, and fiddles with his motor car. Josephine, the beautiful daughter falls for him right off the bat, but at least she tries to keep him jealous until the end. Every time she goes riding without an escort she gets kidnapped by the bad guy, who intends to force her to marry him. She says things like "You beast!" The beautiful Mexican girl is named Waneda and addresses Jack as Signor. She seemingly manages to fall in love with him at a glance. There's a Marshal who's a Master of Disguise. He shows up at the ranch, says he had to come west for his health, and would the old man mind if he stayed at the ranch. Sure. No "who sent you," no questioning of bona fides. One character, Percy, shows up when Mom and sister Ethel come to visit and has no significance except maybe comic relief. Jack's aviator friend flies in, finds the kidnapped girls by coincidence, then flies out.

This is the sort of book you read with your mouth open, stunned by the awkward, complicated plot, the lack of motivation, the lack of work it takes to run the ranch, and generally how bad the book is. It's actually so bad it's to be treasured.