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Monday, May 30, 2011

...And All Through Northern France...

Some guy added music and really fowled up this scene, but you can still get an idea what a nightmare these guys dropped into at St. Mere Eglise when they overshot the drop zone. They really earned their jump pay that day, to say the least.

Nobody FUBARed the next clip up with music, so, in the spirit of the coming D-Day anniversary, here is another clip from The Longest Day--the Rangers assaulting Pointe Du Hoc to knock out some German guns they were told could wreak havoc on the invasion fleet.

Personally, I think some handheld camera/POV shots could have enhanced this scene, because, to me, the danger of this mission doesn't really come across as is. Scaling cliffs like that with weapons and gear would have you smoked WITHOUT enemy gunners on the high ground enjoying a turkey shoot at your expense. RAAAAAAAAAAAIN-JAAAAAAHHH!!!!!!!! Hoowah! Woof, woof, hui hui hui!

BTW, Happy Memorial Day and thanks to all who have served or are serving.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

T'was the Night Before D-Day...

The D-Day Anniversary will be here before we know it. With both that and Memorial Day coming up, I thought it would be appropriate to revisit some cinematic recreations of a momentous point in history.

Here, from the Band of Brothers miniseries, is a dramatization of the jump into Normandy the night before D-Day. And a nice piece of film making IMO.

By the time I myself became a paratrooper, the Actions On Aircraft routine had only changed a little bit from what is shown here in this WWII jump.

As a side note, it was my personal studies of WWII--particularly of the 101st Screaming Eagles' defense of Bastogne--that greatly influenced my decision to go Airborne. Unfortunately the 101st was no longer truly Airborne by the time I came of age (actually, the "Airborne" tab above their division patch had been rendered meaningless long before), and the only Airborne Division left was the that's where I wanted to go.

Concerning this series, this is rather ironic because the Bastogne episode was maybe the most lackluster in Band of Brothers IMO, capturing none of the desperation...or, dare I say: heroism...of that battle. Nevertheless, this drop into Normandy sequence is a gut-wrencher, I think, capturing the nerves, danger, and havoc of that night pretty well.

For the non-historians/military buffs out there, one classic purpose for airborne troops was a tactic called "vertical envelopment"--paratroopers are dropped behind the lines to catch an enemy in the rear while conventional forces meet them head-on. In recent history, the Rangers were thus employed in Grenada; the 504th PIR (82nd) in Panama; and the 173rd Airborne Brigade in Iraq during the opening stage of OIF. Granted, the missions in Grenada and Panama had plural purposes, but this is just a simplified explanation.

Specifically, in France the Airborne was supposed to capture key bridgeheads inland from the invasion beaches and either hold them until Allied armor could break out, or blow them before German armor could blast the Allies back into the English Channel. In theory, paratroopers are supposed to be dropped in undefended, or lightly defended, drop zones within a reasonably short march to their objectives. But American and British air forces had been bombing the living crap out of Germany and Hitler's "Fortress Europe" was bristling with anti-aircraft guns, ready to open up on anything coming from a westerly direction. Ike and his staff actually expected 60% casualties--an unheard-of risk acceptance for American planners.

Well, I could go on about this, but hats off to producer Spielberg and the film makers for telling Easy Company's story, and hats off to the men who put it all on the line in the fight against Nazi Germany.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Virtual Pulp Press, Launches Forward

My new e-publishing strategy is out of the gates. It might be a couple weeks or months before the next phase in my plan solidifies, and I start getting more short pulp adventures out there, but I've got five 99-cent titles out now, so that's a start. These two covers are from my hack-and-slash fantasy series; Tales of the Honor Triad.

I actually wrote Gryphon first, then "went back" and wrote the origin story, Bloodstained Defile, which I included in the anthology. The next couple installments I have in mind will progress from that first one, but after that I doubt I'll try to keep it all chronological. Robert E. Howard didn't (his first Conan story had the Cimmerian already a king, then later stories featured a younger Conan during his wandering barbarian days) and nobody seemed to mind. The radical difference in cover concepts is partly an experiment. I'm conducting a lot of those, these days.

There are other short pulp adventures I've written over the years. I'm still having trouble finding some of them. Others I haven't been able to convert from the old WordPerfect files yet (and my laptop just bit the dust, which will seriously limit productivity for a while). And there are more ideas I just haven't translated from brain to print, yet. Nevertheless, I am advancing on multiple fronts. It's just that my advance is at more of a Bernard Montgomery pace than a Heinz Guderian.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Pulp Fiction Revival; Ebook Revolution, and My Own Two-Fisted Retrenchment

I've been dealing with some challenges lately that have really put a damper on my quest for world domination. Nevertheless, my criminal genius mind has kept busy plotting and scheming. More on that in a moment.

In the last year I've met some other fans and writers of pulp or pulpesque fiction, including Jack Badelaire at Post Modern Pulps and Jack Murphy at Reflexive Fire. It's been encouraging to interact with them, to see the beginnings of a possible pulp revival taking shape, and to find that, though technically competitors, at least a handful of us share ambitions that could dovetail nicely to everyone's benefit. I certainly want my own literary efforts to meet with success, but I want, almost as badly, my fellow pulpeteers to succeed, too.

Because a few of us are thinking along similar lines, I am envisioning a reawakening of interest in the genre sweeping along on the coattails of the ebook revolution already underway. But I can't predict how it's all going to shake out. I have signed on to participate in some of the pooling of resources others have proposed, and I'm eagerly anticipating what could result.

Meanwhile, let me share part of my personal plotting/scheming in the 2-fisted microcosm of the pulp universe:

Here is a cover concept I sketched on typewriter paper when I was a teenager--giving you an idea how long I've had a dream of publishing my own pulp magazines (and, if you've read Barbarian Nation, how much my concept for the Rebble Rauser character has evolved). What the blazes is a typewriter, right?

Well, there is a glut of information on the web about the history of pulp fiction that I won't regurgitate here. Let me just fast-forward to this:

This short-lived magazine from the late 1980s was not so much an inspiration, as a motivation. Although really a b&w comic book in format, this was a pulp mag in flavor (though as you can tell by this cover, with a decidedly "post modern" attitude), featuring tales of feudal Japan, the Wild West, Vietnam, post-apocalyptic California and the Depression-era Ozarks, to name a few.

Knowing less than nothing about publishing, I let life happen and shelved my dream of producing retro-pulp of my own. When I finally overcame my own stubbornness and took notice of the e-publishing revolution, I pulled Virtual Pulp off its virtual shelf and dusted it off. But even while accepting new technology, I was still clinging to some dated publishing ideas.

See, Savage Tales was perfect for me, because I love reading in almost all the pulp genres. Since I love writing in different genres as well, I packaged Virtual Pulp pretty much the same way. But...big surprise, here...most people aren't like me. They may love westerns, but hate war; love sci-fi, but hate fantasy. You get the idea.

So, realizing this, I have decided to scrap my plans for Issue #2, for the foreseeable future. But that doesn't mean I plan to quit writing/publishing short (sometimes serialized) pulp tales in various genres. I'm merely liberating them from the old-school grab-bag packaging, and letting readers pick and choose for themselves which genres/characters they want to follow. Starting this week (barring any publishing mishaps), some of my short pulp tales should become available for the Kindle at 99 cents apiece. Availability in other ebook formats will follow in succeeding weeks.

To sustain some semblance of symmetry to this blog post, here is the cover to my first offering in the Barbarian Nation continuity, which centers around my evolved Rebble Rauser character:

My logo in the upper left might be difficult to make out in the thumbnail, but suffice it to say that I'd like to make "Virtual Pulp" my e-publishing imprint, rather than the title of a series of anthologies. Same dream; different strategy. I'm sure all my loyal 2-fisted blogees know about DC Comics. "DC" came from Detective Comics, the title of the first comic book they published. What I'm doing is similar, though for different reasons.

I might not have a chance to blog again until next Sunday, but I'll try to post updates on my diabolical machinations as I'm able. My alternate history novel is still in the works, and I'll be publishing more short pulp works in addition as time and the muse permits.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Blackberry Boondoggle (or, What's the Point of a Thousand Cool Apps When the *&^%$#@! Things Don't Work Worth a ~!@#$%^&*+?)

Hello faithful two-fisted followers. I haven't been neglecting my blogging duties; just juggling a lot of irons through the fire onto my plate, with my nose to the grindstone and all that rot.

Well, whip out your violins and prepare for a snivel-fest.

The line of drudgery work I've found myself in requires a lot of driving. Not such a bad thing--I like listening to music, and I can check out audiobooks from the library to listen to while I drive. Well, the selection is limited in the East Bumfuq Public Library, so I've broadened my genre horizons considerably. But the gig I'm working now has me driving boocoup miles everywhere but my county of residence, and checking out books on CD has become unrealistic.

Lo and behold: Public libraries have entered the digital age, offering audiobooks in mp3 and other formats for checkout/download. High speed, sez I, and jumped on the bandwagon. I'm sure iPod and iPhone owners have no trouble taking advantage of this advancement, but my experience has fallen somewhat short of the technological potential in theory.

I installed MP3 Overdrive and some other apps on my Blackberry. After more hair-pulling and teeth-gnashing than I care to detail, the only mp3 Overdrive/Blackberry allows me to download/play is Overdrive's "Welcome to Our Wonderful App" message. Big surprise, but listening to this welcome-to-this-app-that-only-plays-this-one-single-friggin'-file 400 times doesn't really hold a candle to a Wilbur Smith historical adventure...or the pulpnificent periodical I checked out but can't friggin' download. I tried to outflank the cyberkilljoys by downloading to my PC, then transferring the file to my smart retarded phone, but those diabolical bastards are one step ahead of me: My PC doesn't acknowledge the existence of the Overdrive folders, and when I copy the file into a folder it does recognize, then Overdrive refuses to acknowledge the file's existence.


Not all is lost, sez I. Critical Press Media is podcasting an indie novel. I'll listen to that. But when I get to the point I reached before (it never fails) somebody friggin' calls me. Then nothing but error messages until I yank the stinking battery out and power cycle the furshluggoner smart retarded phone. After ages of rebooting time, then eons spent getting back to where I was, guess what? That's right: another phone call. Wheeeeeeeeeeee!

I'll have the Overdrive welcome message memorized verbatim after another 400 listens or so.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

A Roadside Men's Adventure Smorgasbord

Recently, work-related travel has not brought me near any public libraries for which I have a card. However, for a few days I passed a roadside used bookstore in a rural area. On my very last trip that took me past it, as it turns out, I stopped by to see if they had a copy of The Sergeant #3: Bloody Bush so I could be the first one on my block to own the whole collection. It's almost impossible to find men's fiction in the chain stores (because so little of it is still being traditionally published), but I thought maybe I'd have at least a chance at a place like this with a painted plywood sign.

I walked inside, steered past the obligatory romance section (from which such places probably get 75% of their business), found sci-fi, bounced over to westerns, then, about 2/3rds back on the right I found the men's fiction section.

And what a section it was! A shelf-and-a-half stocked with testosterone-tainted treasure. I didn't find Bloody Bush or any other Gordon Davis (AKA Len Levinson) titles. Nor were there any Mac Wingate installments, though there were a couple of John Mackie's (AKA Len Levinson) Ratbastards. But they had some series that were only a few books away from being complete collections. Having heard about Ahern's Survivalist series but never having read it, I grabbed 2 samples of it. The shelves were sagging under the weight of the Executioners, Bolans, Stony Mans, Able Teams and Phoenix Forces! I picked up an early Executioner, wanting to read one of his Mafia Wars titles.

There were some series and stand-alone titles I own, but a lot more I've never been exposed to. If I was still single, I'd have gone crazy. Relatively speaking, maybe I did go crazy.

Every now and then I get a hankering for some '80s-style paramilitary pulp. So I picked a few of those off the testosterone tree.

I wish I'd had time and an internet connection so I could consult and Jack Badelaire's Post Modern Pulp forum to inform my buying decisions a bit. I feel confident about the Pendelton and Ahern titles, but I have no clue what quality the other stuff is. I also don't know when I'll get a chance to read these. But when I do, 2-fisted blogees, you can bet I will spout off my opinions about them.

This place was a literate caveman's Nirvahna.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

The Bin-Laden Bandwagon

Am I a prophet, or what?

You may think I'm late jumping on this hot topic. If so, alas! Thou art wrong-eth.

About a week before the news broke, I uploaded my newly tweaked book trailer with the title: Osama Bin Laden Gets Machinegunned into Swiss Cheese!

That's right, dear readers: I scooped the world.

Buy my books right now and maybe some of my greatness will rub off on you through the pages!

As for rumors that Bin Laden was killed back circa 2003...don't believe it (unless doing so causes you to buy my books). I like being a prophet, OK? All except for those sack cloth outfits.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Good Writing Despite Bias: Exile by Richard North Patterson

If I only read books by authors who I agreed with ideologically, I would probably be as illiterate as the mainstream culture has become. If I were to boycott authors whose ideology I find repugnant, that would probably reduce my library by at least 90%. I'm guessing Mr. Patterson and I would irritate each other greatly were we to have a conversation about the Middle East. However, he is an able storyteller who wrote a fine piece of fiction it was hard to put down.

David Wolfe, a lawyer with a promising career in politics ahead of him, engaged to an impossibly good woman from an influential family, damages his own future beyond repair when Hana Arif, an old college flame, reenters his life after 13 years. The lawyer happens to be of Jewish lineage. The woman from his past is a Palestinian activist. She doesn't just cause him to flush his life down the toilet the way women normally do. She's the government's suspect in the assassination of the visiting Israeli prime minister, and she asks David to represent her.

Patterson serves up tension, suspense and conflict in generous doses, while revealing just enough to convince the reader the assassination was part of an intricate conspiracy meant to implicate Hana...but never quite enough to reveal how innocent (or guilty) she really is. Some people will see the major plot twist coming, but that doesn't reduce the grip the story has on you.

Where it breaks down is during David's trip to Israel to dredge up evidence for his case. The plot is not advanced significantly, if at all. All that is advanced is some thinly veiled soapboxing by the author. Many writers have been guilty of this--perhaps even me (and on this very topic: Israel/Palestine), though I'm pretty sure I showed much more restraint than Patterson.

Patterson attempts to make it appear he is "even-handed" and shows "both sides." Not really. He beats the reader over the head with the Palestinian side. Then, to make it fair by his standards, he admits that the Holocaust took place and Jews have suffered throughout history. That is the extent of the Jewish side of the argument as Patterson sees it. And though other political axes are not as blatantly ground, there's little mystery about the assumptions he goes into this with: The worst aspect of radical Islam is that it's not feminist. Anti-Semitic terrorism is caused by Jews' mistreatment of Palestinians. Right-wing boogymen are both stupid and crazy, yet dangerous, and really dupes of the sophisticated enemies of peace around the world. Those who believe the Bible is true...whether practicing Judaism or Christianity...are dangerous right-wing boogymen.

Upon David's return to the US and the trial, the narrative jumps back into gear. It's a courtroom drama from then on, and written well. The legal minutia seemed plausible, yet never bogged down the plot with courtroom tedium.

The so-called "justice" system in America has become one in which prosecutors are not interested in seeking justice, and don't care whether defendants are innocent or guilty. All they care about is getting a conviction. I thought this was reflected accurately. But the flip-side is also true: Defense lawyers couldn't care less whether their clients are guilty or innocent. All they want is to get their client off. This is represented as well, though not as obvious. David is never certain about Hana's innocence, but he does ask her, presumably because he won't represent her if she was involved in the assassination. In real life the lawyer would probably know, and if the client was guilty, would fabricate a story for them to testify with as fact. But this is not a criticism of Patterson's novel. It wasn't his intention to dissect the legal system. And the behavior of both David and the prosecutor (Sharpe) is easily believable.

Hana is married, BTW, with a 12-year-old daughter. Her husband is the one she chose over David, because her family approved of him, and would have died of shame had they known she once had relations with a Jew. Though the characters don't speak of it, and David doesn't overtly think about it so far as is revealed, the reader is led to hope, via Patterson's storytelling voodoo, that 1. Hana is innocent, 2. her radical sexist husband will be taken out of the way somehow, and 3. Hana and David can find a way to be together again. This adds to the tension throughout.

If you enjoy courtroom suspense, you'll probably like this book.