"Concentration is the secret of strength in politics, in war, in trade, in short in all management of human affairs."
~ R.W. Emerson: The Conduct of Life, 1860
In February of 2015, I published Beyond the Rails II. Since then, I have written nothing more meaningful than a couple of inconsequential short stories, and this has bothered me greatly, as regular readers are well aware. I have thought long and hard about this, and tried a whole list of half measures and gimmicky fixes, to no avail. Projects have started, run briefly, and turned to ashes in my hands again and again. It's demoralizing, self-defeating, and becomes self-fulfilling, as once you manage to convince yourself that you can't write, your self begins to believe it. I may have crossed that line already, but I have one more thing to try.
See, as I have plunged deeper and deeper into my pseudo-writer's life, I have piled on blogs, websites, writers' groups, social media, ad nauseum, until I have dug myself a hole that I can't see out of any more. So I'm cutting back a good many of my non-writing activities, and that begins here. I have found myself devoting a good deal of creative energy to casting about in search of a subject to blog about, cooking up an angle, assembling pictures... Well, you know, most of you do it, too. Some of you blog and write too. Wish that was me, but as you can see from the last 14 months, it isn't.
So some things have to go, and one of them is this time leech called my blog. I'm going to leave it open for now, and invite readers to ask questions, make comments, and just generally use it like a chat board. If anyone comes up with something inspiring, I'll turn it into a post, and open the floor for comments, but for the most part, I'll be ignoring it, dropping in on occasion to see what's up, but returning immediately to my project. I have a doozy I'm working on. I have this fantasy that I'm inventing a genre, although of course, home-office amateurs like me don't do that, but allow me my dream. I'll break it to you all when it's finished.
I think that covers it, or likely more than covers it. Now, as promised, I'm going to close with something very nice. I'm going to put you onto one of the best books I've ever read. I go on and on about Robert Salvatore, Bruce Catton, and John Norman, but when I think back on books I've read, this one springs immediately to mind, and for all the right reasons. There follows a review I wrote in April of 2012. Four years later, I stand by every word.
Okay, you enjoy the read; I'm off to chase the muse!
Into this rocky port, from the teeth of a winter storm, sails a small, disheveled boat, the Merry Adventure. The boat, despite being beaten down to a near hulk, by some combination of skill and luck makes a perfect landing, and disgorges an ancient mariner who introduces himself as Captain Charles Johnson. Jim's life will never be the same. The Captain knows things that no one could know. He knows where to find a long-forgotten treasure in the sea caves under the point. He knows how to make the Moener Brothers turn their limited wits to things other than harassing young Jim. He knows how to deal with surly dogs. He preaches evasion (Never fight a battle you don't have to win?), but when all the options are exhausted, he knows how to unerringly attack an opponent's weakest point.
But Captain Johnson's true talent is spinning a yarn. He talks of pirates, admirals, kings and queens in a way that makes it sound like he knew them personally. When he describes the tense pirate crew hiding below decks, waiting for the right moment to ambush a Royal Navy boarding party, it isn't just a tale. Young Master Hawkins, and you, the reader, are right there, watching through the gratings, hand clutched painfully tight on the hilt of your cutlass, smelling the rum-soaked breath of the man next to you. When the fight starts, and the Captain describes the blow you take on the head from a hardwood belaying pin, you feel it; you lie on the deck amid the swirling feet of desperate men struggling for their lives; you bleed. Is it all just the spell of a skilled storyteller, or has he somehow transported Jim (and you) back two hundred years to sail with Blackbeard's crew?
The seductive, teasing suggestion made in the book is that the Captain Johnson who climbed off the Merry Adventure to change the life of twelve-year old Jim Hawkins forever is actually the same Captain Johnson who wrote the book on pirates 227 years previous. Of course, that would be impossible, wouldn't it? Because nobody lives that long, do they? The genius of this work is that Gilkerson doesn't overtly announce that magic is at work, nor does he explicitly announce that this is or isn't the case; he weaves a tightly crafted narrative spanning 362 pages, and after you have "examined the evidence," as it were, you are invited to draw your own conclusions. This is truly a book in which the outcome will reflect the outlook and experiences of the reader, and as a wanna-be author myself, I cannot imagine a greater achievement. The book is readily available, and inexpensive to boot, on line and in stores. It is truly a delightful experience, a magnificent escape, and dare I say, too good for just kids! Buy it. Read it. You can thank me later...