Weekly Read: How Music Works

Usually I write a review just after I finish a book, when it’s fresh in my memory and I’m inspired to say something about it. I finished this book two months ago and instantly wrote most of below. Then things happened and it kind of got away from me. I’ve returned to it several times, but can’t really muster up the enthusiasm to put the finishing touches on it. But it’s got some value, I think, so I present it here with this disclaimer. Given the book at issue, think of it as a demo version of a song that never got finished.

Book titles can be tricky things. We fictions writers have it easy, since we can do almost anything and it works, more or less (I lean towards using locations that are important to the story, hence Moore Hollow and The Water Road). Nonfiction writers have to be careful, though, because a title of a nonfiction book is almost a promise, a declaration of what kind of book the reader is getting into.

How Music Works is not a very good title for the book to which it’s attached. The title promises something like a pop science treatment on sound, how it’s produced and how it rattles around in our brains. Instead, as written by musician David Byrne (no relation, although I sometimes refer to him as “Uncle David” in an attempt to sound cool) of Talking Heads fame, it’s much more wide ranging and, yet, more personal overview of what shapes music that you listen to. It’s often interesting on its own terms, even if its terms it doesn’t want to recognize.

In the introduction, Cousin David says that the book isn’t about him, but he does use experiences  from his own career to illuminate certain subjects. And while it’s true that this isn’t just a rock star bio, Byrne nonetheless spends an awful lot of time canvassing his lengthy career. That’s not necessarily a bad thing – he knows of what he speaks. But it limits the discussion in a lot of places. He could have dived deeper into certain issues by seeking out interviews with others. For  example, he talks about how technology has changed the way music is recorded and that lots of professional recording is now done in home studios. He admits that some folks still prefer the big studio treatment, but doesn’t go into why and whether it’s something that’s going to live on.

Byrne’s probably at his best when he’s discussing the ways in which technology has changed the  way music is consumed. It’s not a new theory – that music was once mostly consumed as live performance, either by professionals or amateurs in the home, whereas now it’s mostly consumed in recorded form – but he gives it a comprehensive airing. It’s an interesting thing to ponder, to wonder how different music is when it’s something you do, rather than just something you experience.

In fact, my favorite part of the book is a chapter titled “Amateurism.” It’s less a celebration of mediocrity than it is celebrating the idea of people making art for themselves. It’s not an either or thing – Cousin David wouldn’t suggest nobody buy music from “professionals” anymore. But actually making music, even if you know it’s nowhere near “perfect” or worth sharing with a wide audience, can be very rewarding. Speaking for myself, I love actually making music (insert shameless plug), even if hardly anybody actually listens to it.

Having said that, it’s in this chapter that Byrne says something that’s gotten him in trouble. In talking about “high” art versus “low,” he writes:

I never got Bach, Mozart or Beethoven – and don’t feel any worse for it.

A lot of people, exemplified by this guy in the Amazon reviews, read this as Byrne shitting on classical music, deriding it as a means to lift up popular music. I don’t read it the same way.

Instead, I think he’s calling into question the idea of segregating music (and other forms of art) into “high” and “low,” which then tends to inform society’s ideas of what is worthy of support and what isn’t. He’s not wrong that lots of popular forms of music tend to have subversive elements (or at least are believed to be). It’s also true that the newly rich look to institutions of “high” art as a means of buying their way into high society. Notably, he doesn’t call for such things to stop or be illegal or anything like that. He just wonders what it might be like if a newly minted billionaire might decide to support a rock or hip-hop club that developed new acts, rather than sign up as a symphony patron.

I’ve never been a fan of tagging some music as “serious,” which, by definition, means the rest of it isn’t. Tell me Robert Fripp, perched on a stool near the back of a King Crimson stage barely visible, isn’t being serious about the music. Tell me that that a blues player, like the late BB King, who sweats his very soul into what he plays, wasn’t serious about his music. Hell, tell me that Frank Zappa, in the middle of some kind of stage buffoonery that looks like pure silliness, wasn’t deadly serious about his music. You can’t. Music, like most art, is as serious as you want to make it, but that doesn’t have a damned thing to do with whether you’re playing in a symphony hall or a greasy dive.

More than anything else, I just don’t see the great sin in saying “I never got” a piece of art or music and refusing to feel bad for it.

how music works

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Water Road Wednesday: Law & Order In Altreria

I’m a lawyer who writes fiction, but that doesn’t mean I write legal fiction. I’ve got nothing against it, but I’ve got a special place in my heart for lawyers who become writers and don’t fall into that genre (think Felix Gilman or Stephan Pastis). That being said, “the law” does tend to rear its head in my stories more often than not.

Obviously, when it comes to The Water Road Trilogy, there’s a lot of lawlessness involved. Insurrection, war, and the like tends to upset the regular business of things, after all. But that doesn’t mean that the law, criminal law in particular disappears.

As we saw last week, one of the new characters for The Endless Hills, Martoh, is, in fact, a criminal. We meet him in prison, fighting for his life. He gets the opportunity to wipe his legal slate clean by volunteering to go fight the Neldathi. That’s not a new idea – for generations people have been given the chance to improve their social status by serving in the military (it’s a path to citizen ship for immigrants in the United States, if I’m not mistaken). And it’s got antecedents in speculative fiction. I wanted to use it to have a low-level soldier’s point of view, a soldier who chose to be there, but didn’t really have much of a choice.

We spent relatively little time in prison with Martoh, however. In the third book, The Bay of Sins, one of the plot threads involves a trial in Innisport for one of the viewpoint characters (a new one, essentially, although she makes a brief appearance in The Endless Hills). For most of the book she’s incarcerated in a prison of fairly recent vintage built on the edge of Innisport. Putting a character in a cell for a whole book meant I had to have a good idea of what the place looked and felt like.

One of the cool things about writing fantasy is that you get to make up whatever you want. Still, it’s interesting to use the real world as a jumping off point sometimes. Several years ago my wife and I were in Philadelphia. On our way out we stopped at the Eastern State Penitentiary. The place was ahead of its time. As I wrote on my old blog:

It was called a penitentiary because the core of its approach was to force prisoners to be penitent, or humble and regretful, about their sins . . . er, crimes, rather. To accomplish that task, prisoners were kept in isolation from one another at were required to remain silent at all times.

 

* * *

 

The system employed at Eastern State didn’t catch on in the United States very much (a similar system that emphasized work over penitence won out in Gilded Age America), but it was popular overseas. That being said, the general look and vibe of the place is similar to a lot of American prisons built not too long after, including the old West Virginia Penitentiary at Moundsville.

It was also technically innovative:

It had a system of steam heat and running water (sort of – guards flushed the toilets twice a week, IIRC) long before most of the young United States did. The design itself, with its central control hub and cellblocks spiraling out from there. It allowed for maximum visibility with the fewest number of watchers.

Now it’s a semi-ruin and creepy as hell:

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It’s also great fodder for the imagination. So when it came time to imagine where this character might be doing her time, a modified version of Eastern State leapt to mind. It was fun to run with it, tweak it as need it, and see how the characters in my world dealt with it.

World building is the foundation of writing fantasy and science fiction. Law (or its explicit absence) is as important to any world as any other part of society, even if it doesn’t drive your story. You don’t have to be a lawyer/writer to realize that.

Remember, The Water Road is now available at Amazon as well as in the real world at Empire Books & News.

Come See Me!

Last Monday I was down at Empire Books and News in Huntington, West Virginia, taking part in a cool monthly event called Writers Can Read.

EmpireLogo (Full)

It’s pretty simple – gather some writers together and have them read some from their work. Each month has a couple of featured writers, then a kind of open-mic section for anyone who wants to join in. After hearing from poets Ace Boggess and Neil Carpathios and a few other folks, I had a good time reading a scene from The Water Road.

I’ll be back at Empire this Saturday, July 30, for not one but two signing events! But I won’t be alone. From 11am to 1pm and then again from 6 to 8pm, I’ll be there along with several other local writers of the fantastical:

Brian Adams

Michele Zirkle Marcum

Royce Sears

Wayne Ferguson

Charles Romans

Dr. William Grimes (11am only)

Stewart Lucas (6pm only)

Michael Knost (6pm only)

The second signing session leads right into Empire’s event for the rollout of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child that will be available starting at midnight.

I’ll be there with copies of all three of my books, including The Water Road. Stop by, say hi, get a signed copy of a book (or three!). See you then!

Weekly Read: Wasp

Ready an older book can be tricky – and I’m not even talking about Chaucer or Voltaire here. On the one hand, a recognition of the fact that the book arose from a different time, a different social context, is necessary to give it a benefit of the doubt sometimes, to explain why it doesn’t quite fit with modern expectations. On the other hand, sometimes you can defer too much and paper over that a book just isn’t very good with the explanation that, at one time, people must have thought it was.

Wasp, which was first published in 1957, has a brilliant idea at its core – a single operative is dropped behind enemy lines with instructions to wreak havoc among the populace, drawing resources and attention away from the front lines. The analogy the title makes is to when a wasp gets into a car, freaks out the driver, and kills all on board in an accident. It could have easily been written as a Cold War thriller, a James Bond kind of thing, but one side in Wasp is on Earth and the other on Jaimec, near Sirius, and the war is an interstellar one.

The wasp in this case is James Mowry, who had the good fortune to have been born on the enemy planet and raised there until he was a teenager. As a result he gets drafted for this dangerous assignment (he’s not a career spy). After some montage-like training, he’s dumped on an outlying planet, given lots of resources, and let loose. He does precisely what he’s supposed to do, with the expected results.

Which is the biggest problem with Wasp, something that doesn’t really have anything to do with when it was written. Mowry is just too good at what he does, particularly considering his lack of espionage background. Yes, he gets into scrapes with the secret police, but there’s never really much danger. There’s no real antagonist, no dogged cop trying to hunt Mowry down that makes it seem like he’s really at risk.

Nothing goes wrong until almost the very end when his cache of goods is found and he’s effectively cut off from communicating with Earth (don’t whine about spoilers – did I mention 1957?). Had this happened in the middle of the book, throwing Mowry out of his comfort zone and forcing him to deal with some serious problems, it would have been a welcome twist. As it is, he survives what’s left of the book in quick fashion before he’s picked up (in an admittedly twisted coda) by Earth forces.

That wouldn’t be too problematic if there was something interesting going on inside Mowry. Given his background, one might think he would have some sympathy from the Sirians. In spite of their secret police, they don’t seem all that different from what we know of the Terrans (Mowry, after all, is impressed against his will and sent to indiscriminately blow up stuff – hardly noble) and surely Mowry made a friend while he was growing up? More immediate, he doesn’t forge any kind of connection with the people he uses in his scheme. Everybody is a pawn being moved around the board, even Mowry.

The lack of depth draws sharper focus to the anachronisms of the story. For one thing, there are no women involved. I don’t mean there are no notable female characters, I mean there are no women anywhere at all (As Jo Walton put it, “[t]his is an old fashioned book, written before women were invented.”). Par for the course in 1957, but glaringly unrealistic to modern eyes. For another, there isn’t any attempt to extrapolate future tech, aside from space travel and communications, such that Jaimec looks and sounds almost exactly like 1950s America. A typewriter features prominently at one point. With a better story and deeper, more interesting characters, it would be easy to overlook.

Lots of people make a lot of Mowry being a “terrorist.” No less a luminary than Terry Pratchet said of Wasp he “can’t imagine a funnier terrorists’ handbook.” Neil Gaiman, at one point, owned the film rights. He was working on a script when 9/11 happened and he abandoned it because audiences wouldn’t be ready for a movie where the terrorist is the good guy (although, given his lack of depth, he functions more as a psychopath than a good guy).

I’m not sure that’s an accurate characterization of Mowry and what he does. For one thing, he’s an agent of a state at war inflicting damage on the other state with which is at war (presumably openly declared). That’s straight up warfare, even if carried out in a slightly unconventional way. For another, most of Mowry’s targets are military or government related, even if there’s some collateral damage. Compared to carpet bombing, lacing the countryside with landmines, and atomic weapons, however, it’s damned precise. If Mowry had  brain in his head I’d think that perhaps the author was trying to make a larger point.

There’s something to be said for quick dumb fun. Wasp is certainly quick and, in spots, it’s kind of un in a subversive kind of way. But it’s pretty dumb and doesn’t think very highly of its characters. It’s intriguing central idea deserved a better execution.

Wasp-1959

Water Road Wednesday: First Excerpt from The Endless Hills

For this initial dip into The Endless Hills, book two of The Water Road trilogy, I wanted to explore one of that book’s new characters a bit. Martoh is a crook, but he’s in the kind of prison he’s never been in before, the kind that’s landed him in the infirmary. Now, with a war on, there’s a chance for him to get out:

 A few seconds later a gentleman stepped behind the curtain as someone else held it for him. He carried small wooden stool in one hand and a black leather case in the other. His black suit was neat and fresh, implying he had some kind of official position. The fine grey dust from the stones out of which the prison had been built had yet to infest his clothing. “Martoh Isukar?” He put the stool down beside the bed.

“Who are you?” Martoh had long ago learned to be wary of men in clean suits.

“May I sit?”

“Help yourself.”

The man sat down and began pawing through his case. “It really was quite a journey to reach here, you know.”

“Why is that? And who are you?”

“I’m sorry.” The man sat up straight and pulled an official looking piece of paper from his case. “My name is Anea. I am from the Ministry of War.”

Martoh rolled his eyes. “Whatever it is they told you I did, you’ve got the wrong guy.”

Anea looked at him with a frozen expression that said he knew Martoh was the right man. “You are serving a term of life in prison, is that not correct, Martoh? May I call you that?”

Martoh gave silent consent.

“Due to your sentence, you will die behind these walls. Why would I have to think anything else about you?”

“I’m not a killer.”

“It says something very different here.” Anea held up a clutch of papers and began shuffling through them, for Martoh’s benefit, most likely. “It says here that you stole some small trinket from a shop, were caught in the act, and pursued by the shop keeper. As he gave chase in the street he tripped, fell, and upon landing broke his neck. Died instantly, sad to say.”

“My bad luck.”

“His bad luck, I would say. But the court has already decided this. You are guilty of causing death while in the commission of another offense. Same as if you put a blade in the poor man’s back. However, the circumstances of your crime did, at least, save your life.”

“Put me in this cage, you mean,” Martoh said. He tried not to get agitated as any movement caused a bolt of pain to rush through his body.

“Martoh, you have never lived a life in harmony with His Majesty’s law, have you?” Anea let the question be answered by silence. “Although I suspect you never thought it would take you this far.”

“Obviously. It’s one thing to get locked in here for shooting a man or stabbing him. It’s entirely different when you’re here because of a mark’s poor foot skills.”

Anea didn’t take issue with him.

“If you are not here to pin something else on me, why are you here?”

Anea grinned, ever so slightly. “I am here to give you a way out.”

Martoh turned away from him. “I’m in no mood for games.”

“This is no game, I assure you. I am here on behalf of the Ministry of War, looking for recruits. You do know that there is a war on?”

“I’ve heard. I’ve also heard that the Neldathi might have a right to be angry.”

Anea cleared his throat in a way that suggested he would take issue with that position. “I am not here to discuss politics. I am here only in search of recruits.”

“Conscripts, you mean,” Martoh said, turning back to face him. “Typical. Use prisoners to put down an uprising caused by your own damned fool policies.”

Anea sat for a few moments. “Is everyone that cynical in your world, Martoh?”

“In the world I came from, one steals because that’s the only way he has to feed himself or his family. In the world I live in now, any other random person might try to kill me, just to prove he can. Pardon me if I seem a bit cynical when a stranger comes preaching salvation.”

Anea heaved a deep sigh. “Cynical or no, Martoh, you are not a stupid man. If His Majesty was going to conscript prisoners to go fight the Neldathi, why would I be here?”

Martoh had to concede that, but he wouldn’t admit it. “So what’s the deal?”

“Deal? There is no deal,” he said in a way that made it clear such horse trading was beneath him. “There is only an opportunity to serve your King and defend your homeland from barbarian invasion.”

“In return for what? Look, you’ve given the game away admitting that there will be no conscriptions. I get to say no thanks and stay right here. So why shouldn’t I?

“Freedom.” Anea let the word hang in the air while he got another paper from his case. “If you agree to fight, you will be free.”

Remember, The Water Road is now available at Amazon as well as in the real world at Empire Books & News.

Water Road Wednesday: All Around the World

I don’t really have anything substantive to say about The Water Road trilogy this week. Not because I’ve run out of things to talk about – far from it! But because I’m buried deep right now trying to get copies of The Water Road to all the folks who participated in my LibraryThing giveaway.

It’s always cool to see where people who request the book are from and this batch is the most diverse I’ve ever had, with winners as close as Ohio and Kentucky and as far away as Tunisia and Malaysia! In fact, I think I’ve hit every one of the soccer confederations (much more important than continents) this time except for Oceania. Over the course of three books, I’ve had winners from 24 states and 9 other countries (10, if you separate out Scotland).

Speaking of next time – tune in next week for more Water Road Wednesday! Upcoming weeks will have some excerpts from the second book, The Endless Hills, as well as a cover reveal. See you then!

Until then, some appropriate Paul Simon:

On Not Finishing Books

Last week I did something about which I’m not proud. I created a new bookshelf in my Goodreads profile, one for “unfinished” books. And I put two books on it.

Generally, when I start something, I like to finish it. That’s particularly true of artistic things, which can sometimes change radically as they go along. When I get a new album I listen to is all the way through, several times, even if it’s not clicking with me. I want to give it a fair chance. I don’t think I’ve ever walked out on a movie, even while watching at home. It’s only a couple of hours, after all.

But books can be different. After all, they take more time and (in some cases) effort than albums or movies. That’s particularly true for me because I do a lot of my “reading” in the car, via audiobooks. It can take me weeks (if not a month) to get through a decent length novel. Given that, is it OK to bail on a book before I reach the end?

Maybe the better comparison is with TV shows. Most of them involve a considerably larger investment of time than a movie, if we’re talking about shows that go on for seasons. Given that, I don’t think I’ve ever felt bad deciding, after watching a couple of episodes, that a show’s not for me. After all, if two or three hours of (to pick a random example) Orange Is the New Black doesn’t really do much for me, why should I sit through 48 more hours of it?

But books are different, right? I’m a writer for fuck’s sake! Shouldn’t I be more dogged in my determination to finish a book I start? Shouldn’t I be willing to take one for the team, to do what I’d hope any reader would do with one of my books?

I don’t think so. It comes down to time, really. It’s not quite like this:

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But it’s close. The thing is, the books I’ve decided to give up on aren’t “bad.” I don’t (to borrow a phrase from an Absolute Write forum thread) throw them across the room with great force. I want to finish them, but my heart just isn’t in it. I read for pleasure, just like I write because I enjoy it. If it starts to feel like work, something’s wrong. I already work in my life without literature adding to the load.

That the books I don’t finish can’t be labeled as “bad” (if any art can ever be so labeled) is obvious just by looking at them.

The first, the one that prompted the shelf construction, is The Grace of Kings by Ken Liu.

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Liu is decorated with sci-fi and fantasy awards for his short fiction and he recently translated the Hugo-winning The Three Body Problem from Chinese, the first novel in a non-English language to win the award. Plus, he’s a lawyer and I always like reading books by lawyers who don’t write legal thrillers.

The Grace of Kings is Liu’s first novel at it’s a neat setup. It’s an epic fantasy with an Asian background, rather than European, complete with the steampunk touch of airships (Liu calls it “silkpunk”). It involved a ruthless empire and the unlikely heroes who bring it down and the aftermath of their revolution. Should be right up my alley, but it just didn’t work for me. The last straw was the interesting back story of a minor character that came across like a Wikipedia entry – all the facts, none of the drama of the story. Others love it, so I’m sure I’m missing out, but I thought it was time to move on.

The other book on that shelf really pains me, as it’s To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis.

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I first experienced Willis’s world of Oxford historians who do field research via time travel in “Fire Watch,” which I thought was great. I moved on to Doomsday Book which I truly love. In both the entire process of time travel was dangerous and subject to cock ups that could put the traveler’s life in danger. It was, as the kids say, serious bizness.

To Say Nothing of the Dog is set in the same world and involves the same kind of travel. Except it’s a comedy and, in the part I read, makes hay with an historian using the machine to travel back in time to escape a particularly annoying donor to the college. It just seemed . . . wrong. It would be like if the first book in the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series was a serious, violent space opera about rampaging Vogons. Bad poetry, towels, and mice running the universe after that just wouldn’t seem right. So it was my own dissonance that caused me to give up on To Say Nothing of the Dog.

Thus, to those two books, and the others that will inevitably wind up on my “unfinished” shelf, I say – it’s not you, it’s me. Really, truly. But life’s short and I just have to move on. At least I still feel kind of bad about it.

On the Current State of Formula 1

Let me start by saying that I’ve been watching Formula 1 for a long time. Back before my family had a VCR, I was up early on Sundays attending the only church I’ve ever known – the Church of the Holy Horsepower. In college I’d get up way too early on Sunday and go down the common room to watch a race. More recently, I’ve regularly recorded races and watched them later the same day.

Not so much this year or last. Not out of any real decision, just out of inertia (or the lack thereof, I suppose). But I managed to record the British Grand Prix this weekend. Having watched it, I’m reminded why I’m not making such an effort any more. There’s just too many things wrong with the sport right now for me to care a great deal about it.

Mercedes Dominance. F1 right now belongs to Mercedes. Everyone else is fighting for third place (at best). To make things worse,  Lewis Hamilton seems so much better than Nico Rosberg that it’s rarely a race between them, barring some outside force intervening. At least they’re just as likely to bang into each other when the share real estate as not.

One-team domination is nothing new to F1 – I remember 1988, when McLaren won every race but one. But in years past the cars looked and sounded better and things seemed more open. Oh, and cars used to blow up for no good reason, too – modern F1 cars are incredibly reliable. The regulations are so tight that there’s little room for other teams to find interesting ways to make up speed.

Plus, I’ll just say it – I’m a Ferrari fan and they suck right now. So there’s that.

Being Overly Protective. I understand the drive to make the sport as safety as possible. Racing in the rain is, by definition, dangerous and the death of Jules Bianchi in a downpour in Japan in 2014 is still fresh in the memory. But, still, there was no reason for the first five laps of the British GP to be run behind the safety car. It wasn’t even raining anymore. I’ve seen F1, Indycar, and top-level sports car racing all run in worse conditions.

Rain, of course, upsets the usual order, which should be a welcome thing in a top-heavy sport. I suspect that the powers that be are concerned that too many modern drivers can’t really handle the rain (or will be further left in the wake of Hamilton, who cleared almost four seconds from his closest pursuer on the first green flag lap) and they don’t want too much upset to the regular order. It’s a shame – Senna would have had no problem in that rain.

Dumb Rules Dumbly Enforced. A pair of dumb rules, and their odd enforcement, reared their heads this weekend. Neither has any real place in top flight motorsports and seem to be examples of the powers that be trying too hard to control things.

The first showed up in qualifying. Rule one of racing is keep the car on track, right? But the modern F1 track, with low curbs and paved run off areas, invites overdriving. Cars routinely run wide  as drivers try to grab an ounce more speed, shave another thousandth of a second off their lap. Now the stewards keep eyes peeled to see if the “track limits” are violated and . . .  sometimes call penalties about it. And sometimes don’t. If the track rewards drivers for going off of it, that’s the track’s fault, not the drivers’. It’s a layer of bureaucracy no sport needs.

The second popped up in the race itself, near the end. Drivers are able to communicate with their teams by radio (and vice versa), which, in years past, has allowed teams to tell drivers how hard to push and change strategy on the fly. Now, however, communications are severely limited and, for instance, Mercedes violated the rules by telling Rosberg how to keep his car from stopping on course as the race ended. It appears that the rule was applied correctly, but it’d terminally dumb. Either have radio communications or don’t, but thinly slicing what can and can’t be said adds another layer that’s about anything but racing.

At its best, Formula 1 is the pinnacle of motorsport, a kill or be killed dog fight among not only drivers but teams and manufacturers. The modern era won’t allow for free spending and a completely open set of regulations, I get that. But regulations need to be smarter and answer one question: does this make the racing better?

 

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Nico Rosberg this year at Bahrain. Photo by Dave Jeffreys, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

West Virginia Writers Showcase

Last year, Huntington-area author Eliot Parker organized the first annual West Virginia Writers Showcase at Tamarack in Beckley.

I was happy to be a part of it, hanging out for the day talking with people and doing a reading from one of the stories in The Last Ereph. I’m equally happy to say I’m going to be taking part in the event again this weekend.

Writers will be on hand at Tamarack both Friday and Saturday. I’ll be there on Saturday (from 10-5) with a box full of The Water Road and Moore Hollow (which you can also get directly from Tamarack). I even have a few copies of The Last Ereph left, if short stories are more your thing. No readings this time, unfortunately.

Stop by and see me and check out the other interesting local authors that will be there!

 

Water Road Wednesday: Solamo Renzi

As we continue on here with Water Road Wednesdays, we’ve moved on to characters who don’t actually appear in the first book, starting with Solamo Renzi. That wasn’t always the plan – I initially conceived of The Water Road as having four main characters, but Antrey and Strefer kind of muscled in and took over the joint. The other got shuttled off, but do make an appearance later.

Renzi is one of those. In fact, his story that would have been in The Water Road forms a novella that will be released next year called The Badlands War. As you’ll know if you’ve read The Water Road, the subject of the Azkiri nomads who roam the red wastes up north was a topic of conversation before the Grand Council. The Badlands War takes up that tale. In the process, it gives some background on Renzi.

He comes from a wealthy Telebrian family, although it’s new money, which means they don’t have the pedigree of the rest of the upper crust. Renzi’s father got rich in business and, naturally, intended that his son would follow in his footsteps. Renzi had other ideas and chose what he thought would be a suitable alternative career – the military. Although he wanted to make his own way and work his way up through the ranks, Renzi’s father used his influence to get his son a prime posting as an aide to the general in command in the Badlands.

Renzi stepped right in as a captain, but found himself hamstrung by his superior’s traditional thinking. While he was part of the Telebrian high society, Renzi wasn’t beyond noticing that the Telebrian strategy against the Azkiri continued to fail, over and over again. When he got the chance to see how a Guilder unit faced the same foe, he jumped at the chance.

The end result, as The Endless Hills begins, is that Renzi is now a colonel and in command of his own unit. Funded by other wealth Telebrians, Renzi’s Rangers (he hates the name) is a unit unknown to the Telebrian army – a unit that moves quickly on horseback, but dismounts to fight on foot. He leaves his new wife behind to fight in a war where he may never get to show off all he’s learned.

Thinking on it, Renzi is unique in The Water Road trilogy, as he plays a large role in The Endless Hills (he’s one of several point of view characters), but he doesn’t appear at all in The Water Road and only very briefly in The Bay of Sins. Most other folks tend to hang around a little longer. Make of that what you will.

Remember, The Water Road is now available at Amazon!