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Latest Reads

by Jonathan 0 Comments
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea or Check Out All These Cool Fish!

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea or Check Out All These Cool Fish!

I finally finished Neal Stephenson’s Quicksilver a few weeks ago. I had planned to hit Don Quixote next, but, for reasons too complicated and too boring to recount, I opted for 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. I’m a little over half way through and I have to say that I’m getting more and more resentful with each page. I really wanted to like this book, but, so far I don’t.

Steinbeck's Tortilla Flat

First Edition of Steinbeck's Tortilla Flat

The story starts off well enough with a mysterious sea monster attacking ships, but bogs down in Verne’s love affair with marine biology. It’s kind of like ready Moby Dick, which is a pretty cool story, but having to slog through page after page of treatises on different whales and their respective anatomies. Hey Jules Verne, if I wanted to know so much about sea life, I would have been an ichthyologist. Perhaps if he had stuck with more sweeping description and less minutiae I would be less bitter.

On that note, I put down Verne and picked up Tortilla Flat by Steinbeck at the recommendation of a friend. I posted a couple of months ago about The Grapes of Wrath – if you don’t feel like checking that post out, just know that Grapes vaulted into my top 5 books of all time and I don’t even know what two of my top five are! Maybe that makes it a top 3. For the record Lord of the Rings and Song of Ice and Fire are my top 2.

Tortilla Flat delivers that same kind of feel as Grapes of Wrath. Set in Monteray, California at the end of World War I, Steinbeck delves into the lives of the paisanos just returned from war.

From Tortilla Flat Wikipedia Entry:

Above a town of Monterey on the California coast lies the shabby district of Tortilla Flat, inhabited by a loose gang of jobless locals of Mexican descent (who typically claim Spanish descent) whose riotous adventures are compared by Steinbeck to the exploits of the Knights of King Arthur.

Soft-hearted, unquestioningly loyal to one another, and in complete disregard of social conventions and expectations, the gutsy paisanos of Tortilla Flat cheerfully reside in a world of idyllic poverty. Steinbeck gives a description of a paisano, who according to Steinbeck speaks English with a paisano accent, and Spanish with a paisano accent: “He is a mixture of Spanish, Indian, Mexican and assorted Caucasian bloods. His ancestors have lived in California for a hundred years or two…. He lives in that uphill district above the town of Monterey called Tortilla Flat, though it isn’t flat at all.” Most of the action which takes place in the novel is in the idyllic time of Steinbeck’s own late teenage and young adult years, shortly after WW I (1919, approximately).

It’s a quick read and highly entertaining. I enjoy the way Steinbeck explores the ability of men to rationalize what would otherwise be considered reprehensible actions. If you haven’t read this, do yourself a favor and check this out. In the meantime, it’s back to 20,000 Leagues for me. Hopefully the story will emerge more frequently than the Nautilus does.

Inside Captain Nemos Floating Man Cave

Inside Captain Nemo's Floating Man Cave

Back from Gen Con

by Jonathan 0 Comments
On My Wishlist for 2009

On My Wishlist for 2009

When I was 13, I had a subscription to Dragon magazine (now available only with an online subscription). I would pore over the pages endlessly, wondering about all the cool stuff I saw in there from ads for Bandersnatch Leathers dice bag to gaming conventions. Gen Con was the mack daddy of gaming cons (and still is). So, 26 years later, I finally went.

It was awesome.

I mean that in so many respects – the amount of people, the number of people who liked to dress in costume, the amount of gaming opportunities, the myriad ways to dump cash.

My goal was simple – game as much as possible. I had hoped to play some regular Dungeons and Dragons, but I did not sign up in advance and they were pretty well filled up. I changed my approach and made every effort to play games that I hadn’t played before. I wound up playing Aerodrome 1.1, Game of Thrones Card Game, Chaos Marauders, Last Night on Earth, Call of Cthulhu 6th edition and Age of Conan. I also got an overview of Android from Fantasy Flight Games.

I spent most of my time at the Aerodrome table because I could get in pretty easily (the guys running the show were very nice and enthusiastic about newcomers) and the people playing were fun to be around.

I also spent a good bit of time hovering around the Fantasy Flight Games exhibitions because I think they do such a good job from great production values to game mechanics. Although I did not get to play Android, it looks pretty cool. They had a couple of games of Android going during the convention with a running time of about 5 hours. It looked complex, but in a good, conspiracy theory layered over murder mystery kind of way.

If nothing else, Gen Con was great for getting my gaming fix. I’ve already marked it on my calendar for next year. I didn’t write nearly as much as I thought I would, but I have no regrets about taking a little break to explore fantasy settings in a different way.

Morass

by Jonathan 6 Comments
My head - right now.

My head - right now.

Just a quick question to all three of you who occasionally read this thing. I’m closing in on the end of my first draft and there are definitely elements where I feel like I’m swimming in a whole bunch of concepts, many of which seem disparate. At one point in my mind they seemed coherent, especially conceptually. But now, I ain’t fer sure. I’ll probably let it go and revisit the whole thing during revisions, but I was just hoping for a little lifeline from anyone out there who has enjoyed a similar experience.

Almost There

by Jonathan 1 Comment
Finish Line at Ancient Olympia

Finish Line at Ancient Olympia

I hit 90k words yesterday. Things are coming along well enough for the first draft. The story lines are coming to a head and the ending is in site. I figure I’ll have about 110k first draft words after the dust settles.

With a little luck, some of it will be good and worth keeping. With a lot of hard work, I hope to fine tune the ms. and circulate it to a handful of trusty readers (those I trust to call a spade a spade and tell me how the book affects them, for better or worse).

As I’ve written these pages, I find myself wondering what I hope most writers wonder – am I doing it right? Only time and readers will tell, but I have to say that this has been a joy to experience. So far I’ve come away with the perception that dedication and determination will be the keys to succeeding. Yes, talent must be in there, too, but without the commitment, talent doesn’t mean a whole lot.

Getting ready for Gen Con

by Jonathan 0 Comments
The Best Four Days in Gaming!

The Best Four Days in Gaming!

I’m getting ready to head to Gen Con for the first time ever on Wednesday. I’ve got some friends out in Indy who are avid Magic the Gathering players and a friend from here in WV with whom I game. It should be good, although I don’t know exactly what to expect. I haven’t signed up for any games in hopes of being able to get in on some pick up stuff. I look forward to checking out the retail hall and the Authors’ Avenue. It should be rollicking good time, a laugh a minute thrill ride. Of course I’ll be bringing my trusty new laptop (should be rolling in tomorrow) so that I may get some words down while there (we’ll see).