the Unending Journey of the Wandering Author

A chronicle of the unending journey of the Wandering Author through life, with notes and observations made along the way. My readers should be aware I will not censor comments that disagree with me, but I do refuse to display comment spam or pointless, obscene rants. Humans may contact me at thewanderingauthor at yahoo dot com - I'll reply as I am able.

Location: New England, United States

I have always known I was meant to write, even when I was too young to know the word 'author'. When I learned that books were printed, I developed an interest in that as well. And I have always been a wanderer, at least in my mind. It's not the worst trait in an author. For more, read my writing; every author illuminates their heart and soul on the pages they write upon.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Fiction Contest Deadline Extended

I must apologise to all of you; I should have been on top of this and let you know sooner. As it is, I've been so swamped, I barely noticed the problem a couple of days ago. Out of five entrants in my Longer Fiction Contest, only two have sent in their entries, and the tentative deadline was to be tomorrow. I did state that if that proved too difficult, I'd extend it.

One entrant has actually requested that I extend it, which I was considering doing in any case. It seems that perhaps I chose a bad time of year for the deadline, anyway. We're all recovering from the hectic pace of the holidays, battling seasonal illnesses, and generally swamped. So I am extending it to the first of March, at least. If any of you are concerned about that date, please let me know as soon as you can, so I can consider your input.

I had hoped to post a review of the second entry, The Milkman, today. Unfortunately, I pulled or tore something in my shoulder today, so simply typing this post is almost beyond me. Composing a review, then typing it, is more than I care to tackle right now. I'll post my review as soon as the shoulder is a bit better and I can think clearly. Thanks for your understanding.

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Monday, January 29, 2007

Rest In Peace, Barbaro

Normally, I don't follow horse racing at all. I'm too aware of the cruelties that are a part of it, the countless animals that suffer, in the name of "sport". I can't enjoy the thought of other creatures suffering. But I couldn't help hearing of Barbaro, his horrible injuries, and the strength and spirit he showed as he fought to live. I paid attention to that story; that was a race I wanted him to win.

Today, sadly, he lost his race. The horse that wanted to live so badly he showed a fight and spirit that amazed his veterinarian finally had enough suffering, and he gave up. I do credit his owner for doing what so many others wouldn't have considered and spending the money to give him the chance that he had, and for not forcing him to go on fighting once he was weary. But, most of all, I think of Barbaro, so young, so full of life, and yet forced to suffer so much.

May you rest in peace, Barbaro, free of suffering. Better yet, may you be free now to run through the meadows of Heaven, for your own joy, free to run where you will and wherever the wind may lead you. I will think of you there, and hope the taste of the sweet grasses of Heaven may make you forget all that went before.

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Saturday, January 27, 2007

Never Again!

Today is International Holocaust Remembrance Day, a day set aside to remember the millions of innocent individuals who died in the Holocaust. They were singled out by a policy directed by mindless hatred, and exterminated with an enthusiasm that can only be described as maniacal. The Nazis believed that by wiping out Jews, Gypsies, homosexuals, and the disabled they would be somehow "purifying the race".

Perhaps the ultimate testimony to the tragic absurdity of the "science" which convinced them of this is the fact that, if those rules had been followed impartially, Adolf Hitler himself would have been classified as a Jew and deported to a camp. When the war was over, and the world was forced to confront the things they had ignored for so long, and see the consequences of ignorance, bigotry, and hatred, their response was "Never Again!".

Has this promise been kept? Look around you. In Cambodia, in the lands that were Yugoslavia, in Rwanda, in Darfur, and in so many other places I cannot bear to name them all, masses of human beings have been massacred for no better reason than the Nazis offered, and the world watched and did nothing. The Nazis sought to wipe out all trace of disabilities we now test pregnant mothers for, so their children can be aborted, denying them any chance to live at all. And it is nice and 'sanitary'; we don't need to confront the reality. "Fetuses", not babies, just as it was "the Final Solution", not mass murder. Anti-Semitism is on the rise, and has been for years, and few people speak out against it. There are even attempts to deny the Holocaust ever happened.

When you reflect on this day, know one thing for certain: it happened. In Bad Arolsen, in Germany, there is a massive archive with tons of papers, all original, and all proving, in the murderers' own hands, what the Nazis were guilty of. On millions of bookshelves, there is a book, the last remnant of a beautiful, talented girl who describes much of what was happening in her diary, which was saved when she was taken away to be killed. Her records are found in the archive in Bad Arolsen. The evidence is consistent, each piece confirms the others.

It happened. The only reason for denying that it happened is the wish to stir up the same kind of vicious, lying, murderous hatred that fueled the greatest tragedy the world has known to date. If you doubt, read the books, look at the pictures, view the films the Nazis themselves took. Some who deny the reality of what happened try to make excuses; yes, many died, but that was just due to disease the Germans were unable to control. They lie! The records in Bad Arolsen, records kept by the Nazis themselves, list victim after victim, and after their name, the notation "Executed".

Those who did die of disease did so because they were gathered together in unsanitary conditions, malnourished, and waiting to be executed with the others. Disease may have done the Nazis' work for them in some cases, but it can't spare them the blame for the outcome. If you don't already know, read about what happened. Research it. Learn all you can about it. And, when you are so sick that you understand "Never Again" may be the most important pledge the human race has ever made, speak out against hatred, against bigotry, against murder, wherever you find it, whatever interests try to excuse it.

The Jews were the primary victims of the Holocaust; I have no intention and no desire to deny that. But other groups were singled out, and if any group may be singled out, all groups live in danger. "Never Again" will be a hollow lie until every time an American spooking at shadows demands that all Moslems be killed, we all cry out in protest, Jew, Moslem, Christian, Buddhist, Hindu, atheist, or anything else. It will be meaningless until we refuse to accept the singling out of any group to be 'cleansed', to be 'reduced', to be attacked in any way whatsoever.

I can think of no finer memorial to all the victims of the Holocaust, nor any so well suited to the occasion, as a society that takes "Never Again!" as the single most important thing we can guarantee our descendants. It is more important than a healthy planet, more important than a thriving economy, more important than any other type of freedom. Until all groups can feel sure that they are free to live, how can they enjoy any of these other things?

If you agree with my message, and believe it is as important as I do, feel free to link to it, or even to copy it. I am the rightful Copyright owner, but I give you permission to do so, with a single restriction. Lest some hateful group that opposes this ideal think of a way to twist my words, you may only copy this post if you copy it and reproduce it in its entirety. If you wish, you may highlight certain passages differently than I have done, so long as you leave my words unchanged, and you may omit any hyperlinks I have included. With that restriction, I encourage you to spread this post as far and wide as you are able.

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Thursday, January 25, 2007

Wandering Author Roves the Bookshelves, part 1

Some time ago, one of my readers left a comment asking me to recommend some good books. First, I must apologise, since it has been much longer than I intended; Miss Chevious was sick, I've been sick, the weather has been crazy, and every day I meant to write this post, I'd suddenly notice it was too late to begin. So I'm sorry to keep you waiting so long.

One other reason for the delay was simply that I always find it hard to offer a good answer to such questions. Why? I've surely read enough books that picking out a few good ones shouldn't be a problem. Part of the problem is that I've read so many books, I have to think to remember even a fraction of them. There are books I'd like to reread, but I recall the story and setting, but not the title or author.

The other problem is that, unless you know the taste of the other person very well, it is hard to be sure you're steering them to a book they'll really enjoy. I've had it happen to me; someone will tell me I simply have to read this book or that, and when I'm halfway through I suddenly realise that I would have been much happier spending my time reading something else.

And there are a lot of very good books out there, that are completely ruined for you if you try to read them at the wrong time. If your mood and that of the book are out of tune, you'd be better off putting it down and picking up another one. That way, if you want to try it later, you won't have ruined it for yourself. Before I understood this, I ruined quite a few books; ones I can't stand reading now. School requirements did a good job of ruining a few for me, too.

I may write more about my own reading quirks later, but for now, I'll explain the "rules", then list a few books or authors I recommend. I don't tend to worry much about genre. There are genres I read more than others; again, I may post about that some time. But I don't limit myself by ruling out any genres. I'll explain a little about each book, and why I like it, so you can judge for yourself if its worth looking up. And I'll post more later; this only scratches the surface, and it's a short scratch.

Night Trains - Arthur Chrenkoff; I just bought and read this a few weeks ago. Although it has fantasy elements, I've seen books with more fantasy classified as "mainstream" (one reason I ignore genre). It is about a man from our time who gradually notices what he thinks are phantom trains. He discovers they run to Europe during World War II, and he becomes involved in riding them, saving the lives of those who otherwise would have died then. Perhaps I loved it so much because, if the night trains were real, I'd want to go back myself. Terrified as I'd be, I couldn't refuse such a chance. Like any honest book with scenes from Nazi Germany, it has some very painful moments.

Diary of a Young Girl - Anne Frank; Most of you have already read this. Still, just in case you haven't, it is the one book I'd recommend to anyone. Anne was a wonderful writer - what a talent the world lost with her death! Quite apart from my opinion we all need to see people as individuals, not as groups, Anne is a person worth getting to know. I've read other diaries of those who died at the hands of the Nazis in World War II; I can't bring myself to speak too harshly of any of them. Nevertheless, none of the others I've read comes close to this one. Few people know about this, but a few short stories and fragments she wrote have also been published. The title varies, but they are worth reading, too.

Hawk of May - Gillian Bradshaw; Also: Kingdom of Summer and In Winter's Shadow, or they are collected as Down the Long Wind. These are a retelling of The Matter of Britain, or the Arthurian legend. I read anything that touches on The Matter of Britain, but I'm not that happy with most of it. This is the telling of Arthur's story I prefer above any other I've read, save the earliest stories. She's written a number of other books, and I've read some of those; there are too many to list here, but I haven't read a book of hers I didn't like. She began by writing historical fiction, and has branched out into science fiction and more.

The Silver Pigs - Lindsey Davis; This is the first mystery in the Marcus Didius Falco series, which is set in ancient Rome. It is one of the most accurate portrayals of Roman life in fiction, showing both how much like us they were, and yet how different. Start with the first book, and read them in order. If you get attached to Marcus and his friends, as I have, you'll want to discover their lives this way.

Mark of the Horse Lord - Rosemary Sutcliffe; Another historical novel, also set in Roman Britain. Are we seeing a pattern here? Well, that's an area I just can't resist. One of the reasons I developed my interest, apart from Arthur, was Rosemary Sutcliffe. She wrote many other historical novels, most set in Roman Britain (including a take on the story of Arthur that's not bad at all) and a few set in other times. All her books are good, but be warned: don't read this one if you're depressed.

Fitzempress' Law - Diana Norman; This is a historical novel, with a bit of modern story in the beginning to set up the situation she wanted to portray. I loved this because the descriptions were so vivid I felt as though I were actually living in the Middle Ages. Oddly, the only other thing she seems to have written is a rather dry biography of a figure important to Irish history but otherwise totally obscure.

Fireweed - Jill Paton Walsh; Set in London during the Blitz, this novel drew me in and had me feeling right along with Bill, the protagonist. It might seem like an unlikely story, but I've researched enough about the Blitz to know it could very well be based on a true story. If it didn't happen, it surely could have. Those who lived through the Blitz always remembered that time as almost magical. This book will show you why. Some day, I mean to track down her other books and read them, since judging by this one, I'm sure the others are worth the effort. (Of course, the only thing longer than the list of books I've read is the list of ones I want to read someday.)

The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress - Robert A. Heinlein; This book is one of the very few which features a computer as a character that actually succeeded in making me care what happened to that character. Heinlein could be magical; I don't agree with all his ideas, but he does make you think. I don't recommend all his books without reservation, though. In later years, he became a bit strange in what he wrote. He started out writing very good science fiction; his later books defy category. In his defence, that all seemed to start after he became ill. If you love all his earlier books, you'll sooner or later want to read the later ones, for the glimpses of familiar characters if nothing else. Start with this book, then stick to his earlier works for a while. If you don't, the later Heinlein might scare you away, and that would be a shame.

The Quality of Mercy - Faye Kellerman; The amusing thing about this is that Faye Kellerman is known as a writer of mysteries, but this is the one book she's written that's historical fiction. Shakespeare makes an appearance, and it is really a lot of fun to read. Less fun and more depressing, but still worth reading are her mysteries, featuring Peter Decker and Rina Lazarus.


Sunday, January 21, 2007

A More Foolish Stunt Than NaNoWriMo By Far

I had really intended to post much sooner. The strange weather, a nasty bug, and simple exhaustion all played their part in keeping me from doing so. I hope to put up a few of the posts I've been working on soon, but can't offer an exact date - I'm still struggling with my link collection. I've made progress, but there are still endless links waiting to be added, one at a time, by hand.

In addition, I've had to fit in time to keep up with something I decided to do this year. I mentioned Word Count Journal earlier, where you post every single day for a year, adding one more word to your post each day, until by the end you have over 66,000 words.

Well, I decided to try that. Specifically, I decided to try to write a novel, day by day, "seat of the pants" style. I started with no idea what I was going to write about. I just picked the idea of a glassmaker living in an alternate world out of my head and began to run with it. This is risky for several reasons. First, keeping up even that supposedly simple pace of writing requires more time and effort than those who haven't tried it would guess.

Second, while NaNoWriMo requires much more concentrated work, you are then free to hide what you wrote from the world until you go over it, polish it, and make it fit for reading. What I'm doing now doesn't give me that luxury. If I wander in the wrong direction, I have to somehow find my way back while still fitting the details I wrote about into the narrative.

In other words, there is no chance The Glassmaker will turn out to be a publishable novel. At best, it might be something I could work on to turn into a publishable novel. I do hope it might at least be a minor diversion for my readers. I also hope it might build up my "writing muscles" so I can get more writing done in the long run.

Of course, there is one other tiny point: once I started with the idea of a glassmaker, and started to type, I found the idea running away with me. Although it changes as I go along, I now have some idea where I'm headed. What's more, most days the scenes flow out like water; I find myself writing far more than the required number of words, just to get it all down. I am already at almost 9,500 words!

Go on over and have a look at the story so far (you need to begin with the earliest entry, of course, and work forward) and see if you think it's worth reading. If nothing at all, you may get to see stumble publicly, if you watch closely. Or even if you aren't watching closely at all. If I can simply end this year with something I won't be totally humiliated to admit came from my pen, I'll be more than happy.

Oh, and wait for November; I've decided to try to do NaNoWriMo as well if I possibly can. That should make for a really interesting month. See the Wandering Author wander all over the place trying to keep two stories straight in his head. Watch his characters travel from one book to the other in a strange kind of meta-physics... At least that should give those of you who can stand sticking around that long some entertainment.

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Monday, January 01, 2007

Happy New Year 2007!

I'd like to wish all my readers a Happy New Year in 2007. It was my intention to at least visit all the blogs I read to leave a brief comment, but "the best laid plans of mice and men"... I've been fighting off a nasty bug which has left me exhausted, my cats are sick, and I only managed to visit one or two blogs, very late this morning.

I do hope to begin posting somewhat more regularly again soon. I will also soon be posting a review of the next entry in my short fiction contest, the "recommended reading" list one of my readers asked for, and a more detailed explanation of my stand on the issue of chain bookstores and their effect on the careers of most authors.

I had wanted to begin the New Year with a revised and updated link list, but that will just have to wait a few days more. The one New Year's resolution I have made which I intend to keep at all costs is to have a finished, edited copy of my 2006 NaNo novel by the end of the year. In addition, I hope to enter NaNoWriMo again in the fall, and I have already begun another, "seat-of-the-pants" novel thanks to Word Count Journal.

I'll provide a link to that novel in progress over the next few days, as I slowly get my monstrous list of links tamed. The difficult part, of course, is that there are many lists, each missing a few links here and there, and each in a totally different format. Each entry in each list has to be checked, all entries have to be revised to fit a common format I can use, etc. When done, I hope to put all but a very few of my links up on the Internet and link to them here, so any of my readers may benefit from my work.

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