Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Zaide: Mozart's Lost Opera... COMING SOON!

Way back in 1779 (200 years before I was born), Mozart began work on his opera, Zaide. Drawn in by the music of history's most beautiful aria (Ruhe Sanft), I delved into this opera. A stunning work that captures the moods of Mozart at the time he wrote it. A work that screams of youthful struggles. I had share it.

Join me and my journey of research and writing, as I release my latest novel Zaide: Mozart's Lost Opera. In addition, we will celebrate the composer's birthday and honor his legacy. The novel will be available on Amazon at midnight on the 27th. If you plan on buying it, I'd love for you to purchase it on that date to help me earn a higher rank.
Let me know on the Blitz event page. Or, you can get the first copies available signed by me at the South Dakota Writes Winter Book Fair at the Western Mall. I'd love to have you come, let know on my book signing event page if you plan to come. I'd love to make sure I have a copy for you.

Monday, December 18, 2017

My Favorite Christmas Movie

Yes. It’s that time of year, when we get bombarded with gobs of “fresh” new takes on the meaning of Christmas. (Side note: I personally believe the meaning of Christmas is that “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us,” in order that we might see his glory.) With that being said, I will share my favorite Christmas movie. 

First, I want to liken most Christmas movies to fruitcake (Confession, I’ve never actually eaten fruitcake. I just know it has a bad reputation). Ironically, fruitcake is so often associated with Christmas. It is colorful, complicated, and compact. And in spite of all that, people tend to not like it. But my favorite movie is more like banana bread: simple, light, and I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like it.

This movie is....

A Christmas Story. Yes. I know it’s popular now, even mainstream. But, (in spite of what some have said) I’m no hipster wannabe who refuses to like something just because it’s popular. And, I’m glad it’s popular. If I had cable, I’d catch at least one viewing of the numerous marathons on various channels.

I know some have complained there is no (or little) plot, and while I do like a good plot, their are those few movies that pull off the slice of life segments brilliantly, A Christmas Story is one such movie. (Napoleon Dynamite was another. The Sandlot, another.) The movie is great because each tiny story weaves itself into a relatable narrative, and then lets the audience make of it what they will.

We all know what it is like to wait in eager expectation for something (especially during Christmas) only to be let down. We all understand that beneath the gruff exterior of a manly-man, there is a guy who does want to make his children happy, but just doesn’t know how to go about it. And, who of us has experienced fighting against the crowd for what you really want, refusing to listen to their warnings only to realize after you were victorious, that perhaps their warnings were warranted? Yet, full of pride, we find a cunning way to save face. How dare we admit our naysayer were right… We know things fall apart…Our lives never stay as tidy as we would like... People in our lives love things we find hideous… Our loved-one’s ‘accidentally’ wreck a treasured hideous possession… We know we screw up… A Christmas Story is life.

This is what is so brilliant about the movie. It often encapsulates the ‘reality’ of Christmas, not the wishful idealism that says... if we simply place our faith in the goodness of humanity… if we believe in our hearts good things will happen… if we behave and do good things... then peace on earth will grow to fruition. All will be well... And so, I wonder if that’s why after the holiday’s some fall into a depressed slump. We’re fed messages of “good will toward men” and we even try to live as such during the season, but then it all fades. We have to go back to work. The bills come in. A Christmas Story doesn’t offer false hopes. It simply shows us a series of events in life as they really are. And, after everything has fallen apart, it shows that joy must be found outside the hype (both moral and commercial) of the Christmas season. 

Concerning Christmas hope, many movies have human-centered morals. What can we do? How can we feel? Who can we be? And as with a New Year’s resolution, Christmas does help us with these purposes, for a spell. But, then like the messy humans from A Christmas Story, things fall apart. We fail. Thus, I believe the true meaning of is Christmas offers our only hope. It does not revolve around what we can do, who we can be, or how we can feel, but on what God has done. That will never fail.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Youtube Repairman

A few years ago, a late night show featured a bit that centered on a man stuck in various predicaments with only random odds and ends.  The man’s goal: escape the situation using YouTube instructions to fix and/or build the necessary equipment. I particularly remember his task of having to build some sort of radio. From then on, I gained access into a new tool for my tinkering pursuits.

I have never really liked paying someone to do something I believe I could figure out for myself. This could be due to my rural upbringing. (I also don’t like doing gobs of tasks until I absolutely have to either.) In addition, I have always been able to gather how something is done by watching someone else do it.  Or, simply by tinkering around with an object.

Then came the advent of YouTube. Apart from being primarily a time killer, one can find gobs of handy information and instruction.

Friday, November 3, 2017

My most influential authors

Whenever I hear an interview with famous celebrities, whether I'm a fan or not, one question they are often asked: "Who are your greatest influences." The other day I was at the first anniversary celebration of South Dakota Writes, and someone asked me, who were my influences. This is a tough question to answer. I don't really see myself as a raving fan-boy, who must read everything 'my' spirit-celebrity spews out. I usually like to say I have eclectic tastes, but that's just not true. While I didn't have an immediate answer to this woman's question, eventually I was able to throw out a few good answers. A lot of times, it takes reflection in order to coax out those who've influenced us in all sort of areas in our lives. Without further rambling, here is the list of my most influential writers. (This list could change upon further reflection.)

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/6/68/R_l_stine_2008.jpg5. RL Stine. As a teenager I couldn't get enough of the Fear Street books. R. L. Stine ingrained in me the need for a twist. Watching the Goosebumps movie, there is a part where Stine's character says that a story has three parts: the beginning, middle, and the twist. As I have grown older and pretend to have grown wiser, I've heard many fancy, stuffy literary types claim most twist endings are cheap gimmicks. I see where they're coming from. At my work, there are a bunch of old Fear Street books lying around. I've read a few out of nostalgia. They don't hold up. Most of the twists are there solely to have a twist. But, how could anyone expect those books to all be pure brilliance when R. L. Stine spewed out books so quickly.  Through this, a phenomenon has grown known as "The Twilight Zone" effect. When people come at a work expecting a twist, they may often guess it, and thus it loses its power.  Yet, to this day I love, love, love, a brilliant twist. I spend much of my time trying to come up with the greatest twist since... Arrival?

http://www.thrillingdetective.com/images/chandler.jpg 4.  Raymond Chandler. Sometimes life is harsh, rough. At times, it beats the optimism out of us.  Chandler's influence on me stems more from his writing style as opposed to any thematic elements. I've always found something uniquely poetic about the noir/hardboiled voice. Noir is a style of writing characterized by cynicism and moral ambiguity. Is this to say I'm a proponent of either? No (even though I may struggle with such). Yet, there is an honesty this style of writing carries. Concerning moral ambiguity, humans tend to ignore the moral flaws of those whose side they happen to be on, while the flaws of those they root against are repulsive reminders of their depravity. Noir illustrates such complexities so well. As two immoral giants clash, that lone detective, himself filled with flaws, tries his darnedest to stick to some sort of moral code, one he is trying to figure out.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Misery Loves Misery

I was in stationed in Ft. Stewart Georgia. It was November, around the time of my birthday. I was informed that I was volunteered for a training mission. I found out last minute I was going to spend a week or two at an airbase. Just before, I had learned that—due to a clerical error—I didn’t get my promotion to Sgt.

So, I was on the air base. The training centered around securing an enemy airbase. I was to drive the Hummer out of a C-5 and provide support for the paratroopers. The actual mission was going to use Bradley's (a type of tank), but they wanted to get a feel for the mission with Hummers first. To me that was like practicing basketball with a football. Plus, they thought it would save gas money. I mean they’re paying us regardless, so just as well save money on something.

Then we were there. Camping on the runway. The C-5 (the military’s largest plane) was yards from us. I was too bitter to appreciate the airplane and that I was going to drive a Hummer into it. And… I was going to get to watch paratroopers jump out of it.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Two Envies, Too Envious

Since I’ve mentioned I’m a Mozart fan, it shouldn’t surprise you that I loved the movie Amadeus. Sure, it’s probably not historically accurate, but I still like it. Doug Walker--The Nostalgia Critic-- made a great point concerning that. He stated it doesn’t necessarily need to be accurate because it is told through the eye of a man at the epoch of madness. I’d never thought of that, but his insight has given me the freedom to enjoy it more. You can watch his commentary here.

One particular element in the movie strikes me as spot on: Mozart’s Envy. ‘Huh?  Mozart’s Envy?,’ those who have seen it may be asking.  True, the envy of Salieri is obvious in the overall theme of the movie.  But, I’ve not researched enough to know if this kind of envy actually burned within the opposing composer.  Nor, do I believe Salieri’s jealousy is as detrimental as Mozart’s.  Yet, the movie does display two envies.  Salieri’s, which is obvious.  And, hints at Mozart’s, a subtle suggestion of a historical reality.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Christopher Nolan Movies

I've heard gobs of praise from the recently released movie, Dunkirk. A friend of mine, declared it was one of the best war movies ever made. The movie is a Christopher Nolan creation, and it seems as if the man can do no wrong--when it comes to movies. As I struggle even to figure out whatever short little piece I'm going to write next, I can't help but ask, "How can such an individual offer an audience quality work after quality work."

https://c1.staticflickr.com/8/7542/15631832010_2f41126e17_z.jpgTo tell the truth, I'm not much of a big follower of many individuals as in I just have to see everything they've done. I mostly seek after works on their merits alone.  I don't care who did them. But I'm getting close to becoming a Nolan enthusiast. His movies often caught my attention before I knew he did them, or before I even knew who he was. In fact, now I think I want to take some time and watch all the movies he's made.

So, what makes his movies so great? Primarily, I think he has found a great way to ask difficult, probing questions without being preachy or insulting. Take one of his earliest movies for example: Memento. He plays around with concepts of trust. What authority can we as humans trust? I think where many humans often place their trust (whether they say elsewise) is on themselves. Their experiences. Their history. Their memories. Their interpretations of facts and texts.  Clearly, the main character illustrates the flaw in trusting self.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Humming Humus

Humus has always bore a certain impression on my brain: Hippy Food. But lately we've been eating a lot of it, especially since we've been trying to eat healthier. And, one of my favorite dips--jalapeƱo jelly over cream cheese--probably won't cut it as an even moderately acceptable alternative. Now, buying humus can be expensive, so I've been making my own. I think I've got the process down. As of late, I've made this dip that has gotten gobs of compliments. So, I thought I'd share my technique. Besides, I've got no time nor patience to manufacture my own version and sell it.

Simple enough, start out with a can of chickpeas, (some call them garbanzo beans). For the longest time, I've never really liked chickpeas, but as of late, they are starting to grow on me. Plus, they're a healthy alternative to many meats in dishes. Although, pretty much all meat still tastes better. Anyway, take a can of chickpeas, remove 1 quarter to half the juice, and throw it in a blender. The Magic Bullet is the perfect size.

Next, take about 2 tablespoons of Tahini and throw it in. "What's Tahini?" You may ask. It's a Greek thing: a ground sesame seed paste, like peanut butter. It is quite strong, but good. You can find it in the pickle section at some grocery stores. After your Tahini is in, throw in a teaspoon of sea salt, 2 garlic cloves (1 clove if you want it less strong), a splash of lemon juice, and a sprinkle of red pepper (add as much as you want, or none if you don't like spice).

The last ingredient (and my not-so-secret secret ingredient) is black olives. I suppose green olives would make it great too, I just haven't tried it yet. Hmmm. Let me put that on my to-do list.

Once everything is thrown in, blend until it becomes thick. Then wham. You've got yourself a quick, easy, more healthy dip. Great for all kind of snacks and veggies. Another awesome alternative is to use half chick peas and half black beans. Mmmm. That's pretty good too. Either way, play around, throw in what you like. Make your own version of humus. I'm sure you'll love it (unless you just can't stomach chickpeas).

Friday, March 31, 2017

Caveat Ties and Soul Shocked... Coming April 28th

I've finally done it. I'm self-publishing two of my books. Perhaps, I needed to try harder to get a literary agent. Deep inside, I feel as if I need that validation. Who am I to say my books are any good? Even if I am someone, other people still need to like them, right? So, I waited. I queried... But then a gob of events pushed me over the self-publishing edge. Events that told me I need to take control of my own literary journey. What are they? Well, since every one likes lists, here's 3 factors that made me decide to self-publish. 

3. Most traditionally published authors still have to do much of their own marketing. One of the reasons authors don't want to self-publish is that they don't want to do all that promotion jazz. But, according to my research, publishers often devote most of their resources toward their top sellers. (Sure, I know I'd be a top seller if someone just picked me up, but...) So, many publishers take a bigger cut... And then you still have to do a lot of the work? Plus, authors don't have the right to their own work? Hmmm.

2 I'm not liking a lot of stuff literary agents want. Yeah, this is a subjective world, and there is a particular set of criteria a lot of agents want. I'm not sure I get it. I don't want to be negative about that certain set of particulars. So, I shan't comment. Let's just say, I'm not into that stuff. And, that's fine. Whatever... Another thing I don't get... The stuff they are asking for doesn't seem to be part of the huge sellers either. ??? I guess they're focusing on the niches. And, niches are a more dependable market. And, maybe that's the trouble with what I'm doing. I don't know what niche I fit.

1. I still believe in these works. I've written a lot of stuff. I've started some things, but didn't like where they were going. I've mostly finished some stuff and didn't like where they went. But, Caveat Ties and Soul Shocked won't leave my brain. Are they perfect? Yes... I mean... Who am I to say? But, I am proud of these books. Whether they are good or not?... Well, I'm too biased to say. I simply know, I am proud of these novels. So, I just have to share them.  I can't let them sit. (As if I'm any different than any other author out there.)

Anyway. I plan on doing a mystery night party/book launch on the 28th. The venue I plan on doing it at has this old-timey prison, and I really want to use it as an escape room. I'm talking to some folks to try to make that happen. Fingers crossed.  If you're in the Tea/Sioux Falls area (or even if you're not), stop by, have some fun, even if you don't want to buy a book

If you want to know more about my novels, check out my trailers.