Wednesday, January 11, 2017

One Whale of a Book

As one of my New Years resolutions, I'm finally getting around to reading Moby-Dick, by Herman Melville, and it's about time.  I've attempted the long slog on several occasions in the past, but never made it past the sermon that takes place in the  Nantucket chapel (like 30 pages in-I know, it's sad), but I've always been fascinated with the whaling industry.  Like Ishmael, I'm to the sea and the adventure that awaits thereon: 
“Consider the subtleness of the sea; how its most dreaded creatures glide under water, unapparent for the most part, and treacherously hidden beneath the loveliest tints of azure..... Consider all this; and then turn to this green, gentle , and most docile earth; consider them both, the sea and the land; and do you not find a strange analogy to something in yourself?” 
This time around, I think I'm going to make it through, and I recommend that you read this book. Once you get through the chapters that expound upon the anatomy of the whale, or the listing of seemingly every literary reference to whales, it is quite the rollicking adventure.  And it is surprisingly funny.

For example, during the “first lowering” (when the sailors lower the smaller whale boats from the larger ship—the Pequod—to chase and harpoon the whales), Ishmael’s whale boat gets lost in a storm and separated from the others.  The small boat is tossed around violently (described as if an earthquake) but the boat and its passengers survive.  They sit in the flooded boat until dawn, unable to find any other whale boat or the larger ship in the thick fog.  Suddenly, they hear the creaking of the Pequod and see it barreling toward them from the mist.  The sailors bail into the ocean and the Pequod crashes into and destroys the small whale boat.

When Ishmael is finally pulled aboard the larger ship, he begins questioning his friend and the ship’s officers—and you can just imagine how frantic and upset Ishmael must be:
"Queequeg," said I, when they had dragged me, the last man, to the deck, and I was still shaking myself in my jacket to fling off the water; "Queequeg, my fine friend, does this sort of thing often happen?" Without much emotion, though soaked through just like me, he gave me to understand that such things did often happen.
 "Mr. Stubb," said I, turning to that worthy, who, buttoned up in his oil-jacket, was now calmly smoking his pipe in the rain; "Mr. Stubb, I think I have heard you say that of all whalemen you ever met, our chief mate, Mr. Starbuck, is by far the most careful and prudent. I suppose then, that going plump on a flying whale with your sail set in a foggy squall is the height of a whaleman's discretion?"
 "Certain. I've lowered for whales from a leaking ship in a gale off Cape Horn." 
 "Mr. Flask," said I, turning to little King-Post, who was standing close by; "you are experienced in these things, and I am not. Will you tell me whether it is an unalterable law in this fishery, Mr. Flask, for an oarsman to break his own back pulling himself back-foremost into death's jaws?" 
 "Can't you twist that smaller?" said Flask. "Yes, that's the law. I should like to see a boat's crew backing water up to a whale face foremost. Ha, ha! the whale would give them squint for squint, mind that!" 
 Here then, from three impartial witnesses, I had a deliberate statement of the entire case. Considering, therefore, that squalls and capsizings in the water and consequent bivouacks on the deep, were matters of common occurrence in this kind of life; considering that at the superlatively critical instant of going on to the whale I must resign my life into the hands of him who steered the boat- oftentimes a fellow who at that very moment is in his impetuousness upon the point of scuttling the craft with his own frantic stampings; considering that the particular disaster to our own particular boat was chiefly to be imputed to Starbuck's driving on to his whale almost in the teeth of a squall, and considering that Starbuck, notwithstanding, was famous for his great heedfulness in the fishery; considering that I belonged to this uncommonly prudent Starbuck's boat; and finally considering in what a devil's chase I was implicated, touching the White Whale: taking all things together, I say, I thought I might as well go below and make a rough draft of my will."
It was a laugh-out-loud moment for me, and the story is rife with similar humor.  So far, the deeper I get into the story, the more I understand what made this book an American classic.  Aside from the melodrama, it captures the unknown vastness of the sea, the brutality and violence of the whaling industry, and the horrors that lurk not only beneath the surface of the ocean, but within the human psyche.

So tell me, have you read Moby-Dick?  What did you think?

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Notes on Snow Swept: Intersections

This week only, which I will dub: SNOW SWEPT WEEK, I'm giving away 1 million copies of Snow Swept.  Snow Falling (book 2) and Snow Pyre (book 3) are discounted 67% -- so you can get the whole trilogy for less than two bucks.  

Leading up to, and in celebration of SNOW SWEPT WEEK, I'm doing a series of posts about the Snow Swept experience.  A behind the scenes look at what I was thinking about when writing these books.  So read on, and pick up your copy of Snow Swept today!


I am fascinated with the seemingly random intersections in life.  Each day, decisions are made, paths are crossed, people and events intersect, and lives are forever altered.   On any given day, we might decide to go for that extra cup of orange juice, or linger for a few extra minutes at a book store.  We might rush home to see the family, or skip lunch to instead take a walk in the park.  Each of these seemingly small decisions will alter the day by only a few minutes (or even seconds), changing the points at which we intersect with other people and events.

Our lives are governed by these intersections, whether we like it or not, and we have all probably  wondered how our lives would be different if we had been a few seconds later, or earlier.  Would we have met this person, or gotten that job?  Would we have avoided this tragedy, or stepped right into that disaster.  Would the intersection with this person or that event have a lasting effect on your life, or would it just be a small experience to file away.

Intersections (some random, some not) play a big part in the Snow Swept Trilogy.  One scene, in particular, comes to mind.  Mae, the heroin of the story (or maybe not?) is sitting on an airplane.  Her day has not been going so well (to say the least), and she happens to be sitting next to a guy named Ryan.  Here's a snip it from the story:

Mae sat back in her chair with a gasp, waking from the memory dream with a start.   She touched a painful line on the side of her face and felt the indent from where she’d been leaning against the window. 
His name was Adam, and she hadn't thought about him for a very long time, so she was surprised that her dreams had wandered back to him.  Adam was the boy she'd first loved growing up, the boy who'd first held her hand, the first boy she'd kissed.  She remembered that mountain ridge, overlooking October.  The same butterflies she felt when their lips had touched, when she'd tasted and smelled him, fluttered now. 
His boot on her throat.
The dream was tainted and dark.  The feeling of first loves faded, replaced with the dark memories of that night.
 “You alright?” the guy sitting next to her asked.  She looked over, startled to see someone there.  When she’d fallen asleep, the plane was still almost completely empty and they’d been parked next to the airport.  Now, she felt the faint vibrations of the airplane as it cut through the sky.  The seats were filled with people reading, watching movies on their tiny screens, or sleeping.  One of the men sleeping, his head leaned back against the seat and his mouth gaping, looked as though he'd just stepped out of a board meeting.  His white shirt was clean and pressed, his tie was straight and perfectly dimpled, and he was still wearing his suit coat.  The contrast between what he was wearing and his slack jaw caused Mae's eyes to linger a moment too long, and the guy sitting next to her chuckled.
"He was drooling earlier, and talking in his sleep," the guy said. "If I'd known that you were so entertained by sleeping businessmen, I would have woken you up."
Mae chuckled, but then realized that she may have been drooling herself.  She instinctively touched the corners of her mouth and was dismayed to feel a bit of moisture there.  She wiped at her cheek and neck, suddenly very embarrassed to be sitting next to this guy.  He noticed her movements and laughed. 
"Don't worry, you didn't drool that much."  He reached over and pulled a few strands of hair away from her cheek. "Looks like you did get a little in your hair though," he said and then whispered, "and I promise not to tell anyone what you told me while you were sleeping."
She looked away and blushed.  Mae probably should have been worried about anything she might have said in her sleep, even though she was pretty sure that the guy was joking, but she was more embarrassed by the drool than anything.  She glanced back at the guy and saw that he was cute, maybe a little older than her, but cute nonetheless.
“How long was I asleep?” Mae asked finally, after a few seconds.  She ran her hand through her hair and rubbed at the sleep mark on her forehead.

“Well, you were asleep when I got on, and I'd say that we're going to land pretty soon,” he said.  "You must have been really tired, because the take off was a little rough, and they've been blaring on and on over the plane's PA system about the bad weather and how we need to be in our seats, blah, blah, blah."


Mae's meeting with Ryan sets of a chain reaction that changes the outcome of her story, but little do they know, their paths had been intersecting for much of their lives, crisscrossing until that moment when Ryan ceases to be a minor character, and takes a leading role.

Such it is with life.  People who are random extras in each of our stories become main characters.  Random places and events become major set pieces where our lives are forever altered.  Random or not, by coincidence or design, our lives are subject to intersections.


Pick up your copies of the Snow Swept Trilogy today!  Free and discounted for the Kindle or Kindle App.  Also available in paper on AmazonBarnes and Noble, or wherever books are sold!

Friday, August 21, 2015

Attack of the Crab Monsters!

We like classic horror movies in my family, and while the following story isn't about this particular gem, the movie did come to mind as I sat down to write this post.  See, from a very young age, my kids have been fascinated with stories like Attack of the Crab Monsters, or the Creature From the Black Lagoon.  I think this is partly because I like these stories, and much to my wife's chagrin, my kids have grown to like them as well.

But their love of the fantastical doesn't stop with classic movie monsters--their imaginations are pretty impressive. They come up with all sorts of stories and imaginary scenarios.  From intergalactic unicorns to goblin fairies.  It's really fun, watching them play and and create art from their imaginations.

Just this last week, my son wrote a book for which he is now seeking publication:

This morning, my oldest daughter gave me some character sketches this morning for a story that she wants to write:

And while my youngest daughter's ambitions are not quite as evolved as those of her older siblings, she can tell a story that packs a wallop.  In fact, her entire reality seems to blend with the imaginary world around her.  (The unicorn in the backyard is really there, and her name is Charlie--which is short for Charlotte.  Charlie keeps away the evil Toad Monster that lurks under the bushes.)  My wife and I have gotten so used to her stories about imaginary creatures and events, that it sometimes becomes difficult for us to realize when she is actually telling the truth.

For instance, when our oldest daughter began school, she and her classmates took care of a hermit crab as a class pet. Our youngest daughter was so enamored with the hermit crab, that she would often talk about the crab that she would have as a class pet when she was in preschool.

Well, she started school this last week, and has been telling us about their class pet, which happened to be a hermit crab named Herman.  We smiled and nodded, thinking that this was just another one of her reality-bending stories.  We even had a sit down conversation with her about telling the truth.  She insisted that Herman was real (as real as Charlie).

My wife accompanied her to school yesterday and found that her class does indeed take care of a hermit crab named Herman.  We were surprised, and a little sad that we hadn't taken her more seriously.  But even then, I guess it's possible that the crab was actually just a projection of her imagination.

Hence the crab monsters.  And we have come full circle...

On another note, Chapter Seven of Monarch is now up on over at the Campfire.  Read on and enjoy!