Tag Archives: authors

Old Sol’s Moodiness and Being a Character In a Book

In case you’re one of those people who hasn’t been staring at the sun, here’s a brief update before I tell you about an interesting tidbit in my life:  Finding myself a character in a ‘memoir’ [actually a novel] written by my step-brother published as non-fiction.  But important things first:

From http://spaceweather.com/

Here he is November 28:

As you can see, the south pole stuff’s maintaining itself, still doing what it was doing when I last mentioned it.

Here’s today.

Still something going on down there, but the grandstanding is still north of the equator.


SINUOUS SUNSPOTS: A line of sunspots stretching across the sun’s northern hemisphere appears to be an independent sequence of dark cores. A telescope tuned to the red glow of solar hydrogen, however, reveals something different. The sunspots are connected by sinuous filaments of magnetism:

“These sunspots writhe and squirm energetically as they rotate away from us!” says John Nassr, who took the picture on Nov. 28th from his backyard observatory in Baguio, the Philippines.

The connections suggest an interesting possibility. While each sunspot individually poses little threat for strong solar flares, an instability in one could start a chain reaction involving all, leading to a widespread eruption. Readers with solar telescopes are encouraged to monitor developments.

I could write a lot about this but none of it would necessarily be true, so I’m doing my best not to have an opinion while keeping my foot in the door for afterward saying “I told you so,” if I can get by with it.

Okay.  Now for the main thrust of this post.  Before beginning the post I visited the Bobby Jack Nelson Forum on Amazon to see what was being said about him: http://tinyurl.com/7zj2la3

A while back I got an email on an old email address I rarely check anymore from a lady who wanted to discuss my step-brother, Bobby Jack Nelson.  She explained he’d offed himself in a nursing home in San Saba, Texas, and that she’d had a long-term relationship with him. 

But Bob had told her a lot of things she’d begun to think were lies.  She just wanted to bounce some of them off me because she knew he and I had associated considerably during the 1980s and early 1990s when he was writing Keepers – A Memoir. http://tinyurl.com/d82tcsk.

 To be honest the whole thing qualified as strange enough to keep life worth living.  Bob and I saw quite a bit of one another during those years, and I knew he was writing a novel about, among other things, his childhood in Portales, New Mexico.  I considered him a friend.

 But one day in the late-1990s [as soon as the novel had been accepted by a publishing house, I later discovered] while I was living in Socorro, New Mexico, I got a call from Bob.  He didn’t mention the novel, but he said he was going off to South America and wouldn’t be returning to the US, so I wouldn’t be hearing any more from him.

I got reports from various mutual acquaintances they’d seen him in Texas here and there, so I figured he just wanted to break off our association, which was puzzling, but okay by me.  Then I got a call from a Dallas reporter asking what I thought of the book, which I hadn’t been aware was published.

 Naturally, I bought and read a copy.  Suddenly it was clear to me why the reporter had called me, but also why Bob had suddenly taken a powder.  My first reaction to reading it would have been to trip up to that mountain town he was staying in while writing it and beat hell out of him.

I was honestly dumbfounded the man could bring himself to publish such a pack of lies as non-fiction.  But a person would have had to have been there, or remembered what he’d said back earlier had happened, to recognize there was barely a grain of truth in any of it.

Gradually I cooled down and just forgot about Bob until the lady contacted me to tell me he was dead, and how he’d died.

We exchanged a lot of emails over several months, and it was a journey of mutual discovery.  But the discoveries came in the form of Bob being an even worse liar than I’d have thought possible knowing already he was an accomplished liar.  And for her, not knowing he was a liar at all, I suppose it provided her some closure to find the man she loved, somewhat idolized, was in awe of, was not the person she’d believed him to be.

 Oddly enough, I think Bob tried to warn me a number of times about himself.  Several times he told me over the years that he was a liar, but I didn’t grasp the extent of what he was saying.  Other times he told me he wasn’t what I thought he was, and I shrugged that off, too.

But what came as a shock to me, first with the book, and later with what the lady told me, was that Bob absolutely despised me.  That, I’d have never guessed during the years I wasted pieces of my life associating with him in what seemed a mutually warm, friendly relationship.

Live and learn.

Old Jules


Greg Bear – The Forge of God – Book Review

Greg Bear gave himself a hefty job of work for this 473 page tome.  The subject is the arrival of aliens on the surface of the earth, the gradual discovery of their motive to ‘eat’ the planet, and the reactions of science and politicos as the realization becomes certainty.

In some ways the internal plotting resembles Heinlein’s, The Puppet Masters, in others, Larry Niven’s, Lucifer’s Hammer.  However, if you’re a reader who finds himself studying the characterization as the author develops it, the tool used in furthering the plot, you might find this one a bit annoying.

Although Greg Bear’s handling of the plot requires the introduction of a lot of characters for the reader to attempt to keep track of, he does a fairly craftsman-like job.  He’s obviously aware of the problem and uses a lot of internal plotting to provide the reader with anchors of segment  for each of them to assist.  If he hadn’t been a workmanlike writer he’d never have succeeded as well as he did, which isn’t to say he succeeded completely.  Greg Bear’s skill at characterization kept the work from becoming a complete disaster.

The plot develops rather slowly, and to keep the interest of the reader the author introduces a number of not-often-used event features as crucial pieces of his plot.  This served in my instance to keep me determined to finish the book. 

The concepts Greg Bear introduces are compelling enough to cause me to pause in the reading about 2/3 of the way through to allow some digestion of it all before continuing.  There was no temptation to leave it alone after a day, but I found when I returned I found I already had to reorient myself, reacquaint myself with the individuals connected to names among his multitude of characters, briefly re-study which sub-plot I’d absented myself from when I stopped to contemplate what he was doing.

I believe authors could gain a lot of benefit by carefully studying Bear’s handling of a complex plot broken constantly by updating internal, brief sub-plots, and constant shuffling a population of characters within.  Before reading the book I might have thought it was an impossible task.  After reading it I’d conclude it was merely improbable in a Tolstoyesque sort of way.

I’ve pondered how he might have done it better, considering the task he set for himself, and haven’t thought of any way it could have been done without removing some of the sub-plots, which he’d made essential to the overall plot development.  A trap he’s too competent an author to have caught himself in unaware.

Too busy might be how I’d describe the book, but still compelling enough to cause the reader to work hard to struggle through.  At least some patient readers.

Old Jules

Food, Books and Other town stuff

FOOD:  There’s an all-you-can-eat pizza joint where you get all the salad you want, a drink and a selection of all kinds of pizza slices as many times as you go back for them and as many kinds as you want for $5.00.  You wouldn’t believe how much salad and pizza a person can eat in an hour-or-so.

Only trouble is I always feel sort of bloated and sometimes have stomach cramps after I eat there.  Maybe it’s something in the food.

Thrift Store 25 cent books acquired:

A Canticle for Leibowitz – Walter M. Miller:  Good SF I read every 10 years or so.

Rebel – Bernard Cornwell – I like Cornwell fairly well but I haven’t read this one.  Civil War historical fiction

Quick Silver – Clark Howard – Never heard of the author.  Taking potluck on this one.

Double Jeopardy – Colin Forbes –  Another potluck.  Never heard of the author.

The Heart of the Matter – Graham Greene – I might have read this one sometime.  But the only Graham Greene I’ve ever not liked was Brighton Rock, required reading in some English course.

The Name of the Rose – Umberto Eco –  Time I read this one again. 

High Sorcery – Andre Norton – I might have read it 40 years ago.  Usually liked Andre Norton.

Fuzz – Ed McBain – Potluck.  Never heard of him.  Looks like an extortion, cops and robbers yarn.

The Third Man – Graham Greene – Once more before I die.

Hobbit and others – JRR Tolkien – Hell, for .25 why not one more time?

Foucault’s Pendulum – Umberto Eco – I dunno if I can do this one again.  I ain’t as young as I used to be.

The Blue Hammer – Ross Macdonald – I read all these 30 years ago, loved them but ran spang out.  Nice finding this one.

The Forge of God – Greg Bear – Never heard of him.  Appears to be SF.

Flashman at the Charge – George Mcdonald Frazer – Sheeze.  I love finding these.  I must have read the entire Flashman series a dozen times over the decades.  They never grow old.

Old Jules


Long Day Journey Into an Ant Bed

I should have known this was coming yesterday when I took a nap and kept noticing a few things crawling on me occasionally.  But I was preoccupied with musing about other goings on. 

Then last night I went in there to rest a few minutes and conked out, only to be awakened around midnight-thirty with a lot of things crawling on me.  Pretty much all at once, doing a little stinging here and there.

That half of the bed is taken up by upwards of a hundred books, some read already, some partway through the experience of being read, some waiting to be read, some held for re-reading.    They’re usually not enough of a problem to outweigh the advantage of having a book near at hand when I need something to read.  But when I turned the light on, here’s what I saw last night:

It’s not the first time that’s happened and I could have prevented further invasion if I’d been paying closer attention.  I keep a container of boric acid powder nearby and usually try to do a pre-emptive strike on them on a fairly regular basis.  But it requires taking the layers upon layers of books off and squirting the boric acid powder all over the underlying bed surface.

This, I’m reluctant to do, because everything gets disorganized and I lose track of which things have already been read, which are waiting to be read, which are occupied holding something else up, and generally where things are.

So they sneaked up on me.  I had to do it in the middle of the night with no pre-planning, no organization at all.

Sheeze.  Now it’s chaos in there.


9:30 AM edit:

Heck, I might as well add this since I’ve got them there together now.  Here are a couple of authors I’ve come across lately I’ve enjoyed a lot.

They’re thrift store books, so I’m not certain you could find them easily, but both authors have an interesting approach, plotting is tight, characterization’s good, and they hold the attention well. 

Upfield writes about an aboriginal who’s an Australian police homicide detective and his mystery solvings, along with his ethnic difficulties trying to do his job in that setting, along with his internal struggles demanding he go back to being a bushman.  Good reads.

Alexander’s a completely different bag of tricks.  He’s created a blind brother to Henry Fielding, author of Tom Jones, who’s a magistrate-cum-detective in London.  His characters include Dr. Johnson, whores, a pirate, poets, actors, and all manner of peasantry.  The narrator is actually a ‘Boswell’ sort relating the activities and events, a young teenager taken off the streets.

I don’t have enough distance from the Alexander books yet to decide whether it’s his unique and innovative setting, plotting and characterization intrigues me so much about him, or whether he’s also a damned good author.

Old Jules

11:20 AM edit:

Heck, I might as well add these since everything’s screwed up in there anyway:

Mari Sandoz – Crazy Horse, and Old Jules.  Mari’s my daughter in a previous lifetime.  Her biography of Crazy Horse is better than a lot of others about him.  Her biography of me during that lifetime is as good as you’d expect from a daughter.

Doug Stanton, In Harm’s Way is the hair-raising account of the sinking of the USS Indianapolis during the last days of WWII, and the ordeals of the survivors in shark infested waters off the coast of Japan.

Dan van der Vat, The Pacific Campaign is nothing to write home about. Of the thousand-or-so books following the steps, events, tactics and strategies of the Pacific War this one ranks in the bottom third,in my estimation.

Lauro Martines, Fire in the City, is a narrative of the strange and
surprising emergence of Friar Girolamo Savonarola in Rennaisance Florence.  So little attention has been paid this fascinating man and time it’s worth the read even if you aren’t crazy about Martines’s particular style of writing and his method of organizing his material.

Erosion of Human Values

If you’re in the Northern hemisphere and you look to the south to the constellation Centaurus tonight you might view Alpha Centauri.  4.5 light years away.  The nearest star to this one claiming ownership of us and our planet.

That’s right.  About the time the light from Alpha Centauri was leaving home on the journey to your eye, all that clothing you see in the photo was sparkling new sitting on shelves in stores, racking up cash register numbers and causing people to have to frown at the bills at the end of the month.  Now every item hanging there is worth less than a US dollar.  Nobody likes products produced when the light from Alpha Centauri was just cranking up the engine, gunning the motor and heading here.

Weirdly, the value of everything around you reflects what I’m describing.  Doesn’t matter whether it’s a toaster, a washing machine, an automobile, frequently even a marriage.

Face it.  That stuff you’re buying won’t be worth squat when the light starting from Alpha Centauri today reaches here.

Maybe you’re humanocentric and think that’s lousy behavior on the part of a star, or maybe you’re one of those apologists who blame it on humanity, or Old Sol.  But either way, you’re not looking at the worst case.

Consider Vega.

Northwest sky, bright, 25 light years.  “Nothing wrong with Vega,” a person might think.  But you’d be wrong.  Almost everything people yearned and bankrupted themselves buying in 1986, when Vega was sending out the light you’ll see tonight, is in landfills and junkyards.  Owning something manufactured when that light was leaving Vega’s worse than owning something manufactured in the USSR on Monday or Friday.

But there’s a lot more.  When Vega was shooting that dot of light at your rods and cones writers were pounding away on typewriters and computers months at a time cranking out manuscripts, publishers running them up to the tops of the lists, creating tomes of gigantic lasting importance.  But Vega took care of that, too:

New York Times Best Seller Number Ones Listing
Not one stayed around until that light from Vega reached here.

Lie Down with Lions by Ken Follett (Morrow) – February 16, 1986

The Bourne Supremacy by Robert Ludlum (Random House) – March 9, 1986

A Perfect Spy by John le Carré (Knopf) – May 4, 1986

I’ll Take Manhattan by Judith Krantz (Crown) – June 8, 1986

Last of the Breed by Louis L’Amour (Bantam) – June 22, 1986

Wanderlust by Danielle Steel (Delacorte) – July 20, 1986

Red Storm Rising by Tom Clancy (Putnam) – August 17, 1986

It by Stephen King (Viking) – September 14, 1986

Whirlwind by James Clavell (Morrow) – November 23, 1986

You can buy any one of them for a quarter, sometimes a dime at the Salvation Army Thrift Store.


Computers?  When Vega was spitting out that dot of light you see here’s what was happening:

Microsoft releases MS-DOS3.2. It adds support for 3.5-inch 720 kB floppy disk drives. [130] (December 1995 [146]) (March [346.254])

Apple Computer introduces the Macintosh Plus. It features a 8 MHz 68000 processor, 1 MB RAM, SCSI connector for hard drive support, a new keyboard with cursor keys and numeric keypad, and an 800 kB 3.5-inch floppy drive. Price is US$2600. It is the first personal computer to provide embedded SCSI support. [46] [75] [120] [140] [180.222] [203.68] [346.167] [346.268] [593.350] [597.94] [611.41] [750.49]

Lotus Development announces it would support Microsoft Windowswith future product releases. [1133.22]

Microsoft releases MS-DOS3.25. [346.268]

Two months after releasing Microsoft Windows, Microsoft has shipped 35,000 copies. [1133.22]

The first virus program for the IBM PC appears, called the Brain. It infects the boot sector of 360 kB floppy disks. [1230.56] [1805.23] (1987 [1260.193])

IBM announces the IBM RT Personal Computer, using RISC-based technology from IBM’s “801” project of the mid-70s. It is one of the first commercially-available 32-bit RISC-based computers. The base configuration has 1 MB RAM, a 1.2 MB floppy, and 40 MB hard drive, for US$11,700. (With performance of only 2 MIPS, it is doomed from the beginning.) [31] [116] [205.114] [329.129] [1311] [1391.D1]

Compaq Computer introduces the Compaq Portable II. [108]

Tandy debuts the Tandy Color Computer, with 64 kB RAM. It is the successor to the Color Computer 2. [1133.21]

AT&T creates the first silicon fabrication of its CRISP architecture CPU, incorporating 172,163 transistors, and operating at 16 MHz. [660.6]

Apple Computer introduces the Macintosh 512K Enhanced, for US$2000. It features an 8 MHz 68000 processor, 512 kB RAM, and 800 kB 3.5-inch floppy drive. [46] [75] [597.94]


Seen any of that stuff lately?  No.  It’s all deep in attics, closets, garages, or in the city dumps.

But when you look up there at Vega, that’s what you’re seeing.  All that stuff shiny and new gleaming in the eyes of you back then, packaged up for birthdays, anniversaries, Christmas.  Happy faces. 

The erosion of human values following a straight line between Vega and your optic nerve.  All that stuff listed above, the cars, the computers, the books, people worked their asses off to manufacture it and others worked their asses off to buy it all. 

But that time lag between Vega and here screwed it all.  Rendered it worthless.

I’m not partisan on this, not pointing fingers of blame at Vega.  I don’t know whether it’s the fault of Vega, or whether it’s a conspiracy concocted by the same people who assassinated President Kennedy back when the light you see when you look at 19 Draconis or Alpha Cephei was leaving home.

Sirius, Procyon and Altair stuff

Old Jules

Simon & Garfunkel – Leaves That Are Green


Shadowcats and Sugar Pills

I glanced out the window and saw this:

Niaid was curled up on the bed, [I double-checked] so whatever else that critter was, it was an outsider.  The chickens were ranging free and I couldn’t hear any alarm from them, but this guy just looked too big to have roaming around without interruption.

As I came around the cabin where I could see him better:

It was obvious the feline was operating out of a different reality.  Which didn’t necessarily mean he didn’t need to be the focus of protective measures.  But how does a person protect his chickens from a shadow-cat?  I’ve done some websearching on the various news sites and checked out the methods incorporated by the US Government into programs to avoid having shadow-cats disrupting citizen-like critters such as these:

The consensus seems to be you have to get one of these:

No matter what the cost.

I’m not certain I want to have one of those running around here loose, even when I have dangerous shadowcats skulking around peeking at my holdings.

Once something of that sort gets a foothold there’s no predicting where it will end:

Sugar pills in toy jars
Candy counter cures
For the sensory deprived
For the spirit that yearns hardship
Facade struggle for the
Stagely frightened
Sedentary soul

Living a reality
Where gangster boss of fantasy
Celluloid deeds and words
Are worth repeating;
Gladiator wars in plastic armor
Oaken clubs and pigskin missiles
Pudding danger jello struggles
Hard and real inside the mind
Inside the molded plastic
Toy of the mind

Man who cleans the windshield
At the signal is an actor
In the show last night
Sexy girls dancing
In the background
As he postures
Rag and bucket
On the glass

Toy hero pushes button
In the Kevlar coated dragon
Of the field
Sees the enemy extinguished
In a prophylactic
Box of evening news
Before and after
Old war movies
All the same

Any loss is accidental
Cost of war’s
In higher taxes
Salaries for heroes
Fuel bullets
Not in blood
Not in blood
Sterile sealed
In plastic baggies
Plastic baggies
Hold the artificial
Of the life
When life was real

Yet the sickness
Needs a remedy and cure

Sugar pills in toy bottles;
New candy counter pudding
For the soul.

Old Jules
Copyright NineLives Press, 2004

Off the Shelf: What I’ve Been Reading

The nearest town, 15 miles away, has started a library, so I paused in my various re-readings off my own bookshelves to check out library books.   I was familiar with some of the authors I began with, but it had been a long time since reading them.

Elmore Leonard–  I ran through a plethora of his books in a short time.. everything the library had.  I’ve never read a book by the man I didn’t like, whether it’s the westerns he began with, or the detective stories that later became his tour de force.  I recommend him to anyone in danger of doing some light reading.  However, I came across one that’s unlike any Elmore Leonard I’ve ever read.  The Touch.  Those of you into metaphysics and healing would probably find it of interest.  It’s the best handling of the stigmata phenomenon, guru-ism, and commercial evangelism that I’ve ever read.

Rudolpho Anaya– This guy came highly recommended by the librarian.  Sorry, folks.  I came away thinking some editor somewhere dropped the ball on the three books I checked out.  Loose sloppy writing, wordy, rambling.  I suspect editors are a lot more forgiving of ethnic writers  and mooshy metaphysical gawdawful rambling flashbacks these days than when I dealt with them as a writer.  150 pages of Rudolpho Anaya would have benefited by a lot of cutting and brutal rewriting, and still ended up with maybe 75 pages worth the time.  Maybe.

Nevada Barr– Never heard of her, but I thought I’d give it a try.  Checked out three books, made it twenty-five pages into one and declared, “No more!”

Elizabeth M. Cosin– I check a couple of these out because the first one was named Zen and the City of Angels.  I’m willing to try what I don’t know, and the name of the yarn brought back pleasant memories of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.  Checked out two.  Score, zero-two.  They’ll go back in hopes someone else can struggle through them.

Poul Anderson– checked out The Stars are Also Fire because I recall liking Anderson’s work several decades ago.  The Boat of a Million Years comes to mind.  It was a fine work.  However, this Stars are Fire piece seems to me to be the work of a person who needed to smoke some weed to get his mind back, or a manuscript written early in his career, a dead turkey no publisher would touch by an unknown writer, dragged up out of the files and published as a pot-boiler hack to raise grocery and whiskey money, riding the name of the later, more competent Poul Anderson.  I’m 67 pages into it, debating with myself whether to drop the effort and read some William Soroyan off my own shelf until I get back to the library tomorrow.

I’d like to point out to you that the sentence-before-the-last in the previous paragraph is five lines long.  Count’em.  Five.

No good writer would put a sentence that long on a page where some poor human might read it.

Old Jules
Reading Increases the Imagination:

Vietcong Seductress, et al

Hi blogsters:
Sometimes trying to piece together our lives can be quite a chore.  Peaceful Warrior posted something on one of the groups about the way his name has been a problem to him, and it got me thinking about it.
I was given a name at birth that nobody since has been able to pronounce.  They followed that with another one nobody’d ever heard of.  So when I exited that burg at the age of 15 or so, I left those two names behind and became Jack for most purposes.
But as a struggling young writer in the late ’60s I found myself needing yet another handle…. I was writing for the hairy-chested men magazines… Men, For Men Only, a genre of magazines that vanished by the mid-1970s.
They usually had a picture on the cover of a Marine with a machete struggling with python wrapped around a half-naked woman in some jungle.  That sort of thing.
Well, fact was, in those days I thought there was half-a-chance I’d want to be president, or try to get a decent job sometime.  Didn’t want stories like, Viet-Cong Seductress, or The Half-Million Dollar Sex Salon The Texas Rangers Can’t Find following old Jack around the remainder of his life.
Adopted the pseudonym, Frank C. Riley, which worked well enough.
Then the market collapsed for hairy-chested men stories.  Best paying hack-writer market left was something called ‘Confession‘ mags, which must have been read by the mothers of Romance Novel readers of today.  I figured, what the hell.
Popped out  I Was An Outlaw Motorcycle Mama, sent it off, got a nice letter back telling me there was a middling amount of what they read they liked, but that I needed to work on my female perspective a bit.  Eventually they published it, but they never bought another, though I tried.  But unless I’m mistaken, Motorcycle Mama was the only time I ever succeeded in passing myself off as a woman.  Only time I really ever tried, during that confessions market thing.
Amazing the things a man will do for money.

Old Jules

Hack Writing

“Give me a 750 word
How crushed ice
Can be used
On construction sites
To slow the cooling

And surface cracking
Of freshly poured
Make it lively
Make it dance

I want it yesterday
We’ll argue
Three months from now
When you see the check.”

“Give me 2000 words
To titillate
Give me that whorehouse
That famous Chicken Ranch
In La Grange, Texas.
I want pockets picked
I want gonorrhea
I want luscious hookers
And hints of corruption
Deep in Texas
Law enforcement

I want it yesterday
We’ll argue
Three months from now
When you see the check.”

“I want 2000 words
Something about
Beautiful Vietcong seductresses
Luring innocent GIs
To bed and death
In some stinking thatched hut
With pigs squealing outside
I want to see her despair
Her soul searching
As she discovers she loves him

I want a hint of non-fiction.

We’ll argue
Three months from now
When you see the check.”

“I want a poem
About how you feel
When your lover
Jilts you
In favor of someone
Of his own sex
And begins
Taking hormones.

I want the word
Used in every
Third line.

No pay
You just have
The pleasure
And satisfaction
Of doing what I
Told you to.
To help you
Get used to the feel
Of being a writer”

From “Poems of the New Old West”, NineLives Press, Copyright 2003

The Beatles– Paperback Writer