Monday, May 30, 2011

Not In Vain (Minstrel Mondays)

It's Memorial Day in these United States, and that means we should take some time out of our busy day and reflect upon the sacrifices that have been made, and continue to be made, by those brave men and women who serve in America's armed forces.  They serve with honor and distinction for low pay and benefits, and so many have paid the ultimate price to preserve America's sovereignty and promote liberty abroad.

Years ago, I wrote a curious little poem about a soldier who falls in battle.  I present it today as a tribute to Veterans and their families.

General George Washington

There I stood at the turn of midnight.
I would make the world remember my plight.
I never wanted to die a vain and sorrowful death.

So I came to this place on the edge of the sea,
to fight our enemies in the time of need.
I hadn't thought about consequences,
about the troubles it could cause.
If I happened to bite it now
It would hurt my love.
I'm sorry she forgot my pride.

Here was my shot at eternity.
No turning back like some fools I'd seen.
No where to run, no chance to flee;
to disgrace my honor as my brothers cried
I'd rather die.

I went about it, trying to stay alive
I'd never give in to the fear in my eyes
This moment I'd sought, when I’d been just a child
I never thought, never imagined,
it could be so bad.
And it made me sad to say goodbye.

This world is ever in need of heroes;
people who risk themselves
to make it safe for all others,
at the expense of their own lives.
If I had had a second dream,
I'd have stayed with my love,
and been a common man,
so I wouldn't die.
Not in vain.

It was down to the wire,
I was out in the open
when the tank shells came blasting,
the loud sound of cannons.
Glass it shattered and flesh it burned,
the people they cried,
for all their lives,
so insane.

I woke upon that sand again,
the ocean tide soaked my bleeding veins.
The people around me, they seemed so distant
as I gave out my final breath.
And so I sang a verse to them,
an antiquated stanza of forgotten prose,
I told them not to worry,
that I would be all right.
I could never die.

As I faded to sleep,
away from this stage,
I had to get home,
so I hopped on the spiritual wave.
I rode the currents until I found it,
this wondrous place I'd always seen
in my mind's eye,
when I was about to die.

I came back to you just to say goodbye,
and I heard you sigh.
And I saw that tear drop from your eye.
Please don't you cry for me, my dear,
just remember I died
not in vain.

You'll love again,
and I'll be there.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Meet The Urechs

Here's a little hunk of family on my mother's side; the Urechs of Switzerland.  I haven't been able to trace the line too far back, only into the early 1800's, and this is a common occurrence when dealing with immigrant families.  It seems a lot of European countries either didn't keep the greatest records, or it's difficult to connect relatives who move to the States with those who stayed back in the old country.  Then again, it might be that a lot of the information hasn't been digitized, and I'm not able to go digging into foreign archives.  I've had some luck on certain lines from England and Germany, though.

As I mentioned, the Urechs came from Switzerland.  The earliest relative I've been able to identify is John Rudolf Urech, my 3x great grandfather, and the son of John Urech and Suzanna Karper.  He was born September 14, 1839 in Aargau.  He moved to Ohio sometime before the Civil War, and married Minnie Mary Smith on February 15, 1864 in Cuyahoga County.

John & Minnie Urech had four daughters, the first being Adella Emma (b. August 6, 1864 /Died March 14, 1943)-The proximity of their marriage to the birth of their first child may suggest they had premarital relations.  Their other children were Elizabeth (b. 1867), Ada Belle (my 2x great grandmother, b. December 23, 1870), and Effie (b. 1871 /Died December 16, 1963).

Adella Urech married a man named Malva Morris Daniels (b. June 1863 /Died November 2, 1941), on July 9, 1888.  They had two sons, Roger Urech Daniels (b. November 20, 1891 /Died October 6, 1918 in Miami, Florida), and Edgar Eugene Daniels (b. July 27, 1893 /Died September 1966).

Elizabeth Urech became a school teacher, and from what I've gathered, it seems she never married.  She was still single and living alone in 1930.

Effie Urech married Charles Mills Terrell (b. October 15, 1870 /Died July 1, 1926).  They moved to Miami, Florida, where their daughter Mary was born in 1914.  Last I heard, Mary was still alive, living somewhere in Vermont.  That is an amazing thing to think about, that my great-grandfather's first cousin might still be alive today.

Okay, getting back to my own line:  Ada Belle Urech married Ira Rogers Nelson (b. January 3, 1863 in Toledo, Ohio /Died November 13, 1932) on March 22, 1886.  They had 4 children that I've been able to identify:
Edward F. (b. December 3, 1888 /Died September 1968),
Mary Alice (my great-grandmother, b. January 22, 1893 /Died September 28, 1974),
Ira R. Jr. (b. June 1895)
Adelaide (b. 1908)

It's clear that Ira and Effie Nelson moved around a bit (work related, I'd guess).  Edward was born in Montana, Mary Alice and Ira were born back in Ohio, and Adelaide was born in New Jersey.

Edward F. Nelson married a woman named Aula sometime in the Teens, and they had at least 2 children:  Edward (b. 1917), and Ruth (b. 1919).

Mary Alice Nelson married Julius John Kirton in 1917, as I previously stated in my Kirton blog post here.

I haven't been able to find out anything else about Ira or Adelaide.

So, there's the Urech line, which merged with the Nelson line, which merged with the Kirton line.  In conclusion, I'll leave you with this fine family photograph, of John & Minnie Urech with their daughters.  It was taken sometime in the late 1880's by my estimation, and it is one of the many pictures that spurred me to research my family history.  It's nice to place where a face belongs in your own past.

Top (left to right): Effie, Ada Belle, Elizabeth
Bottom: Della, John R., Minnie Mary

Friday, May 27, 2011

Staying Positive

It seems lately that quite a few of my blog posts have been coming out on a negative vibe.  It's not that I like to complain, but there always seems to be something bad to talk about, or some event that is weighing heavily upon my heart.  Perhaps it's the Irish in me, always seeking injustice to nag about.  Either way, I've got to balance the negatives with the positives, because we can't have all doom and gloom every day, can we?

There are plenty of happy things I can talk about.  For one, I'll have a new short story appearing on the Hall Brothers Entertainment website in July.  "The Patriot Awakened" will be appearing as a special Independence Day short on their site, and you'll all be able to read it for free.  The story takes place in the distant future, where civilization has returned to simpler, feudal times and technology.  There'll be a Robin Hood like figure who fights to liberate the oppressed peoples and put an end to the corrupt rulers.  I'll leave it at that.  If you want more, you'll just have to check it out in July!

On a more personal side, I have 3 healthy children I can be grateful for, and a faithful wife who is always supportive.  Physically, I may be fat and sore, but so far I don't have any real ailments.  There's plenty of food on the table, and an ample roof over my head.  Compared to a lot of people, I have a very charmed life, so how's that for a glass half full?

I like to keep the good things in mind, even when I'm complaining, though it's easy to get sucked into the negative zone.  Writing is a moody profession, after all.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Poll Results: Stargate & Your Life

We had 12 votes in our latest poll, so that's a good improvement.  It's double the number who voted in our Robin Hood poll, so I guess Stargate was a little more interesting for my readers.

The results came out thusly:
What is your favorite version of Stargate?
Stargate SG-1: 6 votes
Atlantis:  1 vote
Universe: 3 votes
The Original Movie: 2 votes

So with precisely 50% of the vote, it is clear that the 10-seasons of SG-1 captured more people's favor than the other choices.  Not surprising.

This week's poll takes on a more serious subject matter, namely, if you could pick one desirable attribute to add to your life, what would it be?  For the purposes of this question, imagine you're actually given a choice (unlike the real world).

Let's keep the poll running.  Invite your friends to vote!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Assignment in Eternity -By Robert A. Heinlein (Review)

Like many sci-fi fans over the years, I must say that my favorite writer is Robert A. Heinlein.  I first read Citizen of the Galaxy as a teenager, and I was instantly hooked on his fantastic tales.  I've read almost everything he wrote, and while there were a few low points (as with any prolific writer), the vast majority of his books and short stories are pure gold.

Assignment in Eternity is one of his few selections which had eluded me until recently.  It's a collection of four novellas he wrote in the 1940's.  They were published in different pulp magazines of the day.

Like many of Heinlein's stories, these are a little dated, with technology and sociological events which haven't quite come true.  He also uses his mind-over-matter plot device a lot in these stories.  We see the mind used to perform unimaginable tasks, such as crossing time, traveling to alternate realities, and even stopping the aging process, all by force of will and mental suggestion.  These metaphysical elements prove to be a set of prototypes, as they resurface in some of his future books and stories.  We also see some social conjecture about slavery, and the value of life, which may have been new back in the day, but is very old and familiar today.

As a Heinlein fan, it was nice to read something else by the Grand Master, though I can't say these stories were anything special.  In fact, I wouldn't recommend them for your average reader who isn't already familiar with Heinlein's work.  While they are halfway decent, they're nowhere near his best, and as such should be sampled only after someone is already hooked by other, more exciting and relevant tales.

I rate this one 3.5 out of 5 stars.  It's by no means as bad as For Us, The Living, but it's no Glory Road or Methuselah's Children, either.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Doomsday Is Always Tomorrow

Well, here it is, May 23, 2011.  So much for the doomsday predictions of all the gullible souls and false prophets (or should I say "Profits") who said the 21st would be the day of Rapture.  Yet again, the people of Earth have been given a reprieve, a stay of execution by the almighty.  Praise God!

I often laugh at these doomsday prophesies.  The world will surely end tomorrow, so you'd better send your money right away to Honest Martin's Salvation Station, to secure your seat beside God's throne.  It's only $19.95, and your donation is tax deductible!  Talk about a bargain; you can screw the government and buy your way into heaven all with one payment!

Yes, I can get pretty cynical at times, but I don't believe any human being knows exactly when the world will end.  The bible itself says as much (for those who actually read what they worship).  Those who say, "The end will come December 21st, 2012 at 3:35 AM Eastern Standard Time," are phonies, and I really wish people would stop rewarding their chicanery.  These doomsday preachers are always rolling in the dough, which just goes to prove the old P.T. Barnum saying, "There's a sucker born every minute."

Hey, if you've got money to give away, send it to me.  I could use it a heck of a lot more.  Now, on to the little poem I wrote for this grand occasion: The 2nd day after doomsday!

The world's gonna end
So the man says
Time to bow down and pray
You know he can't be wrong
Because his tie is so long
And his grin is worth a hundred grand

Doomsday, repent!
It's all over town
The end-days are here again
God's coming to claim his crown
Behold, God on high is going to
Rapture everyone tonight
Yes, we know the hour
Our televangelist must be right
How else could he offer us salvation
At such a discounted price?

The good book says
You'll never know the time
Yet the preacher says it's now
Death guaranteed for the unsaved heathens
And peaceful pastures for the faithful eternally
Just so long as you sign your house over
To the man with the doomsday sermon
For you won't need all that worldly wealth
Once you've been rightly raptured
Give up your gold to the prophet of the pulpit
And salvation will be yours
What will he do with it?
God only knows, but you know
He's got it coming to him

What of your pets?
They won't be raptured yet!
If you leave as rightly you should
They'll starve to death, for shame
Those poor little fuzzy souls
Will still need man's protection
For only $134.99,
The heathen will provide!
Send your credit card number
To the pagan online
And your pets will thank you for it

All the past predictions
Were always proven wrong
But we know it's coming true this time
So cry the sheepish throng
The end of days has been coming tomorrow
Since the dawn of time
Yet still we remain blind

The year was 999
They knew the end was at hand
Crops went unplanted, for Christ was coming
So many starved to death in 1000
Who misinterpreted the sign?

In 1839, the time had come
Or so predicted preachers
Across the fruited plain
Yet financial slumps recovered
And the doomsday predictions faded
Once again

When Heaven's Gate caught their comet
The rest of us flew on
Yet suicide suffered many for
incorrectly following the fanatical phony
who castrated himself for fun

In 1999, Y2K spelled doom
Yet 2000 rolled around,
With nothing but stars and sky
The computers didn't care
That year zero had arrived
In their binary time

In 1994, a preacher cried the end times
And nobody seemed to notice
Yet after he does it time and time again
His church is worth 76 million
What suckers believe his falsehood still?
This is such a racket
To grow fat upon the prophecies
Of unfulfilled promises of death
Yet we go on living
Searching for the light

Get your false hope elsewhere
And let the charlatans taste their just reward

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Win A Free Book!

Last week, I lamented about the scourge of freeloaders who ask for books only to sell them.  Now, I'm moving forward and giving you a chance to win a free book.  There is no catch, and 1 person who enters my "Not For Resale" giveaway will win a 100% free copy of "Virtual Wiles," the first book I had published back in 2007, and the first novel in the Virtual Saga.

Win a free book
but don't try to
sell it afterwards!
Why the big change of heart, you ask?  Well, this copy that I'm giving away will be vandalized by the author.  Now, don't get all discouraged; the text won't be harmed in any way, and the exterior will still look attractive.  However, a couple of pages will be marked "Free Sample, Not For Resale," and there may be some threats of a thousand curses upon anyone greedy enough to attempt to sell it.  I'm not sure if this will stop the "hocksters," but it'll make them think twice.

If you are genuinely interested in reading this book, be sure to enter this giveaway!

How to enter:  Post a reply to this thread, asking to be included in the giveaway, or send an email to asking to be entered.  On June 4th, I'll put all of your names in a hat and draw the lucky winner at random.

I'll mail this free, promotional copy to anyone in the world, so don't worry if you're from out of the USA (man, I'm going to be so generous when it comes to postage expenses).

So there you have it!  Who wants to win this free reading material?  Speak up.

PS:  Although there are no strings attached, it would be most appreciated if you'd see fit to write a review of it afterwards (posted on Amazon, your blog, etc...), for that is the key to future sales.  Word of mouth is my largest need right now.

Friday, May 20, 2011

The Convoluted Time Travel Novel (update)

It's about time I shared some more writing news.

Work has resumed on "The Time Traveler's Illegal Harem," the novel I wrote for National Novel Writing Month last November.  While I won the contest by reaching 50,000 words with this work, it is far from complete in many respects, and after six months of letting it rest, I'm back at it, going over the manuscript to ready it for marketing.  It may take some time, as I'm tied up with other work at the moment, so it's a spare time project.

Due to the constraints of the NaNoWriMo contest, and the fact that I was working full days at the time, I couldn't write it as comprehensively as I had my previous novels.  I had to crank out almost 1,700 words a day to keep pace, and when you're coming in off various manual labor jobs, it can be difficult to produce quality literature so rapidly.  But I managed to cross the finish line a day early, and I now have the bulk of the work completed on this novel.

The key to success in NaNoWriMo is to not let yourself get bogged down.  That was the major hurdle I had to overcome, for there were places in this book where uncertainty got in the way.   I wasn't quite sure how to depict some scenes, so in order to keep up with the contest I skimmed over some things, and outright skipped others.  I knew what had to be written, but I needed more time to work out the particulars, so I moved on to other scenes which flowed at a steadier pace.  This left some holes in the manuscript, so now I have some bridging to do.

So, what's the story about?  It basically follows the lives of Temporal Agents who are fighting to restore the timeline.  Jack Baker woke up one day to find he had been erased from history, and ever since he has been trying to restore his future while dodging agents from an alternate version of the Temporal Agency, who believe he is meddling with time.  Meanwhile, there is a more sinister force behind radical alterations in history, an unknown agent who is creating a myriad array of strange pasts and futures.  During Jack's exploits through these divergent realities, he ends up collecting a lot of damsels in distress, many of whom become allies in his fight to fix time.  Though, his proclivity toward rescuing women gives the impression that he's recruiting a harem, hence the title.

It'll all come together eventually, and I'll keep you all up to date on things as they develop.  Stay tuned for more information about this exciting story.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Villas Colony Project

Years ago, I played an online game of sorts called NationStates, where people create fictional countries, and direct their development through a series of issues which come up.  It's not the most time-consuming thing (unless you get into the Role Playing or forum discussions), and I hadn't been there in years.  Though, the other day I came up with a new idea which the NS site could help me with.  I decided to create a nation based on Villas Colony, as seen in The Guns of Mars.

Villas Colony is one of the
key Martian settlements in
The Guns of Mars
Of course, the nation can't be a mirror of the first Martian colonies as they appear in Guns, as the game is designed for Earth-based nations with terrestrial problems.  However, I'm going to see how things go, addressing each issue the way Melinda  Faris and the ruling minds of Villas Colony would in my book.  It should be an interesting experience to see how things develop.

I invite you to keep an eye on Villas Colony, and see how it grows.  If you feel adventurous, you can always create your own nation, and see how much fun it can be (or find yourself bored out of your skull, it all depends on individual temperament).

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Stargate SG-1 Neophyte Guide (Season 2)

Here we are again, resuming my quest to recruit new viewers to the Stargate franchise.  As a quick disclaimer, I am in no way associated with MGM Studios and receive no monetary compensation for this recruitment drive (though if they really wanted to make some money, they'd hire me as head writer for a new Stargate series... yeah, keep dreaming).

Next Wednesday, I promise to have a review of something (book, movie, etc...), but I plan to keep going with these Stargate guides, as well.  The Season 3 guide will likely be posted next Tuesday or Thursday.

Reminder of the color coded ratings:

Red –Major continuity episode:  This is a Must-see episode, due to important story elements that impact the whole series in some way.

Green –Medium continuity episode:  These episodes have events with some impact on other, future episodes, but they can be skipped without totally losing focus on the storyline.  If you skip one of these, be sure to go back to it after the Red episodes get you hooked.

Blue –Minor continuity episode.  These may have some minor story elements that will impact something in the future of the series, but it's not that important.

Black –Non continuity episodes.  These stories are stand-alone episodes, which have no influence or bearing on the future of the series.

*Episodes I personally recommend, even if they aren't high priority for continuity.  These are ones I especially enjoyed.

Now, on to season 2:

The Serpent's Lair
In the Line of Duty
The Gamekeeper
Thor's Chariot
Message in a Bottle
The Tok'ra (Part 1)
The Tok'ra (Part 2)
A Matter of Time*
The Fifth Race
Serpent's Song
One False Step
Show and Tell
Out of Mind*

There we have it, Season 2 listed.  This season had a lot of minor story elements mixed into a lot of episodes, so it was tricky to rate some of them.  There are a few stories which could be given higher or lesser priority, based on individual points of view, but this should help those of you who are still new to the series.

Now, onward to Season 3!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Escape (Minstrel Mondays)

The dream of success, and the freedom granted through that achievement, is something that has always weighed heavily upon me.  The dream of breaking away from the mundane, and profiting from the fruits of the mind, now that's something to live for.  However, it remains elusive for me, as it does for so many others.  Here's a poem reflecting that wish, and the emotional struggle experienced in the attempt.

The harder you try
The harder you fall
But we've got to keep striving
To reach for the stars
You can't admit defeat
In the face of all that's happening
Somehow you've got to be
The brave soldier

Possible cover for a yet to be
assembled short story collection
by Martin T. Ingham

Someday it's all gonna come to an end
And you swear that it'll all come true
That your biggest mistake
Will be your saving grace
But how will that do for now
When you're left floundering
Desperate for space

When you look up
What do you see
A blazing ball of fire
Or lunar craters glowing
The truth of your ambition
Is a fading lie
Your lone salvation
Is waiting deep inside

Can you find that place
Where you might even escape
With the shirt off your back
Waving in the wind
To flee from their ambition
And journey to another land
Away from the rain and sand

I often have my doubts
If I'll ever get out
But it's pointless to sit and lie
In vain misery
Keep fighting the good fight
And dream of a miracle

*The proposed short story anthology of my work (cynically entitled "Nobody Reads Escapist Garbage") is currently on-hold, as I continue to work on different projects.  This book, should it ever be released, will hold a bunch of different tales, from a few of my earliest shorts, to sample chapters of unpublished manuscripts, author commentaries, and of course some fresh material I am still in the process of producing at the moment.  I'd like to find a real publisher for it, though I may end up self-publishing, since single author short story collections are so very hard to market.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

The French Connection

This Family Sunday column, I'll be exposing a branch of my family tree with roots leading back to France. In Maine, there is quite a bit of bigotry against the French, so it's not something everyone would admit, but I really don't care. I've known plenty of good people with French ancestry, and considering our new governor is LePage, I don't think the old hatreds mean much anymore.

My "Frenchness" comes from Jacques Pineaux, born circa 1667 in Lyons, France. He was a Huguenot who fled from his homeland at the age of 17, rather than face persecution and death at the hands of an intolerant Catholic establishment (The Edict of Nantes was revoked in 1685, thus depriving Huguenots of civil and religious liberties). I have not been able to discover who his parents were, though it's probable they were also Protestants, and possibly killed for their beliefs.

Jacques Pineaux became a naturalized English subject in 1688, and soon changed his name to James Pineo. He immigrated to Plymouth, Massachusetts, and settled in Bristol, Rhode Island shortly thereafter, where he worked as a weaver. He married Dorothy Babcock on May 9, 1706, and they had many children, one being my 7x great-grandmother, Submit Pineo, who married Silas Newcomb. The line continues down through Guiles, Tuckers, Gambles, and eventually Counts, before finally hitting Ingham.

The name Pineo (sometimes spelled Pinneo) is principally found in New England and the Maritime Canadian provinces, for this is where most of James and Dorothy's descendants settled. I have a million cousins, however distant.

So, there you have it, my French connection. It is possible I have more French ancestors, but this is as much as I've uncovered thus far. Most of my ancestry seems to be English, Irish, Scottish, and German, with just a touch of Welsh and Dutch for seasoning.

Due to my current workload, and the various other writing projects I have undertaken, I may have to scale back on certain blog features, my Family Sunday posts in particular. These actually take a lot of effort to write, and I have to focus my energy on more pressing matters, including several books and shorts I have to complete. So, if I miss a week or two of family history, you will understand.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Giving Away Books

I've given away a few of my books over the years, though it is rare that I do this anymore.  It's not merely because I'm strapped for cash and can't afford the cost (though that is one major factor), but because too often people have taken advantage of my charity.  I'm talking about those who ask for free books, only to sell them!

I'm not talking about unsolicited freebies sent to reviewers, but copies I have occasionally given away to readers upon request.

This topic first came up about two years ago, when I found a book I had given to someone listed for sale on Amazon.  I won't go into detail about which book, or who decided to seek a profit off of my generous gift, but it wasn't the last time.  It seems there have been quite a few people over the years who have asked for free books, only to hock them online.

If you are given a special gift (such as a signed book from an impoverished author), it is very disrespectful to turn around and try to make a profit from it.  Regifting is one thing, and I encourage that, but selling it?  That is low class, and pretty insulting.

This is why I am reluctant to give away books.  What's the point when the people receiving them are just going to treat them like a new revenue stream?  In many cases, they aren't even reading the "free" books—that might damage them, and thereby lessen their sticker price, oh no!

I'm sure some of you are shouting right now, about how someone can do whatever they want with a gift, and that may be true, legally if not morally.  But I'm telling you right now that I will not waste my generosity on those who aren't really interested in reading my work, but just want something to sell.  I can't afford it.

For those of you who have purchased books from me; don't sweat it.  You can do whatever you want with your copies, since you actually paid for them.  However, for those of you who have been given free copies, show some class and don't try to make a fast buck.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Thursday Poll Results: Robin Hood & Stargate

Due to a blogger error, this post was erased, so I'm reposting it.

Henceforth, Thursdays will be reserved for a recap of the previous week's poll.  New polls will appear every Wednesday.  Due to blogger erasing my most recent poll (and thereby deleting 3 days of votes), this week's poll will run longer, until the 25th.

The results are in from last week's "Favorite Robin Hood" poll.  Out of 6 people voting, 2 were for Errol Flynn, 2 for Kevin Costner, and 1 each for Richard Greene & Russell Crowe.  Interesting result.  It would have been nice to have more votes, and considering how many visitors the blog received last week I'm surprised it was so low.  I guess my readers don't really like the legendary hero of Sherwood Forest.

This week, the poll is all about Stargate.  Since Stargate: Universe aired its final episode this week, and I began my SG-1 Neophyte Guide yesterday, it seemed like a fair question to ask.  Be sure to vote, and invite friends to vote as well!  We can do better than 6 votes, for crying out loud!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Stargate SG-1 Neophyte Guide (Season 1)

It's not secret I'm a big Stargate fan. I've been watching since SG-1 first aired on Showtime, and have continued to watch the series whenever possible. It's certainly my favorite sci-fi television franchise. Recent news regarding the cancellation of its latest incarnation, Stargate Universe, and the shelving of all other Stargate projects, is very disappointing. It doesn't appear there will be any new Stargate material released in the near future (except for maybe a few books and fan fiction).

I know quite a few people who have never gotten into Stargate. For whatever reason, it hasn't caught their interest, and I believe much of this could be due to the length of the series as a whole. SG-1 aired for 10 seasons, with over 200 regular episodes. It's hard for people to take the plunge and watch all that stuff.

For those of you who haven't caught on to Stargate yet, I'll be producing my own semi-opinionated viewer's guide. This will consist of listing all the episodes from each season, and rating them for both importance and entertainment value.

The color-coded ratings are thus:

Red –Major continuity episode: This is a Must-see episode, due to important story elements that impact the whole series in some way.

Green –Medium continuity episode: These episodes have events with some impact on other, future episodes, but they can be skipped without totally losing focus on the storyline. If you skip one of these, be sure to go back to it after the Red episodes get you hooked.

Blue –Minor continuity episode. These may have some minor story elements that will impact something in the future of the series, but it's not that important.

White –Non continuity episodes. These stories are stand-alone episodes, which have no influence or bearing on the future of the series.

*Episodes I personally recommend, even if they aren't high priority for continuity. These are ones I especially enjoyed.

Okay, we are ready to look at Season 1:

Children of the Gods
The Enemy Within
The Broca Divide*
The First Commandment
Brief Candle*
Cold Lazarus
Thor's Hammer
The Torment of Tantalus*
Fire and Water
The Nox
Tin Man*
There but for the Grace of God
Within The Serpent's Grasp

There we have it, all you need to pick through Season 1 of Stargate SG-1. If this helps you, check back for Season 2 next week.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Patented DNA (Minstrel Mondays)

A long time ago, I wrote a little half-poem/half-song called Patented DNA, which was obviously sci-fi related. It was something I almost had published on several occasions. When submitting it to different publishers, I received many positive replies, though none quite positive enough. They all said it was great, and they wanted to publish it, but for various reasons it didn't fit the book or magazine they were putting together. This has often been the case for my work, it doesn't quite fit.

Years ago, I posted this poem for free at Authors Den, a website for aspiring writers that never really worked for me. There are a lot of under-qualified people posting stuff there, so you generally don't get many readers. I stopped using the "paid" version of the site last winter, because it wasn't worth the cost. I can post free stuff on this blog, or at my website, and get more people to read it.

Okay, back to the poem. This little thing has been kicking around for years, but I'm going to repost it here for those who haven't seen it at Authors Den (which is almost everyone).

In this strange day and age that mankind has made,
I find it hard to stay sane.
These things the children do in this future world,
they would simply boggle your mind,
for a century from now, I'll tell you how it is.

When I was twenty one, I had a son,
raising him was supposed to be fun,
but the modern age of technology couldn't leave him be.
They filled his head with fantasies,
of things that shouldn't be.
Indoctrinated him to be a slave of the bureaucracy.

But one day when he was seventeen, he came and said to me,
"Why won't you let me see darling Marie?"
I said, "Come here son, and I'll tell you why
you can't go around with that girl.
Don't you know she was made with Patented D.N.A.?"

My son said, "Sure, dad, I know how she was made.
That's why she's such human perfection.
So why is it wrong to take her out to a show,
or someday give her my ring?"

I said, "It's not that simple, son, she's not right.
She's not free like us at all.
She's a product of bending genes, a biological machine
of the highest order, but she is owned, heart and soul,
by a Wall Street company.
At birth she was sold to her high bidding parents,
but it was only a lease,
the investors hold all the patents,
and the well intentioned scientists
are paid too well to fight."

"To marry her, you'll have to pay her price
to a high rise business firm,
and even then you'll just be renting her.
Then if you want children, you'll have to buy the rights
to her patented D.N.A."

"And then you'll never be free.
The firm will make you pay your children's fee,
and they'll own them indefinitely, same with your genes.
And when your children are grow up, the businessmen will sup
from the sale of their hands into marriage,
just as they did with your wife."

"So now you see, son, I just want you to be free.
I don't want you selling your soul.
In this world of illogicality,
some things, you have to let them be."

Well it took some time before he could speak,
and when he did he sounded very meek.
He said he understood why he couldn't fool around
with the patented D.N.A.
In a world where so few of us are free,
we can't allow the slavers to win over one single soul entirely.

Now you see what I have to put up with,
in this future that mankind has made.
I curse the forefathers of slavery,
of scientific pursuits co-opted by greed.
Some day they'll have to reckon with me.

There, I hope you enjoyed that little bit. It really tells a story, or at least an outline.

*Some of you who are very familiar with my writing history might note that this poem shares the name of a Pill Hill Press anthology containing one of my short stories.  Last year, when Jessy Marie Roberts first considered doing a clone-based anthology, she asked a few of us for title suggestions. I proposed Patented DNA, feeling the name would fit perfectly, and I am pleased to see it has done just that. You might consider picking up a copy of this book sometime, as it has a lot of really good stuff in it, including my own short, "Democracy in Action."

Sunday, May 8, 2011

The Maternal Line

It's mother's day, and that means everyone expects me to devote my Family Sunday post to my mother in some way.  I don't really feel like expounding upon memories of her that much, as she passed less than a year ago.  Perhaps someday I'll relate a few tales about her, but for the moment we'll go into a related tangent, my maternal line.

Annie Carney Littlefield
with sister Bridget (left)
Going strictly from mother to mother, my discoveries end with my great-great grandmother Annie Carney.  She was born circa 1853 in Northern Ireland, and immigrated to the United States after the Civil War.  Her parents were John Carney and Anna Nesbetter, and she had an older sister Bridget (who married a man surnamed Monteeth).

Annie married Henry Littlefield II (b. 1853), on February 19, 1873 in Chicago, Illinois.  The marriage license is signed by a Catholic Priest, which isn't surprising, since they were both Irish, and most Irish were faithful Catholics in those days.  Henry was the son of immigrants who had come over from the Emerald Isle sometime in the 1830's.  Henry and Annie had at least five sons: Joseph Henry (b. 1877), Alexander (b. 1884), John (1885), Alfred James (b. June 19, 1888), and Edward (b. April 1894).  They also had two daughters:  Anna Louise Littlefield (my great-grandmother, b. 1880), and Mary (b. Jan 1891).

We'll go over a few of the different Littlefield off-shoots some other time.  Today, we'll focus on the maternal line.

Grandma Nadine as a baby.

Anna Louise Littlefield married William E. Forthman sometime around 1900.  You can read about their numerous offspring in my previous Forthmans blog post here.  Their youngest child was my grandmother, Mary Nadine Forthman.

Nadine married John Julius Kirton in the early 1940's, and their daughter was my mother, Diana Elizabeth Kirton.

That's about it for now.  Everybody have a happy mother's day!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Rogue Investigations=Bargain!

The Rogue Investigations is only 99 cents for the Kindle, so those of you with electronic readers can enjoy the book my biggest fans have called my "best" work for next to nothing.  If that isn't enough, how about a free random clip from the middle of the text:

"You big city sons-a-whores think you're gonna come up here and disrupt my livelihood?" Rage heard as he woke up. His arms and legs were cramped, and tied securely to a chair.

"I'm from Texas," Nathan replied. "Do you even know where that is, you inbred piece of crap?"

"Yeah, there's plenty of cities in Texas. Irregardless, you still got no business coming up here and trying to do what you did."

Rage cracked his eyes open a little to see who was speaking. That chubby runt was the one with the loud voice arguing with Nathan. He was holding a kerosene lamp in his left hand that illuminated the small, ratty cabin they were in. It didn't appear to be much, and the cold breeze blowing in proved that it was far from weatherproof. There were two other men behind the fat man, though they didn't look like much. A couple of skinny local boys with plaid shirts and scruffy beards. They liked to grin a lot, despite their lack of dental hygiene.

"Ah, looks like your boyfriend's awake," the fat man said, jabbing Rage in the leg with a boot. Rage tried to jump up in response, but the chair was bolted down.

One of the snaggle-toothed boys behind him said, "Careful, Bunny. He looks the type to bite."

"He won't be bitin' nothing but a bullet in a few hours," the fat man said. He flashed the lamp in front of Rage's face to get a good look.

"You'll never get away with this," Nathan protested. "The authorities..."

"Will never find you," the fat man said, sounding amused. "Moosehead Lake's got plenty of deep spots to hide a body, and I know 'em all. Now, you just sleep tight, and old Bunyan Green will be back to check on ya in the morning."

Nathan held his tongue as the three men sauntered out of the cabin, leaving the room in total darkness.

Both men sat in silence, waiting to be sure their captors had truly left before striking up a conversation. Several hours passed, and the faint signs of dawn began shining through the single window of the cabin.

"Mind explaining how we got into this mess?" Rage asked, glancing over to see Nathan's eyes wide open.

"It's complicated, and I'm not wholly sure myself," Nathan said.

Alternate Cover Version
Available from
Martin's AuthorStore!

"Why'd you call me up here, and why'd you beat the crap out of me?" Rage grumbled in a mad whisper.

"I honestly don't remember fighting you, but I called you because I couldn't call anyone else."

"Gee, thanks."

*For those of you who lack a Kindle (or just want to pick up the old fashioned, paper version), it's only $10.98 on Amazon, or you can visit my AuthorStore, and get a signed copy for even less!  You can't go wrong with this one.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Frontier Jump... Boring!

I received a fresh rejection this week for one of my novels, Frontier Jump. It wasn't your typical form letter, which is a big plus, though it sought to cast doubt on the work as a whole. They start out by saying the writing is good, but then spend half a page complaining about how boring the story is, how meaningless the futuristic setting is, how emotionless the characters are, and that the pacing is too even (that's a curious contrast to a reviewer's complaint that pacing was too sporadic in The Guns of Mars). If I didn't know any better, I'd say the reader in question was having a particularly bad day, and wanted to play Simon Cowell.

hates me!
I'm glad someone actually took the time to read the first few chapters of the book, though I am left wondering if they are indicative of broader editorial opinion regarding this work. Is this story just too dang boring, or is it just this single editor? They made a point of saying how well-written it was, before tearing it down, so there's hope!

Frontier Jump was a new type of novel for me.  For starters, I wrote it in the First Person, which isn't my standard format (most of my other works are 3rd person omniscient).  It was also done as a Young Adult novel, an attempt to broaden my fan-base and cash in on the ever popular teen market (though, I generally write things in a PG-13 format, so any teen could enjoy my other published works, hint, hint).  These two items make it unique among my portfolio, and if I continue to get this sort of response, it will most certainly remain unique, and shelved.

By now, you may be asking, "What's this book about?" Here's part of a query pitch I've used, which has gotten a couple of editors interested in partials:

The future is a heartless place, where people are bred en-masse in laboratories, genetically designed for their specific niches in society. Peter Furyk is a "Nature Born," condemned because of his natural conception. Mia Uesugi is a reject, shunned because her genome did not meet manufacturer's specifications. These young lovers have only one chance of living a decent life; escape to a distant colony world where the oppressive hand of the Central Authority cannot find them. Illegally booking passage aboard a ship of smugglers, they seek to make their frontier jump, only to learn firsthand how harsh a place the galaxy can be.

That's the story in a nutshell. Maybe the pitch is more exciting than the book itself? Then again, it could all be personal preference. I may have simply run into editors with different tastes. We'll have to wait and see.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Robin Hood (2010) -Review

I recently had the chance to see the latest Robin Hood movie, starring Russell Crowe, so I'd like to share my thoughts on it.

Overall, I found this movie to be enjoyable, and somewhat original in the field of Robin Hood films. Rather than a rehash of the classical story, we see a reinvention of the legend. I know they tried a similar sort of rewrite with the 1991 version starring Kevin Costner, but Crowe's portrayal of the folk hero is far better (especially since he speaks with the right accent). Other than that, the housing, landscape, and people looked a lot more grungy and realistic. You could believe it was 800 years ago, and the story itself was grittier, without the customary dose of fluffy feel good nonsense.

There are a few historical inconsistencies which don't really detract from the story's enjoyability. The biggest one is King Richard's death, which is overly dramatized for theatrical effect. While it is true he was shot by an archer, it was in the arm, so it took him almost 2 weeks to die from gangrene.

Historical accounts tell us that King Richard returned to his bankrupted kingdom in disgrace, and wanted to raise money for another Crusade. He was in the middle of suppressing a revolt in Limousin (in Central France), and it's possible he was also seeking to procure a cache of Roman coins discovered by a local farmer (much like his little brother John would do in later years, Richard sought to extract whatever funding he could from the people). During a morning's survey of the battlefield, Richard caught an arrow in the arm from a crossbow-wielding boy.

Thus ended the reign of Coeur de Lion, a Norman King who couldn't speak a word of English and had no love for the people he ruled. History has rewritten the king into a great leader, but he was really a piggish monarch who died a failure. On top of that, researchers have speculated that he may have dabbled in homosexuality, and it's possible he even had an affair with his own sister. How scandalous! Richard the Lionheart, indeed!

I expect you can see why they couldn't show the "real" King Richard in the movie. However, they did show him to be more pig-headed and arrogant than in previous versions of Robin Hood, so that's a plus.

The only other inaccuracy I noticed lies in the use of written English words on the sword's hilt and on different landmarks. Back in 1199, everything would have been in Latin, but I suppose that wouldn't have had as big an impact on the viewers, since few people can read that script these days.

Neither of these trifles diminished the movie's effectiveness, and in retrospect they probably improved it. This is historical fantasy, after all, so trying to get too accurate would be foolhardy.

I give this latest incarnation of Robin Hood 4 out of 5 stars. I really hope they have a sequel in the works, because they did a good job of setting up a whole new series with this one.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Weekly Polls

Just a quick note before we unleash tomorrow's regular blog post:  There is a new poll posted on the right side of the main page, and it will be updated each week.  I hope some of you will bother to vote, as polls are no fun if they're all zeroes.  If you like frivolous, meaningless polls, be sure to stop by every week around this same time for more of them!

Like they say in Chicago: Vote early, vote often!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Window and Door (Minstrel Mondays)

Life can be trying at times, and I have been feeling melancholy as of late. There is a longing in me, to be something more, but I'm not sure there's any way to do it. This world can seem very small, and I wonder when we'll stop standing still in the grand universal scheme of things.

This poem reflects a lot of those feelings.

If I had a new dream
It would be of a better life
Where there was meaning
To everyone's plight.

To work this land
You get blisters on your hands
And weathered skin upon
Your tired brow.

But beyond that horizon
Everyone sees the gold
It waits for those who serve
And do what they're told.
That's what they've said
Since the dawn of eternity
To satisfy the masses
Who are tired of being free.
But there is something more
A better life outside that door
Yet we're headed for the window
Because it's clear, even closed.

To open the door
It would take too much effort
So we smack flat
Against panes of transparent glass
That'll never break.

We can see what's beyond
Yet it eludes our capture.
Nobody knows how to venture
Beyond the prison of time.

Who will be the first
To venture outside
And find the wealth
That lurks in plain sight?