Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Planet of the Apes (1968)

I watched Planet of the Apes (1968) last night. It was either the first time ever I've seen the film all the way through or the first time in decades. I have sepid-toned memories of me being a kid when those movies (1968, 1970-73) were being released. Truth be told, it's probably the TV series I remember.

With all the hoopla surrounding the 40th Anniversary of Star Wars, one podcast I listened to quoted a review from 1977's Time magazine which said that Star Wars was, paraphrasing here, a fun movie made like they used to make. Sitting in 2017, there are plenty of movies like that--SF ones, too; I'm looking at you Guardians of the Galaxy--but I wondered why the reviewer summed up Star Wars in that fashion.

In re-watching POTA, I think I realized it. As I am wont to do nowadays, I pull up Wikepedia and learn about said movie along the way. My wife commented how good a movie she thought POTA was in addition to star Charleton Heston's role in OMEGA MAN. The third of this little trilogy of SF films with Heston was Soylent Green. I've seen bits of SG and none of OM. But there's a definite pessimism in POTA. Understandable, considering the subject matter. I can see how Star Wars was such a breath of fresh air forty years ago this summer.

The prosthetic make-up in POTA holds up very well. Only a few times was the camera directly in line with the actor who was speaking, enabling the viewer to catch glimpses of the human actor's mouth. But, really, who cares?

I loved the set of the ape village. Seems to me there was a Mego playset. I had one of the Mego POTA dolls--the one in purple--to go along with my Mego super-hero dolls.

Image result for planet of the apes mego

The movie is quite talky, with part of middle taken up with a court case. I appreciate that now. Perhaps there can be more of that in modern SF movies. I'm all for the action summer blockbuster movie, but it would be nice to sprinkle in some low-key SF every now and then.

Were all space movies of the late 60s and into the mid 70s set on desert planets? Seeing the three astronauts traipse around the American southwest made it look like western.

The scene where we first see the apes on horseback chasing the humans is a great scene. Viewers know going in there are apes, but the reveal is still powerful. And the music is really well done.

And that last shot. It is still very powerful and iconic. I know that the third film of the prequel POTA trilogy is coming out this summer. It simply has to end with the destruction of the Statue of Liberty, right?

At Houston's Comicpalooza a few weeks back, I purchased a VHS set of all 5 original POTA films for a grand total of $2.00. My intention is to watch all 5 this summer. One down; four to go.

What did y'all think of Planet of the Apes?

Western Words

I live and write in 2016, the 21st Century, and there isn’t any real way to know how folks talked in the Old West. The only way to discover what words people used in conversation is to read then-contemporary documents and glean what I can and put it in my stories.

There is, however, another way: western novels and stories. From the earliest days, authors sometimes had the opportunity to interview real old west cowboys. Or these future authors—I’m thinking of Edgar Rice Burroughs or Lester Dent—they actually grew up around some of these cowboys. No matter how the early 20th Century authors got their data, they put what they learned or knew into their stories.

Over the years and decades of western writing, a vocabulary of how writers described things emerged. A more or less common way to make these cowboy heroes, villains, and lovely ladies speak also emerged. Ever since the first western I read, I quickly realized that western writers simply had their own unique vocabulary.

So I started reading westerns with a pencil in hand.

Every time I came across some new term, I’d circle the word. Every new-to-me western I read-Right now, I'm reading THE FOURTH GUNMAN by Merle Constiner--I repeated this practice. It’s second nature to me now. Even when I read stories on my Kindle, I highlight words and phrases and collect them when I’m done.

Now, I have an ever-growing “database” of words I can use to sprinkle into my Triple Action Western  and Junction City Western stories and give them more authenticity and help the reader—and me—become immersed into the world of the Old West.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

When All the Tweaks Are Done

In a bit of a sequel to my post over on DoSomeDamage on Saturday, I experienced something kinda funny yesterday.

In that post, I commented that I've been tinkering with this blog and the blog focusing on my mystery stories. I streamlined both sites down to a minimistic look and feel. If you're reading this here, then you might want to have a look at the mystery site. I made some nifty banners over there that I'll replicate over here on the western site...soon.

Anyway, after I fixed up the mystery site, both sites were where I wanted them to be. I had this moment during a lull on Memorial Day where I walked up to my standing desk, ready to power on the PC and start tweaking...

...until I realized I had nothing left to tweak. At least not in the short-term. The only thing left to do was write.

That's a nice place to be.

Longarm and the Bank Robber's Daughter by Tabor Evans/James Reasoner

I knew about Longarm long before I read a single one of his cases.
My grandfather only read westerns. They were stacked and double-stacked in a few bookshelves throughout his house in Tyler, Texas. Most of them were the big names: Louis L’Amour, Zane Grey, Luke Short, etc. I was a Star Wars kid so I paid those old paperbacks no mind. But they had great covers, including the ones for Longarm. My grandfather didn’t have many Longarm novels distinctive back in those days with a nearly all white cover and a few images, but he had a few. My dad’s recollection of why my grandfather read those novels was that he had read everything else, probably more than once. Now, I wasn’t a dummy back in the day, but a cowboy book with a pretty lady mostly undressed meant something. There was sex in them thar pages! It was a small miracle I never scanned those books on summer nights, trying to find those particular sex scenes. Heck, if I’d have actually read the books, I would have discovered just how entertaining the stories actually were.
But I wasn’t ready in the early 80s. I am ready now. So I cracked open Longarm and the Bank Robber’s Daughter. This is the 301st entry in the series that began in the late 70s and ran all the way until 2015 with the 436th installment! Custis Long, nicknamed “Longarm,” is a deputy U.S. Marshal in the old west, likely the 1880s. He is based in Denver, Colorado, and is sent all over the region to solve cases and bring bad guys to justice. And to bed women along the way.
Why this novel? I have four of them right now, three of which were written by James Reasoner. Yeah, for those that don’t know, “Tabor Evans” was a house name that many different writers used. Mainly, I wanted to see how a Longarm novel was constructed. So I opened up each one and read the opening passages. This is how Bank Robber’s Daughter starts.
Longarm jerked open the door of his rented room and growled, “What the hell do you want?”
Then his jaw tightened as he realized that Death had come knocking on this mild spring evening in Denver.
Death wore the pale, haggard face of an old man who clutched at his middle. Crimson blood welled between the fingers of the hands he pressed against his belly. He leaned forward and croaked, “G-Gold…”
Bingo! If I had picked this book up in a bookstore back when it was published in 2003, I would have walked out with it. Sold with three paragraphs. Action in three paragraphs. And that’s pretty much how this story rolls.
It turns out old man is Floyd Pollard, recently released from prison, and who shared a cell with Clete Harrington, an old bank robber that Longarm put in prison. The loot Harrington stole was never found, but Pollard’s dying words were “Sweetwater Canyon.” Naturally, Longarm is assigned the case and he’s about to head out to Sweetwater Canyon, New Mexico, when Emily Harrington shows up. She’s the titular daughter and, after a few more scrapes, Longarm agrees that she tag along.
What follows is a very good story about hidden gold, a range war, and enough clues scattered throughout the book that, upon learning the truth at the end, you realize Reasoner laid it all out for you. The action-packed structure of the book is such that, even if you get a chapter mostly of traveling down from Colorado to New Mexico with the characters talking, something happens at the end of the chapter that compels you to keep going. Definition of a page turner.
I didn’t know what to expect when the sex scenes arrived. How would they be written? How graphic would they be? Well, it turns out that the scenes were rather romantic. The action is spelled out, but the words Reasoner uses to describe the anatomy and what’s happening are euphemistic. You know exactly what’s going on and being done, but the word choices are nice. I emailed James to ask him about that and he said the descriptions were up to the discretion of the individual writer. I prefer it this way.
The ending was a nice surprise. By the time I read the last word, I was grinning ear to ear. I so thoroughly enjoyed this book that I immediately started another. But that’s a different review.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Don't Tinker Too Long

Today, over at DoSomeDamage, I discuss how tinkering with things is essential for an indie author, but you have to know when to stop.

Friday, May 26, 2017

The Agony of Love: A Triple Action Western - An Excerpt

What would you do if your wife cheated on you with a dandy of a gambler?

John Hardwick answered that question for himself. Now, he’s about to act on it.

John Hardwick loves his wife like a Shakespeare sonnet: full, complete, and without equal. Unfortunately, John now finds himself in the crucible of infidelity. He knows the other man’s name: Alton Raines, a professional gambler.

John is a good man, not prone to violence, but the images in his mind’s eye—of his wife in Raines’s bed—puts murder in his heart and a gun in his hand.

Available exclusively at Amazon.


Chapter 1

John Hardwick loved his wife Mary like a Shakespeare sonnet: full and complete and without equal. He would memorize the Bard’s sonnets as well as the poems of Byron, Blake, and Browning and recite them to her over dinner or in front of the fire in their little home. Their life was hard—he a farmer, she a farmer’s wife—but he loved it more and more each day. Even when the hardships of farm life took their toll on him physically, he still loved his beautiful Mary. When the farm life robbed her of her ability to bear children, he still loved her.

But even the surest of love could be tested in the crucible of infidelity. John Hardwick found himself in that crucible now as he stared across the saloon at Alton Raines, his head full of things that normally never entered his mind. Images of violence, hatred, and murder boiled his blood. He wondered how loud the shot would be if he stuck his pistol up against Raines’s body and pulled the trigger.

Still, he had to gather his courage. It had taken him over an hour of waiting, drinking, and watching to figure out which patron of the Oak Tree Saloon was Alton Raines . He had asked a couple of men if they knew the. They did, and had easily pointed him out.

Raines turned out to be the dandy sitting at the poker table. His dark hair, slicked back and coiffed perfectly. The mustache neatly trimmed. His suit, gray and adorned with a shimmery purple vest. The black tie formed a perfect knot over a pressed white shirt. Occasionally Raines would check the time on his shiny gold pocket watch. He presented himself in a suave manner, smiling at everyone in the room. Ladies would drape themselves across his shoulders.

All in all, the sight made John Hardwick’s stomach turn. It also brought a tear to his eye. He wasn’t much to look at. He knew that. Long days of sun and wind and hard work had aged him. He looked ten years older than his age of thirty. His eyes had developed permanent crow’s feet. His hands looked like an old man’s. And his shoulders sagged a bit, even when he wasn’t carrying heavy equipment or hay bales.

He caught a glimpse of himself in the mirror behind the bar and felt an utter dislike for what he saw. Also in the reflection was Raines. It appeared that the two of them were side-by-side. Any doubt as to the idea of what he was about to do vanished in an instant.

John turned and sauntered over to the poker table. There was an empty seat now since a skinny blonde man stormed off in a huff after losing all his money. “Mind if I sit in?”

The remaining men seated at the table stared up at him. Raines sat opposite the empty chair. On the left was a burly red-headed brute of a man. When he held the cards, they looked like playthings in his oversized fists. To the right was a man he knew: Christopher Allen, the owner of the local tannery. The smell of the chemicals on his clothes wafted up and tickled John’s nose.

“I don’t have a problem with it,” Allen said. “Paul?”

The red-headed man downed the last of his beer. He wiped his mouth with the collar of his shirt and shook his head no. He raised the empty mug and signaled for another.


All eyes turned to Raines. The dandy took his time answering. John felt like he was a prize hog being inspected for quality.

“Can you pay?”

John Hardwick nodded. “Yes, I can.”

Raines gestured to the empty chair. “Then by all means, have a seat.”

John pulled the chair out and sat. It was a good thing, too, since his legs had begun to shake. The closer he got to going through with what he needed to do, the more nervous he became. The hard leather of his holster thunked on the wooden chair and he had to adjust his posture to accommodate.
A barmaid brought Paul’s mug of beer and set it in front of him. He leered lecherously at her exposed cleavage. He mumbled something John found inappropriate and he felt it his duty to save her.
“Ma’am,” John said, “might I have a beer as well?” He turned to Allen. “You want one?”

“Whiskey’s fine with me.”

John faced Raines. “How about you, Alton?”

“It’s Mr. Raines. I’m fine.” His voice was a smooth baritone, the kind of voice that belonged in a choir or behind a pulpit, and not in this den of sin.

The barmaid left and Raines began to shuffle the cards. “How much you in for?”

John reached into his jacket pocket and withdrew a wad of cash. Allen’s eyes widened in surprise. “Tarnation, John. That’s a lot of money. Where in the world did ya get it all?”

Where indeed? John had discovered the love letter written by another man tucked discretely into a book of poems he had given his wife on their fourth anniversary. The letter was full of affectionate sentiments that made John cry. At first, he felt the emotional punch in his gut. Then lost his lunch. Mary Hardwick had been out of the house for the afternoon so she was spared John’s immediate wrath. In the afternoon hours of that day, as he toiled under the broiling sun, he thought about what to do. What to say.

In the end, he said and did nothing. He planned. He intended to take his husbandly revenge out on the man who signed his name “Alton Raines.”

Available exclusively at Amazon.

The Naked Con: A Triple Action Western - An Excerpt

What do you do when you see a naked man cowering behind a rock?

You’ll get the answer in an exciting new western from author S. D. Parker, inspired by the TV show Maverick and the movie Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.

It’s not every day that the passengers of a stagecoach in the Old West see a naked man hiding behind a rock. But the motley group of people on a stage bound for Uvalde, Texas, stop and question Finnegan McCall, naked as the day of his birth. He says he is the new manager at the bank in town and a thief stole all his clothes.
But if Finnegan McCall is telling the truth, then who is the stranger at the bank claiming he is the new bank manager?

And why is this stranger asking the assistant manager to open the safe?

This exciting new Western from S. D. Parker will have you who is whom and what it all means.

Available exclusively at Amazon.


Chapter 1

Stagecoach driver Henry Price yanked the reigns of the horse team when he realized the man standing next to the road was stark naked. The man had hid himself behind a large rock and Price almost missed seeing him, but the paleness of the man’s body shone like a beacon in the midday sun.
Price called for a halt. The horses obeyed. The passengers in the stage began to grumble. Dust motes caught in the stage’s tailwind curled around everything.

There was a moment when Price thought about going for his weapon. The shotgun was shucked inside a leather holster on the ledge in front of him within easy reach if outlaws tried to hold up the stage. But this man was as naked as Adam. Both hands were visible. The man’s bare backend proved he wore no gun. Price relaxed.

“Tarnation, mister. Where are your clothes?”

That got the attention of the folks inside the stage. Winston Dennigan, the cattle baron, traveling back to Stonewall, Texas, peered out the window. Jim Stanley, a haberdasher, called up a question to Price. Lilly Bowman, stocky, blonde, and without a husband, opened the door and stepped out. “I want to see this.” She wobbled on legs too long in the stage and looked up at Price. “Where’s the naked man?”

Price pointed to the rock they had passed.

Lilly turned and tried to spy the man who had stopped the stage. She patted her sweaty face with a cloth. “I don’t see him.”

“I’m here,” a voice behind the rock said. “I’m just trying to spare whatever dignity I still have.”

“Why’re you out here in the nude?” Lilly said. She moved closer to the rock and chose a side. She waited for the man to begin speaking.

“I was taking a bath in the river,” the man began, “and I…hey!”

The naked man scurried around the rock to avoid the prying eyes of Lilly who had snuck to the back to catch a glimpse of naked man-flesh. He avoided her eyes but exposed himself to everyone else. He held a small branch of leaves over his privates but his pale rump glared in the sunlight.

“Where’d you go?” Lilly said from behind the rock. “Come back here. I ain’t seen a naked man in a long, long time.”

Dennigan leaned over to Stanley. “I don’t believe she’s ever seen a man as God made him. You?”
Stanley just shook his head.

“Ma’am,” the nude stranger said, “I beg of you. Have some decency.” One hand held the branch. The other, with fingers splayed, covered his butt. He backed away and leaned up against the rock. “I need help.”

“I can help,” Lilly said. She had come around the rock and stood next to the man. She leaned on an elbow and gave the stranger a long look up and down.

“Mister,” Price said. Ostensibly he was in charge, since he was the stage driver. His passengers were his responsibility, and the Pine Cove Stage Company prided itself on an excellent record of avoiding any hold-ups or Indian attacks. No record existed on meeting naked people in the wild. “How’d you come to be in your unique predicament?”

The man, tall, clean shaven, with tousled brown hair, bowed at the neck. “Thank you, sir.” He warily eyed Lilly out of the corner of his eye. He adjusted the angle of the branch to better hide himself.
“My name is Finnegan McCall.” He didn’t have a trace of an Irish accent. “I was traveling by horse to Uvalde. I was road dusty and weary so I thought it a good idea to clean myself up before I arrived in town. First impressions and all. I hitched up my horse, a beautiful gray beast I call Molly, and went down to the river. Which one is this?”

“The Frio,” Price said.

“Ah, yes, the Frio. Explains why it’s so cold. I wanted to get good and clean and, with no one coming around here, I thought it a good idea to, um, make all parts available for cleaning by bathing in the nude.”

Lilly whistled softly. She continued to mop her brow.

Stanley said, “Didn’ja figure someone might come along?”

McCall bowed again. “Quite right, sir. But no, I thought I’d have more than enough time to bath and redress before anyone saw me. I even had my undergarments in case someone did stumble upon me.”
“So what happened?” Dennigan asked. He lit a cigarette.

McCall gave a sheepish grin and a shrug. “The water felt so good, so refreshing that I kept swimming. I swam across the river and back. It so invigorated me that I did it three more times. It’s not far to the other side, maybe about fifty feet. By the time I done that, I felt great. I got out of the water, went to the branch that held my undergarments. They were nowhere to be found.”

He paused in his story. His hair, soft and billowy without any pomade in it, wafted in the fair breeze. He switched the branch to his other hand. Lilly craned her neck to get a better look.

“What business do you have in Uvalde?” Price asked.

McCall snapped his fingers. “My apologies gentlemen. And lady. I am the new bank manager at the Farmer’s Mercantile Bank. The home office down in San Antonio sent me up here to replace”—he thought a moment, trying to remember the name—“Elmer Curtis, I believe.”

Stanley looked to Dennigan. “How long’s it been since Elmer passed?”

“A week.” To McCall, Dennigan said, “I’m guessing your credentials are in your saddle bag.”

“Undoubtedly, assuming the bandit didn’t throw them away. I would be much obliged if I could get a ride into town and see if we can’t solve this little conundrum.”

“There’s another conundrum you haven’t accounted for,” Price said. “You’re nude.”

McCall cleared his throat and craned his neck to see where Lilly was. Somehow, she had inched herself closer to him. “Of course.” He took in the features of each man. Stanley was short, probably at least four inches under McCall’s six-foot frame. Dennigan was about the same height and build. 

“Do you have any extra clothes I might wear into town?”

Dennigan shook no. “I woke up this morning in my own bed and I’ll be sleeping in it tonight. Didn’t need to carry extra clothes.”

Price still sat atop the stage. McCall couldn’t gauge his stature. “How about you?”

The driver slightly chuckled. “I’m in the same boat as Mr. Dennigan.”

From McCall’s left, Lilly edged closer another inch or two. “I’m returning from a week down in San Antonio to visit my sister.” She used her head to indicate the bag on top of the coach. “I’ve got something you could wear.”

McCall gulped. She was a tall woman, nearly as tall as he. “Please tell me you packed something other than dresses.”

The grin on her face widened, looking like a cat after eating a chicken. She merely shook her head.
The men started to laugh. Price stood and unfastened Lilly’s travel bag. “It beats arriving in the suit God gave you at birth.”

Lilly trotted over and retrieved her bag. She opened it, rummaged around, and pulled out a long dress. It was red and white striped. It more closely resembled a table cloth than a dress. She walked back over to McCall and extended her arm with the dress.

He reached for it but she pulled it back. “Since this is an exchange, I’d like a little something in return.”

McCall dreaded the answer. “Madam, I am hardly in a position to offer anything.”

She arched an eyebrow. “Not entirely true.”

“Once I get into town and hopefully recover my clothes and belongings, I will gladly pay you.”

“I don’t want money.”

“Well, what do you want?”

“A kiss.”

No one spoke for a moment. The silence was broken by Stanley spitting on the ground. “That’s a fair trade, mister. Hurry it up so we can get back home.”

McCall nodded. “But later. Only after I am fully restored in my own clothes.”

“Deal.” She held out the dress again.

McCall snatched it with his free hand. He edged along the rock, making sure his backside wasn’t exposed. “And you stay here,” he told her, “while I change.”

He vanished behind the rock. He dropped the branch and held out the dress to verify the front. He shimmied into the garment, straightened out the sleeves, and looked at himself. Thankfully, the dress extended to the ground. He sighed.

Walking around the rock, the three men guffawed heavily when they caught sight of him. He shrugged, resigned to his fate. Lilly caught his hand and escorted him to the stage. “You can sit next to me.”

McCall followed, gingerly walking on bare tiptoes. He tried to climb the steps into the stage but couldn’t manage.

“You’ll have to hike up the dress,” Dennigan said. That brought fresh peals of laughter from the men.
McCall stepped back and turned to Lilly. “Madam, if you please, show me how it’s done.”

Lilly stepped forward, grabbed handfuls of cloth and pulled up nearly to her knees. She stepped inside and sat. She patted the place next to her.

McCall, awkward movements and all, mimicked her actions. He climbed aboard the stage and joined her on the seat. She was uncomfortably close.

The other passengers returned to the stage and Price whistled to the team to start up again.

Available exclusively at Amazon.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

My Life with Star Wars

If Star Wars had never existed, I wouldn’t be the man I am today.

A bold statement? Perhaps, but the more I think about it, the more truth comes to light.

The first version of this essay had me starting from before 1977 and moving forward with my life. I didn’t figure y’all’d want to read that, so I abandoned it in favor of some higher level thoughts.

I still see the world with childlike eyes. Yeah, I’m older than Star Wars with hair graying around the temples and adult responsibilities, but I still possess a childlike wonder for the world. It still amazes me that my iPhone is more powerful than the computer that landed a man on the moon. When I ride my bike, I still channel my younger self who inverted the handlebars of his ten-speed to better resemble the steering mechanisms of Luke Skywalker’s X-Wing so that I could shoot imaginary T.I.E. Fighters that took the real-world form of trash on the sidewalks. Every now and then, when I’m at a new place—say, my trip to Big Bend last year and the rugged land around the hotel—I still see areas where I could play with my action figures. BTW, I still have them all, stored in my Darth Vader case. In short, Star Wars gave my childhood imagination the power to roam across galaxies.

My love and appreciation for instrumental music is a direct result of the soundtrack to Star Wars. I’m an only child so I had to discover many things on my own. From the first time I saw the movie, the music captivated me. I bought the soundtrack—and promptly learned to see the movie in my head because of John Williams’s score. Little did I know I was learning about classical music and jazz. I just let the aural blanket settle over me and through me. I wore out my first copy of the soundtrack. Oh, and I had that John Berkey poster on my wall as fast as I could open the original cellophane wrapping. The music—specifically the main theme, Princess Leia’s theme, the Force theme, the throne room theme—helped me replay the movie in my head. As a kid, I don’t remember being irritated that the songs were somewhat out of order. I just consumed them all. From Star Wars emerge a love for John Williams music, more film scores, classical music, and jazz. Heck, in sixth grade, when I chose to learn alto sax, I picked that instrument because it was one of the horns used in the Cantina Band song.

My love for all things science fiction and fantasy started with Star Wars. Sure, the fandom was already present—I enjoyed Space: 1999 and The Six Million Dollar Man and Fantastic Voyage—but Star Wars just jumped the fandom to lightspeed. I discovered Star Trek because of Star Wars. In reading the novelization, Splinter of the Mind’s Eye by Alan Dean Foster, and the original Han Solo trilogy by Brian Daley led me to other SF books. It didn’t hurt that Foster also wrote the Star Trek Logs. I discovered Edgar Rice Burroughs’s John Carter in that magical time between Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back and I’ve never looked back.

Speaking of that magical time from 1977-1980, I contend it was probably the greatest time to be a fan. We only got a small peek into that galaxy far, far away. The possibilities were limitless. All that we didn’t know intrigued us. The characters n the Star Wars universe were as broad as our imaginations. Nothing against how it turned out—it’s one story about one family which, in effect, shrank the galaxy—but up until Vader tells Luke about his true parentage, the edges of the Star Wars universe couldn’t be seen. When Marvel Comics published Star Wars #7, the first story not from the film, I was over-the-moon. More Star Wars! Heck, I even remember watching the Holiday Special on a black-and-white TV in a hospital and loving it. The lead-up to Empire was wonderful as was the lead-up to Return of the Jedi. But it was nothing like 1977-1980. The year 1991 was also good with the publication of Timothy Zahn’s Heir to the Empire. The only time that comes close to what it was like in 1977-80 was late 1998-1999 in the build-up to The Phantom Menace. Never mind what you think about the movie, the fact that we were getting more Star Wars for the first time since 1983 was beyond awesome. Seeing that first trailer to The Phantom Menace opened wide the door of childhood—it never really closed—and it hasn’t faltered much since then, despite adulthood, marriage, and fatherhood.

Star Wars is my time capsule to childhood.

For that, I am eternally grateful. Star Wars taught me in ways that might seem odd to some. With Empire, I learned that heroes don’t always win even if they prevail. With Jedi, I learned there is good in most people, even the most vile. I learned patience in having to wait three years for the next movie. I learned to fill up my head with facts no one cared about but seemed like the most important information to me.

I could go on and on about this movie and this franchise, but I won’t, at least not here and not today. Suffice it to say Star Wars is an integral part of what makes me the man I am today. If not for Star Wars, undoubtedly something else would fill up that space. But I am so glad that Star Wars arrived at the time it did, forty years ago today, at the age I was. It helped me grow up, imagine, dream, soar, cry, cheer, love, learn, mourn, and more. I am a proud member of the Star Wars Generation.

Tonight, I’ll be celebrating by pulling out a VHS copy of the first movie and giving it a viewing. I haven’t seen it a bit. That first movie is too special. When I start that film, more than just about any other, I’m no longer an adult. I am an eight-year-old kid, wide-eyed with wonder, transported to a galaxy far, far away.

Happy birthday, Star Wars. Your Force will be with me. Always.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Favorite Songs by Year

Over at SamePageCast, co-hosts Craig and Megan took a look at the 1970s and selected one song per year to be on their desert island jukebox. I had so much much with that decade that I kept going, all the way up to last year. I threw in 1968 and 1969 so this list encompasses all the songs from each year I've been alive.

There were some years in which the favorite song leaped into my head (1969, 1999, 2015, 2016). Other years in which I had to select a song that I liked but don't love (2011). Then there were years (like 1975, 1977, 1984, 1989, 2004, 2016) in which there were so many good songs I ended up having to cast aside songs I truly love and listen to constantly. 

In a comment, Craig mentioned they were picking from the Top 20 songs. I scrapped that and just selected my favorite songs.

When the original 1970s episode aired, six bands/things instantly jumped into my head: Chicago, KISS, Star Wars, Springsteen, Genesis, and Star Wars. The only real logjam is 1975 b/c that was when my favorite KISS album (Alive) was released but it’s also my favorite Springsteen song from the 70s. With the other years already accounted for, the KISS song I ended up choosing was slotted into 1976.

Moving up to the 1980s, 1985 was *the* year where everything for me was going wonderfully and just about all the music from that year is inexorably intertwined. So that pick was a difficult one.

1968 - All Along the Watchtower (Hendrix)

1969 - Introduction (Chicago)

1970 - 25 or 6 to 4 (Chicago)

1971 - One Fine Morning (Lighthouse)*

1972 - Supper’s Ready (Genesis)

1973 - Aladdin Sane (Bowie)

1974 - Maiysha (Miles Davis)**

1975 - Born to Run (Springsteen)

1976 - Take Me (KISS)

1977 - Star Wars, Extended Version (Meco)***

1978 - Summer Nights (Grease soundtrack)

1979 - Rainbow Connection (Muppets)

*Another fav horn rock band, I take a daily walk around my office building and this song is one of the ones I choose often.

**Miles’s Get Up With It LP was a hodge podge of cuts recorded over 5 years, but this song—and it’s groove!—is one I return to often. Plus jazz flute!

***I love the disco version of Star Wars, and this 15-minute song gets every major theme from the movie and I get disco on my list!

1980 - Imperial March

1981 - Raiders of the Lost Ark Main Theme

1982 - Hard to Say I'm Sorry/Get Away (Chicago)

1983 - Separate Ways (Journey)

1984 - Heaven (Bryan Adams)

1985 - The Power of Love (Huey Lewis)

1986 - Absolute Beginners (Bowie)

1987 - Brilliant Disguise (Springsteen)

1988 - Lead Me On (Amy Grant)

1989 - The End of the Innocence (Don Henley)

1990 - Silent Lucidity (Queensryche)

1991 - Enter Sandman (Metallica)

1992 - Living Proof (Springsteen)

1993 - I Almost Had a Weakness (Elvis Costello)

1994 - Singin' with the Big Bands (Barry Manilow)

1995 - Peace Prayer (Clarence Clemons)

1996 - Let Your Soul Be Your Pilot (Sting)

1997 - Dead Man Walking (Bowie)

1998 - Basic Instructions (Burlap to Cashmere)

1999 - Desert Rose (Sting)

2000 - Pavane (John Williams, guitar)

2001 - The Middle (Jimmy Eat World)

2002 - The Rising (Springsteen)

2003 - It's a Groove (Robert Lamm)

2004 - Black Crow (Diana Krall)

2005 - Mother India (Caedmon's Call)

2006 - Crazy (Gnarls Barkley)

2007 - Girls in Their Summer Clothes (Springsteen)

2008 - The Road (Tom Jones)

2009 - Haven't Met You Yet (Michael Buble)

2010 - City Noir (John Adams, composer)

2011 - Rolling in the Deep (Adele)

2012 - Hell or Hallelujah (KISS)

2013 - Give Life Back to Music (Daft Punk)

2014 - Seasons Change (Future Islands)

2015 - Uptown Funk (Bruno Mars, Mark Ronson)

2016 - Put Your Money on Me (The Struts)

Monday, May 1, 2017

Happy Writer’s New Year’s Day

Four years ago today, 1 May, I made the decision to start writing again. I had the germ of a story—a man wearing a fedora who was likely a private detective, knocking on a door and being answered by bullets. That idea became WADING INTO WAR: A BENJAMIN WADE MYSTERY, my first published novel.

Part of this idea was derived from a quote: A year from now, you will have wished you started today.

Every 1 May, I commemorate that first book and examine what I’ve done in the past year.

  • I earned my first nomination for “The Box Maker: A Triple Action Western.” That would be the 2016 Peacemaker Award for Short Fiction from the Western Fictioneers, a group of which I’m a founding member. I was thrilled and very much had the realization that it truly is an honor to be nominated.
  • I published ULTERIOR OBJECTIVES: A LILLIAN SAXTON THRILLER. I love all the books I’ve written but, to date, this is my favorite. Lillian is a kick-ass heroine and the story was so much fun to write.
  • I now show my novels at the Sugar Land Arts Center and Gallery and it’s a blast to see things I’ve written on display.
  • Recently, I made the decision to publish westerns under the “S. D. Parker” pen name. It’s not a secret by any stretch, but a way to differentiate my stories. Not coincidentally, I have republished all four western short stories today, complete with re-branded covers. I have also made the decision to put them in Kindle Unlimited, so if you want to read them, that’s where they are. And if you’re a Kindle Unlimited subscriber, they are all free to read.

Looking ahead for this fifth year since I started writing, I’m only into my second year as a published author, but there are big things on the horizon. Let me give you a preview.

  • Two more Junction City Westerns are on the immediate horizon with publication dates between now and mid June.
  • Railroad Detective Calvin Carter will have his big debut with three short stories also in the next couple of months. Later on, his novel-length adventures will begin.
  • John Denton, the Rouge Gambler, will make his debut in ALWAYS BET ON RED this summer.
  • The third Benjamin Wade novel, tentatively titled THE MISSING WIFE, will be published this year.
  • The second Gordon Gardner novel will also be published this year.

And these are only the items I’ve completed. There will be many more coming your way.

Along with separating the author name, I’ve also separated the mailing lists. I now have one focusing on mysteries and a second, new one specifically focusing on westerns. Don’t worry: you can be on both, but I’ll also let everyone know what’s going on in the other mailing list. I also have two separate Facebook pages, one for mysteries, and a second for westerns.

The year 2017 should be an exciting one here at the offices of Quadrant Fiction Studio. I’d love to have y’all join in the fun.