8 Sentence Sunday on Dieselpunks #22

Today we continue following Rand Hart, who is ruminating on gambling and gamblers. Enjoy!

The best gambling was in Europe. He could also get in a decent game or two on the Hindenburg or Graf. Like the one he’d just won. Always helps when several wealthy industrialists want to lose a little money. Little to them, that is. Of course, one wonders when they cheat. Hart shrugged. People are people and even wealthy industrialists are, at the end of the day, people. You just have to get a little more creative than they are.

To be continued!

If you write or read Dieselpunk, join in the fun: 8 Sentence Sunday on Dieselpunks.

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Review: Evelyn & Company by Chad Muller

Comedy, I think, can be exceedingly difficult to pull off well in writing. After all, the key elements of timing and pacing are not present as they are in live performance. And then there is the very real fact not everyone thinks the same thing is humorous.

Some time ago, I stumbled upon the zany book Evelyn & Company by Chad Muller (aka CM Muller). I so enjoyed the novel, I have decided to make it my inaugural book review.

Previously, I posted reviews on Amazon and Goodreads. And to be honest, I don’t have anything additional to say. Therefore, without further ado, I give you Evelyn & Company by Chad Muller.

Evelyn & Company

 

Purchased from Amazon 11 December 2014

Ratings:

Storyline:                      4

Characters:                   5

Writing Style:               5

Textual Errors:             4

Entertainment Value: 5

(See my Review page for an explanation of the rating system.)

Review:

Evelyn & Company is bizarre, zany, delightful. A crazy romp through the many facets humor has to offer us. Puns, slapstick, innuendo, juxtaposition, satire, black comedy, it’s all there in Evelyn Portobello’s mad, quixotic quest for revenge when she doesn’t get the product she bought from off the TV. Something that has either directly happened to us or what we got wasn’t what was advertised. And so the plump Ms Portobello is stiffed of her “Magic Morel Shake Mix” and her phone calls and letters go unanswered. Oh, the earthy deliciousness of it all!

Humor operates on many different levels and has a very individual appeal. What Evelyn & Company offers us is a smorgasbord of humor. There is something there for everyone. Some we may not get, but keep reading — our morsel is waiting.

The story is simple. The perfect slice of life. It begins in the middle of living and in a sense goes no where, but along the way we encounter injustice, love, devotion, romance, protests, strikes, anger, happiness, crazies, fun, and laughter. Yes, lots of laughter. After all, it’s a slice of life.

Evelyn is wealthy but lives in a trailer, expends tens of thousands of dollars to get back the $19.95 she was cheated out of, and then decides to take matters into her own hands. Situational irony at its finest!

In the tradition of black comedy and social satire, Muller has given us a 21st Century Candide — by the name of Evelyn & Company.

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8 Sentence Sunday on Dieselpunks #21

Rand Hart’s been in Europe all winter and, perhaps due to a touch of homesickness, he’s looking forward to spending some time at home with his money. We continue Hart’s adventure in today’s snippet:

Yes, Hart thought, sometimes he was lucky. This past winter, for example, his time on the Riviera had been profitable. He’d been lucky more often than not. Chemin de fer and backgammon. Those had been his main sources of income. He never played roulette. Luck wasn’t a lady often enough for Hart’s liking. Now he was looking forward to going home for awhile. Then he’d fly down to Rio de Janeiro and catch a flight on the Graf Zeppelin for Europe.

To be continued!

If you write or read Dieselpunk, join in the fun: 8 Sentence Sunday on Dieselpunks.

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Craftsmanship

I was a reader before I became a writer and I do not recall when I have ever wanted to be anything else but a writer.

There is nothing I prefer to a good book. Because reading that good book allows me to experience a world I would not have otherwise been able to experience. For me, those experiences — virtual though they may be — are just as real as eating a sweet, juicy apple or touching dew on a leaf or feeling the misty fog on the skin.

As a reader, I demand craftsmanship from authors. I demand from them a world of quality, peopled by characters of quality. For my life is immeasurably enriched by that craftsmanship and I want my life to be immeasurably enriched.

And that doesn’t mean the book in my hand has to be great literature (whatever that is). But it does have to be an entertaining story, even if the author of that story is no longer remembered by the mass of readers. In the end it is the story that matters, not the one who wrote it. Just as it is the chair or watch or vase or painting that matters and not the one who made it.

“Sredni Vashtar” by Saki has been my companion for 50 years. “Silent Snow, Secret Snow” by Conrad Aiken, the same. I have read The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien a half-dozen times and wept every time over Thorin Oakenshield’s death. I laughed all the way through The Diary of a Nobody by now forgotten George and Weedon Grossmith. And was so moved reading Tomorrow and Tomorrow by Hunt Collins (aka Evan Hunter/Ed McBain), some 50 years ago, the title and story have never left me — even though I forgot the author’s name. I now own all three paperback printings just to have the different cover art.

What distinguishes the above books from so much of what is self-published today is craftsmanship. Although the Big 5 have published their share of books lacking in this department as well. The above books were written by authors who cared to give us, the reader, a tale that was well-written — even in a 50 cent paperback.

I love the technology that has enabled everyone who wants to tell a story to get that story out to thousands of readers and maybe even make a buck doing so. But I also hate that same technology for it has unleashed upon the reader a veritable tsunami of cheap and shoddy goods.

The publishing industry is big business and I don’t like big business. It gives us uniformity instead of something unique and creative, because they can make money with uniformity. The unique and creative may not help the bottom line. The one thing in the publishing industry’s favor is it does cut down on the number of bad books published. Notice I wrote cuts down. The Big 5 publish plenty of bad authors and books because they make lots of bucks for the publisher. And in the end, publishing is a business — the point of business is to make money.

The reader, though, is also partly to blame for this tidal wave of bad writing. We are to blame because we read the stuff. We tolerate the bad writing. It is as though we are addicted to toaster pastries and have forgotten what a good bakery danish tastes like. When reviewers write the book needed an editor but that’s what we get with these Kindle books, there is something wrong with this picture. And what is wrong is the writer was lazy and we, the reader, let him or her get away with being lazy.

Or when a supposedly #1 Amazon best selling author doesn’t know the difference between telling and showing, we, the reader, have failed ourselves and that author by allowing that author to foist on to the world his or her bad writing. We the reader did not demand craftsmanship from the author.

I love the indie publishing revolution. I’m part of it. I love sticking it to big business and letting the marketplace decide. As a reader, when I look for an indie book to read I read the 1-star reviews. I don’t care about the 5- or 4-star reviews, because it is the 1-star reviews which tell me if the book is riddled with typos or is flat out poorly written. The 1-star reviews tell me if the author took pride in his or her work to have it proofread or bothered to learn the craft of telling a good story so I’ll remember it until the day I die. So I’ll remember the story long after I’ve forgotten the author.

We readers need to demand quality writing from authors. We authors need to take pride in our work and respect our readers and give them a well-crafted story. A story they may remember for all of their days, even if they forget our names.

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8 Sentence Sunday On Dieselpunks #20

Rand Hart not only won his poker game, he gained possession of Herr von Osler’s personal memento — a gold ring from the Führer.

We pick up from where we left off last week.

A steward came and collected the chips. “I’ll take these to the purser, sir.”

“I’d like the money in American dollars.”

“Yes, sir,” the steward said and left with the chips.

Hart looked at the ring and tried it on several fingers before he found it fit the middle finger of his right hand. He walked to the promenade and looked out the window of the Hindenburg. In a couple hours the sun would be up. Down below, on the Atlantic, Hart saw the lights of a ship. Otherwise, there were only the stars.

To be continued!

If you write or read Dieselpunk, join in the fun: 8 Sentence Sunday on Dieselpunks.

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More on the Cozy Catastrophe

Last week we took a look at the Cozy Catastrophe, that sub-genre of post-apocalyptic fiction where the characters are more concerned about their tea and crumpets than the fact the world as they knew it has just come to an end.

This week, I’d like to delve into this niche category of speculative fiction a bit deeper by taking a look at an example: the BBC program “Survivors”.

“Survivors” originally aired from 1975 to 1977. The creator was Terry Nation. In 1976, Nation published a novel with the same title. In 2008 and 2010, the BBC aired a remake of “Survivors”, giving the show a contemporary feel.

I’ve read the novel and seen the remake and will focus on those for the discussion here.

“Survivors” begins with a pandemic that wipes out almost all of the human race in a matter of a few weeks. The main character, Abby Grant, survives the virus and sets out to find her son, who was away at school. Along the way, she meets other survivors and they decide to band together in order to make survival easier.

Right away, one can see the focus in a cozy catastrophe is on the aftermath and not on the destruction of humankind.

Of course there has to be a villain. The TV series and novel sport two villains. These bottom feeders are also interested in survival, but not in the same way as our intrepid heroine. These guys survive by taking advantage of others and the situation.

In the TV series, one hoards goods and uses his shotgun to chase others away. He also uses his weapon to enforce his control over people. He has a gang which does his bidding. The other villain enslaves people and forces them to mine coal. He then uses the coal to barter for goods. Winters can be chilly in Britain.

In the novel, the villains have different modus operandi but their goal is the same: to take advantage of the chaos by exploiting others in order to survive.

We have a catastrophe and then we have survivors. One group wants to rebuild civilization and make it better than it was; the other, is only interested in survival by means of exploitation and power.

Depending on which group gets the upper hand, determines whether the story has a utopian or dystopian mood.

The novel, in this case, has a decidedly dystopian feel. Things just don’t go well for the home team. So much so, they decide to leave Britain for the Continent. The TV series ended on a cliffhanger, not being renewed for a third season. I felt the TV version shaded to the hopeful and was not as bleak as the novel.

I think “Survivors” is a good introduction to the cozy catastrophe sub-genre. Check it out. The book is out of print and a bit difficult to find, but not impossible.

Comments are always welcome!

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8 Sentence Sunday On Dieselpunks #19

Last week, Rand Hart’s four jacks beat Helmut von Osler’s four eights. We pick up our story with von Osler’s reaction and learn about the gold ring.

“Mein Gott im Himmel. You are a very lucky man, Herr Hart.”

“Sometimes, Mr von Osler. Sometimes.”

The German shook his head. “I am finished. Treasure the ring, Herr Hart. It was a gift from the Führer.” The German got up from the table and left.

To be continued!

If you write or read Dieselpunk, join in the fun: 8 Sentence Sunday on Dieselpunks.

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The Cozy Catastrophe

We’re familiar with such dark apocalyptic tales as The Road, The Book of Eli, and On the Beach. The world coming to an end or it has been so altered no one really wants to live here anymore.

When I wrote my post-apocalyptic novel series The Rocheport Saga, I was uncomfortable classifying it as post-apocalyptic because it just didn’t seem to fit the genre.

I didn’t have legions of zombies or hideously morphed humans wiping out the last remnants of humanity. Nor did I have the bleakness of Mad Max. And while there are cannibals present in the early books of the Saga, they don’t pose an insurmountable threat. I can’t even honestly lay claim to the dystopian tag, for the Saga is at base optimistic.

The question before me was, how do I classify The Rocheport Saga? It was a question, up until recently, I had no clue as to how to answer.

The other day, cruising around on the web (mostly to avoid editing, which I just can’t stand), I stumbled on a 2009 article in The Guardian entitled “The discreet charms of ‘cozy catastrophe’ fiction”. I couldn’t believe it. I had found my sub-genre! Unknowingly I had written a cozy catastrophe in the great British tradition of H.G. Wells and John Wyndham.

Additional research turned up two more excellent articles: one by Jane Rogers and one by Jo Walton.

So what is a cozy catastrophe? Basically it is a tale where most of the earth’s population is wiped out rather quickly and the survivors don’t dwell on the disaster (which is usually manmade). Instead, they set about trying to rebuild civilization. As one wit noted, cozy catastrophes are similar to cozy mysteries: people meet violent deaths, but there’s always tea and crumpets.

And such is the case with Bill Arthur and his band of intrepid followers. There is the big wipeout and then the survivors are plagued with death from disease, accidents, battles, wild animals, and murder. Yet they overcome the odds and begin rebuilding civilization, a better world than the one that died.

I’m very pleased to have discovered The Rocheport Saga has a home with such classics as The Time Machine, The Day of the Triffids, The Death of Grass, and Childhood’s End; as well as the regrettably short-lived BBC series remake of “Survivors”.

As always, I’d love to read your thoughts on the ‘cozy catastrophe’.

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8 Sentence Sunday on Dieselpunks #18

Last week, we left Rand Hart in the midst of the final hand of a poker game on the Hindenburg. This week we pick up where we left off. Herr von Osler does not have enough chips to match what Hart has put into the pot and has offered to write a check. Hart replies to the German industrialist.

“That gold ring on your finger. I’ll settle for that.”

The German was conflicted. He looked at Hart, looked at the cards in his hand, shrugged, pushed his chips into the center of the table, and took the ring off his finger. He looked at it for a moment, then placed it amongst the chips.

Herr von Osler flipped his cards over. “Four eights, mein Herr.”

Hart turned his cards over and said, “Four Jacks.”

To be continued!

If you write or read Dieselpunk, join in the fun: 8 Sentence Sunday on Dieselpunks.

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