Sunday, July 31, 2011

New Surnames on the Tree

Over the last few weeks, I've managed to fit in some genealogical research, and uncovered a new branch on my mother's side.  Discovering more about Nancy Rogers (b. August 11, 1794 /Died May 15, 1825), I have been able to identify a few more surnames to my list.  More distant cousins await!

Additional surnames

Generation 8: Otis

Generation 9: Gardner

Generation 10: Gustin, Little

Generation 11: Bushnell, Sherman, Southworth, Thomas

Add these to the longer list from my previous blog post: You Might Be a Cousin If...

Thursday, July 28, 2011

West of the Warlock: Week One

It's here at last!  My Fantasy Western epic, "West of the Warlock," is coming out online.  The first episode has just been released and is free to read from Hall Brothers Entertainment.  A new episode will be coming out each Thursday, so be sure to stop by and read the core tale.  You've never seen anything like it before!

Week one brings us "The Stagecoach Heist," which introduces you to the main characters and sets the stage for several interesting plot threads.  Who is the mysterious Warlock in Black, and what evil machinations does he have planned?

Start reading today, and get ready for the book release in September!  Invite your friends!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Doctor Who: Series Six, Part One (DVD) -Review

I bought this newly released DVD set last week, so I'll give my usual, brief commentary about it.

Coming off the success of Series Five, Doctor Who's new season kicked off with a story I felt was a bit over the top.  The two-part premiere left me wondering if things were going to be on a downward slope this season (sorry, the Doctor meets Richard Nixon?  That really didn't do it for me).  Fortunately, the premiere two-parter was followed up by a fresh batch of stellar episodes that returned us to the greatness we saw last year.  By the seventh episode (which concludes this first half-season), I was totally riveted again, and now I can't wait to see what the second half has in store.

One big plus this half-season concerns the new revelation about River Song.  The ambiguity of her character was starting to wear a little thin, and it was high time for some answers.  Boy, did we get them in the big finale!  I'm sure not everyone will appreciate the shocking plot twist, but I for one welcomed it, and think it's amazing.

The biggest letdown for me was the Silence/Silents.  They're an interesting concept, but they just didn't do it for me (kind of like Nixon, they didn't pique my interest that much).  I find myself hoping the human race has killed them all off by now, and we never see them again (I know, wishful thinking on my part).  I'm sure a huge slew of fandom loves them, and Steven Moffat probably has them planned for bigger and better things later on.  I'll cross my fingers and hope for a better feeling the second time around.

Extras were pretty slim on this DVD set, so don't buy it for that.  Get it because you want to watch these incredible episodes commercial free whenever you want!

Overall, this first half of Series Six gets a 4.5 rating from me.  It's not quite as good as Series Five, but close.

Monday, July 25, 2011

As Long As Time Permits (Minstrel Mondays)

Yes, it's time for what Paul McCartney might call a "silly love song."  This is a little something that popped into my head back when I was dating my wife, so there is quite a bit of youthful passion obvious in these words.  Looking back at it now, I can hear Bon Jovi belting out the tune in my head.  Yeah, I coulda been a singer/songwriter... too bad I can't sing, and the flute is the only instrument I can play.

I love you more than any man will ever love you,
and I hope your love for me is equally divine.
For I wish to be with you all throughout tomorrow.
Never do I want this dream to die.

Our love is so deeply pure,
as we venture into a world unsure.
I fear our hearts will be torn asunder,
ripped from each other's arms forever.

But I can't let those simple fears destroy me.
I must stand tall, hold on as strong as ever.
And never shall I let your body down.
So long as I stand here upon this ground.

I will love you as long as time permits me
and I'll never forget this vow until all's ended.
Life must see the two of us together,
Or life will not see you and me at all.

Cold are the nights I wait without you,
and warm are the days when we're together.
I only hope that someday we'll have ever-after,
and perhaps our future will be very long.
Yet still I have this horrible apprehension,
from the world that we live in, it's so disruptive.
I only hope I can protect you from the evil,
So our love, it will never be corrupted.

And I will stay so close until it's all over,
our lives will stay forever intertwined.
And never shall my heart or soul betray you,
for only with your love shall we survive.

I can't stand the thought of losing you,
and I know you can't imagine losing me.
So let us walk hand in hand together,
and we'll see how far it'll take us both today.

I will love you as long as time permits me
and I'll never forget this vow until all's ended.
Life must see us through together.
Without you I don't have any life at all.

We must stay strong,
love now together,
as long as time permits.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Coming Soon: West of The Warlock

It's done!  My latest work of fiction, the must anticipated Fantasy Western, is complete in every way.  The final edits have been done, and the formatting is finished.  You will all be able to read "West of the Warlock" starting next Thursday, July 28, at the Hall Brothers Entertainment website.  The main story will be free to read, and the full book will be published following the episodic run of the series (sometime in September).

The print edition will contain some great bonus material, which I hope will entice you to buy the complete composition when it comes out.  Let me give you a brief introduction to a few of these fabulous pieces.

  • Grimes of War:  A flashback story that'll take readers to the early life of Ron Grimes, as he and his dwarf infantry are fighting in the Civil War.  In this alternate world of magic and mysticism, you can be assured the War Between the States will have some curious twists and turns!

  • Date Night:  The 9th Episode of this 8-part serial.  This takes place directly after the main story you'll be reading online.  It serves as both an epilogue to the book, and a prologue to the forthcoming sequel, tentatively entitled "Mystic Selwood."

  • Deleted Scene:  There was one part of the original story that was removed for various reasons.  Discover this fascinating and scandalous extra, if you dare!

  • Afterword:  My reflections about the creation of the story, and special insights into the writing and publication process.

In all, these bonus features add an extra 20% to the book, so buyers shall not be disappointed!

I hope you'll all be reading this unique tale.  Invite friends, relatives, and complete strangers!  Everyone is welcome to read the adventures of Boron Grimes, the gunslinger dwarf, and his assorted friends & foes.  If you aren't entertained by this forthcoming thrill ride, check your pulse and call a physician pronto!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Stargate SG-1 Neophyte Guide (Season 3)

Hello, it's me again, seeking to indoctrinate you into the Stargate franchise.  I said I'd get around to posting this well over a month ago, so better late than never.

After getting through the first 2 seasons, you must either be getting hooked, or drifting into the hopeless realm of boredom.  This guide will hopefully drag you back toward the favorability side of things.  Also, if you skipped seasons 1 & 2, you can always try jumping into the thick of it with the 3rd season.  This handy guide will help point you toward the more important stories.  If you haven't been completely drawn in by now, that Season 3 can do the trick!

Remember 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, see what Season 3 has in store:

Into the Fire*
Fair Game
Learning Curve
Point of View*
Deadman Switch
Rules of Engagement
Forever in a Day
Past and Present
Jolinar's Memories
The Devil You Know
A Hundred Days*
Shades of Grey
New Ground
Maternal Instinct
Crystal Skull*

We had more stand-alone episodes this season, and a couple of them were really good in my opinion (as noted by the multiple asterisks).  We had a few major plot developments within the red episodes, as well.  If you're still not hooked after this, let's try season 4.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Bad Meets Worse

Life is like a bowl of cherries, often sour and full of pits.

Oh, the horror!  I've been having truck trouble for a while now.  It seemed any time I made some money, something would go wrong with my aging Ford Ranger.  Well, it seems I won't have to worry about that any longer.  It's dead, Jim!

Saturday morning, the truck seized up.  With some help from my mechanically-inclined father, we found the possible source of the problem.  The cylinders were filling up with water, which meant a blown head gasket, at best.  However, when we found water in the oil, that clinched it.  The truck either has a cracked head, or a cracked block, either problem being so severe and costly it may not warrant repair.

Oh, but it gets better.

As a temporary measure (until I can round up another vehicle), my father was going to let me use his F150.  First thing when I get in it and put my foot on the brake pedal:  HISSSSSS.  Busted brake line, hooray!  Talk about kicking a guy while he's down.  What are the odds?  We had to get that fixed before I could use it.  We needed a brake line, but none of the parts shops are open on Sunday around here (not that we had a vehicle to drive to get the part we needed!)  Maybe shops are open all weekend in bustling metropolitan areas, but around here you're not going to find a mechanic before Monday morning.  That was an inconvenience, and it cost me a day of much needed work.

Welcome to the curious eccentricity that is my life.

The picture isn't as bleak as it could be.  Sure, I have no money, but at least I have several other derelict vehicles sitting around the house, any one of which could be road-worthy for a grand or so (hopefully).  This is shaping up to be a tough year, but I'll survive or die trying.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Dream of Fire (Minstrel Mondays)

It has been hot lately, and I've been going through some personal difficulties (life is never easy).  Here's a little piece I wrote about a nightmare I had ten years ago.  It ought to spark an emotion or two.

Still in darkness,
I lie at ease,
peacefully sleeping.

The embers unseen,
hidden beneath daylight's rays,
glow forth through night's curtain
of shadowed refrain.

In the late night where men are afraid to tread
is where I lurk at the back of my head
seeing those glowing embers grow still
to burst forth into flames of pain.

A puff of smoke,
a flash of flame,
and fires are reborn.
The flames reach up
to caress the wood above me,
the great frame of my sturdy home
consumed by the flames,
eternally maimed.

Another flash from the embers below,
my blazing home is dealt a deadly blow.
The torch of pain spreads forth a deadly flame
and all is forgotten by the slain.

A gasp for air
from my tired lungs
brings in none but saturating smoke.
My eyes water from the heat
and my throat burns deep.
Stumbling to the floor, I find my home
creaking and groaning from within,
its bracing gone to my chagrin.

As all that was mine comes crashing down
the deadly collapse striking at my brow...
Then I awaken in lingering darkness
but the light of dawn soon destroys
an imagined mess.

A blink of an eye,
a whiff of the air,
and all my fear is forgotten,
yet lingers still for tomorrow's dreams.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Dead Ends

Digging through my family history last winter, I found more than I ever thought I would.  Some lines go back to the Mayflower and beyond, though there are some that don't reach so far.  All lines eventually fade into the fog of time, but there are certain branches that end prematurely.  This "Family Sunday" column will be to introduce a few of my ancestors whose parents are unknown.  Someday, I hope to learn more about them, and perhaps extend the lines back further in these cases.  Here we go, some dead ends:

  • Joseph B. Robinson.  Born circa 1873 in Pennsylvania, he was my great-great grandfather.  I previously mentioned him in my Ballinger column a while back, as he married Nellie Ballinger on October 24, 1895 in Bridgeton, NJ.  Their daughter Effie was born in Philadelphia, PA, so I believe Joseph and Nellie were living there at the time, and Joseph may have been from there originally.  They separated sometime before 1900, and by 1910 Nellie listed herself as "widowed" on the census, but that may have simply been to avoid the stigma of having her husband run off on her.  So little is known about Mr. Robinson, I really would like to explore this line of the family further.  There could be gold here.

  • Mary Ann Wilson.  Born August 5, 1837 in Miami County, Ohio.  Died July 14, 1916 in Baldwin City, Kansas.  Married Sylvester Tobias Counts on October 27, 1855.  With all these dates and places, you'd think there'd be some hint about who her parents were, but no luck.  For some reason, her heritage eludes me.  She apparently had brothers who moved to Minnesota and founded a town named Wilson.  The surname is so common, and every other woman was named "Mary" back then, so it is very difficult to find positive paternal records for her.  I'm sure somebody out there has an answer.

  • Richard Kirton.  Born circa 1830 in England.  He moved to Kentucky sometime around 1850, though it's difficult to find records about anyone from the old country.  His wife was Ellen Hyler.  His sons were Nelson & Sidney.

  • Caroline Royal Sheppard.  Born March 19, 1833, Died April 6, 1904.  Married Daniel Woodruff Henderson on September 28, 1849.  Family lore says she had 20 children who lived to adulthood, though I've only found records for 15 of them.  She's another ancestor who just popped up out of nowhere (aka southern New Jersey).  Digging through the Henderson line has been a daunting task, though from my previous column about them you can see I have made some progress.  I wish I could find a few photographs from this side of the family.  I'm sure some cousin has a few, but tracking living relatives is sometimes harder than learning about dead ones.

  • Mark Bailey.  Born in 1796, married Bethia Hubbell around 1816.  Nobody I've talked to is quite sure where Mark came from, though some suspect it was either Connecticut or Vermont.  I suspect the latter, as Vermont's birth records from the 18th century are spotty at best (while Connecticut's are pretty reliable).  I'm wondering if he's related to any of the Baileys of Maine, such as the founders of "Baileyville."  Regardless, I'd like to know where he came from for certain.

  • James Ballinger.  Born circa 1800 in Pennsylvania.  His wife was Sarah Sutton (born in NJ), and their sons were Benjamin (my 4x great grandfather), and William.  It was exceedingly difficult to uncover James.  For months, I thought Benjamin would be as far back as I'd be able to go, but then I found a marriage certificate for Benjamin's brother, William.  The certificate listed the groom's parents, and the state they were each born in.  Thus, I was able to push the envelope back further into the fog of history, though details remain sketchy.  There were a lot of different Sarah Suttons born in New Jersey around 1800, and I haven't found much else about James yet, though time may reveal more.

There are many more dead ends throughout my family tree, but these are some I would really like to work on.  If anyone has any information about these people, do not hesitate to contact me.  The truth is out there, somewhere!

Friday, July 15, 2011

An Open Letter to Agents

It's harder to break into the major publishing markets today than it has ever been before.  This is the era of diminishing returns, as there are fewer readers and more writers than ever before.  Anyone with a computer thinks they can write a book and the internet gives them the ability to peddle it as soon as they type it out, while the mainstream of society seems more content to watch television on a weeknight rather than sample a fresh paperback.

It is no surprise that Agents are hard to get.  They generally stick to what they know is a guaranteed money-maker; the previously established authors who have already managed to make it above and beyond the average slush pile—for the most part.  It is the Agent's purview to make money, period.  While a writer might have the luxury to play artist, and seek to bring beautiful pieces of literature to life, the Agent can't always be concerned with aesthetics.

However, there is a secondary purpose for Agents, and that is to identify and promote new, unknown talent.  This can be a time consuming venture, though it also has the potential to change the future.  Not only are there many quality writers out there who could be successful with a little professional support, but there are still readers out there eager to see something other than what the current batch of famous producers are cranking out.

I have long held the opinion that many people aren't reading today because they don't like what is being published.  Whether they'd like what isn't being published is anyone's guess, but I dare say there are some new readers just waiting for a fresh voice to deliver "their kind of story."  That is where the Agent's secondary purpose kicks into gear; to get the unknown writer onto the scene.

Of course, there's no way to know how successful a new author will be, so Agents must logically become more and more selective.  That's why they generally stick with what they know is already selling, as opposed to what might sell.  Comparing it to other investments, this is the equivalent of buying gold and silver, as opposed to stocks.  You know the precious metals will still be worth something, no matter what, so why risk your time and money on a stock that might go belly-up?

I'm not saying Agents don't take new, unpublished writers as clients.  Yes, writers are still able to woo them, though it isn't easy.   The writing itself is only part of the bargain, and that is where I often find myself at a disadvantage.  I'm pure writing skill and talent, able to produce quality stories of speculative fiction, though the only way to know that is to read my books.  I don't have a long list of college credits, I don't have a trendy angle, and I'm stuck out here in the middle of nowhere, so I can't show up to the big conventions and play the showman.  As such, most Agents have thus far given me less than a passing glance.

I would like to make this public appeal to any Agents who are looking for talent in the Science Fiction & Fantasy genres:  Consider my material for representation.  I'm not a household name at present, but at this point the only thing holding me back is lack of fanfare.  I have all the skills and imagination of my contemporaries who have already busted through into the mass market of book publishing.  If you want to make money with someone and bring entertaining stories to the world, then I'm your writer.  The reading world is thirsting for more than the same old stories about teenage vampires and autobiographies of politicians nobody really cares about. They want what I've got, only you need to tell them that!

No, it isn't ego.  I'm just a damn good writer.  Try me!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Eternal Memory (Minstrel Mondays)

Here's a poem I actually had published back during my short stint at trying to be a "professional" poet.  There were a few of them that got picked up from small-time zines and other poetry publications, though for the half dozen or so that got accepted, I must have received a hundred rejections.  There's no percentage in poetry, that's for sure.  It's just too easy.

Anyway, somebody thought this one was worth printing eight or nine years ago.  I should probably go dig through my records and see who it was...

I wish I had money to buy
all the things I dream,
because it's so hard to be
in this world we live in.
These people of Illogicality,
their scenes of grandeur are staring at me.
And things are so hard these days
when all life is simply fleeting away,
and we don't seem to be getting very far
and things don't seem to fit anymore.
When I am so unsure about it,
can we be happy in the morning?

I'm so totally lost
when it comes to things I see
in my world, the world of illogicality.
How will we ever stay, you and me?

Life would be so good with you
if only I knew who you were,
knew where you are now.
If you could know what you've done to me.

I'll see you in the wind someday from now,
your long soft hair blowing so iridescently.
In the sparkling sunlight of a nearby land,
I'll know it's you,
you'll see me from afar,
you'll call out as I go wandering by,
and things will finally be as right
as once they were in the start.

Because I have done this thing before
it will always be happening,
always have been,
for it is locked in eternal memory.
Everything we've done,
all we will,
has all been done,
and will yet be happening,
for it all comes together
at the verge of tomorrow and yesterday.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

A Rare Clan

There are many different groups within my family heritage.  Some are enormous, with hundreds of descendants, and others have faded into obscurity.  There are a lot of people with blood ties to me, though as time goes by, surnames end up being supplanted.  For example, the Kirton Clan (originating from Richard Kirton born circa 1830), has all but died out, while the Counts family (from Jacob Counts, Sr., 1738) has hundreds (perhaps even thousands) of descendants, many of whom still share the Counts name.

While I can claim the heritage of Counts, Kirton, Ballinger, Forthman, etc..., my own surname is one of unique interest.  As I've previously discussed, the "Ingham" name in my family actually comes from adoption, as my grandfather was a MacCain by blood.  This sets us up as something of a clan of our own; the MacCain-Inghams.  At last count, there were 13 people that I know of who can claim to be part of this special sub-clan (not counting spouses), and it seems my sons will be the only ones to carry on the surname (unless my father's young half-brother has a sudden lifestyle change, that is).  I say "sons" plural because I hope to have more than one someday.  My heirs should be many, and I hope some of them will manage to carry on the patriarchal line.

I always felt a certain responsibility to carry on the family line.  Growing up, I was always aware of how uncommon my surname was, and it seemed a great shame to let it die out.  It was certainly a determining factor when it came to certain choices, as there were some risks I never took because this thought was in the back of my mind:  I could not get myself killed without heirs, especially a male one.  I don't know if that makes me old-fashioned or vain, but it's an important part of my overall existence; the desire to perpetuate "The Clan."

This kind of family pride is something a lot of people have cast aside these days, as dysfunctional households and a decadent society often raise children to disregard their heritage.  My upbringing may have been dysfunctional, but I was still taught the importance of family, and therefore have a great reverence for my roots.

Who will continue your family clan when you are gone?

Friday, July 8, 2011

Where Are My Book Reviews?

This is a question some of you may have been asking.  Since I'm a writer, you'd logically assume I'd talk a lot more about what I'm reading, though most of my reviews lately have been about other media (movies, television, etc...).  There is a reason for this, so let me explain.

I'm the first to admit, I'm not the world's greatest reviewer.  It's really not my forte, and as a writer of fiction I feel that many of my views are biased when it comes to the written word.  I'll read a book, and as I try to put down a report on it, I find myself wondering if I can really judge other people's work.  As a fellow writer, I will have the tendency to be overly critical (I notice every typo), or I try to be overly generous (ignoring obvious flaws to elevate a fellow author).  You must understand, for one writer to judge another is like General Motors doing a critical review on Ford trucks.

Of course, I can be as professionally detached as anyone, though it takes conscious effort, and setting myself into a reviewing mindset often knocks me off course with my fiction writing.  No sense screwing up my rhythm for a few amateurish commentaries.  Spouting some opinions about movies and tv shows is a lot easier, so they'll dominate my Wednesday Reviews feature for the time being.

I'll still let a book review slip through here and there, and I'm working up a few right now about books I read quite a while ago, though I'm never going to be renowned for book reports.  I have enough of those to write for my own books when I'm trying to sell them to publishers.  I can tell you, it's not as much fun as you might think.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The Expendables (DVD) -Review

I saw "The Expendables" a few days ago, and I found it to be a decent shoot-'em-up movie.  We see an aging Sylvester Stallone still able to pull off the strong guy persona of his youth with relative ease.  The movie also has a lot of other action actors including Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, and Stone Cold Steve Austin. Plus we see guest appearances from both Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bruce Willis, who drop in for about 5 minutes.

This isn't for children.  There is a lot of foul language, and plenty of blood and gore, as you would expect from an R-rated film about a band of violent mercenaries fighting pirates and drug lords.  If you want raw action, and aren't easily offended, then this will satisfy you.

The DVD has some interesting extras, including one deleted scene, a gag reel, and feature commentary from Stallone, himself!

I give the movie and its DVD release 3 out of 5 stars.  It's entertaining, but nothing exceptional.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Eastport's Glorious 4th of July Parade, 2011

Each year, thousands of people descend upon the small coastal city of Eastport, Maine, to celebrate Independence Day.  There are some junk vendors, and a few rides for the kids, and in the afternoon there is the parade, which is always interesting to watch.  At night, the fireworks show is spectacular, and has been rated by some national magazines as one of the top 10 in the country for 4th of July fireworks shows.

I didn't go to the fireworks this year, but I was there for the parade, and my wife had the foresight to bring the digital camera along.  I took charge of it, and snapped a whole bunch of nice pictures of the parade.  I'd like to share just a few highlights.  (To prevent excessive load time, these photos have been reduced in size and quality).

The parade started like this:

There are always some Canadian Mounties who show up to the Independence Day Parade.  I wonder; do Maine State Troopers march in Canada Day parades?

State of the art fire protection!

There was a ship in-port, so this line of Navy seamen just kept coming!

How could it be the 4th of July without kilts and bagpipes?  Where's me haggis?

Don't mess with the Coast Guard!

Some kids on a float all dressed up.

The Shriners always have a lot of fine attractions at the parades.

Kathryn was still asleep at this point, but she woke up a few minutes later.

The band from St. John came down to play.

There was another pack of Bagpipers right behind them, to boot!  Aye, an' if ahm not meestaken, tha's the Douglas tartan they be wearin'!

The Shriners Lobster boats.

Tea Party Float:  'Nuff Said.

Snowe removal, anyone?

Lobstah Pickahs!

More Shriners

Atlantic Clarion Steel Band

"One of these days, I'm gonna plow right into one of these crowds for the heck of it."
"Shaddup and drive the dang car!"

Richibucto Cadets
(them Canuck kids must wish they were Americans on the 4th of July!)

Yea!  My hometown is 200 years old!
(They should have had Helen Brooks jump out of the cake!)

Go Navy!

A really enthused celebrant!

1930 Ford Woody Wagon.  They sure don't make them like they used to!

The pirates invade Eastport every September now.  As an aside, my father suggested the whole Pirate Festival thing decades before it was ever implemented, though people back then thought he was nuts.  Seems somebody thought it was a good idea, eventually!

The rampaging hordes come marching down in the wake of the parade!  Ah, survived another year!