Test

I think I may have figured out what was happening with WordPoop (think “automatic update” and you won’t be far from the truth).  To test this, please respond in comments if the entire passage below gets posted (it ends, “So Jules licks the symbol at the end of the first chapter…” )

Julia (“Jules”) Wakefield is a twenty-five year old secretary who works at a British government agency, in a department so boring and inconsequential that everybody who’s ever worked there leaves it off their resume.

That’s during the day. At night, however, she is a fantasy maven: a mistress of a popular Internet website which explores and plays in the world of fantasy, and she is constantly looking out for The Next Big Fantasy Thing for her many hundreds of online fans and followers.

So when she discovers that her little neighborhood bookstore has found an obscure fantasy series from the 1930s, she buys the books; but when she reads them, she’s puzzled. The writing isn’t much good, the characters nothing unusual for the fantasy world, and the scenarios, while filled with erotic adventure, are quite bland, even though they do feature the standard fare of goblins, trolls, fairies and elves.

She posts her opinion online, and is mortified at the response from her readers in the comments section: “Missed the point,” “How could you be unmoved by the experience?” and the most cutting, “I thought you were smarter than this” are but a few of the remarks. She’s about to close the comments, when the very last one appears: “Did you not lick the symbol?

Jules has no idea what this means, so she emails the commenter for an explanation, and in the response, she discovers the secret of the books’ popularity.

At the end of each chapter there appears a large, strange symbol (a different one for each book). Her reader tells her that if Julie licks the symbol, she will instantly be transported into the book and story itself, and will appear as a participant in the story at the beginning of the chapter, as the storyteller. (All the books are written in the first person.) When the chapter ends, the reader explains, she will be returned to reality, none the worse for wear, with absolutely no time having elapsed since she licked the symbol, and the chapter will have been magically rewritten with herself as the new storyteller, and the symbol will have disappeared.

The only problem is that while in the story, if she changes any part of the storyline in any way, even by misquoting the dialogue, the entire story will change from that point on, and she will not be able to control what happens. Only the occurrence of the last sentence in the original chapter can bring her back to reality—e.g. “At that moment, the door to the room opened, and a strange figure entered the room.

The kicker is that if the last sentence cannot occur—say, if the door has already been destroyed by a phantom attacker—then she will no longer be able to return to reality, and will be trapped inside the story until the end of the next chapter. Worse still, if she happens to be killed in the story, she will instantly be transported back to reality, and could suffer a fatal heart attack, or not.

So Jules licks the symbol at the end of the first chapter…

And yes, it’s the premise for a series of novels I had planned to write several years ago, but lost interest therein because “fantasy”.


Update:  Okay, I think I’ve figured it out.  Normal service will resume tomorrow.

No More Bill

I see with great regret that the peerless travel writer Bill Bryson is closing up his inkwell for good.

In an age when cheap airfares and package tours — not to mention online “visits” through media such as Gurgle maps and InstaGram — could have made travel writing about as relevant as toenail clippings, Bryson’s refreshing, no-nonsense style has defied the trend.

I first encountered the man through his Lost Continent: Travels In Small-Town America.   I found in Bryson a kindred soul because at the time, Longtime Buddy Trevor Romain and I were doing very much the same thing, albeit on a smaller scale:  once a year we would take a long weekend off work, pick a part of the U.S. that we’d never visited before, and fly in (he from Austin and I, at that time, from Chicago).  Then we’d rent a car and set off, destination unknown and only the return flight’s departure time as a deadline.  The Golden Rule:  No Interstate Highways.  Even major U.S. roads with only two digits (e.g. U.S. 30 or Route 66) were treated with suspicion, and we’d get off into the back country roads with alacrity.

We were often asked why we did this — and we did it for nearly a decade — and our reply was simple.  We did it to remind ourselves why we had both left our country of birth and settled in this new, this wonderful and this dauntingly-large and diverse land.

To say that we met interesting people would rank among the great understatements of the century:  in New Orleans, Queer Tom and Opera Kate (an out-of-work opera singer working as a barmaid);  the lady in a little town outside Portland who collected frogs of all descriptions (stuffed, porcelain, wooden, whatever) and displayed them all in her restaurant;  the huge guy in New Hampshire who, when we asked him if he’d ever played football lisped:  “Nope.  I got weak kneeth”;  and the slightly-batty breakfast diner owner in Rhode Island who wore the most eccentric earrings we’d ever seen, a different pair every single day;  these, and many, many others were encountered in our travels, and gave us both dinner-party conversation topics and “Remember when?” reminiscences that survive to this day.

And during every single trip, Trevor and I fell in love with America all over again.

So when reading Bill Bryson’s books, it was like reading about one of our own “Blue Highways” trips (the name taken from the title of William Least Heat Moon’s book of the same ilk).  And when Bryson settled in Britishland, it gave rise to works like the astonishing The Road To Little Dribbling  and Notes From A Small Island  — books which, because I’d been to the U.K. often myself, made me nod my head because I too had been to Little Dribbling, only it was called Upton-Under-Wold, Thirsk or Lesser Foldem.

I cannot recommend his work highly enough, because he is an extraordinary writer who sees everything through a pair of clear-sighted lenses and not rose-tinted ones.  Never one to suffer fools or stupid things, he still talks about them with affection covered by incredulity.  If you’re looking for a reading project for the winter, you could do a lot worse than read everything Bill Bryson has ever written.

And Bill:  good for you.  While I am distraught at your retirement, I am forever grateful to you and your wonderful works.

As to why he’s getting out:

“I would quite like to spend the part that is left to me doing all the things I’ve not been able to do. Like enjoying my family, I have masses of grandchildren and I would love to spend more time with them just down on the floor.”

I can think of no better reason.  Give them each a hug from me.

RFI: Voice-Activated Programs

My long-dormant creative writing urge has suddenly resurfaced, and I’ve discovered that there is this huge well of untapped words waiting to be brought to the surface.  Unfortunately, my well-pump (okay, my typing) is worse than terrible, and no matter how fast I peck away, or how late I stay up at night, the unrealized content is far greater than I can put to paper (okay, to disk storage).  Seriously:  there is the last chapter of the much-delayed Skeleton Coast, as well as the barely-started but fully-outlined sequel to Family Fortunes, plus another sorta-sequel to Prime Target  which is likewise barely-started but fully-outlined.  That’s three whole books, folks.  And I’m not a professional writer like the brilliant Sarah Hoyt, who seems to be able to publish output in seemingly daily torrents.

So with much reluctance I am being forced into the 21st century, in that I desperately need some kind of voice-recognition software that will translate my speech into the written word.   (Editing is far easier on my typing than doing the first draft.)

Does anyone out there have any experience in this matter?

Kindred Spirit

I find myself curiously lethargic these days, when it comes to blogging.  Oh sure, the occasional action of some politician (e.g. Barr’s, yesterday) will pierce the blanket of lethargy and cause me to start looking around for the hammer and nails (okay, the AK-47 and a bandolier of cartridges), but mostly, I’m of the same mind as Taki’s Jim Goad, who took a week off from politics and feels all the better for it.

No matter what I write or how I vote, the debt is higher, there’s no wall, immigration is unchecked, Israel is still America’s master, I have no say in how the government spends even a dollar of the money it bleeds from me, nearly all journalists are dishonest, most people are deeply and incurably stupid, Republicans and Democrats are two arms on the same Frankenstein, the USA is culturally fractured beyond repair, the press still uses the euphemism “teens” for “black rioters,” women still make false rape claims while denying the very existence of false rape claims, white people are being systematically dehumanized by the same propagandists who scoff at the very notion that white people are being systematically dehumanized, trannies remain “the gender they were assigned at birth” no matter if they spend a million dollars to mutilate themselves, the “oppressed” would be just as rotten as the “oppressors” if only given the chance…etc. etc.

Read all of it to get the full flavor.

So for the next week or so, expect nothing more from this blog than gratuitous gun pics, studies of beautiful women, fine works of art and music, discussions of cars and… errrr wait a minute.

But like Joad, I’m taking a holiday from politics for as long as I can stand it.

Let’s just hope that the politicians don’t fuck it up, like they do so many things.

Yes, I’m Still Writing Books

It has been an unconscionably long time since I put pen to paper (okay, fingers to keyboard) to produce something that isn’t a blog post. This was because for the past few years I have been otherwise occupied, and the creative impulse went into hibernation. However, when I was staying at Free Market Towers the urge to write started to re-emerge from its long slumber, I took a few tentative steps to dust off the work and get rid of the rust — and now that I am free of Wadworth 6X, watching cricket and attending servant-floggings, it’s time for me to get back to work. Serious writing work.

Alert Readers will notice that I’ve added a “Buy Kim’s Books” section just below the header. There you will find links to all four of my previously-published works, and if you haven’t read any of them… well, this would be the time you apologize for your egregious inattention and get to it. That’s the old stuff.

“But what have you done for us recently, Kim?” 

Glad you asked. By the middle of March I will be publishing a new one, Skeleton Coast, which takes place in German South West Africa (a.k.a. Namibia) in 1908, and contains the usual Kim elements of murder, skullduggery, and sex. My dear friend Sarah Hoyt has offered to prepare it for Kindle formatting as soon as I’m done with some final last-minute editing (I can’t believe how many spelling errors still manage to float to the surface, like a Mafia hitman’s victims).

And the next few novels should be ready for publication by the times noted.

Now follow that link. You know what to do after that. I myself will be doing what I’m supposed to be doing… as Oglaf notes:

 

Filthy Lucre Part 2

Back when I could afford it, I used to contribute $5 a month to Michael Yon and a couple other writers because I thought that they were doing a worthwhile thing — and I support Chris Muir’s Day By Day strip because his is the very first site I visit, every single day, and as such he deserves my support.

Now, of course, I am but a poor pensioner and can’t do that anymore, which sucks. Now I’m the guy who needs to make some kind of income from my writing.

As threatened in Saturday’s post, here’s the next thing.

Several people have suggested that I set up a subscription service so that Loyal Readers could contribute towards this goal, so over in the Blog Roll on the bottom right of the page, you will see this link:

If you enjoy visiting my back porch regularly, please go there and make a contribution. I’m not asking for large sums of money; for cash flow purposes, I’d actually prefer a monthly sub of just a few dollars,  which will also make it easier on your wallets. (For those people (like me) to whom it’s important, note that it’s not through PayPal, because I think those hoplophobes have had enough of my business.)

My daily traffic is nothing like my old website’s, but it’s still high enough that if most of you help me out this way, I won’t have to become a greeter at WalMart or drive drunks home at 3 in the morning with Uber.

Among other things, your support will enable me to go to the SHOT show in Vegas for the first time, and report back on the gunny goodness I find there.

And when my regular monthly income reaches a decent level, I’ll set up a patron-only podcast (frequency TBD) as a reward for your patronage, as an adjunct to Splendid Isolation.

Please note that I have no intention of setting up a paywall on this website: the daily output of (inter alia) snarling invective, beautiful women and gun worship will continue to flow unabated for all to see.

And speaking of beautiful women, allow me to post another finalist for Nigella Lawson’s replacement: Sela Ward.

More of her to follow…

As always, I am grateful for your support.