Monthly Archives: November 2015

For Writers Only November 29/15


Writing action. Or, an active and living narrative.

It has been an interesting study for me. The toolbox, or the techniques, involved in writing action, are quite interesting. They are fascinating. They lead to very involved effects. They are not easily handled.

It’s possible that beginners may think that if they have their hero take the bit in his teeth right away, then he’d run through the plot like a thief with your ATM card running through your checking account. There has to be hesitancy, refusal of the Quest, dithering, wondering, internal monologues, flashbacks to childhood, emotional scenes, etc. or everything would come to an end very soon.

Meaning, the writer has not thought out his/her plot.

Plus, if he is not a victim, then is he Evil? For half a century there have been those who questioned, ‘Why do the villains and the evil characters have all the energy?’ The question is posited as if it were an absolute. ‘Why are villains so much more interesting than the main characters?’

They are not, not inevitably.

If you give the Bad Guys all the agency and initiative, then yes, otherwise no.

This is the first post on this matter but if you are a writer and are interested, I would refer you to two of Dickens’ novels. Compare and contrast. Great Expectations and Nicholas Nickleby. (Check out the Wikipedia plot summary if you haven’t time to read them) In GE, the main character Pip is very passive. Pip is dazzled by social prestige, he allows himself to be insulted and trashed by upper-class characters and so on. Maybe I am simply not knowledgeable about the British class system, but why does Pip have to go to Miss Haversham’s and continue to be insulted, month after month? I don’t get it. In NN, the protagonist is active, clever, takes on conflict when it is shoved in his face, never bows out of a fight, and gets the girl, of course.

However Dickens could not avoid action even if he wanted to. Read this; Dickens is describing a lazy day in a quiet square in London. Note the verbs. It is alive, living, charged with animate power. From Barnaby Rudge, Penguin Classics, page 128

    There are, still worse places than The Temple on a sultry day, for basking in the sun, or resting idly in the shade. There is yet a drowsiness in its courts and a dreamy dullness in its trees and gardens; those who pace its lanes and squares may yet hear the echoes of their footsteps on the sounding stones, and read upon its gates, in passing from the tumult of Strand or Fleet Street ‘Who enters here leaves noise behind’. There is the plash of falling water in fair Fountain Curt, and there are yet nooks and corners when dun-haunted students may look down from their dusty garrets on a vagrant ray of sunlight patching the shade of the tall houses and seldom troubled to reflect a passing stranger’s form. …In summer time its pumps suggest to thirsty travelers springs cooler and more sparkling and deeper than other wells and as they trace the spillings of full pitchers on the heated ground they snuff the freshness and, sighing, cast sad looks toward the Thames and think of baths and boats and saunter on, despondent.  




Thanksgiving Greetings 2015

Happy thanksgiving


Chicken Kiev for me molasses biscuits and apples and carrots for the equines and Grady may have a bit of the chicken Kiev. Went down and started the long, long process of cutting cedar saplings and other trash growth out of the meadow and lower pasture.

Learning ‘A Christmas Waltz’ on pennywhistle and finally got the bridge on ‘Fool’s Jig’ down pat and learned.

Invaders now at the Croatian border (all young men) are doing stunts to appeal to the liberal media of Europe. Sewing their mouths shut (? why?) and putting duct tape over their mouths — I suppose they’ve seen some kind of protest where protestors taped their own mouths shut —- painting their bodies with HELP US SAVE US. The western nations send millions upon millions in aid to the countries they come from. So it doesn’t make sense.

I am thankful to be a citizen of this country and living in safety so far.




More rain, and we could use yet more. Ozark ride pictures. Nov. 15/15


A drizzle today and more coming. The Sabinal is still over the dam at the park, but Little Creek is still not running. We could use this for months!



Susan’s black-and-white paint named Doc, Susan and Megan (the wildlife biologist for the Forest Service) starting in on supper. We ate very well on that trip! So good to have Megan there, she could identify every birdsong, every plant.

Veteran’s Day November 11/15


This is my dad, Seaman First Class Robert Leonard Jiles, of the Pacific Fleet, 1944-45. He was at the invasions of Iwo Jima and Okinawa and did escort duty on his ship, a DE named the USS Finnegan. He was one of the famous ‘tin can sailors’. He told us his DE (destroyer escort) was called a ‘tin can’ long before I knew the history of these little ships. He said, ‘our purpose was to draw fire, so the big ones could go on’. I thought he was joking.

The Finnegan also did escort duty for the fleet to Saipan and through the Marianas.

About Iwo Jima, he said the ships were lined up all around the island and pounded it without cease for a week to soften it up for the Marines. It didn’t do much good. He said he saw a ship to port get hit in the bow and catch fire and go down. He said you could see sailors streaming over the sides and into the water like ants. The Finnegan ordered nets thrown over the side and my dad went down the nets to help haul sailors out of the sea.


I can’t identify any ships in this old photo of the invasion of Iwo, but that is Mount Suribachi on the left, and enormous amounts of explosion debris.

They also had a kamikaze come at them but it was shot to pieces before it could hit them. My dad was at his post loading a gun and he said flaming pieces of debris were falling all around them. He just kept on loading ammunition.

To tell you the truth I think it was the best time of his life. The Navy doesn’t allow seamen to become alcoholics.

In one of his letters he wrote that when the news of the surrender of Japan came through you could hear men yelling and screaming with joy all around the fleet. He didn’t say where he was (Navy censors).  He said all the sailors threw their hats in the air “and it was like a skillet of popcorn going off”. He also wrote that where he was in port there were impromptu bands of ‘the Brits’ and others on shore walking up and down playing everything they could remember as loud as they could.

The flag above is, I think, the flag that was rescued during the attack on Pearl Harbor, it was from the USS Shaw; she went down with all hands. The story is that a sailor in a whaleboat looking for survivors (there were none) saw it floating and reached out and drew it in with a boat hook.

There were a lot more stories from my dad, but maybe I will write them down some other time.

Happy Veterans Day to all my loved ones who have served! Jim, Nadine, Daniel, Gary Edwards, my brother, Jim Sr., many cousins.


November 9/15 Writing Dystopias and contention in the sci-fi fantasy world and RAIN



I must order the above book to see if Giles Becker has been writing his interminable dystopia/post-apocalyptic tomes in vain for the past fourteen years. I suspect not.

Note that The Martian, an absolutely terrific book, received no prizes or awards in the recent conventions of sci-fi/fantasy writers. That would be the Hugo award and the Nebula award.

Blogs where this is al being discussed, argued over and fought about are: (the best) John Wright’s blog at and Voxpopuli and among others.

Giles Becker has strongly urged me to read them nd join in. I read them but have not yet joined in.

We have had splendid rains. Ponds are full, April’s lakes at the camp are full, creeks are running, the Sabinal River is over the dam down at the park, and so I hope and pray this seven-year drought is perhaps over…




Important! November 8/15


Essential for anyone in the arts, in academia, anywhere one might get attacked for not being politically correct. Some areas of life and work are more vulnerable than others. Have read on internet news that Nobel prize-winning scientist Sir Tim Hunt was hounded out of his position at a British University. He has gone to Japan with his wife — she was fired too, apparently, for being his wife. This is dumbfounding. What is needed at the top of this post is a poster from the Cultural Revolution, about 1966, in China, with Mao marching along a country road surrounded by eagerly grinning peasants and workers. I found one. I can’t bear to put it up, it is so depressing.

The peasants and workers are barely human. Their eyes are fixed on Mao with a maniacal intensity. It’s not depressing, it’s frightening.

One certainly needs discussion and advice in this matter. And there is more and more of it. Sir Tim didn’t fight back and made the mistake of apologizing. So horse0095there you go.

I’ll make a guess — a wild speculation. Let us say that during the American Civil War ( since I am somewhat acquainted with newspaper headlines from the time) that the opinions carried were logical arguments, or attempts at logical arguments; for and against slavery (!?) or states rights vs. centralization of power in federal hands etc. etc. Columns and columns of print full of arguments.

Then in about 1917, Lenin discovered that logical arguments are boring and what was needed was propaganda with emotional content. You need movies and television for this, of course, a beautiful perilous gift. So then it was on into the new century with flaming Nazi propaganda, heroic figures ascending into political heaven bearing swastikas etc., and show trials in the USSR, social shaming. Which led to the demise of the shamee.

That’s a big change. It has been reflected in many science-fiction scenarios. The screaming, chanting crowds attacking an enemy of the people and so on. A big change.

A new method, a vast change, a burnt century, the camera’s eye fixed, and public communication not communication at all, or even the civil invitation to join in logical arguments but an incessant coarse blaming and urging.

From The Letter of Marque: the balloon ride. This was what Nadia and James were speaking about on the rooftop, Diana’s diamond; Maturin fell out of a tower and was gravely inured and dreams or hallucinates about the balloon ride which Diana promised him;

…and now they were into the pure upper air with that strangely familiar dark blue above and on either hand unless he looked over the edge of the car and down to the fantastic convolutions and the slowly changing geography of the cloud-world below…and he when looked across at Diana the perfection of her cheek fairly caught his breath…but now there was this evil balloon again and now he was living with time in the sense of duration once more, for he knew with dreadful certainty they had been rising for hours on end, that they were now rising faster still. And as they soared toward this absolute purity of sky its imminent threat, half-perceived at first, filled him with a horror beyond anything he had known. Diana was wearing her green coat and she had turned up the collar for now its red underneath made a shocking contrast with the extreme pallor of her face, the pinched white of her nose and the frosted blue of her lips. She held her head down, bowed over her lap, where her hands, loosely clasped, held the diamond, very like a sliver of this brilliant sky itself.

     She was breathing still, but only just, as they floated away always higher and into even more rarefied air…her senses were going, going, her head drooped forward, the diamond fell, and he started up crying ‘No, no, no,’ in an extremity of passionate refusal…  

The perilous, poisonous gift.






November 2, it’s all starting









The round of the year —- Halloween and then Thanksgiving and then Advent, Christmas and New Year. I love it. I am learning The Fool’s Jig on the D tin whistle and I am keeping on keeping on with the big Low D whistle, I don’t know if I’ll ever get a true sound out of it. It may just be too big for my hands. But it was a $60 whistle and so I will not give up yet!


Cantata practice has already begun. We are doing all Christmas carols this year, great arrangements, The opening is fast, loud, tricky and a truly knockout beginning. Slows down in the middle for a new arrangement of ‘I heard the Bells on Christmas Day’  which I like very much, and then back to the old familiar carols.

So am with my singing/playing groups at least twice and sometimes three times a week!  Cantata practice every week, Pickin’ On The Porch bluegrass every other week, both rehearsal and performance, and then choir. I’ve learned an enormous amount about music in all of this, both in terms of reading a score and voice control and of course the tin whistle.