The Thirteenth Hour Podcast #69: Holiday Trees

Episode #69: Baby Trees in the Holidays

https://archive.org/download/Podcast69_201612/Podcast%2069.mp3

That first day began a month of basic training that all recruits were required to go through. Nobody told us why the King had sent for us, and when we asked, we were told to just shut up and stop trying to think. I had some trouble with the training in the beginning, but after that, I surprised myself by being able to keep up just fine. I was used to physical labor, and this wasn’t much different. A few of the older men, though, unused to climbing, running, and crawling on the ground, collapsed after the first week and had to be carried off the field on stretchers. This happened to one of the Aquarians a few days into our training. He happened to be not far from me, and when I saw him collapse on the field, I went over to see if he were okay. But he pushed me away and, spitting out some mud, said something that sounded like “piss off.” I think he also spat out something about going back to the orphanage, but I couldn’t make it out. Whatever it was, it wasn’t friendly, and I left him to the medics.
Every morning at six sharp, we had to line up for morning exercises. Then came the obstacle course, which was pretty hard at first because the old soldier babysitting us – fat, half–blind, and unable to do half of the things he made us do – didn’t feel like showing us how to do it. He was also frequently hung–over, which didn’t help.

His first lesson, dare I even call it that, was on marching. I was a miserable failure at marching, and, to be honest, never did learn to do it right. Our marching exercises consisted of an endless and, in my opinion, rather pointless array of drills. March left. Now right. Spin left. Then right. Whatever! I always ended up in the first row since I was the shortest, and although I could manage forward and backward, every time we had to turn left or right I got all mixed up. My right or the instructor’s right? If I had eyes in the back of my head, I could have cheated by seeing which way the other recruits turned, but inevitably, I screwed it up and got glares and whispered threats from the proud Aquarian men.

So you might be wondering, what about the good stuff? Well, the drill instructor was technically responsible for teaching us how to use weapons – things like swords, spears, and bows. The problem was that there were never enough to go around, since the “real Army” got preference over us recruits. So we often spent most of this time sitting around waiting until someone else was done with the rusty sword or whatever we were supposed to be using that day. Not that it really mattered in the end; after one of the men accidentally shot himself in the foot with an arrow, the old soldier in charge of training us didn’t trust us with live weapons. He was afraid he might accidentally–on purpose be in the way the next time. Can’t say I blamed him; morale was pretty low, even in the “real Army,” and no one felt like extending himself any more than he had to, especially if there was danger involved. After the arrow incident, all we got were branches chopped off a tree.

“Here, pretend this one’s a spear,” the drill instructor would say, handing out the wobbly saplings. “But that’s no damned excuse for not put the ol’ killer instinct to work!” he would yell. “Stop thinking these are sticks. Like I told you yesterday, they’re spears, damn it! Spears! So when you thrust, yell! When you charge, yell! I want some spirit! All together, now, lemme hear it! Kill! Kill! Kill! Hey, why am I the only one shouting?”

Really, I’m not kidding. The old man was nothing if not cracked. And, true to form, every day, he had us line up at the western corner of the training field, where there was a thin row of midget–sized trees.

“Come on, ladies, one tree to a man, just like yesterday. Now watch the master.”

He delighted in this demonstration. He’d take a stance about ten feet from some poor shrub and begin to twirl his stick around. Then he’d stop, look menacingly at the pint–sized tree, and, with a blood curdling whoop, charge forward and begin smacking the trunk, each time, shouting his “Kill! Kill! Kill!” routine punctuated with an occasional, “How do you like that, huh?” One time I swear he even said, “Not so tough, now, are ya … tree!”

After a bit, he’d get tired and, turning to us while leaning on his stick and sucking in more wind than a geriatric racehorse, he’d explain that was the kind of energy you needed to attack with.

“Now you!” he would bark, and a recruit had to repeat what had just been demonstrated.

The instructor had been satisfied only once, when an unlucky recruit had hit a patch of mud on his charge, and instead of hitting the tree with his stick, hit it full force with his sliding body instead. The young, slender tree simply recoiled from the blow, sending the recruit flying back into the mud. Tree: 1, human: 0.

“Yeah!!! That boy has the kinda attitude I want!” He even went over to help the dazed boy to his feet. “That’s what I’m talkin’ ’bout, boy. Next time you just make sure to show that tree who’s the damn boss. Watch and learn from the master.”

Then he took a swipe at the errant shrub himself but missed and, cursing and spitting, fell flat on his ass. That was the end of the lesson for the day. Tree: 2, human: 0.

logan and aurora castle grounds moonRM.jpg

Logan and Aurora look up at the night sky near the trees referenced in this passage near the end of the book.

Thanks for listening, and happy holidays!

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  • Listen to Long Ago Not So Far Away, the Thirteenth Hour soundtrack online at: https://joshuablum.bandcamp.com/  Join the mailing list for a digital free copy.  You can also get it on CD or tape.
  • Website: https://13thhr.wordpress.com
  • Book trailer: http://bit.ly/1VhJhXY
  • Interested in reading and reviewing The Thirteenth Hour for a free book?  Just email me at writejoshuablum@gmail.com for more details!

 

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The Thirteenth Hour Podcast #62: Zen in the Art of Archery

Episode #62: Zen in the Art of Archery

https://archive.org/download/Podcast62_201610/Podcast%2062.mp3

On today’s episode, I’m reading from a little book called Zen in the Art of Archery by Eugen Herrigel.  We talked about Zen in episode #44, and while that episode focused more on empty handed martial arts, this one is about the practice of archery, and how that can be used as a pathway to understand Zen.  It’s a book I first read when I was about 13, didn’t really understand, and re-read a number of other times afterwards, each time taking a slightly different set of ideas from it (never entirely understanding it, I will say).

I can say for sure, though, that the best shots in archery, and perhaps this is so with many things in life, come from that place where Zen resides, the land of no conscious thought, that retreat your mind wanders to when it’s fully present and occupied by what it’s doing at the moment.

As always, thanks for listening!

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  • QR code email signup Signup for the mailing list for a free special edition podcast, demo copy of The Thirteenth Hour, and access to the new upcoming retro 80s soundtrack!
  • Follow The Thirteenth Hour’s instagram pages: @the13thhr and@the13thhr.ost for your daily weekday dose of ninjas, martial arts bits, archery, flips, breakdancing action figures, fantasy art, 80s music, movies, and occasional pictures or songs from The Thirteenth Hour books.
  • Free online streaming of the growing Thirteenth Hour soundtrack: https://joshuablum.bandcamp.com/  Stay tuned to a full 45+ min album coming 11/13/16.  Join the mailing list for a free copy.
  • Website: https://13thhr.wordpress.com
  • Book trailer: http://bit.ly/1VhJhXY
  • Interested in reading and reviewing The Thirteenth Hour for a free book?  Just email me at writejoshuablum@gmail.com for more details!

The Thirteenth Hour Podcast #59: The Thirteenth Hour Soundtrack Preview

Episode #59: Long Ago Not So Far Away: Music from The Thirteenth Hour (Preview)

https://ia601502.us.archive.org/3/items/Podcast59_201609/Podcast%2059.mp3

This week, it’s all about retro 80s, starting with a preview of the upcoming official soundtrack release for The Thirteenth Hour, entitled Long Ago Not So Far Away.

It ended up being about 47 minutes long with a combination of synth instrumental tracks and songs with lyrics played on the guitar, piano, or a both.  Some were songs that I came up with originally when I wrote the book, others were ones that I wrote a few years later but had not fully completed (i.e. had the lyrics and chords for the guitar, making for a skeleton of a song … but all the little riffs and fills that make a song a song, especially a retro style 80s song, weren’t there).  There were two I kept more bare bones (mostly just acoustic guitar with a minimum of electric effects or synthesizers) because I wanted them to sound like folk songs out of the pseud0-medieval world the novel is set in.

It really ended up being a lot of fun.  In contrast to the tortuous process I had creating the cover for the book version of The Thirteenth Hour, making the cover for Long Ago Not So Far Away felt like a breeze, since I decided that the best course of action was to make it look like something out of the 80s.  I have a healthy collection of 80s CDs, tapes, and movies that helped provide entertaining inspiration.  There were also tons of synthwave (neo 80s synth music) covers on the internet (some of which looked more 80s than actual 80s album covers!). I also found this great Instagram page by @synthenebrism which links to a Spotify page with hours upon hours of synthwave music for your listening enjoyment.

In terms of making the cover itself, I found this great step by step tutorial that captured the look I was going for almost perfectly.  It walks you through using Photoshop to create your own retro synth cover.  I wanted an aurora for the cover to fit with the content of the book, so after a bit of searching, found this free stock image (click on the image to go to the page):

scotland-1564096_1280.jpg

Thanks to Blackmoons32 on deviantart for making a great free lightning bolt stock image already with an alpha channel (meaning the background is already transparent), making it easy to paste into your picture.  I thought about adding a rainbow or a unicorn to really round out the 80s fantasy images but thought that might be laying it on a little thick.  Instead, I just added the pixelart Logan on Lightning I made for the vaporware Thirteenth Hour game I started years ago.  In the end, it ended up looking like this:

cover 80s style_edited-33.jpg

It should be out later this fall.  But if you’d like a free advance preview, there are a few ways to do it.  Check out the bandcamp page, which has many of the tracks already uploaded, though not the fully remastered ones.  You can also look for former entries of this podcast or the Instagram page for some live versions or early drafts of songs.  Lastly, if you haven’t already, sign up for the mailing list if you’d like a free digital copy of the album to download with album artwork and all.  Stay tuned!

As always, thanks for listening!

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  • QR code email signup Signup for the mailing list for a free special edition podcast and a demo copy of The Thirteenth Hour!
  • Follow The Thirteenth Hour’s instagram pages: @the13thhr and@the13thhr.ost for your daily weekday dose of ninjas, martial arts bits, archery, flips, breakdancing action figures, fantasy art, 80s music, movies, and occasional pictures or songs from The Thirteenth Hour books.
  • Free online streaming of the growing Thirteenth Hour soundtrack: https://joshuablum.bandcamp.com/  Stay tuned to a full 45+ min album coming in the next few weeks!
  • Website: https://13thhr.wordpress.com
  • Book trailer: http://bit.ly/1VhJhXY
  • Interested in reading and reviewing The Thirteenth Hour for a free book?  Just email me at writejoshuablum@gmail.com for more details!

The Thirteenth Hour Podcast #58: George Sirois Redux – The Making of the Excelsior Audiobook

Episode #58: Author George Sirois Returns to Discuss the Creation of His Audiobook

https://archive.org/download/Podcast58_201609/Podcast%2058.mp3

Back in episode #36, fellow author George Sirois came on the show for a great conversation, and today, he’s back!

As you’ll see in the show, George decided that the way he wanted to get his young adult scifi tale, Excelsior, out there as a audiobook was to record it himself.  Way back when I was learning about making covers for The Thirteenth Hour, I came to the realization that when it comes to things like this, it all comes down to money or time.

If you decide to go the professional route and outsource parts of the creative process, you might get a professional product but you give up some autonomy and generally pay quite a bit (that you justify to yourself as an investment in quality and peace of mind).  But if you opt to do it yourself, you have to deal with the sometimes exponentially steep learning curve of cramming years of knowledge into the bare minimum needed to shoehorn yourself into getting the job done.  There may still be significant expense (sometimes due to trial and error), and there’s the significant time sink that comes with what a professional might be able to do more efficiently.

However, one thing debates such this sometimes forget when focusing on practical talking points such as these is simply the enjoyment to be had in simply doing.  As sole proprietors of businesses (as independent authors essential are these days), it pays to understand as many different aspects of the business as possible.  There’s no better way to understand those details than by doing them yourself (at least once).

And that’s what George did to make his ideas into a reality.  There’s a lot there in his story, so like minded souls, take note.  What’s the harm in going for something you want, George says in the interview.  And why not?  At the end of the day, who else is there to give the necessary permission?

61mthl2nunl-_aa300_

Click on the link to check out the audiobook version of Excelsior on Amazon.

And audiobooks seem to be getting their due after years of being the red-headed stepchild of the literature.  Here’s the full text of the Wall Street Journal on the rise of audiobooks.

George will be making appearances (if you’re local to St. Louis, MO USA) at the following places in the next few wks:

-https://www.facebook.com/WritePackRadio/

-http://www.stlwritersguild.org/writersinthepark.html (now since past, though more good info if you’re a writer hoping to connect with others in and around St. Louis, near where George lives)

Connect with George online at:

blog: http://www.georgesirois.com/

GR profile: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4103079.George_Sirois

Google+: https://plus.google.com/+GeorgeSirois/posts

Twitter: https://twitter.com/georgesirois

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/georgesirois/

FB: https://www.facebook.com/excelsiorbooks/

References George discusses on the show:

No Plot? No Problem by Chris Baty, on writing a novel in 30 days

The Stressed-Out Writer’s Guide to Recording Your Own Audiobook by Kirk Hanley

On that note, as always, thanks for listening!

P.S. If you have any interest in getting into audio like George did or wanted to start your own podcast, check out this free guide here.  It’s a guest post I did for fellow author Kelly St. Clare on podcasting as cheaply as possible and has a wealth of info on audio production in general, most of which I learned by trial and error!  Check it out, and start podcasting as more than an amateur!  WIN!

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  • QR code email signup Signup for the mailing list for a free special edition podcast and a demo copy of The Thirteenth Hour!
  • Follow The Thirteenth Hour’s instagram pages: @the13thhr and @the13thhr.ost for your daily weekday dose of ninjas, martial arts bits, archery, flips, breakdancing action figures, fantasy art, 80s music, movies, and occasional pictures or songs from The Thirteenth Hour books.
  • Free online streaming of the growing Thirteenth Hour soundtrack: https://joshuablum.bandcamp.com/  Stay tuned to a full 45+ min album coming in the next few weeks!
  • Website: https://13thhr.wordpress.com
  • Book trailer: http://bit.ly/1VhJhXY
  • Interested in reading and reviewing The Thirteenth Hour for a free book?  Just email me at writejoshuablum@gmail.com for more details!

The Thirteenth Hour Podcast #57: Reading Chapter 1 of Mark Salzman’s Lost in Place

Episode #57: Reading an Excerpt from Lost in Place: Growing Up Absurd in Suburbia by Mark Salzman

https://archive.org/download/Podcast57_201609/Podcast%2057.mp3

This week, I’m reading the first chapter of perhaps my favorite book of all time, Lost in Place, by Mark Salzman.  I first read the book as a teenager and still find it hugely entertaining two decades later.  It’s probably not surprising that aspects of Mark’s writing style have influenced how I portray characters in books like The Thirteenth Hour.

He writes about his coming of age with an honest, Wonder Years-style of sardonic narration infused with just enough boyish innocence to capture both the magic and despair of adolescence and young adulthood.  That’s not everyone’s up of tea, of course, but when I first opened up the book, I immediately felt at home.  I imagine if John Huges (screenwriter and director of 80s teen movies like Sixteen Candles and The Breakfast Club), had written a memoir, it would probably be something like this book.

On a personal level, I suppose it’s extra special since he writes about his experiences in the martial arts and early desires to be an astronaut (a lifelong hobby and short-lived career aspiration that my mother and father, like Mark’s decidedly earthbound parents, humored for years, for which I’ve always been grateful).

Image result for lost in place mark salzman

I found out a short movie clip of Mark talking about aspects of his writing and some of the themes that crop up in his books as well as this clip discussing his first kung fu teacher in action.

As an aside, you can watch a movie Mark wrote and starred in based on his first book teaching English in China while training in Chinese wushu.  Watch Iron and Silk here.

And, if in the unlikely event that this page makes its way across your computer screen, Mark, PLEASE COME ON THE SHOW!

Ok.

I’ve gotten control of myself and will tone down the rampant fanboyism.  Can’t help it.  =)

As a side note, if you hear a sound in the background that sounds like Darth Vader, it’s because I was reading this episode while holding my daughter, who was sleeping.  Just so you know.

On that note, as always, thanks for listening!

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The Thirteenth Hour Podcast #56: Labor Day Reading

Episode #56: Labor Day Reading from The Thirteenth Hour

https://ia801509.us.archive.org/23/items/Podcast56_201609/Podcast%2056.mp3

This week, in honor of Labor Day in the USA, I’m reading a few excerpts from The Thirteenth Hour that go out to all those unsung folks doing jobs that keep our world running smoothly, often behind the scenes.  For example, Aurora here is a dishwasher, and how often do they get their due?

That evening, I met Aurora in town at the pub for a meal before our work shifts started. She received a discount on food there and could bring a guest for free, so it worked out better than the soldiers’ dining hall in the castle, which offered no discounts, absolutely no guests, and was awful to boot. When we sat down at a booth, I discovered the book in my back pocket.

“Whatcha got there?” She looked the little book over. “Oh, knitting. Interesting. Do you know, I learned how once, at the orphanage, but I never really got the hang of it. Hmm, let’s see if I remember any of this stuff,” she said as she flipped through the manual…

…“Nope, don’t remember a thing about knitting, unfortunately,” said Aurora, knocking me out of my reverie.

Just then, a waitress with a sour expression on her face brought over two bowls of stew, two glasses of water, and a hunk of bread. Aurora invited her to sit down with us while we ate, and the woman’s annoyed expression brightened for a moment as she welcomed the opportunity to avoid work for a few more minutes. She poured herself a pint of ale from the tap behind her and collapsed heavily onto the booth next to Aurora. Aurora introduced me to the waitress, who said, “Oh, so you’re Logan. Aurora mentioned someone like you.” Her eyes came to rest on the book on knitting.

“You were reading this?”

Aurora smiled and nodded.

“What the hell for? You work for a living now, why do you want to go back to this garbage? They got stores for this, you know.” I noticed that the waitress had repositioned herself towards Aurora in the manner that women did when they wanted to create a third wheel.
“Oh … well, sure. I just thought it was, well, interesting.”

“Ha! That’s gotta be the overstatement of the year. More like the most uninteresting thing ever. What the hell’s it good for?”

“Well … you’ll always be able to make clothes if you can knit,” I reasoned.

As the waitress shifted back to look at me, her eyes narrowed to slits. They said, “I didn’t ask you.” But her mouth said, “You know, I once had a husband who said that to me, and look where it got him. Humph.” She gave Aurora a stern, teacherly kind of look as she got up to go. “Get rid of this guy now,” it seemed to say.

Aurora looked embarrassed but shrugged it off. “Sorry, she’s like that to everyone at first.”

Just then, a door at the back of the room swung open and a deep voice yelled, “Aurora, where the hell are you? We’re opening in five minutes! Look at all these dishes! There’s no end to these …” the yelling trailed away as the door swung shut.

“Uggh, I guess I gotta go, Logan. Sorry,” she tossed her hands up a little as she stood and dropped her napkin on the table.

“Ah, it’s alright, Aurora. Tomorrow, at the gym, then?”

“Sure, I …”

“Aurora, did you hear me, dammit! Get your ass in here!” yelled the voice from the back again.

Aurora rolled her eyes and sighed. “Yeah, I’ll be there in a minute!” she yelled over her back. I helped her gather the dirty dishes.

“Thanks, I got it.”

“Now, dammit! Do I have to come out there?”

“Jeeze, go on before that guy busts a vein or something,” I said. She kissed me quickly then ran through the swinging back door. In her hurry, she forgot one of the bowls, which I scooped up and placed on a tray of other dirty dishes. The waitress that had sat with us happened to look over and gave me a dirty look as I walked out.

“No tip again,” she muttered. “Bastard.”

I heard her but did not understand. Since I had never been able to afford restaurants before, I was still pretty new to eating in one; perhaps there was some unspoken custom I was not aware of, probably involving money or work – the things adults typically complained of – and my general ignorance about both was probably what had incurred the waitress’ wrath to begin with.

You can hear more excerpts on the show.  Enjoy your day of rest, and know that if you have one of those essential buy thankless jobs, whether it pays or not – stay-at-home parents, take note – there people out there who are grateful. =)

As always, thanks for listening!

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The Thirteenth Hour Podcast #54: Falling Leaves Don’t Weep

Episode #54: Reading of The Thirteenth Hour Epilogue Short Story, “Falling leaves Don’t Weep”

https://archive.org/download/Podcast54_201608/Podcast%2054.mp3

This week, I’m reading the short story “Falling Leaves Don’t Weep,” the stand-alone short story epilogue to The Thirteenth Hour.  It’s a short tale about how one night of insomnia leads to a surprising amount of insight for an elderly monarch (actually King Darian IV from the novel as a much older and wiser man who is looking back on his younger days with a mixture of regret and embarrassment).  I figured Darian needed an epilogue since we never really found out what happened to him in the story.

I can’t say for sure, but when I rereading this story, I was reminded of the story The Fall of Freddie the Leaf, a book my mother used to read to me as a child, and am guessing it was an influencing factor in the creation of this story.

As an aside, I’m in the process of trying to transition old episodes of this podcast (episode #53 and prior) to a new host.  This is the first one on the new host.  There should be no change for you, the listener, either accessing new episodes directly here or via iTunes.  But after 8/31, there may be some issues accessing old episodes of I’m not done updating the old links.  But in that case, it should be resolved in a few weeks.

As always, thanks for listening!

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