Cinderella

Recently, on Facebook the subject of Cinderella came up.  The context was a joke about the Prince meeting the love of his life but forgets what she looked like. (As someone who is somewhat “face blind” I can actually accept that.)

Many, many years ago (as in more than 40) I saw on television a live-action version of Cinderella.  Despite the years that had passed, I distinctly remembered.  The first was at the beginning.  The prince, having returned from doing various prince-type activities, is thirsty and stops at a cottage for a drink of water.  A young lady (spoilers:  it’s Cinderella) gives him a dipper of water from the well.

The second scene that stuck with me vividly is near the end.  After the stepsisters had failed to get their feet into the shoes (clearly Cinderella had the smallest feet of any marriageable girl in the kingdom), from which effort Cinderella had been ordered into hiding, Cinderella is impelled to run out and once more offer him a dipper of water.

That’s all I remembered from it, but they were very vivid memories.  It inspired me to take a look and I managed to identify the version as the Rogers and Hammerstein version, made in 1965.  Not 40, but 53 years ago.  I didn’t see it then, of course (or maybe I had, but I was only four years old and don’t remember), but at some later broadcast.

Curious, I looked over on Amazon and saw that not only did Amazon have it on Instant Video, but on Prime video:  free to watch for Amazon Prime members (which I am).

I settled in to watch it and, oh, my.  Yes, the scenes were as I remembered them.  And everything else.

Oh.

My.

Without doubt this is my absolute favorite screen adaptation of the Cinderella story.  I’m not a big fan of “love at first sight”.  I mean, I have enough trouble with the concept of love at all–that it really exists and isn’t just something made up so Elvis Presley would have something to sing about.  But I’ll go with it for the story.

From the first meeting of Prince and Cinderella (where we find out that the Prince is actually a nice guy) to Cinderella’s heartbreak at not going to the ball, to the Prince dealing with the many women competing for the Prince’s attention (and the way he deals shows, again, that he’s a nice guy), to his finally recognizing Cinderella (and it’s not when he puts the slipper on her foot, that’s just to show everyone else what he’d already figured out–can it be a spoiler in a 53 year old movie?) it’s one heartfelt scene after another.

I spend a lot of time thinking dark thoughts and looking at a world that convinces me that darkness is generally the way to bet.  I can even enjoy darkness in my arts–the interplay of light and dark is where interest and passion lie.  Nevertheless, the occasional shining beacon of light, of the unequivocally happy ending.  Hey, even the “by midnight” thing was probably part of the Fairy Godmother’s scheme to make Cinderella happy–whet the Prince’s appetite, then make him work for it. 😉

Like I said, it’s free on Amazon prime.  If you don’t have Amazon Prime, you can buy it for $8, rent it for $4.  Well worth it.

https://www.amazon.com/Cinderella-Lesley-Ann-Warren/dp/B01LYLQUNP/ref=sr_1_3?s=movies-tv&ie=UTF8&qid=1525740132&sr=1-3&keywords=cinderella&refinements=p_n_format_browse-bin%3A2650306011

 

 

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Teaching the Active Writer’s Daughter to Feed Herself.

Since my little girl is growing up, I have instituted a new policy here at home.  Each week, she is to cook one meal.  We’ll get ingredients she needs that we don’t have on hand.  If it’s something that’s too expensive, we’ll talk about alternative. (No, we’re not doing sauteed humingbird tongues.) Today, she decided to do steak and potatoes.  But she didn’t want just steak (I generally go light on the seasoning–let the flavor of the meat dominate) but to really spice it up.  Not my thing normally, but okay.  The point is for her to learn to fend for herself when she’s out on her own and that can mean experimenting and seeing what happens.

So we go shopping.  The local supermarket has sirloin on special.  Reasonable price and about the bottom end of what I consider acceptable for pan-frying or grilling.   The cheaper cuts tend to be too tough when cooked in those conditions.  So we’ve got the meat.  At home, we’ve got a fairly extensive collection of spices and other seasonings but she wants to get some peppers.  She selects several serennos (I’m not sure I spelled that right) and a few habaneros.

Okay.  This should be…interesting.

She asks me to do the pre-salting of the steaks (rub kosher salt into both sides of the steaks and let them sit for about half an hour, then rinse off–this makes the steak more tender and improves the flavor) and I’m fine with that.  When it’s done I call her in to begin cooking.

I leave her to it.  Sometimes when I’m having her cook I give her instruction.  Sometimes I leave her to her own devices to see what she can do on her own.  This is one of the latter cases.

She starts by briefly pan frying the steaks in olive oil.  She then sets them aside and adds chopped peppers, soy sauce, and some other seasonings (I don’t think these others really mattered given how strong the peppers were).  The cooked the peppers and other seasonings together for a few minutes then returned the steaks to the pan.  Cooked them to about medium (more than I generally like, but okay).

Took them out, let them rest for a few minutes, and served.  The result was surprisingly good.  The “heat” wasn’t too bad, at least by my standards these days, and the flavor didn’t completely overwhelm the taste of the meat.  All in all, not a bad effort.

 

 

Liberty and Border Security

With the “refugee” column in the news (if they want asylum, why not Mexico?  They were safe enough going the entire length of Mexico, so why not stay there rather than come here if simply escaping their plight in points south was the goal?) several Libertarian groups have been posting about how horrible this is and how evil the idea of securing our borders and enforcing our immigration laws is.  One had this cutesy little cartoon of a cartoon Trump tearing apart the Statue of Liberty (which is made of stone rather than copper sheathing over an iron frame–but okay) and using the material to build the border wall. (Add in folk complaining about how dare you celebrate Cinco de Mayo while wanting to stem illegal immigration and…)

Sigh.

Look, I get it.  People who favor liberty tend to that liberty for others too.  The problem is when you take courses of actions that will lose liberty for everyone.  In an ideal case the whole world would be free.  We’d all enjoy the benefits of liberty while shouldering the responsibility of self reliance and joining voluntarily with others in groups to accomplish the things that we can’t do singly (much of that determined by the market).  However, we don’t live in that ideal world.  In the example of that invocation of the Statue of Liberty, people point to the poem by Emma Lazarus and are all about the “huddled masses” part and forget the “yearning to breath free” part.  Entirely too many of the people swarming into our nation (of which the modest number in the “refugee column” is merely symbolic) don’t want freedom, liberty, and self reliance.  They want the same restrictive regime they came from but with better economics.

So long as our form of government is a Republic with democratically elected representatives who make law and set policy, if we want liberty, we need voters who will vote for people who secure that liberty (“to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men…”).  We have entirely too many people who want “goodies that other people pay for” (and thus vote for politicians who promise to use government to force others to provide those goodies) or who think “there ought to be a law” against things of which they disapprove (and thus vote for politicians who promise to pass laws against those things).  Yet as bad as it is here from that perspective, it’s worse in the rest of the world.

Open immigration, in the name of “liberty” will, just based on population numbers, bring in more people who oppose that very liberty than than those who support it.  This will promote the election of politicians opposed to that very liberty, putting us ever more strongly on the path of government growth and further intrusion into people’s lives, and the restriction of the very liberty that “open immigration” is supposed to be about.

This is not to say that our immigration policies do not need to be reformed.  They do–perhaps less in the way of number quotas and more in the way of the characteristics of the individuals we want to come here.  We want, or should want, people who look at our Declaration of Independence, our Constitution, and especially our Bill of Rights and respond “well, duh” or some similar expression of broad general agreement.  We want people who desperately yearn to breathe free.  Make the task hard.  The ones we want will crawl over broken glass in a shower of lemon juice if that’s what it takes to come here legally.

The ones we don’t want are those whose very first act on  coming here is to break. our. laws.

New Release: Alchemy of Shadows

Paperback: $10.99
Kindle: $2.99
Kindle ebook free with purchase of paperback from Amazon

I was born in the year 1215 in a small town in Westphalia As a boy, my parents apprenticed me to the famed alchemist Albertus Magnus. Under his tutelage I grew to adulthood and learned the mystical secrets of alchemy including the manufacture of the Elixir of Life. I have gone by many names through the centuries.

I was already centuries old when I encountered the creatures of darkness made manifest that I know only as Shadows. They have chased me down through the years for reasons I have never understood.

Light was the only weapon I had against these Shadows, light that could drive them back but not harm them. And so I ran. Every time the Shadows caught up with me I fled to a new identity, a new life, until inevitably they found me again. At long last, with nowhere left to run, I had to find some way to fight the Shadows, not just for myself, but for the people I had come to care about.

My name is Adrian Jaeger. This is my story

Writers Write: A Blast from the Past.

I started writing (not counting school assignments) when I was in fifth grade, mostly cheap Star Trek ripoffs, heavy on “Marty Stu”, oh, one retelling of Tom Sawyer that was practically an abridgment.  I didn’t finish any of them.  Really, I was trying to write novels and just didn’t have grounding for that.

My mother suggested that I try shorts but for some reason I never went anywhere with those back then.  Then, in the summer of 1977 (between my Freshman and Sophmore years of high school) I finished my first piece that was relatively substantial.  A screenplay.  A science fiction screenplay.  Okay, it was a ripoff of Star Wars.  It was a bad ripoff of star wars.  Written entirely by hand (I didn’t have a good typewriter at the time) there was only one copy in existence which was soon lost.  I wish I knew where it was.  Because, you know, if I knew where it was I could destroy it.  So long as I don’t know, the specter of somebody finding it and threatening to release it to the world unless I perform some unspeakable act for the finder hangs over me.

It was bad.

I was back to partially done stories for a while but at this point I started looking seriously at shorts.  I read collections (had not discovered the magazines yet) from the library–the “Orbit” anthology series, the “Nebula Winners” and others.

Then, in my senior year, I started writing a new piece.  It grew and grew.  Five hundred pages (still handwritten, but I had a rather small hand back then so it was novel length) I had a completed manuscript.  It was still bad, but it had some ideas in it that I may revisit someday.

From then I went into the Air Force.  I started writing more while in, not so much while I was in training or assigned overseas, but when I returned to the US for my last two years I got serious about it.  I started writing shorts.  I started submitting them (I’d discovered magazines by this point).  I started having them rejected.

It took another five years before I had my first sale.  I sold a handful to Analog, one to the late Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Fantasy Magazine, and a few non-fiction pieces.  While not much, this was enough, in fact, to get me exempted from the English language requirement at the college I attended (only person ever to do so).  But that’s the thing, when I started college I really didn’t have the time or energy (especially the energy) to write fiction much.  Then after college it was job and work.  For a while I worked on a webcomic (and I really suck as an artist).  But it was only in the last few years that I got serious about writing again.  I can’t say I write every day, but I write most days.  I have had a few professional sales (some we don’t talk about any more 😉 ) and a few pieces I’ve taken “Indie” which at least some people have enjoyed.

But that’s what writers do.  Writers write.  Selling is a secondary consideration, a nice one, but not the core.  To be a writer you must write.

One of my great fears even well after I started was that I would “run out” of ideas. I lacked the confidence that I would be able to come up with new stuff consistently. So once a story had been rejected by all the pro and semi-pro markets (this was before indie was a realistic option) I would redo, rewrite, polish and try again. And again. And again. I kept hanging onto these old stories rather than going on to something new for fear that I’d “run out” that much sooner.Eventually, I learned that some of the worlds I’d created just dripped story ideas. There were just so many things I could do moving forward or backward in time or to different locations in the same world. And then I found, thanks to that writing book Sarah recommended, that I could sit down cold, pick some starting point (say, “I want to set this story on the Moon, in my FTI world during the colonization phase, and maybe have a teenage protagonist”) and just noodle around until I’d generated a “story idea.”

Finally, I’d reached the point where I no longer had to worry that I’d run out of story ideas, that the time would come that I’d have to say “I’m done” because I had nothing left to write.

Only took me 40 years. 😉

So, when cons have that panel on “Mistakes beginning writers make” I almost always volunteer for it because I am one.  I’ve just been one for the last 40 (or more) years.

Cooperation and Compromise?

On Facebook, someone was claiming they represented a large “middle ground” that wanted “cooperation” on gun laws.

“We want cooperation” he said. The problem is, every time people say “we just want this reasonable restriction, this ‘common sense gun control’. That’s it. No more.” They lied. Every. Damn. Time. The ink wasn’t even dry on their “compromise” before they were calling it a “good first step.” Doesn’t matter how many steps went before, it was always a “good first step” and a springboard to yet more.

We have learned that “cooperation” is to give them a little bit more than they have now for any given now. And once they get it? That becomes the new “now” from which they demand “a little bit more.”

You can’t cooperate with people like that. You can’t compromise with them. At some point you either have to say “no more” or accept the eventual total loss of your rights.

And if we have to say “no more” at some point, why should it be after the current round of demands? The same people who are saying “but you won’t compromise” now would be saying it next time around as well. After all, this isn’t the first, or even the tenth time we’ve been down this road–always with the same result.

I watched this happen with the passing of the Brady Act.  The proponents were all about how they wanted the waiting period on handguns “to give the police time to perform a background check.” The law passed ink wasn’t even dry on Clinton’s signature before the same people who were saying they just wanted that reasonable compromise were calling it a “good first step.” And then, when the NICS system went into effect in 1998, creating a central repository for criminal records and other things disqualifying a person from being able to purchase firearms so that for most cases a simple phone call from the dealer to NICS could get a “yes/no” answer in a matter of minutes. (Mostly–sometimes it can take considerably longer and the prospective purchaser has to wait.) The waiting period portion of the Brady Act sunsetted, replaced by NICS.  But there’s more.  While the waiting period and its background check applied only to handguns, NICS applied to rifles and shotguns as well.  That didn’t stop the same people who were saying that the reason for the waiting period would be that it would allow the police time to perform a background check, from saying that now they wanted both the background check and the waiting period.

They are never  satisfied and they will say anything, anything at all, that they think will get them the concession they’re working on at the moment.

And yet, the same people wanting us to “cooperate”, to “compromise”, are unwilling to cooperate and compromise with us. You want us to give up something? Okay, let’s talk. What are you willing to give us in exchange that we don’t already have? Because if we’re not getting something in exchange for what we’re giving up, its no more than “cooperating” with a thief by only giving him half your money. This time.

It has been said that you cannot negotiate with someone who says “What’s mine is mine and what’s yours is negotiable.”  It’s the same principle here.

Unless you’re willing to offer something at least as valuable as what you’re demanding, you don’t want “cooperation”, you want surrender. The only question is the terms of that surrender.

Snippet from a Work in Progress

On the way back to the hotel my phone I received a text.  A quick glance at the display showed Ware’s number.  I pulled over to the side of the road and hit the flashers then unlocked the phone and opened the text.

*Meeting with the mayor.  Pick you up tomorrow morning to continue?*

I started to text back when the phone rang.  Ware again.  I answered.

“Herzeg. I was just reading your text.”

“Yeah,” Ware said. “Turns out I was left alone for a bit right after I sent it.  Have you had any further thoughts that can help find this cult?”

“I take it you can’t speak freely?” I said.

“Door’s open, people just outside, so we may want to make this quick.”

“Okay,” I said. “I encountered one of the vampires.  Unfortunately, he ran before I could get close to him.  Can we get together after your meeting?”

“I’d love to join you for dinner.  Meet at the same Restaurant?”

“Sure and…”

“One minute, somebody just brought me a courier envelope.”

I waited.

“Shit.” The voice sounded faint, like he’d set the phone down.

“Detective?” I asked.

“I’ve got to go.” Again, Ware’s voice was faint.

“You will sit right there and wait for the Mayor,” another voice said.

“You don’t understand. I…”

“Sit, detective.”

“James!” I shouted.

A scraping noise, as of the phone sliding on a hard surface then Ware spoke. “I just got a picture of my daughter.  There’s a red marker slash on her throat.”

“What’s the address?” I asked.

“Look, I can get the Captain to send…”

“To send people who aren’t prepared to deal with vampires?  What’s the address?”

He gave the address.  I punched it into the GPS.  Estimated time, fifteen minutes.

“Got it,” I said. “I’m on my way.  I may need you to fix a few tickets later.”

The humor felt flat in my own ears as I checked traffic before pulling out.

“Just get my little girl safe,” Ware said. “I’ll pay the fines myself if I have to.”

I sped down the street.

Ware’s daughter.  He had a daughter.  And a daughter meant a mother–a wife or lover.

I shook my head.  Stupid thought to be having.  An innocent threatened by vampires.  That should be my only thought.

That, and killing the vampires, was my only concern.

#

I broke just about every traffic law on the books.  The GPS estimated fifteen minutes.  I made it in twelve.  Sheer chance protected me from encountering any police on the way.  A gamble that had been.  Being stopped would have lost more time than any I gained from speed.

I knew before I reached the house that I was too late.  The sense of vampire hit me as I turned down the last street.

I screeched to a halt in the street in front of the house and burst out of the car running.  The door was open and the sense of vampire was still strong.  It was still here.  I pulled the gun as I sprinted up the walkway.

I paused for a moment at the doorway, gun at low ready, eyes closed to give them the moment I needed to adjust to the dark.  I lunged sideways into the door, hard, so that it would fly back and slam into anyone standing behind it.

I swept the room with my gaze.  There, in the far corner I could see the vampire.  He held a girl, quick guess was somewhere between ten and thirteen years of age.  He turned to face me, holding the girl in front of him.  One hand held her throat just under the jaw, the other wrapped around her waist.

The hand on the girl’s throat only held, not squeezed.  The girl screamed.  I raised the gun, taking careful aim.  I held my breath.  Without a chance to sight in the gun I could not be confident to hit the vampire and not the girl.

“Put the girl, down.”

The vampire shifted the girl in it’s grip.  My target area had just gotten smaller.

“I don’t think so, dhampyre.”

“If the girl is harmed, you don’t walk out of here.” I pulled back the hammer.  While I could not trust my aim, the vampire need not know that.

“I know you.” the vampire opened his mouth in a fangy snarl. “If I let her go, I don’t walk out of here either.  We…”  He looked at the girl in irritation as she continued to scream.

“Be silent.” His hand tightened.

The girl’s screams ceased.  Her mouth still worked and she continued to struggle in his grasp.

I breathed a quick sigh of relief.  He had only cut off her wind, not broken her neck.  Still, that would not matter if we did not end this soon.

“We are at an impasse,” he said.

I smiled. “Perhaps.”

I lowered the gun.

“Perhaps,” I said again. “But you don’t want the girl, not when there’s much more succulent blood available.”

I slowly squatted and set the gun on the floor.

“There is no blood so sweet as dhampyre blood.” I stood.  I pulled the stake from my left arm, feeling the rubber bands snap back against my skin.  I tossed the stake aside.

“You’d much rather have me.” I pulled free the other stake and tossed it aside.  I held my arms up and to the sides.

“You fool, I can have you both.” He tossed the girl aside.  She hit a couch and rolled over it to land out of sight.

I could not spend any time on her, the vampire lunged in my direction.

I swung my left hand in a circle before me, knocking the vampire’s grasping hand aside.  Vampires are stronger than I am.  I turned and shifted, inside the grab of its other hand.  They are faster than I am.  My left hand twisted, snagging the vampire’s arm at the wrist.  My right hand drove up and forward, catching the vampire just under the jaw.

Vampires don’t need to breath.  There is no point in choking them.  I continued to turn, driving my hip into the vampire and bending him over me.  More turn and the vampire’s feet flew upwards.  He crashed flat on his back on the floor.  Vampires, however, are too arrogant to train.

I followed him down, landing on his chest.  A quick lift and swing of leg and I was astride him.  I release his wrist and drove my left hand up under his jaw, bouncing his head off the floor.

Such a blow would leave a human dazed or unconscious.  It would only give a vampire a moment’s pause.  But I only needed a moment.  I reached back with my right hand and grabbed the hilt of the knife between my shoulder blades.  I pulled it free and brought it down in a chopping swing against the vampire’s throat.

The damn blade broke.

I swore.  I had managed to cut deep, but the vampire’s spine had defeated the cheap steel of the decorative bowie.  Even with the silver filling the blades decorative engraving to slow things, I had seconds before the vampire regenerated enough to resume its attack.

I dove across the room to where I had tossed one of the stakes.  My hands closed on it and I rolled to my feet.

The vampire was starting to rise.  I sprang, drawing back then shoving forward with the stake.  Into the stomach, just below the breastbone, in and up.  I hit the heart.

The vampire went down.  I sagged to my knees, watching it lay, immobile.  My breath came in deep gasps.

“Is it…is it dead?” The girl peered at me from over the couch, her eyes wide.