About the author...

MWhere I’ll be:M

Birch Bay Public Market

Friday, May 10 through the end of summer, Cathy and I will be selling her hand-made soaps, lotions, and toiletries, along with my photography, note cards, calenders, books, etc.

Come see us!

Across the street from the C Shop

4825 Alderson Road, Birch Bay, Washington 98230

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I had an automated blogroll here, powered by Google Reader, but Google, in its near-infinite lack of wisdom, killed Google Reader. Prior to this murder, all I had to do to put a blog on my blogroll (or to take it off) was to place it in a Reader folder called, appropriately enough, "blogroll" (or, of course, to remove it). I use The Old Reader now for following blogs, but it seems to have no way to something similar regarding the blogroll. If you know of a way to do this, please let me know.

Blood Bonds – a novel

Immortality is the birthright of youth.

Blood Bonds cover image

This is the final cover for my latest novel.

(Featuring original artwork by the incomparable Mari Kurisato!)

Well, it’s not the latest to be written, but it’s the next one to be published. Blood Bonds will be out in paper and ebook formats in approximately two weeks. Here’s the cover text, for those whose displays don’t show the image in all its glory:


“I vow never to take my blood brother’s woman…”
“…and I vow never to leave him in trouble…”
“…and I vow never to take anything of his…”
“…and I vow never to lie to him…”
“…so help me God.”

Immortality is the birthright of youth.

     The young are going to live forever, and they know it. When you’re young, you can cut your hand with a dirty piece of bottle glass from the town dump, and it’s okay, because you’re going to live forever. There will be no pain and no blood. There will be no regrets. You can lie to your best friend, you can steal the very substance of his dreams, and pay no price, because you’re immortal.
     When the shadow finally sweeps you up in its slow omnipotent crawl, it is not life that you are leaving behind. It is youth. It is the immortality of belief, of knowing that you can cut your hand, you can kiss a girl, you can steal from your blood brother and never pay a price.

How many of us go our entire lives and never see the evil that waits for us under our skins, behind the thin veneer of neckties and fingernail polish?


Want a free review copy? Email me!

A Reposted Repost

I may have posted this here before, but it’s still good.

It was originally written some years ago, and was posted to the forum of a writer’s group I belonged to at the time.

I wrote my first poem in 1966. I still have it. No, you cannot read it. Let me just point out a few salient facts about this lovely piece: it is thirteen iambic pentameter quatrains, ABAB after ABAB after ABAB, without so much as a trochee or an ABBA to break the deadly monotony. After each ghastly stanza, like the row of identical telephone poles whipping past to let you see that you are most assuredly moving, and may, in fact, be going somewhere, comes the refrain: "I am America! I am beautiful!" Give me a break; I was eleven.

But wait, gentle reader! The story goes on, and it gets worse.

Picture this: myself and some half-dozen college youth, lying about in various poses of ennui in a dorm room somewhere. Wine bottles sporting candle wax mantles adorn the smoky lair. Friend A (still my best friend thirty years later)[now thirty-five years] says to me "So, Levi, have you written any poetry lately?" I could gleefully have strangled him. There was, among those present, Friend B (no, let’s call him Acquaintance B), well known for his pedantic ignorance, the opinions of whom I was most eager not to gather. But Friend C (still my best friend thirty years later)[now thirty-five years] was all for it, and between A and C, they talked me into it.

I handed around my most recent piece, which made extensive use of tetrameter because I find it sets a melancholy mood, and which had so much rhyme in it I was almost embarrassed (but it was ok, because at least it was all internal). B reads it, a little bemused. A and C talk me into showing him some more. He reads them all, getting more and more confused. Finally, he says to me “This is very good writing, but I just have one question: why do you call it poetry? It doesn’t rhyme, and it doesn’t have rhythm.”

Needless to say, I was a little put out, since I had worked so hard at using enough meter to help set the tone, while still using it, not letting it use me. Ditto the rhyme issue, so I commence trying to show him these things. He wants a definition of meter, a definition of rhyme.

Ho ho, my fine fellow! I have you, now! I am well equipped for giving definitions, and I haul out Poetry Handbooks and Poetry Encyclopedias and Dictionaries of Poetry Terms till he is fairly buried in the drift, but he denies them the right to define the terms of their own craft. He wants a Webster’s (which I do not have; I despise Webster’s).

Finally, believe it or not, I drag out “I Am America.” He reads it. He sits stunned. He has (I swear to you I am not making this up) tears in his eyes.

“Now, that’s poetry!” he says reverently.

Anne Maureen Rockeman “Rocky” Montgomery 1986–2011

It has been hard to sit on this since I first learned of it on Tuesday afternoon.

But now the names have been released, and now I can write this.

On Monday, 12 December 2011, a helicopter crash near Joint Base Lewis-McChord, near Olympia, Washington, claimed the lives of four United States Army aviators:

  • Captain Anne M. Montgomery, a native of North Dakota
  • Chief Warrant Officer Frank A. Buoniconti, a native of Colorado
  • Chief Warrant Officer Joseph S. Satterfield, a native of Alaska
  • Chief Warrant Officer Lucas Daniel Sigfrid, a native of Alabama.

Captain Anne Maureen Rockeman “Rocky” Montgomery was my daughter-in-law, married to my second son, Chief Warrant Officer Aaron “Monty” Montgomery. There is much I do not know about Rocky, as they had only been married since May of 2010, and they had spent that time in many, many places, serving the needs of the country. What I know about her is that she was the perfect other half of my son. She was what made him whole, in a way that so few people can truly enrich and be enriched by others. She lit his face in a way that I had never seen before.

Aaron "pinning" Rockie upon her graduation from US Army flight training.

Rocky leaves a family whose size and extent I still do not know in whole. I know her parents are missionaries in Kenya, and that she has at least one sister and one brother, and I will pray for them in this time of need.

Aaron, of course, personally knew all four of the people who were snatched away by this tragedy, knew their wives and families, and spent time with them as members of a close-knit and loving second family. I can only imagine what he’s going through now, and I pray that he will find the strength he needs.

 

PLEASE NOTE (added 12 Jan 2012):

Comments on this blog are turned off automatically when a post is 21 days old, and there seems to be no way to turn them on for one post, without turning them on for all old posts. (I tried that, actually — the spam began to bury me in hours.)

If you wish to add a note to Rocky’s “Memorial Wall,” email me, and I will make it happen.

Pop-ups, Splash Screens, and the Seattle Times

I had a friend recommend an article to me today.

This article was on the front page of the Seattle Times website, so it was pretty easy to find.

It was impossible to read.

There were so many things happening on the website all at the same time that the text would scroll up or down a line every few seconds, presumably to make room for some fancy-pants “feature” that was going off somewhere around the edge of the screen. If I had the audacity to allow my mouse cursor to touch anything on screen, something popped up, or flew out, or splashed, or upchucked, or something. When all of that settled down, a pop-up opened, in spite of the fact that I have pop-ups blocked in both my browser and my anti-virus software. To be fair to the blockers, it was probably not something they’ve been told qualifies as a pop-up. It was probably Flash or something similar.

It had an X in the top right, so I hovered on that long enough to see that it was not a “Close this obnoxious window and let me get on with what I came here for!” button – it was a “Why certainly! Yes, of course I would love to go off to this advertising site and let them install a spying cookie—oops, sorry, I mean tracking cookie on my computer so that they can track my every move!” button. Not that it would have done them much good, even if it wasn’t my habit to check and see what mysterious little X-boxes do – I have tracking cookies deleted every time I close the browser, and most of them never get placed in the first place, so it was more the annoyance factor than anything else.

But that annoyance factor is pretty high. I hate walking into the few stores in my area that have policies in place (looking at you, Blockbuster) where everyone has to be “greeted” when they walk in the door. I think it’s an insult for them to assume that I am so sensitive that not being “greeted” by a total stranger is more offensive to me than to have that person simply go on doing what they are doing (usually waiting on another customer, who is put out by the interruption in an amount at least equal to what I might putatively feel were I not “greeted”). If these stores had policies telling their employees to come and hold signs in front of my face, advertising their latest specials or trying to get me to give them my name and address and home phone number and social security number and who knows what else, then my reaction to that bricks-and-mortar store would be the same as my reaction to the Seattle Times website:

Which is, I will never darken their virtual doorstep again.

I go to a website with a purpose in mind. That purpose, in this case, was to read a news article. And the Seattle Times runs a website with a purpose in mind. That purpose is to say to their advertisers “Look at us! Look at all the eyeballs we get to our site! Come and buy some eyeballs on our site.” I am under no illusions that the Seattle Times (or Blockbuster, or Mom-n-Pop’s Good Greengrocers) owes me anything. The bricks-and-mortar places are there to sell me things. I know that. The Seattle Times, whose site I can peruse for free, is there to sell advertising. I know that, too. Everybody needs to be paid for something, or we all have to go back to hunting and gathering. That’s Econ 101.

But when the invasive, intrusive, obstructive advertising comes between me and what I am there to accomplish, then you have gone too far. I can no longer obtain my end of the deal, which is the information in the article I wanted to read. When this happens, I have only one option. If I walk into your store, and your employees wave signs in my face, pluck at my sleeve, get between me and what I am there to get, then I will no longer reward you for being there. I will not buy the things I came to get. I will walk out.

And when I can no longer use the website of a newspaper to read the news, then I will walk out. I will not be eyeballs for your ads anymore. I will not be a tick-mark in your metrics anymore. I will be gone. I will probably be reading your news articles via Google News, in fact.

I have long said, and I will say it until the day I day, that big box stores do not “Put Mom and Pop out of business.” Mom and Pop (and Borders, and independent fast-food places, and everybody else) put themselves out of business by no longer providing what their customers need. They lose out to those who do meet the expectations.

Google and Amazon and all those other big names are succeeding, not because they are evil, not because they are bad guys, but because they meet the expectations of their customers. I expect to be able to actually read the news. Somewhere. Anywhere. I don’t care where. I do take sources into account, and I do try to read a lot of sources on any given thing before I decide what I believe, but those sources will be named in any good search engine.

Want my eyeballs in your metrics, Seattle Times? Then let me read the articles on your website.

Plagiarism, Addiction, and “Assassin of Secrets”

I write with a constant worry that I’m stealing.

Unconsciously, semiconsciously, subconsciously, stealing the lines and words and phrases of other writers. To a certain extent, of course, I am. There are a finite number of words in English, and therefore a finite number of phrases. Someone, sometime, somewhere, has already written “There are a finite number of words in English.” To a deeper, truer, more meaningful extent, of course, every single thing that is ever written that is not a deliberate plagiarism is whole and fresh and unique, and that’s what keeps us all going.

But when I read a line like this, I really, really wish I had thought of it first:

Laurel had cried all her bones out and was too floppy to worry that she was red-nosed and puffy-eyed in front of a boy.

–Joshilyn Jackson, the girl who stopped swimming, 2008

Seriously? She had cried all her bones out, and was too floppy to care? There’s so much packed into that line that I just want to write a scene where I can steal that line and pretend it was mine. But it wasn’t. And that’s the important part, right there. The moral, ethical, philosophical issue that separates the writer from the plagiarist. I want to pretend it was mine, but it wasn’t is a far cry from I want to pretend it was mine, and no one will notice.

Yes, this is about Quentin Rowan.

The same Quentin Rowan, who, under the pen name of “Q. R. Markham,” wrote “wrote” a spy novel that was published by Mulholland. (You can search and find a billion references, but that link is to what I think is the best place to start, at the blog of spy-novelist Jeremy Duns, who is standing rather honorably through the whole thing, and whose efforts need to be read.) When the book was pulled from shelves by its publisher because of the revelation of plagiarism (and that should be Plagiarism With a Capital P), I watched rather angrily as too many people in the press tried to put it off as some sort of post-post-modernist comment on the state of publishing in general, or of spy-fiction in particular, or on the very concept of intellectual property. Not because I thought that any of these arguments would actually change anybody’s mind on any of these issues, but because I felt that Mr Rowan would surely seize on them in an attempt to explain himself, and that his effort would largely succeed. We, as a society, love a bad boy best when he is unashamedly bad, after all.

But there’s another post, also from Mr Duns, that should also be read.

In the comments section on Highway Robbery: The Mask of Knowing in Assassin of Secrets, Mr Duns details a fairly extensive email Q and A between himself and Mr Rowan that reads like the confession of an addict. In fact, Mr Rowan himself uses the comparison of plagiary to addiction:

“I can only compare it to other kinds of obsession or addictive behavior like gambling or smoking: in that there was no need to do it initially, but once I’d started I couldn’t stop and my mind kept finding ways to rationalize the behavior. Even though, somewhere deep in the chasms of my thick brain, I knew it would destroy me: it did something for me in the moment.”

Quentin Rowan, as quoted by Jeremy Duns

I should be clear that I would find the wholesale plagiarism from which this book apparently is stitched together to be immoral and unethical, even if it were done to make some obscure “comment.” I should be clear that I find it immoral and unethical, even if it stems from some subconscious compulsion.

But I have to admit, this is a frightening glimpse into the depths of the human mind.

Best Email Ever From a Dissatisfied Reader

From a certain Ms Krantz in Philadelphia, PA:

Dear Mr. Montgomery;

I purchased your novel “Cursing the Cougar” for my Kindle from amazon.com last week. I began reading it today, and I stopped reading it today. I stopped when I got to the line “He’s pretty sure they’re the type who go years without reading, while Morgan [Morgan is the protagonist – LM] can’t go into the bathroom without a book.” Reading in the bathroom is so disgusting that I would never be able to finish a book about such a character.

I won’t be reading any more of your books. Please grow up. This is an excellent example of why a man should never try to write female characters.

I offered her a refund on the book, and I have begged her to post this as a review on the book’s Amazon page. I doubt that she will, but it would be rather hilarious. Smile

*scurries back into the cave to work on “growing up”*

∞ – 1 = ∞

Children are forever.

Some background: I married the most perfect woman on Earth in January of 1981. In December of that year, our first son was born. A couple of weeks later, Cathy had gone to the store while the baby slept. (Yes, he has a name. Yes, he had a name then. But it seemed like playing house to call him by name. He was “the baby.” He was the only baby we had. Why did he need a name? It actually took me a good six months to get comfortable with the fact that “the baby” had a name.) (And that baby is now a nine-year US Army vet, attached at the hip to his own “most perfect woman,” and fast approaching thirty. Daddy laughs in his face!)

So… wife shopping. Baby sleeping. Brand-new daddy finishes his last library book. Checks his watch. Library’s open another half-hour, and it’s literally right across the street (best location I’ve ever lived in!). Stack up all the books to go back, grab your keys, get to the door… Pause, doorknob in hand. Sag Earthward as the realization hits that you can’t go anywhere.

There’s a baby asleep in the next room.

A baby who is depending upon you for all of his needs and requirements for a very, very, very long time.

That was the first moment when I realized the enormity of what we had done. We had brought a whole nother person into the world, and we had to bend ourselves to his will until he could walk out of our lives and into his own. One became two, and then three, and then four, and we were going to stop there, but God felt otherwise, and next thing we knew, they outnumbered us three-to-one.

We literally had at least one child in diapers every single day for thirteen solid years. That cold grey evening in February, 1981, is thirty years behind me now, and every single day of that time has been planned around the needs of others besides Cathy and me. Number six signed the papers a few weeks ago to join the US Army, and he ships out in January. Number five (by four minutes), who is the only one of the bunch to decide against military service, moved out a few weeks ago, to live with a friend.

So, of course, we went to the calendar, and beginning with the appropriate day in January, worked backwards, writing out our countdown to freedom. We said things like “It’s sure going to be nice to come and go as we please, without having to worry about their transportation and scheduling needs.” “When I get that bedroom as a craft room, I can leave my sewing machine set up all the time.” (her) “I’m changing all the locks.” (me!)

Whenever the last one at home said “I need to [go do be have] … ” we looked at the calendar. “Just seventy-one days left,” Cathy would say. “Sixty-five and a wake-up!” I would say. “Sixty-two days to freedom!”

Then number five called. “Uh… I know you thought you’d gotten rid of me, but…” Seems he and his friend had decided the current plans were not for the best. Apparently, no one wants to live with teenagers, not even other teenagers. Imagine that.

So now we look sadly at the sewing machine sitting in the corner of the living room, stacked so closely with books and knitting magazines that it takes the coordinated efforts of two or three people to dig it out for some project. We look aghast at the soaring power bill, as two teenagers take 60-minute showers instead of just one. We gather at the calendar, my wife and I, to mourn the end of our countdown.

“How many days do we have left?” is now answered by: ∞

And ∞ – 1 = ∞

The “New and Improved” Google Reader–NOT!

I subscribe to 223 blogs via Google Reader.

It’s been a very integral part of my day for some time now. I actually don’t have any idea how long it’s been, but it’s been at least three or four years. Obviously, not all of those blogs are updated on any given day, but when something new does appear, I only have one place I have to go in order to read it, and a good part of my online life has been spent looking at Google Reader’s screen.

Until I logged on for perhaps the third time today, and discovered that it had been IMPROVED! NEW, CLEANER LOOK! EASIER TO NAVIGATE BLAH BLAH BLAH!!!! The main screen consists of three panes, each of which is now exactly the same color. The delineation between them consists of pure magicalness, visible only to those who could see the emperor’s new clothes. And unicorns. They can see unicorns, too. But I’m not one of them.

The background color is now a bright, glaring white, very hard on an old caveman’s eyes. There seems to be no way to change any of this.

Essentially, one of my everyday tools has become completely unusable. Now I get to try and find a new RSS reader. If anybody has any suggestions, let me know.

Edited to add this:

All text is black on white. INCLUDING LINKS! Black on white links? Are they serious? Links the same colors as the surrounding text? Are they serious?

Edited again (my own RSS subscribers are going to love me):

The “All Items” button is now inside the scrolling list of subscriptions. Now you can no longer work your way down to the bottom of the list, then just hit “All Items” to see the things that have been added since you started. Because the button has scrolled to the top of the list. Because it’s inside the scrolly part, you idiots!

Here’s Montgomery’s First Law of User Interface Design, AKA the Principle of Least Surprise (actually formulated a long time ago, when I was still in industrial design):

Between any two design options in a user interface, the best one is the one that will least surprise the user.

Google Reader’s redesign has failed at this most basic level. Failed miserably.

“A Place to Die” Will Soon be Available as an Ebook

A Place to Die -- available now in paperbackActually, I don’t know why it never got published as one.

It was supposed to have been published for both Amazon’s Kindle and Barnes & Noble’s Nook several weeks ago, during my flurry of conversion and publishing, and it certainly got converted to both formats, but it seems that the actual publishing part of that got overlooked by someone who shall remain nameless. That would be, of course, the caveman who is in charge of publishing things around here – bald-headed, bearded, gaining in girth, and forever nameless!

Ahem. Moving on. Yes.

To punish the back office (that would be the aforementioned caveman) the front office (also bald, bearded, and too big around, but never-to-be-confused-with-the-other-caveman at all) has decided to make A Place to Die available until Christmas, 2011, for just ninety-nine cents.

Yes, you read that right. 99¢ for the next two months!

For a novel! That’ll teach that nasty caveman.


"Who are you, that you should forget the Lord your maker, who has stretched forth the heavens and laid the foundations of the Earth?"

Do you believe in God, if you believe he won’t answer your prayers for yourself, but that he may, in fact, answer your desperate pleas for the one you loved so much and couldn’t help? Do you believe in God, if you believe he saved your life, but didn’t give you a reason to live? Do you believe in God, if you believe he let your fiancée drown?

When Matt lost his job hours before he was to propose to the girl of his dreams, when he lost her at the bottom of a river an hour after she said yes anyway, he knew that God was the God of others, and not of him. The only thing God’s plan for the world needed from him was his death.

So he set out to find a place to die.

A Place to Die is a dark, edgy, Christian novel about where and how we die in order to live.



Buy it for just 99¢ (regular price will be $4.99) for Amazon Kindle and B&N Nook.

Buy it in paperback for $11.95 from Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, and other sources.

Chopped Off at the Waist

My faithful BlackBerry Storm died yesterday.

Croaked. Kicked the bucket. Bought the farm. Went off to the great network in the sky. Since it is de rigeuer for novelists these days to be poor, I can’t afford to replace it, at least until payday. Of course, the BBerry had to croak on the day after payday, meaning that all of the money was gone, mostly to such inconsequential things as rent and utilities (the rest of it gets frittered away on groceries and gasoline) (And yes, I would gleefully have put off any of that for a new BlackBerry Torch!).

To keep me from being completely phoneless until then, I had them transfer my number to a Samsung dumb phone I had lying around. It had been the house phone, but we switched that a few weeks back, so this thing was lying around on the couch, eating bonbons and reading dime novels and getting fat and insolent:

image

Well, now it has a job, but it ain’t very good at it. It makes phone calls. It receives phone calls. It receives text messages, and it even theoretically sends them, but who’s going to send text messages from a number pad? “Not I,” said the middle-sized Billy Goat Gruff and his caveman fingers!

No email. No Twitter. No blog comment notifications, much less the ability to approve them. No GPS navigation. No GPS at all, come to that. No IMDb, sitting in the living room half-watching a boring movie and wondering what else this really bad actress with the nice lips has been in. Until further notice, my online activities are limited to times I am actually at the computer, online. Très twentieth century of me, I know.

So if you happen to feel like buying me a BlackBerry Torch for a very early Christmas, by all means email me! Otherwise, I shall be staggering around like a a zombie, chopped off at the waist and groaning “Accesssssss…….. Accesssssss………..”