Saturday, December 22, 2012

The Battle of Gaixia: A Love Story

Few people in the west know about The Battle of Gaixia (also known as Kai-Hsia, 202 BCE) but it is one of the most famous battles in ancient Chinese history. The major antagonists were Liu-Bang of the Han and Xiang-Yu of the Chu but an integral part of the story is the love affair between Xiang-Yu and the Consort Yuji; a relationship which brought the antagonists to the Canyon of Gaixia.

My article on the battle, in Ancient History Encyclopedia, can be found here:

The article begins:

The Battle of Gaixia (202 BCE, also known as Kai-Hsia) was the decisive engagement of the Chu-Han Contention (206-202 BCE) at which Liu-Bang, King of Han, defeated King Xiang-Yu of Chu to found the Han Dynasty. After the Death of Shi Huangti, the first Emperor of a united China, his son Qin Er Shi took the throne and ruled so poorly that the country erupted in rebellion. Shi Huangti (formerly Ying Zheng of the state of Qin) had conquered the warring states of Chu, Han, Qi, Wei, Yan and Zhao to found the Qin Dynasty and ruled his Empire rigorously. Qin Er Shi, who was ill-equipped to follow his father, was assassinated after three years and his nephew, equally inept, ascended the throne. During the years between Shi Huangti’s death (210 BCE) and 206 BCE, the former subject states battled the toppling Qin regime, and sometimes each other, for supremacy. After the final defeat of the Qin army, two generals emerged victorious: Liu-Bang of the state of Han and Xiang-Yu of the state of Chu.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

The Return of Rose White: A Ghost Story

When Madame Veneris is forced to conduct a seance in a cemetery she's worried about who may show up from the other side. In calling on the spirit of Rose White she finds her concerns were justified beyond her worst fears.

My short story `The Return of Rose White' published today in London's Litro Magazine. The link to the story is here:

The story begins:

When Madame Veneris reached the cemetery, the first thing she did, after getting out of her car and setting down the blue blanket and candle, was to pull up the robe at her wrist and turn on the small black device there.

"Where are you located?" she said into it.

"Turn around and look to your left. I'm behind the tree near the angel."

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Plato's `Lie in the Soul' and the Importance of Truth

The Greek philosopher Plato (427/8-347/8 BCE) claimed that there was an objective, undeniable truth which one needed to recognize in order to live a full life. In his famous work Republic, Plato discusses the importance of justice but, as always, defines `true justice' according to his standard of objective truth. One of the largest obstacles in recognizing either truth or justice, or any good at all, is the lie in the soul which Plato defines in Republic Book II.

Simply put, to have `the lie in the soul' means to believe wrongly about the most important things in one's life. To rid oneself of this lie one must, first, acknowledge that it is there and then work towards removing it and replacing with truth and a proper understanding. My article, published through Ancient History Encyclopedia, clarifies this concept further.

The link to the article is here:

And the article begins:

In his famous work Republic, Plato discusses the concept of the `True Lie' or the `Lie in the Soul'. Through a conversation between Socrates and Adeimantus (Plato's brother) Plato defines the `true lie' as believing wrongly about the most important things in one's life. The `lie in the soul' can be understood as Plato's answer to the Sophist Protagoras' famous assertion that "Man is the measure of all things", that, if one believes something to be so, it is so. Plato repudiated Protagoras' claim in virtually every one of his dialogues and Republic is no exception.

The `true lie' or `lie in the soul' can best be explained this way: If one believes, at a certain point, that eating carrots with every meal is the best thing one could do for one's health and, later, realizes that excess in anything can be a bad thing and stops the carrot-eating, that realization would have no long-term negative consequences on one's life. If, however, one believes the person one loves is a paragon of virtue and then discovers that person is a lying, conniving thief, this discovery could undermine one's confidence in oneself, in one's judgment, in other people, and even in a belief in God, in so far as finding out one is wrong about a person one was so certain of would lead one to question what other important matters in life one is also wrong about...

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Kevin Lynn Helmick Driving Alone

This novel, the latest from author Kevin Lynn Helmick, is a great read and highly recommended. I wrote about this work before a few months back, pre-publication, but the book has now been released through Blank Slate Press. I read the manuscript in galley and I thought it was fantastic. I honestly can't wait to read the actual book.

Helmick's prose is so natural, and so real, he presents you with that greatest of all reading experiences: the feeling that you've lived the story. I still have moments where I think I lived through scenes from his earlier novel, Heartland Gothic, and have those same `flashbacks' when I remember scenes from Driving Alone. I really need an uninterrupted month or two so I can just sit and read through his books slowly; even though, after that, I might not be able to tell my actual life from the stories. Memorable characters, brilliant dialogue, and vivid landscapes are all woven together by Helmick to give a reader an honest and unforgettable experience.

Below is a brief blurb about the book from the Blank Slate Press site:

"Billy Keyhoe is a loser whose luck just ran out. After beating his girlfriend to a bloody pulp and being shot at by the clerk of the convenience store he was trying to rob, Billy takes off in his daddy’s beat-up 66 Caddy on a road trip from Waycross, GA toward West Texas. On the way, he picks up a beautiful hitchhiker, Feather, who seems to know more about him than he knows himself. As they drive, he slowly realizes his life is being judged and that he has to finally face up to his past. The farther they go, the more Billy is drawn to Feather until he realizes he “had fallen in love somewhere out there in the night, with something or someone, or just an idea, it wasn’t clear.” But what was clear was that Billy had never been in love before, that he didn’t understand what love could do to a man, and that he’d never “done one fuckin thing right” in his entire life until he’d picked up Feather. Unfortunately for Billy, he discovers that even true love cannot save him."

Their website is here:


Finished reading Driving Alone by Kevin Lynn Helmick. Driving Alone recasts the manic pixie dream girl as a noir, bruised angel of judgement wandering the back roads of the American South, waiting at the crossroads to be picked up by desperate drivers running from themselves. Highly recommended. You’ll want to grab this when it comes out.
- Spinetingler magazine
Driving Alone is gorgeously grim new take on redemption and romance. It is unsettling and provocative; combining the classic romance of the open road with the claustrophobia of a morality play. If Hell is other people, Driving Alone has the Devil riding shotgun.
- Jared Shurin, reviewer for Pornokitsch, director and literary judge for The Kitschies
Hardboiled, hardbitten and haunting as well as lyrically libidinous and lovingly lascivious, Kevin Lynn Helmick tackles sex and death along the lost highway the way the damned do—alone.
- Jedidiah Ayres, author of A F*ckload of Shorts
An intense nightmare that shimmers with beauty and darkness. Helmick broils these characters in southern humidity and human tragedy until the reader is left sweating, breathless and amazed.
- Fred Venturini, author of The Samaritan
A journey into darkness and painful self-discovery … a brilliantly lyrical and richly painted hybrid of noir and magic realism. Superb.
- Paul D. Brazill- The Gumshoe, Guns Of Brixton, Drunk On The Moon.