Kickstarter and Go Fund Me Projects Successful

One of the many historic sights seen by our visiting American family as they tour Sicily.

Although there are still a few hours to go on my Kickstarter and Go Fund Me projects for Father of The Grooms, both appeals have met their initial goals. These efforts were made to publicize my Father of The Grooms novel, screenplay and movie project to a wider audience than I could reach with my social media contacts. Those who joined will receive copies of the book chapters as I write them, in the manner of Charles Dickens, Doyle and other 19th Century writers who published their books serially in the world’s newspapers. It seems strange now, but in the 1840’s the front page of a newspaper might feature the next installment of one of some famous author’s stories. This way buyers of the papers would know that they had something they wanted to read in every issue. Is this a potential business model for for some of today’s struggling newspapers? If so, contact me, and I will make a publication arrangement with the newspaper.

Those who want to sign up to receive the book chapters as I write them, have the opportunity to comment on them and receive a credit in the book for significant content can join at any time by going to http://www.hoveysmith.com and making a $20 donation using the Pay Pal button. They might also go to Kickstarter or Go Fund Me and get in on the last few minutes or hours of the campaign.

I have produced a series of videos based on my fact-gathering trip to Silicy and these are now up on the Hovey Smith You Tube Channel. Some are about segments of my trip and I have another, “The Volcanic Nature of Sicilian Food and Wine, ” for those who are particularly interested in local culture and eats. The trip was interesting, extremely informative, allowed me to gather some olive wood for a knife that I will be building and gave me many insights into the culture that I would not have otherwise obtained.

Our tour group visited Mt. Etna the week before it erupted, so I was glad to have been able to make the trip before the mountain was closed. Mt. Etna is the largest volcano in Europe is located between two continental plates and is more or less continuously active. As volcanoes go, it is well behaved. Although its flows may engulf entire villages, they are slow moving. A caution is not to attempt to grill meat using the red hot rocks of the flows. The meat cooks fine, but it picked up sufficient toxic substances from the off-gassing lava that it killed the four people who consumed it. As a geologist, I am interested in which gasses and what toxins, but I don’t presently have that information. Generally these volcanic gases contain sulfur and chlorine compounds along with heavy metals like arsenic, antimony, mercury, lead, etc. none of which are recommended for human consumption.

My next step will be to build a dagger a flame-shaped blade that is inspired by an ancient bronze dagger used by one of Sicily’s earliest cultures some 3,000 years ago. This dagger plays a significant part in the story as it is used by Luigi, The Claw, who is an aging mob enforcer brought out of retirement after the first and second in command of the Mafia are arrested. As a boy he fought against the Germans during World War II and lost his left hand during a bomb explosion. He was hired by American archaeologists who were doing salvage work on the island after the war and taught to paint scenes and objects that they were recovering and restoring. During that time he learned of the earliest Sicilians and came to believe that he was descended from those who underwent 17 different conquests. As such he felt that he was a protector of Sicilian culture and had one of these historic styles of daggers built of modern steel to use as a weapon of intimidation. This dagger has multiple uses in the movie and in promotional materials for the project. It will have a flame-shaped blade like a kris, a grip of olive wood, design elements taken from the culture that used it and a practical fighting-knife grip appropriate for the period.

Next week I will start writing to book chapters and those who signed up for the project will start getting them in e-mail boxes in about two weeks. Many thanks to those who supported the project.

Recreating a Sicilian Terror Weapon of 1000 B.C.

  

Charcoal making. The first step in making Luigi, The Claw’s steel copy of a Sicil flame-shaped fighting knife.

Luigi, The Claw, one of the characters in the novel I am writing, Father of The Grooms, has been an active Mafia member since World War II. As a boy he participated in the resistance against the Germans and suffered the loss of his left hand because of a bomb explosion. In recognition of his service he was given work as a draftsman for American sponsored archaeological excavations that took place on the island as the war debris were being cleared from Sicily’s historic towns.

     While employed he learned that some of the Late Bronze Age inhabitants of Sicily, The Sicel, made a dagger with what the later Greeks described as a “flame-shaped blade,” which fascinated him. Because each progressive civilization pillaged the tombs of each previous culture, metal objects from this period were, and are, very scarce.  I visited three of the most important museums on the island, and I never saw an example of this type of knife.

     Nonetheless, Luigi imagined that he was a direct descendant of these early Sicilians who had fought against everyone else who had invaded/occupied the island including the Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, Arabs, Normans, Austrians, Spanish and in his own lifetime the Germans. In honor of this long history of resistance against exploitation of natural and human resources, he decided to have a knife maker build him a workable modern copy of this historic knife from modern steel.

     Wavy bladed knives are typically thought of as being produced in Indonesia where the kris is a well-known pattern of knife and short sword. Although wavy-bladed knives are not unknown in Europe, they are much less common than knives and swords with straight or slightly curved blades. Today this shape is most commonly seen on bread knives which may have one wavy edge and a straight back.

     The soils of Sicily have not been kind to bronze objects. Thinner items like cooking pots are often eaten partly through by the elements and corrosion of various sorts, including the so called “bronze disease.” This type of corrosion attacks statues and other objects, and museums must guard against it by making sure their bronzes are free from surface salts and kept in a humidity-controlled environment. The older the bronze is, the more delicate it becomes.

     To have maximum psychological effect, Luigi wanted his knife to be wide at the hilt and then have its wavy blade undulate down to a point about 10-inches away. This would be a good compromise between portability and visibility to potential opponents. His blade was also to be sharpened on both edges so that it would rip and cut with either upward or downward strokes.

     The practicalities of making cast bronze blades tough enough to use in combat dictated that they be thicker than correspondingly long steel blades, and they often employed a reinforcing spine that ran down the center of the knife. Such a feature is unnecessary on a steel blade, and it was omitted. The thinner point presented some problems from a design perspective as it might tend to either bend or snap off. This point would need to be protected from too radical a quench by applying a protective layer of mud or edge heating with a torch and then applying the quench.

     In Venice there is a water-powered hammer that has been used since Medieval times for making blades and armor. Since I am writing fiction I might take literary license and relocate the forge to Syracuse for the purpose of making the knife. I do not know if that location has ever been featured in a movie, but it would be interesting to include it in a flashback.

     In the meantime I had to decide what Luigi’s knife was to look like. I often make wooden models of new knives that I am going to build so that I can establish the blade’s shape, grip size and the general proportions of the work. In this case I salvaged a plank from an oak pallet and drew out a preliminary design, which I cut out with a band saw and thinned on the heavy belt sander that I use for knife making.

     I derived an appropriately shaped blade and had to give thought about how to shape the grip. Many primitive knives that have pommels shaped like horses’ heads or other animals. I also considered ending the grip with the head of a god. However, all of these shapes tend to prick the palm or back of the hand with some of the ornamental details unless the grip was very long indeed. These were interesting from a design and historic point of view, but not as functional as they might be.

     In researching the Sicel, one of the few decorative elements that I saw came from the door of a tomb. This was a coiled spiral with a longer vertical element which was a stylized version of male sexual organs that were rendered in more recognizable form on another part of the door. This was obviously significant to a culture that also worshiped a mother goddess of fertility and rebirth, something like the later Demeter in Greco-Roman times.

     Use of these design elements would allow me to have a cross-guard with rounded knobs on the blade to be mimicked by a smaller double-ended pommel. These elements would allow a firm grip to be sustained on the knife for either stabbing or thrusting with the pommel knob fitting on the crease of the palm and the fingers pushing firmly against the cross-guard when needed to penetrate something tough, like leather armor.

     It often happens with new technology, like the transition from stone tools to bronze, that the objects being made are somewhat over designed compared to the simplified models that follow. Whereas such a knife would be made today with wooden grips that might have three pins, I am going to grind the tang full width with the olive-wood grips extending over the top of the blade and secured to it with additional pins and a central medallion. Whatever might happen to the knife, that grip will not fail.

     Similarly, first generations of objects are often designed to fit a single individual, and since Luigi is having a custom knife made, it will fit his hand, which coincidentally, happens to be the same size as my own.

     On flesh the effect of such a knife is devastating. No matter whether it is thrust into a body with a downward, straight-in thrust or pulled upward it will continue to cut new flesh as it is extracted. The Greeks fighting the Sicel apparently thought these daggers to be terror weapons and beyond the use for those engaged in honorable “civilized” combat. Although they wrote about these knives, and feared them, they never adopted them.

     This lesson was not lost on Luigi. By having such a wicked- looking knife made, its presence was often sufficient to bring compliance to whatever demands his Mafia bosses call on him to enforce. He did, on occasion, use the knife with deadly effect to execute those who betrayed what he considered to be Sicilian honor or who were a direct threat to him and his family during the Mafia Wars of the 1990s. During that bloody time 40 or more people died each day during the height of the conflict.

     “How can we help it.” He says in the book. “We came from a bloody past. My life has been filled with fighting and bloodshed; to expect a different future is a worthy, but unrealistic, hope. Yes, my knife caused death; but in more cases it preserved life.”

     I have now made charcoal for my forge, tested and rejected some old steel that I had, made a wooden copy of Luigi’s knife and will pick up supplies for it in the coming Blade Show in Atlanta. The steel model that I will make will use Damascus steel from Alabama Damascus. The contrasting pattern between the etched Damascus and the burl grain of the olive wood along with brass pins will make a stunning knife.

     I will likely make two versions. One edged on both sides for use in the Movie and the other edged on only one side so that it can be legally owned in more states. In either case these will be beautiful, exotic knives with a historic European connection. It’s fun for me to recreate something, the likes of which, has not been seen for 3,000 years. This is the approach that I used with my Hovey’s Knives of China line of cooking knives which are based on ancient Chinese patterns, but made of modern steels in the United States.

Sorry, no photos of Luigi’s Sicel flame-bladed knife design or prototype can be released at this time.  

To find out more about the Father of The Grooms book, screenplay  and movie project go to https://fatherofthegrooms.net. To find out more about Hovey’s Knives of China go to: www.hoveysknivesofchinablog.co.                                                             

When Should A Writer Make a Foreign Trip?

  

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  This was one of the settings used in the Godfather movies that I may revisit in my book and movie

Foreign travel on an intercontinental scale is time consuming, tiring and expensive. Flight times from the U.S. to China can be 30 hours and 12-15 hours to most locations in Europe. Those living in Australia, New Zealand, Africa, South America and India also face many hours in an aircraft to reach destinations in Europe or the Americas.

     Most businessmen travel to seek new markets for what they make, attend trade conventions, arrange joint ventures or check out suppliers. They are on the clock traveling on their company’s behalf. Oftentimes such trips are assigned, and to refuse to go is to risk their jobs.

     For writers the choices are not so straight forward. The writer increasingly does not have an advance towards his book, and he is traveling at his own expense. The novel may be set in far-away places and in different eras. It is certainly far less expensive to write about a subject close to your geographic location or sometimes even create a fictional world of your own. Nonetheless, there are times when the novel is set in another location because of a particularly compelling story line.

     Take for example Ian Fleming’s James Bond character. This guy gets around. It is not too strange to find him not only in London, but in four or five other countries during a single book. These make for an exciting read and thrilling movie, but the safest approach for an average writer would be to confine his foreign adventures to places that he has gone before or knows about.

     My own book-in-progress, Father of The Grooms, has brief scenes in San Francisco, Baton Rouge and Washington D.C. in the U.S. There is also one brief incident in Iraq that will consume only a few pages of text, but the majority of the activities, and certainly the most interesting ones, take place in Sicily – a place that I had never been.

     The general story is that a Louisiana family of Sicilian origin has two young men of about 23 and 25 who have had considerable trouble maintaining relationships with women. One is recently divorced and the other thrown out of his live-in relationship with a lady in San Francisco. Dad decides that it is time to have some grandchildren and proposes that they do it the old-fashioned-way by using his family ties in Sicily to arrange a marriage with two nice Sicilian girls.

     Not fully realizing the seriousness of this arrangement, the two guys agree to go on a family vacation to Sicily to meet some interesting women and see their ancestral homeland. They arrive on Monday and find out that the wedding is to be on Friday. Their prospective brides have recently undergone the trauma of having a beloved cousin literally blown nearly in half in the most recent of a series of vendetta killings that had been going on between two families for over a century and augmented by the Mafia Wars of the 1990s. They want to get away from that cycle of bloodshed at any costs – even if it means marrying two American men that they have never met.

     Other interesting characters include Father Flanagan, an Irish priest sent to Sicily to hopefully bring some peace between the waring Mafia families and the two young men’s gay uncle who runs a hairdressing parlor with their sister.

     Miscommunications, misunderstandings and cultural conflicts abound in the plot as the wedding day approaches. It is made very clear that the arrangements have been made, more than 50,000 Euros spent, and if the wedding does not take place, none of the American part of the family are likely to leave Sicily alive for refusing to accept “two of the most beautiful flowers of the island,” as their brides.

     With this general story line it was absolutely necessary for me to go to Sicily to see the locations where the visiting Americans would be taken to become somewhat acquainted with their historic homeland, a dark cave on Mt. Etna where a certain ceremony was to take place, the out of the way location where the Mafia family wedding was to occur, and some of the historic sights they would see.

Could I write this book without going to Sicily?

     With on-line resources it would be possible to do research on the geography of the island, plot out their tour and perhaps pick out some major locations where segments of the plot could unfold. What I would have missed was information on Sicilian wedding customs, the street names where the brothers are going to be taken for their bachelor party, the location for a boar hunt that one of the brothers is going to participate in and information on the types of wine and food likely to be consumed.

     Being on the island helped me better visualize my characters, give me little vignettes and tell me things that I would likely never have discovered, like there are no Catholic schools in Sicily as we have here in the U.S., and that the caves on Mt. Etna were used to store snow for icing down drinks and making flavored ices during the Island’s hot summers.

     It would have been even more helpful had I been able to go during the Fall when our American family is to arrive, but I did have the opportunity to participate in a small town’s Saint festival complete with marching bands, throngs in the streets, etc. The narrow steep streets were so crowded that a person could hardly push their way through. Such a crowd would allow a couple to get purposefully lost to have a few minutes of private conversation away from their ever watchful hosts which will be useful in advancing the story at a critical point.

     Such trips are not inexpensive. My direct costs was about $5,000 including the air fare, my nine-day Secrets of Sicily tour with Dimensione Sicila and a two day stay-over to get to locations that were not covered on the tour. Especially helpful were my conversations with the tour guides, hotel personnel, waiters, etc. who spoke excellent English. Sicily is an economy that derives 30 percent of its income from tourism, so fluency in several languages is often a requirement for employment in the larger tourist hotels.

     In the book two of the places that our prospective grooms are going to be taken by their younger Sicilian cousins are to a whore house and a gay bar. Palermo is a port town, and as I told the young lady at the desk, who by this time knew exactly what I was doing, “There is one thing that sailors have always wanted when they come ashore. It has been so since ancient times and is still true today. I don’t want to embarrass you, and I had rather ask a guy, but there are none here.”

     She did not get my meaning, so I wrote “Whore house” down on a yellow pad. A slightly older woman who was listening in from a desk behind the counter did get the question and while the younger desk clerk told me that the houses were located on Lincoln Street near the port, the lady at the desk supplied me with the name of a gay bar that she had found on line. She also informed me that it would only be open after dark.

     Again, this is the sort of information that can only be obtained by actually visiting the location and interacting with the locals. I was not successful in everything. I discovered enough about an ancient style of Sicilian knife that is significant to my plot that I will be able to make a copy out of modern steels in my forge here in Georgia. I even found some decorative elements from some of the very early inhabitants of the island that would work on the hilt. My copy of this knife will not be an exact replica, but will be a usable, effective knife with identifiable design elements that relate to that culture.

     You can follow my efforts on this novel, screenplay and movie at https://fatherofthegrooms.com and even participate in the completion of the novel, screenplay and movie. The novel will be completed in a year, the screenplay the following year and hopefully the movie started the next.  

Should you take a fact-finding trip to support your book?

     As always, it depends. If your book has major sections set in another country, you should very likely go there if you want your book to get reasonable reviews. One thing that reviewers will harp on is any inconsistencies in facts in regards to the location and the supposed activities of your fictional characters. You can have them do anything that you can imagine to foster the story and plot, but it adds considerable authenticity to the work if you can bring out unexpected things and events that a person would not know, unless they had been to the location.           

Join The Collaborative Effort for a Novel, Screenplay, and Movie

Photo by Tour Operator Dimensione Sicilia who offers a variety of tours on the island that start from Palermo.

You can receive chapters of Father of the Grooms as it is written and a chance to collaborate in the four-year project of writing the screenplay and producing the movie. This is an opportunity for you to help make the next Godfather-type movie at all levels of participation. I will need help in writing an authentic book, and you can be a part of it by supplying your experiences, stories, and knowledge about the places and events that I describe.

The novel describes how a Louisiana father whose sons have yet to have grandchildren makes them agree to go to Sicily where they will meet their new brides. They will be hosted by their Mafia relatives and married off to two beautiful, and for their own reasons, willing ladies. The week before they leave, two major members of the Mafia family in Sicily are arrested. They are told to come anyway. The father his wife, the two sons, their sister and gay uncle make the trip and are shown the family’s vineyards, estates and the sights of their never-before-seen native land. Their activities are shadowed by the FBI and Italian authorities. They arrive on Monday, and the wedding is on Thursday. The brothers get cold feet and want out, and ask their uncle to help. He hatches a plot with the transplanted Irish priest who is to perform the ceremony to have the girls call off the wedding. The plot fails, and the wedding is still on. If they do not go through with it, none of them will leave Sicily alive. The day arrives, they are brought to the church, but in the final resolution of the novel they manage to escape in a manner that does not put them under a death threat.

This will be a panoramic novel that will mainly feature Sicily, but will have significant segments in Louisiana, San Francisco, Washington D.C., Rome and Iraq. I will be making a trip to Sicily in May to gather materials and shortly after will began the book. Participants will receive the first publication copies of the book when it is printed in addition to the chapters as they are written. Depending on your level of skill and interest, there may be opportunities to assist in the movie’s production or appear in the film.

Credits will be given in the book and movie for those who participated. Provided that the script is funded and produced, there may be a small cash payment to those who participate in the movie’s production.

Book Chapters

Book Chapters, periodic updates and information request will be sent to participants. This is my 19th book, so I know how to get this done. You will get your chapters on approximately a monthly basis. These are some of my current titles on Amazon.com.

$20.00