Thursday, December 31, 2015

Blog in Review: Top 20 Posts of 2015

I enjoy this blog quite a bit, but it can be frustrating, too.  A certain tension exists between the subject matter that I personally enjoy and the stuff that I know will bring in readers.  This is nothing new.  I’ve known for years that the parts of my own work that I myself prefer are only rarely favorites of others.  By contrast, I’ve written things that I think are obvious or pointless and had literally hundreds of people tell me how amazing they are.  This is one of the reasons why I write a lot.  I never know what’s going to strike a chord with others.
Very occasionally, I’ll write something that I like that other people also really like, and those are the days—rare though they may be—that make me love writing.  In the meantime, I hope to balance the need to write what I enjoy with what I think other people want to read.  
This list seeks that same balance.  It chronicles a very good year of blogging.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Star Wars: 10 Things I'd Like to See

The kids and I went to see the movie again on Monday, and I liked it a lot.  If anything, I actually liked it better on second viewing.  I realized that several of the things I thought were frustrating the first time out were explained—sometimes twice.  I just missed them.  
Star Wars: The Force Awakens
**Spoilers Ahead**

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Sketch in My Notebook: The Return of Dr. Necropolis--Chapter 15 (Part 1)

Frank McGuinness, the man who was once the notorious super-criminal Dr. Necropolis, escaped from Sing Sing Correctional Facility, robbed a bank, and got away with it.  He took a hostage named Chelsea.  Meanwhile, his former partner, the Russian super-criminal known only as the Siberian Tiger, resurfaced after years underground, with both Frank's ex-wife, Gun Girl Gracie, on his arm and Frank's greatest creation, the Neural Disruptor, wrapped around his head.

Against them stand Army Lieutenant Blaine Winters, the 
new Centurion of the N.Y. State National Guard's Enhanced Forces Division (EFD), and FBI Agent Tiffany Trujillo, once the superhero Titania. These two went with a SWAT team to confront the Siberian Tiger and Gun Girl Gracie at a bank heist in Brooklyn, but they got their asses kicked. Tiffany wound up in the hospital, a bunch of SWAT officers died, and Blaine would have died too if not for the prodigious gifts associated with his extraordinary genetic heritage.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Odds & Ends: STAR WARS News is not Real News

Emo Kylo Ren: Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ Polarizing Villain (Daily Beast)
[T]here are those who agree with the Vatican’s anonymous film critic, who derides Ren as a pale imitation of Vader in L’Osservatore Romano and writes that he “fails most spectacularly” as a “representation of evil.”

But is Ren meant to be a “representation of evil?” 

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Thoughts on Star Wars: The Force Awakens

finally saw Star Wars: the Force Awakens on Wednesday, and Spoiler Alert: I really liked it.  I don’t know if I liked it quite as rapturously as some of my friends did, and certainly there have been reviewers gushing about it in terms that are usually reserved for far more serious films, but it is fun and funny, and it pays off very nicely at the end.  More to the point, it succeeds in its mission to reboot the Star Wars movie franchise in a way that is decidedly nostalgic for the Original Trilogy.  It doesn’t break a lot of new ground, unfortunately, in terms of in-universe storytelling, but it does set up some story questions which ought to get asses back in seats when the as yet un-titled Episode VIII rockets into theaters in 2017.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens
This post is not a review of the film.  There’s no point in reviewing a movie that has already made $700M, especially since everyone I know has already seen it.  I’m assuming here that you’ve seen it, as well.  The movie has long since embedded itself into the pop-culture zeitgeist.  In fact, I bought my wife a BB-8 bead for her Pandora bracelet immediately after we left the theater, and she’s not even a Star Wars fan.  But that’s the way these things go.  
Regardless, folks have asked me what I thought of the movie.  These are my thoughts, for better or worse.  
**SPOILERS AHEAD**

Friday, December 25, 2015

Thursday, December 24, 2015

2015 Christmas Letter

Dear Friends and Family,
It seems like only a week ago that spring finally gave way to summer, letting us put on shorts and t-shirts for the first time after a winter of prolonged blistering cold.  And yet, here we are again, decorating the house for Christmas and preparing for the coming of another New Year.  2015 has felt very much like a year of keeping on, of incremental growth and measured accomplishment, but in collecting my notes for this letter, it’s become clear that this is only the way that it feels, that the truth has been both happier and more productive than my poor memories suggest.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Book Review: Lords of the Sith

With Disney’s purchase of Lucasfilm has come the recent, somewhat controversial decision to wipe away the Star Wars Expanded Universe in order to make way for new product.  They had to do it to give themselves room to run with the movies, but the decision undoes a huge amount of prose and sequential art storytelling, much of it beloved, starting with Timothy Zahn’s Heirs of Empire trilogy and the long-time work of Dark Horse Comics.  Under Disney, Lucasfilm has been rebuilding its mythos around the original Star Wars movie trilogy, the part of the story starring Luke Skywalker and his friends in their fight against Darth Vader.  The vast majority of new Star Wars novels and all of the comics have therefore come from the period beginning with the destruction of the Death Star in A New Hope and ending in the days immediately following Return of the Jedi and the Battle of Endor.  There are a few exceptions, however, and one of these is the prose novel Lords of the Sith by lawyer/novelist Paul S. Kemp.  Kemp is a favorite of mine from his Forgotten Realms work, so when I needed an audiobook to get me through the drive from Connecticut to DC and back for a recent football outing with a friend, I decided to give Lords of the Sith a listen.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Sketch in My Notebook: The Return of Dr. Necropolis (Chapter 14)

Sketch in My Notebook
Frank McGuinness, the man who was once the notorious super-criminal Dr. Necropolis, escaped from Sing Sing Correctional Facility, robbed a bank, and got away with it. Meanwhile, his former partner, the Russian super-criminal known only as the Siberian Tiger, resurfaced after years underground, with both Frank's ex-wife, Gun Girl Gracie, on his arm and Frank's greatest creation, the Neural Disruptor, wrapped around his head.

Against them stand Army Lieutenant Blaine Winters, the 
new Centurion of the N.Y. State National Guard's Enhanced Forces Division (EFD), and FBI Agent Tiffany Trujillo, once the superhero Titania. These two went with a SWAT team to confront the Siberian Tiger and Gun Girl Gracie at a bank heist in Brooklyn, but they got their asses kicked. Tiffany wound up in the hospital, a bunch of SWAT officers died, and Blaine would have died too if not for the prodigious gifts associated with his extraordinary genetic heritage.

This week, we flash back to 2003...

Monday, December 21, 2015

I still haven't seen the movie, but...

... this is one of those things that I find myself thinking about a lot.


Sunday, December 20, 2015

I love this, but...

...I still haven't seen the movie.  :(

A photo posted by Derek Laufman (@dereklaufman) on

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Christmas Theme is Up!

Now that football season is over, I've (finally) got the new theme is up on the blog.  It's supposed to be Christmasy, so by all means, let me know what you think.  I played with it for a quite a while this morning but ultimately came down on the side of readability over holiday-power.  Hopefully it is at least readable and not too garish.

I've also been playing around with the blog's ad structure.  Yes, this blog is ad-supported, and if you're wondering, I'm about three-quarters of the way towards getting my first $100 check from Google for my share of this thing's revenues.  No, that's not a lot on a monthly basis or anything, but getting that check has nevertheless been a long-standing goal--and one that I fully intend to see through now that I'm close.

I also played with the widths this morning, and honestly, I'm not sure how they're displaying.  They look fine in the Chrome browser on my Chromebook, but Blogger is a Google product, as is this machine, so of course it all displays correctly here.  However, I've no idea how it looks on I.E. or Safari or any of those other browsers that the kids are using today.  If it looks wonky, please, please, please do me the favor of letting me know.

Thanks!

Merry Christmas, folks.

Friday, December 18, 2015

5 Things on a Friday: Star Wars Week

It’s Star Wars week, which means that we’ve spent the last few days getting bombarded with new Sci Fi movie trailers.  Is this good?  

Returning soon to a galaxy far, far away...
It is if the movies are good.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Army Football Review: Final Thoughts on 2015

I’m gonna use Army beat writer Sal Interdonato’s Navy write-up as my starting place this week.  If you’re a fan of Army Football, I urge you to read the whole article.  That said, the piece below is where I want to start as we consider where this team is headed.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Sketch in My Notebook: The Return of Dr. Necropolis (Chapter 13, Part 3)

Frank McGuinness, the man who was once the notorious super-criminal Dr. Necropolis, escaped from Sing Sing Correctional Facility, robbed a bank, and got away with it. Meanwhile, his former partner, the Russian super-criminal known only as the Siberian Tiger, resurfaced after years underground, with both Frank's ex-wife, Gun Girl Gracie, on his arm and Frank's greatest creation, the Neural Disruptor, wrapped around his head.

Against them stand Army Lieutenant Blaine Winters, the
new Centurion of the N.Y. State National Guard's Enhanced Forces Division (EFD), and FBI Agent Tiffany Trujillo, once the superhero Titania. These two went with a SWAT team to confront the Siberian Tiger and Gun Girl Gracie at a bank heist in Brooklyn, but they got their asses kicked. Tiffany wound up in the hospital, a bunch of SWAT officers died, and Blaine would have died too if not for the prodigious gifts associated with his extraordinary genetic heritage.

Now Blaine is left to carry on the investigation by himself, while Tiffany recovers in the hospital...

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Final Thoughts on Army-Navy 2015

That was a tough game to watch.

Army entered the contest as 22-point underdogs, and even with the lead at half-time, I didn't truly believe that they were going to win.  After thirteen--now fourteen--years of disappointment, buying into Army Football's success is a perilous exercise.  Our family strategy was to put the game on while we trimmed the Christmas tree by way of distraction, but the game itself was so exciting that we left the ornaments sitting forlornly on the floor while I paced frantically and screamed at our TV.

I think I scared my kids a little, but oh well.  It's Army-Navy, and we can afford therapy if necessary.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Go Army, Beat Navy!

This is the greatest spirit video of all time, from our Class's 20th Reunion, earlier this year.



Friday, December 11, 2015

5 Things on a Friday: Army-Navy

It’s been a rough week on the Internet, even with the Army-Navy game coming tomorrow afternoon.  So much of the news has been either banal or outright depressing.  It’s been a struggle to find five things worth talking about.

Tomorrow!
I confess that I’m not much looking forward to tomorrow’s game, nor to additional reminders of all the ways in which this year’s Army football team has underperformed.  Sure, Army’s players are all going to serve, and CBS is going to celebrate that like it’s the most important part of the game.  It may well be.  In the meantime, though, they’re still athletes.  It’s still appropriate to celebrate—or not—the value of their athletic accomplishments.  These guys are going to be soldiers soon enough.  For now, let’s let them be football players and take the game for what it is.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

D&D: Christmas with the Orcs

Everyone in our family is required to make a gift for everyone else in our family every year at Christmas.  We do this to combat the ever-growing commercialism of the holiday, and it's been a big hit.  My gift for my kids this year is the following short D&D adventure, which I'm going to run for them on Christmas Eve.  I called it "Christmas with the Orcs: The Red Man Comes!"

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Two Biographies

I got asked for two separate biographies last week.   First, I'm running for Information Systems Officers (i.e. webmaster) for my West Point class, and the Association of Graduates asked for a short, fixed-format bio along with a picture as part of the election process.  The editor of the Army Swimming Newsletter then sent me a note asking for a bio and a little write up about my new book for the newsletter's alumni section.  That was really, really nice.

It was also a challenging writing assignment.  "Give me three or four paragraphs telling us what you've been up to since graduation (twenty years ago!), plus a little bit about the books and what they're about, plus your favorite memory from your time swimming at Army."

Whew!

I put the following paragraphs together in response to those requests.  I've redacted some information about where I work because that's none of your business.  I also went a little long on the swimming stuff.  They wound up cutting that a lot, but I'm presenting the full write-up because space is not an issue here.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Sketch in My Notebook: The Return of Dr. Necropolis (Chapter 13, Part 2)

Sketch in My Notebook
Frank McGuinness, the man who was once the notorious super-criminal Dr. Necropolis, escaped from Sing Sing Correctional Facility, robbed a bank, and got away with it. Meanwhile, his former partner, the Russian super-criminal known only as the Siberian Tiger, resurfaced after years underground, with both Frank's ex-wife, Gun Girl Gracie, on his arm and Frank's greatest creation, the Neural Disruptor, wrapped around his head.

Against them stand Army Lieutenant Blaine Winters, the new Centurion of the N.Y. State National Guard's Enhanced Forces Division (EFD), and FBI Agent Tiffany Trujillo, once the superhero Titania. These two went with a SWAT team to confront the Siberian Tiger and Gun Girl Gracie at a bank heist in Brooklyn, but they got their asses kicked. Tiffany wound up in the hospital, a bunch of SWAT officers died, and Blaine would have died too if not for the prodigious gifts associated with his extraordinary genetic heritage.

Now Blaine is left to carry on the investigation by himself, while Tiffany recovers in the hospital...

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Sunday Morning's Favorite Stuff

It's slim pickings on the inter-webs this morning, but there are a few little things worth sharing.

A photo posted by Евгений Шмидт (@ottoschmidt) on

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Editorial on an Editorial: Supergirl v. Jessica Jones

Because we talked about this a little on Wednesday...

[Editorial] Jessica Jones & Supergirl: Apples & Oranges (Major Spoilers)
Supergirl is popularly referred to as “Girl Flash”, which is definitely true. The Kreisberg/Berlanti machine makes television shows under a certain formula that fans across their serieses can pick out – it’s not that subtly done. The problem with that qualifier is that nobody is looking to Legends of Tomorrow and calling that “Time Traveling Supergirl”. Why does WB’s female show require qualification through comparison to one of its MANY male led counterparts?

Friday, December 4, 2015

5 Things on a Friday: The Return of Darth Jar Jar

I don’t know about you, but I thought it was tough this week coming back from Thanksgiving.  Thanksgiving was never much of a holiday in my house growing up, but now that I have my own household, we’ve made it pretty great.  Coming back after five full days of family and feast was not as easy as it might have been.
Well.  The work week is almost over.  That’s something, right?  
Let’s get to it.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Quick TV Review: Jessica Jones

I like it. I don't know that I like it quite as much as I liked Daredevil, but it's definitely better than pretty much anything else that's on TV.  The Flash is maybe in the same general zip code in terms of overall storytelling, but though they're both comic book properties, they are otherwise so dissimilar as to dissuade anything other than the most cursory comparison.

That's not a bad thing, by the way. It simply shows the depth of the source medium.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Sketch in My Notebook: The Return of Dr. Necropolis (Chapter 13, Part 1)

Sketch in My Notebook
Frank McGuinness, the man who was once the notorious super-criminal Dr. Necropolis, escaped from Sing Sing Correctional Facility, robbed a bank, and got away with it.  Meanwhile, his former partner, the Russian super-criminal known only as the Siberian Tiger, resurfaced after years underground, with both Frank's ex-wife, Gun Girl Gracie, on his arm and Frank's greatest creation, the Neural Disruptor, wrapped around his head.  

Against them stand Army Lieutenant Blaine Winters, the new Centurion of the N.Y. State National Guard's Enhanced Forces Division (EFD), and FBI Agent Tiffany Trujillo, once the superhero Titania.  These two went with a SWAT team to confront the Siberian Tiger and Gun Girl Gracie at a bank heist in Brooklyn, but they got their asses kicked.  Tiffany wound up in the hospital, a bunch of SWAT officers died, and Blaine would have died too if not for the prodigious gifts associated with his extraordinary genetic heritage.

Now Blaine is left to carry on the investigation by himself, but it feels like he's chasing ghosts...

Monday, November 30, 2015

Sneakatara Boatman and the Crown of Pluto

The new book is out!

I'll be running some previews here over the next couple of weeks, but for now, I'd like to start with the Afterword.  It saves spoilers for later, and it--hopefully--gives a sense of what I was trying to accomplish with the book.

If that makes you more interested, then good.  If not, well, what can you do?


Sunday, November 29, 2015

Friday, November 27, 2015

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Marvel Netflix Trivia & Speculation

I know, I know.  I should totally be working on something productive today.  However, for the second day in a row, I just can't seem to get started.  They say that writer's block is bullshit.  If that's the case, then so be it.  Maybe I'm just lazy.
Regardless, let's talk about TV...
Iron Fist, Jessica Jones (Jewel or Power Woman), Daredevil, & Luke Cage (Power Man).
This team would typically get the name "Heroes for Hire".
Marvel Netflix Trivia & Speculation
Let’s start with the obvious.  As of this writing, Marvel Television has released a season of Daredevil and a season of Jessica Jones, both on Netflix, both closely tied to the work of iconic comics writer Brian Michael Bendis.  A second of Daredevil is supposed to be headed to Netflix around April next year, and seasons of Luke Cage and then Iron Fist are in the works, Cage for maybe a year from now and Iron Fist as yet to be determined.  All of this is to be followed by a six-episode mini-season of The Defenders.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Sketch in My Notebook: The Return of Dr. Necropolis (Chapter 12, Part 2)

When last we left Frank McGuinness, the man who was once the notorious super-criminal Dr. Necropolis, he'd been angry.  His former partner, the Russian super-criminal known only as the Siberian Tiger, resurfaced after years underground, with both Frank's ex-wife, Gun Girl Gracie, on his arm and Frank's greatest creation, the Neural Disruptor, wrapped around his head.  Determined to take back what was his, Frank escaped from Sing Sing Correctional Facility and made his way to an old safe house in the South Bronx.

Now Frank finds himself in a bank with police surrounding the building.  He's come for some simple walking around money, but after six years out of the game, even the easy things have become difficult.  As the police close in, Frank and his unwitting accomplish Chelsea must make their escape.

Monday, November 23, 2015

TV Review: Comics on TV

Hannah asked me what my favorite comic show is on TV.  This season, I think it's The Flash.  The answer would have been Netflix's Daredevil a little earlier in the year, but The Flash has been terrific in its second season, so there you have it.

My thoughts on the season are after the jump.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Thoughts on the Rutgers Game

I don't know if you saw the game yesterday, but it was hardly Army's best outing of the season.  The game was probably about as close as we had any right to expect, but that doesn't mean that it was particularly close.  Army's defense was substantially over matched by Rutgers' skill position players, and plebe quarterback Chris Carter made his collegiate debut.  Hell, with all the New Jersey fans in the stadium, it barely even felt like a home game.

Friday, November 20, 2015

5 Things on a Friday: Hoping for an Opportunity

My first draft of got a little jingoistic this week.  Perhaps that's inevitable in the wake of the Paris attacks and the other, also very considerable attacks that hit Beirut and that Russian plane in Egypt.  I find myself uncomfortable calling for a war in which I am extremely unlikely to fight--although, who knows, right?--but it feels like we may yet have an opportunity here.  This might be one of those moments in which we can achieve regional consensus and act, even if that consensus is short-lived and entirely self-serving on all sides.
Consider: Russia, Britain, and the U.S. were not all fast friends in the late 1930s and early 40s.  In fact, the allies invaded Russia in 1917 to try to oust the Communists.  The smarter half of the American public was keenly aware of the British interest in maintaining its colonial presence in North Africa and elsewhere--and distinctly un-interested in the ramifications this held for our collective strategy.  These differences were real.  It’s hard to say what would have happened had Japan not blundered its way into attacking Pearl Harbor in 1941.  However, the resulting three-way alliance fought a relatively unified and collective war that defeated its enemies and set the course for the modern world.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Thought of the Day

Good test readers are like leprechauns. They're so hard to find that at times it seems like they flat don't exist. But if you ever find one, you'll realize that the search was well worth the effort. 

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

I wrote the darkest stuff today.

Got about eight hundred and sixty words down on the train to work this morning. I've been working on "The Return of Dr. Necropolis," and I'm finally into Chapter 15, the bit that first gave me the idea for the story. It turns out that there was a lot of build-up to get where I wanted to go. 

I've mentioned this before, but it's been awhile.  "Necropolis" started as a sex story, a simple piece of smut that went way off the rails right at the beginning   I could have forced it back, I suppose, but I don't think smut is my natural genre. I keep pulling away right as we get into the good stuff, and anyway, where's the tension in what ought to be a life-affirming act?  I've struggled with it.  It's not my best thing. 

The resulting story, though, has been a kind of comic book crime story, a superhero lunatic-fest that has not always been pretty. I set out to write a kind of guy's version of Fifty Shades, but if that's what this is, it implies that the male mind can be an ugly place.  I've always admired John Ringo's "Paladin of Shadows" books for their unflinching commitment to Ringo's worst impulses, and if this isn't nearly that hardcore, it is nevertheless very intense in its own, hopefully more psychological way. 

Ultimately, you'll have to judge for yourself, I suppose. 

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Sketch In My Notebook: The Return of Dr. Necropolis (Chapter 12, Part 1)

Sketch in My Notebook
When last we left Frank McGuinness, once the notorious super-criminal Dr. Necropolis, he'd been angry.  His former partner, the Russian super-villain known as the Siberian Tiger, resurfaced after years underground, with both Frank's ex-wife, Gun Girl Gracie, on his arm and Frank's greatest creation, the Neural Disrupter, on his head.  Determined to take back what was his, Frank escaped from Sing Sing Correctional Facility and made his way to an old safehouse in the Bronx.

Now Frank finds himself in a bank with police on the way.  He'd come for some simple walking around money, but after six years out of the game, even the easy things have become difficult.

I don't blame you if you don't remember this one.  The old chapters are archived in the Sketch in My Notebook tab of this blog.  Check it out if you get interested in the story...

Friday, November 13, 2015

5 Things on a Friday: Looking for Vets from the "War on Christmas"

Happy Friday, folks.  Let’s get to it.
***
1. Starbucks ‘removed Christmas from their cups because they hate Jesus,’ Christian says in viral Facebook video (Washington Post)
Some say Jesus Christ healed the sick and died to redeem humankind. Little is said about his views on the Pumpkin Spice Latte.
Still, secular coffee maker Starbucks has come under fire from some Christians who say the company isn’t repping hard enough for Jesus on its recent understated holiday cups.
Shots fired!  It’s a War on Christmas!!!

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Veteran's Day Workout

I had the day off yesterday, and I'm taking my kids to the Army game on Saturday, which means that my normal long swim day is off.  I therefore had to get my long swim yesterday, Veteran's Day, a rather conveniently timed day of rest.

If you're wondering, I'm training for the Swim Across the Sound, a 15.5-mile open water swim that supports a cancer charity sponsored by St. Vincent's Hospital here in Connecticut.  Yesterday's workout was...

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Army Football Preview: Tulane

Where to begin?  Army scored three points against Air Force in a game in which quarterback Ahmad Bradshaw looked hurt and the coaches looked like they’d rather play for a close score than an actual victory.  Meanwhile, Navy is now ranked #22 in the nation, which means that The Streak has at least one more year of life left in it, and Army fans everywhere are soon to be left crying in their beer.  Again.  Yes, kids, the Mids are excellent this season.  They are now 7-1, having just beaten the previously undefeated Memphis Tigers by the resounding score of 45 - 20.  
This just in: Navy is the best team on Army’s schedule this year.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Thursday, November 5, 2015

A Note on Self-Publishing

I've been talking with a friend about an impending decision, whether or not to leave a literary agent and self-publish.  I wound up writing a long note about it yesterday because, well, I'm not sure I'm doing my friend any favors.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Army Football Preview: at Air Force

When last we left the Army Black Knights, they were limping out of Rice University stadium after having suffered the latest in a series of crushing defeats in winnable football games.  The team overcame a 14 point deficit in a driving rainstorm, tied the score late at 31-all, and then gave up a truly egregious last-second touchdown to allow the Owls to get back in front, 38-31.  Since then, Army’s had a bye week, Sprint Football beat Navy, went undefeated, and won the Sprint Football College Championship, and this week’s opponent, Air Force, went to Hawaii and laid the smackdown on the Rainbow Warriors in the own building.  Now the Black Knights have to travel to Colorado to face the Falcons in their own nest.  
This will not be an easy task.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Notes from Twitter

Gotta make this quick.  I should already be getting my swim stuff together, and I have no clue what I'm going to do when I finally hit the water.


"Star Wars" Story Idea

I have a new piece of a story idea.  It started with a conversation I had with a friend yesterday and, in a larger sense, with my frustration with the Star Wars prequel trilogy.

Star Wars wallpaper via Screenrant.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Did Anybody Watch the Debate?


I always let the NY Times catch me up after the fact.  It's easier that way and takes way less time.  Plus, my friend said that they just yelled at each other.  I definitely don't need to watch that.

Some notes:

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Poetry: Behold the Dark One

This week only, $.99!
I should probably never write poetry, and I should certainly never write it in conjunction with the Sneax & Elaina Emboo books.  Unfortunately, though, it's one of those bad habits that's both well established in genre and slyly addictive once you first give in to temptation.

Will I actually put this into Sneakatara Boatman & the Crown of Pluto?

I dunno.  I might.  I mean, my friend and West Point classmate Ray talked me into putting the last one, "Song of the Great City", into Sneakatara Boatman & the Priest of Loki.  It's not like it's impossible.

For now, though, this is just a draft.  It's an idea.

I'd appreciate your thoughts on it if you've got a little time.

Birthday Haiku Failure

I love you madly.
Stand gloriously burning
after all these years.

To which she said, “Oh!  You got me a candle!”

No.  But that certainly would have been clever.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Dragon's Lair: The Movie

In case you are searching for a way to spend your money...



Don Bluth and Gary Goldman are coming together once again to bring the classic arcade game Dragon's Lair to the big screen.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Weekend Swim Workouts

I was in Albany most of this week, so I had some yardage to make up when I got home.  I feel like I've spent a lot of time in the water over the past three days, but it's been worth it.


Friday evening:
200 SKIPS*
15 x 100 @ 1:25 aerobic pace
100 warm down

After nearly two weeks out of the water, that main set was really rough.

Final Thoughts from the Rice Game


The go-ahead passing play at the end of the game is just terrible.  That's an ugly duck to the back of the end zone with three defenders in the area, and not one of them can get to the ball.  Beyond that, though, I think this was more-or-less the game that Army wanted to play.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Quick Take-Aways: at Rice

Saturday News & Notes: the $.99 Sale!

This week only!
On sale for $.99!
You have to read it now because the new book is coming out next month.  I'm trying to make it easy!

Friday, October 23, 2015

5 Things on a Friday: Who's Losing?

I would like to tell you that I have some brilliant insights about the world this week, but the biggest news anywhere was negative--Joe Biden's not going to run for president.

Of course he's not.  He's been trying to decide not to run for months.

But this leaves us without a lot to talk about.  Thankfully, there are new trailers for Star Wars and Jessica Jones, and of course, we'll always have Jeb Bush to pick on.

Let's get to it.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Army Football Preview: at Rice

That was an ugly win.  A win is a win, so I suppose I’ll take it, but it certainly wasn’t the kind of game that inspires confidence going forward.  About the best we can say is that Army got behind because of its own stupid mistakes and still managed to fight through and find a way to finish strong.  That’s fine as far is it goes, but they’ll need a better effort this week to take advantage of a Rice team that ought to be at least somewhat vulnerable.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Thoughts on Bucknell & Reunion Weekend

The Class of 1995 had our twentieth class reunion up at West Point this weekend, and it was a blast.  It coincided with Army's game against Bucknell, and despite what I said last week, enough of my classmates told me that they've been enjoying these write-ups that I guess I'm going to have to keep doing them for the rest of the season.

If you're wondering, I finally finished the scene in the new Sneax book that was giving me so much trouble last week, so from that standpoint I suppose I don't have any excuse for not working on the blog.  "Sneakatara Boatman and the Mystery of Mordecai's Monster" was only supposed to be a short story, but now it's sitting at just under eighty pages and 35K words, and I'm not quite to the halfway mark.  That puts it about on par with "Priest of Loki" and "Crown of Pluto," which means that I'll have to fill out that third book with a couple of short stories--as I've done with the previous books--but that's not some insurmountable problem.  What's an issue is that there is no way I'll be done with the new draft before the New Year no matter what I do because the story has run so long, and in the meantime, I have other writing goals besides just working on Sneax-stuff (I want that to be a German word, i.e. "Sneaxstuff").  I need to find a way to balance blogging and writing in some kind of orderly but aggressive manner.

We'll see how that goes.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Gone Girl

Have you ever read a book and had it be a humbling experience?  That's what's happening for me right now with Gillian Flynn's Gone Girl.

Look, I like to write. I am good at it. Well... better than most people, anyway. Far above average.  

This is not what I'm talking about. 

People ask me why I write or--more often--why I don't write full-time.  It's a lot like my swimming career.  I'm a good swimmer--and a decent triathlete--but I've never gotten particularly close to going to the Olympics or to being truly world class.  That's another league entirely.  That's not the same thing at all. What I do, it looks impressive until you compare it to the very best in the world.  It's as far from that as my typical weekend warrior master's-level training is to the average, everyday guy who's trying to learn not to drown. It's depressing.  It may also be worth doing, but it's as much a reminder of my failures as of my successes. 

I'm loving Gone Girl, but it also makes me sad because it is so good.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Army Football: Observations at the Halfway Mark

This will be the last article of this series for the season.  As I said in my note about the hiatus, it’s not you, it’s me.  I’m back in the water training for the Swim Across the Sound, and I’ve been working on the new (3rd) Sneax & Elaina Emboo book, and that stuff needs to go a little higher on my personal priority list.  The easiest, most efficient thing to drop was blogging and social media outreach, so that’s what I’ve done.  I’m going to have to re-activate my Facebook feed when I finally get around to publishing Sneakatara Boatman and the Crown of Pluto, unfortunately, but in the meantime, I’m enjoying the relative lack of mental clutter.  
Honestly, my Facebook feed had started feeling like an NRA convention run by Socality Barbie.  I just couldn’t take it anymore.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Hiatus

I'm gonna take a little break.  I hope you guys don't mind.  I also deactivated my Facebook account if you're wondering.  It's not you; it's me.  I just need a little break from that shit.  Take that for whatever it's worth.

This is nothing personal.  I'm still on Instagram, Twitter, and Google+.  I don't know how much I'll be posting to those sites, but I'll be still there, and if you want to reach me, you can do it at one of those places or via email.

I'll be back, I think.  I just have other stuff that I need to work on for now.


Have a nice day.

Pics from the Game

Let's start with the obvious: if you took my advice yesterday and laid money on Army to cover the spread, you got your ass handed to you.  Ugh.  What a performance.  Duke's defense was more than up to the task of stopping Army's triple-option, and for the first time all season, Army met an offense that could make them pay for every single stupid mistake they made.  As it happens, this was a lot of mistakes.

Firstie AJ Schurr started this game but got hurt, forcing Ahmad Bradshaw to come in.  Bradshaw fumbled three times in his first seven snaps under center.  By the time he got his feet under him, Army was down by three scores.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

The Money's Been Moving the Wrong Direction

Prediction time: Duke (HudsonValley.Com)
Army is a 13.5-point home underdog against 4-1 Duke Saturday.

The game opened up at 11.5 points.


Army, which is 0-2 at home this season, has lost four games by a total of 16 points. The Black Knights have not lost its first three home games at Michie Stadium since 2008.

Look, I'm not saying that Army is necessarily going to win, but it's crazy that all the betting has been on Duke to cover an 11-point spread on the road.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Stray Voltage

This is me searching Twitter, looking for stuff that makes me smile...


Damn.  That run looks like it was awesome.

5 Things on a Friday: In a Tough Spot

Happy Friday, folks.  Let’s get to it.
***
[T]he Russian strikes have been mainly in areas controlled by other Sunni groups that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad sees as a threat, including rebel groups trained by and aligned with the United States. That is because Russia’s strategic goal is not to destroy the Islamic State, but to prop up the Iran-backed Assad regime — and to force the West to back him as well. By destroying the moderate opposition, the world will be left with a choice between Assad and the Islamic State…
By eliminating moderate opposition, Russia is driving all Sunni groups into the arms of the Islamic State and the al-Qaeda-backed Jabhat al-Nusra — making them the only game in town for the majority of the population opposed to Assad, even if they do not share the terrorists’ radical ideology...  That helps Assad, who needs the Islamic State threat to justify his regime’s continued existence…

Thursday, October 8, 2015

D&D: The Five Laws of Ares

I don't know what to do with this one.  It came to me as a brainstorm earlier in the week, and at first I thought it was the basis for an article about an order of Sentralian paladins in the Wanderhaven Campaign Setting.  But I've not been able to think of anything else to go into the article, and anyway, building a militant religious order around the god of war seems, well, obvious.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Army Football Preview: Duke

I know what I said last week, but I wound up watching the second half of the game at Penn State, and boy, was it exciting.  I thought for sure that Army was going to drive down and score the go-ahead touchdown with no time remaining, but alas, we’re not quite there yet.  As I said last week, we’ve started to see glimmers of what this team can be, but to actually get there, we’ll need more consistent play from the offense.  It is totally unreasonable to think that you can put the ball on the ground seven times, lose it three times, and still win the game.  Granted, the weather conditions sucked, but still…  That kind of inconsistency will get you beaten every time.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Tri Training Log: 9/28 - 10/4 (Week 2)

This was a big swimming week.  That was by design but also by necessity because of the rain.  My goals for the week were to put in 6000 yards in a long swim workout and to get in two runs.  I managed to get the long swim done but flat forgot to go on my first run during the week.

Oops.

I should maybe note that I am not actually training for any triathlons right now.  I am, however, considering an attempt at swimming solo across Long Island Sound.  This is why I've been so focused on swimming.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Cautiously Optimistic


I know what I said in my preview.  That crap notwithstanding, I still wound up watching the second half of today's game.  Wow, was it exciting!  I had two cups of coffee, put in 6000 yards in the pool, and got home in time to scream at my TV for forty-five minutes straight.

If you're wondering, I'm rocking a really heady mix of endorphins right now.

Comic Preview: Dr. Strange #1

With the movie coming in the semi-near future, it's no surprise that Marvel is also moving to put out some comics.  Dr. Strange is a character who hasn't always been able to carry his own book with overwhelming success--he sometimes struggles with sales depending on where the market is in relation to his particular backstory and skillset--but then, the same can certainly be said for the Guardians of the Galaxy, and it's not like Blade has ever been able to carry his own book.  And yet, those properties both of had movies that did well.  My sense is that if the Dr. Strange movie is as awesome and entertaining as everything else that Marvel has done, it'll do just fine.

Friday, October 2, 2015

5 Things on Friday: Joachim Strikes!

Happy Friday, folks.  There’s a hurricane off the East Coast, and as of this writing, no one is quite certain exactly where it’s headed.  Half the projections show it turning for DC, and half show it heading harmlessly out to sea.  This, of course, means they’ve split the difference on television and have it headed directly for New York City.  As I constantly tell my kids, nothing gets destroyed on TV as consistently as New York.
Speaking personally, I think the Football Gods are looking to smite Happy Valley.  My prediction is that the hurricane will hit full force in Pennsylvania just as Army is kicking off against Penn State on Saturday.  The game already projects to be a sloppy affair, and this small bit of advantage will put the Black Knights over the top, giving them their greatest victory of the twenty-first century.  Or else it will just cause chaos, which would also be fine perfectly fine.  As you can see, the track only needs to shift a little futher north to turn the contest into a water polo match.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Army Football Preview: at Penn State

Army finally got its offense going on Saturday, running all over Eastern Michigan in their own building.  There’s still plenty to critique, of course, but in an obvious rebuilding year, we are finally beginning to see at least some small glimmer of what this team might someday become.  After watching the team lose three tough games by a grand total of ten points, it was good to see them win one.  They needed the lift, and I expect that win will do the team some good as the season wears on.  This is especially true because it was a much-needed road win, the team’s first since November 2010.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

D&D: The Shadow Pact & the Poisoned Blade

I mentioned last week that I'd had some thoughts about developing a melee-based Warlock build, to which Brandes Stoddard replied:

I'm curious. What are you looking for in a melee warlock that a Fiendish Blade Pact doesn't offer? (I'd like to figure out acceptance criteria before I start work on such a thing myself.)

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Army 58, Eastern Michigan 36

Man, it is weird to watch Army play a team as snakebit as they are.  At one point, Army was up 15-3, and Eastern Michigan went to the hurry-up.  To this point, Army's defense had been playing well, but they were no match for the hurry-up, and the Eagle drove all the way to the 2.  Then the Eagles running back fumbled on his way into the end zone, turning the ball over, and Army was able to go up by three scores!


Crazy game.  Fun, but crazy.

Friday, September 25, 2015

5 Things on a Friday: Trust But Verify

I’m scraping the bottom of the barrel for news this week.  A few things have happened—Scott Walker dropped out of the presidential race, and the Pope is in town—but I’m not sure what I have to add on either front.  After all, everyone and their brother is covering the Pope, and we said just last week that Walker needed to go.  What’s new?
Well.  I’ll try to keep it short, anyway.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Army Football Preview: at Eastern Michigan

Army travels to Ypslianti, Michigan, this week to take on the Eastern Michigan Eagles.  If you’ve been following the team at all, you will know that this has become a do-or-die kind of game.  
There is a lot to like in the 2015 edition of the Army Black Knights, but even for a team in heavy rebuilding mode, they have underachieved.  The Black Knights are now 0-3 in winnable games, and if the good news is that they’ve been hanging tough even when they get themselves into tough spots, the bad news is that it doesn’t feel like this is a team that knows how to win.  They compete, they fight, but they can’t seem to close games out.  We’ve seen steady improvement, yes, but we’ve also seen too many mistakes, too many critical penalties, and too few adjustments late in games, especially on offense.  This past weekend saw a mediocre ACC team in Wake Forest stumble out of Michie Stadium with a win even after losing their starting quarterback.  Granted, I don’t think that many Army fans expected a win this weekend, but the team got so close and played so well in spots that the end result was extremely disheartening.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Rounding out the Football Weekend


You gotta take the good news with the bad.  I'm not sure this is great news, but it implies that Army's recruiting for the class of 2020 is ahead of Navy's.  All things considered, that's as close to victory as we've been in a while.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Tough Football Weekend

It's like the Football Gods needed a blood sacrifice.

If I'm being honest, my faith is not that strong.  By mid-3rd quarter of the Giant game, I was flipping back and forth between the G-Men and the Pats just so I could see a winner.  I don't love the Patriots by any means, but after watching Army, listening as the Titans got de-cleated, and watching the Giants again snatch defeat from the very jaws of victory in exactly the same manner that Army did yesterday--that they themselves did last week as well--I just couldn't take it anymore.

Friday, September 18, 2015

5 Things on a Friday: Failing to Find Common Ground

It’s a lot of politics this week, and I feel like I ought to apologize for it.  If you’re like me, your Facebook feed is a constant source of frustration because of all the politically motivated B.S. and overwhelmingly negative vibes.  Twitter doesn’t bother me so much because I’m not friends with those folks, but truly, my desire to know that my buddy is a Ben Carson supporter is extremely limited.  I mean, it’s fine on its face, but let’s don’t pretend that I am about to support Carson or that I care that you want me to.  We may be friends, but we also live in our own separate realities.  We each have our own issues around the kitchen table.  I’m personally trying to vote my own interests here, and I especially don’t give a shit about other people’s various dogmas.  I’ve been struggling with faith for a while now—which is to say that I wish that I had some—but regardless of what I may or may not believe, I still have to live according to my conscience.  I see the world a certain way.  You don’t have to see it my way, but it would be wrong to assume that I’m better than you are at listening to others with an open mind.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Army Football Preview: Wake Forest

I know what you’re thinking, but honestly, I thought the team played better this week.  Yes, this was another frustrating loss with a few head-scratchingly bad decisions, but where last week’s defense was a disaster, this week Army at least mounted a credible game plan and kept its players in the right places at the right times.  
In many ways, I thought that this was the defense that Army needed to play.  They gave up 415 yards, but they only gave up two touchdowns, and they forced UConn to repeatedly drive the length of the field, allowing for the possibility of mistakes.  UConn made plenty of mistakes, but unfortunately, Army rarely capitalized.  Chris Carnegie is the best player in Army’s secondary right now, but he got beat over the top twice, and he also gave up two pass interference calls.  I thought safety Rhyan England played much better this week, but he got burned with at least one pass interference call.  The result was that Army had trouble getting off the field—again—even when UConn managed to get itself into long yardage situations.  This happened frequently, but Army couldn’t quite force punts.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Monday, September 14, 2015

Tri Training Log: 9/7 - 9/13 (Week 2)

I've called this a "triathlon" training log, but my main goal these days is to get comfortable swimming further at an easier pace as I try to transition to an emphasis on long distance open water swimming and away from a balanced, "triathlon" approach to physical fitness.

I only swam twice this week, but as you'll see, I feel like I'm getting there--finally.  It's just proving to be a longer, tougher road than I might have hoped.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Saturday Morning Madness

I'm dropping this here on the off-chance that you feel like you're having a bad day.

This is a bad day.  You are doing fine.



Friday, September 11, 2015

5 Things on a Friday: Introducing Jessica Jones

Happy Friday, folks.  It’s turned out to be a grey, somber, rainy day in New York and Connecticut.  Tomorrow is still the start of the weekend, though, so let’s get to it.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Cahokiantep & My Writing Schedule

altquark commented on The Fall of Cahokiantep:

I'm DM'ing this adventure currently (though I've changed Cahokiantep to incorporate another city in the players' Campaign) - and the players are loving it (I think !). The players have just completed Scene 5 - and we're about to start Scene 6 which will lead, of course, into Scene 7. Have you created the second installment ? If not, I'll just have Xavier Melton show up before it gets too far into the astral rift situation and tell the players to get out of the city as quickly as possible ! At which point, the city will disappear into the Astral rift. But if you're well into the second installment OR if you have some recommendations of adventures on the Astral Plane, I could suck the adventuring party into the rift...!

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Army Football Preview: at UConn

Last week’s loss to Fordham was so demoralizing that I find myself wondering if there’s any point to writing the rest of these previews.  I mean, come on.  You look at this schedule and tell me who exactly this team is going to beat?  Given what we saw Friday, there are exactly three winnable games going forward.  The problem, however, is that two of those games are away, and this is a team that hasn’t won an away game since 2010.  Maybe Army beats Bucknell at homecoming.  Honestly, that’s hardly a given.  By the time the Bucknell game rolls around, I expect this team to be so busted-up and demoralized that we’ll be lucky if they even show up at the stadium.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

D&D: Zeke's Mine

I’ve written several little adventures for this blog, mostly as a way to introduce my other writing to a larger audience.  This piece is a little different.  We were on vacation last week in Maine, and that gave me time, for once, to read.  The first thing I did was read through the new Dungeon Master’s Guide again, especially Part 3: “Master of Rules”.  I loved it.  It was not news to me that the 5th edition DMG is a quality product, but this was the first time I’d had a chance to go through it simply to enjoy how awesome it is.  Part 3 in particular struck me as truly excellent.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Swimming Reality Check: It's Not All Bad

I wrote a bit last week about how frustrated I was with my progress--or lack thereof--as an open water swimmer.  Well, we've been back from vacation for almost two full days now, and I'm starting to think that I was being a little unreasonable.

Truth is, it's easy to focus on the negative.  That's true of all kinds of athletics, and if you're an Army Football fan, it's probably hard-wired.  To be successful, however, we have to be able to move past the negative, see what's true, and evaluate ourselves honestly.  It's no good to be satisfied too soon, but it's equally bad to be relentlessly negative, to take counsel of your fears and quit before you've given a full measure of effort to whatever it is you're trying to accomplish.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Views from Pemetic Mountain

Our last hike of vacation was up Acadia's Pemetic Mountain to perhaps the most spectacular views we saw all week.  It was a fairly steep climb, especially in the tree line before we broke out onto the ridge trail, but we all made it, and everyone had a good time.

Pemetic Trail starts down by Jordan Pond.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Quick Thoughts on the Fordham Game

Coach Monken has been saying all off-season that the defense is ahead of the offense, and then we have this. Army's triple-option looks great under QB Ahmad Bradshaw, especially running to the left, and the team has found a way to use its slot backs, for once, but even when they score 37 points, it's not nearly enough.  Ugh.  This does not bode well for the season.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Friday Morning & the Blue Hill Fair

Friday's here, and it's our last full day in Maine. After a week or more of warm--even hot--weather, it's 56-degrees and windy this morning. That's kind of what we're expecting all week, but it's been glorious instead. Hard to complain about that.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Rough Water Swimming

It's been kind of a lazy morning around the cabin.  I got up early, made some coffee, and spent some time writing before anyone else was up. Today's piece was a write-up of the adventure I created for our family's vacation campaign, Zeke's Mine.  If you're into that sort of thing, I expect I'll have the final posted by next Tuesday.  Then Sally got up as I was finishing my draft, and we sat for a while drinking coffee together.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Islesford & Great Cranberry

We caught the ferry out of Southwest Harbor yesterday to the Cranberry Islands, Great Cranberry and Islesford (Little Cranberry).  Technically speaking, there are several more "cranberry" islands, including privately owned Sutton Island, Bear Island, and others, but we just visited the two larger islands, neither of which is actually large.

Army Football Preview: Fordham

This is it, Army fans.  There are one and a butt days until Army beats Fordham at Michie Stadium in football.  Finally, the wait is over, and we can start to get some answers.  Although I won’t be at this week’s game personally, I find myself excited and cautiously optimistic about the 2015 iteration of the Army football team.
How good can this team be?  This is the week we start to find out.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Climbing Penobscot

We took our first hike yesterday, up the south face of Acadia's Penobscot Mountain. This was noteworthy because it had the hardest section we'd ever climbed as a family, a section of the Spring Trail that the guidebook noted required a series of "iron rungs and wooden handrails" built into the ascent. I pictured something like a ladder bolted into the rock face and wasn't sure how we were going to get the dog up that, but we decided to try it and carry her somehow if necessary.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Friday Is Cancelled

I had some fool notion of doing 5 Things on a Friday this week, but as you can see, I'm out of the office.


How's your Friday going?

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Army Football Preview: 2015 Season Overview

We’re two weeks from the start of college football, so now’s the time to preview the season.  Next week we’ll take a more detailed look at the opener, but I want to walk through the schedule first, lay out some thoughts, and maybe make a few cautious predictions.  If you’re new to Army Football[1], then hopefully this will serve as something of a primer.  If you’ve seen it all before, well, maybe there’s some news down at the bottom once we get into the games themselves.  Regardless, with new every football season, hope springs eternal.  Where we go from there is anybody’s guess.