Monday, June 30, 2014

Advice to a Would-Be Triathlete

Hey R_____, 

It’s good to hear from you.  Let me apologize in advance for how long this note is liable to be.  You’ve kind of touched a nerve with this.

You’re a West Point graduate, a talented athlete, and you’ve already run a marathon, so if you really want to run a half-IM, I’m sure you can.  I don’t doubt it for a second.  I’m not telling you not to.  However, I confess that I’m a little annoyed that you want to “try” triathlon, and your first thought on the subject is “I need to do an Ironman-sponsored race.”

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Saturday Reading Room

Good morning!  Happy Saturday!

The girls got back from a friend's beachhouse last night, and everyone's tuckered.  I'm heading out in about an hour to ride and swim, but in the meantime, let's spin through this morning's news.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Five Things on a Friday: Games I Play with My Kids

The biggest problem this blog has is that it's not about anything, it's about everything.  This week's Five Things is no exception.

1. The Business of D&D’s New Edition
A new edition of Dungeons and Dragons is coming out next week.  I don’t play as much as I’d like, but I’m still looking forward to it.  One of the best things the girls and I did on vacation last year was playing D&D around the dining room table.  It’s hard to believe, but the idea for my book came out of those sessions, along with our family’s hike up Cadillac Mountain.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Charles Island Y-Tri

Swim half a mile!  Bike 11.5 miles!  Run 3 miles! 

Brag for the rest of August! 

Charles Island, off of Walnut Beach in Milford, CT.
It's the second annual Charles Island Y-Tri at beautiful Walnut Beach. Start with a refreshing dip in the Sound, hop on the bike for a fast jaunt on flat roads, finish with one of the best runs around.



Monday, June 23, 2014

Tri Training Log: 6/16 - 6/22 (Week 1)

The problem is that I didn’t set any goals this year.  At all.  I’ve been working out--a little--but I purposefully planned to take 2014 off from competition, and that’s made it tough to stay in a routine.  It’s easy to rationalize skipping workouts when you know that there’s no immediate need to be in shape.

What am I training for?

After a while, it becomes an existential question.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Saturday Reading Room: Good Stuff is Coming Soon!

It's late June.  That means it's almost time for the Tour de France.

From left to right: the overall Leader's jersey, the King of the Mountains jersey, the Sprinter's jersey, and the Best Young Rider's jersey.  One of the best, most interesting things about the tour is that there's something in play every day, and oftentimes multiple jerseys are in contention on the same day.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Pictures from Pier 1

It's been a beautiful day in New York. Sun-drenched azure sky with a brushstroke of clouds, seventy degrees, no humidity, maybe five miles-per-hour of breeze. The best riding day we've had in months. I wish I'd had my road bike and a few hours this morning instead of my foldie and responsibilities in the office. 

I walked down to Pier One on the West Side at lunch and took a few pictures.

The trail down to the bike path from Freedom Plaza.

Five Things on a Friday: Cancelled

The world has been incredibly depressing this week. I'll spare you the litany of crap that's going on. That's available elsewhere. What's important--at least for this blog--is that there's nothing this week that I want to write about.  I've tried twice to sit down and put an outline together for this week's post, and outside of my thoughts on what needs to go into Apple's new fitness-flavored iWatch, there's nothing that's worth our time.

Happy Friday.  It's supposed to be a nice weekend.  Let's all try to make the most of it. 

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Dungeons & Dragons: Priests of Chaos

I’ve been mulling the idea of putting together a Dungeons & Dragons sourcebook for Wanderhaven, the campaign setting I use in my home game and in which I’ve set my book, Sneakatara Boatman and the Priest of Loki.  I’m not looking to publish the thing.  First, because I don’t know what the rules about that are, and second, because I can’t see that there’d be enough interest in it to go through the ordeal of writing and rewriting a giant, monster-sized project like that.  But I like working on it, and it takes no special effort to collect the pieces and save them here on the blog.  Eventually I’d like to reorganize the blog’s Wanderhaven section to include both the sourcebook material and The Priest of Loki’s preview chapters.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Saturday Morning Reading Room: It's All Crap

There is a lot of crap going on in the world.  That stuff is lower down.  I'm deliberately leading with pro-cycling.


Friday, June 13, 2014

Five Things: Coming Back Down to Earth

It's been a big week for my family. This is that story.

1. Annie
Watching my daughter Hannah play the lead in her school’s production of Annie Jr. this past weekend was a profoundly intense and surreal experience.  

Hannah as Annie
We worked on the play for months.  Sally took charge of props and Prop Direction while Hannah’s sister Emma ran lines with Hannah every weekend starting back in February.  The play has eleven or twelve scenes, and Hannah’s character was in almost all of them, so we encouraged all that practice.  Not only did we want to make sure Hannah wouldn’t forget what she had to do, we knew that the rest of the production needed her ready to rehearse.  Hannah also sang a half-dozen songs, with Scene Three (“Tomorrow”) essentially a solo mixed with a bit of dialogue.  

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

D&D Homebrew: Cavalry Subclasses

I was big fan of 4th Edition of Dungeons & Dragons, but I always felt that it’s biggest shortcoming was the way that it modeled--or rather, failed to model--mounted combat.  You had to take the Mounted Combat feat if you wanted play a knight or some kind of cavalryman, and that feat’s benefits were strictly limited compared to other feats, particularly those related to your Character’s race or class.  None of the classes in 4e had a build that particularly favored mounted combat, not even the Paladin, which has traditionally had Celestial Charger as one of its iconic class features.  I even tried setting up a mounted campaign for my gaming group, but it just didn’t work.  The group felt there were better ways to move through the campaign-world than by horseback, and they didn’t see the advantages of trying to optimize their characters for combat on horseback.  I tried upping the ante, adding high fantasy concepts to the game like griffins and riding sharks, but we never achieved the feel I was looking for, and after a while, I quit trying.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014


Not sure what it says about me, but I am seriously considering including this piece in the front of my book:

By the Great Island Bay lies Wanderhaven.
City of ships,
City of sail,
City of trade goods and greed,
Such is the life of Wanderhaven.

At the base of the cliffs lies Wanderhaven.
City of crowns,
City of coin,
City of beggars and need,
Such are the people of Wanderhaven.

The great, they say, is Wanderhaven.
City of pride,
City of war,
City of hope and deed,
Such is the spirit of Wanderhaven.
 --From Julius Cato’s "Song of the Great City"

Dungeons & Dragons Homebrew: The Sapper

We started this project a few months ago as a way of developing viable versions of the Combat Engineer archetype for D&D Next.  My first cut was a full class structure that combined some of the elements of the Rogue and the Fighter with an Alchemy skill set in an attempt to produce a well-rounded, Strength and Intelligence-base heavy melee combatant.  
I stipulated, though, that I thought the class would work better as a set of sub-classes of existing classes, i.e. Combat Engineer (Fighter), Sapper (Rogue), and Alchemical Engineer (Wizard).  Two weeks ago, I finally put together a prototype of the Combat Engineer subclass, and most folks seem to agree that, yes, the subclass concept worked a little better.
Now it’s time to look at the Sapper (Rogue).

Monday, June 9, 2014

The State of D&D

Dyvers had a good post about Dungeons &Dragons and staffing at Wizards of the Coast yesterday:

"Earlier this week the Escapist released an interview with Mike Mearls where they discussed a number of aspects of the new edition, but one exchange in particular stuck out for me. 

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Saturday Morning Reading Room: The Jobs Report

Saturday mornings are my favorite time of the week.  I get up early and have the whole house to myself.

Here's what's caught my eye:

217,000 Jobs Added, Nudging Payrolls to Levels Before the Crisis (NY Times)
"Em­ploy­ers hired 217,000 work­ers in May, the La­bor De­part­ment re­port­ed on Fri­day, enough to fi­nal­ly lift to­tal pay­rolls above where they were be­fore the fi­nan­cial col­lapse near­ly six years ago...  

For the fourth con­sec­u­tive month... em­ploy­ers added more than 200,000 po­si­tions, the first time that has hap­pened in 14 years."

Friday, June 6, 2014

Five Things on a Friday: Publishing and Self-Publishing

It’s mostly about writing this week.  Sneakatara Boatman and the Priest of Loki has been on my mind a lot this week.  If you can’t get behind that, you might want to come back later.
1.  Finishing a book is only the beginning
I’ve spent part of this week rediscovering why I started blogging.  It’s because I enjoy writing, but unfortunately, finishing your book is only the beginning of the process.
My problem is that I’m a good writer, and I always have been.  I’m used to getting my point across on the first draft, and it’s made me lazy.  I don’t want to re-write, I especially don’t want to start making wholesale changes to scene and story structure once my basic structure is in place, and I have bad habits that I let myself get away with way too often in the name of “personal voice”.  None of these is a crushing problem for a blogger, but novelists have to be better.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Looking for an Agent and/or a Publisher

Dear Editor,
I’m writing to you to find a publisher for my book, Sneakatara Boatman and the Priest of Loki.  It’s a quest-based fantasy novel organized around a set of sequential short stories I wrote for my daughters but which skewed a little older once I’d collected them into a single, cohesive work.  The story is aimed at the young women my girls are becoming, and as a result, the professional women in my life were its most avid readers.  If I had to describe the book in terms of what’s already on the market, I’d say that it casts Katniss Everdeen as a homeless hobbit on a quest to find her place in the world.  That might make it a Young Adult book, but the themes are decidedly adult subjects: war and poverty, religion and faith.
My story follows Sneakatara “Sneax” Boatman, a homeless sneak-thief living on the docks in the mythical city of Wanderhaven, and her best friend Elaina Emboo, an apprentice wizard whose father owns a major international trading concern.  Sneax is looking for a way out of the grinding poverty she’s known her entire life, but when a deal-gone-wrong leads her and Elaina into the orbit of the notorious Draks, the fire elf, she learns the hard way that every opportunity comes with a cost.  Soon Sneax finds herself embroiled in a frontier war alongside Nathaniel, the mysterious priest of a dark and evil god, and then things really start to get out of hand.  
The Priest of Loki works because it’s the story of two young women who triumph in the face of adversity and also because there’s not a hint of romance in the entire story.  These girls kick butt on their own terms. I should note, too, that the book is done in draft.  I’m still re-writing it, but the current version runs just over 140,000 words.  Now is the time to get it in front of an editor.
I am a graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point and a veteran of the U.S. Army with service in Korea.  I hold an MBA from Fordham University in International Finance and currently work as a senior engineer at a major utility in New York City.  I write as a hobby, albeit one about which I am passionate, and in my spare time, I coach the Triathlon Club at my local YMCA as a volunteer.  
My writing credits include:
I have an active social media presence.  I tweet @dan_t_head and keep an almost daily blog at  If you have any questions or would like to learn more about my work, please feel free to contact me.

Thank you for your time.
Dan Head

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Nineteen Years Ago Today

One of my friends put one if these up on Facebook, and it's such an awesome idea that I'm totally copying it.  Next year is our twentieth, and I can't wait. 

While I'm thinking about it, it's been twelve years almost to the day since I met the most beautiful woman in the world, who is now the love of my life. 

Sketch in my Notebook (Part 10): A Bank in Brooklyn (Cont.)

This week's bit picks up where last week's left off.  Our heroes are about to confront the Siberian Tiger and Gun Girl Gracie during a bank heist in Brooklyn.

As always, you can find the rest of this story in the Sketch in My Notebook section of the blog.



Tiffany followed Blaine out of the van.  
The First Bank of Brooklyn stood on a street corner, a single-story brick building with large, heavy plate glass windows attached to a mom-and-pop grocery on one side and a nondescript four-story apartment building on the other.  The street was blocked off around the bank on every side—maybe a dozen police cars sat in the street at every possible angle, along with at least twice as many uniformed officers manning the perimeter.  Tiffany saw SWAT standing by the bank’s main door in full combat gear, complete with a portable hand-held ram, but they were clearly waiting for her and Blaine before making their move.  Through the windows, Tiffany could see several bodies on the ground inside the building itself, but there was no sign of either the Siberian Tiger or Gun Girl Gracie, and from outside, it was impossible to tell who exactly had fallen and whether or not they were still alive.  Tiffany didn’t see any blood, however.  That seemed like a good sign.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Triathlon Training Log: 5/26 - 6/1 (Week 1)

I should subtitle this week's entry:

"How not to train for a triathlon."

The good news is that I finally managed to get a decent Rest Week in.  Last week was both Memorial Day and my birthday, and so although I still somehow managed to go over 100 points for the week, I also took three days off from working out--together, in the middle of the week--so that by the time this week started, I was feeling like myself again.