Saturday, November 30, 2013


I won't pretend it wasn't hard. I lost a good week and a half, almost two to unforeseen circumstances. What that amounted to was a three day run of marathon writing to finish up finally with 807 words over the 50K mark for NaNoWriMo.

I'll wait till later before I go back to see how bad it all is. Truth is I don't want to know yet. The story, while complete for the by the competition's standards, has a ways to go before it's actually complete and ready for me to back track over for revision.

But, it's done and I'll go back to my 2000 word per day count goals. Something more akin to a 10K run versus a marathon. And I'll be more attentive to the other things in my life. This blog for one, and cleaning up all those dog rugs my shedding pup has been leaving behind in my house.

Nice seeing you again, folks!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

December 1st.

  • Coffee overflowed onto stove-top from espresso pot.
    • Planned clean-up: Dec. 1st.
  • Dog poop piling up in the backyard.
    • Planned clean-up: Dec. 1st
  • Halloween decorations still on front lawn.
    • Planned pick-up: Dec. 1st
  • Dishes piling up in sink.
    • Planned clean-up: When I run out of clean ones.
  • Patches of dog hair appearing on carpet from a late-shedding dog.
    • Planned vacuum: Dec. 1st
The point of all this? Nothing gets done until NaNoWriMo is done.

  • Blog updates.
    • Dec…oh, bloody hell. What am I doing here?

Monday, November 4, 2013

Nano, 4 days on

Okay, so I'm definitely on the Nano journey. And, yes, I'm on it with a boat load of baggage in tow. But that's okay. I'm still determined to get this thing done and I fully expect to have the banner "NaNoWriMo Winner 2013" splat across this blog come December 1st.

I'm also excited to be doing my first Nanowrimo Write-In tomorrow with some fellow Gulf Coasters also competing in the event. We're heading over to a local coffee shop in Ocean Springs, MS, tomorrow afternoon. It'll be fun to meet some of the other crazies participating this year.

Off topic, I thought I should say something about my last couple posts. Truth be told, I don't know who comes by to read this blog. I expect more spam bots than real people, but you never know. That said, I can't say whether or not my ramblings of late over my dog, Candy (her name came with her and she was too old to change it), are appropriate for an "author blog", but here's my take...

For now, writing is my hobby. I'm not making a living at it (can barely even take my wife out for the occasional pizza, in fact, on my paltry writer's income), and my audience isn't such that I worry over making high-vis missteps when posting entries or comments. I just don't carry that kind of weight in the virtual world. So really this blog is also something of a hobby and I'll treat it as such and worry about giving it a 'professional' gleam if my stuff really ever takes off.

These days, though, I need the catharsis that comes with venting to the great unknown. It is - believe it or not - a little therapeutic. In another life I would never have considered such an act. So security minded and privacy focused was I that even the thought of letting go a magazine I'd gotten in the mail with my name and address labeled on it was a sin to burn in hell for (if you believe in such a thing). Actually, I still do rip off those labels, but you get the drift. I've loosened up a bit and am more willing to put things out there.

I've come to realize that no one really gives a shit about me enough to worry about a little whining over my woes. So there. Maybe if I had something in the bank worth stealing my identity over, or were famous enough to draw people in so much that they hung on my every syllable it'd be a different story. But until I win the lottery or sell a million books, here I am, World. Deal with it.

Thursday, October 31, 2013


Nanowrimo's right around the corner, and already distractions are setting in. And not the good kind.

Today, for instance, I should be refining my plot lines, zeroing in on my characters' voices, and thinking about the long game that'll get me to the end of November in style, but instead all my thoughts are with my pup, Candy. We're going to see an Internal Medicine specialist in Louisiana about some issues she's been having lately that the local vet cannot diagnose fully. That said, there's a pretty good chance the little girl has cancer.

It's a tough situation to deal with. My wife and I are suckers for the hard luck cases at the animal shelter, and Candy was just such a case. When we found her we were only going to visit to show one of the previous caretakers of another of our rescues, Mace, how far he'd come. And that's when Candy and my wife made eye contact.

Candy had been at the Humane Society for almost six months. That's a long time by their standards, as most dogs are not given the chance to adopt out over that period of time before space requirements mean they must be euthanized. Candy's a small dog, though, so perhaps the limited space requirements to store her helped...that and the fact that small dogs tend to adopt out better than larger breeds. But she had several strikes against her, beginning with her age. She was 10.5 years old, and hardly anyone wants to start off a new life with an animal nearing the end of theirs, especially when there were already several medical issues apparent. She was missing spots of fur, she has a collapsing trachea, and her entire lower vertebrae are essentially arthritically fused with a few of her discs already collapsed.

After managing to pull ourselves away from her that day, we went home and discussed the possibility of adding a third pup to our cadre. We'd recently lost our 16 year old dog, Ewok, a couple months prior and were set on not putting another into the fold for some time. Candy went home with us the following week.

Over the next few months we nursed her back to health and dealt with some of her personality quirks, the worst being her food aggressiveness. But when you invite someone in from the shelter as old as Candy was then, you have to understand that her first decade of life is an unknown to you. Was she abused? Were there other, bigger dogs who used to compete with her for her food? We didn't know, so patience and consistency became our guiding principles.

And they worked. Two years later, and Candy is not the dog she once was. She's more confident, and with a healthy diet and a course of Glucosamine and MSM she was moving almost like a puppy again. She was a happy dog.

But over the last couple months her appetite has waned. I've tried all variations of dog food, then began cooking food for her, and still she lost almost 30% of her body weight. I'm syringe feeding her now, and she's taking it well. Turns out she's severely anemic, and after an ultrasound and some blood panels, we've seen some disquieting things going on with her spleen and especially her liver.

So, today Candy and I are driving an hour and a half away to go see a specialist and (I hope) to see if her condition is treatable or at the very least manageable. Maybe it's not cancer, but we don't know. Nothing in her medical story so far is following the textbooks, my vet says, and usually that points to cancer since that particular disease tends to rock the boat when it comes to picking its own path.

And that's where my thoughts lay at the moment. Not with writing, or plotting or even Nanowrimo, which begins this Friday. But with a little black dog who has endeared herself to our family with a distinctive personality all her own.

Wish us luck.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

I've committed myself, but not to the looney bin.

Okay, I've taken the initial plunge into NaNoWriMo and committed myself to a book I intend to knock out over the course of November. By 'committed', I mean that I've officially listed the title and a synopsis of what it is about on my Nano profile. But to save you folks some time I'll go ahead and post it here.

The book is called Hollowtown, and it is the first in a series I plan to write called The Lost Fleet. The series title will make more sense once the books are laid down, but I think it's going to be a fun one to do. It's science fiction, so the genre is not something I've published in before, but I am a big fan of it.

Good old Jolly Jack will have to wait a bit longer, I'm afraid, before his reappearance. I just can't do that kind of book for Nano. Too much historical research slows the writing process down.

So here's the synopsis:

A multi-generational fleet of ships launched almost three centuries ago nears its destination, a star system nearly sixty light years from Earth. But the ships and crew complements that presently make up the fleet hardly resemble those that set out on the journey generations ago. This was especially so after communications with Earth ceased some two hundred years prior. Since then the population has grown beyond what the fleet can support and rebellions have risen time and again, all within the confines of a nest of ships linked together out of a shared necessity to survive as they traverse the vast lonely voids of interstellar space. 

A history and culture all its own has taken shape in the Fleet, slowly developing into a rigid caste system made up of essential crew members at the top and all others at the bottom. They, those deemed non-essential, are the outliers living among the fringe ships of the fleet. And among them two brothers, orphans who against all odds have somehow managed to eke out an existence in a place called Hollowtown are about to embark on their own journeys of sorts. Ones that will eventually lead them on a collision course that may put the entire Fleet at risk.

I'll definitely need to work on a good tagline, but as a blurb this one gets the job done well enough for now. Believe it or not, book blurbs are almost as hard to come up with as the book itself is to write. (Yes, I'm exaggerating, but you get the point.) A good blurb -- usually that thing you read on the back cover of a book you're considering buying -- has a lot of responsibility riding on its shoulders.

Think about it. You may have the best damned story in the world written in between the front and back covers of your book, but if the cover art and blurb combination fail to grab a potential reader's attention enough to open it up the world will never know the truth.

So, yeah, I'll be revisiting the blurb again before publication.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

To Amazon Select, or Not To Amazon Select?

That is the question.

A little background first. I am all about the reader. I want to make it as easy as possible for readers to get hold of what I write, but at times I find myself perplexed by the options available to the indie author when it comes to putting my book in readers' hands (or more likely these days, on their tablets). There are a lot of platforms out there, from Amazon's Kindle, to Barnes and Noble's Nook, to iBooks on Apple and Kobo readers from Sony. But there's a big negative for me as an author to putting my title out to so many different platforms. That negative is the inability to list my title on Amazon's Select program, because when you sign on to distribute with Select you must agree to sell exclusively with Amazon.

To those not in the know, if you are an Amazon Prime member you are able to 'check' books out virtually on a loaner status without actually buying them. This is a fantastic option for readers, and not so bad for authors either. The more your book is 'checked out' the more of a stipend you get at the end of the month. The other benefit for authors is that it raises the visibility of their book(s) considerably. After all, free is a pretty enticing selling point, right?

And that's the major benefit for the reader. Free. Most Amazon Prime members sign-up for the free 2-day shipping that it offers, but learn about the Amazon Select loaner program soon thereafter and when they do they start devouring titles like a meth-head goes through a found stash of acid.

Here is my dilemma. About 99% of my sales come to me via Amazon e-book sales. The remaining 1% are split between physical book sales and the various other platforms out there. And those are paltry sales figures on a good day. From the perspective of putting more books in more readers' hands I think it is hard to deny then that signing up to Amazon Select is the best way forward. But what about that the few who actually do purchase through Apple or B&N? Am I screwing them over?

I won't deny that my meager business acumen says Amazon's the way to go. They've got the distribution model set, and it's awesome. Their book recommendations feature comes to mind as an example. "You like this book? Then we'd recommend you take a look at this one and that one over there too!"

Those other platforms don't even have something as simple as this. At least, not in an interface as attractive or user friendly as Amazon's.

I don't know. *shakes head*

I'm going to sit on it this week, but there's a pretty good chance I'm going to try it out for a few months just to see how it goes. If I do, I apologize in advance to all of you Nook/Kobo guys. If you've got an Apple product, fear not. You can still download a Kindle App to read titles from the Amazon library.

Updates to come.

Friday, October 4, 2013


Sounds cool, right? Like some kind of sci-fi lingo. But it’s not. And it is.

It’s my list of to-do’s in preparation for November’s Nanowrimo event. Since my intended attempt for this year’s event will be in the science fiction genre, nano-prep sort of is a sci-fi term…at least to my mind. And since my parents and I are probably the only people who visit this blog on a recurrent basis (Hi, Mom! Hi, Dad!), I can call it what I want and get away with it. So, there you go.

Alright. Today is October 4th. That means Nanowrimo kicks off in T-minus 27 days. The clock is ticking, folks. So what’s a Nanowrimo newbie to do so that he’s not overcome with the magnificent magnitude of this undertaking from day 1?

He prepares ahead of time, that’s what. Here’s my plan:

  1. Prepare for the routine. I’ve been working on this for the past couple weeks now, trying to write at a specified time every day so that I’m in the habit of it when November hits.
  2. Output. Output. Output. Nanowrimo is about knocking out copious amounts of text in a relatively short space of time. Consider that November is a 30 day month. Doing the math, that works out to 1,667 words per day to reach my goal of 50K words. Not too bad, right? But wait a minute. We’ve got a holiday mixed in there, good old turkey day. Given the time I’ll have to put into that one (we’ve done a block thing the last couple years), I might as well mark Thanksgiving off as a loss. And probably the day before it too (usually a heavy prep day). Next up I have a film festival that happens the week before Thanksgiving. There’s another four days gone. Now we’re up to nearly 2000 words a day. Still not bad, you say? Well, get the f--k off my porch then. We’re done talking.
  3. Outline. The good folks at Nanowrimo have rules for the contest. One is that you cannot begin the actual telling of the story, that is the writing of it, until the first hour of the first day of the event. But they highly encourage preparatory outlining of your story. That’s because it’s damned hard to punch out content when you don’t know where you’re going when it has to be done so quickly. So outlining I have begun, and outlining I continue to do.
  4. Health. This is really a lifestyle thing and not something I’m doing for Nanowrimo exclusively.  But sometimes doing what’s good for your health – eating right, and exercising properly and routinely – require extraordinary forms of motivation when your mind just wants to sleep in an extra hour or chomp down that greasy Philly cheesesteak for lunch. Keeping fit gives me energy. The soreness in my muscles keeps me awake (if not a little grumpy). And eating right by reducing my carb intake and training my body to work off of its ample (hopefully not for long) fat reserves means I don’t bonk from sugar lows. Writing this, by the way, makes me want to devote an entire series of posts to nutrition and fitness, topics I’m keenly interested in...but I'm going off topic.
  5. Clear the Clutter! This is probably the most impactful thing for me to do right now. One of the greatest hurdles I face as a self-diagnosed Adult ADD person (I took a psych course in college…get off my back) is dealing with distractions while I take a seat to write. Much of the creative process occurs inside your head, but your body and brain are constantly processing all the external stimuli around you while you work. What this translates into for me is a lot of tangents that take me away from the stuff I should be doing.

Of course, I should note that one of those tangents recently led me to this discovery about clearing the clutter. I’ve recognized for a while that I’m easily distracted from my work. I've determined that much of those distractions come from the clutter in my life. I'm surrounded by the collection of material possessions that I at one point in time decided were worth acquiring and, later, holding on to despite not having used many of said items in years. Every time I sit down to write I’m surrounded by my own cluttered mess of a life.

So what did I do out of my frustration? I started Googling. And that turned me on to the world of minimalism. Now, I don’t profess to become a true minimalist, but I do admire some of its tenants and I intend to institute them as well. In fact, I’ve already begun.

I think the good folks down at the donations receiving area at Goodwill cringe whenever they see my car pulling up with more loads of stuff. My local library has started turning me away with my book donations (so to Goodwill they go – I can’t stand the idea of trashing a book). The rest, the stuff I think I can make a buck off of, I’ll eventually sell. I think I’ll have to post more on this movement in my life as it progresses, because I think it’s something I’m learning a lot from and the lessons are worth passing on.

So there you have it. My 5 Step plan to “winning” Nanowrimo. Wish me luck!

Thursday, September 26, 2013

What's that "thing" over there?

Some of you may have noticed that strange object in the upper lefthand quadrant of my webpage. You know, the thing that says "NaNoWriMo Word Count" and has a big old empty white bar underneath with the words "0/50000 words 0% done" under it.

What is NaNoWriMo, you ask? Well, funny you did, because I happen to have an answer for you.

It stands for National Novel Writing Month, and it's a 'competition' among writers to complete a 50,000 plus word first draft of a novel in one month; the month of November. I put the word competition in quotes because I mean it in the loosest sense of the word. In reality, it's more of a goal since all you really win is a virtual pat on the back from the event organizers and the other authors competing in the trenches with you if you surpass the benchmark.

I've known about this thing for two years now, but this will be my first year competing in it. The reason is that I've always found the number daunting: 50,000 words in one month? And not just any month. But November? You know...the one with a big old holiday at the end of it and typically vacation travel plans weaved in as well? Yeah, that one. The thought of bringing together 50,000 words into some sort of coherent mass is certainly an undertaking not to take lightly. Hence my reservations in previous years.

When you break it down to a daily word count, though, it seems less of an impossibility. It works out to somewhere on the order of 1667 words per day. Definitely doable. If you take out Thanksgiving. And vacation travel. And sleep. Maybe a couple meals per day too. And, oh yes, editing too. Yes, no editing allowed. The general rule of thumb is to puke your guts onto the keyboard and don't look back until December has rolled around on the day planner.

Since the world I've written in thus far has been the real world, and a historical one at that, it has required a great deal of research to bring those stories to life. But I won't have time for such research during NaNoWriMo, so I've come up with a plan...

I'm swapping genres.

That's right. The real world's a bitch to keep up with, but if I write in an artificial reality there's less real reality to keep up with. This is gonna be fun! I'm actually getting giddy as a type this. I've had an idea for a science fiction piece for a long time. And I mean a LOOOOOONNNNNGGGGG time. It came to me when I was a kid watching old Twilight Zone episodes with my Dad back in North Carolina. For now, I won't explain any further, but suffice to say the idea's had plenty of time to ferment and I think I'm ready to bottle this batch of brew up and see what it tastes like.

So, come November expect to see that Word Counter come to life. And if it doesn't then I also expect to see my email box flooded with vitriolic scorn meant to spur me into action, lest I fail in achieving my goal.

YOU, lady and gentleman, are here to keep me accountable to the cause. My goal, my mission in November is to turn that white bar blue.

Wish me luck, and in keeping with the sci-fi theme, if you are strong in it, would you do me a solid and say: "Mike, may the Force be with you!"

[P.S.: If you're interested in competing also, check out the link to NaNoWriMo here.]

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Technophiles, Luddites and the Art of Shaving

I've always been nostalgic for the "old ways" of doing things. I still remember going to a grey-haired country barber out in the sticks of North Carolina and remaining frozen in his chair as he took a straight razor to my ten year old head with the precision of an Edward Scissorhands that had yet to be invented. "The old way," he'd called it, dismissing his younger protege toiling away with scissors in the seat beside us with a smirk.

I suppose that's why I still enjoy going to the farmer's market once a week, even when the grocery store is five miles closer and open 24/7. It's why I still prefer grilling over a campfire or a charcoal grill, even though my gas grill works just fine. It's why the bulk of my kitchen is trimmed out in cast iron and stoneware, vice teflon coated hardware.

And, unfortunately, it's why I thought teaching myself to shave with a straight razor might be fun. My brother, a premier barber back in North Carolina, got a kick out of it when I broke the news to him. "You did what?" he blasted over the phone. Even he would never attempt such a feat on himself, he told me, and he uses straight razors on his customers everyday. (You can see the result of my first straight razor shave in the photo below. I will say that it was an extremely close shave.)*

I didn't shave for a week after this debacle.

Believe it or not, I still use this on an occasional basis, though it's no longer the staple of my shaving routine that I once was considering it to be.

Just as I've had my fascination with the past, I've also always had a fascination with technology. The only difference, though, is that I've often hesitated about adopting new forms of it. When I was younger, much of that hesitation came from simply not being able to afford it. As I got older, it became more of a conscious decision to avoid certain forms of it either for privacy reasons or security concerns. I dodged cell phones for as long as I could until one was forced on me by the Navy when I went into the anti-terrorism and force protection field and they made it a requirement. Even then, it was just a flip phone. No Blackberry for me, thank you very much (does anybody still use those?). Before that, the 'worst' I had it was getting leashed to a pager when on SAR duty in the Pacific. I was grateful when I left the AT/FP world, because it meant I could give up what I'd come to consider an electronic leash. But upon my reentry into the States, my newly acquired wife assigned me a cell phone, despite my protestations. (I later learned this to be a preemptive form of domestication.)

It was just a standard flip phone, a Nokia if remember it right. My wife's phone by comparison, a Palm Pre, might have been a piece of technology shot back through time via a worm hole from the Star Trek tri-coder days of the 23rd century so far as I was concerned. She urged me to go that route too. "The wave of the future," she told me. "Look, I can get on the internet!" But, no, I resisted, and so I held on to my little flip phone right up through writing my first real attempt at a novel. By real, I mean one that I not only started, but finished.**

And here we come yet again to my reference to this completed novel that, had you read some previous entry to my blog you would realize, has mysteriously remained hidden from the public's view. Why? I certainly think it's well written for a first novel. I think it's a good story even, though as soon as the international political scene changes in Asia it may become less relevant. What keeps me from publishing the damn thing, then?

My spies use things like palm tablets in a world that has evolved to smart phones and i-YouNameIts. In short, to today's readers the people in my book would look completely inept by their choices in technology. The worst spies in the world. I've contemplated just tossing it (not literally), and chalking it up as a great learning experience. To sit down and write a full 100,000+ word novel to completion? Freaking amazing! I've thought about just publishing it here, in chunks as I go back an edit it, just for fun's sake. Just to say it's out there.

And then there's the other option. I could actually publish it. What I'd need though is a good editor who can pare it all down for me, removing all the self-indulgent writing -- a trap we authors often fall into -- and shore up the stuff worthy of the reading public's attention removing all the bad grammar and typos I inevitably missed. Someone who could make it a tighter story. Sure, I could do it. But it'd be like killing my first born, if I'd had one. Or, more realistically, like chopping a couple body parts off my newborn. "Hey there, cutie. Oh, you're so cute, aren't you?"

Then, WHAM! Screams. Tears. Howls of anguish, as my newborn loses an arm, then a leg to the ax of my inner editor. No, I don't think I'm heartless enough. Not for my first. The rest, yes. I can and have done this. But not her. She's precious.

I don't know. What do you think?

(Sorry for all the FOOTNOTES):
[*FYI, I've since downgraded from using a straight razor to using an old school safety razor. It still keeps me away from the new styled razors with their moisturizing strips and plastic. It also gives me a very close shave, and in the long-term costs less to use and is better for the environment. I'd highly recommend them, and leave straight razors for those flatter portions of your face and for days when you have a solid 30 minutes to knock out a shave.]

[**This is a tale as old as the first novel ever written, I am sure. Every author I've talked to or read interviews of has at one time or another talked about their multiple great starts to novels that quickly turned into extended short stories with no endings. I'll add my tale to this legacy in another blog post later.]

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Getting caught in one of these would really "suck"

The Earth has once again proven that it has mysteries we've yet to discover. Recent research has just proven the existence of one of those things that until now only existed in theory, random third person accounts and, of course, in the world of fiction: "black hole whirlpools" -- a.k.a. the very elusive maelstrom!

How cool is that?

Rex Features - Two mysterious 'black hole' whirlpools have been spotted in the South Atlantic ocean (Rex Features)
Check out the story on Yahoo News here.

Dazzling feat of choreography and skill

We see things on television and the web everyday. Stuff that had we been witness to in real life would probably have brought us to our feet in applause, or to our knees in anguish. But because we are constantly bombarded with these amazing things at all hours of every day we tend to get jaded, and give them just a passing nod or shrug.

Every so often, though, something still comes along that'll knock your socks off. I never thought marching drummers would do that for me, but I found myself applauding my computer screen when they were done. Freaking amazing!

Take a look...

Saturday, September 14, 2013

The Mysterious World of Search Engine Optimization

I probably don't spend the time on this internet contraption that I should, given it's my primary marketing tool. But every now and then I do poke my head around the curtain to look at the behind-the-scenes portion of this blog. There you'll find all kinds of interesting data, most of it more interesting than useful.

Usually when you pull up the "Stats" tab on your blog's dashboard, Google Analytics defaults to a "what's happened in the last week" overview. So, if you haven't taken a look here in more than a week and don't care to expand the reach of the summary, then you tend to miss data points. From a social media marketing perspective, this is probably--no, definitely--bad business practice. Not knowing what sites are referring back to my blog, what URLs, and so forth makes it harder to sort and shape the content I put up here to bring traffic to the blog.

But, hey. I'm doing okay, right? I've got you three.

But if one day I want more than three people and the good automated folks over at vampirestat (don't go there unless you want viruses on your computer) checking in here, then I should pay attention to the "Stats" tab on a more regular basis.

It was in that vein of thinking then that I said the hell with it and changed my summary period from one week to all time. Now, I'm not one to get giggly over numbers, but my vanity finally peeked its head. I've lived in a blogger world where my page view numbers have crept along steadily, though only in small increments. But in the 'all time' summary, my graphs and numbers challenge those of Vince Flynn, John Le Carre, Stephen King and probably even CNN's homepage for what they get in five minutes of traffic. For the briefest of moments I felt like a celebrity.

And then I scrolled down to the Search Keywords listing. This is where you find information on what key words people used in various search engines that led them to your site. At first glance, they looked as I would expect.

"thejmparkhangout"   "book cover missionary position"    "catchy titles with innuendo"

And then I saw this entry: "blog peepee"


So, someone got to my blog by looking for blogs about peepee? Or with the word peepee in them? I knew at once which blog post to attribute this to. One from my early days on the JM Park Hangout talking about something in my book, The Missionary Position. The question that came to mind, however, was "Is this something I want? Do I want people looking for pee-pee to come to my blog?"

The answer, of course, is HELL YEAH, I DO! Hey, if someone gets here, I don't care how it happened. That's one more set of eyeballs on my site, and potentially one more reader for my book. I'm not proud. I'll take what I can get.

I think that's a fine place to finish up this posting.

So, on that note, I'd like to throw up a couple other random words in the bodily excretions category for the search engines out there to look at: pee-pee, poo-poo, puke, vomit, spit, Dirty Sanchez (okay, admittedly not a...well it kind of is a bodily excrement), booger, the runs, sweat, weird bowel movements, hemorrhoids (it's close), and, last but not least, corn poop.

Who knows what alternative minds I might bring to my readership!

Friday, September 13, 2013

Star Trek, for reals!

Although I'm sure I get more visits by spam bots than I do real people, I continue to post for the sake of getting my voice out there, but also for those few of you who do come around for an occasional visit. As such, it behooves me to make sure I don't do you a disservice by wasting your time. Of course, if you're spending your time here, then wasting your time is probably exactly what you're looking to do.

Well, today lady and gentleman (not a typo), I bring you a momentous occasion in history. The first space craft built by man has exited our solar system. Now, this isn't to say it's the first manmade thing to leave us. Our dissipating radio signals have been doing it for many decades now, sending unfortunate representations of life on earth to our potential galactic neighbors. Can you imagine the first ambassadors of humans to our Milky Way brethren being the likes of Abbott and Costello, The Three Stooges and The Honeymooners? Okay, maybe that's not so bad as some of the other stuff that's escaped our Earthly atmosphere into the cosmos...images of war, famine and Hitler's televised rants come to mind. As does the movie Explorers, which took a comical look at all this.

But I'm getting off track. We're here to talk about an actual thing, built by man that has for the first time entered into interstellar space. How cool is that?

Lady and gent, I present to you Voyager 1, a vessel that has gone and keeps on going where no man has gone before.

Image from Trainers City.

Yeah, that's not it. But it looks much cooler than Voyager 1, which is basically a flying radio antenna with a camera and an 8-track tape deck inside.

Monday, September 9, 2013

CreativeLive for the next 2 days!

Taking some time off writing to do a little edu-ma-cation with Tim Grahl on Tim's a marketing guy heavy on the tech-side of the game. Some very good info for fledgling authors and established guys alike.

Loving the Creative Live interface. If you watch it live, it's free, or you can subscribe for a fee and watch anytime. I'm cheap, so I play the live/free game.

Today and tomorrow's seminar? "Sell Your First 1000 Books" - marketing for authors.

Just log on to page, grab your coffee, your lunch and sit back and take notes.

FYI, they do seminars on photography, business, video & film and several other stuff I might need to delve into.

Take care, folks.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Mediatwits #93: How Authors Are Becoming Entrepreneurs (Like It or Not)

This is a fairly interesting and informative discussion on the rise of the self-publishing industry. If you're an author, or one day wish to be one, I think this is a video worth your next 38 minutes.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Colonel Bud Day Passes

I've been absent from this blog a while and there are many reasons for it, vacation and writing being chief among them. But I wanted to pop back in to share my thoughts on the passing of yet another of those individuals who I remember hearing about in my youth: Col. Bud Day.

He passed away last Saturday after 88 long years. But if you were to compare Bud's years to how the majority of the world spends theirs, he might as well have lived a hundred eighty-eight of them. For those of you who don't know of Bud Day the man was a veteran of World War II, the Korean War and Vietnam. He was the recipient of not only the Air Force Cross, the Distinguished Flying Cross, various Air Medals and multiple Bronze Stars, but also our country's highest military decoration, the Congressional Medal of Honor, for actions carried out during his capture by North Vietnamese troops, his subsequent escape and evasion and his later recapture. He endured many torture sessions, always resisting, and as the highest ranking officer in their group served as an inspiration to his fellow POWs, among them future Senator John McCain, in the years that followed.

Bud grew up in a generation that believed in service and engendered in their youth strong senses of honor, duty, courage and commitment.  He was part of a rapidly disappearing vanguard that sees the defense of American principles and values as the only way to live one's life well.

Yes, the world has changed a lot since Bud's day, and life is not so simple anymore in terms of discerning the right way forward from the wrong way. People have access to more information which gives them (hopefully) a better sense of what is going on in the world. In some ways this is both better and worse. We, the masses, are less easily controlled because we now know enough to question the actions of our governments, but this often leads to complications, stalemates and ineffectual governance.

In recent years Bud made headlines for some rather controversial remarks in the political arena that I am certainly not here to defend. But I do respect the man for being someone that in a world full of talkers, pundits and armchair quarterbacks, was always willing to put both his name and life on the line to be  "in the game."

Rest in peace, Colonel.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

A Great Hugh Howey Post

Just added a link to the "On Writing" page for a recent Hugh Howey blog post. If you're an aspiring writer or even a writer already, this article is a must read. Both for its insight and its inspiring quality.

And so that you know you are not alone in your frustration with Google ($#&!@) Plus.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

New Page on the Blog: "On Writing"

This morning I found myself doing something I initially felt guilty about. I was on the internet reading a blog when I've got so many other things needing my attention. But that blog led me to a video interview of author Anne Rice doling out some pretty interesting and motivating advice. One video led to another and before I knew it I'd basically squandered a full hour listening to what effectively became an Anne Rice writer's seminar.

I thought I might feel guilty for having wasted away precious minutes to "playtime" on the internet, but no. To me it didn't feel like playtime. Anything that furthers my education and inspiration in writing is as important as a college student going to classes or a potential lawyer putting in the time to pass the bar. Listening to the knowledge that other writers, especially über successful ones like Rice, have to say is time well spent.

In the end, I left motivated and decided to throw up another page on my blog dedicated to those interesting and inspiring things I've found and did not want to lose. Things I can go back to later and watch for inspiration when times are tough. Hence, you'll notice the new "On Writing" tab at the top of the blog. 

There's not much populating it yet, but it is a project I suspect will grow fast in a short time. And while it may not be very interesting for book readers, I hope that other potential authors out there might find it as useful as I do.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Old Stomping Grounds, NAS Pensacola, FL

Last Thursday I got an early morning text from my buddy over at Warbird Radio, Mr. Matt Jolley. Matt's an aviation aficionado to the extreme. Probably a good thing considering his line of work. Anyway, the essence of his message was that he'd just gotten a call from a friend doing research at the National Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola, FL, and would I like to come along for the visit? The train, he said, departed at eight.

I was still in my post-workout nasty wear when I replied around 0730 something to the effect of: "Hell, yeah! I want a ticket on that train!" Hardly showered, I was picked up promptly at eight and we were off for a two hour jaunt to Pensacola, my old Navy stomping grounds from a lifetime ago.

Now, if you've got an interest in aviation history, and specifically Naval aviation history, and you've never been to the National Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola, then you've missed the bus to Coolville, USA, Mister. This place is, in a word, amazing, and that word doesn't even come close to doing it justice. Aside from the museum's multitude of displays, its many rare pieces of history and its very polished presentation, it is one of the few museums I've been to where you can actually walk up and touch history. There are few if any ropes to cordon off visitors. For my money, this is the best air museum in the country outside of the Smithsonian, although I may be a bit bias given my resume.

Much has changed since my last trip there many years ago, however. Many new exhibits, an entirely new hanger, and an "academy," whose real purpose I've yet to divine. Other things remain the same. The Cubi Dog comes to mind -- a delectable, beany-brown sauce, sour cream, cheese and chopped onion covered piece of carcinogenic meat known in other circles as a chili dog.

What made this trip super special, though, goes beyond the nostalgia of retracing my past. Matt and I got our own personal tour of the museum with a walking encyclopedia of naval aviation history, Captain Richard Dann, a former Naval aviator and current author of several books devoted to various past warbirds. I learned things about aviation I never knew I didn't know. He's just one of those kind of guys.

The other part of this adventure that added to its cool factor is related to the pictures below. We were honored with a behind the scenes tour of the restoration area of the museum. Okay, forgive me as I take a moment to geek out and go all hyper aviation nerd on you.

Entrance to the restoration area of National Naval Aviation Museum.

You see, when you're in the display area of the museum you get the polished pieces. The ones that have had their flaking paint scraped off and redone or their rust holes drilled out and patched. But when you go to the restoration area, it is an entirely different ball game. Walking through this facility is about as close as I will come to being with some of these old warbirds in their last fatal moments before they and perhaps their crews met perilous ends. Many are as they were recovered, crumpled and encrusted in deposits built up over decades at rest under salty waters.

Piece of a Corsair under renovation. Note how the magnesium reacted with the minerals in the salt water.
They are as they were when they met their demise, and as I walked amongst them goosebumps peppered my flesh as these ghostly warbirds recovered from hallowed grounds all over the world encircled me. Some were found much closer to home, but their stories were no less harrowing. The below pictured Dauntless, recently recovered from Lake Michigan, is a prime example.

Engine, propeller and fuselage of recovered Dauntless located at NAS Pensacola.

Cockpit of recovered Dauntless located at NAS Pensacola.
Matt pointed out, as we poked our heads under the Dauntless fuselage and looked into the rear seat from where the crewman's feet once might have rested, how strange it was that the aircraft could have sustained so much damage and been at the mercy of cold and crushing depths and corrosive waters for so long, and yet we could still look up into the compartment and see the crewman's maplight still dangling from its connection, just as it was when he'd last used it.

Dauntless map light (shown in black and grey center screen) still dangles from connection point.
I could go on and on about this trip and maybe I will later, but for now it's time to get some work done. This trip keeps jumping to the forefront of my mind when I'm trying to write, though, so I figured it needed to get out 'there' or I'd never get any real writing done.

So, there it is. If you're close enough, drive to Pensacola and visit the museum. If not, plan a trip to the Florida Panhandle and then go see it. The beaches in Pensacola are beautiful. It'd make a great vacation spot and an even better excuse to visit the museum. Admission is free and the Cubi Dog comes highly recommended!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Coming off a long Memorial Day weekend with no writing or work routine...

"The test of a vocation is the love of the drudgery it involves." - Logan Pearsall Smith, Afterthoughts, 1931
'Nuff said. Time to get to work.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Memorial Day

I'd like to wish everyone a happy Memorial Day out there. I'd also like offer you a little reminder as we all enjoy our beer, barbecues and time with friends and family that this day is more than just about a day off from work. It is a time to remember those of our Armed Forces who never came home from war. Those who will never again get to enjoy barbecues with their friends and family. Who will never go on to see their children grow into adulthood and have children of their own. It is a day to honor the fallen.

So, as you all wipe the sweat off your brows and beer bottles, I encourage you to take a moment to pause and think of those who will never see home again. They gave their lives for us and it is the least we can do for them.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Defying Death at 150 MPH

Now, I'm a pilot and can go sit in an airplane or helicopter and go fly it...

But this man can F-L-Y!

I mean the tolerances that he had to achieve to make this happen were ridiculous. No second chances in this game.

Had to jot down a few notes and post. Check it out.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Author = Idea Man = Entrepreneur???

I'm an author, and the way I see it writing is by its very nature an entrepreneurial pursuit. You are your own sole proprietorship. The only difference between an author's products and a brick and mortar business is that an author's workshop is in their mind. We manufacture our products -- our stories -- in our heads, pump them out through our fingers and into our computers, and, eventually, on down to the printing presses (or spit them out electronically to all you kindle/nook/ipad readers).

The point I'm slowly getting to is that I am always asking questions. Not just about writing, but about life in general. Business, personal and professional goals, careers, relationships, etcetera. And the ultimate follow-on question that ties them all together: "What am I going to DO with my life?"

I know, it sounds silly asking that in middle age. Especially when you would have thought I'd answered it years ago after college. But life these days is not as straight forward as it once was. Not all people stick with one profession their entire lives. Sure, doing so suits some, and kudos to them. Life is much less complicated. But for those of us who choose lives that have little to do with conforming to society's norms, those previously mentioned questions on life (and about what we/you want to do with mine/yours) are important.

To that end I've decided to post a link to a powerpoint presentation I thought very informative and inspiring. It was intended as a kickstarter for those freshly graduated from college, but I think it suits my sort of person too. It was pieced together by billionaire entrepreneur Reid Hoffman, the creator of LinkedIn.

Enjoy, and be inspired.

Monday, May 6, 2013

The Rum Diary and Hunter S. Thompson

Maybe I'm behind the curve on Hunter S. Thompson. Maybe I'm too new to his writing to make any credible summations. True, the only full H.S. Thompson story I've made it through is Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, and that wasn't even his book but a Johnny Depp film made from it. And the only writing of Thompson's I've actually read so far is The Rum Diary, and here I'm no more than half way through the book. But I have to say, the man knew his craft. The Rum Diary is an exquisite example. He's created a protagonist that's at once crabby, observant, despicable, a lush, indecisive, but thinks he knows what he wants, and that, despite your own inclinations towards the man, you find yourself somehow liking and admiring.

I love a book that's built like Thompson pieces together his Rum Diary. Each chapter feels almost as if it is a little vignette, a story in its own right but really part of a larger whole that eventually brings to life an entire plot you never knew you were reading. His character descriptions make me feel nostalgic, like I'm remembering the character he's describing instead of listening to him form a picture of that character in my head.

I'll admit I'm still apprehensive to read his other works, Fear and Loathing in Vegas being one of them. But the reasons for my trepidation are different now. Before I'd read any of his stuff I'd known him really by reputation only, and later the aforementioned movie made from his work. Based on that, I thought reading Thompson wouldn't be worth my time. It seemed too off kilter to relate. Now, though, I don't know that I want to read his other stuff because I'm loving this earlier* work so much that I don't want his later writings to diminish the admiration I'm presently feeling for him as an author.

Strange, I know, but there it is. And if you're wondering what brought me to reading Thompson now? Well, if you must know, I'm a sucker for catchy titles and good rum.

(*Just FYI, though The Rum Diary was published in '98, Thompson originally conceived it in the late 1950s.)

Monday, March 25, 2013

Hugh Howey...My New Favorite (Author) Hero

Why? you ask.

Because the man's got his shit together.

Perusing the internet as I'm prone to do at times, I came across a piece he'd written in response to something author Sue Grafton said of the self-publishing movement afoot today.  I'd go into the details of it, but it's better you read it yourself.  He's got a knack for articulating the argument against Ms. Grafton's take on the matter in a manner that I would not detract from here.

Suffice to say, Ms. Grafton's views are of the old guard, those who would choose to remain above the masses as their betters and not do business in a manner they consider beneath them.

Take a look at Mr. Howey's post.  It's called "My Four Favorite Sue Grafton Novels."

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

In honor of the South...

I thought that since I'm currently a "Southerner" if only by virtue of living in the South, I should post something Southerners would a video of NASCAR great Jeff Gordon pranking a car salesman.  Enjoy!

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Warbird Radio

Hi, guys.  Just wanted to let you know about a recent interview I did with Warbird Radio for The Missionary Position.  You can find it here.  If you've not heard of it, Warbird Radio is a great place to find interviews with people a lot more interesting than me...pilots and other folks who've contributed to history and some of the people who watch over those historical relics (the airplanes, not the people) and legacies we're still lucky enough to have around...and discussions of planes and places that fill our grade school textbooks.  There's plenty of other great stuff too.

My segment is a little more than halfway through the show (Episode 495).  Listen up!

P.S.: In keeping with the interview, here's a cool video from YouTube.  It's one of the best stop-motion sequences I've ever seen. Enjoy.

Monday, March 4, 2013

The Building Blocks of Imagination

There's nothing quite like losing yourself in a good book.  Movies and television can do something similar, but I think they come up short in the "all engrossing" department; that degree of capture that makes you lose your sense of time and place in reality.  I think it's because books force you to engage the stories in them in ways visual media does not.  When you read a book or listen to a story on the radio (or over a campfire, for that matter) you must use your mind to conjure up the images being described.  YOU assign faces and hair colors to the characters as prescribed by the storyteller.  YOU decide how big that "monolithic mountain" is in the story.

I guess what I'm saying is that it is the reader or listener who fills in the gaps and creates the internal visuals that the story takes place in.  The storyteller is the guide, but the story reader or listener is the set designer and director of the movie that is taking place in their own mind.

When you watch a show on the big screen or the boob tube, however, 95% of your mind gets the day off.  You are presented with nearly every facet of the story without having to work for it.  You are given the landscape the director chooses to use as his/her preferred backdrop, and the characters are as they're played by the casted actors.  You as the viewer can neither add nor detract from what's presented.  It requires much less of your brain to process a story in this fashion.  It's kind of a lazy way to get the story and, what is more, we dull our creative muscles by not exercising them collaborating in the creative process.  By virtue of this, our imaginations are dying slow deaths.

Maybe this is why many of the great classics - those stories that have enduring qualities - occurred with greater frequency before movies and television became a mainstay of entertainment.  People's ability to envision, to imagine were greater.  They lived in a day and age when if you wanted a story to entertain yourself with, you either had to listen to it on the radio or read a book to get it.  And before that there were only the oral traditions of storytelling.  People developed their imaginations because they had to if they were to enjoy the full experience of the story.

Technology is great, and it's made for some pretty nifty presentations on the screen.  Stuff that might even seem magical if presented to earlier generations.  But for my money there's still no better way to get a story than by sharing in the creative experience of building that movie in our minds with the help of a good storyteller.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

The Last Flight Of Coke Darden's Douglas Dolphin

Ladies and gentlemen, meet the Douglas Dolphin!  I found the below video on YouTube some time ago and can't believe I hadn't posted it sooner.  Anyway, the plane in this video belonged to a man named Coke Darden (a surefire protagonist's name if I've ever heard one), and now resides at the Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola, FL, where it was ultimately retired.

The video provides an extremely rare opportunity to hear and see an actual Douglas Dolphin in flight - the same aircraft flown by Jack Halloway in The Missionary Position - from the interior of the cabin.  Filmed in 1998, the video reflects the quality of the cameras in use back then, but it still provides a good sense of what it was like to be in the Dolphin when landing and taking off from water, the sounds of the hydraulics at work as the gear was retracted and lowered, and the roar of its twin engines when the Dolphin took flight.

A beautiful spectacle to behold if you're into that sort of thing.  So, without further ado, may I present to you "The Last Flight of Coke Darden's Douglas Dolphin."

P.S.:  Many thanks to w4joy for posting and keeping this video going on YouTube!

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Counterintuitive pricing

It's been brought to my attention that there may be a demographic of readers who will not chance purchasing books they deem "cheap". Apparently the assumption goes that a book priced too low is priced this way because it is a bad book. The recommendation, therefore, was to bring the price of my book up from the 99 cents I had the eBook version listed for to a more "prestigious" price point.

As those of you who've kept up with my previous blog postings may recall, the reason I priced the book so low in the first place was because this isn't about the money now so much as it is about attracting readers and establishing an audience. I figured a well-priced book would entice readers who have never heard of me to give my book a chance. After all, what's 99 cents, right?

Well, if I'm missing out on potential readers because they think all 99 cent books are crap then those are potential audience members lost. So, for now I'm going to try a slight price increase to see if it affects sales. Considering my limited attempts at marketing so far the book has done modestly well at 99 cents. Time to see if the marketing gurus are correct. I'll give it a few weeks at $1.99 but if I don't see any bump in sales I'm going to go back to my original plan and list it at the 99 cent mark.

Transparency in action.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

The best things in life...

...aren't things.

When I look back on life fifty years hence, it's not going to be the big flat screen t.v. in my living room, the number of DVDs in my video library, the nic-nacs cluttering every flat surface in my house, or the watch on my wrist that come to mind. It'll be the friends I've hung from cliffs with, the rush of adrenaline I felt the first time I leapt into the rapids of a wickedly flowing river, the remembrances of flying low over the deserts of the Middle East, of seeing the bedouins with Mercedes SUVs parked outside their tents, the loves and the losses and then finally the look in my wife's eyes when she said "I do" at sunset. I'll remember my motorcycle tour through Europe and those exquisitely seductive roads curving through the French, Swiss and Austrian Alps, the silence of a ship with failed boilers in the middle of the Indian Ocean, the taste of a blood orange on a tortuously hot day in the Gulf and the first time I felt the skyscrapers of New York towering above me. I'll remember my first flight in an airplane and the view of the clouds from their topsides. I'll remember my first taste of a good scotch, the satisfaction of completing my first story, the euphoria after finishing a triathlon and a marathon, and especially the pain I'd feel the day after a marathon. I'll remember the sensation of "floating" through space as I looked into a bottomless abyss SCUBA diving in the Pacific, the jungle waterfalls I rappelled down with friends in Guam, the goosebumps on the back of my neck the first time I felt the true power of the wind at sea, the love of my animals and mine for them, and the loss I felt at their passings. I'll remember the barbecues with my friends and family, the backpacking trips into the backcountry of America, the beers over campfires, and the last moments I've spent with loved ones.

I'll remember a lot of things in life when I'm at the end of mine, but I'll be hard pressed to remember the furniture I had when I was twenty-six, or the clothes I wore when I was thirty-two.

When I look back on life it is those meaningful experiences and interactions that I'll remember most dearly, and not my material possessions. Buying something nice might put a bandaid over whatever void you're feeling in your life for a minute, but bandaids fall off with time. A good experience lasts a lifetime.