I’m on Team Jacob

I’ve never read the Twilight books, but I’ve been curious for a long time.  Both from a professional point of view and from a personal one.  Professionally, because holy shitballs, Batman, did she make a lot of money from those books!  Personally because I always love a good story, and if these books sold that many copies and have that many rabid fans, they must be awesome, and that makes me want to see what all the fuss is about.

I’ve read (ok, listened to) all the Sookie Stackhouse books.  But for whatever reason, not Twilight.

Maybe it’s because so many people (who wish they were as awesome as Stephany Meyer) make fun of them.  I could say no, it’s because of lack of time.  But I had the time for the others, so that’s a BS argument.  Really, I wasn’t all that interested.  And the mockery didn’t help

But I was curious, so I occasionally toyed with renting the movies.  In fact, my wife had also expressed curiosity.  But we didn’t do anything about it, until this week.

The other day, she declared that we were renting and watching Twilight.  So…we did.

I had some issues with actions the characters took, and was forced to roll my eyes in several places.  But you know what?  Despite that, I rather liked it.  The story pulled me in.  It pulled both of us in, and our daughter too (she’s 9).  So we watched the sequel, and then the third.  We haven’t watch the two-parter of the conclusion yet, and I’m sure I’m missing a lot from not having actually read the books.

That said, I’ve come to a few conclusions.  The most important is this: Edward is not just a creepy dude (I recall Dean once described Twilight as the story of a hundred-year-old man taking advantage of a sixteen year old girl.  And you know what, that’s 100% right.  In a way), but he’s freaking pathetic.  “I can’t stand to live in a world without you in it!”…but he refuses to take the one step that would ensure Bella never leaves it.  “You’re my only reason for living!”

Gah!  It’s beyond cringeworthy to being an absolute gag-fest.  Only a teenage girl could find such slobbering obsequiousness appealing.  Except in reality, most of the time they hate it, too.

And it’s not just that.  The dude has no personality, just one constant mope after another.  He’s not fun.  Hell, he can’t even fight all that well.

Truly, Edward sucks.

Jacob, on the other hand, is in shape, fun, bold.  Yeah, he’s a bit excessively fawning as well, but at least he’s assertive about it.  And…damnit, he’s masculine.  On no planet does a guy like Edward get the girl over a guy like Jacob unless he’s rich.

Plus, the werewolf pack is cool and fun.  They kid around with each other and with their friends, they’re vibrant and alive.  Whereas the Cullens, and really the vamps in general, are dull.  No fun, no nothing.

And…seriously.  Why in THE HELL would the Cullens spend all their time in freaking High School, of all places?  I mean, High School sucks, and they are all at least a hundred years old.  They can’t think of any place better to be?

Well, I guess there is that.

Oy.

Yeah, it’s an easy pick who I’d want to hang with.

I’m on team Jacob, lost cause though it may be.

Off Armageddon Reef

I’ve heard for a while how awesome David Weber’s books are.  The Honor Harrington series in particular is often remarked upon.  In fact, a couple months ago, a friend of mine asked if I had read any of his books, and I was forced to reply, “No, but I have On Basilisk Station and it’s next on my to be read list.”

And that was true.

Fast forward.  I finished listening to Aristotle’s “Rhetoric, Poetics, and Logic” on audiobook, and I was looking for which book to “read” in audio next (since I’m still in the middle of the final book in Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn series in actual text-reading).  I saw that I had “Off Armageddon Reef“, by David Weber, in my audio book library, and I queued it up.

Somehow, I transposed the titles of the two books, “On Basilisk Station” and “Off Armageddon Reef“, in my head, and as the first few chapters of “Armageddon Reef” went by I was wondering how and when Honor Harrington was going to come into play, considering that Safehold is a planet whose people were once star-farers but now are no longer.  It was only after I went back to Amazon to check the titles that I realized my mistake.

Of course, the story of Safehold was compelling enough that I stuck with it…and boy am I glad I did.

As all of you know, I’m a Naval Officer.  In fact, I was commissioned onboard USS CONSTITUTION, and did my first summer on active duty onboard that ship, learning to sail a square-rigged vessel and learning her history and the tales of her many engagements (never defeated).

And so, when it turned out that “Off Armageddon Reef“, though a scifi story, really ended up being a story about Naval warfare in the age of sail….well, there is literally nothing you could do to engage me better than that as a reader.

And boy did it deliver.

GREAT book.  And great depiction of the Naval lifestyle and ethic.

Wow.  Extremely well done.

If you haven’t read this book, you totally need to.  I’m definitely continuing on in this series.

Well done, Mr. Weber.  Well done.

End Of Deployment

It’s been a weird sort of day.

Earlier this afternoon, I shook hands with all the people I’ve worked with on the ship over the last six and a half months, grinned as an O-6 told me I did a great job for him, then walked off the brow for the last time.

I’ve departed ships before of course, but this was a bit different.  I’m not permanently assigned to this vessel; I was here on Temporary Additional Duty (TAD) orders as an Individual Augmentee (IA) in support of a specific Task Force.  On my other sea duty assignments, I was with the ship for 3+ years, and saw the crews change out almost entirely from when I first reported to when I left.  Not so with this one.  The same guys who were there when I first came aboard were the same guys I said goodbye to, and I was only aboard for 6 and a half months.

But hot damn, that was a fun six and a half months!

I’m flying home tomorrow on the first flight out of Guam.  And I’m happy to be doing so.  But part of me is a little sad, too.  Part of the reason for that is I know the ship’s schedule for the next half-year, and it is KICK-ASS!  Would have been nice to be aboard for the cool things in support of operations she’s going to be doing.  In fact, the Admiral at home and I had a cool plan worked out where I would extend a bit and she would meet me at one of the ports of call that she’d been wanting to go to for years.  But alas, my parent command raised the BS flag to that plan and ordered me back.

Oh well.  I’ll just have to bring the Admiral there (and to Singapore, which I think I mentioned before she really wanted to come out for but was unable to) at a later date.

The other reason I’m a little sad?  I guess because it’s just been seriously fun out here, and I feel like I’ve actually been contributing, something that I’ve not felt in a long time.  See, I’ve been in CONUS at training commands for a long time now, and even when I was deployed on my subs, the deployments were only tangentially related to the big business that had been going on.  So I’ve felt like a REMF (Rear Echelon Mother Fucker), which is not what I had intended to be.

Of course, the Admiral, and everyone else, tells me that’s BS.  And intellectually I know they’re right, because as a training guy I’ve indirectly helped the effort in lots of ways, ways that can probably never be measured.

It still sucks to not have contributed directly as much as I would have liked.

Which is part of why I volunteered for this IA deployment: it was a chance to directly do something again.  And it’s been a heck of a fun ride.  🙂

(The other reason I volunteered is that the Admiral complained on several occasions that she didn’t feel like a real Navy wife because she hadn’t experienced a deployment since we were married, and since we had kids.  So when this billet came open, I of course had to say, in my best Barney Stinson voice, “Challenge Accepted!”  And boy did she accept it.  She’s literally kicked ass on the home front while I’ve been out gallivanting around.)

So anyway, it’s time to go home.  It’s been a productive deployment.  Obviously, productive for the Navy and the Nation, but also productive personally and professionally.

Now.  Did I meet my previously-published deployment writing goals?  Yeah….not so much.

Just going by the first two months of the deployment, it looked as though I was going to be a shoo-in.  But then things got pretty darn busy.  So I didn’t meet the word count.  But I did finish one novel, get a good chunk of the way into a second, and finished several shorter works.  I have three novelettes on submission now, with a fourth story just about ready to go.  So while I didn’t exactly meet the word count goal, deployment was still a success.

It was successful physically, too.  Observe:

This was taken a few weeks before I left for deployment.

This was a couple weeks before I left for deployment.

This was about 2 weeks ago.

This was about 2 weeks ago.

Yeah, your eyes do not deceive you.  I got a freaking TAN!  Hot damn, I’ve never managed to do that before!

That’s what happens when you exercise on the aft deck of a ship pretty much every day, in the tropics, for six months.  Even if you indulge in way too much beer while ashore in liberty ports.  😉

I’ve also read a lot of books.  Over the last month, here’s what I’ve finished:

Audiobooks

  1. The Sam Gunn Omnibus – Ben Bova
  2. The Damnation Game – Clive Barker

Written Books

  1. Darkship Thieves – Sarah A Hoyt
  2. Running From The Night – R J Terrell
  3. Trigger Warning – Neil Gaiman
  4. Monster Hunter Vendetta – Larry Correia
  5. Veil Of Lies – Jeri Westerson

I’m currently in the middle of:

Audiobooks

  1. A Canticle For Liebowitz – Walter M Miller

Written Books

  1. Violence Of Action: The Untold Stories of the 75th Ranger Regiment in the War On Terror – Marty Skovlund, Jr and many others
  2. In Hero Years, I’m Dead – Michael A Stackpole
  3. Colonel Roosevelt – Edmund Morris (I’ve put this one on hold while I’ve focused on other books…for now)

With that, over the span of this deployment I’ve finished 19 Audiobooks and 25 written.  Not too bad.  Well above my average.  Probably above my total annual output for an average year, I think.  Though I could be wrong.

So it’s been a good deployment.  Now I’m slumming it at the Hilton in Tumon, Guam.

This is the view from the tiki bar at my hotel.  It sucks to be me.

This is the view from the tiki bar at my hotel. It sucks to be me.

As I said, my flight home is first thing tomorrow morning.  Cool thing about that is I’ll get back to San Diego late in the morning of the same day I left Guam.  So I’ll get to surprise the kids by being there to pick them up from school.  🙂  I have the feeling they’ll like that.

No doubt there will be some serious adjustments to make when I’m back home, both for me and for the Admiral and the youngsters (they all will have to get used to being spanked again ;P  Just kidding.  Maybe.).  It’ll be a cool and fun several weeks getting back into the swing of things.  Fortunately, I’ll be taking some leave immediately upon my return, and then again once school gets out.  That should help things immensely.

Well, that’s about it from here.  In fact, as I look at my watch I realize it’s now beer o’clock.

I’d best be getting on that.

Talk to y’all later.

More Reading and a General Update

It’s been a month since my last post, and I figured I’d give an update.  Got some more writing done; almost finished with a story I’ll be submitting to Writers of the Future in a few days.  Participated in some cool operations, but of course I won’t go into that here.  Maybe some other time, and someplace else that’s not so public.  🙂

I’ve been working out, of course.  I’m one week from finishing Insanity for the second time this deployment.  That’s been fun, and of course, the workout is no joke.  Once I’m done with this round, I’m going to focus on weights and the exercise bike (I hate treadmills or I’d run.  At least the bike we have has videos of various routes on the Tour du France, so it’s not completely mind-numbing).  Earlier in the deployment I had been working hard on my pull-ups, but I got tendonitis in my elbows so I stopped for a while to heal.  It’s been a couple months now and the elbows feel 100%, so I re-started my pull-up regime yesterday.  Obviously, I’ve lost some of the progress I’d made before, and I went with sets of two (before I was doing sets of 3 or 4) so as to not press too hard too soon.  But I’m back on the horse again, which is good.

And of course I’ve been reading and listening.  Here’s what I’ve finished over the last month.

Audiobooks:

  1. The Legend of Drizzt – R A Salvatore
  2. The Telltale Heart and Other Stories – Edgar Allan Poe
  3. Eternity Base – Bob Mayer
  4. The Gripping Hand – Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle
  5. Jumper – Steven Gould
  6. Dead in the Family – Charlaine Harris
  7. The Lies of Locke Lamora – Scott Lynch

Written Books:

  1. Totaled – Kary English (it’s a short story, but it counts.  And, it’s awesome)
  2. Fiction River: Moonscapes – Various
  3. The Black – Paul E Cooley

Of course, the next question would be what did I think of these various books?  Well, you can look to Goodreads for that.  But suffice it to say I enjoyed all of them, to one extent or another.  Can’t say any of them left me disappointed or pissed off, and most left me grinning.  So that’s a good thing.

I’m currently reading the following.

Audiobooks:

  1. The Sam Gunn Omnibus – Ben Bova

Written Books:

  1. Colonel Roosevelt – Edmund Morris (going slow on this one)
  2. Monster Hunter Vendetta – Larry Correia (I was just starting this as of last post, but got distracted with other books first, obviously. I’m about 1/3 done now)
  3. Trigger Warning – Neil Gaiman (After all the whining from the continually offended over the title, I HAD to get this book and read it.  I’m about 2/3 done)

So…what’s next up?

Audiobooks:

  1. The Damnation Game – Clive Barker
  2. A Canticle of Leibowitz – Walter M Miller
  3. The Bourne Identity – Robert Ludlum (I keep meaning to come back to this one.  I started it about a year ago but stopped a couple chapters in.  Not that I don’t like it, but for whatever reason I just felt like moving on to other things)

Written Books:

  1. Darkship Thieves – Sarah Hoyt
  2. Running From The Night – R J Terrell
  3. Monster Hunter Alpha – Larry Correia
  4. The Disappeared – Kristine Kathryn Rusch
  5. On Basilisk Station – David Weber

Yeah, I know.  My list of upcoming written books is different than it was last month.  And I read some things this month that weren’t even on the upcoming list last month.  What can I say, I’m flighty.  Or something.

So that’s what’s up over here.  Deployment’s still fun, but I’m getting to the point where I’m ready to be done.  Just one more month to go.  🙂

Deployment Reading

I’ve been getting a lot of reading done on this deployment.  By reading, I mean both reading reading and audiobook listening.  They both count, because hey it’s the ingestion of books, right?

Right.

I haven’t gotten as much writing done in the last month and a half or so as I thought I would, partly because this time has been operationally more busy than the previous two months, but also because I shifted my focus away from getting words down to other things for a little while, reading included.  I don’t think that’s a bad thing.  It is what it is.  But I’m getting re-started on my writing habits again.  If all goes well, I’ll have at least two more books finished by the time I get home at the end of April.  Or maybe one and a half.  😉

But anyway, I figured I’d take a couple minutes and list all the books I’ve gone through since I left home at the end of September, both because I feel like sharing and because I know there’s been a lot but I’m not entirely sure how many and I’m curious to count it up.

So, Audiobook first:

  1. The Dummy Line – Bobby Cole
  2. The Gravy Train – David Lender
  3. The Mote In God’s Eye – Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle
  4. Gabriel: Zero Point – Steve Umstead
  5. The Accounting – William Lashner
  6. World War Z – Max Brooks
  7. Watership Down – Richard Adams
  8. The Passenger: Surviving The Dead – James Cook
  9. From Dead To Worse – Charlaine Harris
  10. The Jester: A Riyria Chronicles Tale – Michael J Sullivan

Written books:

  1. Decision Points – George W. Bush
  2. Monster Hunter International – Larry Correia
  3. Warbound – Larry Correia
  4. Writers of the Future, Vol 30 – Various
  5. A Dance With Dragons – George R R Martin
  6. Winning Low Limit Hold ‘Em – Lee Jones
  7. The Theory of Poker – David Sklansky
  8. Hold ‘Em Poker for Advanced Players – David Sklansky and Mason Malmuth
  9. Dead Money – Dean Wesley Smith
  10. The Chaplain’s War – Brad R Torgersen
  11. Big Boys Don’t Cry – Tom Kratman
  12. The Big Ship and the Wise Owl – Sarah Hoyt
  13. Freehold – Michael Z Williamson
  14. One Bright Star To Guide Them – John C. Wright
  15. An Answer From The North – Sarah Hoyt
  16. Smilla’s Sense Of Snow – Peter Hoeg

That’s a pretty good list.  I’m currently listening to:

  1. The Legend of Drizzt – R. A. Salvatore

And currently reading:

  1. Colonel Roosevelt – Edmund Morris
  2. Monster Hunter Vendetta – Larry Correia

On my plate for future audiobooks:

  1. Dead And Gone – Charlaine Harris
  2. Eternity Base – Bob Mayer
  3. The Damnation Game – Clive Barker
  4. The Lies of Locke Lamora – Scott Lynch
  5. Jumper – Steven Gould
  6. The Bourne Identity – Robert Ludlum
  7. The Tell-Tale Heart and Other Stories – Edgar Allan Poe

Future written books:

  1. Flow – Arlan Andrews, Sr
  2. Veil Of Lies – Jeri Westerson
  3. The Legacy of Heorot – Larry Niven, Jerry Pournelle, and Steven Barnes
  4. The Disappeared – Kristine Kathryn Rusch
  5. Swarm – B V Larson
  6. In Hero Years, I’m Dead – Michael A Stackpole
  7. Awake In The Night Land – John C Wright
  8. The Nelson Touch: Ark Royal II – Christopher Nuttall
  9. Darkship Thieves – Sarah Hoyt

There are many others in the TBR corner of my Kindle, but those are the ones I intend to get through first.  I’m actually surprised; I thought I’d listened to more audiobooks than that.  But then, I also listen to a lot of podcasts too.  That’s how I keep my mind entertained while I’m working out, or during my evening cigars on the weatherdecks, or if I’m just roaming around on deck working on my tan (yes, for the first time in my life I’ve actually been able to grow and keep a tan, and without becoming a lobster first!  I’m amazed and trilled.).

So that’s what I’ve been up to.  Not a bad four months’ work, I think.  Tell you what, I’ve enjoyed all of these books, to one extent or another.  Can’t say any of the books on the “have been read” lists did not agree with me, to one degree or another.  Hopefully, those on the TBR lists will as well.  Not sure if I’ll get through all of them before I return home in two months (probably not), but I’ll definitely make a big dent in the stack, that’s for sure.

Later, folks.  Go read lots of books – some suggestions are off to the right.  😉

Cover Reveal: Jim Morgan and the Door at the Edge of the World

And now we shall take a moment to pimp a writer friend of mine.

I met James Matlack Raney last summer at Mysterious Galaxy, a well-known independent bookstore here in San Diego.  He was participating in a local author event they held.  I attended as a customer because I was still relatively new to town and I didn’t want to be that guy who just walked into the bookstore and said, “Hey let me pimp my stuff will you?”  I wanted to be a good customer first and foremost.  🙂  Anyway, we hit it off and I bought his book, Jim Morgan and the King of Thieves because he was cool and it looked interesting.  And it’s aimed at young readers (I think middle grade is the official category – the main character is eleven), and since I have several youngsters in the house…

We met again last Christmas at Mysterious Galaxy; this time I was one of the local authors participating with him.  We exchanged business cards and became Facebook and Goodreads friends, and have corresponded since then.  And I picked up his next book, Jim Morgan and the Pirates of the Black Skull.

I’ve been reading Mat’s books to my oldest and I’m enjoying them a lot.  And more importantly, so is she.  🙂  I think she’ll enjoy them even more when she’s older; some parts are a little over her head.  But hey, she’s six.  🙂

Anyway, Mat has continued to plug away and the final book in the series is almost ready.   Here’s a peak:

Jim Morgan and the Door at the Edge of the World is the climactic follow up to the IndieFab Book of the Year FinalistJim Morgan and the Pirates of the Black Skull, and the final chapter in the Jim Morgan series. Check out the first two books here, and look for Door at the Edge of the World in Fall 2014.

Jim Morgan 3 Cover

 

Pretty awesome, right?  Be sure to mark your calendars; I’m going to.

Print Is Dead

…at least to me.

I’ve long been saying, since I started reading in ebook format, that I was done with print books.  Ebooks are more convenient, less expensive (or at least they should be – peering at Big Publishers with their stupid Agency pricing), more convenient, and hell just plain lighter.  And, especially since I got my Kindle for Christmas (I had done some ebook reading, quite a bit in fact, on my iPhone or iPad before then), I have not touched a print book at all.

Seriously, I’ve got a number of titles that I was in the middle of, or wanted to start, in print, but they’re just sitting there on the shelf while I zoom through ebook after ebook.

Fast forward to now.

Like I mentioned the other day, I just got eight Writers of the Future anthologies in the mail.  I’m eager to read them.  There’s just one problem: they’re in print.

I’ve tried.  I have.  I sat down with Volume 28, the one that just came out, and started reading it.  And man, I gotta tell you, print books suck.  Or at least, print mass market paperbacks suck.  They’re stiff, turning pages is annoying, the text is small.  Plus it’s hard to read the text near the spine without bending the spine all out of whack (and I don’t want to do that because these books look really nice and I don’t want to ruin them).  And then there’s the smell!  I’ve read all kinds of peudo-intellectual diatribes from people about how they’ll never leave print books, and how ebooks are such a tragedy, because of the look, the feel, and the smell of print books.  The smell, that glorious smell, bring a tingle up these people’s spine.  Or something.

Bollox.

That print smell is just…icky.  And the feel?  The damn thing’s too big in my hands, too stiff to open fully, annoying to turn the pages…

So I’ve come full circle it seems.  I’m beginning to think I may have to buy these WotF anthologies in ebook and just set the print up of the shelves.  They do look nice, for certain.  We’ll see.  I’m going to try again on them, but 8 books times 500-600 pages each is a lot of reading.  Not sure how long I’ll be able to stand it.  😛

I suspect my growing dislike for print will be tempered somewhat in the trade paperback and hard cover formats.  But still, there will be the sheer size and weight issue to cope with.  Overall, ebooks provide such an easier, more naturally flowing (if that makes any sense) experience.  Print just doesn’t compete.

IMHO.

Your mileage may vary.

Guest Post – Evelyn Lafont

I “met” Evelyn Lafont through Zoe Winters‘ blog.  Evelyn, aka Keyboard Hussey, made a number of funny and interesting comments there, so I went over to check out her blog.  After some comments there and some mutual twitter following, we became Facebook friends.  A couple weeks ago, she announced on Facebook that she was looking for blogs to go to for a blog tour.  Even though this blog is small time, I volunteered, and she accepted the offer.

So that’s how I lined up the first guest post on this blog (and really my first guest post ever).

As I mentioned last week, Evelyn writes paranormal romance: not really a genre I’ve had much interest in, historically.  But since I like her, I decided to pick up her book, The Vampire Relationship Guide, Volume 1: Meeting and Mating.  And you know what?  By and large, I dug it.  And no, I don’t think that makes me less manly.  🙂  She wrote it as a satire of the genre, and it’s good, snarky fun.  So even if you don’t think paranormal romance is your thing, check out a sample.  You may be surprised.

And now, without further ado, here’s Evelyn.

Finding—no—MAKING Time to Write

In order to be considered a writer, there is just one thing you must do. Write.

If you talk about writing, think about writing, read about writing and dream about writing, you aren’t actually a writer. That doesn’t mean you can’t be someday, and it certainly doesn’t mean you don’t have the talent to be one, it just means that you aren’t right now. Because being a writer is, at its core, just about you filling up a blank sheet of real or electronic paper with words.

It easy to transition from someone who thinks about writing to someone who is a writer, you just need to find a way to carve out some time each day or week to do what it is that writers do. It sounds hard, with the busy schedule you have and the family and significant other time you want to maintain, but if you really love something—I mean truly love it—then you have to sacrifice just a little in order to make it happen.

And it doesn’t have to be a great amount of time each week. Ten minutes a day on your lunch break at work, 20 minutes twice a day taken from when you first wake up and right before you go to bed, an hour while your kids take naps or first go to sleep at night. That is all it takes.

In order to develop that writerly muscle in your brain, you have got to write. It doesn’t have to be a marathon session during which you spend five hours furrowing your brow and frantically typing your masterpiece while chugging rum and chain smoking cheap, filterless cigarettes that make you think of your childhood growing up on the rough streets of Chicago. It just has to be time that you spend communicating with the paper.

Evelyn Lafont is an author and freelance writer with an addiction to Xanax and a predilection for snark. Her debut novella, The Vampire Relationship Guide, Volume 1: Meeting and Mating is a comedy about dating, sexing, and living with vampires and is available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Smashwords. She has also developed a monthly e-zine to accompany the series, which can be found at VampLure.com.

Several Books Reviewed

Hello again.

I did a bunch of reading while we were in the hospital.  In preparing for the trip, I picked up several ebooks, since I figured I’d have time to power through them.  I didn’t finish all of them, but here’s what I thought of those I did finish.

Back when I was getting started writing, late December/early January, I decided to do a bunch of research into the business side of writing and publishing.  I don’t recall exactly how I found Derek J Canyon’s site, but I was pretty impressed with how open he was about how he was doing business, his costs, the steps he took to get his books done and out there, and how he was doing in sales.  I didn’t immediately key on his book though.  But while getting ready for the hospital, I decided what the heck and picked up a copy.

I’m glad I did, because Dead Dwarves Don’t Dance is a very fun and quick read.  Noose is a great character.  Heck, they all are.  And there’s nothing like gun fights, car chases, skydiving onto blimps, aerial battles, and general mayhem for great entertainment.  I’m just glad I don’t live in that world.  That said, I do have a few nits to pick.  One character is advertised to be several hundred years old, but if you do that math on that, it means he was born in the 1800s, and none of the technology he supposedly used to prolong his life existed back then.  And they all suffered from the “you shot me but I’m going to keep on trucking as though it didn’t affect me” problem every now and then.  Now, Derek has a reasonable explanation for it with one character: pain inhibitors.  And nanobots for healing solves the long-term wounding problem nicely.  But that still left the immediate “I’m shot” reaction lacking in some of the characters sometimes.  That’s a small nit, though.  I’m going to go ahead and give Dead Dwarves Don’t Dance five stars on Amazon and Goodreads, because I liked it a lot.

On to J E Medrick.  You may recall a few weeks ago I read her first book, Shackled, and that I liked it a lot. Cheat is the first novella in her new Icarus Helix series.  The vision is to put out shorter, serialized works more frequently.  Her schedule right now is to churn out one 20,000 word piece each month for the series.  That’s a pretty good idea, I think.  Several people have commented that ebooks are a great format for shorter reads, and that serialized stories could be primed to make a comeback.  Anecdotally, my wife and her friends have commented to me that they really like the notion of shorter stories, since you can tear through them in a single sitting, vice having to spend days or weeks (depending on schedule and the size of the book) finishing a full novel.  Plus, writing shorter pieces mean you finish them quicker, and get more titles out there faster, which is a great help for getting noticed.  Hard to find you if you have just one story out there.  If you’ve got twenty?  That’s a different matter altogether.  So in all, I’d say this is a smart business move, and a good way to tell stories.  Heck, it works pretty well for comic books, right?

Anyway, back to Cheat.  I enjoyed it, but not as much as Shackled.  She’s going for the YA genre here, and while I found the story fun and enthralling, I don’t think she quite hit the age of the characters correctly.  The main character is supposed to be seventeen, but to me it seemed he acted more like thirteen at times, especially when it came to interaction with girls.  Also, it seemed she made the characters a little too ignorant about some things, and I didn’t buy it (e.g. – is it really believable that juniors in high school wouldn’t know the word fiction?).  Those gripes aside, I dug the story, and she set up the future of the series pretty well.  I’m intrigued about what exactly CGT is trying to pull.  So overall, pretty good, but I thought it had some flaws.  I’ll be throwing three stars onto Amazon and Goodreads.

I’ve been listening to the Writing Excuses podcast for a long time now (a year?  year and a half? Maybe more? Not sure exactly).  I started listening to it because I’m a big Wheel of Time fan, and when Brandon Sanderson got tapped to complete the series I, like everyone else, said “Who the hell is that?”  I found his website, and contented myself that he was legit.  Then, at some point after The Gathering Storm came out, I noticed the Writing Excuses link on his site and followed it.  I dig podcasts in general, so I decided to start listening in, and liked it.  So even though I wasn’t writing, I listened every week.  It helped fan the embers though, I guess.  In January, after I started writing Masters, I went back into the podcast archives and found an episode about agents.  Since every writer HAS to have an agent (or, it turns out, not), I listened in, and realized I’d heard it before.  They talked about some controversial discussions that had stemmed from one of Dean Wesley Smith‘s blog posts.  Intrigued, I went to his site.  I’ve been reading his blog religiously ever since.  His Killing the Sacred Cows of Publishing blog series was one of the first essays about the publishing business I read in my research.  It totally opened my eyes, since he talks about writing and publishing from a practical business-oriented perspective, and that resonated with me as an MBA.  It might be going a bit far to claim him as a mentor, since, though I’ve commented on his blog a few times and exchanged facebook messages with him once, he doesn’t know me from Adam.  But he’s definitely had a big influence on my thinking about this business.

Anyway, he set himself a challenge to write 100 short stories and epublish them, on top of everything else he’s writing this year.  Because his discussion on this topic has fueled my thinking a lot, I decided to buy and read The Challenge: Volume 2. A Collection of Five Stories, which he obviously he wrote as part of that challenge.  I’ve got mixed feelings about it.  I like his two “Poker Boy” stories a lot.  The second story in the collection, about the talking tree, was, as advertised, a bit weird.  But whatever, it’s all good.  “On Top of the Dead” was neat, but I had a couple nits to pick with it.  First, he’s talking about a pulsar being the thing that killed everyone.  I’m pretty sure he means a Gamma Ray Burst, since a pulsar is a quickly rotating neutron star that gives off radio pulses: not harmful.  The second thing is that while a Gamma Ray Burst will, if close enough, sterilize a planet, unless I’m vastly mistaken, it’ll only kill half of it.  The far side of the planet from the Burst would not receive any dose unless the Burst lasted for a full rotation of the planet, because while the gamma rays will be bent by the Earth’s gravity well, they won’t be bent THAT far that the planet wouldn’t still cast a “shadow”.  Now my wife would say, “It’s make believe” and roll her eyes at me for analyzing it like this, and I think Dean would too.  But that’s just how I roll as an Engineer and science guy.  I prefer plot points and details that are as close to factual as possible before they start deviating, if that makes any sense.  I still liked the story, though.  The last story was pretty cool.  I liked the concept: you get younger the farther away from your home planet you travel.  I wonder why anyone would consent to return to Earth at the completion of these missions, though.  So yeah, good stuff overall, despite a couple hiccups.  I’m throwing a 4 up on Amazon and Goodreads.

Ok, I haven’t finished The Name of the Wind.  I’m only into the second chapter.  But I went into it expecting brilliance, and so far it’s living up to that expectation.  As a guy who fancies himself a big time fan of fantasy fiction, I’m rather embarrassed that I’d never heard of Patrick Rothfuss until about a month ago, when he did a bunch of podcast interviews to promote his new book.  Considering he’s gotten all kinds of accolades, I rather think I should have.  Oh well, I’m making up for lost time now.  So far, I give it three snaps up in Z formation, to coin a phrase from “In Living Color”, back in the early 90s.  Ok, I’m dating myself now.  Let’s go with two thumbs up and leave it at that.

Not that it really matters what I think about these works, but I felt like pontificating.

I’m done now.  Carry on, then.  🙂

Open Heart

Probably won’t hear from me much for the next week or so.

This afternoon, we’re shipping out to Boston.  Tomorrow morning, my 2 year old son has a pre-op appointment at Children’s Hospital Boston, then Thursday he’s going under the knife to fix an Atrial Septal Defect.  An ASD is a whole between the two atria in the heart.  It allows oxygenated blood to flow back into the right side of the heart, forcing that side to pump that blood back to the lungs again, thus making it work harder.  Over time, this can cause the right side to expand and lead to pulmonary hypertension.  After a couple decades this can lead to heart failure and early death.  On the bright side, it’s totally treatable.  With some ASDs, they can just insert a catheter into a vein in your leg, snake it up to your heart, and remotely place a patch.  But alas, my little man’s variety (Sinus Venosus, it’s called) won’t allow that.  So they’re going to have to go into his chest.  Fortunately, the surgeon doing it specializes in minimally invasive procedures, so that’s good.  And the success rate for these operations is well above 97%, from what I’ve found online.  So I’m confident it’ll turn out fine.  Just won’t be very fun for the next couple days.  And for several weeks afterwords.  He’ll be one miserable little dude for a while, though I’m sure they’ll give us some good drugs for him.

So that’s my week.

On a less important note, I didn’t get much writing done at all over the weekend.  Family fun and life in general got in the way Friday night and Saturday during the day.  Then Saturday night I made the mistake of opening Blake Crouch’s Run.  That kept me up until 3 am, essentially ruining me for writing on Sunday evening, since I was bloody tired.  But it was totally worth it: GREAT book!  So I’m sitting at just under 66,000 words on Masters.  Probably need another 2,000 to complete the first draft.  Oh well, I missed my goal of finishing by the end of April.  Sue me.  It’ll be done soon enough.  Only one parent is allowed to stay overnight at the Hospital at a time.  So those nights when my wife kicks me out of the room, I guess I’ll do some writing.  Maybe.  If I’m not too anxious.  But then, I don’t tend to be a big worrier, so I think (hope?) all will be well, and the surgery will go flawlessly, and recovery will be easier than we think.

We’ll see how it goes.  Keep your fingers crossed.