WARNING: May contain naughty language.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Paradise Lost...AND Found in San Antonio (April 27 - 30, 2017)

    For my writer friends. "Give me six hours to cut down a tree and I'll spend the first hour sharpening the saw." - Abe Lincloln
    Need an infusion of creative energy? Need to reconnect with the penmonkey tribe? Need some professional guidance on your writing? Can't afford to go to Helsinki for Worldcon? Check out Paradise Lost in San Antonio, Texas and SHARPEN YOUR SAW.

    I've attended this workshop for the past three years and have had an AMAZING experience each time. Professional writers (Melinda Snodgrass, Chuck Wendig, WJW and many others) plus industry insiders and editors - ALL of whom are glad to hang out, toss back libations, talk shop and play Cards Against Humanity.

   Reconnect with your tribe. Learn new tricks. Make new friends - write them into your books and KILL THEM ALL! 

   Applications are open, so why wait?

   Hosted by the indomitable Sean Patrick Kelly, this is the SINGLE writing event / workshop I plan around, year after year.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

The Bourbon Trail

My father turned 80 years old back in June. Had a great big birthday bash with friends and family from all over the country. My brother, sister and I had the ultimate gift planned for him - an "all expense paid" (ie., we'd pick up the bill) trip to Lexington and Louisville, Kentucky to visit the finer distilleries in the state.

My Dad loves his bourbon - which likely explains my predilection for the stuff as well.

Coordinating schedules took a while, but we finally nailed the date, made reservations and made our collective ways to Bourbon Country.

Day One:
Keeneland Farms and Racetrack - Amazing early morning walk around the grounds. Beautiful rolling hills and thoroughbreds.

Woodford Reserve Distillery - Great facility and staff. FINE sampling to be had in the tasting. And most amazing of all, I've been drinking bourbon WRONG for all these years!

Four Roses Distillery - Least impressive facility. DON'T DRINK THE YELLOW LABEL. Ever.

Amazing dinner at The Merrick Inn. So tasty!

Day Two:
KAD (Kentucky Artisanal Distilleries) - Makers of top-shelf Jefferson Reserve and a few others. Had a fantastic tour of the facility. Great tour guide gave us the lowdown on all the "goings-on" on location. Was impressive. Had a nice tasting afterwards and walked out with a limited edition bottle of Jefferson Reserve aged in RUM barrels! Can't wait to sample that awesomeness.

Bardstown - Amazing little town which bills itself as the home of bourbon. Spent some time walking about, enjoying the small town charm and favorable weather. Enjoyed a great lunch at the very, very historic Talbott Tavern where Jesse James and his gang had a shootout in 1868. Oh, yeah. Its haunted, too.

Finished the day at Jim Beam, the very largest of all the distilleries visited. Much more commercialized than the others but still enjoyable.

Dinner at the Butchertown Grocery for some remarkable high-end cuisine to finish up the trip.

All in all, a great trip worth repeating.


Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Luke Cage and Some Random Beers I've Tried this Week

Like millions of other viewers, I binged on Luke Cage over the weekend. As a fan of Netflix's prior projects like "Daredevil" and "Jessica Jones" I was looking forward to this series.

And it did not disappoint. 

Filled with action, tension and some amazing music I thought the series did a great job of depicting Power Man, Luke Cage.

Was it perfect? Nope. 

The plot was about as straight forward as one could envision. Very, very little in the way of genuine surprises or twists. Another aspect which kind of irked me was the lack of creativity during the fight scenes. Most of Cage's moves involved hurling bad guys about the room ala "The Incredible Hulk" TV show or even "The Six Million Dollar Man". Even the final showdown was little more than a super-powered slugfest. I was hoping to get a taste of the famous Daredevil "Hallway Fight Scene" which is up there with the very best combat choreography ever filmed.

Those minor flaws aside, it was a powerful and well-acted series. And the scenes of everyday life in Harlem were exceptional to view. 

I also drank some beer while watching it, which should come as no surprise to anybody who knows me.

Atwater Dirty Blonde: Watery, golden, fizzy with hint of citrus. Pretty weak. (2/5)

Diabolical IPA (North Peak Brewery): Pine and citrus, bitter aftertaste, bottle looks like a recycled Red Stripe. Average IPA (2.5/5)

Atwater Decadent Chocolate Ale:  What can I say? Dark Chocolate + ale. Nasty stuff which I'll never try again. Killed my sense of taste for the rest of the night. (0.5/5)

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

The Satiated Bookworm

For the past decade, I've meticulously maintained a list of books. Books I've read, books I've heard about and books I want to read. I figure I add half a dozen or so every month. Last night, as I finished the final page of "Dinosaur Knights" by Victor Milan, I checked my queue for the next target.

It was empty.

All the bestsellers I wanted to read, works by friends and interesting titles, not to mention the novels from my wife's book club.

Done. Nothing. Nada.

Guess I have NO excuses for not writing now...bummer.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Pause for Process - My Approach

I've written about 3 novels over the past seven years. One of them is buried in my backyard, another is imprisoned in a 3.5 inch floppy disk and the last is in a perpetual state of starvation, locked in the trunk like a desiccated vampire, fed once every 6 months with red ink.

I do a lot of software stuff for a living. And a lot of project management work to go along wth the coding. Countless articles, magazines and books talk about methods of writing. But I think I've finally created a process which I'll try for a while.

Now, if I can only MAKE the time needed to write the ten or so novels I've outlined, I'll be off to the races! Right...wish me luck.

Double-click to enlarge - formatting is TERRIBLE!

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

The Insidious (and Expensive) Delight of Reading a Great Anthology

I'm currently engrossed in a great collection of urban fantasy short stories called "Urban Allies". Relatively new book, it contains a number of authors whose work I've read before but more writers who are new to me. The concept is simple but VERY KEWL.

When I was much younger and most comic titles sold for 35 to 45 CENTS each, one of my favorite monthly titles was the Marvel Team Ups. Two traditionally "solo" heroes would find themselves having to work together to combat the latest menace. Thus, the Punisher would fight side by side Ghost Rider. Or Spider-Man and Man Thing (which never failed to BLOW MY MIND).

"Urban Allies" does the same thing to equal effect. Take two protagonists from an established series, mix 'em together and see what happens.

I'm enjoying it immensely. But there is a problem...

I'm a methodical planner when it comes to my reading. I aggressively use Goodreads Want To Read tag on a great many books. At this time, I'm 75% finished with "Urban Allies" and noticed that my Want to Read List is growing. Fast. Every time I read a short work with an author I don't recognize, I add them to the list.

Which I'm sure is one of the goals of the anthology.

Glad I fell into their target audience so easily. Time to borrow from my 401(k) in order to fund my next round of binge-reading, I guess.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Essentialism: A New Way of Looking at Everything

I first heard about this book from a co-worker who read it and gained a lot of insight. I thought it sounded intriguing, so I picked up a copy that day.

While it is a fast read (not a lot of pages - falls into the category of LBB (Little Business Book) - it is chockfull of goodness.

The primary point of the book is that all people are stretched too thin - whether at work, at home, at play or all places in-between. It is too easy to go from a challenged and happy "winner" to a disgruntled, disillusioned burn out without proper guidance.

While reading the book, I had several "aha" moments and knew PRECISELY what the author was getting at.

Just to be clear, like most books of this nature, I don't agree with 100% of his statements. But I can appreciate and (even better) adopt 90%+ of his recommendations. I was delighted to find that I was already doing more than a few of his process steps on my own. Reading this book allowed me to further refine, define and adopt better approach to work and life.

I took copious notes (in pencil, in the margins) and suspect I'll be referring to it many times in the future.

"Essentialism" is a quick book, but well worth your time.

I've already started to apply some of the lessons to my writing. For example, under the category of the fallacy of sunk-cost basis. For close to two decades the Concorde flew transatlantic flights between North America and Europe. While it trimmed the time of the crossing to 2.5 hours, it literally lost millions of dollars on every flight! Yet, the owners of the company were CERTAIN that if the just waited it out, things would turn around.

20 years and 20 BILLION dollars later, they stopped operations. Why did they continue? Sunk-cost basis, that's why. The irrational feeling of "well, we've come this far. We can't stop now."

WRONG! You can and should continually inspect your results, make corrections, change strategy and if nothing else works - STOP IMMEDIATELY.

I have a short story I wrote six years ago; one of my first ever. Took it to Viable Paradise where it was promptly shredded by instructors and peers alike.

Ouch. But I continually tinker with it, knowing that there is a great story in it. I just have to chip away all the crap surrounding it. BUT in the time I've spent re-jiggering the work, I could have written at least 3 or 4 new things. Reading this book explained my irrational desire to continue working on a dead horse. I might end up recycling scenes or even the basic premise, but that story is DOA.

"Essentialism" is filled with such wisdom and each day I find a new method to apply to my work and home life.

Give it a read. You won't be sorry.