Monday, November 25, 2013

Black Friday blog: book shopping

I love Christmas, but I hate the Christmas shopping season. In my neck of the woods, Christmas decorations went on sale in August. August, blast it.

Anyway, realizing that, and that black Friday is coming up, I won't be doing a Thanksgiving day blog, and I don't have too much to add to my past blog entries on the matter.  However, if you want to know about cooking for 93, or the authors I'm thankful for.... you can check those out.

While I finished my Christmas shopping months ago (writers do it all year round -- write your own joke here) I understand that there will be an onslaught of people who are going to be trampling each other in order to get gifts for family and friends.

With that in mind, it occurred to me that this is going to be a great time to compile a list of suggestions to make your shopping lives easier -- if not for this Friday, then for the upcoming Cyber Monday. Some of these are books I've reviewed, and others are new even to me, but have come recommended to me. So, unless you're going to go out and buy some Darren Brown tickets, you might want to try some of these items below.

A Pius Man: A Holy Thriller -- of course I'd start with my own novel. It's surprisingly well reviewed, no one hates it (yet, give me time), where I take the war to Dan Brown, and every other nimrod who thinks they can write bad history in a thriller and get away with it.

Codename: Winterborn .... the "other" novel, also strangely well reviewed. Genre: character-driven scifi espionage. While on a mission to the Islamic Republic of France, Lt. Kevin Anderson's team is betrayed by the politicians who sent them. As the only survivor, Anderson must stop the senators involved before the next team is slaughtered on the altar of political greed. He's certain he won't survive, but he will make this sacrifice, for his Codename is Winterborn. I recommend this for all fans of Baen novels -- like John Ringo, David Weber, and even your straight up thriller writers, like Vince Flynn, Brad Thor, et al.

Murder in The Vatican: The Church Mysteries of Sherlock Holmes -- if you've been reading my blog for a long time, you know that I loved this one, and I can't possibly recommend it enough.

Mind Over Mind -- The short version? "No, he's not crazy, aliens really are messing with his brain."

Greater Treasures -- Imagine the Maltese Falcon with dragons. Nuff said.

And, of course, there is an endless list of books I can recommend, which happen to be a different tab at the top of the page -- includes Flynn, Ringo, Weber, Thor, etc, etc.

Stealing Jenny, by Ellen Gable: After 5 miscarriages, Jenny is about to have a pregnancy come to full term... until a psychotic woman kidnaps her and chains her in her basement with the intention of taking the child for her own. I liked this one.

Now, as far as books I haven't looked at yet.... [Below the break.]

Friday, November 22, 2013

Reflections on the Ring: One ring to rule them all.

Let's look a little at Existentialism 101. Don't worry, I won't bore you with a lot of details. One thought in Existentialism states that, since we are so radically changing, the concept of binding yourself to someone forever merely limits you, and binds your potential and chains your freedom for enslavement.  Welcome to Jean Paul Sartre, 101.

At the other end of the Existentialism spectrum, you have the Catholic philosopher Gabriel Marcel, who concluded that marriage is the ultimate act of freedom.  In marriage, we freely choose to commit to someone for the rest of our lives. Two people have decided to give their entire lives to one another.

End of lesson.

Now, as most of you may have noticed, I don't generally, as a rule, read chick-lit. Sherrilyn Kenyon? Sure. She's got an interesting fantasy universe, and I'm a bit of a romantic sap at times.

Then there was (deep breath) Reflections on the Ring: An Ordinary Woman’s Extraordinary Tale of How She Saved Her Marriage and Family.... yes, it's a bit of a title. And if you think the title is a little much, the back of the book is as follows.
Most women harbor dreams of a fairytale wedding and marriage. And while some do achieve it all, they are in the minority. For most of us the reality of living out our daily lives with another person demands compromise and commitment. Yes, it takes two to make a marriage, but someone has to take the lead. Why not let that person be you?

That’s the timeless life lesson author Lori Colombo Dunham learned when an unplanned pregnancy rocked her entire world back in 2001. Having only known her baby’s father for a short time, she agonized as to what God’s plan would be for her marriage and family once she and her partner decided that embarking upon an unanticipated marital union was the right thing to do under the circumstances.

So she bid her girlhood dreams of an elegant church wedding goodbye to exchange vows in a sterile county courthouse, mourning for what could have been. Little did she know that inauspicious beginning would lead to a magnificent marital and family life beyond her wildest dreams

Anyway, Daria Anne asked me to take a look at it, and she's hosted me enough times so that I could give her the benefit of the doubt. She coauthored it, so how bad could it be?

In fact, when I got it, I noticed it was less of a book and more of a pamphlet. 

So, was it good? Sure.  I'd give it about three to four stars, definitely leaning on A for effort, A for narrative style, and a B for execution.

Why wouldn't I give it five star?  Well, I had to slog through a few pages here and there. Have you ever had the prose of a book turn you off? Five pages in, I was going to just stop reading, lie to Daria and say that something had come up and I wouldn't finish this in time. There were at least two pages of mea culpa that just rubbed me the wrong way.
 Thankfully, the cringe-worthy setup rhetoric was wonderfully deflated by more sarcastic, wry commentary.  For example, describing "Tom... the male character in an ill-fated courtship that led to my starring role in a summer romance novel." Or, perhaps,
"Samantha, one of the most glamorous girls in the group... never misses a Pilates class or dares to leave her house without flawless hair and makeup, even if she’s only headed to Publix..She fixed her big blue eyes upon me with the same intensity a prosecutor might employ while interrogating a witness."
While not my usual thing, I liked it. There were moments at the beginning that I was tempted to shut things down, but thankfully, the narrative saved it. It keeps the rest of the book from becoming a collection of misery or a collection of sap. The narrative flow worked here.

Now, sure, there are a few problems here and there than just the opening. For example? Chapter 3 ends with Christmas, 2004.  Chapter 4 opens with October 2006 ... so, where did 2005 go?  There was at least one incident (a nice looking neighborhood populated by unpleasant people) that I wanted a chapter out of, if only to explain how she just knew some of what she described. And the plot twists at the end .... one plot twist undercut the impact of the other, which made me a little annoyed.

The book focuses heavily on faith and politics.  If you ever wanted to by a Dr. Laura book, don't bother, just pick this one up instead.  Aside from a lot of Catholic mea culpa in the opening, and Italian cultural tropes, it was heavy on the personal spirituality, and light on the religion... She obviously prays, reads her bible, etc, and "would rather go to my church than take from the government," but aside from "not dragging her husband to church," her faith seems to exist in a complete vacuum. So, if that's a problem for you, you know it's here. (For those of you wondering what the difference is, spirituality is your personal relationship with life, the universe, and everything, usually God; religion is where you go out and worship with other people in a community.)

At the end of the day, it was an interesting little book, and readable enough even for a hardened cynic like me.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Finding the time: blogging, marketing, and ass kicking.

For some people, killing time is a figure of speech.

For me, I break out the garrot.... literally, I used to play Hitman: Blood Money.

Right now, I'm taking Krav Maga, the self defense system of the Israeli military, for when you absolutely positively have to kick someone in the crotch.  I'm also writing scenes for A Pius Stand, the final book of the Pius trilogy, and I've started on a new book, Sanctuary, a novel for Scott "Mossad" Murphy -- because I wanted to write a book where someone who never uses weapons is sent up against an army of gang bangers, armed with machineguns and RPGs.

So, I'm keeping busy while I wait for my beta readers of A Pius Legacy to get back to me.

You didn't think I forgot A Pius Legacy, did you?  Nope, it's still coming out in December (I hope) in time for Christmas..... (I'd like to have it up and running for Black Friday, but I'm not that delusional)

But it's amazing how much time can be sucked up by driving out to Long Island from Queens.  Then doing three hours of Krav Maga/cardio, then trying to fit in reading, writing, and what television I still watch.

Anyway, if I disappear from the blog for long stretches, I apologize.  This blog almost didn't get posted, such is the state of my life right now.

Despite the fans I have -- and I have some very encouraging, uplifting fans-- they don't pay the bills.  So, if I'm doing something that prevents you from buying the book, then by all means, let me know. I get very little feedback outside of a select few, who have lives of their own. This won't stop me from publishing, or writing, since I enjoy the writing, and might as well publish what I produce.

But I have to fight for every minute of time I have devoted to pushing the books, and I'm not sure if it's worth it anymore.  If no one cares, then I might as well roll up the blog and the Facebook pages and dedicate all of my time to just writing and Krav Maga.

So, I must ask you a few things.  Could you folks who have read A Pius Man comment below about the book. Did you like it? Hate it? What parts of it? I have already been told that the blog codes were annoying in the last book, so APL will not include them.

Also -- how many of you have purchased and/or read A Pius Man? If you haven't ..... could you tell me what you're waiting for? If you're waiting for a pricedrop on a paperback edition, I can arrange that. If you want a price drop on the Kindle, you already have it. If you want a hardcover, then by all means, let me know, I can arrange for it.

I'm very easy in most things -- except for sex, you'd have to work for that -- but you have to ask in order to get me to give. My ESP doesn't quite work over the internet.

Now, pardon me, I have to get my ass kicked by a 5'5" Indian girl who tends to elbow me in the throat.

Be well all, and God bless.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Review: Ender's Game

My conservative friends have always told me that any way movie is an anti-War movie, especially if the audience is paying attention.  War is never pretty, and sh-t happens. A lot.  And that's even if the war goes well.

I think I'm going to need to up my connection soon, especially since I'd want to load up the videos and graphics and pictures to go with the review. I may have to upgrade to a bt broadband package before I crash the website.

Welcome to Ender's Game.  Premise: the Earth was attacked by a bug-like species that nearly destroyed us.  We rebelled the invasion by the skin of our teeth, and a little luck.  However, in order to prepare for the next battle, the planet has decided to think differently.

And, in order to do that, we need children.

The concept of children as soldiers is not a new concept.  Just go and watch 300 if you don't believe me. In the world of Ender's Game, these children are trained for warfare via video games, and then glorified groups of lazer tag, and finally full warfare simulations.

And then, we meet Andrew Ender Wiggin, a third child in a world where offspring are regulated to control population growth (the book was writtin in the 1970s, when the world would be overrun by 1995).  He thinks in three dimensions and fights three steps ahead of everybody else.

If you've read the books, you know how the movie goes.  The film took the novel almost page by page, with some liberties taken for time compression and standard movie reversals -- and they've deleted a subplot involving Ender's brother, for which we can all be grateful.

At the end of the day, the movie was surprisingly well-acted, and not just by Harrison Ford and Ben Kingsley. I've never seen a 10-year old who can roar back at Indiana Jones. 

And the special effects.  Oh Lord, that was well done.  The special effects, the three dimensional tactics, the execution of the material .... I was surprised.

It was a very well done piece of work from director Gavin Hood -- who made a cameo appearance just long enough to be killed -- and I can't recommend it enough. Ignore the artificial controversy about the author and his political views, they seriously have nothing to do with the film.  It's a great summer movie .... I'm just trying to figure out why they put it in November.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Update and Music blog: an Evanescence song I'll tolerate

Whew.  Yes, I know I've been gone for two weeks. And yes, I think you also deserve more than just a music blog...

Okay, I'll break it to you.  A Pius Man, book two, A Pius Legacy is coming out within the next 6 weeks (depending on the beta readers).

Yes, you heard it.  This will be my third book this year, right after A Pius Man: A Holy Thriller and Codename: Winterborn.  Yes, I am a writing machine. I am unstoppable.  I will crush you....

No, wait, that was my Arnold Schwarzenegger impression, and it doesn't work online. Nuts.

Anyway, as far as A Pius Legacy goes, there is a problem. It's very, very political .... actually, it's probably not as bad as I think it is.  I thought APM was a complete and utter trainwreck of political divisiveness, and I found that it was enjoyed as much by the right-wing Catholic Daria Anne as it was by the left-wing atheist Stuart West.

When people on both sides enjoy it, I guess I did something right.

So, update delivered.  Tell your friends.


Despite what the title says, I'm not exactly against Evanescence, but I don't exactly go out of my way to find them, and if you're not a fan, coming across them by accident takes some doing.  Seriously, I think their popularity peaked around the Daredevil movie .... which probably killed a lot of their popularity, depending on who you talk to (I prefer the director's cut, myself.)

Anyway, this is one of the few songs of theirs that I know offhand... and it's done by Lindsey Stirling. So, I can forgive a lot for the amount of talent put into this.