Random Musings from my trip to Scotland

  • The airport in Dublin had poetry on the walls. Yeats. Yes, Yeats on an airport wall.
  • There is always someone playing bagpipes on The Royal Mile in Edinburgh. Always.
  • Military time is standard. “Lunch specials 1200-1500.” Finally I’m not the only one.
  • Walking the streets around the Greyfriar Cemetery, it is obvious the area inspired many ideas for JK Rowling.
  • Glencoe is so beautiful it does not seem real. (photo above)
  • Learned the origin of the phrase, “armed to the teeth.” It is actually “armed to the Teith [river],” the point where highlanders were disarmed before entering the town of Doune. Doune is also home to the castle featured in Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
  • The view from Arthur’s Seat, an ancient volcano, is breathtaking and worth the hike. (photo below)
  • I sampled about 30 varieties of Scotch whisky. They were all delightful, but my favorite was Craigellachie, a Speyside single malt aged 13 years.
  • I didn’t write nearly as much as I had hoped, but the long flights allowed me to finish reading 2.5 books.

Book Review: The Company of Demons by Michael J. Jordan

A grisly murder opened old wounds for attorney John Coleman, the narrator and main character of Michael Jordan’s debut novel, The Company of Demons. The demons surrounding him were both literal and figurative. John’s subconscious motivation to find the psychopath and vindicate his father was compelling. I cared about John even though I didn’t always like him. I had genuine empathy for his circumstances, but I also wanted to slap him around at times for being such a stupid bastard. The complexity of that emotional connection made him very real to me. Sometimes the narrator was almost too honest, too revealing. All his sins and flaws were fully exposed for the reader, but to no one else. This was a narrator I trusted, but a character that probably shouldn’t be trusted.

The pacing in the early chapters was a little slow, but the story was enticing enough to keep me reading. It really starts to pick up about 100 pages in, and then it doesn’t let off. Jordan’s control of time was skillful and disciplined. The story unfolds linearly, almost in real-time, with very few gaps, and even fewer lengthy flashbacks. The time compression before and during the trial was a little jarring at first, but ultimately necessary.

I initially had some concerns about the limitations of a first-person narrator, but Jordan was adept at putting the narrator in the right place at the right time without being heavy-handed. Jordan also created a strong supporting cast to provide alternate perspectives through dialogue, without relying solely on exposition. The portrayal of the wife and sister-in-law was a little one-dimensional and tiring at times, but given the circumstances of the interactions, perhaps that was deliberate and justified realism.

Jordan’s story is packed with suspense and plot twists. You know it’s a good story when you start reading slower toward the end, knowing there are only a few pages to go, and still wanting the story to continue. It’s always bittersweet to say farewell to characters you have started to really know and understand.

The Company of Demons is really two books in one: A serial killer thriller and a Grisham-esque courtroom drama. If you like either of those, you can’t go wrong with Jordan’s debut. I’ve been shying away from my Kindle; I realized I missed holding an actual book in my hand. The print version of the novel did not disappoint. The simplicity of the cover is what originally caught my attention on Twitter; it is even better in person. The overall design and printing are quite nice as well.

Follow Michael Jordan on Twitter @mjordanauthor and check out his website.

Neil Gaiman Rocks

I served on a submarine for several years. There isn’t much room for books on a submarine—the library was a drawer with maybe 20 tattered trade paperbacks—and, this was the pre-Kindle world. So, when we were at sea we told each other sea stories to pass the time. Some of the stories were personal (hellishly exaggerated childhood stories) and some were retellings of stories we had read. A friend once told me the story of Sandman over the course of many days at sea. Each day he picked up exactly where he had left off the day before. He described the images and captions and wove the story for me. Death was my favorite character before I even saw her depiction in the comic, but he explained every detail of her with stunning accuracy. When I eventually collected the comics for myself, I was thrilled that I was already a fan of the author; I had read (and loved) Neil’s Don’t Panic a few years before.

Neil challenged my imagination during those many days at sea. He inspired me to pick up a pencil and write. I had scribbled stories and poems in grade school, but never with much purpose or conviction. Neil made me realize I wanted to be a writer and tell stories like he did. I wanted to write stories that other people would want to retell.

Now, Neil is everywhere. He has a show on television (American Gods), a show on the radio (Anansi Boys), he has a film or two in production. He has countless books. And comics. His advice on writing and craft is sage. His generosity is endless. His contributions to the arts seem to have no bounds.

To this day, every time I see him or hear him, I am reminded to just keep writing, to just keep creating. Write. Finish things. Keep writing. I keep the message as my wallpaper, my daily inspiration.

I encourage everyone to read his books, give his books as gifts (there are ones for children, and adults, and adults that want to be children), and follow his twitter feed. Listen to him read The Raven or A Christmas Carol. Support PEN American and UNHCR, and any other cause Neil supports. Let him inspire you to do more, to be better this year.

Neil’s tweet for the new year 2018:

We love you too, Neil. Keep doing what you do.

Random musings for 2017

My creed for 2017 was “Wake up. Try not to suck.” I was moderately successful. Some random musings for the year:

  • My life is so much better now that I stopped watching The Walking Dead Dumb.
  • I discovered the novels Denis Johnson and Jennifer Egan. I don’t know what took me so long.
  • I may add “Bat Wrangler” to my resume. See Flying Vermin if you are curious.
  • I attended 5 concerts, the best of which was either Blue October or Sammy Hagar. I change my mind every time I think about them.
  • I watched Stranger Things, and Game of Thrones, and Peaky Blinders, but my favorite binge series was The Punisher.
  • I decided that Adagio for Strings by Samuel Barber is probably the best piece of music ever composed.
  • I published a few stories and poems; one was even nominated for Best of the Net.
  • I grew a beard for the first time in my life.
  • Looking forward to 2018, especially with the new venture at Genre2.
  • Official creed for 2018: Drink coffee and be awesome.
  • Unofficial creed for 2018: Just write the fucking story.

Flash Reviews Volume VI: Veterans’ Month

Veterans deserve more than a day. This month is dedicated to Veteran Authors. Buy their books! Post reviews! Support veterans!

Rajani Chronicles I: Stone Soldiers, Brian S. Converse

“The day was gray as the rain fell softly in downtown Detroit. It was a spring rain, meant to wash away the snow, blackened from passing cars, which still clogged the gutters and sidewalks; yet it only succeeded in giving the day a feeling a melancholy for all those who bore witness to the tragic scene laid out before them.”

To be fair, I typically cringe at descriptions of weather in the opening line, but I enjoyed the way the scene was set in the second line and the way it gradually transitioned me into some ominous present action. I enjoy a good tragedy. I also like the word “melancholy.”


Secrets Revealed, Willis Bullard

“My last official act while still in the military was working under assumed identity trying to retrieve information from a usually friendly country on a group of terrorists that were planning to conduct an attack against a significant embassy in Germany. I was working with the State Department in conjunction with agents from the CIA conducting an investigation on possible espionage activity within the embassy.”

This sounds like the plot for the next season of Homeland, so it scares me just a little that this is non-fiction. Non-fiction as in, this shit is real. I love the last line of the prologue, “Buckle up… this gets bumpy.”


The Catcher in the Rye, J. D. Salinger

“If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don’t feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth.”

This is one of my all-time favorite opening lines. Salinger was drafted into the Army, landed on Utah Beach, and participated in the Battle of the Bulge. Oh, and he met Hemingway while he was over there. Hemingway said he had “a helluva talent.” I tend to agree.


Top 5 Signs You are in Vegas

Some random musings from my Vegas trip:

  • Bret Michaels puts on a pretty good show.
  • Being a housekeeper in a Vegas hotel must be the worst job ever.
  • Best line from a cab driver: “Tequila helps a lot.”
  • There is a Taco Bell on the strip that serves alcohol and blasts club music.
  • Never noticed all the snarky signs before. Here are a few of my favorites:
  1. Culinary Dropout (Hard Rock Casino)
  2. Hussong’s Cantina (I can’t remember where I was, maybe Planet Hollywood)

  3. Freemont Street

  4. Todd English Pub (Aria)

  5. Goose Island Brewpub (Hard Rock Casino)


Flash Reviews Volume V: Veterans’ Month

Veterans deserve more than a day. They also deserve more than one sentence.  This month is dedicated to Veteran Authors. Buy their books! Post reviews! Support veterans!


Bishop’s War (Bishop Series Book 1), Rafael Hines

“Hours before the deadly desert sun rose above the low hills in the east, Clayton Unser walked over to one of the Valdez prison guard to ask a few questions. The moon had been full, bright enough to cast shadows, and the guard wore NVG’s (Night Vision Goggles), but Clayton made sure the man heard him coming. No reason to startle anyone in the dark when they’re holding an AR-15 assault rifle and wearing a .45 Colt Commander in a hip-holster. Clayton raised his hands palms up as a sign of reassurance, not surrender, and to make it an easy reach for the 9mm Glock 17 in his shoulder rig in case things got dicey.”

I immediately sense that Clayton is a bad-ass. If I ever need a bodyguard, I will look for someone exactly like Clayton. I may even pay him more if he will let me call him Clayton. Clayton has some skills that you can’t learn in books. Clayton is cool. Clayton is also someone I don’t ever want to anger.


The Vampire of Rome, Lincoln Farish

“Waking up on the scratchy, bare concrete floor of an underground cell beneath the Vatican in a puddle of my own saliva wasn’t the worst thing that had happened to me that day. Father Guillermo was the nicest torturer one could ever imagine.”

What could possibly be worse than waking up in a cell? In the Vatican? In a puddle of spit? Oh… torture. Got it. This is book four of the Inquisitor Series. If you haven’t already met Brother Sebastian, you need to fix that. Check out my full review of Book One.


The Things They Carried, Tim O’Brien

“First Lieutenant Jimmy Cross carried letters from a girl named Martha, a junior at Mount Sebastian College in New Jersey. They were not love letters, but Lieutenant Cross was hoping, so he kept them folded in plastic at the bottom of his rucksack.”

I couldn’t resist including the quintessential veteran story here. I expect that most people have read it, at least the first chapter. If you have not read it, or if you have only read the first chapter, then you should probably fix that too.


Veterans Deserve a Whole Month

My 3rd annual Veterans’ charity promotion begins November 1. As in the past, 100% of all book proceeds will be donated to organizations that support veterans and their families. This year I have chosen to divide the proceeds between the following organizations:

Throughout the month, I will be posting Flash Reviews of books written by fellow veterans. Please support these and other veteran authors out there!

Flash Reviews Volume IV

Welcome to Flash Reviews, Friday edition. I could promise to post reviews every Friday, but that would be a lie. I am not that organized. If you still have no idea what I am doing, read about it here. As always, if you would like to request a review of something you wrote, or something you wish you wrote, send me a message on twitter. I am an equal opportunity flasher.

Shoot ‘em Up (A Maisie McGrane Mystery), Janey Mack

“A siren bawled as Lee Sharpe, eyes flashing, grinning like a demon, loomed over my gurney. “Who stabbed you, Maisie?””

Ok. That’s technically two lines, but how can you possibly stop reading after the grinning-demon-over-the-gurney image? Besides, the dialogue is just an extension of the first line. And I make the rules anyway, so deal with it. Of course, you read the second line only to discover the main character has been stabbed. There is something about the calmness of the situation that is unsettling. Lee is suddenly a sympathetic demon. Do I want to find out why Maisie is so calm about being stabbed? Do I want to know who stabbed her? Hell yeah! You should definitely check out Janey’s website.

Spoils, Brian Van Reet

“She is the most dangerous thing around.”

I stumbled upon this and was immediately consumed. Such simplicity and intrigue. How can you not keep reading? I actually didn’t stop reading this one. Check out my full review.

In the Skin of a Lion, Michael Ondaatje

“This is a story a young girl gathers in a car during the early hours of the morning.”

The girl is Hana. You probably know her from The English Patient. But this is where she started. The English Patient was a sequel of sorts. This is my all-time favorite novel, and I highly recommend you read it. Just read the next few lines of the prologue. Stunning. I am excited he has a new novel coming in May.


The Two Great American Writers Who Met at War

Literary legends Ernest Hemingway and J.D. Salinger met more than once in the middle of World War II.

Source: The Two Great American Writers Who Met at War | Flashback | OZY

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