Friday, June 19, 2015

New Website Goes Live!

In anticipation of the release of my new book Beware of Greeks in November, I'm shifting my Internet presence to a new location. My blog, along any future content, has been moved to my new website. The new site has information about the upcoming release, any future releases, and my blog. I'd like to invite you to visit my new home on the Internet. Thanks.

Friday, June 12, 2015

"Logan's Run" - A Thought-provoking Piece of Fiction

I recently finished reading Logan's Run by William F. Nolan and George Clayton Johnson, and I have to admit that it was quite different from what I had been expecting. If you are like me, you are familiar with the 1976 film, Logan's Run, starring Michael York and Jenny Agutter. I went into the book expecting something very similar to the movie, but  as I should have expected with most Hollywood movies, the book was considerably different.

Logan's Run depicts a dystopic ageist society in the future in which both population and resource consumption are kept in check by requiring the death of everyone reaching a particular age - population control at its most extreme. As in the movie, Logan is a Sandman charged with enforcing the rule by tracking down and killing citizens who "run". When Logan reaches his own Lastday, he becomes a runner as well.

Nolan and Johnson weave an interesting tale that acts as a commentary on what might happen as life spans increase and resources dwindle. It is a critique on a world where the beauty of the young has become far more desirable than the wisdom of the aged, and limited resources can no longer be spared for those over a certain age. Logan's Run provides a glimpse into a society that use age to determine one's usefulness and worth. It is a scary proposition, and Nolan and Johnson bring it to life well in Logan's Run.

The book, however, offers more than just a dismal view of the future. Logan's Run follows Logan as he approaches his own Lastday, and learns firsthand why citizens become runners. You could call it a "coming of age" story, one where Logan's eyes are opened to the true nature of the society in which he lives.

I found this book to be very thoughtful. Don't get me wrong. It has plenty of excitement, and is a great piece of fiction. But, it makes the reader think. Could this happen in our future? As our population grows and our resources dry up, could we begin to mandate a Lastday? It was good read, and I found it to be one of those books, like Fahrenheit 451, that leaves you wondering.

It's a shame that the Logan's Run is currently out of print, as far as I could tell. But, if you can get a copy, I would suggest reading it. Don't expect it to be like the movie. If the only reason you liked the movie was because Jenny Agutter was naked in it, the book might not be for you. But, if you're looking for a good read, pick this one up if you can.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Update on "Beware of Greeks"

It's been almost two months since I announced the book deal I signed with Amberjack Publishing for my novel, Beware of Greeks. You may be wondering where things stand. So, here's a quick update. Let me start by saying that we are still slated for release on November 1st. I've been working diligently with my editor, Cherrita Lee, on the first round of edits. Never having worked with a professional editor before, I really had no idea what to expect. Would her editing simply consist of grammatical and spelling errors or did the editor playing a bigger role? I just didn't know.

As I soon learned, Cherrita wasn't just there to correct my numerous spelling errors. Her job is far more than that. She is there to help me hone the novel by pointing out small plot points that might not really work well in the scheme of the story, or point out gapping holes in the story that need plugging up before publishing. Cherrita has been a great help in making suggestions, and providing guidance. I proud to say that Beware of Greeks will be a much better book because of her efforts.

She's been through the book with her "editing pen" once so far. I've made numerous adjustments and changes based on her feedback. Now, she is reviewing those changes, and digging in for a second round of edits. The process has been quite enlightening for me. It has definitely helped me become a better writer.

On another front, in preparation of the new book's release, I have been busy working on a new website, which will go live later this summer. My blog will be migrated there, and it will be my new home on the internet. Stay tuned for an update on that.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Cabin Pressure

About a third of my iPod is filled with BBC Radio dramas and comedies. I've been a fan of BBC productions for a long, long time. Last year, I found a show that I absolutely love called Cabin Pressure, written by John Finnemore. The sitcom features the fantastic voice work of Stephanie Cole, Roger Allam, John Finnemore, and Benedict Cumberbatch. Yes, that is the Benedict Cumberbatch from Sherlock, Star Trek Into Darkness, and the Imitation Game.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

"Rough Cider" - A Well-crafted Novel

Peter Lovesey is known for his Sergeant Cribb series, as well as his series of mystery novels featuring Peter Diamond. But, he has also written a few standalone novels such as the lesser known Rough Cider. Having read and enjoyed a few of his novels from both of the earlier mentioned series, I wanted to give this one a try.

Out of the gate, Lovesey hits you between the eyes with "When I was nine; I fell in love with a girl of twenty named Barbara, who killed herself." From there, he dives into a first person narrative as told by Theo Sinclair, a professor in his fifties teaching at a small university in England, who is approached by a young woman named Alice wanting to know more about her father, an American G.I. convicted of murder in 1944. Theo, as a child, was one of the witnesses for the prosecution during the trial. And so begins a journey, for both Theo and Alice, that opens old wounds, challenges old memories, and raises new suspicions of those involved.

Let me say up front that the first couple of chapters of Rough Cider were a little slow. But, once things get rolling, this book becomes a page turner that I didn't want to put down. By using the first person narrative, Lovesey created a unique voice that provides compelling insight into Theo's state of mind as his memories of the past are brought into question, and as he analyzes his own childhood motivations. The author sends you reeling from one emotion to the other as you, one minute, feel compassion for Theo, and the other, down right hate him.

Rough Cider is not your typical "whodunit". There is no police inspector or no private detective hunts down clues, or chasing the criminal through dark alleyways. There are no forensics tests or fingerprints putting at the perpetrator. It is far more psychological in nature. And, the plot twists, as well as the surprise ending, leave you stunned.

Rough Cider is a great read, and worth the time. Remember to press on through the first few chapters, even though they seem a bit slow. It will be well worth the effort.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

A Disappointing Start with "Casino Royale"

I've never been a big fan of the James Bond films, particularly the Roger Moore era. The campiness that had become the norm in the film series (don't even get me started on Moonraker), along with the shallowness of the character had turned me off to the series. This opinion, for quite sometime had kept me from reading the books as well. A few years back, I decided to give the original series as written by Ian Fleming a try. As the old cliché goes, the book is better than the movie.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

The Memories that Arise from Death

Yesterday morning I attended the funeral for my uncle who passed away last week. The morning started out dreary and gloomy, and the drive to the church was solemn as the rain pelted the windshield of my car. It was a miserable day for a funeral, but then is any day good for a funeral?

It had been a while since I had seen my uncle, but seeing him peacefully laying in the casket brought back a rush of memories and stories. One, in particular, rose from my memory like a phoenix rises from the flames. 

My Uncle Jay was a veteran, spending his military days in the United States Army during the Vietnam War. I have a vague memory of being eleven or twelve years old sitting in a barbershop in Paulsboro, New Jersey. I was getting my hair cut (what else do you do in a barbershop when you're eleven or twelve). I remember the old men in the shop, their balding heads rimmed with white hair around the edges, discussing their time in the military. Most of them had seen action in the Korean War, and a couple even in World War II. Me, not wanting to be left out in the conversation, piped up that my Uncle Jay had fought in World War II. Let's face it, I was eleven or twelve, with no concept of historical events, or when they occurred. My Uncle Jay was in a war, and that made him a war hero to me. I touted him up as if he were Captain America himself. I have no idea if the old men believed me or not. I guess I should consider myself lucky that they weren't talking about the American Civil War, my Uncle might have fought in that too.

I've never told anyone this story, particularly my uncle. I'm not sure if he would have been happy to know how old I thought he was. But, I found it interesting how little pieces of the past can find their way to the forefront of one's mind when facing the death of a loved one. Such an insignificant moment in my life from more years ago than I wish to admit surfaces out of the darkness of a memory that can barely remember what I had for lunch yesterday. Death seems to be the great stimulus that can pierce even the furthest reaches of the mind, bringing forth a treasure trove of rich memories that can be worth more than gold.

My uncle always downplayed his time in the military, but in the mind of an eleven or twelve year old kid, he was Sergeant Fury and G.I. Joe all wrapped up in one. But, he was far more than just a military man. He was a father, husband, grandfather, prankster (a serious prankster), and many other things. His short military stint was only the tip of the iceberg of who he was. He was so much more. And, the memories are far too great to record in a few words. Uncle Jay was a fun-loving, good-hearted man, who will be fondly missed by that young boy.

Rest in Peace, Uncle Jay.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

"Guards, Guards" - A Fun Romp Through Discworld

With the recent announcement of the passing of author Terry Pratchett, I found my self mourning the loss of a prolific writer who's endless imagination created an entire world full of insanely funny characters, relentless amounts of satire, and all around great fun. Pratchett wrote his first Discworld novel in 1983, and has since expanded the series significantly over the years. Although there are recurring characters, locations, and themes that span across the Discworld novels, it is not necessary to read them in order to understand all that is happening.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Big Announcement!

I'm extremely excited to announce that I have just signed a book deal with Amberjack Publishing to release my new book Beware of Greeks. This is an exhilarating time for me, as you can probably imagine. Over the next few months, I will be working closely with the editors and graphics designer at Amberjack to get the new book ready for release, which is tentatively scheduled for November 1st. As the release draws closer, I will be posting updates on my blog and on Facebook. 

As the ink dries on my book deal, I want to thank my readers for their support. I greatly appreciate your patronage of my previous books, and I hope that you find Beware of Greeks a must read when it is released.

I'll be continuing to blog, not only about my experience with taking the new book to market, but also the usual posts that I have been posting over the past year. So, check back often for new posts here on my blog.

Dave Cullen's "Columbine"

On April 20, 1999, the names of Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold became household names. With a stockpile of weapons, they forced the small Colorado city of Columbine onto the world stage as they reigned death and destruction down upon their fellow students at the city's high school. The media flocked to Columbine, and amidst the carnage, provided a unprecedented coverage, allowing the world to see the horror almost as it happened.

Monday, March 30, 2015

"As You Wish" - My journey into the literary world of The Princess Bride

Anyone who grew up in the late eighties remembers the sight of a young Fred Savage sitting in his bed as Peter Falk reading a book that promises to have "Fencing. Fighting. Torture. Revenge. Giants. Monsters. Chases. Escapes. True love. Miracles." The book called The Princess Bride, as was the movie. And, what an epic it was. Who can forget the famous line, "My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die"? Or, the dangerous journey of our hero and heroine through the dreaded Fire Swamp? And, what about the priest's speech at the weeding of Humperdinck and Buttercup, "Mawwiage, mawwiage is whha bwings us togewether today"?

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

What happened to "Beware of Greeks"?

Perhaps you are wondering what happened to the book that I had been harping about a couple months ago. I had a cover reveal for Beware of Greeks, and even a sample chapter on the blog, but since then everything went quiet. Well, I have had a publisher express interest in Beware of Greeks. Over the past couple months, they have been reviewing my manuscript, passing it from editor to editor, and finally up to the managing editor. Last week, they expressed interest in publishing it. I just had my first face-to-face meeting (over Skype), with them today. Nothing to report just yet. We're just getting the contract negotiations started. I will post more news when I have it. Stay tuned.

Monday, March 23, 2015

"Death in Paradise" - A breath of fresh tropical air

I'm a big fan of British crime dramas, and have been for years. Inspector Morse, and its spin-off Inspector LewisFoyle's WarPoirot, and Sherlock are among my favorites. Now, I have a new show to add to my list.

Death in Paradise is a light hearted crime drama created by Robert Thorogood, his first foray into television, and he's hit a home run with it. Death in Paradise, which is now in its fourth series, is about a stiff upper-lip British police detective who gets stuck running the small police force on the island of Sainte Marie in the Caribbean. In each episode, DI Richard Poole, played by Ben Miller, leads his three subordinates (the entire police force of the island) in search of a murderer, often times with comedic results.

One thing that makes Death in Paradise enjoyable is that it is a kind of "fish out of water" story. Richard Poole is the quintessential straight-laced detective, which often puts him at odds with the more relaxed lifestyle of the island's residents, as well as the other members of the police force, all of whom are native to the island. And, to add insult to injury, Poole frequently declares that he can't find a decent cup of tea on the entire island.

Death in Paradise is a crime drama that doesn't take itself too seriously. The characters are enjoyable, as well as believable. After watching a few episodes, I found myself with a vested interest in the characters, and what happens to them. Even more, it is a British program that doesn't take the fact that it is British too seriously either. The stuffy "British" airs and graces are often the butt of the jokes in each show, creating just enough humor to keep it light.

I found Death in Paradise by accident one night last year on my local PBS station. I'm not sure what other station air it, but it is available through Netflix, as well as on iTunes.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Book Review: "The Saint in New York" by Leslie Charteris

Before there was James Bond, Philip Marlowe, Sam Spade, there was Simon Templar, aka The Saint. Leslie Charteris first created the character of the Saint in 1928, and continued to write in whole or collaborate with other writers with the character until 1983. It is no secret that I am a big fan of the Saint. It was a huge thrill to find out that the Saint books, out of print for years, were being rereleased last year.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Book Review: "The Mammy" by Brendan O'Carroll

Across the pond in the UK, the BBC has a comedy called Mrs. Brown's Boys, created by comedian Brendan O'Carroll. I've been a big fan of the show for about two years, and always find watching it to be a rip roaring good time, even though I've seen each episode about a dozen times. The show was originally based in part on O'Carroll's book called The Mammy. Since I love the show, I decided to check it out.

Both the show and the book focus on Agnes Brown, a Irish widow, as she struggles to raise her children in North Dublin. Agnes runs a fruit stand at the local market, and can be a foul-mouthed, ill-tempered mother who is very protective of her children when they are threatened. Although the language on the show can be a bit strong, it is worth dealing with a few f-bombs for all the laughs.

First, if you are familiar with the show, you'll find be surprised to find that the book takes place in an different era. The show  is set in modern day Ireland, and Agnes' children are grown up. The book takes place in the 1960s, and her children are still children. The Mammy is fun romp through the life of Agnes Brown as she adjusts to being very recently widowed. The antidotal tales that make up each chapter touch on just about every emotion. One minute, I found myself laughing hysterically, and then the next the book was tugging away at my heartstrings.

There are some truly classic moments in the book, and it is Agnes' deadpan humor makes even the most tragic moments entertaining. The first few pages start with tragedy as Agnes Brown is waiting in the social services office trying to ensure that she doesn't lose any of her widow's benefits on the very afternoon that her husband died. You should feel sad for her, but her efforts to convince the clerk that her husband is dead without a death certificate force you to smile.

The Mammy was a truly enjoyable read, and one that I found hard to put down. It is filled with colorful characters, irreverent humor, and just the right touch of humanity. If you are like me, you'll find this book to be one that you will want to go back and read again, simply because it felt good to read it the first time. I'd highly recommend The Mammy by Brendan O'Carroll.

And for those who have never seen the show, here are a few clips. Enjoy!


Friday, February 27, 2015

Book Review: "Situation Tragedy" by Simon Brett

Charles Paris is a middle-aged, mediocre British actor, and he's also a philandering womanizer, and a drunk. If Charles isn't fumbling his way across the stage of a theatre, or bumbling in front of the camera, he is in a bar somewhere drinking. The one thing that Charles Paris is good at is solving mysteries.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

I'm Feeling SO Tired...

If you are like me, you HATE getting up early. I would function so much better if I could sleep in until 10 or 11. But, life doesn't work that way. To add to that, I am a massive grouch in the morning. Just ask my wife. All she gets first thing in the morning from me is a neanderthal-like grunt until I've showered. So, when I came across this little article in my RSS feeds the other morning, it perks my interest.

Business Insider threw together a nice graphic that talks about nine (9) easy tips for waking up early. It can be found here. They mention several items that I've heard before like, reading for 30 minutes before going to bed, not using your smartphone in bed, etc. But, there is some good stuff in here.

They also have a couple good, short articles about sleep that I found interesting. I've included the links below. Nighty nighty.

Business Insider - How To Get Up Early

Business Insider - There Are Actually Four Sleep Patterns

Business Insider - How To Sleep Better

Friday, February 6, 2015

Book Review: "Stiff" by Mary Roach

Allow me to introduce you to Mary Roach. She was born in New Hampshire. Moved to San Francisco after college, and has written five books covering topics from the afterlife to sexual physiology to space exploration. One might think, from that list, that her books might be long, boring scientific studies. But, when those topics are looked at through Roach's eyes, they become gems worth reading.

Let's start with a book that I recently finished called Stiff. It was Roach's first book, released in 2003. For 2,000 years, cadavers -- some willingly, some unwittingly -- have been involved in science's boldest strides and weirdest undertakings. Stiff is an oddly compelling, and often hilarious exploration into the strange lives of our bodies postmortem.

Stiff is very entertaining, and I have to admit, that I have never been afraid of dying until after reading this book. Not so much because of the mysteries of the unknown, but more because I fear what someone might do with my body once I'm gone. Roach gives the reader an amusing look at what can happen when you donate your body to science. She visits a garden where cadavers lay out in the sun all day, not to get a tan, but to trace the rate of decay on a human body. She meets cadavers used in crash tests for automobiles. Dissection in medical school anatomy classes is about the least bizarre of situation you can imagine.

One of the things, and there are many, that I love about Stiff is the way Roach provides the facts in a matter-of-fact way, and then brings relief from what could be a very macabre topic with her singular sense of humor. Just when you think that the details are getting a little too much to take, Roach welcomes the reader back to reality with a little comic relief.

This is one of those books that you end up reading to your friends just because you found some interesting, and often, bizarre fact that you simply can't keep to yourself. When you first hear about the topic, some readers may shy away with the thought that it might be too graphic, but trust me, it is well worth reading.

If you're looking for something a little different, and perhaps a bit unusual to read this year, I'd highly recommend Stiff.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Penny pinching at Walmart? Not on these items.

I don't do a lot of shopping at Walmart. It's not because I think shopping there is beneath me or because I have some altruistic believe that the massive shopping behemoth is out to crush small businesses, or anything like that. There simply isn't a Walmart close by my house that is worth going to. The best one is at least fifteen to twenty minutes away. Having said that, I am aware that Walmart has really good prices on a lot of stuff.

For those who like to pinch pennies (and who doesn't try to save money these days), Walmart is always a good option. Well, according to a recent article from Kiplinger, you should take a step back when shopping for some items at Walmart, and rethink your purchasing strategy.

Kiplinger did some comparison shopping, and found eleven items that you can get cheaper elsewhere. Among them were toys and games, organic milk, brand name diapers, and more. Kiplinger found places like Amazon, Trader Joes, and wholesale clubs like Costco and BJs to offer better prices on a number of items.

To read the whole article, click here.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Book Review: "The War of the Worlds Murder" by Max Allan Collins

Being a fan of the excitement and drama that came out of the Golden Age of Radio, I found myself drawn to the book that I just finished reading. The War of The World Murder by Max Allan Collins is set in 1938, just  before and during the famous "War of the Worlds" radio broadcast by Orson Welles and the Mercury Theater of the Air on CBS. Collins embroils Orson Welles and pulp writer Walter Gibson - creator of the pulp superhero The Shadow - in a murder mystery when a body is discovered in the CBS studios just minutes before the famous broadcast of War of the Worlds is scheduled to begin. With Welles as the number one suspect, Gibson has exactly one hour - while Welles is on the air enacting the infamous hoax story about Martian invasion - to find the real murderer and clear the radio star's name.

The concept of involving real life characters in fictitious mysteries is not a new one. Ron Goulart had a very successful series involving Groucho Marx. Harry Houdini was a member of a fictional secret society in The Arcanum by Thomas Wheeler. The trend has gone on for years.

Let me start by saying that I loved The War of the Worlds Murder. The pacing was excellent, the detail of an era gone by was incredible, and the characterization of some of Old Time Radio's legends was fantastic. Collins did an admirable job in building up the relationships between the characters and providing insight into the daily dynamic of each individual. The way that Collins intermixes Gibson's investigation with the radio broadcast as well as the world's reaction to said broadcast was incredible, making the last half of the book a page turner that you just don't want to put down.

It was obvious that Collins placed a great deal of effort in researching his topic. His detail surrounding the historical context of the story seemed precise, making it easy for the reader to envision each scene with ease.

If I had only one complain about the book, it would be this. When the solution to the crime is revealed (and I won't give anything away), I found myself, for a moment, feeling a little cheated. But, after I considered the surrounding historical events, the ending makes perfect sense and wouldn't have been correct if done any other way.

This is, by far, one of the most enjoyable books I've read in recent months. It drew me in, and kept me hooked until the end. I would highly recommend The War of the Worlds Murder.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

The Thrilling Adventure Hour Brings Back Radio's Golden Age

I've always had an affinity for audio dramatizations and old time radio shows. My iTunes library in loaded shows from the 1930s through the 1950s, and even a vast collection of modern shows produced by the BBC. There are few, if any radio stations in America that produce audio dramas these days. The concept disappeared with the rise of television. While recordngs of the old programs are still available, new broadcasts do not happen anymore.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Book Review: "A Great Deliverance" by Elizabeth George

I don't think there has ever been a more unlikely pair of detectives than Detective Inspector Thomas Lynley and Detective Sergeant Barbara Havers. Lynley is from the upper part of the upper crust, with a title and all. Havers hails from the lower income part of London, and carries a massive chip on her shoulders about it as well. Neither thinks highly of the other, but they are forced to work together for the first time when a sixteen year old girl is accused of decapitating her father in a barn in the countryside of the small English town of Keldale.

I've seen the Inspector Lynley Mysteries on PBS, but they did not prepare me for A Great Deliverance by Elizabeth George. This is the first in the Lynley/Havers series written by George. I will admit that, at first, I struggled through the first few chapters of this book. It is not that it is poorly written, but Elizabeth George tends to use quite elaborate turns of phrase in her writing that doesn't necessarily appeal to me. But, I pressed on and was rewarded in the end for my perseverance.

As Lynley and Havers come to terms with their forced partnership, they also make strides in solving the mystery. The final five chapters generated such emotional response that I found it impossible to put down. I must warn you, though, those five chapters are not for the faint of heart. There were moments where I wanted to throw the book across the room in hopes that it could inflict some form of imagined pain upon some of the characters as punishment for the unspeakable crimes committed. What started as a slower page turner ended as a roller coaster of emotion once the full extent of the crime is revealed.

You may have noticed that I have steered clear of revealing any plot lines. It is the kind of book that reads far better by not knowing anything when you crack open the cover. But, again, if you are faint of heart, you may want to avoid this one. The ending can be gruesome and heart wrenching.