I Can’t Quit Reading

A little over a week ago I ran across an article that discussed a serious problem that can affect some readers – the inability to quit reading a book you don’t like.

I suffer from this affliction. I can count on one hand the number of books that I have put down, unable to finish, in the last ten years. 3. If I include the number I wished I had stopped reading, that number climbs. Technically, if I go back farther, into college for example, the number grows significantly. But those books are a different story and not ones that I count as part of this problem.

The writer of the article from BookRiot.com mentions that a bookseller at local bookstore has been trying to talk her out her problem for nearly a decade. Her argument for completing books she doesn’t like is much grander in scale than mine. She wonders if the end of said book answers a question that she has always pondered. Her bookseller friend mentions two points; (I’m paraphrasing and inferring) first, if you didn’t like the first 200 pages why would you like the second 200, and second, you won’t ever be able to read all the books you want anyway.

My reasons could only aspire to be as lofty and existential as hers. I simply feel that once I’ve decided that I’m not enjoying a book, I’ve devoted too much time to it to simply put it aside and move on. You’d think I’d know that by the time I was 50 pages in, but I continue to give books another chance. I think, maybe if I read another chapter or another 15 pages something will happen that will change my perspective. The next thing you know, I’m over halfway through a book I’d rather burn than finish, yet I continue to slog through to the end.

Before reading her article I had two questions. The first, she answered as I now know that I’m not the only one that tortures myself like this. Second, is there a way to stop? The three books I’ve stopped reading over the last 10 years have all been extreme cases. I would have to purposefully set aside time to read in hopes to move closer to the end. After too long attempting to read the book I came to realize that I no longer remembered what previously happened in the book.

Maybe one day I’ll come to realize that it’s okay to put down a book I don’t like and move on to the one on my shelf calling my name. Until then, I will just have to continue to be selective in picking my reading material.

Do you have any books you haven’t finished? Why?

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It’s Leap Year!!: a great reason for an e-book sale!

If you haven’t picked up this book and read it yet, do yourself a favor and do it this weekend. You won’t regret it.

M.P. McVey

As a child, I was always confused by the idea of leap year. I was bewildered by the idea that one out of four years would be longer than the rest. Imagine a child born on that day and only having a birthday party every four years … what  a travesty.

But as I got older I realized the importance of Leap Year. The Gregorian calendar, by which we live, is not a perfect tool. After all, a day is not truly a day–seeing how it takes our rock 24 hours and 59.178 seconds to complete a full rotation.

This seems like such a small, insignificant amount… even at the annual total of six hours. But science is very finicky when it comes to things such as math. Astronomically speaking, each and every second matters when it comes to celestial events and seasons.

Life would be different without it. Without…

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Piled High and Deep

When I wrote my last post a few weeks ago I had the best intentions, as I always do, to blog more frequently. This time I wasn’t going for anything spectacular. I hoped to have a new post every two weeks. Well, I’m a week behind. But, it’s better than nothing.

In those three weeks I’ve added more writing projects to my plate. It seems that the more I sit down and work on any one writing project I find others that both interest me and call to me.

With help from my wonderful wife I have started in on edits to a short story that I wrote more than a year ago. I hope to have it finished and ready to be sent out for consideration soon. (Mental note: I should probably give myself a hard and fast deadline on that.)

I have also decided to tweak and work on another story I completed some time ago. One of the writing groups I’m a part of on Facebook (I love being in touch with other authors on Facebook) is putting together an anthology. This will be the second one that will include stories submitted only by authors of this group. The group is large, but I’m hoping that my story will stand out enough to warrant inclusion. If chosen it will see ebook and hard copy availability. That idea alone is exciting.

As if I needed more stories to work on, I ran across another anthology that’s accepting submissions. The cool twist for this one is to take a public domain story (fairy tale or other such) and retell it with a sci-fi bent. I think I’ve narrowed it down and am brainstorming a way to rework and retell The Elves and the Shoemaker. At this point I just need that one little thing to make it really unique and then I should be off and running. Really hoping that once the pieces come together I can knock out that story in an evening.

All of this on top of continuing to work night after night on Hush. I’m making progress, but beginning to feel like I need to put a cap on it. Not that it is getting too long, I just need to have an ending in sight. The new trailer for Netflix Daredevil Season 2 is going to be my motivation. Set to debut March 18th I’m going full bore to get a draft of Hush completed by then. We’ll see.

At this point I’m just excited that my continued daily work on Hush hasn’t drained my creative juices, it appears to have just fueled them. Excited to see what I can come up with in the next month. Time to check some projects off the To-Do List.

A Look Back, A Look Forward

Last year about this time I decided I would try a new way to motivate myself, mostly in regards of my writing. I looked back at what I’d accomplished as a writer in 2014 and posted goals I hoped to achieve in 2015. Needless to say, I accomplished very little in regards to those writing goals. Not for lack of trying. And I’m okay with that.

For much of the year my writing goals got sidetracked by my other hobbies (such as I have time for). But it was not a total loss. I learned a lot about what I need to do in order to be productive as a writer while continuing balancing all the other aspects of my life.

The largest achievement I made in my writing was in thanks to a Writing Challenge setup and orchestrated by a couple of authors from The Fantasy Sci-Fi Network. The goal is meant to help motivate and garner results in the “What About Bob?” mentality. Baby steps. It’s really quite simple. Write 100 words (or more) a day on a project that fits in the realm and purview of FSFNet. In October I took the challenge to heart and between October 1 and December 31 I wrote at least 100 words each and every day. 92 days. I totaled 30,261 words. The best part of this challenge was that I created and fostered a good habit. The other participants were fabulous motivators. We cheered and supported each other the whole way along.

Each and every one of those words I wrote in those three months was added to my horror/paranormal novella. By the time the challenge ended I progressed from a novella, to a full-blown novel. This piece is likely to end up over 70,000 words when I finish the first draft. It’s exciting. It’s invigorating. It’s addictive.

I’ve continued on with another challenge supported by the FSFNet. Thus far I have nearly 8,000 more words. While a few hundred are for a short story that desired itself written, the vast majority are added to that 30,000.

The task of completing the story I set forth writing is moving towards its conclusion. I can see an ending and with it the completion of a draft of my first novel. An amazing achievement in itself. I have every intention of working on this project after completing the draft. I’m going to edit and edit and edit. My wife and alpha reader is already looking forward to reading it and helping me strengthen every aspect of the story. From there…I have a few ideas, but nothing concrete yet. Ideally, the novel will be ready and available by the end of 2016.

Once that project is on to edits, I have other places my mind wants me to write about. I’ll visit those as I attempt to maintain my new found habit and addiction to writing. Practice makes perfect. And so I will.

I have a few concrete goals in mind, but unlike last year I don’t think I’m going to lay them out here. They are tucked away for me to know, and hopefully as the milestones are passed, I can share that excitement and adventure with you.

P.S. One final note about the growing horror/paranormal novel that is my current focus. For those that I’ve spoken with about my writing in the past know titles are quite often the hardest part for me. I have decided on a title and plan to reveal that to family and friends on my Facebook page this Friday. Hopefully, you’ll stop by and tell me what you think of it. And maybe, if the creative juices flow steady enough until then, I’ll toss in the synopsis or a rough snippet.

A Boy and His Dog

Over the last couple of weeks my wife and came to a very difficult decision. One of our two dogs needed to find a new place to live. We’ve had one dog since the winter after we got married, we celebrated 11 years this summer. Our other dog we adopted around 3 years later. They were our kids until we had kids. Like a lot of families when human children arrive the animal children are required to take a back seat. One of the dogs has adjusted more easily than the other. I’m sure their breed mixes have something to do with that. The chow/lab mix has grown more and more displeased with his place on the totem pole as time has gone on. The lab/retriever mix continues to be as happy-go-lucky as always.

The final straw came recently as the chow/lab began to become more aggressive. Growling under his breath. The choice became clear. We couldn’t trust him around our boys (4 and almost 1 year old). Last week I drove with him to a local shelter and surrendered him over. I hope that he will have a chance to live his remaining time with a loving family (without smaller children – which seem to annoy him).

I’ve already witnessed the largest benefit to giving up one dog. Our remaining dog (the lab/retriever mix – Duke) loves the boys and loves to play. Before the weather turned colder this week I was able to take a walk with all 3 boys in the afternoon after their naps. D wanted to hold the leash. While initially a little uneasy, I knew that Duke would listen to me better than our other dog ever would have. We gave it a shot. D had the best time being able to walk Duke.

walkingduke

Seeing this just solidified to me that we made the right decision. While we made the decision for one reason, it’s clear now that the benefits will be much greater than if we continued on the way we had and my boys can go back to loving and living with the happiness that is a dog.

The Reason I Run

While I have a few stories that I could link and publish this week for another edition of Nerd News I feel that this week I need to go a little more free form with my post. If the mood strikes me I may toss that geekery together and post it, but not now.

A little more than 4 years ago I decided that I wanted to start running for exercise. I’ve never been a gym rat, I don’t have the time to commit to crossfit or lifting weights on a regular basis, but I needed to do something. I also chose running because I thought it might, initially, require the least monetary investment. I already owned athletic shorts, I had old t-shirts I could run in, if I bought a few pairs of socks and a new pair of dedicated running shoes, paired with a program (Couch to 5K) and its accompanying app on my phone I should be good to go. I also chose it because my wife and I were expecting our first child. I wanted to be able to get down on the floor, roll around, and run around the yard with my kids. Running, I thought, could be a gateway for better health and maybe in the future other exercise. So, I started the program.

I’d had problems with my knees since junior high, so I figured, take it slow and I’ll be fine. I was mistaken. My knees again brought pain and frustration. It wasn’t serious enough to go to the doctor, so I would just rest and once feeling better, I’d start again. The birth of D and the winter months sidelined me further. I got going again in the summer. I’d done some research, changed shoes, and started again. Again, before long I was sidelined, this time, my knees were fine, it was awful shin splints. Months of rest and a fresh start.

Before long, my wife gained an interest and we both began running again. She was my ultimate motivation to keep going. It was fun to be able to go out, pushing the stroller with D cruising along, both of us, spending time  together and exercising.

We have both gotten smarter and stronger in our running since those days. We have both finished a half marathon. She finished it a year before I could make the mileage. She would have run with me last year, but she was pregnant with our second son. Since F has arrived our running has been sporadic at best, but we usually get out individually about once or twice a week for runs of about 5K (3.1 miles).

In order to make running easier for us with 2 little boys we invested in a double jogging stroller. It was well worth it. But, getting out and running has still been difficult. As the weather begins to cool off we both hope to pick up the pace. Running in cooler weather is like running in a new body. The crisp fall air rushing past your face working to balance out a warm autumn sun on your face.

I am privileged enough to be able to be a stay-at-home dad during the day. One of my favorite perks is that if I wasn’t able to drum up motivation in the morning for a run, when the boys wake from afternoon naps, if time permits before my wife arrives home from work, we can squeeze in a run. Today was one of those days. While D was initially resistant, he warmed up quickly to the idea and we got ready to go.

As recently as this summer D has emulated his mother and I when it comes to running. He will put on our half marathon medals that hang on the fridge and run circles around the living room. When we go out for runs he will often start by running up and down the sidewalk then allow me to buckle him into the stroller. He will also grab out headphones and hold them to his ears while doing his “runs”. Like mommy and daddy, as he says. He has even requested and we purchased a headband so he can go on runs.

A few times in the last couple weeks when I go, he wants to run with me. Not sitting in the stroller with F. Okay. He runs on the sidewalk while I jog pushing the stroller against  the curb. His longest distance before today was 1/2 mile. Pretty awesome for 4 years old. Today he said he wanted to run. Sure. Off we go. I’ve run the same route so many times now I have a pretty good idea of the 1/2 mile markers. I thought  he would sputter and ask to sit around a 1/2 mile. Nope. He wanted a small drink from his water bottle and insisted on continuing on. We took a few short breaks for  a drink and to walk about 15-20 steps, but then he would continue to run. He went 2 MILES before he decided he wanted to ride!

When I first started running it was to help improve my own health. I never in my wildest dreams ever thought that our son would wish to imitate our love of running. Ever. Especially, so early. I smiled the whole time we were out today. As of today, my boys are the reason I run.

Nerd News…Again

Usually while preparing for The Geek Awakens radio show I manage to find multiple stories that we just don’t have time to cover on air. This week I was only able to scrape together a few which means I don’t have much as far as a Nerd News update goes. Let’s see what else is out there for us to geek out over.

Beautiful Blue Beijing – In honor of the 70th anniversary of Japan’s defeat in World War II 5 million cars were required to drive alternately in order to allow the smog over the city to dissapate. The change is absolutely shocking. Two things came to mind when I first saw the pictures after the jump. “Wow!” and a quote from Get Shorty’s Dennis Farina, “They say the (bleep)ing smog is the (bleep)ing reason we have such beautiful (bleep)ing sunsets.” If nothing else it should give us all pause to think about the pollution we feed into the atmosphere everyday.

Cyberpunk Speed Chess – We actually talked about this on air, but it definitely makes more sense if you take time to watch the video included in the link. It’s really a cool idea and as mentally challenging as chess is, I think it would awesome to give this new fast paced game a shot.

NerdCon: Stories – I’ve always been a nerd. Geeking out about stuff is normal for me. As my geekery is refreshed as I spend time reading comic books, enjoying the wealth of superhero movies, and strive for more in my young writing career I have also found a desire to experience a “con”. The link is for a new “con” that will be debuting in the beginning of October. It is meant to focus on storytellers of all kinds. A few featured names appearing are John Scalzi and Patrick Rothfuss. Hopefully it is well received and successful and begs for an expanded encore next year.

I’ve already found a few stories for on air next week, so hopefully I will have a few more fun, interesting, nerdy links for all of you next time.

More Nerd News You Need to Know

Another week another episode of The Geek Awakens in the books. Two weeks ago when I did the Nerd News update I planned on doing one each and every week after we completed the radio show. Last week, I failed. This week, I’m back with a vengeance. Not really, just a few extra news stories that I didn’t get to post last week.

There is some cool, awesome, fun news that is not really of the geeky variety, but it still something worth geeking out about. Beginning this week and from here on out, The Geek Awakens was live on the internet radio station 217 Radio.com. If you can’t tune in at 6:30pm on Thursdays, the show is still being recorded and uploaded to Ustream. (I’ll make sure to share the link on my author Facebook page each week after the show airs.)

Now…on to the Nerd News.

How Fast Is New Horizons? – I’m not a big space geek, but the pictures captured on Mars and those released late this summer from Pluto are really cool. It never occurred to me how long it takes these probes to get where they’re going in space until I saw the GIF in the linked article. To travel through space, beginning from Earth and reaching Pluto in less than ten years the New Horizons interplanetary space probe has to travel crazy fast. And according to NASA’s website, New Horizon’s isn’t done exploring. It is being sent further into the Kuiper Belt, of which Pluto is a member. They’ve already discovered four new moons for Pluto. What else is out there?

Batman’s Garage – I think it’s a safe bet that all of us who have seen the most recent Batman movies have looked at the Batcave and wondered what it would be like to have something like that tucked away under your house. Well, a house in Australia now knows what it is like. Part of the tennis court raises and lowers to hide away a garage for the owners car collection. Add a very impressive garage without changing the architecture of the house? With enough money. Sure.

Two Villains for Wonder Woman – As the arrival of the Batman v Superman film draws closer, it is time to start looking farther down the pipeline at the other DC movies in development. It seems as if when Wonder Woman’s own flick hits theaters she’ll have two problems outside of the squabble of Batman and Superman. Sean Bean and Eva Green are rumored to play gods with something against Wonder Woman. Personally, I’m just hoping that Sean Bean can find a role where he won’t die.

No One Hangs Out At the Mall Anymore, Right? – Supergeek himself, Kevin Smith has been inching forward with plans to film and hatch upon the world a second Mallrats movie. Following Kevin Smith on social media, he revealed earlier this year that most (if not all of the original) cast is back on board for the sequel, and now it appears as if he has nailed down his filming location. I’m very excited for this sequel to come to fruition. I’m sure I won’t be the only one making plans to see this on opening night.

More Drones! – Drones seem to be a popular topic for us at The Geek Awakens and this article and the video show what happens when you strap a whole bunch of drones together to make a helicopter-type craft. It’s called The Swarm. So, I guess you can have a flock of geese, a herd of cattle, and The Swarm of drones. Either that or it’s a title for a B horror movie.

There’s A Story Idea Buried Here – Among the many hats I wear, I am also a writer and as such am constantly finding inspiration for stories in the strangest places. You know what else is strange? When the people of a small Irish town found a skeleton attached to a felled tree. A storm toppled the tree and wrapped up in the roots, now exposed to the world, was the top half of a skeleton. The bottom half wasn’t far behind. It was still in the ground below the tree. While many aspects of the discovery are still being investigated, researchers were able to determine that the bones could be nearly 1000 years old. I will be following this story as I continue to develop my own interpretation and get it down on paper. (Maybe it too will someday see the light of day.)

I could go on for days with geek news that we didn’t get to talk about on the show, and expand upon some things we DID talk about. But I’ll leave you with these tidbits for the week. Hopefully, I’ll be able to continue these on a weekly basis. Check back next week to see what else there is to geek out about.

Comparing Monsters to Rats: A Review of True Detective Season 2

True Detective Season 2 ended in early August. Everyone has had time to sit on it and think it over. Myself included. And when searching online for True Detective Season 2 there is a dearth of negativity and poor reviews. After reading many of those negative things said about Season 2 I stumbled on an article from Nerdist.com by Benjamin Bailey. Finally, there is someone out there that understands more of what Pizzolatto was trying to accomplish with this season.

Bailey is spot on with two very important points. First, Season 1 was very much out of the Lovecraftian mythos. Explicitly, no. Not as if Cthulu makes an appearance, but the vibe, or feel is in line with those stories. Second, Season 2 was not cut from the same cloth. Early on it was clear that stylistically the seasons are different. While both dark and exploring the depths of human emotion and interaction that is where the similarities end. And this is where everything else online tries to measure Season 1 against Season 2. Stop. They aren’t the same and they weren’t meant to be. From the beginning of the show it was meant to be self-contained seasons. Season 1 having different cast and setting than Season 2. So, why are people so intent on comparing apples to oranges? Or is it monsters to rats? (It is a hypothetical. I don’t actually have an answer.)

I will admit that the performances by the main cast in Season 2 were not up to the same standard as Matthew McConaughey’s in Season 1. But in all reality, the bar was set incredibly high. Woody Harrelson, while giving a strong performance, was just along for the ride. To expect all four actors to give performances like McConaughey’s is ridiculous. That said, when the cast listing came out I knew that the one to watch for a breakout-type performance would be Vince Vaughn. While much of what I read online focused on the series in general, I would have to argue that Vaughn did deliver with one of his best, if not the best performance of his career. I rooted for him, even as a crime boss, from beginning to end. I hoped things would end differently for him, but seeing Season 2 through the filter, of what it was, a noir, it was acceptable and understandable.

After Season 1 I went out and purchased a copy of Pizzalatto’s book, Galveston. After reading it I expected a more noir feel from Season 2. And that is exactly what we got. While the detective aspect remained, the feel followed more closely to Pizzalatto’s writing style. I must be the only one not surprised by the turn from the occult to double-crossing-cops-on-the-mob-payroll in this season. I’m also probably the only one that would like the noir feel to continue into Season 3. Early rumors are already swirling that Season 3 will turn back toward more occult-ish fare, but I pray that Pizzalatto is able to weave the two styles together successfully. If he can manage that, I fear that Season 1 may be measured against 3 while 2 will be set aside as an anomaly.

The long and short is that critics and fans alike need to stop comparing the two seasons. They aren’t meant to be binge-watched back to back. In fact they are meant to hit so hard that you don’t want to watch more than a few episodes at a time. In that regard, maybe Season 2 fell somewhat short of Season 1, but aside from that comparison, they should stand separately, on their own merits.

Nerd News You Need to Know

As if I my life wasn’t busy enough, a feeling I think most of us know and understand all too well, I have recently added a new venture to my schedule. With help, assistance, and blessing from my wife I am now a member of the internet radio show/podcast, The Geek Awakens. (You can find us on http://www.pickettandjoe.com) For the show all the members bring geeky news stories that we find throughout the week to discuss on air. Originally scheduled for a half hour program, we’ve gone over time the last two weeks and still aren’t able to cover all the topics brought to the table. As such, I’m going to try to bring additional geekery to my blog on a regular basis. Some of the things we don’t get to discuss I am going to toss up here for you to peruse and read. Hopefully, you find these stories as interesting and can geek out on them like we do on the show.

Photos of Planes Going Supersonic – This article from I F***ing Love Science.com explains how these pictures were taken, but needless to say, as they mention, you’d think these were either photoshopped or part of an art installation rather than actual photos.

CSI Series Finale – There isn’t much after the jump besides a picture and short blurb. My wife and I have watched CSI (and all the spin-offs save the newest) for the majority of its run. Sadly, the last year or two has gotten too repetitive to hold our interest despite the incredible choice to add Ted Danson to the cast as the latest night shift supervisor. CSI has had its success and it is time for it to head off into the sunset. Thankfully, instead of plodding through another whole season they have decided to give it a special series finale episode which will bring back some favorite characters. (Gil, Catherine, and Brass.) I will absolutely DVR this episode and look forward to seeing how they draw the series to a close.

Amazon Trumping Netflix – Recently Netflix said that allowing users to download shows or movies to watch at a later time (while offline) would never happen. Amazon and their Prime Video service have just taken a step to “1-up” Netflix. As noted in the article, while previously only available on the Kindle Fire tablet, users on Android and iOS devices will now be able to save certain shows or movies for later viewing. It’s an interesting debate considering that more and more of the country and the world is so plugged in and becoming a constantly connected society. Regardless, I’ll have to pop over and see what shows and movies they available.

Hopefully, I’ll be back next week with a few more fun, interesting, and geeky stories for you.