Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Happy New Year!

The Grio

Iraq War Memoir Marked by Macabre Humor

Does My Suicide Vest Make Me Look Fat?Does My Suicide Vest Make Me Look Fat? by John Ready
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

In John Ready’s war, a car backfire can form the basis for claiming combat decorations. An officer tests HUMVEE armor by blasting away with a pistol, narrowly missing his own troops. A unit’s whimsically garish Christmas decorations serve as aiming points for enemy rockets.

Serving in Iraq from 2003 to 2004 as a Civil Affairs officer responsible for Baghdad reconstruction projects, Ready presents 47 recollections that capture the funny, the tragic, the stupid, and the deadly from a war that ended in victory, then deteriorated into bloody insurgency.

Mostly in the range of two to four pages, these pieces are not chronological, bouncing around from the author’s hectic deployment to a sometimes bleak post-war period where the joy of reuniting with family collided with the bitterness of certain indelible memories.

A rare view into Army Civil Affairs, this book is worthwhile read.

View all my reviews

Saturday, December 28, 2013

No Kindle Necessary to Read Jury Doody

Available here.

You don't need a Kindle to enjoy eBooks from Amazon. Download a free Kindle app and enjoy your favorite stories on phones, Macs, PCs, Blackberries, you pick 'em. What's it to me what you read? I would like my Kindle-less friends and family to have an opportunity to read my short essay, Jury Doody now available on Kindle Direct Publishing.

And should the post-Christmas spirit move you to plunk down .99 for a read, please rate your reading experience and leave a comment. Ditto if you're a member of Goodreads.

And if this tub-thumping appeal leaves you completely unmoved, or you're low on cash, or bleary-eyed from technology in general, bless you and have a very Happy New Years!

Thursday, December 26, 2013

The Two Sieges of Rhodes: Knights and Turks Battle for Island Base

The Two Sieges of Rhodes, 1480-1522The Two Sieges of Rhodes, 1480-1522 by Eric Brockman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A crusading order evicted from the Holy Land at the end of the thirteenth century, the Knights Hospitaller needed a home to continue opposing Islamic expansion. Settling on the island of Rhodes near Asia Minor, they commenced raiding Muslim shipping in the eastern Mediterranean. Relying on first person accounts and other historic documents, Eric Brockman details a pair of Turkish assaults aimed at ousting the offending Knights from their Rhodian stronghold.

History, tactics, religion and politics all play a part as the outnumbered religious order scraps to defend their harbor fortress. Brockman sets the attacks against the backdrop of a disunited Christian Europe, unwilling to rally in support of the Knights against the growing might of the Ottoman Empire.

A very readable account with personalities and intrigue coloring the narrative. At 163 pages, I thought the book a little short for two sieges. Still, it does set the stage for later historic events in the ongoing war between the Ottoman Turks and the Knights Hospitaller of St. John.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

A Warner Bros. Merry Christmas!

Inspired by a Facebook post from friend Josh, and plucked from the blog of Tom Ruegger, here are the Warners Brothers (and sister) as shepherds from "The Little Drummer Warners." Back in the day, we showed the episode to Steven Spielberg who joked that we now owed him a Warner Bros. tribute to a Jewish holiday. Hanukkah and Thanksgiving at the same time would have been perfect, but that kind of calender gold doesn't roll around too often. Plus Animaniacs would've needed to be airing for twenty years like Gunsmoke. So we still owe him.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Wonderstorms: Sharp Writing Reins in Fantasy Anthology

Wonderstorms: A Fantasy AnthologyWonderstorms: A Fantasy Anthology by Brian Clopper
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Young people with special gifts and big troubles describe most of the protagonists in this quintet of fantasy tales. With ‘wonderstorm’ as a prompt, Keith Robinson, A.E. Howard, Roger Eschbacher, Brian Clopper and Jason Asala weave the word into their worlds as everything from a vortex, to a talisman, to a ludicrous supernatural power. I especially enjoyed Eschbacher’s “Undrastormur,” which neatly blended myth,tension and humor in relating the fate of a troll-plagued village.

Good writing across the board. And while I’m not a big consumer of Young Adult fantasy stories, this batch was compelling enough to keep me thumbing my Kindle. Definitely worth a read.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

World Literary Cafe Rocks!


 A fine writerly site filled with useful tips on boosting blog readership, Facebook likes, finding beta readers and a host of other helpful tasks. They are one of my favorite author resource websites and can give you a welcome hand increasing your visibility. Examine their wares, as time permits.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Running Posts Rate High

Adventures in Running

Here sayth the blog metrics: more unique views have accrued to a six-year old recount of a 10K race than the recent publication of my ebook, Jury Doody. And by a substantial margin. Clearly, instead of writing about my jury duty stint, I should have repackaged all my old race reports from back in the day. Stay tuned for my new ebook, From Marathon to Couch Potato in Only Four Years:  A Middle-Aged Runner Reports.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Jury Doody Up on Amazon

Illustrated by D.C. Richter.
 A short humorous essay on jury duty in Los Angeles, this wee piece breaks the ice and finally gets me established on Amazon. Why, they even gave me an author's URL. I celebrated last night by ordering a large pizza and watching Chinatown. (I know. Born to be wild.) I use a variation on the last line of that film as a subheading in my essay.

Thanks to law Professor Glenn Reynolds for the link to my Author Page. His Instapundit blog is a high traffic beast and is responsible for the following Jury Doody metrics:
Before I get too carried away, this is only the start. But after a year of hard work on a number of pieces, it's gratifying to finally see one live.

Thursday, December 05, 2013

Famous People Born on My Birthday

From December 5, 2011, I repost my birthday thoughts on fame and fortune. What have I learned in two years? A kind word opens many doors and always get back-end money.

Thank you very much to all who have, so far, wished me Happy Birthday. In thinking of this day, I am reminded of several famous Americans who share my date of birth. I will list three and examine their accomplishments as compared to mine.

1. Martin Van Buren - b. Dec. 5, 1782

2. George Armstrong Custer - b. Dec. 5, 1839

3. Walt Disney - b. Dec. 5, 1901

4. John P. McCann - b. Dec. 5, 1952

1. Martin Van Buren succeeded greatly in becoming the 8th President of the United States but was hardly remembered even in his own day. He had a large bull frog stuffed and used as an ink well in the White House. However President Taft later sat on it by accident and they had to throw the thing out. That's about it.

2. George Armstrong Custer succeeded greatly as a soldier in the Civil War but had a mixed record fighting Indians. (1-1-2, I think.) He is best remembered for his spectacular fail at the Battle of the Little Big Horn. At first, everything was going well; then it all fell apart under an Indian tsunami. In later years, Custer had a park named after him as well as a monument and a movie where his part was played by Errol Flynn. That's a whole lot more than Van Buren ever got.

3. Walt Disney succeeded greatly in animation, a pioneer in the field, creator of iconic characters—but not the word 'iconic' which has been seized upon by junior execs.—established Disney studios and Disneyland and is fondly remembered to this day. Nonetheless his body is frozen in a vault beneath Disney's Burbank lot and should Walt be reanimated and start making decisions again it could effect his legacy.

4. John P. McCann was greatly successful as a Hollywood atmosphere player. McCann was the ship-board stand-in for a Canadian actor portraying Errol Flynn in My Wicked, Wicked Ways. In addition, he is visible catching Dennis Quaid's jacket at around 1:19 in a clip from Great Balls of Fire.
More successful in animation, McCann created the non-iconic character of The Huntsman. For the next fifteen years, he piggy-backed onto as many successful shows as his friends would allow. While the record is still being written, outsiders agree that McCann will be remembered by Bank of America and several other creditors who might reasonably feel aggrieved should he pass from the scene within the next several months.

Images: whitehouse.gov, Parcbench, fold3

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