Saturday, May 26, 2012

A Visit to the Gas Chamber...Army Style

Yesterday, I posted a little about my military service and thanked my fellow veterans. On Memorial Day many people mainly think of those who gave their lives for our country and rightly so. I don't want to take away or diminish what those brave souls did to keep our country free. However, there are many service men and women who never faced combat for one reason or another, but nonetheless, dedicated themselves to do so if called upon.

I was one of those who signed the dotted line to serve my country during a time of war but never faced combat. I was fully prepared to face our enemy in combat to protect our freedom if it came down to it. Fortunately, I didn't have to do that. As a matter of fact, after visiting the recruiter's office, I was prepared to enlist in the infantry. However, my dad (also a veteran, during Vietnam), asked me what I would do when I got out. I distinctly remember him saying, "There's not a big demand for killing people," referring to my possible job choice. He encouraged me to learn a skill that would serve me in the civilian world. He said aircraft maintenance would be ideal if I could score well on the ASVAB (Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery - it's basically a skills test to determine what jobs you're eligible for). I scored well enough to get a job as a helicopter engine mechanic (68 Bravo).

While I wanted to enlist as an elite fighter in our military, I quickly learned in Basic Training that I wouldn't have enjoyed the rigorous lifestyle of an infantryman. Basic Training, I learned, was a real son-of-a-bitch in itself! It was all of the gung-ho shit I was prepared to do, concentrated into 2 months. I had my fill in that time. I'm glad I listened to my dad. In my opinion, he was smarter than I gave him credit for at the time. Only now do I realize the value of his advice. Today, I want to share with everyone something that every service member will most likely remember: their time in the gas chamber. This is an experience I am confident stays with a veteran throughout his or her life.

I doubt any service member escapes the torture or experience of the gas chamber. In Army basic training, every soldier has to endure this form of torture. Usually, it's encountered during the NBC phase of training, which stands for Nuclear, Biological, and Chemical warfare. During this time, you're taught how to respond to chemical agents in the field. You learn the value of your gas mask, a device issued that normally resides in a canvas bag on your hip and only adds to the weight of the gear you carry (at least this was the case when I was in the military. As a member of the 7th Infantry Division, we carried everything we had on our back and humped (marched) everywhere we went). Since my time in service, the military has upgraded from the old M17A1s that I used--hand-me-downs from the Vietnam conflict. I don't know what the military uses now, but I can only imagine that the upgrade is a definite improvement.

Today, I want to give veterans a chance to reminisce about their trip through the gas chamber and for civilians to have a chance to witness the experience that service men and women have to endure as only a minor, but memorable, part of their service. If you've never experienced CS gas before, here is another reason to thank a veteran...even those who never saw combat. Thank your lucky stars you escaped this torture.

In the video, the person you hear speaking clearly is a Drill Sergeant, basically asking the impossible from young recruits experiencing their moment in hell:

Thanks for stopping by, and please, thank a veteran this weekend for the freedom you enjoy today!

Friday, May 25, 2012

For My Fellow Veterans...

I know it's not Memorial Day yet, but I wanted to wish you all a happy Memorial Day weekend.

I served in the US Army in the early 90s during Desert Storm. Fortunately, I was never deployed overseas. Instead, I served stateside, doing basic training at Ft. Knox, KY; my AIT (job schooling known as Advanced Individual Training) at Ft. Eustis, VA; and serving my first duty station at Ft. Ord, CA (which is now defunct). I worked as a 68B (AKA 68-Bravo or Helicopter Powerplant Repairer) in the 1/123 Avn Regt. Delta Co. Together with one other 68B, I worked on a fleet of AH-1 Cobras, OH-58s, and a few UH-1 Hueys. In retrospect, those were some great times! Where else can a 19 or 20 year old remove, tear down, and rebuild various helicopter engines? Of course, the best part of the whole experience wasn't turning wrenches at all, but getting to go on the test flights afterward. Well, that was both exhilarating and scary. I mean, if you made a mistake and it broke down at any significant altitude, you couldn't pull over and park on a cloud.

The AH-1 Cobra gunship:
Turning wrenches on a Huey:
The gunner's seat in a Cobra. Where the engine mechanic sits during test flights:
I owe a lot to the military. I think I got a lot out of it. During my military service, I not only learned discipline and inner reliability, but I also learned something much more valuable: I learned to teach myself. I think with that kind of ability, you can go far. I won't recap my whole military experience here now. I want to save some juicy parts to post on Memorial Day. But, I will say that, in contrast to college experiences, the military is quite unique. These are men and women who've signed on the dotted line to put their lives on the line for our country's defense and freedom. Sure, they learn trades, receive money for college, and build long lasting friendships, but there's even more to it than that. Small nuances that make someone look inward, dig deep, and pull through harrowing situations.

Much of these fundamentals are learned during Basic Training. So, today, for all my fellow military veterans, I'd like to share something I'm sure will dredge up a lot of mixed emotions as well as memories. I want to share some cadences with you. As you listen to them, remember the road marches, the drills on the parade field, marching to and from the gas chamber during NBC (Nuclear/Biological/Chemical training), and the rifle range for BRM (Basic Rifle Marksmanship). Remember the trials and tribulations that broke you down and built you back up to be a fighting soldier on one of the world's greatest armed forces! Thank you for serving and let's take time to reflect on our fallen brethren in the military as well as in public safety.

We marched to a variation of this one quite a bit:

This is a very popular cadence that I'm sure many of you will recall:

Thanks for stopping by. I hope your enjoyed you visit.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Self-destructing Authors Do NOT Speak For Me!

I just stumbled onto several posts about a self-published author who is making waves in the publishing/writing world today. Apparently, this douche bag has diarrhea of the mouth and is making a lot of bat-shit-crazy allegations that make self-published authors look bad.

In addition, there is a "civil war" brewing in the publishing world between traditional publishers (which includes agents, etc) and self-publishers. I, for one, am tired of all this bickering. At the end of the day, it's just more drama. Don't we have enough of that on television? I am a self-published author by choice. I chose not to pursue the traditional route on purpose. So, when this dickhead yahoo comes out of the woodwork spouting his bullshit, it angers me. I don't usually get angry very easily. Unless, of course, I'm behind the wheel of my car and the asshole in front of me is driving like he's blind and I see that it's because he's on the phone. But, I digress.

Self-publishers have long been fighting against the stigma that their writing isn't quality work. Most people will have you believe that self-pubbed authors couldn't cut it in the traditionally published world, and fed up, seek to publish their stories themselves, that their work is inferior because it wasn't professionally vetted by an agent or editor. Sometimes this is true. And, sometimes, it is not.

I opted to go the self-publishing route because I wanted complete creative control over my writing. I enjoy not only writing the books that I do write, but also creating the cover artwork, and distributing it myself through various channels. If my stories bomb, there is no doubt that the blame lies with me. However, if they are successful, then it's the greatest feeling in the world knowing that readers have been entertained by something I created, something conceived and created from my imagination.

If I receive bad reviews for a story, I don't fly off the handle and go on a verbal rampage on the internet to tell readers that they don't know talent when they lay eyes on it. That's the actions of a self-centered, fudge-covered dickcicle, a person in this business for the wrong reasons. As a matter of fact, when I receive bad reviews, I just ignore them. Well, sort of. I mean, I read them, and yes, they do hurt occasionally. I simply choose to ignore them and continue doing what I do because for all of the bad reviews, there are plenty of good reviews.

So, to reiterate the title of this blog post, I just want anyone who reads my work to know that this self-destructing author does NOT speak for me. I am grateful for the opportunity to publish my own work and the readers who enjoy my books. Never in a million years would I berate the industry, fellow authors, or readers who make it possible for me to enjoy the chance I have to entertain others.

If you want a good laugh, I encourage you to read Chuck Wendig's post on this subject over at Terrible Minds. Chuck's got a way with words that I don't. I hope you enjoy. Thanks for stopping by!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Feels Like the First Time

As the title of this post reads, it feels like the first time, and to borrow from Foreigner even more, it feels like the very first time. You may be asking yourself what the hell I'm talking about. Have I gone crazy? Some people would tell you I probably did that a long time ago.

Here's a hint:
I know I've been hyping that cover for some time now and I keep saying, "It's coming, it's coming." Well, it's definitely not long now! It has been in front of several of my beta readers. Edited and edited until I'm tired of going through it. I formatted the manuscript, uploaded the cover, set all of the interior images, etc., and ordered two copies of the paperback proofs.

Those proofs arrived today!

Here me now and believe me later when I tell you, I was as excited as a kid on Christmas morning to see the package on my doorstep when I arrived home from work today. I immediately opened the box and began inspecting the books. Upon a cursory glance through the interior, everything looked all right. There was a small problem with the cover, which I believe I've taken care of, and one graphic missing from the inside text (which I'd taken care of before the proofs arrived), but aside from that, everything looks great. Now, you might be asking, "So, when the hell are you going to release it?"

I hate to keep you in suspense by prolonging it, but I assure you, it will be very soon. I only need one more person to read through it. That person is my brother. He was the one who read a copy of Majoring in Murder after it was already available through all of my distributors and alerted me to nine...yes NINE mistakes which all of my beta readers (myself included) had previously missed. It just goes to show that someone with more time who reads slower can find more of my egregious faux pas. I promised to let him read every subsequent novel I publish from that point forward. As I've said previously, I want to release the best possible book I can hope to create for my readers. I hope you'll understand and appreciate that.

I'm hoping to release the book, in all formats, at the beginning of June. I hope that date's still fairly vague as I need to format the digital version, make any changes my brother points out (in all formats), and upload the files to the distributors (which will undergo a verification process before they will be available). So, even at this stage in the process, things are not set in stone. But, I have my fingers crossed and feel pretty certain that everything will be on track for the first week in June...but (as I've pointed out before) don't hold me to it. I hope you'll buy a copy of The Old Royal when it comes out. In the meantime, I'll leave you with a music video that seems appropriate to this blog's title. As always, thanks for stopping by!

Saturday, May 5, 2012

R.I.P. Adam Yauch

Adam Yauch of Beastie Boys fame was pronounced dead yesterday after succumbing to a battle with cancer. I, like so many other, was a fan of the Beastie Boys. It saddens me that he's gone.

Fight For Your Right:
No Sleep Till Brooklyn:
So What Cha Want:

Resurrecting Dead Stories

I've written a lot of short stories over the years. I think some of them are exceptional and I published a few of those in An Adverse Anthology: Strange & Disturbing Short Stories. As for the rest...well, some are fair and some are not very good at all. Even the bad stories, though, are still special. I spent the time to write them, after all, and burying them in a desk drawer forever just doesn't feel right to me.

You may already know that I am very close to releasing a book called The Old Royal (if not, you can find more info about it here and here). This is the story of a man who wants more than anything to become a famous writer like his idol, Roger Kurrey. In the story, I wanted to embed snippets of shorter stories to add verisimilitude to the tale of a struggling writer. To do this, I wanted to resurrect some of my older stories; those considered dead.
The bonus stories in The Old Royal are:
  1. Bad Bank Heist - This story is the only one not previously written, so it can't be considered resurrected. It's simply an idea that occurred to me spontaneously during the writing process (note the cliched name).
  2. Suicide Suite - Originally untitled; about a traveling salesman who wants to commit suicide, only to be interrupted.
  3. Rabbit on the Run - mentioned here and here; this story has languished in the writing process for a while. I hope to release it at a later date.
  4. When the Clock Strikes Three - A story that had three different plot ideas. I wrote one of them, which was horrible, but decided to pursue one of the better ideas in this book.
  5. The Final Chapter - I think the concept for this story is very interesting, however, my original execution was an abysmal failure. I think I did it justice in this context.
  6. The Black Talon - Originally titled As the Crow Flies, this story never got off the ground. One day, I may write the whole thing. I came up with the concept and wanted it to be a book. I think its better as a short story, though.

So, there you have it; a list of some short stories and ideas that I had originally mined earlier in my writing career only to turn out a bust. Some of them were complete failures on my part. Some were ideas that I felt passionate about writing, but never fully materialized. I think that in the context of a larger story, these will help give the reader some pleasant bonus material to read and help add to the richness of the larger story as a whole.

And, for those of you wondering about the status of The Old Royal: never fear, it's inching closer and closer to publication. I'm simply waiting on beta readers to help ferret out my mistakes. I won't release a book until I feel it's ready and by ready, I mean that I want it to be the best that it can possibly be. So, I hope you keep checking back for the big release which should be coming very soon. I also hope you'll pick up a copy and let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping by!