Go And Tell The Spartans

They did not wish tribute,
Nor song,
Nor monuments,
Nor poems of war and valor.
Their wish was simple:
“Remember us.”
“Remember why we died.”
That was their hope,
Should any free soul come across this place
In all the countless centuries yet to be,
“May all our voices
Whisper to you
From these ageless stones,
‘Go and tell the Spartans,
Stranger passing by
That here
By Spartan Law
We lie.'”


Text adapted from the motion picture 300,
Written by Zack Snyder, Kurt Johnstad, Michael B. Gordon, Frank Miller, and Lynn Varley 

A Quick Apology

Having come back to The Blog for the first time in… oh jeez… two years, I realized that my Blogroll and my List O’ Links were both horribly out of date. There were blogs and websites missing from each respective list, some blogs were either dead or had been taken down altogether, and there were new blogs & sites that I wanted to add.

Unfortunately, in the… oh jeez… two years since I last updated or edited The Blog, WordPress has changed its User Interface. Probably multiple times. To the point where I cannot for the life of me figure out how to edit those lists!

So in the interest of not confusing and/or aggravating my readers, I’ve removed both the Blogroll and List O’Links completely until I can figure out how to edit and update the lists. If your blog or site was on one of those lists, my apologies for de-listing it.

You Can’t Take The Force From Me

With apologies to sci-fi fans everywhere for this post’s blasphemous title…

I was watching the new trailers and TV spots for Solo: A Star Wars Story, and I realized something: I’m not excited for the movie. At all. I’d go so far as to say that I’m actually apathetic. Because while it looks like a Star Wars movie, it still doesn’t feel like a Star Wars movie. And the more I think about it, the more I realize that The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi didn’t feel like Star Wars movies either. They all felt like Star Wars fan fiction put to screen (I’ll leave the debate as to the quality of said fanfics for another post). The first act of Rogue One didn’t fell like Star Wars either, but the film redeemed itself by the climax, and I maintain that the Battle of Scarif is what the Battle of Endor should have been from the start. I can’t comment on the Rebels TV show as we don’t have Disney XD and I haven’t seen a single episode.

Much as it pains me to admit this, I’m not happy with what Disney has done, is doing, and apparently plans to do with the franchise. I was hoping that they were going to pull a Marvel, respect the franchise, respect the legacy, respect the fans, and create an awesome cinematic universe. But it feels to me like they’re not doing that, and that they see the franchise as nothing more than a cash cow to be milked until it’s dried up and dead. So I find myself not at all looking forward to Solo, Episode IX, the future spin-off films, and I’m not planning on visiting either the new Galaxy’s Edge area in Disney World or the new Star Wars-themed hotel.

You probably think, after reading all that, that I hate Star Wars now.


I LOVE Star Wars. I still love the Original Trilogy, and I still plan on joining the 501st Legion soon (hopefully after meeting the local chapter at a local comic con next month). But how can I love Star Wars if I hate what Disney’s done with it and don’t care about the future?

Because when I plug in any of the original movies, I’m a nine year-old kid all over again. I still feel that sense of awe watching that Star Destroyer fly overhead in the opening shot of A New Hope. I still find myself on the edge of my seat watching Luke fly down the Death Star Trench with only seconds left before the battle station obliterates the rebel base, even though I’ve watched that scene over a hundred times now. I still get goosebumps watching Yoda lift the X-Wing out of the swamp. I still get chills when Darth Vader says The Line (you know what I’m talking about, and if you don’t stop what you’re doing and watch The Empire Strikes Back immediately!) I still cheer when Luke and friends turn the tables on Jabba the Hutt over the Sarlacc Pit, and I’m not ashamed to admit that I still tear up a little when Anakin Skywalker redeems himself and sacrifices himself for his son.

And NOTHING that Disney does with or to the franchise can EVER take that, any of it, away from me.


It’s Not Over Yet

I’ve been seeing a common trend in my Facebook feed over the last twelve or so hours, since FBI Director Comey announced that the Bureau is not going to recommend filing charges against Hillary Clinton even though he all but admits she’s guilty as hell. Said aforementioned trend is posts declaring that “This is the end of Liberty,” or, “America is Over,” or, “RIP USA July 4, 1776 – July 5, 2016,” etc. and so on and so forth. You get the idea. The theme seems to be that Director Comey’s announcement marks the end of the United States of America as we know it.

You know what, doomsayers? You’re wrong. Know how I know you’re wrong? Because we’ve been here before.

No, we haven’t had a felon and possible war criminal about to become our next President, I’ll give you that, but I’ve heard this whole, “America is Dead,” business before. I heard it each time the Supreme Court upheald an aspect of Obamacare. I heard it when Obama was reelected. Heck, I heard it back when he was elected the first time. I heard it when the Patriot Act was renewed, and when the Patriot Act was first passed. I’m too young to remember, but I’m sure they were saying “America is Dead!” every time FDR got reelected, when he tried to pack the Supreme Court, and when he ordered the forced relocation and internment of Japanese-American, German-American, and Italian-American citizens.

That same doom and gloom message repeated for decades, and yet we’re still here.

Now are times good? Heck no! Things are pretty rotten in Denmark right now. And I can pretty much guarantee that things are going to get a heck of a lot worse in the coming months. But America, I believe, will ultimately prevail. Why? Because there are still Patriots and Lovers of Liberty in this country, men and women who truly believe in Life, Liberty, the Pursuit of Happiness, and Freedom and Justice for All. And they are willing to fight for those ideals. Not fight with the cartridge box (not yet anyway), but fight atop the soapbox, fight with the ballot box, and fight in the jury box. And, if you’ll forgive me paraphrasing a cheesy speech from a corny movie, we will not go quietly into the night. We will not give up without a fight. We will survive. We will persevere. We will win.

Make no mistake, things are almost certainly going to get very messy. Things might get bloody, though I hope and pray it doesn’t come to that. But Liberty is not dead. America is not over. Not so long as we are willing to fight for them. Defeat is only certain if we choose to accept it.


What In The Actual I Don’t Even… *Facepalm*

Okay, this is actually not the stupidest firearm accessory I’ve ever seen. That honor goes to a “tactical” CQB knife that attached to the bottom of a pistol mag floorplate. But this is darn close.

WARNING: Do not click the link if you have a weak constitution and/or are easily offended. Even if you don’t and/or you’re not, mental scarring may still result. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

So… yeah… this exists. The “Tac-Sac.”


Not sure I want to live on this planet anymore…

They Don’t Call ‘Em “Teufelhunde” for Nothing

It seems a would-be terrorist boarded an Amsterdam-Paris high speed train yesterday. He carried his bag into the restroom, pulled out an AK-47, loaded it, stepped out into the aisle, and attempted to massacre as many of the 550 passengers as he could. The operative phrase being “attempted to,” because a pair of off-duty United States Marines happened to be seated nearby. Reportedly, they heard the distinctive sound of the Kalashnikov being loaded and, being Marines, immediately sprang into action, quickly disarming and subduing the would-be mass murderer before he could actually murder anyone.

Unfortunately, one of the Marines was seriously wounded in the incident. Although both French and US authorities are saying that his injuries are not life-threatening, prayers for him and his family are nonetheless outbound.

The terrorist, by the way, is a Moroccan national with a very Arabic-sounding name that I won’t sully the blog with by posting it here. Makes me wonder if the Administration will try to pass this off as yet another incident of “workplace violence.”

Nonetheless, good on ya, Devil Dogs. Semper Fi. Oorah!

EDIT/UPDATE: Okay, it looks like the initial reports were wrong. There were three Americans, one Air Force, one Army Reserves or National Guard, and one civilian. Still, my remarks about them fighting like hounds from hell stands. Good on ya, Yanks. Good on ya.


      Charlie Rasczak swore he’d never go back to Mars. But desperate times call for desperate measures, so when the man he hates more than anything else in the solar system makes him a job offer he’d have to be crazy to refuse, the private investigator finds himself on the first liner back to the formerly-red planet.
The job seems simple enough at first, but Rasczak soon discovers that the stakes are far higher than he could have ever imagined. With fanatical terrorists on one side, trigger happy contractors on the other, and a paranoid corporate oligarch breathing down his neck every step of the way, Rasczak quickly finds himself alone and outgunned. Too bad for them, because when he’s alone and outgunned, Charlie Rasczak is in his element. But with the lifeblood of Mars itself at stake, he’ll need to be.

Remember that project I’ve mentioned in the last few posts? It’s live!

Lifeblood, my first “real” short story is now available for Amazon Kindle. You can purchase it either by clicking on either the link in the post, or on the picture of the cover in the sidebar. It’s a quick read, and at only $0.99, a real bargain! (If you’ll forgive me tooting my own horn).

I gotta be honest with you: I’m still in shock a little bit. I’ve been dreaming of this day for years and years, and now that it’s here, I find it to be awesome and exciting, yet a bit anticlimactic at the same time. Eh, guess now I have to write another one. 😉

I do have one request. Well, one more request anyways: if you do buy it, please leave a review on Amazon. And please be honest: don’t just give me a 5-star review because you like me or my blog or you feel happy/sorry for me. Though if you want to leave a 5-star review because you think it’s the bestest, most awesomest thing you’ve ever read, I certainly won’t complain 😉

Thanks for sticking with me, everyone. I hope you enjoy Lifeblood. There will be more coming, don’t worry.

EDIT: Oh, one thing I forgot to mention: if you don’t have a Kindle Device, you can download the Kindle App to your smartphone or the Kindle Reader to your PC. Both are free.

Until next time, peace.


Why Give Indie a Try

I’ve tried explaining to some folks why I’ve decided to go the indie route with my work, but Sarah A. Hoyt lays it out far better than I’ve been able to.

Mad Genius Club

I didn’t forget my post day. I forgot what day today is.  This is partly because I’m still feeling like “every day is Sunday” after we finished the heavy part of the house, and partly because today is a wee bit crazy.  We just took a load of hazardous waste (paint, mostly) to the local facility, and we’re now getting ready to go to the eye doctor (which is actually a good thing.  I think we’ll all agree it will be better if I can write without squinting at the screen and confusing os and es.) Also, I have the Hugo voting to do, I’ve got my country’s 500th anniversary to plan, my wedding to arrange, my wife to murder and Guilder to frame for it; I’m swamped.

So, what can I do that is useful to you on short notice?

Well, recently I had the opportunity to discuss indie…

View original post 670 more words

Artists Like To Eat

Before I get into the meat of this post, a little background information is necessary.

I finished my novel. Yes, I know, finally. You can pick your jaws up off the floor. Only took… how many years? Eight? Nine? Regardless, I finally finished it. Or at least the first draft. I’m editing it (slowly), and eventually plan on self-publishing it once I get it cleaned up, proofed, get some Alpha Readers to look at it, etc. and so forth. That’ll probably take a couple of months. In the meantime, I’ve cranked out a short science-fiction story that I’m revising and plan on publishing once I get it all cleaned up. That should only take another 2 weeks or so.

My initial plan with the short (which I’m calling Lifeblood) was to self-publish it via Kindle Direct Publishing for $0.99 since I thought I’d only make a pittance selling it to a magazine while I’d earn 70% royalties from Amazon. That plan hit a snag when I actually did some research and ran the numbers. Turns out that I’d make a great deal more selling it to a magazine than I’d first anticipated (at least 3-4 times more), and in order to qualify for KDP’s 70% royalty program, you have to price your work between $2.99 and $9.99. A 13,000-ish word short story is not, IMO, worth $2.99, especially not a first story from a brand-new author. I’d earn KDP’s standard 35% royalty rate if I publish the story for $0.99, but that’s still half of what I’d anticipated. Long story short, I realized that I’d almost certainly earn more money by selling the story to a magazine rather than publishing it myself on KDP, which was the opposite of what I’d been expecting.

So my question became do I want to earn more money all at once, but a couple months down the road and if a magazine buys my story at all, or earn less money and spread over a long time, but starting much sooner and with a guarantee that it will actually happen. I voiced this question to a family member about a week ago, hoping to get some advice or at least an opinion. Instead, the response I got was:

But if writing really is your passion, you shouldn’t be doing it for money, right?

Or something to that effect. It was a couple days ago, and I’m running light on sleep (blame a neurotic dog who misses his Mommy) and heavy on caffiene. But the point made was that since I love to write, getting paid to do so should not be a concern. The statement wasn’t made with malice, but rather out of honest ignorance and with genuine curiosity. And I agree with the statement, to a point: writing is my passion because I love to do it and love being creative and not because I want to be able to sleep on a pile of hundred dollar bills (though I admit that would be nice), but at the same time, virtually every artist does ultimately want to get paid for their work.

I think my family member’s remark was born from the fact that our society has come to romanticize (and probably over-romanticize) the starving artist. And for the life of me, I can’t figure out why. What’s romantic about having to chose between paying a month’s rent and buying another week’s worth of Ramen noodles to put in your otherwise-empty pantry? Or, as in my case, having to still live with your parents long after the rest of your college friends have found “real” jobs and at the very least moved into their own apartments?

And before y’all jump on my case, yes, I know that old maxim, “Art Requires Sacrifice.” And I agree with it: it gfmeans dedicating time and energy to your craft even when you fervently want to be doing something else. There are days when I desperately want to go to the shooting range, for example, or go to the movies, or watch a DVD, but don’t because I know that I need to make progress on my novel and/or Lifeblood. Incidentally, I haven’t been to the range in months. In fact, it’s been so long that I’m not sure I remember what burnt powder smells like.

Art requires time, and effort, and passion, and artists who invest those three things into the creation of something new and wonderful should be lauded and respected. But at the same time, artists shouldn’t be criticized or shunned for wanting to be rewarded for their time, effort, and passion. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll be the first to call out an author (since that’s the field I know best) who turns out nothing but dreck and to hell with quality, because all that matters to them is a paycheck. I do that because they’re obviously not investing any meaningful time, effort, or passion into their product. They don’t care about their audience: just their audience’s money. A real artist wants their work to inspire their audience, or at least make them happy for a brief, shining moment. But the unfortunate truth is that an audience’s happiness alone won’t put a roof over an artist’s head or food on their table. So getting payed for their work is, for good or bad, a necessity.

Yet our society doesn’t seem to understand that. And certain segments of society seem to reject that notion outright: that any artist who receives compensation for their work isn’t really an “artist.” I’m mainly referring to those hard-core hipsters who only listen to indie musicians who self-publish their own albums, and immediately reject those same musicians when they “sell out” by accepting a contracts from a mainstream recording studio.

I have a reality check for those hipsters: pretty much any indie artist who has the opportunity to “sell out” and “go mainstream” is going to take it. They’re going to take it because it means they’ll be able to focus more of their energy into creating their art rather than worrying about how they’re going to be able to afford to do so. The indie garage band won’t have to worry about having to pay for professional studio time to record their album, or buying dozens/hundreds of blank CDs to burn copies of that album. Their record label will take care of all that now. The self-published author won’t have to worry about how many print-on-demand copies to purchase, or how she’s going to be able to afford them, or how much to charge for them, or how to market and sell them. Her publishing house will take care of that.

I’ve heard those hard-core hipsters point to the Great Masters, like Michelangelo, da Vinci, Mozart, Beethoven, etc., in defense of their position. Again, reality check: they all got paid for their work, and payed rather handsomely at that. And what’s more, some of their works weren’t even their own ideas. Michelangelo, for instance, didn’t just walk into the Sistine Chapel one day, look up at the roof, and think to himself, “I want to paint that.” No, the Catholic Church came to him and said, “We want you to paint the roof of the Sistine Chapel. This is what we want it to look like, this is the deadline we’re assigning you, and this is how much we’re going to pay you. Will you take the job?” And part of the reason Michelangelo said yes was probably because he needed the money.

A true artist pursues his craft because they thrive on expressing their creativity every chance (s)he gets. But at the same time, we generally prefer to sleep indoors and on a bed rather than outside on the cold, hard dirt. Which is why we like to get paid. We’re not being greedy, or selling out, we just want to be able to survive by doing what we love.

We like to eat, same as you.


Also, in case you’re wondering, I ultimately decided to publish Lifeblood on KDP. I’d rather not wait several months to maybe get paid, especially since I’m still between jobs at the moment. I’ll let y’all know when it finally goes live: probably in about 2 to 3 weeks or so.

What’s Left To Celebrate?

As you’ve probably surmised from yesterday’s post, I’ve been in something of a funk for the last few weeks. Watching my country, the land that I love, seemingly tear itself apart and being unable to do anything about it pushed me to the brink of despair. I was ready to give up on it, on America, on Liberty, because nobody cared anymore. Those who seek to tear it down, to reshape it into a perverse and twisted “social utopia” are running roughshod over the Constitution because almost nobody can be bothered to lift a finger to stop them, and the few who try are mercilessly trampled into dust.

I confess: I actually woke up this morning thinking, “Why bother? What is there that’s left to celebrate?”

Then I stumbled across this quotation, from a letter written by John Adams to his wife upon the Second Continental Congress’ adoption of the Declaration of Independence:

You will think me transported with enthusiasm, but I am not. I am well aware of the toil and blood and treasure that it will cost us to maintain this Declaration, and support and defend these States. Yet through all the gloom I can see the rays of ravishing light and glory; I can see that the end is more than worth all the means, that posterity will triumph in that day’s transaction, even though we should rue it, which I trust in God we shall not.

Reading that, it dawned om me that Adams, and likewise the rest of our Founding Fathers, knew that the fight for Liberty did not end with the signing of the Declaration, nor would it end if – yes, if, not when – the Colonies succeeded in freeing themselves from the overpowering yoke of British tyranny and expelling the Redcoats from their shores. No, they knew that the struggle would be ongoing and eternal, that there will always be those who seek to extinguish the sacred flame of Liberty, from both beyond and within our borders. But at the same time, they knew that they must persevere in their quest, as must the succeeding generations, because the price of Liberty, no matter how great, would always be worth the cost.

And at the same time, I realized that America is not just a country, and it is not just a people: it is an idea.

It is the idea that Liberty and Justice exist for all people. Period. The End. Full Stop. End of Discussion. Not “for white property owners,” or “for former slaves,” or “for the rich,” or “for the poor,” or “for homosexuals, ” or “for heterosexuals,” or “for the elite,” or “for This Specific Religion,” or “for the Oppressed Group of the Month.” No. Liberty and Justice for all people, for all time.

It is the idea that a person, any person, can walk down any street in any neighborhood in any city in any state in this nation and be judged by their peers not by color, or creed, or by anything else except the content of their character or the lack thereof.

It is the idea that we are born into this world as equals, but where we go from there is determined only by our own goals, dreams, and aspirations, and how much of our own blood, sweat, and tears we are willing to shed in order to accomplish them.

It is the idea that we are measured not by how hard our lives are, but by how hard we work to build a better lives for ourselves and our children.

And if that idea is not worth celebrating, if that idea is not worth fighting for, then I don’t know what is.

And looking at the social media outlets, the same one that I was ready to give up on and unplug from, I discovered something that I should have known all along: that I am far from the only one who feels that way.

America is not perfect, I will be the first to admit that. We’ve had plenty of problems along the way, made mistakes, dark spots on our history, and there are likely more problems and mistakes to come.

Is America in trouble? It certainly seems that way to me, but then again it seems to me to have been in trouble since our very beginning but we have always endured, always overcome, and I believe that we will continue to do so in the future.

Is America in danger of collapse, of falling? For the first time in a long time, I can confidently say that my answer is a resounding “no!” America cannot collapse, not so long as a single person holds the idea in their heart, and is willing to fight for. And as I have seen today, there are plenty of Americans who still hold the cause of Liberty near and dear to them, and who are willing to fight, to suffer, and to die for it.

And that too is, I think, something worth celebrating.