Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Supporting Wikipedia

Gentle readers, I'm not an easy touch when it comes to charities.  Too often donations wind up paying for administrative costs and not going to the people who need it.  Nevertheless, as someone who routinely uses Wikipedia as a jumping off point for research, I felt inclined to make a donation to them.

They sent me a very nice automated response which I am sharing below with all of you.

Dear George,

Thank you for donating to the Wikimedia Foundation. You are wonderful!

It's easy to ignore our fundraising banners, and I'm really glad you didn't. This is how Wikipedia pays its bills --- people like you giving us money, so we can keep the site freely available for everyone around the world.

People tell me they donate to Wikipedia because they find it useful, and they trust it because even though it's not perfect, they know it's written for them. Wikipedia isn’t meant to advance somebody's PR agenda or push a particular ideology, or to persuade you to believe something that's not true. We aim to tell the truth, and we can do that because of you. The fact that you fund the site keeps us independent and able to deliver what you need and want from Wikipedia. Exactly as it should be.

You should know: your donation isn’t just covering your own costs. The average donor is paying for his or her own use of Wikipedia, plus the costs of hundreds of other people. Your donation keeps Wikipedia available for an ambitious kid in Bangalore who’s teaching herself computer programming. A middle-aged homemaker in Vienna who’s just been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. A novelist researching 1850s Britain. A 10-year-old in San Salvador who’s just discovered Carl Sagan.

On behalf of those people, and the half-billion other readers of Wikipedia and its sister sites and projects, I thank you for joining us in our effort to make the sum of all human knowledge available for everyone. Your donation makes the world a better place. Thank you.

Most people don't know Wikipedia's run by a non-profit. Please consider sharing this e-mail with a few of your friends to encourage them to donate too. And if you're interested, you should try adding some new information to Wikipedia. If you see a typo or other small mistake, please fix it, and if you find something missing, please add it. There are resources here that can help you get started. Don't worry about making a mistake: that's normal when people first start editing and if it happens, other Wikipedians will be happy to fix it for you.

I appreciate your trust in us, and I promise you we'll use your money well.

Sue Gardner,
Executive Director,
Wikimedia Foundation

Monday, November 19, 2012

A Demonstration of Writing By the Seat of One's Pants

Hello, gentle readers!

I just sat at my computer and realized, "Oh hell! I have to do a blog entry!"

And, so, here we are.

I have nothing prepared.




My brain is as empty as a politician’s promise.

But still, here I am, pounding away on the keyboard producing something.

That’s the secret, you know, to being a writer.

Just write.

You don’t have to have anything planned out, you can just sit down and start to write and see what happens. It’s a bit like procreation, I suppose. Or parenting. You just sort of do it and wait to see the results.

If you’re lucky, you produce a healthy baby who will grow into a productive member of society. On the other hand, sometimes you create monstrous freaks who would make Freddy Kruger wet his pants.

It’s sort of a crap shoot.

You’ll have a lot of writers who say you should plan everything out. I don’t agree with that. Personally, I’m a write-by-the-seat-of-the-pants kind of guy. I’ve tried to do the layout thing and it was hell. Pure hell. I felt like I was doing homework. Math homework. Which was no fun at all!

Math sucks.

I’m not just saying that because I was bad at it.

Unless your job calls for it, it’s unlikely you have ever had to use geometry or calculus. Right? Right.

I always liked English even if I didn’t particularly care for most of my English teachers. They were sort of crabby, the lot of them. However, if I were locked in a building with a bunch of moody teenagers all day long, I’d probably be crabby too.

Or an alcoholic.

An alcoholic teacher who would eventually wind up in prison or something.


I think I just gave myself an idea for a story.

See what happens? See how this works?

Just write.

You never know where it’ll take you.

Thursday, November 15, 2012


Good day, gentle readers.
Today, my novel, Dawnwind: Last Man Standing, is available for free via Amazon.
If you have a Kindle or the Kindle ap, you can download the book for free until around midnight.
Why should you bother getting it?
Well, let's take a look at the reviews. Shall we?

"An excellent read that reminds me at once of stories told by A.E. van Vogt and Robert A. Heinlein - it is that good." - T.S. Sofia

"Dawnwind: Last Man Standing is the best science-fiction novel I have read in years!" - E. Meyer

"Good plot, great characters and fantastic story!" - Jim Powers

You can find more reviews on the book's Amazon page, if you'd care to peruse them.

Thank you for your patronage.

Dawnwind: Last Man Standing - Amazon US -

Dawnwind: Last Man Standing - Amazon UK -

Monday, November 12, 2012

Comfort from the Unexpected

The other day I dropped off a copy of my most recent book with my Aunt J. Aunt J is my mom’s older sister. She lives in the countryside, in a large house, and sells flowers.

Although a great reader (she can finish a 400-page book in a couple of hours), Aunt J has never really read stuff in the genres that I write in: fantasy, science fiction, horror. Nevertheless, she has always expressed a great deal of interest in my writing. A while back I left my Kindle with her for a week so that she could read my first book, Dawnwind: Last Man Standing.

I was genuinely curious to see what she would make of it. To my surprise, she liked it.

When I finished my current book, I decided to print out a copy and leave it with her to read at her leisure. This book was quite different from my other, as it was a fantasy inspired by Alice in Wonderland, The Wizard of Oz and similar stories.

This afternoon, I stopped by Aunt J’s for a visit. She told me she had sat and read the story all in one setting, that she had really enjoyed it.

Then my aunt said something that caught my completely off guard. She told me that she thought her father, my maternal grandfather, would have really liked the story.

"He would have read it," said Aunt J, "and I know we would have sat at the kitchen table and talked it to pieces."

Of all the feedback I could have gotten from my aunt, of all the possible things she could have told me, this just caught me completely by surprise. It was a fly ball coming out of the sun and wacking me right in the head. That single sentence just left me seeing stars.

Not a lot surprises me. To be honest, a lot of the time I think I’m less jaded and more callous toward what the world gives us. Fifteen years of having insane people swearing at you and threatening you can sort of calcify your soul. The news doesn’t help, as it’s always bad news except around Christmas, when the newscasters blow the cobwebs from their cold hearts and do fuzzy, saccharine-sweet human interest stories.

I’m inured to death and destruction. A hurricane slams into New Jersey and New York? Eh. It’s bad, I guess, but I don’t know anyone affected. Where’s the remote? What else is on?

A military convoy is ambushed in Afghanistan? Soldiers have died? Haven’t they been dying since we went there? The damned politicians aught to get us out of there. What’s the point? Hey, look! Lindsey Lohan got arrested! Again!

Buildings collapse on innocents. Wars flare in distant parts of the world. Disasters strike close to home and far away.


It’s all business as usual. I remain untouched.

But the simple comment that my Aunt J thinks my grandfather would have liked my story hits me like a bullet. Even now, hours later, thinking about that fills my stomach with warm, fluttering butterflies.

That hard shell that’s formed over the years has had a hole blown right through it. I am left exposed and wondering.

The world still has the capacity to shock, to strike us to our core with the unexpected. This is a good thing.

Perhaps I am not as callous or jaded as I have thought.

The thought is oddly comforting.

Friday, November 9, 2012

A Review of The Man With the Iron Fists

On the hunt for a fabled treasure of gold, a band of warriors, assassins, and a rogue British soldier descend upon a village in feudal China, where a humble blacksmith looks to defend himself and his fellow villagers.

That’s the description for The Man With the Iron Fists, possibly one of the most dreadful movies that I have seen in recent memory.

The characters are boring, the story drags, the performances are simply atrocious and even the fight scenes are awful. Not even the presence of Lucy Liu and Russel Crowe can redeem this piece of crap.

The Man with the Iron Fists gets zero out of ten. This movie is simply so God awful that no one else should have to sit through it. Don’t go catch a matinee, don’t rent it, if you see it advertised on cable or network television avoid it. Avoid it like the plague!

November in Black


October and December are festive months, but November is not.

November is all business and her business is dark.

Picture a tall, lean woman with skin like white snow and a severe black haircut. A Patrick Nagel illustration, all whites and blacks, come to dreadful life.

On the seasonal clock, November is equivalent to three in the morning. She is the midnight of the soul, that dreadful hour when people rise from nightmares only to discover loved ones have died.

November sits in a dark office, occupied by sleek furniture made of glass and steel. A gas fireplace burns blue at her back, not so much casting light as spawning shadows. The room is cold and full of sharp echoes.

There is a painting hanging above the fireplace, a famous Russian triptych depicting a sleigh racing through a dark night pursued by slavering wolves. A woman tosses an infant from the sleigh, to the wolves, in a futile hope that the babe will be enough to distract the predators and let the sleigh escape.

November is very fond of that painting.

It makes her smile because she knows the ploy will not work. The wolves will catch up to the sleigh and consume the travelers. Then, the wolves will turn on each other and all that will be left is the cold darkness.

Yes, November is very fond of that painting.

Monday, November 5, 2012


Hello, gentle readers, and welcome to another fine Monday. I hope you had a good weekend, because I certainly did.

I got my first check from Amazon.

It was not a huge check.

I cannot suddenly retire to an Italian villa overlooking the Mediterranean, or anything, but it has provided me with an eerie sense of validation.

When I opened the envelope, I had this Sally Fields-like moment: "They like me! They really, really like me!"

Of course, being the soul of dignity, I did not tear up or anything like that.

And I know that I should not need the sales of my stories to validate myself as a person or a writer, but as I’m being very honest here, I have to admit that it helps. I’ve never been particularly insecure about my writing, not until my most recent project, but it’s gratifying that complete strangers find my work interesting enough to purchase. It gives one a nice little ego boost.

So I want to take this opportunity to say "Thank you!" to everyone who has downloaded my stories. You’ve pretty much made me feel like a real writer.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I think I have something in my eye. . . .

Saturday, November 3, 2012

A Review of Wreck-It Ralph

Once again, gentle readers, I think I am going to be out-of-step with the mainstream.

This weekend I went and saw Wreck-It Ralph, and left the movie feeling perturbed.

The basic premise of the movie is that a video game villain, the eponymous Wreck-It Ralph, wants to be a hero and sets out to fulfill his dream. However, his quest brings havoc to the whole arcade where he lives.

Personally, I thought the movie sent mixed messages. On the one hand, it encourages people to accept who they are. However, on the other hand, it repeatedly tells people not to buck the system, not to try and change themselves because it’s impossible.

This last is a crap message, especially to give to impressionable little kids.

What? You’re in awful circumstances, so you shouldn’t do anything about it? Your parents are beating you, your teacher is touching you, but don’t make a fuss. Don’t rock the boat. Just endure because that’s what people are supposed to do.

This is a bullshit message to give to little kids, but it’s pretty much the idea that I got from this movie.

Was the movie entertaining? Eh. It was okay. Nothing to really write home about. The animation was standard, the voice cast was okay. The story felt predictable, and, at times, I thought it dragged.

On my Media Scale of Movie Love, I’d have to give Wreck-It Ralph 3 out of 10. Between the message and the content, I don’t really feel like the movie is theater-worthy. Wait for this to come out as a rental.