“We Were Like Brothers” is in the wild

We Were Like Brothers“, a dystopian short story has just been published on Amazon. It is free for Kindle Unlimited subscribers and it will be FREE to ALL for Memorial Day weekend (5/21/20 to 5/25/20).

In 2038, the civil war had stalled. Fighting contained to border skirmishes between what remained of the United States of America and the Union of Reformed States. Corporal Caleb Thompson, 111th Mortuary Affairs, URSA, faced the hardest decision of his young life. Searching for deceased soldiers after a recent battle, he found himself in a situation he never expected. Would he help his lifelong friend or follow the orders of God and Country?

My writing playlist

I like to write with my AirPods in to drown out the cherished sounds of my kids yelling in the background as they play, or scream at each other. Yes, there is sarcasm in that. Seriously, though, I like to drown out any distractions while I write. On occasion, I listen to nature sounds, mostly running water or ocean waves. I have a natural draw to water, and I love the sound of it, even the sound of the plentiful rain we get here in Oregon.

When I write, I don’t care to listen to music with lyrics. I prefer instrumental tracks with a calming tempo. I recently found out two of my favorite television series, Game of Thrones and Westworld, have the same music composer, Ramin Djawadi. If you like the title tracks, you’ll like the rest of the series sound tracks. The music from these shows is fantastic. What is even better, if you listen to Apple Music, they have a Ramin Djawadi Essentials playlist that has all the music in one convenient playlist.

What do you like to listen to when you are writing or working on a creative project? Share in the comments.

My Stay Home Reading

Here in Oregon, we have just finished our fourth week of being under stay at home orders. Thankfully, it seems to be working, as our COVID-19 cases aren’t rising like other areas. When stay at home orders were issued, I thought working from home would give me more time to write and read. If nothing else, I figured I would recoup the time lost to commuting to and from work. 

We are a month into this, and I can report, I’m not getting more writing time — which I’ll go into in another post. In general, I have been reading more (not listening to audio) books. When the stay at home is lifted, I would love to continue ‘reading’ more books (physical books, Kindle, Wattpad, etc.) over listening to audiobooks. Family obligations, work, writing, and a little thing called sleep tend to consume most of my time. The beauty of audiobooks is I can listen to audiobooks while at work, walking, biking, driving, cleaning, you name it. I am happy about this choice. On a side note, it feels strange to say read when you have listened to a book (you get it), so I will be using read for both.

I am going to start sharing regular blog posts of what I am reading and what is on my reading list. This post will be a catch up on what I have read so far in 2020. I won’t be commenting on all the books, or this post would go on far too long. Last year, between reading and audio, I ‘read’ 38 books, this year I am shooting for 40, though I may have to adjust this upward as I have devoured books at a higher pace. 

Here is a snapshot of my Goodreads, read list from the beginning of the year to now. If you want to follow what I am reading in real-time, want to suggest a book, or be a Goodreads friend, please visit my profile.

Let’s get to it.

The non-fiction books I have read so far this year were research for the dystopian thriller trilogy I am writing. Insight from these books will give you a hint of some of the topics in the trilogy. Small-Unit Leader’s Guide to Counterinsurgency: The Official U.S. Marine Corps Manual is one of the driest reads I have ever managed to finish. That said, there was plenty of useful information from the standpoint deployed counterinsurgency forces dealing with local populations and insurgent elements. Unless you feel you are going to be acting in this role, are doing research, or are having trouble getting to sleep – I’d skip this one.

American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America by Chris Hedges. There is no doubt that white-supremacy and fascist domestic terrorism is on the rise in America. This book was insightful though a bit dated concerning the current threat of fascism facing the United States. And while there are far-right Christian elements in this book, I will say I don’t think all Christians are inherently evil. I sense far-right extremists are the minority within the Christian faith, as extremist Muslims are a minority of their faith.

Bring the War Home: The White Power Movement and Paramilitary America by Kathleen Belew. While I gathered some useful information from this book as to the origins of the modern white power movements in America, the book falls short on the current status of these groups, or the new groups that have arisen from this shit pile in the last four years. It focused on Vietnam era veterans and their involvement through the 1990s, only briefly touching on veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan wars. The latter is what I was looking for, and thus I felt let down by this book. On a side note, I hypothesize that most people currently on the front lines of the white power movement are wanna-be soldiers. Hopefully, that is not wishful thinking, as I hold our military in higher regard.

I gave the fictional The Falling Empires series by James Rosone and Miranda Watson a read for research purposes because I was curious about their take on a modern civil war in America. I recently finished the second installment, Peacekeepers. I won’t be reading the series beyond this book, as it is not what I was hoping for, nor is it something that interests me beyond my current project. Not saying the books are bad, they just aren’t how I want to spend my time reading. I like stories with well-developed characters, which is not what I got from either of the books. There are several characters introduced, but character development is superficial at best. It is a decent military strategy novel (which carries the plot) that depicts what the authors see as the second American Civil War. Their take involves other countries from around the globe allying with the US President-elect to fight against our military lead by the incumbent President who declares the election illegitimate and doesn’t leave office. I envision a second civil war in America playing out differently, which I will explore in my series.

The other books I read for pleasure. I was excited to read the final installment of the Chronicles of the One series, The Rise of Magicks by Nora Roberts. I had not previously read any of her novels, but now I see why she is such a famous author. The series was fantastic and well worth read. Amazon has it placed in the Dystopian/Post-apocalyptic genres, but I would argue there is a fantasy leaning to the books. The first book, Year One, I enjoyed the most, but the whole series is brilliant.

I came across a couple of established thriller authors that I liked, and I am looking forward to reading more of their works. I am embarrassed to say I am late to discover Lee Child and his Jack Reacher series. I read Killing Floor (Jack Reacher #1) and will be reading more of the Jack Reacher series. I enjoyed Brad Thor’s introduction to the Scot Harvath series Lion of Lucerne. My next read will be book two—Path of the Assassin

When it comes to influential reads and a genre that I have loved since I was young, dystopian novels are at the top of my list. I am always on the search for dystopian fiction to read. It seems most recent dystopian books are YA, which is fine, but one aspect of YA fiction that I find that tarnishes the shine off the story is the sub-plot of YA love story/romance. I usually like the overall plot, but I could skip fluffy love, it reminds me of the Disney princess stories I had to suffer through with my daughter. I get, I’m not the target market, so for others, especially young readers, don’t let my being jaded ruin an otherwise good story. I would say both Uglies by Scott Westerfeld and Legend by Marie Lu fell into this category. If you don’t mind young love sub-plots, these are novels worth reading. 

I’ll finish this post by saying if you are a member of Audible and you haven’t been taking advantage of the monthly Originals, you should be using this member benefit. Most recently, I listened to The Minutemen: The Forgotten Legacy of Nat Arno and the Fight Against Newark’s Nazis by Greg Donahue and the excellent Tell Me Lies by J.P. Pomare. The latter is a well-done thriller with top-shelf narration. All the Audible Originals have excellent narration.What have you read lately and would recommend? Share in the comments.