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.

COVID-19 Pandemic, Be Kind, and Stay Home

Like much of America and other countries around the world, I’m under Stay at Home orders. It is not fun, but it is necessary, and we’ll make the best of it. My family and I are in a good position, and I am thankful for that. We have been preparing ourselves at home for a little over three years to be in a better position when a natural disaster occurred, or in this case, a global pandemic. Preparing hasn’t been easy, but we have a plan that we have been following. We aren’t there yet, but we continue to add to our disaster preparedness as we can.

Hard work and planning aside, I do acknowledge the privileges my family is awarded (not sure awarded is the best word choice, but you get it). There probably are some of you saying if you worked for it and prepared for it, that is not a privilege. Frankly, I used to feel that way. Privilege doesn’t negate your efforts, but we all have the privilege of not having to face certain obstacles. Some may face more obstacles than others. Some people are more comfortable than I am, and I definitely have it easier than others. The fact that I was able to get an education that allowed me to get my job, and that I can work from home without the fear of losing my job – that is a privilege. My wife is in the same position, though, as a Registered Nurse, she is facing her own challenges with this pandemic.

That said, my heart goes out to those and their families who have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. I wish you all speedy recoveries, and please do all you can to stay safe and healthy.

I feel awful for all of those who have been affected by this economically. Especially all of those who came to work every day to make our days better and a bit easier. The restaurant and beverage workers, people who keep our supply chain running smoothly, grocery workers, medical professionals, and especially those on the front lines of this pandemic. Your contribution is heroic. Thank you! Thank you for all you do and have done.

At this time, I hope we can mend the divisions that are being sewn in America. It has got especially bad in the last three years or so. In the past, facing national emergencies has brought our country together, putting our best forward as one nation to solves problems. I have seen some semblance of this the last couple of weeks, but nothing close to what we need. It’s not the Republicans or the Democrats that are going to fix this on their own. It is not a black and white issue, the answer lies in the grey, and that is going to take us working together as one nation of Americans. We all have to give a little. Do what you can to help your fellow citizens. Do what you can to help others. Be a problem solver, not a nay-sayer.

With this time at home, I am going to enjoy the time I have with my family, and enjoy the extra writing time I have with the recouped commute time.

Please stay at home, for your health, and for others. Be safe, stay healthy, and be kind to yourself and others.