Category: Authors

Love Numbers – Gabriela M.

Read this wonderful sample of Gabriela Milton’s wonderfully romantic poetry. So far I have enjoyed everything I have read written by her.

FREE VERSE REVOLUTION

You used to identify the beating of my heart according to the phases of the moon. 

The tonalities of my voice were symbolized by the heaviness of wheat in any given year. 

We laid in the grass, shadows of poppies playing on our faces with the same rhythmicity of the waves on tranquil days.  

At times we could feel the pulse of the new grains.  

The line of my décolleté – as you used to say – nothing else but the demarcation between inexorable sins and the blushing tones of the sunsets.

The wind tasted like mulberries. 

The Southern Pampas of Buenos Aires.

At the time it was one thing that I could not figure out. 

What was the relationship between our love and numbers? 

Were we one, were we two, were we three, or perhaps more? 

How many were buried beneath our passion or by our passion? 

Should we have…

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Montagnard: Kindle version now available!

Well, it’s here! The promised sequel to Serpents Underfoot. I have worked very hard to make this book better than the first, and if I say so,, I think I succeeded. I hope you will read it. And, I am definitely interested in hearing your comments!

To order your kindle copy of Montagnard for the introductory price of only $2.99, click here!

One former USAF pilot said …

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and liked it better than the first one. The first one got a little tedious to read due to the (understandably long) historical setup sections that weren’t tied together until much later. I felt that I wanted to understand the context, and then it jumped to the next section for a long time without any ties to the previous one. This book was much better, and I enjoy books that carry the main characters through to the next.

Bob Starr, former USAF pilot

Check out Montagnard on Amazon.com.

And if you haven’t read Serpents Underfoot, you might want to check it out as well. While I have improved my writing in Montagnard, Serpents Underfoot is still a good read with about 30 Five Star Reviews.

Not So Photogenic?

You still need good author photographs for marketing your books!

Sometimes you just get in a rut. I have been using the same author’s photo for all my marketing efforts. It is the picture I had taken in 2017 for the back cover of Serpents Underfoot. As the sequel, Montagnard comes together, I decided I needed to get a new back cover author’s picture and perhaps a few for other marketing purposes.

Enter Thumbtack

Wrapping up the photo shoot

This is my second time using Thumbtack. It allows searching for and receiving quotes from professionals in different areas including photography. While I have been happy each time, it is fair to say that Thumbtack has had mixed reviews.

The majority of positive Thumbtack reviews come from customers who have used Thumbtack to find service providers to fit their needs.

Many of them, including me, seem extremely happy with the service they have been provided. I gave my contractor, Ian Courtright, a five-star review and would definitely hire him again.

About Ian Courtright

Ian is from Charlotte, NC. He took the time to ask me a lot of questions to get a feel for what I was doing, why I was doing it, and what kind of a person/author I am. I was pleased with several of his observations and suggestions based on his questioning.

I also learn a bit about Ian. What began as a hobby for him in his early years slowly but surely evolved into a career. Traveled abroad, he worked for a veritable who’s who of internationally known clients including VANS, NEFF, NAUTICA, ESPN, PBR, and others. He has traveled across the U.S. as well, shooting photos at events such as the X Games.

Ian also has a great personality and a charming demeanor, making the photoshoot easy and fun. Having somewhat of a severe nature myself, I have always had difficulty “forcing” a smile on my face for pictures. It usually comes out sort of like a “painful grimace.” Ian actually got me to smile a few times.

To visit Ian’s website, click here!

The end result …

Anyway, I ended up with several great shots, one to use on the back cover of Montagnard and several for other marketing and promotional purposes. And I will definitely contact Ian for any additional photograph needs in the future.

Check out some of my other blog posts by clicking right here! You can also sign up to receive my monthly newsletter by clicking here!

Karate-do: Classical vs. Sport

There are real differences between what I call “classical karate” and sport karate. Before you sign up, just be sure you understand what you are signing up for.

karate-do
Tatsuo Shimabuku / Makiwara

The intent here is not to disparage either version. I am only saying they are different, and you want to be sure the instructor will be teaching you what you are paying to learn.

Understand too, that I am focusing on karate. It is what I know. There are other martial arts such as Aikido, Jujitsu, and Kung Fu, each which may have a different focus in doctrine and technique. And, I have dabbled in Aikido, Tai Chi, Arnis, and Escrima over the years … really just enough to get me in trouble. But, also enough to understand that all these systems or styles often offer the prospective student the same choice … the classical approach or the sport approach.

Some would argue there is a third approach, one of seeking self -improvement. To me, that is simply an integral part of the classical approach, and unfortunately, these days is too often missing on the sport side of things.

In addition, the martial arts industry is very much a “buyer beware” industry.

Why the term “classical karate?”

I use the term “classical karate” in an effort to distinguish it separately because, from what I have seen, the term “traditional karate” has been kidnapped by suspect karate schools who have finally figured out adults aren’t buying what they are selling.

Often times, these are daycare centers masquerading is karate schools because they have learned that it pays much better. Schools like this typically have huge kids classes, but a noticeable lack of adult students.

This is because most adults are not stupid, and after a week or two, can figure out what they are being taught is nonsense. However, the unsuspecting parent who just wants a healthy activity for their children and doesn’t actually participate may never uncover the truth, and some may not even care.

Some of these instructors, in an effort to lure adults back, have gone back to white gis and greatly exaggerated displays of “traditional” behavior.

Just understand that seeing the students all running around in white gis and screaming “Ossss” all the time, does not mean it is a good karate dojo.

But, I digress …

Back to Classical vs Sport Karate

Classical karate is the original karate with a history that is over two thousand years old. It is a uniquely Okinawan art that was influenced by Chinese martial arts. Since Okinawa traded with China, Chinese officials would often teach their art to members of the Okinawan ruling and business classes.

The myth that karate was some kind of a peasant’s fight art is just that, a myth. Karate was taught to the eldest sons of upper class Okinawan families who often served as the palace guard to Okinawan kings. There were rare exceptions.

karate-do
Sensei Harrill demonstrates a technique

For example, Motobu Choki was the third son of Lord Motobu Chōshin, and as such, was not entitled to learn the family style of Te (an earlier name for karate). However, Motobu Choki was fascinated by the art and from an early age, began training on his own. He eventually was able to train with such karate legends as Matsumura Sōkon, Ankō Itosu, Sakuma Pechin and Kōsaku Matsumora. Motobu Choki was a strong advocate of proper makiwara training in karate. He was also one of the three notable karate masters Tatsuo Shimabuku, the founder of Isshin-ryu karate, studied under.

In those days, karate was a fighting art, a system of personal combat that was very much founded in scientific principles such as the laws of physics, a keen understanding of body mechanics, and the strengths and weaknesses of the human body.

Old-style Sport Karate

Sport karate primarily evolved as U.S. Marines were stationed on Okinawa and began seeking instruction from local Okinawan instructors. Due to the competitive nature of U.S. marines, they wanted a way to try out what they were learning on each other. To facilitate this, instructors like Tatsuo Shimabuku put their Marine students into what was essentially kendo armor, and let them go about bashing each other.

Voilà … you now have sport karate!

It is important to consider that the average tour for a Marine on Okinawa was a year to eighteen months. That is barely enough time to achieve a thorough understanding of the basics of karate, much less explore real application of kata techniques or advanced principles. Everything was rushed and there was little depth to the training because of time constraints and the fact that Marines spoke little Okinawan and the Okinawans spoke little English.

Modern Sport Karate

While the Marines certainly learned the kata of the system they studied, there was simply not enough time to explore what was in them. And, they probably preferred sparring with each other much more anyway.

Many of these Marines later returned to the U.S., opened karate schools, and taught what they knew and loved. Basic punching and kicking skills, with an emphasis on bashing each other in the ring.

That’s gonna hurt!

But to say that this is the sum total of karate is simply untrue. Fortunately for us, some Marines, such as AJ Advincula, went back for more, and others like Sherman Harrill followed the Kenpo Gokui (topic of a future post) and just kept working.

However for now, as a means to illustrate some of the basic differences between Classical and Sport Karate, I will list a few of the more obvious ones here.

Classical Karate

  • Emphasis on mastery of basics and exploring the application of techniques from kata.
  • All kicks are executed at or below belt level.
  • Strikes executed with many weapons including fists, forearms, elbows, specific knuckles. knees, heels, toes … etc.
  • Goal is to not lose the fight.
  • Because of the “no rules” nature of combat and the risk of injury during training, as well as the need for continued training partners, courtesy, control, humility, and respect for life become an integral part of training.
  • Most of the techniques practiced would get you disqualified in the ring.

Sport Karate

  • Emphasis on conditioning and developing good sport appropriate techniques.
  • All kicks must be above the belt. (Certain traditional tournaments allow limited groin kicks.)
  • Strikes executed with padded fists and feet.
  • Goal is to accumulate points to win the match.
  • Training is much like training for any sport such as boxing with a focus on developing techniques allowed under the rules of the game.
  • While these techniques can be effective in the street, you can’t train one way and fight another.

One of the fundamental building blocks of classical karate is an understanding of body mechanics. This understanding should begin to grow on your first day at the dojo. Therefore, it will be the topic covered in the next post.

Isshin-ryu Karate

For other posts on this topic, click here!

Sharpen Your Writing Skills!

Using Twitter to sharpen your writing skills?

But I don’t want to deal with the politics, vitriol. and hatred on Twitter!

Well, you don’t have to.

Yes! Twitter is in the news a lot. We hear about the vitriol and hate some express on Twitter. We hear about the censorship of conservative voices, and now we have just heard Twitter is banning all “political” ads.

It is easy to get caught up in the noise. And, I must admit I have been caught up in it a time or two … or three … or perhaps even four, myself.

However, I am going to try to work on that. Just be choosy in who or what you “follow.”

Now, about those writing skills …

sharpen your writing skills

One thing I really do enjoy on Twitter, is the supportive writing community. And I do participate in several, what I call “prompted Micro Fiction.” How it works is you get a daily word prompt, and you have the length of a Tweet to write a story, poem, or whatever you feel like writing. It is actually quite fun, and it does truly help sharpen your writing skills. I really like the #vss365 writing challenge.

Here a some examples I have written:


#lucid

“Damn! Clovis, that’s one hell of a shiner you’re sporting there! What happened?”

“The old lady asked me if her yoga pants made her look fat, Clem.”

“And, you said yes?”

“Damn, Clem, I didn’t want to lie to her!”

“Not one of your more #lucid moments, Clovis!

#vss365


#strike

Day-umm! Clovis! That’s one hell of a bruise!”

“Yep! It’s part second degree burn too!”

“Dude! What happened?”

“Well, guess I shot my mouth off at the old lady, Clem.”

“So, a bruise and a burn, Clovis?”

“The #strike came while the iron was still hot, Clem.”

#vss365


#verify

“What did the cops want Joe?”

“They needed to #verify where I was last night. There was some kind of upscuddle at the strip club. Told em I was with you.”

“But I was in that upscuddle Joe!”

“The cops don’t know that Clem.”

“I can #verify you’re an idiot Joe!”

#vss365


#second

“Listen Joe, there are two things life taught me.”

“Really? What’s are they Clem?”

“The first is that bills always travel through the mail much faster than checks.”

“And … the #second?”

“Never take a sleeping pill and a laxative on the same night.”

#vss365

Then sometimes, I even let my “romantic fool” side show …


#mystery

I will never understand the #mystery that is a woman’s heart!

She said to me once, “never underestimate the blackness that can be found there,” and then together, we had five of the best years of my life.

Turns out, I should have listened.

#vss365


#longing

There is a longing that cuts deep, to depths of my very soul. I live to again hear her voice, that wonderful laugh, to see her smile. I miss the stars that danced in her eyes. I pray that I will again feel the warmth of her loving embrace.

#vss365


#bottle

I looked over at her, finishing her last shot of Tequila, a sour look on her face.

“What’s up?” I asked. “Don’t #bottle that shit up inside. Let it go! Get it out in the open!”

She did! All over my brand new Nikes!

#vss365


So think about giving it a try!

Some of these Tweets got a really great response. But regardless, it is a lot of fun and a simple way to find out what other people, strangers, think about your writing.

Don’t forget to check out Serpents Underfoot and Adirondack Bear Tales, available at Amazon.

And for other interesting posts, click here!

Pearl Harbor is remembered

GP Cox posted a great remembrance for Pearl Harbor Day on his blog, Pacific Paratrooper. Please take the time to check out his great blog.

Pacific Paratrooper

Crew of the USS Arizona

When diplomacy failed and power and greed survived – the Pacific skies went dark….

Hickam Field

Aerial view during the attack

Battleship Row, as seen by Japanese pilot during the attack

From the Smithsonian Museum……

USS Oklahoma stamp

This relic marks the movements before the U.S. was launched into WWII….To record when a piece of mail was processed aboard ship, the Navy used wooden postmark stamps.  This one bears an ominous date: 6 December 1941 PM.  It was recovered from the battleship Oklahoma after it was hit by several torpedoes, listed to a 45-degree angle, capsized and sank in the attack on Pearl Harbor.  The ship lost 429 sailors and Marines; one-third of its crew.

For a different view on the Pearl Harbor “surprise”……..

https://pacificparatrooper.wordpress.com/2016/12/07/the-other-pearl-harbor-story-kimmel-and-short/

For a wonderful Pearl Harbor poem, by Lee…..

https://mypoetrythatrhymes.wordpress.com/2018/08/

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Farewell Salutes – 

William Barnes – Brookston, IN ,& Lake Worth…

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Reblog from National Anthem Girl: Send Christmas Cards to Lonely Vets in Hospice Care

Great post. I wish I had seen this a little sooner!

e-Quips

1: SEND CHRISTMAS CARDS TO LONELY VETS IN HOSPICE CARE!

Veteran’s Last Patrol’s purpose is to ensure no veteran faces their last years, months, weeks of their lives alone. They would love to deliver YOUR cards to veterans who are alone in hospice this holiday season! This is a GREAT project for your students, children, office group…everyone! Please consider sharing this mission with others. Here’s all the info you need:

How many cards should I send? As many as you can! Veteran’s Last Patrol is currently working with about 100 veterans. The more cards each vet receives the merrier! Be creative! If you’ve got some creative students/kids – have them draw pictures too!
Do I need to put postage on each card? No. If you’re sending more than one card, just put them all in one package or envelope and send. Feel free to put your return address on each…

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Montagnard: Chapter Sample #1

Setting the stage …

In this sample, we jump into the past to find young Dish, a Montagnard warrior and ally to the American’s during the Vietnam War, narrowly escaping certain death at the hands of the Viet Cong.

Dish is the adopted brother of Mai, a Vietnamese woman and mother to the main character in this exciting sequel to Serpents Underfoot. He plays a key role in this new tale of kidnap, rescue, redemption, and revenge.


17 September 1967

Dish leaned his back against a tall Dalat pine and struggled to quiet his heavy breathing to listen for sounds of enemy pursuit. The ambush had been perfect. Dish, as point man, had been allowed through the kill zone. Somehow he’d missed it, which meant that whoever laid that ambush was also damn good; because Dish was damn good.

The terrain had not allowed for the typical L-shaped ambush, or the Viet Cong’s favorite, a V-shaped ambush. But the Green Beret A-team he was scouting for was now caught in a deadly cross-fire from both sides of their position. Separated from the team by a dense hail of bullets created by both the ambushers and the Green Berets who were returning fire, Dish tried, unsuccessfully, to circle back and rejoin them. Unfortunately, he ran directly in to a group of a dozen or so VC that were moving up to reinforce the right leg of the ambush. Spotting Dish, the group opened fire, and he could do little more than turn and flee back down the trail. The excited VC, forgetting their mission, took off after him, following in hot pursuit.

Reaching up, he removed his Boonie hat to wipe his sweaty brow with the sleeve of his olive drab jungle fatigue jacket. Listening , he heard nothing.  

There’s no way I lost them, Dish thought. Maybe I outran them? He doubted that was the case and was sure they’d be along. More likely, they were moving cautiously.

Finally, he risked a swallow of water from his canteen, relieving the dryness of his throat. Placing the canteen back in its pouch on his left hip, Dish returned the Boonie hat to his head and crouched down, shifting his grip on the M-16 rifle he carried. He listened for several long minutes. Had he lost them? It still seemed unlikely.

That question was answered a few seconds later when Dish heard a twig snap a short distance to his left. He froze. A hushed admonishment in Vietnamese immediately followed.

Then, his eye caught a movement. Dish held his breath as two black-clad figures stepped out of the brush and into a small clearing just a few yards down the slope from where he now stood, pressed against the Dalat pine. Both VC carried AK-47s and wore bandoliers with extra ammunition hanging sash-style over their shoulders. Each wore the trademark conical straw hats as protection from the sun, which luckily at this moment was directly behind Dish.

He felt a bead sweat run down the back of his neck. More sweat stung his eyes. Dish could do nothing; even the slightest movement might give his position away. To his surprise, the two enemy fighters never even glanced his way. Their attention seemed focused on something downslope. Seconds later, the two continued to carefully work their way down the hill and away from where Dish was willing himself to become part of the tree. Then, like jungle ghosts, they were gone.

Turning, Dish began running along an outcropping of rock that was partially concealed by the Dalat pine against which he’d rested. There was a shout. An AK-47 fired, and a spattering of bullets ricocheted off the rock just behind him. They were right on his tail. Dish spotted an outcropping of rock just ahead and raced toward it. Hearing his pursuers closing in behind him, he ducked behind it.

I hope this isn’t a dead-end!

There was no place to hide. The crack created by the outcropping was narrow and not very deep. Perhaps five feet wide at its opening, in narrowed to maybe eighteen inches where it ended in a rock face.  It was seven or at feet deep at best with a thick growth of leafy scrub brush at the base of the rock face. It was a dead end.

At twenty-three years old, Dish had been fighting the North Vietnamese and their VC allies for seven years and had witnessed much of their evil brutality. He was determined not to be taken alive. Moving quickly to the rear of the crack, he pressed his back into the brush and checked the action of his M-16 rifle. Dish had ten fully loaded 30-round magazines available in his rucksack but doubted he’d get a chance to reload very many times.  When he died, several of them would come with him.

Pressing the magazine release, he quietly slid the partial magazine from the well and replaced it with a full one. Working the charging handle as noiselessly as possible, he moved back as far as he could into the split in the rock. Turning to face the opening, Dish leaned back into the brush, wanting to feel something substantial behind him. Nothing. He shifted back just a bit and pressed back again. Still, there was nothing. Crouching, he worked himself farther back into the scrubby growth and suddenly tumbled over backward.

Getting to his feet, Dish looked back at the crack. He was now standing on the other side. The rock face in front of him was solid, but there was a hole, probably cut by water at its base. Stooping, he peered into the hole and estimated the rock wall to be several feet thick. The scrub brush concealed the hole, and he had luckily fallen right into it. Dish listened but could hear nothing. The VC were cautious in their approach, suspecting they had him trapped and in no rush to get themselves killed. Even a trapped rat will turn on its pursuers, and Dish was no rat, more like a tiger.

Dish quickly took stock of his situation and could see he was in a big bowl cut by falling water. He spotted a rocky wash on his right that led up a steep, almost vertical, bank.

The only way out of here is up, he decided.

He slung the rifle across his back and started climbing up the wash, making as little noise as possible. He’d climbed about a hundred feet or so when the wash suddenly turned out onto a rock ledge. Flattening himself out, Dish lay on the shelf and quieting his ragged breath, listened. He could hear the VC below him, now searching for him, calling out to each other in Vietnamese.

“Fan out! He can’t have just disappeared. Poh! Use your bayonet and check that brush.” There was the sound of a bayonet snapping into place on a rifle barrel and then being thrust repeatedly into the brush.  

“I tell you he isn’t here!”

After a time, the perplexed group of VC moved on, their voices fading as they drew farther away. They’d completely missed the hole into which he’d fallen.


I think my readers will find real improvements in style and substance in this new release, due out next summer … a result of lessons learned while writing my first novel.

I have gotten great feedback in emails and reviews of Serpents Underfoot, and I always take that feedback to heart as I strive to improve my skills in my chosen craft as a writer. I am looking forward to hearing from my readers about this second novel when it is released.

Have You Ever Thought About Doing a Book Trailer?

How do you market your books?

If you are a self-published author, you are often on your own when it comes to marketing your work. There are many avenues to explore including review blogs, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, email lists, etc. In fact, it can sometimes be a bit overwhelming!

In my opinion, social media marketing is great for getting exposure. You can build a support network of other writers (#writingcommunity), gain ideas about target markets for your books, and promotes specials or giveaways. You may even sell a few books.

But I have come to a conclusion that people who spend a lot of time on social media outlets, are probably not book lovers or voracious readers. If they were, they’d be reading, and not Tweeting. So, I decided to try something new!

I decided to try creating a book trailer.

Videos do seem to be another great way to grab a possible reader’s attention and interest, gain exposure, and maybe even sell a book or two. Videos are easy to share and can certainly be used with social media. But, they can also be used on your website, uploaded to YouTube, emailed, shared on blogs, etc.

Conspiracy. Terrorism. One SEAL stands between freedom and nuclear annihilation.

I started trying to do this myself, but quickly found out that there is a good bit to it. Access to appropriate royalty-free footage, editing software, having a script or storyboard, and a good soundtrack are all important and too much to learn all at once. Therefore, I enlisted the help of a video editor on Fiverr.com to help me get started. It turned out to be a lot of fun. You can view the results above, of course.

As part of this process, I did learn the importance of having a script and storyboarding your video to get your ideas in laid out and conceptualized before you go looking for royalty-free video footage, etc. I am also looking into getting some better video editing software. I think this would be fun to do yourself, but then, you also have to consider time and investment.

So, for my next project, a “coming soon” book trailer for my sequel to Serpents Underfoot, I will certainly still get some help from the experts on Fiverr.com, but who knows what the future may hold!

One thing is clear. Writing a book is only part of the battle, and in fact, may be the easiest part. Getting your book out there and getting exposure, building a reader base, driving sales, all while continuing to write additional books can be quite a challenge. Hopefully, somewhere down the line, the work pays off. You have to truly believe that the investment of all your time and hard work will pay off in order to keep chugging away and eventually be successful.

Just don’t stop trying!

There is some sage wisdom from some old martial artist that seems appropriate here. The founder of Isshin-ryu Karate, Tatuso Shimabuku, used to say it, but I am pretty sure it didn’t originate with him. The saying goes:

If you fall down seven times, get up eight!

unknown

My version of that is “I am to stubborn to know when I am beat, so I just keep going!” But, isn’t that the secret to success?

Stay tuned for future book video trailers. And for other blog posts and book reviews, click here!