Pendulum Shift drops May 31! Bringing Contests and Giveaways with It!!

The next installment of the Pendulum Heroes series is around the corner. It feels like a long time coming, and I’ve had several readers pinging me to see what happens next, mostly in the form of “What about Rich?”  I’m not going to spoil anything here, but I will tell you the answer involves witches, vamp-beasts and cutthroat discounts for marble art.  No spoilers because the wait is *almost* over.  Pendulum Shift arrives May 31.

Some of you may have missed the start of it all, my debut novel Pendulum Heroes.  Well, to celebrate the arrival of book 2 and get you up to speed, I’m hosting a free giveaway weekend on Amazon.  If you’re signed up for Kindle Unlimited it’s already free, but for those of us who spent our KU membership money seeing Avengers Endgame (guilty!) you can still get it free from May 24 thru May 27.

And the book 2 celebration doesn’t stop there! Already read the highly rated (4.7 stars on Amazon!) Pendulum Heroes? Can’t wait for the second book? I got you too! You can win a free Advanced Reader Copy of Pendulum Shift before it’s publication date.  Just sign up for my newsletter and you’ll automatically be entered into my Chosen One Contest, where Destiny (i.e. a random number generator) will choose the lucky subscriber on May 23.  The ARC has a back and spine, which means more custom artwork featuring this handsome reject:


Sign up form for the newsletter is either at the top of the page or you can just click here. I’ll drop more updates as the contest and free weekend approaches as well a link to preorder the e-book (apparently Amazon isn’t keen on setting up preorders for paperbacks).

See you all in the trenches and on the other side of the portal.



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uCertify Review

NOTE: For all those who come here because of my fiction, this is not one of those posts. That said, stay tuned as I have BIG news coming very, very soon.

I’m an IT guy by trade and I was recently approached by a representative from uCertify, a site that specializes in Computer Based Training (CBT) to use one of their training modules in exchange for an honest review.  Never one to shirk from either the chance to learn something for free or the opportunity to run my mouth, how could I say no?

My concise summation for the short attention span crowd: uCertify is decent. There are pros and cons but overall I’d say it’s worthwhile.

Here’s a more in depth review for those of you who are either genuinely interested in uCertify or are morbidly curious to see if this departure from my blog norm is still somehow a ruse.  There are a lot of CBT programs available to the IT community, one of the biggest and most known being CBT Nuggets and then newer competitors such as Udemy.  I hadn’t heard of uCertify before being approached by their representative, so I can only assume they’re one of the newest kids on the block and want people with contacts in the community to spread their gospel.  As a fledgling novelist, I can relate.

uCertify has an impressive array of courses to choose from.  Basics such as Security+, Linux Essentials and Microsoft Word 2013 to more in depth training like Certified Ethical Hacker and Oracle Database Administrator are present in their course list.  You can look through their most requested courses here.

It appears all of their courses are designed to prepare you to take and pass an associated certification exam. For those unindoctrinated to the world of IT, these certs serve as credentials that you know your stuff… it’s resume gold. Security+, for example, is required for nearly any type of government IT contractor.

I tried out the Python programming course.  I didn’t know Python before, having only experience in bash scripting and maybe dissecting the Perl scripts of others.

The interface is quite clean. Take a look.

They keep track of your progress and are perpetually evaluating your readiness to take the certification test based on your progress with the lessons and performance with the labs and tests.  The Chapters & Lessons section is the bulk of where I was during my stint with uCertify. Again, a very clean interface with quick access to labs, quizzes and flashcards.

I had zero problem and felt very comfortable navigating the site. My biggest issue came from their labs. I found them both daunting and buggy.  The Python Basics (Chapter 2) coursework was basically being able to type a line or two in Python and have the output spit out “Hello World.” It talked about the different types of data types such as integers and strings (basically not numbers).  Coursework was quite easy to follow and  included examples, charts and even videos. But here’s the very first lab:

Keep in my that this “def” thing doesn’t actually get talked about in the coursework until like Chapter 4.  This is the very first lab, which is labelled 2.1.24.  That in itself made me feel like for Chapter 2, lesson 1 there were 23 other labs that should’ve been included before I even got to this one. I honestly didn’t know what to put into this lab that wasn’t already there to make it run.  This is the daunting part.  The buggy part happens when you actually do run the program, see where you’re wrong, fix it according to what you need to succeed only to run it again and it still fails.  For a large percentage of their labs, you can copy the entire correct code from their assessment page, plug it in exactly as they gave it to you and it will fail.  I’m assuming the mileage on lab bugginess will vary depending on the course and coding, including Python, isn’t inherently a “this is right and this is wrong” sort of thing but more of a “what’s the best path to get what I need” endeavor.  You can overcome the bugginess by just running Python independent of the lab and testing their results but you won’t really be able to overcome the fact that the uCertify course is still saying you’ve failed to code the lab properly and not give you points toward completion.

I found the more I ignored the labs altogether and just focused on progressing the coursework, the more the prior chapter labs felt less daunting.  Perhaps it’s how they had to code the lab checks, where the only way to make it halfway workable was to incorporate Python elements that the student hadn’t even covered yet.

Ultimately, it comes down to a matter of learning style and cost.  If you’re a step-by-step completionist, uCertify may not be the right thing for you, if my experience with the Python course is any indication.  It was rather frustrating to have a hot zero for chapter 2 labs while I’m green on chapter 5 coursework.  If you’re a whole picture type learner who mostly cares about how it all looks at the end, then you may benefit the most from it.  And of course, perhaps the cost is also a motivating factor.  While I’m not sure about Udemy prices, I know CBT Nuggets is subscription based per month.  uCertify is an ala carte affair, each course I clicked on cost $139.  I think that’s better suited for folks who don’t quite know what life is going to throw at them and may not get around to studying for certification properly for weeks at a time.


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The Impact of Your Work

This humble post is about a story and a song, neither of them mine.

Let’s start with the story. Back in 2009, when I began my first foray into real writing and couldn’t get published to save self-esteem, I’d do market research at all the top magazines. Not only did I want to know what kind of stories they were looking for, I wanted to see what successful writers put in their stories, maybe get a glimpse at their secret sauce. Eventually I ran across Sock Heroes over at Strange Horizons. The first paragraph is a mere two words and from reading those words I was instantly hooked. Unlike some characters who come with built in empathy–the plucky orphan, the hooker with a heart of gold, the starry eyed youth–the protagonist was one I couldn’t care less about BEFORE I read those two words. And just like that, I cared. The author M. Thomas skillfully built on that empathy and by the time I was done I was simply amazed. I realized in no uncertain terms you could write about ANYTHING and it will make for an awesome story, if done right.

Her story spoke to me, and I wanted more from her.  Strange Horizons hosted another story called Beguiling Mona. I don’t have to sell you on how good it was; anyone familiar with my work can see how this story inspired me. Even hungrier now, and pretty much a fan at this point, I looked for more of her stuff.

And that’s where it all went dry. She had written from 2002 and stopped at 2006. By the time I had discovered her, a great many of the magazines and sites she had been published in were defunct.  Googling M. Thomas is probably the worst Google search I’ve ever had to conduct. Thomas can be a first name, a middle name and a last name and M. is just M. I literally could put M. Thomas with the name of the story with the name of the publication it was in into Google and have to damn near scroll to the bottom of the page to find a hint at the right person and oftentimes that was the SFF database ISFDB and not her actual work.

I’ve never figured out what happened to M. Thomas. I don’t know if she just gave up on writing, if life got in the way, or if she’s no longer with us.  I’d like to tell her that I learned much from her examples, especially with character development. Perhaps I’ll share those lessons with my fellow aspiring writers out there in a Creative Combat Arms section sometime in the future. Mostly, I’d like to thank her for enriching my life with her stories.

Her website never worked. It was ironically called

Let’s move on to the song. Much more recently, a couple months back, I stumbled across “The Last Laugh” on Netflix. Starring Richard Dreyfuss and Chevy Chase, it’s about an old comedian and his even older manager who decide to do one last comedy tour. So Chevy’s on a date with Andie MacDowell and they stop at a singer performing at a street corner. The song took over, this was at 53 minutes in, and it was bigger than the movie.

I’m ok with folk music and really not much for country… I think I can count on one hand the number of country songs I like and I’d still have enough fingers left to gouge some eyes in a bar fight. This song sat squarely  in the middle of those two genres and it absolutely spoke to my soul.

I tried to Shazam it and it failed. I ran it back, played it again and Shazam failed again. And again. I waited for the end of the movie, got her name, Jessie Payo, from the credits, did some Googling and still couldn’t find her.  And when I say Googling, I mean her name + fractions of song lyrics, maybe add the movie when that didn’t work, maybe change the lyrics to something else in case I misheard it with all that movie dialogue going on around it. Still nothing. In this day and age it’s like she wasn’t trying to be found or something!

Today I woke up, watched a show and afterwards decided I wanted to hear the song again. It still moved me and I realized why. It’s like a flash fiction story. The song encapsulates this brief span of time after you’ve gotten to know someone enough to be comfortable and trusting but before you and that other person are in a relationship and building it.  It’s not about love but rather the journey of discovery towards something that could be love, something neither of you’ll know until you go on the journey. For me, it brings me square back to over twenty years ago, to warm Louisville summer nights and two people who both knew whatever the hell they were doing made no sense but still took that journey together. So when I hear this song, it’s like my wife’s singing it to me.  And I recall a time that was pure magic and become joyful we decided to take that journey that didn’t make any damn sense together.

I decided to try to find Jessie Payo and her song again. And I found both. This is Jessie Payo’s website and this is her song Dance Real Close as I heard it on the movie. When you go to the comments section of the song’s page, you’ll see troves of folks pouring in, saying the movie brought them there and they searched and searched and searched and they were so glad to finally find it.

It’s amazing, the impact your work has had or will have on people. Scores of die-hards may find you and tell you or you may never know the extent.  It doesn’t matter if you’re a household name. It only matters that you put your skill of craft and passion into it.  That piece of your soul will speak to others in a language all its own and enrich them for having discovered it.


Filed under War Journals

New Year Contributions to Gaming Fiction

My first post of 2019 is one of triumphant fashion.  For those of you who still haven’t succumbed to your that growing, gnawing, ghastly curiosity and gotten yourselves a copy of my novel Pendulum Heroes, featuring gamers stuck in their avatars, it’s now available on NetGalley.  Some of you may remember my last post where I mentioned the extreme expense of NetGalley… fortunately my active membership in SFWA not only proves I can write stories that are entertaining to someone other than me, but also affords me the opportunity to feature my novel on their NetGalley page for a fraction of the cost.  I think this is one of the best perks available for indie novelists like me.

And for those of you who want a teaser, a small taste of my brand of gamer fic, my flash fiction story The Familiar Monsters recently dropped over at Daily Science Fiction.  This makes my eighth time appearing over at DSF and it’s always  a pleasure to see my story debut over there.  They make little fanfare about it, so I kinda know as it hits my inbox or people come from all over the webz to tell me they dug it.  This one’s my first gamer fic to appear on the site and you can see that, just like in the vein of Stephen King when he says it’s never about the monster,  with me it’s never about the game.

So if you’re new to this sub-subgenre, try it out on me.  But hurry on the NetGalley thing… it’s only on there for a limited time.  Sometime next month it’ll go away, I dunno when exactly and February’s a short month, so act now or act now-ish, just as long as you don’t act crazy in the DMV… don’t be that person.

And of course, you can always just drop over to your favorite distributor and buy a fun new novel.

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