History Has Indeed Repeated Itself

After a nine-year gap, I am once again a CCNA (Cisco Certified Network Associate).

I renewed my long-expired certification this afternoon to conclude a four-day, instructor-led “boot camp” course at the Poconos facility of Training Camp. Unfortunately, other than a brief walk after arrival on Sunday, I was able to spare no time during the week to enjoy the peaceful surroundings at the Fairview Resort in Bushkill, PA.

However, I was pleased that my accommodations this time were a vast improvement over the outdated and shabby villa from nine years ago. This time, I was given the “A” level–the upper floors–of the building versus the downstairs “B” level.

View from the Villa at the Treetops resort Deck view at the Treetops resort Villa kitchen at the Treetops resort Villa at the Treetops Resort Villa at the Treetops

My fellow students and I spent about 10 hours in the classroom each day followed by five to six hours of studying in the evenings. This, of course, meant no dinner, no working out, no writing, no editing, and little sleep. I knew all of this going in, of course. It was a repeat of the same course at the same facility nine years ago.

On Thursday afternoon, I was amazed to learn that I scored the highest among the class on the first exam. Passing score was 832 out of 1000. Mine was 941. On the second exam, passing score was 811 out of 1000. I finished with a 918. I’m not sure how I ranked among my classmates after the second exam since most of them departed shortly after they finished.

As a respite from the stress and intensity of the course, I read one chapter per night of actor Christopher Reeve’s autobiography, Still Me. Those who know me are well aware of my admiration for Mr. Reeve as someone I’ve looked up to as a hero since 1978 when I first saw him as Superman. I’m thoroughly enjoying his memoir, which provides excruciating details about the accident that left him paralyzed in 1995, interspersed with tales of his early acting career. A full review of the book is forthcoming here on the blog.

I’m finally home again and in desperate need of a long nap. I intend to reward myself by getting some fishing in later this weekend and then next week, it’s back to work, to writing, and to editing submissions to the next Middle of Eternity anthology.

 

Book Review: The Seven-Per-Cent Solution by Nicholas Meyer

A lost journal by Doctor John H. Watson—discovered by Nick Meyer’s uncle in the attic of a home in Hampshire, England—tells the tale of Watson’s desperation to permanently exorcise Sherlock Holmes of the demons of cocaine addiction. In seeking advice from a fellow physician, Watson learns of the unorthodox methods of a Viennese psychiatrist.

Meanwhile, Holmes has been spending his days and nights in the dogged pursuit and general stalking of Professor James Moriarty, the “Napoleon of crime!” as the famous detective has come to consider him. Surely, the fiend is up to something and must be stopped.

For his part, Moriarty, a humble math professor, has no idea why Holmes is shadowing him and implores the assistance of Watson who believes the genteel man to be honest. Together with Sherlock’s older brother, Mycroft, Watson convinces a reluctant Moriarty to travel to Vienna hoping that Sherlock will follow.

The plan works perfectly, and Watson “guides” Holmes to the residence of Doctor Sigmund Freud where both physicians attempt to rehabilitate the master detective and cure him of his hideous addiction through hypnosis. Needless to say, Holmes’s withdrawal and convalescence are torturous to both himself and Watson.

At the same time, a young catatonic woman is brought into the local hospital and Freud is summoned to look in on her. Holmes and Watson decide to join him. Freud again employs hypnosis to discover that the woman is actually Nancy Slater, the American widow of the late Baron von Leinsdorf and had spent her honeymoon in an attic!

Holmes, as usual, applies his extraordinary powers of observation to determine, based on her physical condition, that the Baroness had been abducted, bound, and imprisoned in an attic somewhere near the river among closely constructed factories and warehouses.

From here the game is—as Holmes would say—afoot as our intrepid trio attempts to solve this nefarious crime.

I’d first read The Seven Per-Cent Solution over 15 years ago, but no longer had my copy. I was fortunate to meet Nicholas Meyer at the Farpoint convention in February 2017 wherein I purchased a newer edition and had it signed. Meyer is, of course, the directThe Seven-Per-Cent Solution Book Coveror of many excellent films including Time After Time, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, and Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. He also co-wrote those Star Trek films along with Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. He also wrote the screenplay based on the novel I am currently discussing.

The Seven Per-Cent Solution is a thoroughly enjoyable read that felt like a solid Sherlock Holmes tale. Narrative, pace, and dialog were mostly faithful to Doyle’s work, and a young Sigmund Freud was represented in a way that honored his reputation and abilities.

 

Phil with Nicholas Meyer Phil with Nicholas Meyer

 

 

When Life Gets In the Way…

Finished editing another anthology submission this evening and sent it back to the writer. I am now caught up on all current submissions for Meanwhile in the Middle of Eternity. Waiting for three other writers to send their stories in and three more to turn around their revisions.
 
While I enjoy working on the Middle of Eternity anthology series, the editing has consumed my writing time. Alas, my SF novel-in-progress has been shelved yet again, as it was this time last year. I only hope that it doesn’t remain there collecting virtual dust until December… again.  This is precisely the reason I’m stepping down as editor of the anthology series after this third volume is released. 
 
At least in 2016, I managed to write four chapters in the first draft of the novel before putting it aside. This year so far, only two. I know better than to force myself to scratch out pockets of time to work on it. I cannot write quality prose stealing 30 minutes here or an hour there while I’m distracted and overwhelmed by projects at home and at work.
 
Starting tomorrow—and for the next week and a half—I must set aside both the writing and editing to begin pre-class studies for an intensive five-day CCNA (Cisco Certified Network Associate) course starting on 24 April. The class will run 8 hours per day, with evening review and practice for the first exam on Wednesday and the second on Friday. Passing both exams will earn me the CCNA.
 
Fortunately, I took this class, and passed the exams, nine years ago with the same training company in the same location. I only hope history repeats itself next week because I’ll need to apply my refreshed knowledge to two or three major projects at work in the coming months—which will mean more writing time lost.
 
Did I mention the two-week home renovation planned for June? Ain’t no writing going to happen during that time either. 
I find all of this sadly ironic, considering that I’ve given presentations and panel discussions on “Time Management for Writers.”  In fact, I’ve been asked to present this very topic again at a writers conference in 2018. Hopefully, by then, my writing schedule will be back on track.
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There was once a time, in my previous position, when I wrote during my lunch hours. In fact, that’s how I made the most progress on my first two novels and many a short story.  However, as of the past four months, most of my lunch hours have been dedicated to a self-paced course on Powershell (a command line and scripting language packaged with Windows 7 and above). When I’m not doing that, I’m working through lunch or running the occasional errand like everyone else.
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Pesky full time job! If only I didn’t need it to pay my mortgage, bills, and support my writing habit. Also, as a 25-year veteran of the IT world, it goes without saying that I need to keep my skills current in the ever-changing world of technology.
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Thankfully, I had the foresight to finish four short stories near the end of 2016 for anthologies and contests happening in 2017. That put me ahead of the game as there’s no way in hell I would have had time over the past four months. 
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I have not lost an ounce of enthusiasm for the SF novel. The moment I finalize the last anthology story and submit the manuscript to the publisher (hopefully by end of July), I’m blowing the virtual dust off of the first draft and plowing forward.
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Onward!

What? No more cons for the rest of 2017?!

Sorry for the delay since my last post.  Once spring arrives, my workload around house and yard often becomes all-consuming. I was also a writer guest at the Great Philadelphia Comic Con for two days and had a great time with writer pals Bob Greenberger, Aaron Rosenberg, Peter David, Russ Colchamiro, and new friend, Heather Hutsell.

Phil's Table at Great Philly Comic Con

Crazy 8 Press at Great Philly Comic Con

It was great to see some excellent celebrity guests as well including Bruce Boxleitner (Babylon 5, TRON, and more) and Paul Freeman (Raiders of the Lost Ark, and more). There were many others, but those were the only two gents from whom I sought autographs. I had met Mr. Boxleitner about 15 years ago at Shore Leave where I had a Babylon 5 photo signed, but this time around, I wanted to get a few TRON items autographed.  As an Indiana Jones fan, it was fantastic to meet the gracious and genial Paul Freeman (Belloq).

Bruce Boxleitner (TRON, Babylon 5) Paul Freeman (Raiders of the Lost Ark)

One lesson I learned at this con is that I’ve reached a point where I’m starting to run out of room to display all of my books. I know, that’s a good problem for a writer to have!  So, the display is going vertical, ladies and gents. I ordered a six-shelf book rack, which just arrived today.

Book Rack

Although I’ll rearrange the books for better visibility. I was just toying with ideas when I set up the above picture.

Even though I’m not doing any more cons for the remainder of 2017, I do have three or four single-day library events and book fairs lined up where I can use this and of course, when I’m back on the con scene next year.

My reasons for taking a hiatus from the convention scene are many. First, I’m doing two fairly expensive home renovations this summer. Secondly, the sheer number and complexity of upcoming projects at my full-time job are daunting and will require some weekend and after-hours work. Thirdly, my writing time has been significantly drained by the editing work on the third volume in the Middle of Eternity series. Finally, I’m just burned out and I simply cannot do everything and be everywhere.

The first draft of my science fiction novel was supposed to be completed last year, but again, home projects and prepping the second anthology for publication consumed the first half of 2016. I managed to complete only the first four chapters in the novel. Disappointing.

Even after Elsewhere in the Middle of Eternity was released in July 2016, I ended up spending a large portion of my writing time recording two of my three stories from that book on audio for podcast, which turned out to be an utter waste of about three weeks since a decision was made not to podcast anything unless ALL of the stories would be recorded. Well, most of the other writers either had no time, no interest, or no resources to record their stories. Thus, the podcast was cancelled.

I did manage to complete four short stories for various publications and contests between August and December. Then, as now, my novel saw only a modicum of progress, but two more chapters have since been finished. Still, the paltry progress is frustrating.

On the bright side, I shall be stepping down as editor of the Middle of Eternity series after book three is submitted to the publisher, which should permit me to fully focus on the SF novel.

What else have I been up to in my writing life? Well, one of those four short stories that I wrote in the latter half of 2016, “Once More, With Feeling,” was just published in a mixed genre anthology titled, The Write Connections, published by the Greater Lehigh Valley Publishing Group.

Two more of those stories have each been submitted to separate contests, the first (“So Hungry…”) to the Bethlehem Writers Roundtable paranormal fiction contest, and the second (“The Celestials”) to the annual Rehoboth Beach Reads short story contest sponsored by Delaware publisher, Cat & Mouse Press. I took second place in the 2016 Rehoboth contest and my story was published in the anthology, Beach Nights. Even if I don’t win one of the top three monetary awards this time around, I hope to at least see my story published in this year’s anthology, Beach Life.

The fourth story (“The Forest for the Trees”) will be included in the upcoming Meanwhile in the Middle of Eternity, tentatively slated for release in July 2018. That tale is an 11,000-word fantasy piece set in late 17th century Finland. So much research was involved in the great famine of the time as well as Finnish mythology.

Speaking of Meanwhile in the Middle of Eternity, I am off to edit a few more submissions this evening. The good news is that I have a three-day weekend ahead of me and maybe—just maybe—I can make some time to write…

Lastly, there is a good chance that my paranormal mystery novella, Like Mother, Like Daughters (written and submitted to the publisher in 2014), will finally be released in October as an ebook and audio book! Many of my readers have asked when the next story starring psychic-medium Miranda Lorensen will be released. Well, this is it, folks! It’s Miranda’s origin story and also involves her daughter, Andrea, who has a paranormal adventure of her own. Catch more of Miranda in my first two novels, Testing the Prisoner and By Your Side.