Tuesday, November 7, 2023

Spoke with WMNF Tampa on Crypto Currency

A few weeks ago, I had a very cool opportunity to chat with my friend Patro Mabili on WMNF 88.5 Tampa a few weeks ago. Mabili hosts a show called Community Speaks and wanted me to talk about crypto currency and how criminals use technology to illegally use funds. Although that isn't my area of expertise, I think I did a good job covering the basics.

Check it out here:


Monday, October 30, 2023

Book Review on Suncoast Blues Society webpage


I wrote a book review of the book Up Jumped the Devil: The Real Life of Robert Johnson over at the Suncoast Blues Society blog.

Book Review: Up Jumped the Devil: The Real Life of Robert Johnson - Suncoast Blues Society blog, 10/10/23

Thursday, October 26, 2023

Making a Best Sellers List

My book signing at Bookstore1 in Sarasota was a success. I sold out of all the books they ordered. In doing so, I made the Bookstore1 weekly Best Sellers list. This information gets sent up to the New York Times for their overall Best Sellers list. While I don't expect to make the top of that list, it is awesome that my book is somewhere on there. Maybe they print a list of all book data submitted. I wouldn't mind making the top 1,000.

Thursday, October 19, 2023

Thoughts on the passing of Tim Wakefield

I had the honor and pleasure of writing a piece on BallNine.com recently on the passing of former Boston Red Sox pitcher and hometown hero Tim Wakefield. Thanks to the Chris Vitali and the team at BallNine for letting me cameo over there.

REMEMBERING WAKE - BallNine.com, 10/13/2023

Monday, October 9, 2023

Comparison to a New York Times Best Seller

I am incredibly passionate about my novel Curveball at the Crossroads. I love my book.

However, here is a fact: Curveball at the Crossroads is not yet a NY Times Bestseller. I won't tell you how many books I have sold, but it is not at NY Times level. Yet.

I know authors are not supposed to compare themselves to other authors. We are all on our own journey. But there is one author I can't help but compare myself to. Our debut novels came out at the same time, but we could not be on more different journeys.

She and I have a lot in common. We both worked serious jobs and wrote on the side. However, while I have been published in the Tampa Bay Times, on sports websites, national defense websites, cybersecurity websites, and as many places that will have me, she was never published prior to her debut novel as far a I know. You would think that would give me an advantage. You would be wrong.

I recently watched Sarah Penner's presentation at the Southern Voices 2023 convention. She is a featured speaker at a book convention. She was selected as her debut novel, The Lost Apothecary, was a NY Times Bestseller. One for one right off the bat.

I have written before that I gave up on traditional, big market publishing. I didn't want to deal with agents and queries and all that rigmarole, especially as I was looking for a steady job and a steady relationship at the same time. That is a lot of possible rejection.

Sarah embraced the struggle to be published as she had a steady career and a steady relationship. That gave her the base in which to be patient in her creative endeavor. She pitched and pitched until she hooked an agent who found several publishers interested and her career as an author took off.

Sarah Penner's debut is about a strong woman who goes on a journey in the 1880s in London. Facts: women read more fiction than men. As Sarah mentions in her talk, women readers want to read about strong women. Books that take place in the past are also well-regarded. Sarah gave her readers what they wanted.

People have often asked me what year does Curveball at the Crossroads take place. To be honest, I didn't really think about that when I wrote it. I don't think that hurts the story, it is just not defined. The Lost Apothecary takes place in a defined era.

Curveball at the Crossroads’s primary audience is sports fiction fans. That is not a huge, robust audience. I am a white writer who wrote about a Black kid from rural Mississippi. My novel uses a very familiar trope in the deal with Devil. There is a lot of wordplay and unique phrasing throughout the book. Although I like to think publishers might look differently after the reviews I have received, I don't blame them for passing on it.

Then there was my fiasco with Legacy Book Publishing and the horrible first edition Gabriel Vaughn released with my name on it. Luckily, I had the rights to my book and was able to re-release it the way I wanted. 

Because Sarah had an agent, a publisher, and wrote to her audience, her book was able to take off. She didn't have the problems I had to get a book published. She was given a huge advance. Meanwhile, I am still trying to get out of the hole on my book investment. She is now a full-time author. I am still working my nine to five.

Sarah doesn't have to worry about marketing or distribution or contacting bookstores. In a way, she has become part of her publisher's product. I contact bookstores, coordinate my own signings, pay for my own marketing material, and post about my book on every social media possible.

I am out at breweries and book fairs, sports bars and parking lots selling Curveball at the Crossroads. I am on whatever and whoever's podcast will have me. I booked my own morning TV appearance. I will sell Curveball at the Crossroads on a train, on a plane, on a boat, or in a moat. I don't care. And every sale is noted on a huge spreadsheet I maintain to keep track of costs.

I am not hating Sarah Penner. Not at all. As a matter of fact, I applaud her. She has been nice enough to reply to some social media comments I have made. I congratulated her on her debut novel and on the launch of her second. But I can't help but compare myself to her, even if to realize how different two authors' journeys can be.

Monday, October 2, 2023

Curveball at the Crossroads at the Bookstore1 Book Fair


I will be at Bookstore1 in downtown Sarasota on October 21st from 10am to 2pm selling and signing my debut novel Curveball at the Crossroads. Bookstore1 is a great bookstore run by great people. This will be my third time doing their book fair.

Bookstore1 already has copies of Curveball at the Crossroads on hand. If you want to buy your copy beforehand, and bring it to be signed, you can do that. Or you can order the book, and pick it up there on the day of the book fair.

I am also happy to be doing this book fair with my friend Josh Ginsburg. He has some great books about the interesting and odd of Tampa Bay and Orlando. Definitely recommend checking out his books.

Monday, September 25, 2023

Edwin Jackson and the traveling Virgos

Growing up, I wanted to be a Major League Baseball player. For whatever reason, fate had other plans. But as it turns out, I share a birthday with several Major League Baseball players and a professional lifestyle with a very special group of those players.

There are 63 Major League Baseball players who share my September 9th birthday. There are a few Hall of Famers (old school stars Frankie Frisch, Waite Hoyt, and Frank Chance), several all-stars, and a few coaches (Tampa Bay Rays pitching coach Kyle Snyder was born on the exact same day).

Of that group, what is especially interesting about my birthday is the amount of extremely travelled ballplayers born on September 9th.

According to MLB.com research, there are 47 players in professional baseball's 160 year history who have played for 10 or more teams. To be good enough to play is an accomplishment, to be wanted by ten or more teams over the course of a career is a peculiar and interesting oddity. Of the 23,000 professional baseball players, those who have been on 10 or more teams is a microscopic 0.2 percent.

Of that 0.2 percent, approximately 13% were born in September. An even dispersal would have been four per month, but as you can see on the below chart, September has six, 50% more well-traveled Major Leaguers.

If we dive into September's data and we look at the six players who comprise this month of well-traveled professionals, we discover an even more interesting coincidence.

Of the six players born in September who played for more than 10 Major League teams, three are born on September 9th. More well-traveled players are born on September 9th than any other day, including Edwin Jackson, who holds the Major League record for being on 14 different teams. The only other day on which more than one well-traveled baseball player was born is February 14, the birthday of two players who played for 10 or more teams.

I could look up every date and see the average for teams played for per date, but that would be a lot of research and I don't have the time or energy for that. But I did look up September 9th. The 63 ballplayers with whom I share a birthday have been on an average of 3 teams. I didn't do the research on the other 364 days, so I don't know if that is above or below average. Of the 63 of the 23,000 people to ever play in the Major Leagues, three played for more than 10 teams. So in total, 0.013% of all Major League Baseball players ever born were born on the same day and played for 10 or more teams.

That day happens to be my birthday, September 9th.

Ironically, I have also had a well-traveled career. Since my first job at McDonalds in high school, I have worked for 17 different companies in 28 years. Since 2006, when I entered the defense contracting field, I have worked for 10 different companies, including more than half of the top 10 companies in the industry.

Not to brag, and not to downplay their struggle to stay in Major League Baseball, but I think my journey might be more stressful. Perhaps not physically, as they have had to move cities more often, but my journey may have been more difficult mentally. Whereas they have stayed in Major League Baseball, and been good enough to play at the top level for more than ten teams, they have still been under the same umbrella organization of Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Union. They have always been Major Leaguers and had the benefits, salaries, privileges, and protections thereof. When I leave organizations, I am done. My benefits go away, my protections disappear, and I am out on my own. I also don't have an agent making calls on my behalf looking for my next job.

Maybe it is something on who we are as Virgos born on the 9th that makes traveling and moving from job to job a regular behavior. Maybe our analytical instincts lead us to find new teams and organizations to work with in our industries.

With Edwin Jackson, Todd Zeile, and Dan Miceli no longer in baseball, I guess it is up to me to continue our shared birthday's wandering professional lifestyle.

Anyone hiring?

Monday, September 18, 2023

Conversing on the Creativity Conundrum

Here is a blog post I don't think I ever published. From the read, it looks like I wrote it 9 years ago while in my MBA program. In 2014, I had the rough draft of Curveball at the Crossroads and I was between jobs. I had no idea what I wanted to get into, I only knew I didn't want to do government contracting anymore. Little did I know in 2014 that I would get back into government contracting several more times and I would in fact still be creative on the side.

The big difference between mid-30s me and mid-40s me is that I don't mind being creative on the side. I have grown to balance my professional and my creative. It is great when they come together, but otherwise, it is always an interesting challenge to grow and excel in both.

But anyway, without making this intro its own post, check out my thoughts on creativity from 2014. I found this interesting.


I've written a bit about creativity before. To me, it's a new and fascinating subject. To be honest, I never realized creativity was a big deal until the last year. My thoughts on the subject began when I was in Afghanistan and was one of few who worked on creative endeavors in my spare time instead of burrowing away in the gym as many others did. I was the one who had a little Yoda figure by my desk, who hung a pic of me in an afro posing with Humpty Hump, and brought a DJ Kitty puppet across the world.

In business school, they talk about creativity as a good thing. Something rare and something that should be celebrated. The guy who's done stand-up comedy, ran around Tampa in an afro, and wrote a fiction book is looked at as unique. Well, that's a good thing.

Now my challenge is to find a job that allows me to incorporate creativity and make good money. Yes, I want to make good money. I don't think there is anything wrong with that. I don't want to be a starving writer.

That said, I have been reading a lot more about creativity. What people think about it, how they define it, and how they encourage it.

Fast Company.com's Co-Create blog has been a must-read for me. They publish a lot of articles for creative minded companies (advertising, marketing, etc), but I think the lessons are applicable anywhere. As long as people are open to ideas.

This article, for example, discusses how to break out of a funk and disrupt uncreative processes. Sometimes it's as easy as moving to another location. Although I agree and try to do this personally, taking my laptop to Barnes and Noble, Starbucks, etc, I've found it tough, if not impossible, to do so in the workplaces I have been in. Government processes are pretty standard and leadership enforces that. Even if employees end up droopy-eyed and zombified at their monitors.

There is a lot a big push in creativity study to mimic the mind of a child. Kids have great imaginations. Unfortunately, in our current society, jobs, academics, processes, and "life" suck the soul and spark out of peoples' imaginations. That might be because we start getting more number-focused and time-crunched, and our creative muscles atrophy.

Imagination is a muscle, if you don't work it, you lose it.

After seeing The Lego Movie a few months ago, I wrote about the Lego Corporation and their push to keep people, especially kids, creative. Here is another article on CoCreate on how playing with Legos can keep people creative. I think any toy will work. Legos are good because their pieces can build so many different things. But having a Star Wars figure or a Disney figurine, or anything else that will spark the mind will do the trick.

Capitalizing on the idea of the mind of a child is Ethan Nicolle, creator of the comic-turned-cartoon Axe Cop. I love Axe Cop. It's hilarious. According to the backstory, Nicolle got together with his then 5-year old brother and illustrated what his brother wrote. The result is a comic that is more creative than almost anything else on TV. Nicolle writes about his creative process in a recent blog on Axecop.com.
We grow up and we get jaded.  We learn that flight is impossible, super powers are imaginary, guns are bad and the only real ultimate good is to put your pop cans in the proper container and don’t judge anyone or anything.  We may get bigger, but our world gets smaller.  We shrink.  We carry our withered and jaded view of reality like a badge of wisdom and we try to force kids to accept it before their time, and it is in that moment that we rob them of what being a kid really ought to be.

The whole read is great.

Of course, once you do create something, you have to get it out there. CoCreate recently posted any interesting blog on self-promotion and getting your work discovered. I need follow those steps closely as I start sending out queries for my fiction book, hoping to get it published sometime soon.

Worst case scenario, I find a job that is not creative and keep plugging away at my creative endeavors in my spare time.

Wouldn't be the first time.

Monday, September 11, 2023

Not so serious Movie Review: DEFCON 2012


Tonight's cinematic misadventure is DEFCON 2012 (2009)

In the year 2209, four interplanetary explorers get lost in an abandoned Earth mall. They run around for 40 minutes until they find a woman who lives in a city under the mall where humans have hid from aliens since 2012. Amidst some terrible special effects and animated scenes of exploding space ships, our heroes continue to run around for 40 more minutes until they confront a space alien who once worked for Earth's Central Extraterrestrial Agency. They kill him and then stare at a picture until they see a sailboat. Wait, wrong mall movie.

Grade: 1 bored alien overlord out of 5.

Monday, September 4, 2023

Meeting Lou Gossett Jr in a chat room


I don’t know how true this is, but I am sticking to it.

Way back in the early days of the social internet, probably in 1996 or 1997, I would spend time surfing the web in whatever chat rooms I could find. This was the days before organized chat rooms, before AOL or Yahoo chatrooms, and way before any social media platforms.

In these web chat rooms, you didn’t need to sign in, you didn’t need an account, and you could be whoever you wanted to be. It was total chaos, but it was beautiful. Most of these chat rooms were run via Java chat, and were what we would call “apps” on a webpage.

I saw some interesting things in these chat rooms. Of course, some people would use the rooms for adult-type private chat. But most used them for a sense of community. I even saw one group simulate an online wedding, with a user acting like a priest addressing vows to two other users. Being mischievous and young, I used the opportunity to private message the virtual groom with messages of “run” and “it’s not too late to log off”.

(If I remember right, his handle was “TheDuck” and he once told me he fought in “a small war with small people with small minds”. I have always loved that phrase.)

But perhaps the most interesting encounter I had in an late 1990s random chat room was when someone claiming to be actor Lou Gossett, Jr entered the chat. I don’t remember his screen name, but I do remember him announcing he was in fact Lou Gossett, Jr.

Upon entering the chatroom, the famous actor started talking with the people in the room, asking if the room was an adult-themed room (I don’t believe it was), and if people there could be trusted (probably not).

Then he asked the room if they had any questions for him, predating the AMA reddit trend by almost 20 years.

Having seen Alien Mine and a few of Lou Gossett, Jr’s other movies, I was familiar with the actor and was surprised a Hollywood celebrity would be in a random chatroom with other bored internet surfers. So I asked Lou Gossett, Jr why he was in this room with us tonight. Of all the chat rooms online, why this one at that time?

Lou Gossett, Jr answered that he saw his son frequenting chat rooms and he wanted to see what his son was doing and whether it was safe or not. Seemed like a good answer to me.

(A bit of research shows Lou Gossett Jr has two sons, one born in 1974 and the other born in 1977. So he did have sons, but worrying about their online behavior when they were in their 20s seems a little fishy to me. Might make a dent in the credibility of the story. But as I said at the open, I am sticking to my story.)

After a few other denizens of the chat room asked Lou Gossett Jr questions that he graciously answered, I asked one more question. I asked him why he acted in Iron Eagle 3.

I don’t remember why I asked him that, nor do I remember ever seeing Iron Eagle 3. I know I have seen Iron Eagle 1 and 2, but Iron Eagle 3 is a total blank. For what it is worth, reviews on IMDB are not good. Maybe I did see Iron Eagle 3 and chose to forget everything about it.

I could have asked him about Enemy Mine, An Officer and a Gentleman, or Roots, but I asked him about one of his worst movies.

I will never forget Lou Gossett, Jr’s answer:

“The money, Mike. The money.”

A few minutes after he answered my question, the account claiming to be Lou Gossett, Jr logged out of the chat room.

That’s my Lou Gossett, Jr story.