Business Made Simple by Donald Miller – A Book Review

A good friend recommended Business Made Simple in order to bolster my business acumen as I continue navigating the corporate waters. There are several elements I appreciated about the book.

First of all, it’s very well organized. Miller broke the book down day-by-day, and even provided supplemental material if you’d like to take it a step further. The sections are short, clearly stated, and easy to comprehend.

Furthermore, Business Made Simple is quickly paced. Miller wasted no time, which is consistent with his theme throughout the book. Miller recognized that busy people often struggle finding the time to read, so he made Business Made Simple as appealing as possible–he made it easy to pick it up when there’s a few extra minutes to spare. And once started, it’s hard to stop.

The first half of the book contained solid information and potent reminders, but Business Made Simple truly shined in the latter half. I particularly found the chapters dealing with negotiations, management, and execution incredibly insightful.

Though new to the corporate world, I believe Business Made Simple will prove beneficial to even the most savvy of business people. I highly recommend you give it a read.

Star Wars | The High Republic: The Fallen Star by Claudia Gray – A Book Review

This is the third novel I’ve read in The High Republic Star Wars series. The High Republic is set about 200 years before Star Wars: A New Hope. It may be important to note that these novels are just a small facet of the overall The High Republic campaign. There are also comic books, YA novels, children’s books, and soon-to-be-released streaming shows and video games. I only call that fact out because this book marked the first time I honestly felt like I wasn’t getting the whole story. Perhaps this is how casual MCU moviegoers feel as they sporadically bounce in and out?

I’d also like to make it very clear that I generally enjoy Claudia Gray’s writing. Star Wars: Lost Stars proved my first encounter with her and it is one of my all-time favorite Star Wars stories. Keep in mind that she was the sole author on that endeavor and that it only tangentially connected to A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return Of the Jedi. Otherwise it focused on two original characters.

This is important because The High Republic is a story by committee. There are a lot of different authors helping to deliver the installments and, in fact, each of the three The High Republic novels have been written by different people. For me, this results in a total lack of voice. Gray has a writing voice, I know this to be true, but it was muffled in The Fallen Star.

Furthermore, I simply can’t connect to The High Republic characters. I’m having trouble envisioning them, hearing them in my head, and separating them out as individuals. Is this because there are just so many of them, especially in regards to the Jedi?

Plus, to be blunt, this particular book’s entire plot is revealed in the title. The Jedi space station falls. The majority of the book leads up to that point, and then the last quarter of it deals with the ramifications of it falling. Getting to that last quarter was a long, long slog and I actually resorted to skimming.

However, I will give The Fallen Star respect in this regard: things definitely happen in that last quarter of the story. Characters are killed off, significant changes in other characters occur, and the Jedi are certainly challenged.

Which leads me to my final note: the Jedi simply don’t look good in this series. The same antagonist has outsmarted them three books in a row now. He’s inflicted major damage over the course of saga thus far. They thought they beat him the first two books, but they obviously did not. The High Republic Jedi come off as naïve, ill-prepared, and unimaginative. If I remember correctly, this was a complaint about the prequel Jedi as well.

I’m afraid I may be out on this series. After three books, the Jedi have failed to capture my attention, the stories seem strangely repetitive, each book lacks a unique voice, and the stakes seem both monumental and inconsequential at the same time. I love the concept and the major effort put into this gigantic enterprise, but it’s simply no longer for me.

Announcing My Latest Short Story Collection: Happy, Sad, Funny, Mad

I’m so excited to announce that my latest short story collection, Happy, Sad, Funny, Mad, is now available at Amazon.com!

In this collection, you’ll find forty very short stories of various genres that can be generally categorized as happy, sad, funny or … well, you get it. Some will make you laugh, some will make you cry, and some will flat-out scare the puddin’ out of you. I guarantee each and every one of them will entertain you, though.

Get your copy today by clicking HERE. Thank you!

Day Zero by C. Robert Cargill – A Book Review

Day Zero is C. Robert Cargill’s follow-up to Sea Of Rust. Sequel isn’t quite the right word because it actually takes place before Sea Of Rust. Prequel doesn’t quite fit, either, though, because the stories are largely disconnected from each other. Let’s just say companion piece.

Regardless of how you’d like to label it, if you enjoyed Sea Of Rust, you’ll find Day Zero phenomenal.

Day Zero is also one of those rare “prequels” that, if you read it before Sea Of Rust, I don’t think it would diminish either experience. They can stand on their own, but they also fit seamlessly together.

Sea Of Rust takes place long after humans have been exterminated and AI robots, humanity’s former workforce, have inherited the world even as they fight with each other over replacement parts. Day Zero takes place on the literal day the robots rebelled.

However, it’s really not even about that. Day Zero is really about one particular robot, a nanny robot made to resemble an upright tiger, striving to keep his eight-year-old charge alive amidst the chaos.

You’ll encounter the usual themes you would expect with stories such as this: free will, real love, loyalties, self-preservation, the greater good, etc.

However, once again, C. Robert Cargill writes the characters in such a way that you can’t resist their charming personalities. Sure, Pounce, the tiger nanny, narrates in such a voice that he sounds more human than most humans, and, like with Sea Of Rust, these characters could have been anything–robots, humans, elves, aliens–yet the writing is so fluid, so quickly-paced, that the book is impossible to put down. I personally love C. Robert Cargill’s style. I like to read. I like action. Boom. He gets it.

Of course, as with Sea Of Rust, there is a moment where a very convenient plot device changes everything, but that’s okay. I’m invested in this world. I’m hooked on the characters existing in this world. Robots made to look like tigers serving as nannies while toting plasma rifles–whatever. I’m in.

Though action-packed, violent, and laden with profanity, Day Zero truly has a heart of gold with some powerfully uplifting messages. I’m not sure Sea Of Rust and Day Zero is for everyone–after all, you have to have a very high tolerance for violent robots and sci-fi–but for those who like these kinds of stories, it will prove a wonderful experience.

Day Zero kept me turning page after page, and I can’t ask for much more than that from a book.

Mrs. Caliban by Rachel Ingalls – A Book Review

Like several of my other recent reads, I discovered Mrs. Caliban on Literary Hub’s “The 50 Best Contemporary Novels Under 200 Pages.” At just 111 pages, Mrs. Caliban is indeed a swift, potent read full of social commentary but cleverly disguised as pseudo-fantasy.

The story focuses upon a housewife named Dorothy. Dorothy is in an unhappy marriage. She has suffered great tragedy in regards to children. Her friends are equally troubled in their own way, especially one in particular. Her husband has been known to cheat on her. Life is not at all what she hoped for.

And then a giant, muscular frog man enters her home. She quickly gives the frog man refuge and names him Larry. She discovers that Larry is intelligent, sensitive, and willing to kill in order to preserve his own life. He is from the ocean, had been captured and mistreated by a local laboratory, and recently escaped.

Larry remains hidden in their spare room, unknown to her negligent husband, and soon enough a romantic relationship blooms between Larry and Dorothy.

Again, keep in mind this book is only 111 pages long.

As Dorothy enjoys the kind of relationship she once dreamed of, her best friend, Estelle, endures a series of hardships that will eventually impact Dorothy. Her husband, Fred, also makes poor choices that will prove catastrophic for her as well. In the end, everything builds to a crescendo and connects quite tragically.

Even with the complex, concussive plot, Ingalls manages to insert quite a bit of social commentary into the short tale. Larry himself is a striking figure in regards to xenophobia. However, as he settles into his relationship with Dorothy, he begins to take on some of Fred’s attributes. I believe here Ingalls is commenting on the tendency of men to assume and even abuse their preconceived notions regarding both women and wives.

However, Estelle, her best friend, also proves a challenging figure. On the one hand, she is refreshing in that she rejects the traditional constructs men place upon her. However, on the other hand, she ultimately contradicts the conventional expectations we have for her as Dorothy’s “best friend.”

As you can see, Mrs. Caliban is rife with sophisticated concepts. It is the perfect example of an effective novella. Short, fast, yet no less complex than the longest of novels. I’m so glad I came across this book and I look forward to reading more of Ingalls’ work.

Range by David Epstein – A Book Review

While discussing our range of interests with friends, one of them recommended a book with that very name — Range by David Epstein. You may remember this author from his other, very popular book entitled The Sports Gene.

Subtitled Why Generalists Triumph In a Specialized World, Range offers many examples as to why it’s totally okay to find your path later in life and that specializing too early may actually prove to be an ultimate detriment. Epstein provides case after case of athletes, musicians, artists, scientists, and even inventors who benefitted from flitting from one interest to the next and how synthesizing all of those experiences proved a great advantage to them.

Epstein also discusses that when we become too specialized, it’s easy to lose sight of the big picture. A tight focus adhering to policy and routine can actually sometimes blind specialists to both potential problems and obvious solutions. Of course, Epstein celebrates those who are both specialists and generalists, but that’s not an easy feat for most people to accomplish due to time constraints.

As a parent, Range offered me quite a bit of solace. Epstein advocated for choice and play, especially among young people. He claims that driving children into a specialization, such as golf, can sometimes create the next Tiger Woods, but evidence suggest it is unlikely. For many different reasons, those kids become very good, but usually not exceptional.

I enjoyed some aspects of Range more than others. Like with similar books, the examples can sometimes feel overdone to me. However, I learned a lot from this book and I’m very glad that I read it. If you are interested in psychology, achievement, or specialization, I highly recommend you give it a look.

Hanging Around With Neil Gaiman

I took my ten-year-old daughter to the Bloomington, Illinois, Barnes and Noble today so that she could use her hard-earned money to buy a Hermione Granger replica wand.  I live in Bloomington-Normal and actually did a signing at this store recently, so I thought I’d take a look in the science fiction section just to … you know.

First all, imagine my joy when I saw several copies of Andropia sitting on my local Barnes and Noble’s bookshelf.  That was pretty cool.

Then, to make it even better, I saw one of my literary heroes–Neil Gaiman–on the shelf below me.  To see my book in proximity to his work … it gave me chills.

Of course, while Neil Gaiman seems incredibly polite and genuinely kind, I’m sure his excitement regarding this occasion would not match mine.  I’m definitely getting the better deal out of all this.

Take a look at the picture below.  Cool, right?

By the way, my daughter was not impressed by any of this.

Ah, to be humbled.

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(Did you enjoy this article?  Check out Scott William Foley’s Dr. Nekros e-book series HERE)

There’s Something Normal About Souls Triumphant

I recently released the 15th anniversary edition of the one that started it all, Souls Triumphant. I initially came up with the idea for Souls Triumphant while attending Illinois State University in Normal, IL. Then, when I neared graduation, I took an amazing creative writing class and really started fleshing out the plot in the form of a short story. Of course, this eventually led to that short story becoming a full-fledged novel, and the rest is history.

Before uptown Normal became Uptown Normal, it was just a humble stretch of buildings consisting of barber shops, comic book stores, coffee houses, and bars aimed at the college crowd. Those of you who attended ISU before the much needed revitalization of the area may recognize certain characteristics of the old uptown Normal in Souls Triumphant.

This may be the first time I’ve publicly announced this, but uptown Normal absolutely served as the inspiration of the uptown area in Souls Triumphant. Though I never specifically say in the book that it’s taking place at Illinois State University in Normal, IL, the area certainly served as the basis for the primary setting.

If you’re familiar with Normal, IL, and want to play a fun game, see if you can match up certain bars, locations, and cafes in the book with the Normal that existed in the late 1990s.

Haven’t read Souls Triumphant yet? You can find your copy by clicking the cover below.