Monthly Archives: April 2017

Joining the Army! My career news updates.

27 April, L.I. A.S.

I’m joining the Army!

The weather here in Rochester is beautiful today! I hope it’s equally pleasant wherever you live, get outside! It’s finally feeling like Spring!

I want to take a bit of time here to write about the direction I’m taking my life in. After spending some time of my young adulthood in college classes, in a related political internship, in a financial career, and all the while writing my own fiction and freelance articles, I’ve decided I want to pursue a career in marketing. The way I see it, marketing is an area where my skills in writing, and my budding interest in business, intersect elegantly. I admire the mass persuasive ability of a good marketing campaign, whether for a business, a charity, or a government, and I want to put my skills to use helping to build such campaigns for worthy causes.

To that end, I’m planning on going back to school this Fall to earn my M.B.A, concentrated in Marketing. The work sounds interesting, I’ll expand my technical skills, and career opportunities abound in the field, with great pay for marketing managers.

Grad school at a private college as I’ll be attending is, of course, expensive, so partly for that reason, I’ve joined the U.S. Army Reserve! I officially signed my contract and swore in one week ago, and am in the process of processing into my unit. Military benefits include great educational funding. In my case, I could be getting pretty much a full ride, as I’m reaching the tail end of the process of applying to R.O.T.C, specifically a Minuteman Scholarship. Fingers crossed, I’ll get full tuition for the two years of the M.B.A. program, a housing stipend, and get to serve in the Army Reserve for six years. I’m hyped at the entire prospect!

I’ve been accepted into the M.B.A. program. Now it’s a matter of seeing whether I get that scholarship.

Above and beyond the financial benefits, military service is something I’ve actively considered for the past couple years. I’ve admired military service for a long time: war, nasty as it is, truly is the “First Art” for a civilization, as preparedness and victory in it is what allows for the flourishing of commerce, science, and other civil arts within a secure perimeter. I’ve benefited from the U.S. military’s “perimeter” all my life, I’ll benefit from it even more once I start earning good money in my civilian career, I’ve relished military history for most of my life, and it’s high time I start contributing to American and global security myself.

Out of all the branches, it was a no-brainer for me to choose the Army: I have family history in it through my grandfathers, uncle, and great-uncle, my favorite historical U.S. officers are from the Army, it’s the senior and biggest branch, and I want to be in the ground forces.

As for what job I want to do within the Army once I commission as a 2nd Lieutenant upon earning my degree, my top choice is Civil Affairs. There’s a long and difficult track into that position, so I’ll have to do something else first. Right now, that’s slated to be Intelligence.

I’m hyped for all this. It’s shaping up to be a great year. Onward!!

-G.R. Wilson

Book Recommendation: “Mastery,” by George Leonard

My thoughts on 

Mastery: The Keys to Success and Long-Term Fulfillment

by George Leonard

I recently finished reading George Leonard’s 1992 book Mastery. I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to improve their quality of life through the learning of new skills. Whether you want to be a great (or even good) athlete, computer programmer, parent, cook, author, musician, or entrepreneur, you’ll almost certainly find Leonard’s experience and perspective to be both inspiring and practical on your journey.

I was turned on to this trim little book by Owen Cook of Real Social Dynamics, a man who has certainly become a master in his own fields. I was intrigued both because Owen knows what he’s talking about in my experience and because I generally love books that help me learn new ways to improve my life. I went in knowing next to nothing about the book or its author, other than that the book was about the pursuit of learning and mastery for its own sake, rather than a “goals over process” approach that many today follow.

The author, the late George Burr Leonard (1923-2010) certainly speaks from well-earned experience on the topic of mastery. Leonard was a U.S. Army Air Forces pilot and flight instructor during the Second World War, who trained new pilots on the B-25 bomber and flew numerous combat missions in the Pacific. He went on to write thirteen books (mostly on the topics of human potential, and sexual relations,) and earn his fifth-degree black belt in Aikido, and open his own dojo of that martial art.

Leonard’s book focuses on the concept of Mastery, as in mastery of skills technical, intrapersonal, and interpersonal. When he talks about this concept, he means not so much “Being among the best 1% (or 5%, or 10%,)” of practitioners, but rather the never-ending practice of the the particular skill. The path, rather than the summit. Leonard bemoans modern society’s focus on climactic moments, quick-fixes, (“hacks,” as many today would say,) and easy wins, claiming convincingly that such a focus does much to help sell soft drinks, credit cards, and sneakers, but is anathema to the deep joys that come from truly developing oneself within a skillset.

In Mastery, Leonard challenges us to focus on the path, rather than the goal: he uses the analogy of a mountain climber who can see the summit in the distance, and who knows he’s headed in the right direction to reach it, but who keeps his eyes focused on the path immediately ahead.

Start with the fundamentals of a sport, say, tennis. Really master and know deep in your sinews and bones the way to properly hold a racket, how to perform a forehand swing, then a backswing, then a serve, then how to move and return an opponent’s serves, and so on. During such a process of proper learning, the student is sure to experience frustration, and feel multiple times that they are “stuck” on a plateau of no discernable improvement, before their brain can internalize the newest step of the path, and the journey again proceeds excitingly upward, until the student hits another slow, flat spot, and so on …

Leonard explains many of the dynamics behind people’s frustrations when they attempt to start a new hobby or other skill, including three broad types of people who experience those frustrations. He also helpfully offers advice on how to maintain focus on the path. At the foundations, the day to day, nitty-gritty, fundamental activity of doing the Thing at one’s present level of ability, and pushing a bit further every day, is the way through those frustrations and to the true joys of getting good at something. The author offers, coming from the Zen tradition, mindsets and physical methods of staying on the path of mastery for the long-haul, no matter what obstacles life throws in the way.

In short, Mastery is a solid, quick read that helps focus the mind and inspire positive action on one’s hobbies, professional skills, habits, and relationships. I took away a renewed commitment to take the steps every day on my writing, my fitness, my harmonica, and my other skills, to practice the fundamentals, and to push myself a bit more each day. The point isn’t to go all out for WINNING, (though vision and strong desire for a better future are also important,) but to be present and engrossed in the daily activity as an end in itself, with quiet confidence that the bigger external wins (money, women, fame, etc) will come in time anyway.

I can dig it. Check it out.

-Geoff

My first novel, “The Devil and the Doctor,” is now for sale!

23 April, L A.S. (2017)

The Devil and the Doctor is now available!

Good afternoon and happy Spring, ladies and gentlemen!!

Today I’m proud to announce the release of my first novel, entitled The Devil and the Doctor (Book One of the Malcolm Leeds Chronicles). Click the cover above to be redirected to the Amazon link, and please have a look at my publisher’s website, at Dark Moon Press.com. The book is available in paperback from both Amazon and Dark Moon Press, with a Kindle version coming soon!

I’m ecstatic to finally have this story in print. It has been a long time in coming: I’ve gone through multiple major rewrites and countless hours of “Is it good enough??” anxieties in getting this story out of my head and on paper for you all. I don’t think my uncertainties and stresses have been any different than what the vast majority of first-time novelists experience, and I’m proud as Hell to have run that gauntlet! I’ve learned a lot about the novel writing process, and I feel a greater sense of confidence in writing the next entry in the Malcolm Leeds series, and other novels. I arrived at this goal through a great deal of support and encouragement from friends and family, as well as painstakingly cultivated self-discipline. I’ve also been inspired by colleagues, heroes, and other favorite authors of mine, who kept my light of hope and creativity burning bright even when my outlook fizzled and went dim. A great book can be one of the greatest friends of a struggling writer.

So, what is The Devil and the Doctor about?

This novel is a supernatural horror thriller set in contemporary times. It follows the quest of the rough yet good-hearted young man, Malcolm Leeds, to rescue the people important to him and save the world. Though on the surface, Mr. Leeds he may appear to be a basic backwoods exterminator/animal relocator, he holds within himself a dark and mysterious power of transformation, carried through the ages since legendary times. Malcolm struggles not only against the external threats of a doomsday cult and its various monstrosities but also to maintain the proper balance of his own dual nature and find a sense of purpose.

An intense opening scene of violence and tragedy leads him and his lover Alleena on a journey out of the New Jersey Pine Barrens, and up to the cursed little town of Newbrooke, New York. There, Malcolm and his companions face dire supernatural threats in a community overtaken by the designs of a twisted scientist and prophet. Leeds will have to find who is ally and who is foe, fight hard, and embrace his own nature in order to overcome peril and save humanity from cosmic doom.

Why did I write this particular story?

After dabbling in writing during my childhood, I grew increasingly committed to it during my freshman year of college onward. I’ve loved reading my entire life, and wanted to contribute something of my own to the world’s fiction library. I’d written numerous short stories (mostly horror, and many more than the ones that have seen publication,) with the plan of sooner-or-later writing a novel. Short stories are wonderful in their own way, but I didn’t feel like I’d ever be “complete” as a writer unless I wrote at least one, and preferably dozens, of novels. I had ideas for stories and characters and monsters fluttering around my head, and it was time to bring them to life.

This particular story came about in the following way. First, I knew I wanted to write a horror book, because Stephen King and H.P. Lovecraft are some of my biggest inspirations and I want to master that genre the best I can. Second, I wanted to write something fast-paced with a lot of action, because I was most confident I could make something like that fun to write and read at my current level of ability, so, I added the modifier of “thriller” to my book’s genre classification, and brought myself to this supernatural thriller horror set-up.

I had the idea of a Jersey Devil-based protagonist floating around my head for months before I started on the opening scene and the wider planning. I’m a big superhero fan, so I had some inspiration from transforming characters such as the Incredible Hulk, as well as of course werewolves.

For the bad guys: I’d actually come up with the bare basics of our lead villain of Dr. Benedict Holt back in my The Night in Newbrooke Infirmary story back in Right Behind You, and wanted to build on that foundation. I adore Lovecraftian monsters and cultists and have always found the whole concept and reoccurring practice of religious fanaticism to be frightening and fascinating. I slipped in some survival horror video game inspiration (namely Resident Evil and Silent Hill) with the monsters and setting, (Lovecraft’s fictional New England locales also being an inspiration) and, voila.

 I see a lot of potential for sequels featuring the Malcolm Leeds character and other supernatural baddies, and I’m confident that both the complexity and the “tightness” of my writing will grow stronger with each subsequent entry in the series.

Who will like this book?

Tough question. A bit hard for me to say, since I (like most other writers) find it tough to judge the quality of my own work, but I can tell you who I wrote The Devil and the Doctor for.

It’s a book for people who like stories about ghosts, ghouls, and monsters (human and otherwise) doing what they do best. It’s a book for people who like a lot of “Bang bang shoot ’em up,” ticking time bombs, car chases, and one-liners. It’s a book for people who are looking for something entertaining, violent, and fun to read on an airplane or in a coffee shop or on their lunch break. It’s a book for people who are looking for a new action-packed franchise that follows a powerful but incomplete protagonist across encounters with various supernatural horrors in strange and diverse locales.

I hope all that gives you an idea if this book is for you!

Speaking of: want a free copy?

Well, it’s not really free, there is one catch. (There always is, isn’t there?)

I will give the first five people who write to me at authorgrwilson@gmail.com with “BOOK REVIEW” in the subject line (and a small personal introduction in the message text) a copy of the novel, in exchange for giving it a timely read, and an honest review on Amazon, a share on Facebook, and a review on your on blog. If you don’t have a blog, don’t worry about that last requirement. I naturally love publicity on other people’s blogs, but I get not everyone has one. The Amazon and Facebook are definitely required, however.

I’m not expecting all or any of the five recipients to write a glowingly 100% positive, five/five star review, (if that’s your real opinion then of course go for it!) but I do ask that if you outright DON’T like the book, (beyond just “I liked it overall but aspect X and aspect Y sucked a bit”) that you please refrain from posting a review. Though I still appreciate your reading. 🙂

The purpose here is to get my work out there to new audiences who will enjoy it, and I’m never going to apologize for that.

What’s next?

I got a couple short stories I’m working on, like always. Some of ’em you’ll see in magazines, some on here, some maybe in a new anthology.

I have a couple novella ideas I’m toying with, but I’ve decided that I’ll next slam my hot and throbbing creative energy into a sequel to The Devil and the Doctor.

Without giving away too much, (especially since it’s still in the early planning stages,) the second entry in the series will lend a lot more focus to Malcolm’s adopted father, John Delaware, and his backstory during his time in the U.S. Navy. The story will take place in a heavily aquatic and tropical setting, and see the return and further development of old friends and foes from Book One, as well as further development of Malcolm’s character and situation since the strange events in Newbrooke. Expect to see a lot of “Horrors of the dark oceanic depths.”

😉

Thank you for reading, and keep on being great. I appreciate each and every one of you who reads and shares my stories.

Best regards,

H.S,

-G.R. Wilson

My response to “Rough Riders” by Mark Lee Gardner

April 16, 2017

Response to:

Rough Riders: Theodore Roosevelt, His Cowboy Regiment, and the Immortal Charge Up San Juan Hill

By Mark Lee Gardner

Recently, I had the pleasure of reading Mark Lee Gardner’s 2016 book, Rough Riders: Theodore Roosevelt, His Cowboy Regiment, and the Immortal Charge Up San Juan Hill. I thoroughly enjoyed it. Gardner paints a detailed, dynamic, and relevant picture not only of Colonel Roosevelt himself, but, as the title promises, the diverse men he led during their much-lauded actions in the Spanish-American War. I think it safe to say that most any American adult alive today learned about Teddy Roosevelt and the Rough Riders in middle school or high school. I’m even more confident in saying that anyone who did receive such education, most likely came away years later with only a vague recollection of “Remember the Maine!” “Buffalo Soldiers,” (“in the heart of America …”) and perhaps a charge up a hill that may or may not have actually happened. Well, for any of those people who grew curious about the nitty-gritty and the human drama of the American war in Cuba, and the part that Teddy and his Rough Riders played in that war: this is the book for you.

 

Let me emphasize first how much of a fearsome bad-ass hero Teddy Roosevelt was. He’s one of my personal heroes, and a great inspiration in my life. The guy was born as a sickly, asthmatic, weak child: did he let that little inconvenience stop him? No, at his dad’s encouragement, he worked his ass off in the gym until he built himself a strong body worthy of pride. He threw himself headlong into every adventure and topic of interest he could find throughout his entire life: boxing, bird-watching, writing 33 books, hunting grizzly bears, reading a book or two a day, working as the police commissioner of NYC, a congressman, a Wild West lawman, a rancher. When his first wife and his mother both died on the same day, do you know what he did? After writing the heart-wrenching journal entry of “The light has gone out of my life,” he struck out West, throwing himself into the wild life of a rancher. We all know he went on to become Vice President, then President of the United States following the assassination of President William McKinley, and from that position led the way on the national parks program, numerous social and economic reforms, construction of the Panama Canal, and assertion of American might on the global stage. But between the eras of “Wild West Teddy,” and “President Teddy,” we have the “Rough Rider” Colonel Teddy Roosevelt.

 

As Mark Lee Gardner discusses, T.R. had an unsettlingly positive fascination with war, and badly wanted to get himself into one. He got his chance after the sinking of the USS Maine in Havana Harbor in February 1898, when U.S./Spanish tensions reached a point of no return, and America raised a volunteer army to run the Spaniards out of Cuba. With his characteristic gusto and the use of his long-time Ivy League connections, the 39-year-old Roosevelt recruited a motley cavalry regiment of cowboys, miners, lawmen, bankers, lawyers, and football players. They called themselves the Rough Riders, though the name and concurrent public image belied the large proportion of New Yorkers and other big city North Easterners within their ranks. Regardless of their professional background or what region of the country they hailed from, and the numerous mishaps in training and logistics throughout their journey from Texas, to Florida, to Cuba, the men of Teddy’s regiment displayed great courage and fighting ability in their critical involvement in America’s short war against Spain. They most famously captured the fortified Spanish positions on San Juan and Kettle Hills; operations which enabled the successful American siege of Santiago and the conclusion of the war in Cuba. From a military history perspective, as Gardner illustrates, the battles in which the Rough Riders participated showed the validity of the rapidly ongoing transition from of line-of-battle, muzzle-loading musket combat, into the 20th century tactics employing shorter-barreled and faster-firing weapons with smokeless munitions, and camouflaged versus brightly colored uniforms.

 

A major appeal of this book is that Gardner heavily researched primary accounts of the individual Rough Riders, as well as government officials and other civilians who witnessed, celebrated, and traded with them. We get a plethora of quotations from diaries, letters, newspaper articles, and interviews, all of which bring brilliant color into the experiences of these men: from the challenges and mishaps of training new horses for military service, to the jubilant welcome of the San Antonio and Tampa publics, to the songs and jokes these soldiers loved, to the daring and tragedy of the hellish combat and malaria-infested environment they suffered through on campaign. A few interesting anecdotes among many include the habit of the wealthier members of the regiment (mostly Ivy League students taking leave from school,) of sneaking into the fancy hotels in town for meals during training, and later smuggling bottles of champagne aboard the boat to Cuba. One tactically crucial contribution of those Ivy League guys was the brand-new Colt machine guns, and the pneumatic dynamite gun, that they bought with their own money and contributed to the regiment’s arsenal. Interestingly, thanks to an unprepared federal supply system, Teddy was multiple times obligated to spend his own money to keep his men properly fed throughout the campaign! One great Teddy anecdote is when the Colonel, after the surrender of the Spanish army, joined a fellow officer in swimming across Santiago Bay to examine shipwrecks. This being Cuba, there were numerous sharks in the area, and some fellow American soldiers on shore alerted their commander to this fact. Teddy being Teddy said that he knew all about sharks from reading about them, and that they almost never bothered people; then he kept on swimming and having a great time, as per usual.

 

Another good aspect of this book is Gardner’s authoritative dispelling of misconceptions about the Rough Riders. One of these is that most people, (myself included until I read the book,) understandably think that Theodore Roosevelt was himself the commander of the regiment. In fact, that position belonged to General Leonard Wood, (namesake of U.S. Army Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri,) who had to step back from primary command responsibility due to illness. Though Wood went on to continue his successful military career, Roosevelt continues to hold the glory for recruiting, leading, and promoting the Rough Riders all the way through and beyond service in Cuba. Integral to that glory was Roosevelt’s leading of the charge up San Juan Hill. Contrary to politically motivated, distorting newspaper accounts, YES, the charge did in fact happen, and Roosevelt led it. U.S. Army “Regulars” (members of the full-time, permanent military as opposed to the wartime volunteers) and the African-American Buffalo Soldiers did play a huge role alongside the Rough Riders in the campaign across Cuba, including the battle at San Juan, but, again, contrary to smear campaigns by Roosevelt’s political opponents, the Rough Riders fought admirably and played a crucial role, with Teddy deserving a great deal of credit for boldly leading from the front.

 

As I’m discussing military history here, by the way, let me be clear: no, I don’t buy into the “Rah rah,” “For Glory,” disastrously naïve view of war that much of the Western world held in the post-Napoleonic, pre-Great War years of the 19th and early 20th centuries. Teddy Roosevelt and many men (and women!) of a similar cultural background held those rose-tinted views in that era. War is obviously hell: it leads to a lot of people dying and valuable things being destroyed for no good reason, it creates incomprehensible human misery. Humans should continue the current trend of replacing war with economic exchange and diplomacy. (And dogs go “Woof!”) At the same time, war is sometimes necessary, and I’m not convinced that mankind will ever be rid of it entirely so long as mankind exists.

When wars do occur, I do admire the Virtue (“Virtue” in the good, Ancient sense,) of many of those fighting within war. States throughout history have often needed to win wars to ensure their national security, and winning wars requires the discipline, bravery, and cunning of those on the front line. Since success in war tends to further the security of the given state and all who live within its borders, while failure will inevitably decrease that security, war-winning ability should be admired, in my book. Teddy Roosevelt and his Rough Riders demonstrated martial Virtue in spades, showing skillful and brave adaptation to the latest innovations in warfare, including smokeless, breech-loading rifles and machine guns, especially in the unfamiliar and treacherous tropical environment of Cuba. Especially since I happen to be quite fond of America and what we’re about, I’m enthusiastic about Teddy and Co. being bad-asses, and winning. The maiming and death that occurred for both sides were incredibly tragic, and as I read, my heart went out to those hurt and killed, as well as to their families, themselves now all long dead.

 

In short, the point I’m making here is that war is Hell, its consideration should be a matter of gravity rather than jubilation, but that bravery, skill, and triumph within war is admirable, conflict is interesting, and the story of the Rough Riders is enjoyable for me in that nuanced context.

 

To continue with my connections and response to the text: I can see some echoes of the American attitudes during the Spanish-American War, in early public attitudes towards the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, and to a lesser extent Afghanistan. Though Gardner’s book gives us a zoomed in story of one theatre of the Spanish-American War, rather than depth on the greater context, he does inevitably hit on the political implications, and the impact of public opinion, and that all got me thinking. Essentially, the conflict between America and Spain started like this:

 

The United States had expanded all the way across the continent by the 1890’s, with East and West thoroughly connected, and the once “Wild” West growing more settled every year; the legendary tales of cowboys and Indians already in the 1890’s confined to, well, legend, brought to life in popular Wild West shows. The Civil War was several decades’ past, with many scars of that conflict still stinging. Mexico had been thoroughly humbled, aggressive Canadian-British designs from the north were exceedingly unlikely, and Americans had little need to worry about distant affairs in Europe, Asia, or Africa.

 

However, there was the little problem of Spain’s New World empire. In the Victorian Era of European Imperialism, it made Americans a tad antsy to have the Spanish military operating so close to U.S. waters, around Cuba and Puerto Rico: even if the Spanish themselves weren’t a threat, what if they got kicked out and the island was taken over by someone stronger and more capable of messing with American interests: someone like Britain, France, or even the rising power of Germany?

 

In addition to the security dimension, Americans were reading with disgust the stories coming out of Cuba, of Spanish soldiers abusing and exploiting the native Cuban population. Even if yellow journalism may have exaggerated things, there truly were atrocities and daily abuses taking place at Spanish hands, and many Americans wanted to do something about it. The United States finally had the continental security and power to assert itself on the wider world, and, overpowering the dissenting voices of non-interventionism, we fought the Spanish-American War largely with the justification of liberating the Cuban, Puerto Rican, and Filipino peoples from tyranny, and helping them develop modern and democratic states. I (and others) see parallels between this intervention to (at least initially) liberate oppressed people, combined with exaggerated fears over a foreign threat, and the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. Like the way 21st century Americans were horrified by accounts of oppression coming from Iraq, and irreconcilably suspicious of Saddam’s motives and capabilities regarding W.M.D. and terrorism, the Americans of the 1890’s saw a bully and a threat in Spain, and sought to punish that bully and rescue its victims. In both cases, America sent its troops across the world to nation-build, but found the task a lot more messy, dangerous, and less appreciated than anticipated. (It’s too much to get into in any detail here, but I recommend reading up on America’s experience in counter-insurgency in the Philippines. A lot of lessons there were seemingly forgotten in Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq.) Those who don’t read history are doomed to repeat it, and I think considering the ongoing conflict against ISIS and other radical Islamist groups in the Middle East, reviewing the events of the Spanish-American War is well worth the effort!

 

Further connecting this history with the 21st century, is the topic Gardner bookends his book with: Teddy Roosevelt’s posthumous receipt of the Medal of Honor, awarded in 2001 by President Bill Clinton after a surprising amount congressional debate. Much to his chagrin, Roosevelt didn’t receive the Medal for his actions in the war in Cuba at the time; critics arguing that he “Simply followed orders” in leading the charge up San Juan Hill, and didn’t do anything out of the ordinary beyond the normal duties of a soldier. Analysis by later historians reversed this opinion in Congress. This posthumous award was great news to me, and a great way for Gardner to wrap up his narrative. Roosevelt remains the only U.S. President to have received a Medal of Honor.

 

In closing, Mark Lee Gardner did a tremendous job on Rough Riders. He took a story that most people know of, but where the details have long been missing in the public consciousness, and fleshed it out with well-researched primary sources, and compelling narrative form. As I read, I could easily imagine the events as a big-budget miniseries in the vein of Band of Brothers. The characters, heroic and human, are all there in their diversity and in their unifying Americanness, braving their way through incredible adversity. We get to see a lot Colonel Roosevelt’s personality and exploits, but, as Teddy would have wanted, plenty of space is left for the Lieutenants and Privates whose names go unnoticed in the collective public mind, but whose personalities, struggles, and all too often, their tragedies, are colorfully presented here.

Peace,

-G.R. Wilson