How much do you read?

If you read more than ten books over the past year, you read more than roughly three-fourths of other Americans.

The flip side: Twenty-five percent of the population read no books at all during that time (or at least wouldn't admit to reading any, according to a recent survey.)

Some stats:

 . . .book readers consumed a mean (average) of 15 books in the previous 12 months and a median (midpoint) of 6 books — in other words, half had read fewer than six and half had read more than six. That breaks down as follows:
  • 7% of Americans ages 16 and older read one book in the previous 12 months
  • 14% had read 2-3 books in that time block
  • 12% had read 4-5 books in that time block
  • 15% had read 6-10 books in that time block
  • 13% had read 11-20 books in that time block
  • 14% had read 21 or more books in that time block

The full numbers (at the very bottom of the article, which includes a lot of ebook data) are here.

Libraries in the ebook era


“Great fiction is still being written, as well as rotten fiction,” Mr. Borden added. “To my way of thinking, you need to get them in the door of the library first, and if someone’s search for ‘Shades of Grey’ leads them to read D. H. Lawrence, well, that’s not a bad deal.”
So, Leopard's Kill leads to War & Peace? Can't complain about that . . .

Story here. (Mostly about how libraries are adapting, including "culling" - aka selling used books, not the best thing for a writer, but . . .)

RIP, General

Retired Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf, who topped an illustrious military career by commanding the U.S.-led international coalition that drove Saddam Hussein's forces out of Kuwait in 1991 but kept a low public profile in controversies over the second Gulf War against Iraq, died Thursday. He was 78.

Read more:
"Die with honor . . ."

I'd missed this earlier.

Inouye's passing marks the end of an era in many ways. I wonder if someone will make a study someday of the impact that World War II veterans had on congress and the American government in general.

Tomorrow's grunt . . .

It's a DARPA project . . .
And then there was one . . .

Well two, if you count Apple. From the "suit" department:

Penguin has agreed to a settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice to resolve the issue of alleged ebook price-fixing in preparation for its merger with Random House.
The terms of the settlement are similar to those agreed to by Hachette, HarperCollins and Simon & Schuster. The Department of Justice will continue with its lawsuit against Apple and Macmillan, which have declined to settle.

The move was probably inevitable, given Penguin's plans to merge with Random House.

Meanwhile, in Pakistan


Dec 18 (Reuters) - Gunmen shot dead six health workers on an anti-polio drive in a string of attacks iin Pakistan over 24 hours, officials said on Tuesday, raising fears for the future of efforts to eradicate the crippling disease in one of its last strongholds.


The Taliban is thought to be behind the attacks, because they believe . . . that crippling people by killing them or blowing them up isn't enough ?????
Beyond words

There's no way to adequately express the sadness of the tragedy in Connecticut, or of the unfathomable evil that perpetrated it.
More Hog action

Fiction can't compare to the real thing . . .
Whiplash review

Military Press gave the new Dreamland book a most generous review:

The theme of the book can be summarized in one word, conflict. The authors explore a number of different conflicts, many of them based around the characters.

Full review here.

December 7, 1941

This photo was taken around 8 a.m. from a Japanese torpedo plane, as the attacks were taking place. Some of the torpedo wakes can be seen in the water.

Naval history page, with links.
The sound of destruction . . .

 . . . or the zip of death: this is what the gun on an A-10 sounds like from the ground, an almost surreal rip in the sky.

Machines against men

The question of how much autonomy and authority machines should be given by their human masters - and where the line between master and subject really lies - has always been one of great interest in the science fiction genre. Now the issue is real enough that it can be addressed in books set in the present or very near future, including Collateral Damage, our latest Dreamland installment.

I don't want to give away the plot (or the outcome) of the book, nor divert readers from the real focus of the book, which as always should be on the people - Zen, Bree, Ray Rubeo, and newcomer Turk Mako. But the question of autonomous war machines and their potential for good and bad is one of the things that interested me most as I worked.

We long ago passed the stage where a pilot, either on the spot or in a remote bunker, could designate a target and fire a missile that would carry itself to the attack point. We are now at the stage where weapon systems can make elementary decisions about how to carry out the strike - what ECMs to deploy, for example. But soon - very, very soon - we will be able to tell the machine this: I want you to attack all of the enemy approaching this position. The machine will scan the area, decide which should be struck, plan the attack, and carry it out. Indeed, it can be argued that the most sophisticated anti-missile systems already do this, so applying it to ground targets is not much of a leap at all.

What happens next? Science fiction writers have often wondered about machines' ability to decide whether to go to war. Most of us would say that's not a serious concern, that men will always be in the loop to make the final decision - but will they?

Collateral Damage makes some of the debate explicit, using an accident (or is it?) as the catalyst. It also looks at the human side of the equation: What does the man who invented the system think and feel when things go wrong?

I don't mean to make the book sound like a philosophical tome: Collateral Damage is basically about action and flying and all the cool stuff that Dreamland has featured over the years. But just as the bigger issues loom behind the scenes in real life, so do they in the novel.

What does China really want?


Time and time again, Western analysts have described China’s fighter development as years behind the U.S. They say China’s new aircraft carrier couldn’t last a minute against a U.S. naval task force. And they say landing a fighter on the aircraft carrier is years away.
Yet over the past two years, two new stealth fighter aircraft have emerged from behind the veil. When photographs appeared, naysayers called them Photoshopped. Then when videos appeared showing them flying, analysts dismissed them as prototypes that will never go into production.
China’s military aviation industry has its weaknesses, especially in engine development, but its learning curve is impressive. Events in November provided numerous examples of how China appears years ahead of schedule, instead of years behind, as so many Western analysts claim.

Fighting in the streets

Video said to be from today's clash in Cairo. The man with the shotgun firing into the crowd was reported to be a Mursi supporter. (The video was posted by opponents of the regime.)

Web e-book special

The ebook edition of Edge of War is available for $2.99 for a limited time. Info, excerpts, purchase links here.

Edge of War is the second book in the series, which began with Red Dragon Rising: Shadows of War.

Playing for the angels now . . .

Red Dragon Rising . . .

. . . fiction or real life?


Vietnam is adding new patrols to protect its fishing grounds in the South China Sea after the country's state-run energy giant accused Chinese vessels of sabotaging one of its boats in the disputed waters.
State media said Tuesday the "maritime surveillance force" will have the authority to arrest crews and impose fines on foreign vessels within Vietnam's declared exclusive 370-kilometer economic zone. It will be deployed on January 25.

(The latest installment in the series will be out in a few weeks.)
Mursi has left the building . . .

. . . but he remains fully in power. Reuters story here.
Jetting into space

Item: British company believes it has developed breakthrough technology that will allow the same engine to be operated efficiently in the atmosphere and outer space:

Reaction Engines Ltd believes its Sabre engine, which would operate like a jet engine in the atmosphere and a rocket in space, could displace rockets for space access and transform air travel by bringing any destination on Earth to no more than four hours away.

Article here. The actual technology is not fully discussed or disclosed, but I would think it has applications beyond its use in an engine.

The A-10C

For Collateral Damage, we invented a new version of the A-10 Thunderbolt II, better known as the Warthog (or just "Hog"). Our version is an extremely capable aircraft - but so is the real-life plane that it's mostly based on, the A-10C.

The A-10C is an update of the original A-10A. It retains all the good stuff that made the Hog so formidable - starting with the 30 mm beast of a gun - and adds enough electronic goodies to bring it into the 21st century.

Here's a video that highlights some of the aircraft's capabilities:

Beer for book lovers

Item: Powell's (the bookselling people) have created a new beer (with one of my favorite beer companies, I might add).

All I can say is, about time.

(Details here.)
On sale today

Our latest installment in the Dreamland/Whiplash series. This one takes us to Libya, where hard-core fanatics are fighting the young government. They stage an attack on civilians with help from an outside source, and the usual complications ensue.

One of the things I loved most about this installment was that we got to "invent" a slightly upgraded version of the A-10 - this one can fly itself.
Look ma, no pilot . . .

First catapult launch of the XB-47B, successfully completed today.

Full trials aboard aircraft carriers are on the horizon.

Clear thinking on copyright . . .

. . . and related matters. From the National Review:

The question of dealing with Internet piracy is damned hard, and no one has a good answer. Realistically, the system can tolerate a lot of leakage at the retail level as long as creators retain the right to move against commercial-grade piracy. It is also important that the content producers and the telecom distributors be free to strike bargains about piracy prevention. Technology taketh away and technology giveth, and it is far more efficient for Verizon or Comcast to police piracy than for battalions of lawyers to do so.

The entire article is worth reading. (The "report" cited at the beginning of the article caused a very minor flareup a few weeks back; there's a link in the article.)
The F-35 blues

(Just about) every criticism of the F-35 development process ever made is summed up in the NY Times today. The only problem is - what's the alternative?

(Yes, I know there are some. It's just difficult to make a convincing case for them.)

Speaking of Korean rockets . . .

Meanwhile, South Korea canceled its own launching today. Among the interesting things about the South Korean rocket program is that it uses Russian technology.

What would Khrushchev say to that?
North Korea readies rocket


SOHAE LAUNCH FACILITY, NORTH KOREA: SOHAE LAUNCH FACILITY, NORTH KOREA: This satellite image of the Sohae Launch Facility on November 23, 2012, shows a marked increase in activity at North Korea's Sohae (West Sea) Satellite Launch Station.

The activity suggests a launch is planned in the near future; the speculation is that it will occur just before South Korea's elections in mid-December. See the image at DigitalGlobe, a commercial satellite imaging company.
Every sci-fi movie in six minutes . . .

I think they missed Godzilla, but those are in a class by themselves.


I realize I'm not going to get an answer, but I just have to ask the anonymous spammer: What's with all the Canada goose links, bro?

Give me a coherent, non-botic answer and I promise to post a link.
Hogs at work

Which reminds me: You can get a Kindle copy of book one of my Hogs series here.

(More on the series here.)
Red Dragon

Nice mention in Publishers Weekly for the last installment (for now, anyway) of Red Dragon Rising, due out from Tor/Forge in January.

Coming this week

The latest in the Dreamland/Whiplash series:


Some idiot was deer-jacking* on the other side of the woods last night, and I just have to ask: Why would you deer-jack in a place where you can hit a dozen deer with a single rock at high noon?

I hope the person is a) in some financial need and intends on eating all the meat and b) is a damn good shot, because he's already proven he's not much of a sportsman.

* - For the uninitiated and non-hunters: There are a number of methods, but basically you deer-jack by using bait and a light at night, all of which are illegal in New York (and a lot of other places). The light stuns the deer momentarily, making them even easier to shoot. Since it's night, though, wounded animals that run off can be pretty hard to track. And of course it's dark, so you don't really know what's behind your target when you shoot. Finally, deer-jacking often takes place near populated areas where you may be too close to houses to legally fire a weapon, though I don't know if that was the case here. (No-bait laws are controversial, but in this area the deer are plentiful enough that even a sub-mediocre hunter doesn't need it. Heck, even I don't need bait in this county, which is saying quite a lot.)

Pigeon @#$

By now you've no doubt heard the story of the pigeon discovered in England with a World War II message on its leg that can't be read because it's in code. (If not, check this story or this one.)

The media is having a lot of fun with it, but along the way is sharing more than a few misconceptions about coding and encryption. These include the 'reasons' the message can't be decrypted:

One is with a so-called one-time pad where a random "key" is applied to a message. If the key is truly random and known only to sender and recipient, the code can be unbreakable.

That's why we're still using pigeon encryption for all our important messages . . .

Footnote: The British awarded the Dickin Medal to animals, including carrier pigeons, that served with special distinction during the war. Honored birds were credited with delivering messages from Dieppe and Normandy, and also with delivering information about trapped units. The birds were also used, occasionally, to send some "spy" information from behind enemy lines, though that doesn't actually seem to apply here.

The state of electricity . . .

American Society of Civil Engineers:

The U.S. generation and transmission system is at a critical point requiring substantial investment in new generation, investment to improve efficiencies in existing generation, and investment in transmission and distribution systems. The transmission and distribution system has become congested because growth in electricity demand and investment in new generation facilities have not been matched by investment in new transmission facilities. This congestion virtually prohibits outages required for proper maintenance and can lead to system wide failures in the event of unplanned outages. Electricity demand has increased by about 25% since 1990 while construction of transmission facilities decreased by about 30 percent. 

Report here.

The Helios Conspiracy touched on some of this, but the problem is far greater than most of us are willing to imagine, even in fiction.
Soldiering on


The historic Fraunces Tavern, after surviving the Revolutionary War, nearly poured its last round thanks to a domestic invader: Hurricane Sandy.
When the floodwaters receded from the 250-year-old lower Manhattan landmark, owner Eddie Traverse surveyed $200,000 in damages — without any flood insurance.
“For a couple of days, we were feeling the gloom,” Traverse said Tuesday. “But now we know we will get back. When you put it in perspective, we are here to fight another day.”

Read more:

The tavern was one of Claus van Clyne's favorites, and Jake Gibbs liked to lurk in its shadows . . .

Fear not, Twinkies lovers


Hostess and its striking bakers union have agreed to mediation, avoiding a shutdown that would have given 18,500 workers the ax.
A bankruptcy judge demanded that the groups enter a mediation session at a hearing Monday.
“My desire to do this is prompted primarily by the potential loss of over 18,000 jobs as well as my belief that there is a possibility to resolve this matter," said Judge Robert Drain, who will preside over the mediation Tuesday. 

Read more:

I know Shotgun*, for one, will be very happy.

* Rogue Warrior sidekick. Seriously, you didn't know? You're not keeping up, Grasshopper.
The "logic" of terrorists

From the NY Times. I'd call it chutzpah, but that would be insulting the word:

“This attack on journalists and freedom of expression reflects Israel’s disdain for international law and the little value it affords the lives of Palestinians,” said Saeb Erekat, the chief negotiator of the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank.

But Hamas's terror indiscriminate attacks on unarmed civilians, intended to panic and kill women and children, those have a higher purpose and are OK, right?

Erekat is talking about a raid that destroyed a media building, but didn't kill anyone. It's pretty rich for a Palestinian to be talking about freedom of expression in the state (or Hamas) controlled media, let alone to make reference to international law.

The reason no one was killed in the attack is this: The Israelis fired a warning shot, and let everyone clear the building before destroying it. Maybe if Israel simply steamrolled Gaza, which is absolutely within their capabilities, Hamas would get the message.

Then again, stupid in life, stupid in death: The logic of psychopaths bears no relation to reason, and treating their BS as if it does only makes you look like a fool.


In the early 1990s, I began writing and publishing a series of books centered around missions conducted by A-10As and their crews during what is now called the First Gulf War.*

I had a lot to learn about the planes and writing at the time. (Still do.) But it was a labor of love and an intense one at that, as I began turning the books out on a six-month schedule (among other things) as interest in the series built.

There were a total of six books, loosely based on action missions and exploits during the war. At the time, not too many people knew about the A-10A. Today, I'd venture to say that it as well-known as more "glamorous" aircraft like the F-15 and F-22. (It's also been so greatly overhauled that the current models are designated as A-10Cs. Same great plane, though.)

Though you can still occasionally find the paperbacks, technically, the series has been out of print for several years. It's now available for Kindle ereaders at Amazon.

For more information, visit this page on my website. Samples are available directly from Amazon. If you want a free story in pdf format, send an email to author (at) jimdefelice (dot) com, and we'll get one off to you straight away.

* I was using a pseudonym: James Ferro for reasons explained on that webpage.

Now on Kindle

The first two installments of Hogs are now available as ebooks.

More details to come.
Role model

For 97, (Herman) Wouk is remarkably active. His personal trainer comes on Mondays and Thursdays; a yoga instructor swings by on Tuesdays and Fridays. And don’t, whatever you do, ask if he ever plans to stop writing.
“What am I going to do?” he said. “Sit around and wait a year?”
He acknowledged, though, that he occasionally worried what was left to say.
“Sometimes, when I’m down, I feel like I’ve shot my bolt,” he said. “But it passes, and I go back to the computer.”


Iranian air power

Today Iran confirmed that it had fired on the American Predator in the Gulf last week, but claimed that it was over Iranian territory.

The obvious conclusion: Besides being terrible shots, their pilots have no idea where they are.


Phillip Roth has retired his pen:

Roth, who has written some 25 novels, told Les Inrocks that he had always found writing difficult and that he wanted nothing more to do with reading, writing or talking about books.
He said that when he was 74, he started re-reading his favorite novels by authors Ernest Hemingway, Ivan Turgenev, Fyodor Dostoyevsky and others, and then re-read his own novels.
"I wanted to see whether I had wasted my time writing," he explained. "After that, I decided that I was done with fiction. I no longer want to read, to write, I don't even want to talk about it anymore," he was quoted as saying.
"I have dedicated my life to the novel: I studied, I taught, I wrote, I read - to the exclusion of almost everything else. Enough is enough! I no longer feel this fanaticism to write that I have experienced all my life. The idea of trying to write again is impossible," Roth told the magazine.

Call them aces . . .

According to the Pentagon, two Iranian jets "intercepted" a Predator last week over the Persion Gulf and engaged it in a dogfight.

The unarmed plane escaped without harm.

First reports said the Iranian planes were Su-25 Frogfoots. While the design was intended as a ground support aircraft, it's equipped with cannon and could in theory carry air-to-air missiles. Apparently the Iranians used their guns but missed the Predator, which can manage something in the area of 200 knots - less than half the Frogfoot's speed.

If they do this well against unarmed drones, just imagine how well the Iranians will fare against F-22s.

Meanwhile, something tells me there's a line of eager UAV pilots hoping to get a Sidewinder on a Reaper and get the first remote shoot-down, courtesy of Iran's aces . . .

(One story here.)
From the graveyard to the voting booth. . . .

. . . or nearly vice versa:

Sometimes dead men really do get to vote.
Ty Houston, 48, a home care registered nurse, was toiling on his absentee ballot Monday afternoon when things got strange at township offices on 13 Mile.
"I was filling out the form as were an elderly couple sitting at a nearby table," said Houston on Tuesday. "His wife, who was helping him fill out the ballot, asked him a couple of questions but he didn't respond. She screamed for help and I went over to see what I could do."
Houston laid the victim on the floor and went to work.
"He was dead," Houston said. "He had no heartbeat and he wasn't breathing. I started CPR, and after a few minutes, he revived and started breathing again. He knew his name and his wife's name."
What happened next astounded Houston and the victim's wife.
"The first question he asked was 'Did I vote?'"

 The rest of the story in The Detroit News:

Best of the year

Congratulation to Larry and Chris on being named one of 2012's best thrillers by Publisher's Weekly. (PW)
The Hustler . . .

Old metal, from the folks at Zeno's.
Hard-boiled writing . . .

It's all just talk - James M. Cain on style:

Let's talk about this so-called style. I don't know what they're talking about—“tough,” “hard-boiled.” I tried to write as people talk. That was one of the first arguments I ever had with my father—my father was all hell for people talking as they should talk. I, the incipient novelist, even as a boy, was fascinated by the way people do talk.

Interview, recently re-posted by Paris Review.
Thanks, we're good

Power is back, as is internet. We have been tremendously fortunate, with no real damage. Lots of trees to cut for next year's firewood.
The key to managing . . .

. . . baseball and everything:

“He’s unique with every individual personality,” said Giants first baseman Aubrey Huff, a star in 2010 and a backup now. “Some guys need a kick in the butt, and he’ll give it to you. And some guys need to be cuddled, and he gives you that. He knows personalities. I think it’s just intuitive about him. Some people have that gift of knowing what guys need to hear, and he’s got it.”

(Huff is talking about his skipper, Bruce Bochy, but the comment is universal. Of course, if the Giants lose, he'll be a bum like everyone else . . .)

The taxman goes topless . . .

This is going to hurt a lot of people I know, starting with Dogboy.


ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — Lap dances are taxable because they don't promote culture in a community the way ballet or other artistic endeavors do, New York's highest court concluded Tuesday in a sharply divided ruling.

A war by any other name


On Aug. 15, more than 55,000 Saudi Aramco employees stayed home from work to prepare for one of Islam’s holiest nights of the year — Lailat al Qadr, or the Night of Power — celebrating the revelation of the Koran to Muhammad.
That morning, at 11:08, a person with privileged access to the Saudi state-owned oil company’s computers, unleashed a computer virus to initiate what is regarded as among the most destructive acts of computer sabotage on a company to date. The virus erased data on three-quarters of Aramco’s corporate PCs — documents, spreadsheets, e-mails, files — replacing all of it with an image of a burning American flag.
United States intelligence officials say the attack’s real perpetrator was Iran, although they offered no specific evidence to support that claim. But the secretary of defense, Leon E. Panetta, in a recent speech warning of the dangers of computer attacks, cited the Aramco sabotage as “a significant escalation of the cyber threat.” In the Aramco case, hackers who called themselves the “Cutting Sword of Justice” and claimed to be activists upset about Saudi policies in the Middle East took responsibility. 

Summary of the attack and some notes on the present situation in cyber insecurity today's NY Times here. You should expect more and more of these attacks in the future.

The Yankees . . .

Having waded through a flood of What Went Wrong With The Yankees stories over the past week, I have three observations:

- stories about how “the Yankees got old” are amusing to begin with, but especially when written by sportswriters in their seventies;

- sports “analysis” is even more of a pure Rorschach Test than political reporting;

- it's amazing how much time and attention one can waste analyzing things that are beyond analysis.

The one story I haven’t read is how utterly useless statistical analysis is when you forget the psychological elements of success. Or to put it another way: I wonder how much of a role panic on behalf of management played in the team’s demise.

In defense of the LCS

Or, the Navy strikes back . . .

There has been a lot of carping about the Navy's new littoral combat ships: too expensive, supposedly not survivable, etc. At least some of the criticism comes from a false premise about the ships' mission and role; despite some of the early stories, the ships are not intended to be all things to all people.

Last week, the chief spokesman for the Navy countered the critics:

Nobody ever said this ship can — and no engineer can ever design a ship to — withstand every conceivable threat on the sea. But the LCS is significantly more capable than the older mine counter measure ships and patrol craft it was designed to replace, and stands up well to the frigates now serving in the fleet.
It is fast, maneuverable, and has low radar, infrared, and magnetic signatures. Its core self-defense suite is designed to defeat a surprise salvo of one or two anti-ship cruise missiles when the ship is operating independently, or leakers that get through fleet area and short-range air defenses when operating with naval task forces. 

Full statement, as a blog entry, here.

Frankly, if the Navy had called the design a minesweeper or counter-PT ship, there'd be zero critics. But it might not have gotten funded either -- "littoral warfare" was the buzz word at the time.
Coming soon:

To the UK and beyond - First Team, the British edition . . .
Baseball or football?

As a young man, future-five-star General Omar Bradley was an avid sportsman. He especially excelled in baseball, starring in the sport at West Point. Some witnesses believe he could have played professionally, had he not been in the army.

This photo is included in his scrapbook, and has been assumed to be of a baseball team:

I thought (and wrote) that as well, but sharp-eyed baseball historian William Swank recently pointed out that it would seem likely the kids in the photo were playing football, as three of them have old-fashioned nose guards hanging from their necks. Here's an image of similar guards, circa the early 1890s:

I note too that one of the kids (on the right) is wearing what looks like an early football helmet. But is that a backwards baseball cap on the boy in the middle? And why aren't they all dressed for a game? Is the fact that there are twelve people in the photo - eleven players and a coach (the older-looking young man in the middle)? - another clue? Or is it just an accident - was it really the baseball team quickly gathered from other activities for a photo?

I think Bill is right that this must be a football team, though admittedly there is room for debate. It's an interesting historical mystery, if definitely something of a footnote. (More on Bradley here, on my website.)

Touch and go


The new Chinese J-15 has reportedly practiced touch and go landings aboard the country's training carrier.

(Touch and go - basically a practice landing where you don't actually set down. Easier than actually landing on a carrier, but still a very significant step in the training and development process.)

Toys for Tots . . .

One of my favorite charities, Toys for Tots, will be stoking up efforts again with the holiday season, with the Marines ready to do their typical Marine-like job. Everything you ever wanted to know about the charity can be seen here.

Information on local drives should be available soon.
One more time

One more way for authors to go nuts . . .

Writers have something new to obsess about: had launched a new metric (at least, I guess it's a metric): Author Rank.

The rating purports to measure authors against others, using overall sales. Or at least I think that's what the explanation amazon has posted means. There's an overall rank, and different breakouts, including Kindle and what will soon be called legacy"book-delivery-systems. And then there are subcategories as well.

It updates every hour. So now writers don't have to fret about missing royalty sheets or unanswered phone calls from their agents; they can freak about how far they're falling behind Sylvia Day and E.L. James, numbers 1 and 2 respectively as I'm writing this.

As if we're not neurotic enough.

For the record: As I'm writing this, I'm number 14 in History. Number 18 in biography and memoir. (Better in Kindle.) Fiction? Number 225 in fiction, thrillers, etc. And my grand, overall author of all time rating:  303. But trending downward, I'm afraid, and no doubt very quickly.
Sleeping spam?

Having just spent a good hunk of time deleting some 2,500+ spam comments (ouch), I am left with the question: Why would anyone fool with Internet Ambien?

Old-school sedatives, tranquilizers  even Viagra - that I understand. But black-market sleeping pills? Not only is the stuff easy to get legitimately, but it's not exactly known for getting you high.

I suppose if you need to get down off a buzz and don't want to explain the circumstances, it has a certain appeal. But doesn't beer work nearly as well with less hassle? Or is it a gateway drug . . . to aspirin?

Israel shoots down drone

Video released Saturday afternoon, not long after the shootdown. No definitive word on where the drone was flown from, or what it might possibly have been spying on.

On the horizon . . .

There are a few adjustments to be made to the cover, but the mass market version of Helios should arrive by the end of January . . .
Shades of Holy Terror

. . . must be a Rogue Warrior fan. Hopefully he didn't use the book as a guide to how to get there.

(News story here. Yes, that book includes quite a lot of action on top of the basilica. Sacrilegious, I know.

Amazon vs. B&N - battle joined

Barnes & Noble has told any of its stores that have stocked Penny Marshall’s My Mother Was Nuts to remove the book from shelves. B&N has a corporate policy to not carry physical copies of books acquired by Amazon Publishing in its stores . . .

Full (though brief) story here. Just to explain briefly, the ebook at present is only available for Kindle, which B&N doesn't particularly appreciate.
Readers send pictures . . .

This one kind of struck my fancy:

So true.
The playoffs, wild card and otherwise . . .

I admit it: I thought the one-game wild card playoff was a dumb idea and kvetched long and often. Call me a traditionalist: Baseball is a long-term commitment and a long-time sport; championships should be won over course of many games.

But I have to admit: the new format has made the playoff races much more interesting and intense, and restored meaning to winning the division.

Just as long as they're not too interesting this year: With the way the tiebreakers work, even though they are tied for first, the Yankees can win every game and still end up with the wild card rather than the division lead.

UPDATE: I should have mentioned that in that case they will have a one-day playoff with Baltimore, with the loser then having a one-day Wild Card playoff. Sudden death baseball - it's a brave new world.

Typos and second chances

No matter how many people read through the galley proofs of a book before it goes to press, some errors manage to sneak through. We just found a few new typos (as opposed to the old typos, which we had already found and-or corrected) in an upcoming edition of American Sniper. And we just did a substantial overhaul on Silver Bullet, which is now available as a Kindle download.

Why and how do these things get through?

Authors are notoriously bad at proofreading their own work; the eyes see what they want to see, and anyone already familiar with the book - writers especially - will miss even the most egregious errors because of this. There are also glitches that get in due to problems in different versions of files used; I've had uncorrected files substituted for correct ones (don't ask), which can be really frustrating.

Perhaps the most pernicious, though, are the ones that occur when something is corrected, creating a different mistake. If you see a wrong verb tense or a number agreement problem, you've probably found evidence of that.

Of course, writers making changes on the proofs - tweaking as we call it - cause a great deal of those sorts of problems, whether we're doing it on hard copy ("can't read his @#$!! handwriting") or electronically. So it comes back to us in the end.

All of which is a long-winded way of saying thank you not only to the copy editors and proofreaders employed along the way, but to readers for helping rake up the ones that get through. (And please accept my apologies in advance.) But as a teacher once told me: The only thing we truly own in this world are our mistakes.
Liaoning commissioned

Item: China commissions its "first" aircraft carrier.

While most analysts and news stories trumpet the fact that the carrier itself is not exactly the match of anything in the West (forget U.S. ships; the Garibaldi* could sink it), that really is not the significance of the ship at all.

This, though, buried deep in a NY Times story, is:

In contrast to some of the skepticism expressed by military experts outside China, Li Jie, a researcher at the Chinese Naval Research Institute, said in an interview in the state-run People’s Daily that the carrier would change the Chinese Navy’s traditional mind-set and bring qualitative changes to its operational style and structure, he said.
Although the Chinese military does not publish a breakdown of its military spending, foreign military experts say the navy is less well financed than the army and air force.
The Chinese have been very clear that this is intended only as a training vessel, one that will help prepare the way for better vessels in the future.
* The Italian Navy's light aircraft carrier. It's actually intended for anti-submarine warfare, though it can (and does) operate with Harrier aircraft.
If you can't get a hold of me . . .

. . . here's why:

Obama copying Reagan . . .

. . . in counter-terror strategy?

So says a provocative article in Foreign Policy:

In the weeks and months after the October 1983 bombing of the Marine barracks in Beirut that killed 242 Americans, Reagan and his team became deeply concerned about the terrorism problem. But it was the abduction and torture of the CIA's Beirut station chief, William Buckley, in March 1984 that truly brought matters to a head. Secretary of State George Shultz called a Saturday meeting of terrorism experts, led by Brian Jenkins of the RAND Corporation, and the team brainstormed until a strategy emerged, one that called for something that strongly resembles the kind of campaign that Obama is now pursuing. Rather, the resemblance is in reverse, as Reagan's plan came first.
Soon after that weekend conclave of experts, President Reagan signed National Security Decision Directive 138 -- most of which is still highly classified. Christopher Martin's declassified history of political and military policy during this period points out that the directive called for "secret FBI and CIA paramilitary squads and use of existing Pentagon military units -- such as Green Berets and the Navy SEALs -- for conducting what amounted to guerrilla war against guerrillas...a de factodeclaration of war."
The signal success of this first war on terror came in a campaign against the Abu Nidal Organization -- the al Qaeda of the ‘80s -- which was conducting terrorist hits for hire on behalf of Iraq, Libya, and Syria. Some of the network's hidden finances were detected and, instead of freezing or seizing these funds, they were covertly moved about in ways that convinced Abu Nidal that many of his operatives were embezzling. He had about a hundred of his agents bumped off, which did little good for the morale of the others. Soon the organization was all but defunct.

Full article here.
Guilty pleasures dept.: A Touch of Frost . . .

If Andy Fisher were British, and older, and worked for CID, he would be Jack Frost. (Full series available on Netflix.)
The future of civil air

The concept of formation flying isn't half as interesting as the future planes in the video, but who knows . . .
And even more amazing . . .

Real human organs, custom-made from your own cells:

So far, only a few organs have been made and transplanted, and they are relatively simple, hollow ones — like bladders and Mr. Beyene’s windpipe, which was implanted in June 2011. But scientists around the world are using similar techniques with the goal of building more complex organs. 

Monkey brains . . .


Scientists have designed a brain implant that sharpened decision making and restored lost mental capacity in monkeys, providing the first demonstration in primates of the sort of brain prosthesis that could eventually help people . . .


Negotiate with anyone . . .

. . . except your wife.

Frank A. Bolz, the legendary hostage negotiator and retired NYPD captain, recently answered questions about negotiating. My favorite:

Have you ever applied your hostage negotiation techniques with your wife, and what was the success rate? =)—Paul, Brooklyn
Are you kidding me!!!! She has been a cop’s wife for over 60 years. Just as a doctor can’t or shouldn’t operate on his wife, a negotiator will probably not be successful with his wife. =(

More Q&A with Bolz.
My favorite Rogue . . .

People are always asking, which Rogue Warrior book I like best. It's not one of the ones I wrote with Dick. It's book one, a great job by Dick and his co-writer, John Weisman, a great writer in his own right.

Still available, and a bargain.
What I'm drinking now . . .

Rogue, of course. the Shakespeare Oatmeal Stout to be specific . . .
Publisher's Weekly likes Rogue Warrior


Publishers Weekly
Marcinko’s fast and funny 15th in his Rogue Warrior series, his sixth with coauthor DeFelice (after 2011’s Rogue Warrior: Domino Theory), takes Dick Marcinko south of the border with his gang of shooters: Shotgun, Mongoose, Trace Dahlgren, and Tex Reeves. An assistant to the U.S. secretary of state wants Dick’s company, Red Cell International, to find evidence that Hezbollah is not setting up training camps in Mexico. At the same time, Dick agrees to look into the kidnapping of Melissa Reynolds, the gorgeous daughter of a fellow Navy SEAL. Dick calls in the rest of the Red Cell regulars, and they go to work, which means they institute a scorched earth program of killing and/or maiming every variety of Mexican bad guy, from the head of the country’s largest cartel to the lowliest corrupt cop. As always, Dick supplies the running commentary and all the gags. For everyone—readers, authors, characters—the usual good time.

American Sniper - 16th Printing

From the publisher Monday:

Great news: we have gone back to press for 15th and 16th printings, bringing the total in print over 465k

And of course that doesn't count ebooks.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: Thank you, everyone.
Whose islands?


In a show of strength, China dispatched two maritime law enforcement ships to the islands, which are known as the Diaoyu in China and the Senkaku in Japan.The ships, belonging to the China Marine Surveillance, are commonly deployed in the South China Sea, where China and its neighbors have other territorial disputes over islands.
Xinhua, the Chinese state news agency, said Tuesday that the marine agency had drafted an “action plan” for asserting China’s claim to the Diaoyu.
The Japanese government’s purchase of the islands from a Japanese family was intended to prevent the conservative governor of Tokyo buying them, a step that would have heightened the clash with China, Japanese officials said. The Tokyo governor, Shintaro Ishihara, had said he would develop the islands, something the national government does not plan to do.

NYT story.

We're back . . .

The main website,, went down for a while yesterday after our host had some security issues. We're back live, last time we checked.

No, it wasn't a deliberate stunt related to the newest Rogue Warrior, though it was a(n) (un)timely coincidence . . .

Web security has been a continuing "theme" both in Richard Marcinko's fiction and in his real-life work over the past decade or so. Roguishness aside, it's a continuing and deepening problem that still isn't taken seriously enough. If a mischievous or otherwise hacker can take down a few hundred thousand websites for a day, think of what a government-sponsored cyber attack unit could do.
Call it "Liaoning"

An official state media source reports that China will name its first aircraft “Liaoning” after the province that contains Dalian Naval Shipyard, where it has been refitted.An authorized government portal site, China Internet Information Center ( is published under the auspices of the State Council Information Office and the China International Publishing Group (CIPG) in Beijing.


The reference is to a province in China where the ship was outfitted. Perhaps not coincidentally, one of the characters in the name  遼寧 can be read as "peace."

Now available

The latest takes us south of the border . . . on sale this week.
Nuns and sentences . . .

I sort of picked on one of my parochial school teachers the other day, mentioning her "critique" of my early story efforts. (Said critique consisted of her application of the business end of a Bic pen to the hard side of my head. One of the more pointed notes on my work I've ever received.) So in fairness, I should note that she - and all of the nuns and lay teachers I had in formative years taught me quite a bit about grammar and the ins and outs of the English language. (They'd hate that cliche, I should add.)

One of their best tools was diagramming sentences. I'm guessing that's out of fashion now, but learning how to breakdown and schematically represent how different types of sentences work gave me an invaluable foundation for writing. I had to know the rules before learning how to abuse them.

I really loved the diagonal and dotted lines of conditional clauses and phrases . . . though not enough, I guess, to do that now. And parallel constructions always reminded me of seesaws and train tracks.

I'm sure a few of them would be pounding the rosary beads pretty heavy these days to read some of what I write. Still, I am grateful for the Sisters, pointed pens, metal-edged rulers, and all.
The "suit"

The lastest:

A federal judge on Thursday approved a settlement with three major publishers in a civil antitrust case brought by the Department of Justice over collusion in e-book pricing, paving the way for a war over the cost of digital books in the coming months.

Here's something I would never do . . .

. . . Let people watch me write a book:

UK author Silvia Hartmann is aiming to achieve a worlds-first by offering her readers the chance to see her latest novel being typed live online. . . .
This project, known as “Hartmann Book Live” aims to go one step further and give fans the chance to not only see the manuscript being typed, but to also comment on the storyline and provide feedback as the novel develops.
Silvia Hartmann said, “This is an amazing opportunity for me as an author to push the boundaries of the author/reader relationship. It will be amazing to write knowing that people will be viewing each word, paragraph and chapter, each backspace as I go along! Some authors plan their manuscripts in advance, but my stories tend to have a life of their own and I look forward to seeing what unfolds with everybody else!”

Full press release. With a hat-tip to GalleyCat.

In my case, I'm sure it would be the most boring thing anyone has ever watched.

Beyond that, I'm seriously paranoid about having people watching - or reading - over my shoulder. The last person who did that was Sister Mary Elephant, my sixth-grade teacher, God bless her, who caught me drawing a comic strip in class and gave me my first critical review - a Bic pen in the side of my skull. I still have the indentation.

Iran, Iraq & Syria

Item, from a story showing that Iraq is allowing Iranian flights to cross its borders to Syria:

As part of Iran’s assistance to the Assad government, it has provided the Syrian authorities with the training and technology to intercept communications and monitor the Internet, according to American officials. Iranian Quds Force personnel, they say, have been involved in training the heavily Alawite paramilitary forces the government has increasingly relied on, as well as Syrian forces that secure the nation’s air bases.
The Iranians have even provided a cargo plane that the Syrian military can use to ferry men and supplies around the country, according to two American officials.
In a new twist, according to one American official, there have been reliable reports that Iraqi Shiite militia fighters, long backed by Iran during its efforts to shape events inside Iraq, are now making their way to Syria to help the Assad government.

Iran's aid to Syria is by far the best argument for intervention by the rest of the world.