Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Dark Watch Review

Dark Watch by Clive Cussler and Jack DuBrul
A review by Neil Richard

Overall Rating = 3.5 out of 5

I had many mixed emotions about this book and was frankly a little surprised.

A little history lesson before the review. I used to work in a book store when I lived in North Carolina. Since I was in charge of everything that entered and left the store, I managed to see quite a few interesting things, including the early arrival (but not release) of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Each week during our regular shipment, we’d get a special tote that occasionally had some swag in it. Being the good employee I was, I generally took what looked cool. No, I wasn’t stealing from the store, it was swag, thus free. One of those items was an ARC (advanced reader copy) of Deep Fire Rising by Jack DuBrul. The cover looked cool and nobody wanted it. And thus began my Jack DuBrul fandom. I purchased his entire backlist and visited his web site many times. Even had a conversation with another fan via long distance phone call (something I don’t often do).

Then Jack went on a bit of a hiatus. Some family issues arose and he was working on a hardback novel. I think things changed and he was invited to co-author Dark Watch with Cussler. Not to sure of the details behind this book, so I can’t really comment beyond what I’ve already said.

This is where my mixed emotions come in. Being a fan of Jack, I expected some quality writing. And I got some. Key word being some. It in no way measured up to the previous books he’s written. Which can only mean one of two things. Jack has lost his writing touch or Cussler dragged him down. Egads, did I just allude to Cussler being a poor writer? Sure did. Jack’s previous books (currently at 5) about Mercer (the main character) blew this book out of the water like a water-logged boat. Not only were there so many facts and blatant research poured into the Mercer books, the plots and characters were original.

Wait, was I implying Cussler is a cookie-cutter writer? Yes. It’s clear to me that this is nothing more than another Jack Ryan book. Not that I’ve read any, but I’ve seen the movies. And they’re all the same (well, Harrison Ford was a better actor, but that’s another discussion). The good guy, one Juan Cabrillo, fights the bad guys with his team of mercenaries that aren’t quite mercenaries. Everyone has a tactical background of sorts and always shots the right bad guy. The hero has an amputated leg, now that’s creative. The hero ripping a 4 inch piece of skin off his forehead because the blood is in his eyes, now that’s retarded.

And the implied love scenes, why do I see a movie scene in my head again and again and again. Oh wait, was that Dirk Pitt?

So aside from the serial-like feeling of the plot and characters, the action and suspense was well written. Blowing up bags of concrete to create a dust cloud is genius. Using the anchor hoist to help pull a boat is genius. The tactical scenarios were a bit stale at times, but overall kept me interested and kept me reading. Once I got past the first third of the book, it was very hard to put down. Mainly because I needed to find out what happened.

In the end, I was disappointed Cussler’s name was on the book. Jack could have written (and has written) a much better book about Mercer. Cussler’s hero approach was too old-school. I’ve seen enough James Bond, Dirk Pitt, and Jack Ryan to last awhile. A more Indiana Jones approach would have been much better (that’s why I like Mercer better, he’s just a geologist). I decided to go with a slightly higher than average rating because of the action scenes and the suspense (and betrayal) aspects. And because Jack’s name is on the book. Too bad his name wasn’t first.
©2005 Productions

The Hutt Gambit Review

The Hutt Gambit by A. C. Crispin
A review by Neil Richard

Overall Rating = 3 out of 5

Still another average read with Part Two of the Han Solo Trilogy. Han continues to grow and show his background for the reader. He is working for the Hutts now and is primarily running his smuggler ship from the Hutt controlled moon of Nar Shaddaa. While doing his smuggler thing, Han befriends another sketchy character, Lando Calrissian. And of course he falls in love again. In the end, he saves the Smuggler’s Moon from an Imperial attack.

So we start to see a pattern with Han. He’s always trying to do the right thing, but he never quite seems to be able to do the right thing without breaking a few laws. He has a tendency to fall in love with beautiful women that either betray him or die or run off without him. His ship (or other current mode of transportation) is usually in a state of disrepair or is being attacked or both.

One slight disclaimer I forgot to mention on the first review of this series is the fact that I’m listening to the abridged audio version. While I have read these books before, I’m using the audio versions to refresh my memory. The biggest thing I’ve noticed about these audio versions is the use of sound effects. While I’m not exactly a big conniseur of audio books, nearly all of the ones I’ve listened to do not use sound effects. Fortunately for me, the sound effects aren’t that distracting. I can tell some of them are not from Star Wars, but they fit with the scene in the book.
©2005 Productions

The Paradise Snare Review

The Paradise Snare by A. C. Crispin
A review by Neil Richard

Overall Rating = 3 out of 5

Han Solo finally reveals his beginnings. His childhood was hard and got only slightly easier after being “rescued” by a con-man/pirate. From then on, he ran scams and picked pockets for his pirate “savior.” During this time, he befriended a matronly Wookiee, Dewlanna.

After Dewlanna sacrifices her life to save his, Han escapes this life and takes off in search of a job as a pilot. He finds a job on a planet filled with Pilgrims, who are nothing more than brainwashed slaves working spice mines. During his stay here, he falls in love with Bria, one of the brainwashed mine workers. Being the good guy of the story, Han rescues Bria and makes it off-planet.

Overall, not a bad story about Han. It gives some insight into his childhood and early years. This being one of the old generation books (pre New Jedi Order), there ware some discrepancies in the storyline and the facts. Most notable to me (and often distracting) were the many references to other characters Han had not met yet. Jabba, Princess Liea, and Bail Organa being the most notable. Aside from the history lesson on Han, this was an average read. Nothing terribly exciting.
©2005 Productions

Sex Begins In The Kitchen Review

Sex Begins In The Kitchen by Dr. Kevin Leman
A review by Neil Richard

Overall Rating = 2.5 out of 5

It’s been so long since I’ve started this book, I’ve forgotten how I heard about it. But if I recall correctly, it was mentioned on a message board or forum for couples in need of counseling. I’m not here to air my personal life out like my dirty socks, so on with the review.

The first thing I noticed about this book was the sheer number of religious references. Being a non-church going agnostic, I didn’t find this very appealing. So if you’re not very Christian like me, look for a different book.

For those that live by the good book or can live with it, then feel free to dive in. Dive in to a book full of common sense. I say common sense because, for me, I didn’t learn anything new. All that was new to me was a different way of saying it.

That being said, I’m not going to deny that this book could be helpful to many people. Of course a swift kick in the ass would help people too. As to couple’s therapy, if you need it, get it. If you think you need it, ask your partner. You don’t need to be married, or to even be a man and woman, to be cleared for couple’s therapy. My advice on this book? Sex doesn’t begin in the kitchen. It begins when you realize what that body part (or parts) is designed to do. From that moment on, it’s a matter of finding the right circumstances.
©2005 Productions

Monday, November 28, 2005

Post Thanksgiving 2005 Report

Post Thanksgiving 2005 Report

Well, things started out great.  Wednesday was as short day at work for both Yvonne and I.  Had the ritual office pot-luck, so plenty of good eats before I even started for home (especially the cream cheese/shrimp dip combo).  After work, was the drive home, and with traffic no worse than a Friday afternoon, I was pleasantly surprised.  That’s about when the bad luck started showing it’s face.  Turns out Yvonne had been trying to call me on my cell, which decided to have a dead battery.  Elizabeth was getting sick again (looks like another ear/sinus infection) and wanted to know if we should take her to the emergency room since the doctors were either booked or starting their holidays early.  Since she wasn’t too terrible, we decided to wait until the post-holiday rush.  The day ended with a beautiful first snow that I neglected to capture on film.

Thursday was the big turkey day.  Which for me means ham.  We went to a friend’s house (Rhonda and Jason) since they were kind enough (and gulliable enough) to host the festivities.  And Dad came over for a few hours too.  Between Yvonne and Rhonda, we had turkey, ham, potatoes, stuffing (both in and out of the bird), corn, carrots, rolls, and cranberries along with apple and pumpkin pies.  The rolls were extra crispy on the outside, but it took nothing from the flavor and only added to the conversation.  The potatoes were also good, considering it was made sans milk (Rhonda had to pass on the dairy).

Friday had Yvonne out early and beating the crowds (beating them to the rush and beating them on the head).  I stayed at home with the little squirt and enjoyed some morning playtime.  Then Yvonne returned home with her bounty of goods and bevy of receipts.  I think the checking account did better than I expected, which truly shows the thriftiness of my wife.  And with one less person to shop for (meaning me), I’m sure she had less stress trying to find something.  Then it was on to the tree decorating and another run of bad luck.  After disgorging the tree from the attic, along with the numerous totes and boxes of holiday supplies, we set up the tree.  And after a few hours, I was getting tired.  Which meant Yvonne ended up decorating most of the tree by herself.  Which is where my bad luck comes in, since she got upset at my lack of helping (and because I was sleeping in the recliner).  But I was amazed that she was still up and functioning after midnight.

Saturday was a trip to IKEA.  The first in a very long time for me.  After seeing Rhonda and Jason’s nice chair, we decided to give them the last piece of our old living room set to make room for a chair like theirs.  We spent a few hours walking their store and getting lost several times (well, maybe not lost, but I didn’t have the slightest idea where I was).  We found the chair we liked, wrote down the info, walked the rest of the store, found the appropriate bins in their warehouse, and went back upstairs for lunch.  For $13 we got a ham and cheese sandwich, poached salmon, macaroni and cheese, two sodas, orange juice, and cookies.  Plus, for that day only, they took the cost of our lunch off the price of our furniture purchase.  So lunch was free.  Pretty good deal.  Then came the bad luck.  We decided to do some window shopping at Potomac Mills since it was across the lot from IKEA.  After a good 15 minutes of driving around and around, we couldn’t find a parking spot and decided to just go home.  We finished decorating the tree and boxed up the stuff to return to the attic.

Sunday was the catch-up day for chores.  Dishes and laundry being the big ones.  And we packed everything back up to the attic, hopefully for the last time (we’re hoping the shed will be done by Christmas).  We got a new comforter for the bed, so that needed to be installed.  The new chair needed to be enjoyed (it was assembled Saturday).  Some football needed to be watched.  And Elizabeth’s fingers were squished in a closet door.  Once again, my bad luck decided to show up.  This time, with friends.  I felt so bad, but knew it was an accident.  I didn’t even see her following me into the back bedroom.  Didn’t even see her stick her hand in the gap between door and frame (on the hinge side) as I closed the door.  I guess the positive side was I didn’t get the door completely closed before I realized something was wrong.  I looked over as I opened the door and she was just staring at her mangled fingers.  At leas they looked mangled, they weren’t really.  Just squished.  No broken bones, didn’t even have bruises this morning.  But she had a good spell of crying and shaking and eventually fell asleep.  And slept.  And slept.  For those of you parents out there, I’m sure it’s happened to you before.  You put your kid down to take a nap, and they keep on sleeping.  And you get to a point in the day (usually as it approaches their normal bedtime) when you try to decide if you should wake them up and run the risk of them staying up way late, or let them sleep and run the risk of them getting up way early.  We decided to let her sleep with myself volunteering to get up with her if she got up early (I felt bad about the fingers so I figured that would be my punishment).  But she slept through the night and was still groggy (but hungry) this morning.

One final note to add about the long weekend.  I watched several Christmas movies to try to get into the spirit since I’m a little slower than normal this year.  So far I’ve marked Santa Clause, Santa Clause 2, Jingle All The Way, White Christmas, Toy Story, and National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation off my list.  All good movies.

Thus ends Thanksgiving 2005.  Watch out Christmas, you’re next.
©2005 Productions

Friday, November 18, 2005

Lord Of Chaos Review

Lord Of Chaos by Robert Jordan
A review by Neil Richard

Overall Rating = 3 out of 5

The Wheel weaves as the Wheel wills.  Again.  And again.  And again.  At this point, it’s getting harder and harder to not only keep these storylines straight, but to write reviews.

What can I say.  Jordan just keeps pulling stuff out of his ass.  Some of it stinks, some of it smells like roses.  This addition to the Wheel of Time series was somewhere in between.  And yet again, it is so long, I’ve forgotten what has happened in the beginning.  But I clearly remember the battle at the end.  It’s hard to forget the scenes where Rand is kept in a box.  The Aiel coming to save him and kill him.  The Aes Sedia coming to rescue him or still him.  The Asha’man being led by a good guy that’s not so good.

There’s so many similarities to these stories, it’s starting to get old.  Even the last book I just read, Ploughman’s Son by Kurt R. A. Giambastiani had some of the same overtones.  For me, it all centers around the young boy (human or not doesn’t matter) becoming a hero.  I haven’t really come across one with a young girl becoming a hero (with the possible exception of Nancy Drew).  How does the boy become a hero?  Well, that’s usually what the story is about.  And most of the time it involves the McGuffin.  But more on that later.

So the typically backwoods or country, under-educated, lower income, potentially abused, and often fatherless young boy starts out his travel to heroism by meeting his guides.  These guides come in varying shapes, sizes, and races.  They’re stereotypically older, wiser, and stronger.  And the guides gently (well, sometimes gently) help the young boy move along the proper path toward the McGuffin.  So Rand had Lan an Morain.  Luke had Obi-Wan.  Obi-Wan had Qui Gon.  Frank and Joe had their father Fenton.  Frodo had Gandalf.  Drizzt had Montolio.  The list can go on and on.  But it’s all the same.  The young boy eventually becomes a man and a hero.

So what’s the McGuffin, well, if let’s have a little history lesson.  From the examples above, you can follow a limited history of fantasy from present day back to Tolkien in the 1970s.  But the McGuffin is a bit older.  At least back to Hitchcock in the 1940s.  What is a McGuffin?  Simply put, something that drives the plot by being a concern of the characters.  Frodo had to destroy the Ring.  Rand has to fight the Dark One.  Drizzt has to prove that dark elves can be good.  But it’s all the same.

I guess the Wheel really does turn in a circle.  Ages come and ages pass, but we always come back to where we started.  And for now, that Lord of Chaos.  It’s decent.  Not wonderful, but decent.
©2005 Productions

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Ploughman's Son Review

Ploughman’s Son by Kurt R. A. Giambastiani
A review by Neil Richard

Overall Rating = 4 out of 5

I’ve been reading Giambastiani’s work for some time now.  When I first stumbled across The Year The Cloud Fell a few years back, I was drawn into a bizarre world of Native Indians and dinosaurs with a heavy helping of American history.  Giambastiani has once again created one of those bizarre worlds.

The Ploughman’s Son was about just that, a ploughman’s son.  Set in 880 AD, Alain is working the fields with his father.  Or so he thinks.  Turns out his biological father is not only a Lord, but also raped his mother.  But don’t worry, his mother is just as bad.  Not only did she go crazy, she also abused him physically and emotionally.  In the end, Alain gets revenge and kills his father.

I’m not sure how much research went into the novel, but there are times when many things seem historically correct.  Not being an expert in the field though, I wouldn’t know.  But the settings (landscape and weather), actions of the characters (daily tasks and language), and religious beliefs (Paganism vs. Christianity) all seemed very plausible to me.  Granted, the magic of the ley lines and of the old spirits wasn’t, the vast majority was.  Thus setting a believable stage for the story.

Being just shy of 250 pages, the story is fairly fast.  It slows in a few spots, but mostly to convey the importance of that particular scene.  The trail Alain travels is a bit convoluted at times, making stops that don’t always fit in with the overall story.  There are some battle scenes that are too short or not crisp enough with detail.  And, my biggest gripe, there’s no map.  But I’m big on maps.  I need to see where everything happens.

So overall, Kurt did a good job on a good story.  While the crows/ravens of the story creeped me out a bit, I think that was the intention.  My impression (this is where my opinion takes over) is that Kurt got an idea for a story and either filled in the blanks or cut some out.  I could easily see this as a short story or as a longer novel.  I’m just not sure which would be better.  For those interested, I have ordered the second part of this duology, Ploughman King.
©2005 Productions

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Ravens and Crows

Ploughman's Son - Another discussion point

Crows. Ravens. Black birds of death.

Whatever they go by, they've taken a "beating of the wings" over time. So this morning, I went over to my Dad’s house to make sure everything was okay (he’s out of town for the moment). So I pull up to the end of the driveway and check the mail. Putting my car window down I start to here the cawing. Lots of cawing.

As I got out the car, I saw the trees full of crows. Hundreds, maybe thousands of them. Creepy.

When I returned to my car, Ploughman’s Son was sitting on the passenger seat with the cover staring at me. With a crow on it. Creepier.

Now it’s lunch time and I’m reading more of Ploughman’s Son. Alain, the major character, has been scared (physically and emotionally) by his mother. He finally reveals the patterns of his scars to two other characters. He chest has a large raven stretching from shoulder to shoulder, neck to stomach. Even Creepier.

I don’t really want to get into the content of the story (as I’m still reading it), so here’s some interesting tidbits about ravens and crows. The raven and crow are related, yet different (ravens are Corvus corax, while crows are Corvus brachyrhynchos). Ravens weigh more and have a wider wingspan. The raven has a pointed tail while the crow’s is more square. Their bills also differ with the raven’s being more curved.

For me, crows and ravens have always been a bit evil. For me, it’s always been from Edgar Allen Poe’s The Raven. I can still remember being totally freaked out in school when we went to see the play. Even now, reading the Wheel of Time series, the crow is a spy for the Dark One.

So to further the discussion, what other differences do you know about between ravens and crows? What scary or creepy things have happened to you with crows or ravens? Do you really believe they are evil creatures or have they gotten the same bad stereotype as snakes (from the garden of Eden)?

Monday, November 14, 2005



It is 12:30.  And I have decided to write my manuscript.

I know I don't have anything set in stone and I don't even have a main story line.  I am just hoping it will come to me as I write.  So I am writing.

My first idea is what I call "telescoping."  It is based on the powers of ten.  It starts with one character with a story line.  Then the events in that story become only a part of the next story.  If the first story becomes the beginning of the second story, then the reading will be much simpler.  But the second story will have different people and a larger story.  For example, in the first story someone helps fight a battle.  They, along with the people they helped, win the battle.  That battle then becomes the end of that story and the beginning of the next story.  The next story will briefly introduce the characters from the first story then dismiss them.  The characters from the second story then come into view and the second story has begun.  This can be continued on down the line.

My second idea is to start in the middle of the story.  Sorry no name for this technique.  By starting in the middle of the story line, you can then build upon that story.  Like taking a short story then expanding it.  Where did the characters come from?  How did they get where they are?  What hardships did they find along the way?  What is their background?  Their childhood?  Their parents?  Their schooling?  By taking a simple story, one can expand it into a larger story and eventually an epic.

Next idea is to have the bad guy win.  At least in the beginning.  Then the good guy can win the second time.  But the good guy doesn't always win and things don't always come out the way we want them to.

The next idea, or rather piece of information, is that in movies, the car doesn't start the first time when trying to get away from the bad guy.  And, also in movies, bombs always have wires of different colors so that the good guy knows which one to cut.

Now to start writing my story.  It will start out simple and I will probably babble for awhile.  So just bear with me.
©2005 Productions

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Taped Confessions

Chapter 1

Summer 1997

The definition of a self induced heart attack: driving between a five-foot “Jersey” barrier and a tractor-trailer pulling two trailers, in the rain, in a construction zone with narrowed lanes

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Penthouse.  Playboy.  Amateur Hour.  Juggs.  Cheri.  Chic.  Mayfair.  Rustler.  Orient Tails.  Small Tops.  Genesis.  Gallery.  Paradise.  Hustler.  Nugget.  D-Cups.  Over 40.  Leg Tease.  Knave.  Derriere.

I flash to pass, and drop it a gear.  I hit the gas, and kick it in the rear.  I have no will, I have no fear.  My name ain’t Bill, and I hit a deer.

Silver Fierro.  Lic #:  ZF?-2998.  Teal Green pick-up truck, low rider.  Lic #: Z??-????.

I’ve never seen a movie at a drive-in theater.  I’ve got the subterranean blues because I’ve never seen a movie at a drive-in theater.  I’ve been to a drive-in theater and seen lots of movies there, just not at the drive-in, drive-in part.

We got AC, we got heat.  That’s where I wanna be is on my beat.  Polished shoes and a big black belt.  When I arrest you, you’re gonna be felt.  Four guns and four knives, above your buns and strapped to your thighs.

You can’t be over booked, just under read.  Don’t ruin an apology, with an excuse.  The best thing about saying nothing is that it can’t be repeated.

Lic #: JKI-120.

Horn broken, watch for finger.  Sometimes I wake up Grumpy.  Sometimes I let him sleep in.  I brake for no apparent reason.

My grandfather had a face that was bright red.  But he had a pale white forehead.

King George, that’s where I was educated.  King George, that’s where I graduated.  King George, that’s where I grew up.  King George, that’s where I went out.  King George, that’s where threw up.  King George, that’s where I flipped out.  King George, it’s in Virginia.  King George, they said “I never knew you had it in you.”

When I was a kid, we always went to town.  We went to see a movie in Fredericksburg.  We went shopping every weekend in Freddyburg.  Every Saturday and Sunday we went to Freddytown.  We spent every weekend in F’burg.

When I was a kid, I’d get up in the morning and watch cartoons.  When I was a kid, I’d watch the Three Stooges, they came on at noon.  The Gummi Bears, the Smurfs, the Three Stooges.  Alvin and the Chipmunks, Camp Candy, the Penpals.  For many years I went to the ABC Preschool.  Run by Mr. and Mrs. Amex, who were very nice and very cool.  When I was a kid, I went to the babysitter and watched cartoons.  When I was a kid, I’d wait for that big yellow bus that came all too soon.  At the Musselmans, I’d watch the Thundercats and G. I. Joe.  There were many of us that waited there, until we had to go.  It was great, I was having the time of my life.  I never had thoughts of kids, let alone a wife.  These memories all come rushing back.  Sometimes it feels like a heart attack.  How I miss the days of my childhood, even though I never had friends in the neighborhood.  I remember staying up late and watching V.  I remember instant Kool-Aid and instant ice-tea.  I don’t remember a lot from Potomac Elementary School.  But I do remember a few teachers who were very, very cool.  Mrs. Colley, Mrs. Brown, Mrs. Horton.  I remember Mrs. Colley, she read us books.  I remember Mrs. Brown, she gave us congratulating looks.  Mrs. Horton, she taught gym class.  And I must admit she had a nice ass.  Some of my teachers had no thoughts of marriage, especially that beautiful Ms. Rapcavage.

Chapter 2

Tuesday June 3, 1997

Tomorrow is Wednesday.  Plan is, get up early.  Go to Service Merchandise.  Change the light bulbs, as asked by Mr. Howdyshell, and after that possibly go see a movie.  Gone Fishin’ starts at 1025.  After the movie, or instead of the movie, go look for cars.  Make sure you wear nice clothes, combat boots, khakis, maybe bring an extra shirt to change into, maybe your blazer.  After looking at cars, or before, after, whatever, go to the Credit Union.  Make sure you bring your check book.  Transfer money into your checking account in Pennsylvania.  If not possible to transfer money, withdraw $100 to deposit through a MAC machine somewhere.  And, after a week, write a check for two things.  The first the R. A. Salvatore Fan Club and the second the Gould law books.  Also write, or put together poetry for the contest.  Clean your bedroom.  Empty the closet, clean it, rearrange it.  Clean inside the windows.  Then clean the bathroom.  And, if time allows, clean the hallway.  Don’t forget to write letters to Yvonne, to Uncle George and Aunt Wilma, possibly to Uncle Randy, and maybe Uncle Harold.  Try to call this weekend Jeff, and maybe Dave.  Tonight after work I think I set an all-time record for the highest, er, sorry, the lowest number of lights to be stopped by.  I was stopped by the first light, Route 3 and Bragg Road and the second light on Route 3 that goes to the Mall.  The following one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, the following seven lights did not stop me.  Only two out of nine.  Not too bad.

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Chapter 3

June 6, 1997

Words of wisdom for today.  Do nothing, avoid criticism.

How to properly leave Service Merchandise in Fredericksburg to go to King George.  One.  Leave the Service Merchandise parking lot and get on Bragg Road.  Get into the left hand turn lane.  There are two turn lanes, be sure to get into the left.  Turn left at the light.  You will be on Plank Road in the left hand lane.  Remain in the left hand lane.  The closer you are to the starting line the better.  You will go through a light, the one that runs the road between the Mall and the Ten Cinemas.  You will go through a second light that turns into Central Park.  Remember you should still be in the left lane.  You should be crossing Interstate 95.  Try to maintain a speed between 45 and 50 miles per hour.  You will come to another light with Racetrac on the left and Carlos O’Kelleys on the right.  Immediately thereafter is another stoplight.  Aamco on the right, 7-Eleven and KFC on the left.  If you’re not up to 45-50 miles per hour by the Carlos O’Kelleys light you will more than likely the next light will be red when you hit it.  Your next light will have the Westwood Shopping Center on your left and the Greenbriar Shopping Center on your right.  You’re still in the left lane.  Your next stoplight will have Popeye’s on the left and a cemetery on the right.  And the following light is Westmont Road.  Still stay in the left lane.  Shortly thereafter, you will go under Route 1.  Your next light will be William Street.  Careful, the road is kind of curvy.  Still maintain a speed of 45 to 50 miles per hour.  You should be on the Blue-Grey Parkway.  Remain in the left lane.  The next light will be Lafayette Boulevard.  Continue straight.  The following light will have an industrial business on the left.  Continue straight in the left lane.  You will cross over a road that runs to either Bowling Green or to downtown Fredericksburg.  After you cross over start looking for a hole in traffic between cars.  There will be an on ramp to your right.  After you pass it and you find your hole, turn into the right lane and you should be crossing the Rappahannock River.  On the other side of the river, you will want to be in the right lane so you can turn right.  If you catch it right, you will come around the curve and the light will be green and you will be able to go into Route 3 immediately with no on-coming traffic.  Sometimes you are not so lucky.  So always be wary and look for a hole in traffic.  As you come on to Route 3 east, set your cruise for approximately 60 to 63 miles per hour.  After you get on Route 3 east, you can get into the right lane and travel at your leisure to King George.  There are a few spots on Route 3 between Fredericksburg and King George that you will need to be wary of troopers, State Police, or local police, because they like to set up speed traps.  These will be pointed out in due time as we come across them.  After passing the Renaissance Faire on your left you will go around a few curves and as you crest a hill you will notice bright flashing lights on a smokestack in front of you in the distance.  That smokestack is the new King George dump.  As you cross the straightaway you will notice the pavement turns very dark.  Be wary because you will begin going down a hill and on your left is a turn where cops like to sit.  At the bottom of the hill is the King George County line.  A few miles later you will notice a horse, a large horse on your left.  It is a quarter horse farm.  As soon as you notice the horse be wary of your speed because as you round the curve and get to the bottom of the there is a turn-around that the local police tend to favor.  Shortly after that turn-around you will notice a large bend to the left.  After crossing the bridge over the creek there is yet another turn-around that is also favored by the police.  As you pass Pern’s Market on the left and crest the hill the straightaway in front of you is the final stretch on Route 3.  You will soon be entering a 45 mile-an-hour zone, so it is advised to decrease your speed to 45 or 50 miles an hour.  You will want to be in the left lane to turn at the Fas’ Mart onto 206.  After you turn onto 206 you are still in a 45 mile-per-hour zone.  They do have a tendency to patrol it rather well. You have about a mile stretch in this zone.  It goes from Route 3 and the high school to just past the middle school.  Once past the middle school you can begin to increase your speed and it might be advisable to turn on your brights.  After you enter the 55 mile-an-hour zone, you are free to increase your speed up to a maximum of 60 miles-an-hour.  On this 3 mile stretch from Route 3 to 611, be wary of deer.  This is a semi-rural area and several of the wooded areas do have a deer population.  There is a straightaway after Dutch’s Mart that ends in a curve to the right.  After this curve is a short straightaway and shortly thereafter is 611 on your right-hand side.  You will turn right and make the first left onto Poplar Drive.  You will make a right onto Hickory Drive the first available street and continue straight for a short period of time.  The road curves to the left and then turns into a Y.  You will bear right at the Y and turn left in the first driveway after the pool.

Chapter 4

June 7, 1997

If age is a number then mine is unlisted.

I can think and I can do but not at the same time.

Chapter 5

June 10, 1997

Can you smell the pesticide in the air?
Can you taste the pesticide in your drink?
Can you feel the pesticide in my hair?
Can you see the pesticide in my gear?

Chapter 6

June 16, 1997

I just finished my first day on the job at Burns International Security at Mary Washington Hospital.  I must say I am very happy.  Everything I experienced and learned I was very pleased about.  There are a lot of nice people that I will be working with, at least that I’ve met so far.  The only things that I know of that I might have trouble with are the morgue, with the dead bodies, the ER, with all the trauma, and learning where everything is in the hospital.  Now as far as the dead bodies, I might be able to get used to it.  I think it would be easier to get used to than the trauma in the ER.  Now I was told that I will be working ER which I guess is going to be okay.  I’m going to have to learn someday.  I think it will be educational and I will learn how to deal with trauma.  I might have some nightmares, but that’s okay.  My last problem, as far as learning where everything is in the hospital, I think that will be the easiest to deal with.  It will take a little bit of time and a little bit of effort but I’m sure I will learn.  I started my shift today at 0800 hours.  It was a tour, so to speak, in the courtesy van.  We run a basic patrol route.  When you first get in the van you record the mileage, you note it along with how much fuel is in the car along with your name, etc.  You also note how many empty spaces are in each of the lots at certain times of the day.  You also record how many visitors and/or employees you shuttle, where you picked them up, where you dropped them, the time, etc.  We do hand out parking tickets.  We don’t in Lot C where they park on the curb.  We used to and we might begin doing that again.  While driving the shuttle we’re responsible for parking tickets, cars with the keys locked in them, we don’t do power locks on cars, we don’t change flat tires but we do have a portable air pump, we do jump starts.  On the jump starts and on unlocking cars we have them sign a waiver.  I presume we also do on flat tires.  We also run our patrol route.  We also count empty spaces at certain times.  And we also direct traffic when a helicopter comes in.  When a helicopter lands, we’re to be at the helo pad early, to direct traffic.  If the helicopter waits, we wait.  If the pilot turns off the rotors, we return to our patrol.  And when he starts up the rotors again, we go back and direct traffic.  That is about the extent of our responsibilities on the shuttle patrol.  Now when we’re inside, we basically go around, walk a few floors, respond to calls.  We do not unlock dialysis.  We do not unlock the AV equipment room, and the learning center.  There’s a few other offices that we do not unlock.  I learned about a mercury clean up kit, where the Haz Mat closet is and the Mas Cas, which is Mass Casualties.  And a few of the basic situations that we might have to deal with.  Other than that everything went fine.  My first patrol was with Stewart.  I believe John Stewart, tall thin guy, going into the Air Force in October.  Rodriguez was also in, but I didn’t patrol with him.  He was a new hire, same time as me.  I was also with Charles, I forget his last name.  He’s a sergeant and I believe he was also the shift supervisor at the time.  The cameras and the communications are handled separately by the hospital.  On the walkie-talkies, you refer to yourself by number.  Security 1 is Major Hitt, Security 2 is usually the supervisor.  Security 3 and Security 4 I believe are usually the shuttle runners.  Monday, Wednesday, Friday.  Tuesday and Thursday Security 3 and the Supervisor switch off and on.  Security 5 I believe is ER as I believe Security 6 is.  Today I found out at 12 when I went off duty I was Security 7.  But that’s okay.  I was not given a walkie-talkie and I won’t have my photo ID in until the first of July.  So I can’t use any cipher lock.  And that’s it for now.

Chapter 7

June 19, 1997

Well, I had an odd dream last night.  I don’t remember it all.  Surprise, surprise.  But, I do remember part of it was, I was going out with Yvonne and I guess I met another girl and I wanted to go out with her too.  And I told them both that I wanted to go out with both of them and they pretty much agreed and then I guess the brother of the other girl wanted me to do something kind of weird.  Him and his friends did and I didn’t want to so I said no.  He tried to force me and then I think I beat them all up.  Now from there, my dream went to a Wal-Mart, an old Wal-Mart that was being emptied out.  Security was done by Spetco or Septco or something.  And, I walked around and I didn’t really see what I was looking for so I started to leave.  And as I was leaving I walked by two good looking girls and one of them put a little sticker on my shirt which was hanging low right over my grown.  I peeled off the little sticker, it was a white sticker with 4 written on it in black, sort of like an inspection sticker.  And I turned around to look at the girl that did it and she kind of kept walking then turned around really quick to glance to see if I was looking or just to look at me.  And I made eye contact and she appeared to be kind of embarrassed.  And after that I left the store.

I also remember dreaming about Holly South from high school.  She was in there somewhere.  I think she was in the store.  Anyway, I left the store, the Wal-Mart that was being torn down and I was walking along the road and I saw a car that had lost its left rear tire.  Like the whole tire like it broke off at the axle.  So, I kind of ignored it and continued to walk and I guess I recognized who it was or asked to help or something and the person behind that car was stopped to help them.  It was a girl, I remember that.  Both drivers were girls.  And the girl that lost her tire said sure she’d appreciate the help.  She said she was worried though, Brad Pitt, Tom Cruise, and somebody else were in the car that I guess she hit.  And I believe it was Tom Cruise that got glass on his face and it cut his face and she was worried because he supposedly had a contract to make a movie where he was supposed to have a perfectly smooth face.  I don’t know.  Confusing.  That’s it for now.

Chapter 8

June 26, 1997

Hi, I’m Doogie.  I work with Selleck, Tammy Faye, and Ridalin Rodriguez, and Forrest.  They say I’m the best out of the new hires.  There’s four of them.  Me, Doogie, Ridalin Rodriguez, Tammy Faye herself, and some other guy that quit.  Now, I’ve had two people tell me this.  The first person told me and I was kind of polite and nodded my head and said yeah okay thanks.  Then the second person told me yesterday and I was like holy shit maybe I am good.  I don’t know.  So anyway, at least some of them appear to like me which pretty cool.  Now I can’t forget my boss, Dickie, and one of the first guys I met, Flyboy.  We appear to be having a pretty good storm.  I heard the thunder, got outside and closed my car just in time before it started to rain.  Now it’s fucking pouring down.  Like holy shit man.  Now my problem is I got to find something to read.  I would be working on my computer but I don’t know with all this lightning and shit.  Kind of makes me nervous.  I done read just about everything I can think of.  I even resorted to some old books, older than my own Dad.  Now I started out with Peter Cotterell’s Treasure.  I finished that in a couple of days.  Not too bad.  It was in like 1920s I think it was written.  Then I started in on Tom Slade Boy Scout.  Written in early 1900s, like the first decade.  And I finished that one today and I’ll be damned I don’t know what else to read.  I’m out here looking at the N. C. Wythe books and shit, Drums wasn’t good.  Deerslayer, Last of the Mohicans, yeah that’s nice, who cares.  Robin Hood, I think I already read that one.  Robinson Crusoe, I read that a couple of times.  White Company, I already read it.  Westward Ho! nah, doesn’t sound good.  The Boy’s King Arthur, I think I read that one.  Sword in the Stone, I tried couldn’t get into it.  Scottish Chiefs, read that.  Yearling, nah saw the movie.  Black Arrow, read that one.  David Balfour, I think I read that one.  Kidnapped, saw the movie.  Treasure Island, saw the movie.  Mysterious Island, read that.  The Arabian Knights, no thanks.  So that leaves me with nothing to read.

I have some ideas on license plates.  If I get a sport utility vehicle, the license plate is going to be WAR WGN.  Now if I get a car, it’s going to be TK-421.  Other than that I can’t think of nothing good.

Chapter 9

June 27, 1997

Hello.  My name is Neil Richard.  And I am the director of this movie.  I would just like to say that this movie is very apocalyptic because that’s what I believe in.  I believe if we do not take care of this world the world will take care of us but we won’t like it.  There was once a man, graduated from my fiancĂ©’s high school, the mascot is the Titans, team colors are blue and gold.  You know who you are, fly man.  Anyway this great man played a character and his character said that nature will find a way and I believe that nature is finding a way now.  We’ve settled this planet and we’ve harnessed some of the power, converted it to our use.  Some is good, some is bad.  I think we were doing okay for a while.  And then I think we got a little greedy and the earth’s population grew too much and it was just too much for Mother Nature.  She started to fight back so when I was younger I came up with a saying and I hope you’ll remember it when ever you see thunderstorm, tornado, earthquake, flood, volcano, fire, anything.  Don’t fuck with Mother Nature, or else she’ll fuck you.  I hope you enjoy the movie and I hope you learn.

Chapter 10

June 28, 1997

I dig swine.
I dig swine.
Oh, I dig swine.
I like bacon,
And I love pork chops.
I like steak and
I hate the smell of hops.
Pigs might be filthy animals but they’re pretty damn smart.
They might eat their own shit but they’re pretty damn smart.
They might have no character but they’re still fuckin’ smart.
I dig swine.
I dig swine.
I dig swine.
I like pork chops.
I like pig’s meat
I like cops.
I hate pig’s feet.

On your first CD have a label that says this CD does not contain a hidden track.  And in really fine print say that in fact it has three hidden tracks.  Have one after track 3, the second one after track 6, and the third will be track 9, but it will only be accessible by PC.  After you install it on a PC.  The only way you can get to it is to install it.  After you install it you get a screen that says congratulations, you discovered our hidden track.  The person says here it is and the screen fades into a full screen display of a high school track, King George would be good.  And then you would say, does anything come to mind, any particular words like sucker, and have that come up on the screen, or naive, and have that come up on the screen, in the middle of the track of course.    Then after you say naive, you would say too much Evian water.  Then have the word naive go up against a mirror or something, and have it spell out Evian, or you could have naive spelled out, then move the letters one by one so it would spell out Evian.

Chapter 11

June 29, 1997

Chapter 12

June 30, 1997

I kind of over slept this morning.  I was almost late for work.  I did have enough time to get ready and leave by seven o’clock.  So I could start my shift at eight.  But I didn’t wake up until 6:39 when Dad knocked on the door and made sure I was up.  God bless him.  Apparently I woke up at 5:45 when my alarm went off, rolled over turned off the alarm, and went back to sleep.  It happens every now and then.  So we’ll just let it go and hope the rest of my day isn’t too bad.  I think another part of the problem was I had a weird dream this morning.  I don’t really remember it all, but I think I’ve had the dream before.  I was in a building.  I don’t know if it was a hospital or a college.  I think it was supposed to be a college.  Yeah it was, it was.  Now in this college, there was several floors and at least two wings.  Now I remember being in uniform, security guard uniform, and I left my room, I believe, and went to the girls wing.  I don’t quite remember why but I did.  And I remember having this feeling that what I was doing wasn’t exactly right but I knew nobody would stop my because I was in my Burns uniform.  Now as I was walking around I got over to the girls wing and I walked over there.  I like walked the loop.  It was like a square.  And I walked around the square.  And I came around to the main desks on the floor and there’s a bunch of people there and of to the side in the little lobby area there’s a bunch of tables.  There’s a bunch of people sitting at these tables.  I wasn’t sure what these people were doing so I kind of sat down next to them to figure out what they were doing.  Well it turns out some of them were learning how to use a projector and the lady came up to me and gave this little hand out and shortly there after she quizzed me on how to put the videos in order.  And I had no idea.  So I kind of tried to play stupid.  And that was about where my dream ended.

Now I also remember a part I do believe I was on the girl’s wing and I was walking along and I stopped to look out a window and it was a big glass window like at the hospital.  I look out and I see outside the little green mini-van that we drive at the hospital.  It’s in this little turn-around out front or between us and another building or between us and another wing.  I don’t know.  Now, I look out and there’s the little green mini-van and driving it is Mr. Wilbur Tate, a security guard I work with.  Now it must have been cold out because he was wearing a white headband around his ears, like ear warmers.  Everybody else outside was all bundled up.  So that’s about all I remember about my dream.

Also on a side note, I did a little bit of research and I found out that Benjamin Volante, also known as “Stinky” at the hospital.  I work with him.  He’s a security guard there.  He graduated in 1991 from King George High School.  Scary huh?

Chapter 13

July 5, 1997

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Rogues Hour by Scott Ciencin

Rogue’s Hour by Scott Ciencin
A review by Neil Richard

Overall Rating = 2 out of 5

Wow.  And that’s not a good wow.  It should be more “Ugh” than “Wow.”  But anyway.

I was continually surprised by Scott’s writing in Rogue’s Hour.  I literally plowed through the last 100 pages just so I could get to my next book about a ploughman’s son.  I didn’t know what to make of this work.  I’ve read a few titles by Scott before and even now I still can’t swallow that Scott could write this.  I hate to say it, but I almost hope he was distracted by something in his personal life or was forced into a bad book by an even worse contract with CDS.

As to the story itself, well, there wasn’t much of one.  A rogue losses his memory, travels in search of the McGuffin, gets betrayed, attacked, rescued, and makes it to the end of the story.  Something I barely did myself.  There were clear attempts at humor that were completely lost on me, stomach churning dialog, and a stream of characters so confusing, I started ignoring names.

Now, to do something I don’t want to do, explain my score of 2 out of 5.  I prefer to keep my criteria for ranks to myself, mostly because I don’t have criteria.  But also because I don’t feel those reading my reviews should put up with more of my drivel than they have to.  So back to my 2 out of 5.  I really wanted to give this book a 1 out of 5.  And in reality, that’s what I’m giving it.  But I’m weighting my score for three reasons.  The first half a point was because I felt this was so out of the ordinary for Scott and because Salvatore was the driving force for the series (which I can only hope ends after this book).  The second half of a point was due to my lack of knowledge of the Ever Quest game.  I know it’s popular and can only hope those that play the game understand the book better then me.

All in all, this left a really sour taste in my mouth.  The action was written like a bad recounting of a 30-year-old’s session on EQ in his mother’s basement the night before.  The plot, characters, and settings were worse than I’ve seen on the back of Magic cards.  Fortunately, there is at least one positive thing I’ve learned from this.  In the future, I may begin implementing a 40 page rule.  If I don’t enjoy the first 40 pages, maybe I shouldn’t read it.
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