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Year in Review 2020

Each year I create a list of goals for every area of my life. Throughout the year I work on my goals, track my progress, and then commit to posting my top accomplishments. I hope to inspire you to do the same. 

This was a difficult year for all of us. When talk of the lockdowns began, I decided to ask myself a question: how do I use the lockdown to make every area of my life better? I wanted to put my efforts and resources into positive action and still have an outstanding year despite obstacles that were outside my control. 

Writing

I’ll start with short stories since I decided to put a lot of time into the creation, editing, and submitting of short tales. My efforts paid off with one acceptance and two honorable mentions. More info below.

Short Stories

My story Shattered was accepted and published in the Horror Zine’s 11th Anniversary issue. You might still find it free to read here.

Atonement received an Honorable Mention in the L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future Contest 1st quarter 2020. 

Received an honorable mention for my story Leviathan in the L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future Contest for 3rd quarter 2020.  (Including last year, this was the 3rd story that received this honor in a row).

Completed and sent a new story (5,000 words) to Writers of the Future contest 4th quarter. 

Wrote a 1,700 word short story for Weird Tales but the contest was canceled. The story is cooling while awaiting an edit and a new market.  

Sent stories to 24 markets including WOTF, The Horror Zine & the Baen Fantasy Award. More than normal and due to Covid restrictions. 

Each story submitted received a new polish edit bringing writing up to current standard. 

Wrote 2 new stories, one for Weird Tales and the other for WOTF. 

Magic Moments

Editor told me I was writing at a profesional level. 

Received invites to resubmit from pro and semi-pro publications.  

Had a top editor include me in a post where he touted the quality of fiction in the Horror Zine.

Reading

I love to read but have been a little distracted. I’ll make it a goal to read more next year.

Marketing

I fell off from blogging and only posted 1 video related to writing. 

An opportunity arose that I can’t talk about yet. Stay tuned, I’ll let you know more by the middle of January.  

Completed the free Writers of the Future writing workshop. It’s great! What are you waiting for? Take the workshop here.  

Novels

Completed up to Chapter 17 in Black Magic Bullets that began as an NaNoWriMo project. As the Covid lockdown took over, I found myself spending more time finishing up a completed novel and writing short fiction for the WOTF contest. I received good feedback on this first draft, including an excited reader who compared my story to the Dresden Files. 

Completed the ProWritingAid edit of The Tower. I deleted over 30k words bringing the story from 90k to 60k. I cut this thing to the bone! 

Reassessed Year of the Demon and am considering transforming it into urban fantasy. If nothing else, I’ve decided to put it through another round of edits before sending it out again. 

Darkness Absolute (working title)

Began a redux in late February bringing the events back to the late 1990s. Hopefully it will be complete by the time 90s nostalgia hits. 

Wolves of Vengeance 

On account of the lockdowns, I decided to do a free kindle promotion of WoV. 

Free kindle promotion received 31 downloads. 

ProWritingAid purchased WoV as part of a Facebook promotion

Martial Arts and Physical fitness 

With many martial arts seminars on hold, I wanted to make sure I kept up with solo training. My main goals were to burn calories, stay sharp, and improve my flexibility.  Most of my kicking had been centered around practical low line techniques. I decided to return to high kicks to increase my stretch. 

Warmed up and stretched before each session (ballistic, static, active, etc.).

I purchased Marco Lala’s stretching video and put his recommendations into practice. Check out his products here.

Performed shadow kickboxing session 3 times per week with Patty. 

Utilized Bas Rutten’s Thai Boxing workout routine 3-4 two minute rounds with one-minute rest. This is high Intensity Interval training (HIIT). You can still get his MMA Workout CDs & DVD here.

Practiced combination kicking with an emphasis on high kicks for stretching. Spinning and turning kicks to reclaim agility. 

Hojo Undo (supplementary exercises): Performed the 1st five dumbell exercises in the original P90X program, low weight high reps 3x per week. Performed calisthenics on many opposite days. Also, practiced various squats for leg day.  

Diesel helps us with our training.

Ken Suburi (basic sword cuts) Inspired by the last korean sword seminar I attended, I performed 100 sword cuts per session with bokken from various stances. 

Kata/hyung worked various forms and studied bunkai and oyo for practical effectiveness. Focused on improving Gankaku/Jindo. In the early days we learned advanced forms for testing but tended not to go back to them. 

Sinawalli: practiced double stick solo paterns shadow and on targets. 

Knife: practiced basic knife cuts and patterns along with live hand positioning. 

Improved my high kicks to where I can once again kick above my own head height. 

Created the Warrior Temple Garage Dojang. I utilized the dumpster provided by our condo association to clean out the garage. I swept the area, put down puzzle mats, hung up an American and Korean Flag and equipped the area with training items including a target bag. 

Warrior Temple Lockdown Garage Dojang.

Began wearing a fitness tracker. Discovered that even with exercise I’m struggling to maintain moderate activity during the lockdown.

I posted some martial arts videos on YouTube. As the summer heated up, I fell out of making videos. I might go back to it eventually. 

I attended some virtual seminars on FaceBook Live.

I was accepted as a Moo Duk Kwan Herritage Member. 

I attended the 75th anniversary of the Moo Duk Kwan Zoom seminar. It was amazing to reconnect to my Moo Duk Kwan roots, roots that go back to my Dad and my 2nd cousin. 

I utilized a free GracyU program preview but I fell out of using it. 

Family 

Called my parents 2x per week.

Celebrated 25 years of marriage & 28 years together.

Post Christmas get together at in-laws in January 2020.

Visited parents at Foxwoods

Diesel’s yearly physical along with distemper and rabies shots. 

Helped my parents with their car radio—went up for a visit and had lunch. 

Health

February Eye Appointment.

March Dentist Cleaning.

August eye appointment.

September Dental Cleaning with full x-rays. 

November Annual physical. Everything normal but I could use to lose a little Covid weight. I was up 5 pounds.

I began weighing in again and counting calories. Then I found that just limiting my calorie intake worked better than keeping track in a food planner.

By restricting calories and continued exercise, I was able to lose the 5 pounds by the middle of December. This goal continues and is on going. My last weigh-in near the end of December showed I had lost close to 7 pounds since my physical.

Cars

Patty was sideswiped in a parking garage and we had Liberty Auto fix the damage. We only paid deductible. 

Had airbags replaced through a Subaru recall for my car. 

Mass State Inspection for both cars. 

Air Conditioner Warranty Repair at Mazda for Patty’s car. 

House

Lockdown Office.

Purchased a desk and set up an office for Patty to work from home during lockdown. 

Purchased draw organizers for kitchen. 

Removed hutch on entertainment center to streamline and make more modern. 

Utilized dumpster provide by association to clean out garage. Turned garage into lockdown dojang.

Purchased Robot Vac to keep house tidy. 

Attached a strap to our living room TV to make it Diesel proof. Patty let me use power tools? 

Travel

Hahaha! Our plans were sidelined by Covid. 

AV/Tech/Cord-cutting

Canceled Philo. It’s a great service and cheap, but we weren’t watching it enough.

Began donating $5 per month to Locast to get reliable local stations through streaming.  

Got a 3 month trial of Peacock. We didn’t watch it enough and canceled.

STARZ – we got a couple free 3 month previews. Not enough movies or shows we were interested in to keep. 

HBO $10 a month for 3 months through Amazon. We ended up going with the HBO Max promotion for $11 a month.

We tried two weeks of YouTube TV but we rarely watch anything except local/network programing. It’s a great service but canceled after the trial. 

Sling Happy Hour free after 5pm or something like that. We signed up and it’s a good service but we didn’t use it enough to justify the cost after the free Happy Hour ended. 

We watched The Phantom of the Opera musical free on YouTube. 

Epix was free for a time on Apple+ and we watched a couple movies. 

Love Never Dies free on YouTube. 

Watched Halloween 2018 on Blu-Ray as part of a Twitter watch party with the cast. 

Watched Sly Stallone discuss Rocky while watching movie live streaming. 

I began posting Youtube videos regarding dollar tree finds and movie collecting.

Xfinity provided us with a free subscription to Peacock Premium along with a free Flex streaming box. 

Other interest/passions

Don’t mind the homophone confusion in the title. Should read: Dollar Tree Blu-Ray Haul!

Made many trips to Dollar Tree stores in my surrounding area to pick up DVDs and Blu-Ray discs. 

Purchased some movies on Black Friday and Cyber Monday. 

Sampled Redbreast 12 Irish Potstill Whisky. So good! This was my first time sipping an authentic Irish whisky that’s not a blend. 

That’s about it for this year. See you in 2021!!! 

Tony Tremblay Makes Evil Houses Scary Again!

The Moore House

 

As a fan of Tony Tremblay’s THE SEEDS OF NIGHTMARES I expected great things from his first novel-length outing. I was not disappointed. Tremblay creates a colorful cast of characters: excommunicated nuns with empathic abilities, a priest with sins of his own, a mysterious pawnshop dealer, and a character I can’t describe for fear of spoilers. Tremblay demonstrates a deft hand keeping plot threads together and characters cohesive. This extremely enjoyable novel provides twists and turns galore. The story moves at a brisk pace and provides one shock after another.  You won’t soon forget THE MOORE HOUSE. Could a sequel be in the works? I certainly hope so. Read and enjoy.

Buy THE MOORE HOUSE here!

DNM’s Review of The Big Bopper by Reb MacRath

 

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Reb MacRath spins off his Boss MacTavin mysteries with this first novel in a new series, bringing Boss’ vertically challenged sidekick DB into prominence, and transforming him into the tall-walking Chief Armstrong. Those who can’t get enough of Boss will be happy to see more involvement of our beloved Southern Scott—getting in and out of trouble the way only Boss can—during the second half of the book.

Even with the inclusion of Boss, this is still DB’s story, and we get to follow him as he assembles a team, becomes acclimated to the mean streets of Seattle, and unravels the threads of a mystery.

A great entry point for readers new to all things Boss, this is an introduction that will leave you craving more. After you breeze through this one, you’ll be raring to work your way back through the Boss MacTavin mysteries (starting with Southern Scotch) to get a stronger connection to the characters. By that time, you’ll want to see what Chief is up to on his own. Good thing MacRath is hard at work on a sequel!

Heavily researched from how a short man can look taller, to the modern diamond market, to the ancient Greek fighting art of Pankration, MacRath keeps things interesting. Hey, do you know how big a fortune Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield blew through and what they bought in the process? Interesting stuff. Read this book and you’ll know soon enough.

The Big Bopper oozes cool, a quirky mystery populated by colorful characters, dark humor, and scathing wit. An upbeat pulp neo-noir that bops you once or twice about the noggin, drags you through the underbelly of the Emerald City known as Seattle, and leaves you gasping, smiling, and wanting more.

Buy The Big Bopper here! 

Review: Caesar’s Ghost by Reb MacRath

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Caesar’s Ghost is a well-written mystery or mhistory (mystery + history—-do you see what MacRath did there?) with a splash of the speculative. What would happen if Julius Cesar returned—-could live again in our current time? A man with that type of ambition and cunning would surely set his sights on some amazing conquest, wouldn’t he?

Along the way, Caesar is reunited with Cleopatra (Cleo), and teams up with some colorful characters, including a college professor, a private investigator, and even a mob boss. Yes, as you will see, they all become very close as Caesar works out a grand scheme to the benefit of all… Well, maybe not all. But—-at least—-to some!

I’m being a little cryptic here. I don’t want to spoil it for you. This is such a unique book, and it has something for the mystery lover, the lover of noir, and for those who have an interest in history.

No one else would have dared to write this book. No one else could have written this book. I recommend it wholeheartedly. Go on… Grab it! I know you want to. Quickly now. Adventure awaits.

Wolves of Vengeance: New Cover!!!

The new cover for Wolves of Vengeance is now live! Cover by Lynne Hansen Design.

 

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“A paranormal wolf novel with real teeth, plus theme, strong plotting, rich characterization…and style to spare. North-Martino’s a writer to watch for.”—Reb MacRath, award-winning author of The Suiting and Caesar’s Ghost

THEY ARE COMING…

Detective Adrian Callahan misses his wife, and can’t find a new meaningful relationship. To take his mind off his own troubles, he focuses all his efforts on a missing persons case he believes is tied to a series of unsolved serial murders, a case that is quickly going cold.

Facing opposition from the police chief, who needs to put limited recourses elsewhere, Callahan is ordered to investigate a string of wild animal attacks that have been occurring within the city limits. The attacks become more frequent and stranger, and he quickly finds himself in uncharted territory, believing in creatures that his rational mind knows can’t exist.

Now he must find the young female victim, he feels may still be alive, before the animals he’s hunting take him off the case permanently.

THEY WILL SHOW NO MERCY

Captain Amanda Rann has spent most of her adult life in the military. She has little to show for it except a failed marriage, and a burning desire to get back to the two little girls she loves. But before she can return to civilian life, she has one last mission to complete. Amanda finds herself in charge of an all male Special Forces unit, tasked with completing the toughest black ops mission of their lives. But maintaining unit integrity is the least of her worries, these creatures have come to settle a score. And when she faces them, she’ll know they are the…

WOLVES OF VENGEANCE

Meeting Larry Correia and Getting Ideas!

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I had the pleasure of attending Larry Correia’s signing at Annie’s Book Stop in Worcester, Massachusetts. Best known for his Monster Hunter International (MHI) series, Larry was promoting Son of the Black Sword, the first in a series of new fantasy novels. Larry is very passionate at what he does, and loves his fans. He’s become a very controversial figure in certain circles, but if you get the chance to meet him, even if you don’t agree with his politics, you’ll find that he’s a very nice guy, and very down to earth.

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In meeting him I got to thinking about the MHI series, and Weston Ochse’s Seal Team 666 series (soon to be a major motion picture staring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson). There are similarities between these two properties, and with my character Captain Amanda Rann, and her paranormal Special Forces team featured in my novel Wolves of Vengeance. I think anyone who enjoys MHI or Seal Team 666 would also love to read about Amanda and her team as she hunts horrid wolf like creatures that devour the cursed.

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If you haven’t tried these successful series, follow the links and check them out.

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Amanda’s team isn’t a knockoff of either of these two groups. I conceived of Amanda and her paranormal SF team back in 2006 while writing the first draft of Wolves of Vengeance. In 2011, while having the novel professionally critiqued, Grandmaster of Horror, Ray Garton, told me that he thought Amanda would make a great series character. I’ve had the idea on the backburner for a while now. I published Wolves of Vengeance in 2013 and then went back to working on other novels and short stories.

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Is this blog post just a way for me to “borrow” the fans of these two very successful series? Absolutely! If you’re a fan of Correia or Ochse, I would love for you to try out my novel. In it I mix SF&F with military fiction. If there were enough interest, I would be more than happy to bring back Amanda Rann and her team (I’ll come up with a cool name—I promise!) with my own unique brand of dark, fast-paced thrillers.

If you give Wolves of Vengeance a shot, and like the idea of more adventures featuring Captain Amanda Rann, let me know in the comments section. I’d love to hear from you.

My Review of MonsterTime by Reb MacRath

I picked up the original edition of MonsterTime when it first came out in 1991. By that time, I was slowing wandering away from horror, so popular in the 1980s (for the ‘90s were upon us!), but was intrigued by Dell Publishing’s new Abyss horror line. The back cover blurb also promised something more than the usual horror fair, and small town secrets. Curious, I picked it up from the shelf of my local bookstore. I’m glad I did. The novel delivered in spades.

MonsterTime is a strong and delightfully eclectic novel of horror, time travel, dark fantasy, and historical fiction. With a pulp fiction meets literary writing style, the story is always energetic, sometimes scary, at other times funny, with enough forward momentum to keep the story moving, and enough twists to keep the reader guessing.

MacRath has tightened the prose to great affect and tamed down some of the taboo subjects, at least as I remember them, but that’s not to say that you won’t find your share of controversial scenes in this book. They’re just handled now with a little more eloquence, by the deft hand of a writer who has 25 more years of skill under his belt.

MacRath would later reexamine some of the themes and elements presented in this book in his more recent novels: trains, time travel, Alcatraz (The Rock), and martial arts, all appear and are important to the plot, along with the man on the run, and man out of time/without a country motif. His non-horror books Red Champagne and (his semi-autobiographical) The Vanishing Magic of Snow immediately come to mind. I believe MonsterTime is heavily autobiographical; no matter how far out some of the scenes might seem to be. I even noticed at least one possible revenge killing in this book. Yes—don’t anger an author. You will be killed off in his book in some horrible, horrible way!

MonsterTime was ahead of its time when it came out, and I think it will remain so even now, and for many years to come. If you haven’t read it, you’re in for a treat, and if you have, it’s well worth the effort to read again. I can safely say you will read nothing quite like it in your lifetime. It’s an underrated masterpiece that’s impossible to pigeonhole, hard to put down, and not easily forgotten.

Get MonsterTime here!

MonsterTime

January in Review

In an attempt to keep some sort of momentum going with this blog, I’ve decided to give you an update on what I’ve been working on during the month of January. It’s been a pretty good month. I’m hoping to make a couple videos soon that will show how I go about goal setting and planning my year. Until then, I give you this…

Writing

Short Fiction

  • My SF/Horror story “Sat Down Inside Her” was accepted into the untitled 3rd annual New England Horror Writer’s anthology slated for an early summer release. More information to come.
  • I received a rejection from a top market with a “hope to see more stories from you in the future” from the editor. As one writer commented on FB, “I hope you know that’s a fabulous response.” Some of my non-writer friends don’t understand how a rejection can be a good thing. Suffice it to say that when an editor from a top pro market says he’d like to see more of your work, you know your writing is near or at the level of that market. All that it will take is writing a story that catches the editor’s fancy to get an acceptance letter. Maybe that and a little luck.  As you can well imagine, cracking this market has been put on  the top of my goal list.

Novels

  • Year of the Demon (Conspiracy/Crime Thriller): I began working on the 3rd draft of this 90,000 word novel.
  • The Tower (Paranormal Haunting/Woman in Jeopardy Crime Thriller) : I’m approximately 15,200 words or 61 pages into the first draft of this novel. Currently, I’m projecting that it will run about 90,000 words when completed.
  • Proxy Mate (Dystopian SF) : I’m approximately 11,250 words or 45 pages into what most likely will be a novella. At present, I have no idea how long this story will run.
  • Wolves of Vengeance (Multi-Genre Supernatural Thriller): has had an uptick is sales and borrows this month. Updating the book description, changing the genre descriptors, and gaining a couple more glowing reviews has seemed to help.

Reading

Family & Friends

  • Called my parents at least once per week.
  • Kept in contact with my aunt through email.
  • Celebrated Patty’s birthday.
  • Kept up with friends on social media.
  • Contacted my friend and former Gothic & Arthurian lit professor through email to stay in touch.
  • Lit a candle for my sister on the anniversary of her death.

Martial Arts

  • So many good seminars this month, and I wasn’t able to attend any of them. At least I got plety of training in at home.
  • Five or six rounds of shadowboxing at least 2x per week with Patty using the Bas Rutten MMA Workout audio CDs.
  • Practiced Kali sinawali
  • Continued practicing Naihanchi forms

Fitness & Health

  • Lost a half inch from my waist and about a pound of fat since I began tracking again.
  • Began using myfitnesspal again to track my weightloss and fitness goals.
  • Utilized the original P90X DVDs a few times this month, doing about 30 minutes each (focused on Core Synergistics and Back & Chest).
  • Had my semi-annual dental cleaning.

Cars

  • Had D service on my car, along with an oil change.
  • Had my car inspected and a parking light replaced.

Thing Goals

  • Bought a set of precision screwdrivers at Ace Hardware. I’m going to upgrade the memory in my Mac. That’s the plan, at least.

House

  • General cleaning and maintenance.

Whisky Tasting

  • I’ve enjoyed drinking Glenmorangie The Original and Glenlevit 12. I’m very new to the world of whisky snobbery, but I find that it suits me. Haha! I enjoyed a sample of Glenlevit 15, but didn’t notice much difference from the 12. Tried Talisker at the recomendation of some writer friends and have found it a very acquired taste. I’m not used to the smokey/peaty taste, and not sure I’ll ever like it. All is not lost, though. I’ll be bringing whatever is left to AnthoCon where I will be very happy to share!

General

  • I survived the Blizzard of 2015.
  • I got a haircut. I look almost human again. Almost…

Movies Watched:

  • World War Z ***
  • Escape Plan **
  • Captain America: The Winter Soldier ****

I’ll create an addendum if I think of anything else.

Until next time…