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New fantasy novel release: The Blue Gem

It took nearly four years, but the completion of The Blue Gem, follow-up to 2014's The Dragon Princess, has finally arrived. 
Granted, this is not the over twenty years it took me to complete the first novel. That one took form before I even hit my teens so it can be somewhat excusable the novel took so long to complete.
The Blue Gem, on the other hand, was started a month or so after I self-published The Dragon Princess. The second novel ended up being roughly 40 pages longer, involved more research and I even took some time to draw (possibly unneeded) floor plans. 

Between a busy weekend of NCAA basketball, St. Patrick's Day, and working on other projects, I was able to finally edit (for the 5th time) the final 20 pages of the manuscript. Thus began the process of readying author profiles, updating the manuscript format to fit requirements, and submitting the file to Kindle Direct Publishing. 
We went live late Friday night.
The Blue Gem is now available for download via Kind…

World Cup 2018: France, Croatia set to meet in finals

A month-long march towards soccer glory (or futbol, for those so inclined) culminates on Sunday when France will take on Croatia for the crown. Middle of the week World Cup soccer matches can really be a hazard for those of us following along from the office. There you are, doing your work on one screen while watching the action on your other screen. Or you might be listening along while at your desk, the soothing cadence of the British announcer keeping you apprised of the action.
Then, all of five minutes into the match, England's Kieran Trippier scores off of a free kick, giving The Three Lions an early 1-0. You let out scream of joy, momentarily forgetting you're surrounded by mates who don't necessarily appreciate your love of soccer. Or like being spooked by loud noises for that matter.
Easily substitute your favorite team and this may have played out over the last month, in situations both good and bad.
Ultimately, the above moment was the highlight of the match fo…

World Cup 2018: The All-Euro semifinals are set

There was a bit less drama in the quarterfinals of the 2018 World Cup than in previous rounds, but the four games still delivered plenty of action. Team penalty kicks -- especially those taken on soccer's grandest stage -- arrive with an innate sense of pressure.  Many of the best players in the game have succumbed to the wily ways of this torturous dance. Others have done what is expected, displaying a calm, cool, and collected wit about them to step right up, knock the ball into the back of the net, and move on.
Failures can sometimes be easily classified as a bad case of overthinking. Outwitting the opposing team's goalie is part of converting, of course, but often times overthinking is detrimental. The result: shots skyrocketing to the left, to the right, and up, up, and away (and not on a beautiful balloon).
I've been on both sides of the ball in those situations (albeit under quite less strenuous circumstances) and I still can't believe there aren't more goa…

World Cup 2018: Countdown to the stretch run

Years ago, long before I was spectator of the World Cup, before I wheezed my way through indoor soccer matches, and even before a one-year term my junior year on the high school soccer team, I took part in another type of soccer world cup.
Aside from my junior year of high school, soccer was a sport I initially played up through the eighth grade. Autumns were spent on the pitch -- as the refined fan likes to say -- as a start to a rotation involving basketball and then baseball.
Summers were spent either on the road to visit family in the far away land of California or in a variety of sports camps, including for a couple of summers participating in a soccer camp.
The instructors of the Britannia soccer camp arrived from overseas, mostly from the UK. These camps were like most other sports camps, with a mix of instruction, drills and games taking up our hours on the grass field.
One of these soccer camp games was called "world cup". Sitting here today, I can't remember f…

World Cup 2018: Knockout stage here we come

The knockout stage of the 2018 World Cup is set as the final 16 teams vie to wear the crown and become the new soccer kings of the world. Two straight weeks of World Cup action and fans can finally breathe.

For one day, at least.
So...#URUPOR 🇺🇾🇵🇹#ESPRUS 🇪🇸🇷🇺#FRAARG 🇫🇷🇦🇷#CRODEN 🇭🇷🇩🇰#BRAMEX 🇧🇷🇲🇽#SWESUI 🇸🇪🇨🇭#BELJPN 🇧🇪🇯🇵#COLENG 🇨🇴🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿

Excited? — FIFA World Cup 🏆 (@FIFAWorldCup) June 28, 2018Disappointment has set in for 16 nations and their respective soccer clubs. Some have known for days of their fate while others had to wait until the final whistle of group play.
The margins of advancing can sometimes come down to the slimmest of parameters. Senegal knows that feeling all-too-well. Playing in only their second-ever World Cup, the team from Senegal was poised to advance to the knockout stage.
A Poland victory over Japan opened the door for Senegal. Of course, they were playing Colombia at the same exact time …

World Cup 2018: Taking a peek at forgotten Group H

Day 11 of the 2018 World Cup is in the books, with teams from Group H delivering on a fine day of matches. All of the talk about the World Cup on this blog in recent weeks has spoken of great teams, powerhouse countries, and Iceland. In the process, much has not been said about the countries from Group H.
Guys. Group H matters, too.
It might have been easy to write off this group at the start of the World Cup. Many assumed Colombia and Senegal would advance to the Group of 16, with Japan and Poland fighting to even sniff the next round.
Poland was the first out of the group to officially be eliminated after falling to Colombia 3-0 today. Poland, making their first World Cup appearance since 2006, is a team on the rise but found nothing comes easy on the world stage. Not that they expected it to, but I'm sure they noticed a lot of work still has to be done.
This is not to say Poland was routed out of the World Cup. They fell 2-1 in their opener to Senegal and kept pace with Colomb…

World Cup 2018: The bells of the proverbial ball

Weekend number two of the 2018 World Cup is nearly complete as Belgium and Mexico continue to display their dominance in different ways.
The knockout stage of the World Cup is on the horizon, with a few countries already eliminated and a few others locked in on the Group of 16. Some -- including a few of the big ticket countries -- are staving off the sun setting a few days longer. And Iceland will need a big win, plus help, if they hope to advance.
Belgium and Mexico, however, are two teams cruising in the group stage.
Belgium won handily in its second game of group play, a 5-2 decision over Tunisia. The five goals brings their total to eight for the tourney so far.
While they have not clinched a spot in the next round, Belgium is using a blistering pace on offense in blitzing their opponents into submission. And the defense will only get better when injured star defender Vincent Kompany returns when Belgium faces England on Thursday.
England is set for their second game in group pl…

World Cup 2018: Powerhouse teams showing weak spots

Five days in and the 2018 World Cup has lived up to expectations, even delivering a few surprises. David has not quite slain Goliath here in the 2018 World Cup. The giants have taken their licks, some have been brought to one knee, but for the most part they're still standing.
The underdogs are certainly closing the gap, though.
Soccer is normally a sport in which we see a lot of 1-0 and 2-1 results. It's part of the beauty of the game, in which a single goal by a team can propel them to an upset.
Fourteen matches have been played through five days, with eight of those decided by one goal.
A few countries predicted to win the World Cup stumbled while managing to still pick up the victory. Belgium, on the other hand, struggled for a half and were locked horns at 0 with Panama before bursting out of the locker room with a barrage of goals, starting with this excellent volley by Dries Mertens: PICK THAT ONE OUT!

Dries Mertens hits the volley perfectly to put Belgium up 1-0. pic.…