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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…

WWE: Matt Hardy unlaces boots for (possibly) final time

Speculation has been swirling for weeks, but it appears the WWE's Matt Hardy has wrestled his last match. Growing up, way back in the late 1980's, when professional wrestling entered my world, those late Saturday nights when what formerly was the WWF (now WWE) came on, I was kid in complete awe.
There was Andre the Giant dominating opponents. I dreamed of one day having 24-inch pythons, all thanks to eating my vitamins. Snakes being brought out and being placed on fallen opponents and the insurmountable presence of "Rowdy" Roddy Piper all piqued my interest.
These were much simpler times, ones in which naivete about the world of wrestling, not realizing the outcomes had been scripted, allowed awe and an infinite suspension of disbelief.
By the time my late teens and early 20's rolled around, I'd handed over my fandom of the WWE for others to love. I'd outgrown the sport enough to not watch the shows anymore (but still occasionally read up on).
Matt Hardy…

USMNT: Transition period in full swing

After missing the 2018 World Cup and still without a permanent coach, the USMNT is very much a team in transition. Hope and dreams of a bright future are very different than the results they bring.
For the United States Men's National Team, all three will eventually one day coincide.
We knew after failing to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, changes were going to come for the USMNT. It began a few years prior -- during qualifying -- when Bruce Arena replaced Jurgen Klinsman as the coach.
Arena has left as well, with interim coach Dave Sarachan leading the way of this youthful team until a permanent solution is found.
The future of the program was once again on display in a recent match against Brazil. Playing versus a team who was using the majority of their World Cup squad, the United States fared valiantly. A 2-0 loss to Brazil might be disappointing, but young players gained valuable top-level experience.
Keep learning. Keep building.

Next up: A date with rival Mexico in Nashvil…

Fantasy football tips to win friends and influence doubters

Fantasy football season is a upon us, meaning it's time to dole out those tips and tricks to league play. You've done the hours of prep, poring through constant updates in meaningless preseason games and combing through pages of data. Your draft day (or six) has been scheduled and circled on the calendar.
Let the fantasy football drafting of players you have no control over commence.
All over bars, basements, and backyards, friends are congregating to carefully select their teams. Conspiracy theories are discussed, referees are complained about, and it's hard to find anyone outside of fans of the New England Patriots who actually like Tom Brady (unless, of course, he's used on a high draft pick in your upcoming draft).
The real question: Where do you look to for tips?
Grabbing your nearest newspaper is a cinch. Or perhaps you like to hop in your nearest AOL chat room and discuss strategy with your friends, strangers, and weirdos alike.
I"m here today to let you k…

Dean Ambrose: A lunatic returns to the wrestling scene

The return of Dean Ambrose is one of the top stories heading into SummerSlam 2018. Two words brought joy to the masses last Monday night on RAW: Dirty Deeds.
Okay. The palpable excitement was already present in the building once the music of Dean Ambrose hit. And it was well worth the wait:

Rumors had been flying of Ambrose's return at SummerSlam. While this would have been a nice surprise for summer's biggest event, pulling it off on RAW was a good move.
Now we wonder if Ambrose will take a heel turn on Sunday.
Ambose, if only slightly, has been kind of a lost member from one of the better factions established in the WWE from the past 15 years. Roman Reigns has been the golden boy, circling around the title now for the last two and a half years. Fans have been torn on Reigns over this time as well, with the divisiveness maybe even causing the WWE to push him even more.
Seth Rollins, meanwhile, was the architect behind the dissolution of The Shield. While initially taking on t…

Summer movies of 1998: The unsung stars of Saving Private Ryan

The summer movies of 1998 tournament has come to end, with a not-so-surprising result ending up on top. Weeks of voting has led us -- based off the votes of the people -- to the best summer movie of 1998: Saving Private Ryan. The real question is this: Would you vote for it over the film that eventually won the 1999 Academy Awards, Shakespeare in Love?
Feel free to leave your thoughts, but we won't be traveling down that path on this day. Yes, it was controversial in some circles, surprising in others that the film outpaced Saving Private Ryan at that year's Oscars ceremony. Throw in a little movie called Life is Beautiful (and its exuberant star Roberto Benigni) and we had a year full of odd choices.

Although it was hard to top Benigni's excitement earlier in the night when Life is Beautiful won for best foreign film.

Man. What a joy ride we were all treated to in 1999! Unless, of course, you had Tom Hanks winning best actor in your Academy Awards pool.

Where were we?


Summer movies of 1998: The Final 4

Now a few weeks in, the "Summer Movies of 1998" tournament has been pared down to the final four, with a couple of surprises tossed in. Box office totals usually tell the greatest story about the overall success of a film, at least to studios, producers, and financiers. Audiences might vote with their pocket books upon a film's initial release, but how do these films hold up over time? The summer movies of 1998 tournament -- that many have voted on over the past few weeks -- tells a story of a movie that dominated the box office 20 years ago. And three others that did decent, but have advanced to the final four.
Gone are such films like Armageddon, The Truman Show, Almost Heroes, Baseketball, Snake Eyes, and Air Bud.
Two of the better soundtracks from films from the summer of '98 have punched their ticket while one, Bulworth, bowed out in the final eight.
One wonders if any of these 64 films released between the months of May and August of 1998 would have garnered a…

Summer movies of 1998: Powered by incredible soundtracks

A great soundtrack can take a movie to new heights or standalone as something better than the film itself. The summer of 1998 had both. Believe it or not, it took Aerosmith 25 years to land their first (and only) number-one hit. "I Don't Want to Miss a Thing" -- buoyed by its association with the summer movie Armageddon -- dominated the airwaves (radio and MTV's) from July on, even receiving an Oscar nod for best original song.

And it wasn't even written by anyone in the band. (Nod to Diane Warren, writer of some of the greatest pop songs of all time.)

Movie soundtracks, once upon a time, used to go hand-in-hand with the film release itself. Kenny Loggins owned the 1980's because of this very reason. Films -- outside the given norm of musicals -- were often tied with a song (or songs) that made it worth remembering.

The same can be said for Armageddon, Aerosmith, and the summer of 1998.

Along with a new version "Leaving on a Jet Plane" sung by Chan…