Wednesday, April 9, 2014

First draft complete!

I finished the first draft of The Exclusive yesterday afternoon! I ended up with about 82,000 words. I imagine I'll add 2,000-3,000 words in the next draft to clean up a few things related to the ending. I'm now in the same place I was about a month ago, when I blogged about what I wanted to write next.

Yep, exact same situation right now. The Exclusive gets shelved for a while--probably three weeks to a month--before I start going back through it. I'll come up with a revision plan and work on improving the book during its first revision. After that, it will go off to Beta Reader Supreme for both a bigger-picture look and a proofread. After that, more revisions.

My thoughts on the process of writing a first draft via Twitter:I've started the querying process on one of my novels. I haven't seriously queried a novel in a very long time. In my next blog post, I'll write a little about why it's taken so long for me to query projects. I'm sure it'll be a thrill.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Updates and some events

It's been pretty quiet in the writing world lately. I'm polishing, polishing, polishing the "untitled space station novel."

I've also been working very hard on a new project called The Exclusive. The genre--paranormal suspense--isn't exactly in my comfort zone, but it also deals with a paranormal event and the TV news business, so I can definitely handle the finer points of the latter. I got a little messy with defining my pseudo-religious "magic" system, so I certainly have some work to do when I hit revisions.

I'm about 73,000 words into it, which means I'm rounding third and heading for home on this novel. I'm fully aware that the book is a bit of a narrative mess at the moment. When I finish the first draft, I'll leave it alone for about a month, make some revisions to tie everything together, and send it off to Beta Reader Supreme.

A brutal Indiana winter meant a lot of writing time but little time to get out among the people. Thankfully, I was able to make it to a couple events recently.

That Book Place in Madison, Ind., holds its annual Authors Fair in March. I attended the event as an author for the first time. The place is usually jam-packed during this event, but the Milton-Madison Bridge linking Indiana to Kentucky was closed this year and you could definitely tell. It's still nice to meet a few people and mingle with other authors.

I went to Hanover College this weekend for the school's annual Geek-a-Thon. It's basically a small comic-con, and this year's theme was the very Crimsonstreak-friendly "DC vs. Marvel."

My wife made this lovely gift basket, which was available in a silent auction for charity.

We met several students and had a nice time hanging out with some of the other guests. Attendance was generally light, but I think it was worth the trip down there.

Between the two events, I made a few sales, met a lot of great people, and mingled with some author friends I haven't seen in a while. All worth it, in my book.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Crimsonstreaking in Madison... and eventually at Hanover College

I took my Crimsonstreaking act to Madison, Indiana, this weekend for the Fourth Annual Authors Fair presented by That Book Place.

I've been to the event before and it's usually pretty busy. Last-minute construction on the Milton-Madison Bridge certainly didn't help with foot traffic. I sold a few books, but the best part was talking to other authors and swapping stories.

A couple of big comic book fans also interviewed me...and things got awkward (in a good way!). They were excited that I'd written a superhero novel and had lots of questions about the book. Both of the interviewers decided to sit (or stand, more accurately) in on the interview until we realized it wasn't working very well. It's the same reason I loathe three-man booths in sports. Anyway, we dumped out of the interview and I did a one-on-one with one of the hosts. Both guys were good sports about the whole thing.

We're not done Crimsonstreaking in southern Indiana! On March 29 and (maybe) March 30, I'll be down at Hanover College for Geek-a-Thon, their version of Comic Con. They'll have panels, movies, games, and plenty of activities. Since the theme is "Marvel vs. DC," it's certainly an appropriate forum for Crimsonstreak and company.

Helmet courtesy Stuart Thaman

Thanks to all who put the event together. I'd also like everyone to know that my wife indeed got to eat at Frisch's Big Boy. She ordered the patty melt. She was very excited about that.

Friday, March 7, 2014

So, what's next?

You tell 'em, Franco.

Before yesterday, I had something to work on.

I had to get III Crimsonstreak in shape. I had to do a significant overhaul of my other work-in-progress--we'll just call it the space station book for now.

I've sent III Crimsonstreak off to my publisher. My current work-in-progress is about as polished as it's going to get.

I'm now in that gray area. I have to decide what to work on next. Do I finish an abandoned work-in-progress written when my writing was in its infancy? Do I return to the half-finished book I was working on before I decided I'd better get III Crimsonstreak and my WIP whipped into shape? Do I start something new?

This is always the hardest thing for me to decide. I haven't been doing the daily grind of 2,000 for a few weeks because I've devoted my energy to re-reading and rewriting two books that needed a lot of work. Now that those two projects are essentially done, I need to decide what to work on next.

Here are some possibilities:

The Exclusive: I've written about 45,000 words on this one--meaning it's about halfway done. It starts out as a crime story featuring a journalist before turning into a paranormal/supernatural mystery. I like the concept and I have the story outlined. If I work on it for a month or two, I'll probably have a first draft ready to go.

Synopsis: TV reporter Kent Carter knows Mayor Harrison Johnson is corrupt--he just can't prove it. Damning documents disappear, witnesses suddenly change their stories, and his talkative sources in the police department don't have anything to say. When a mysterious source steps forward with proof of corruption within Johnson's administration, Kent finally gets his exclusive. He just doesn't expect his lead story to unleash hell on Earth.

Red Plague: I think this was my third attempt at a novel. I've always liked the concept, which involves the bubonic plague, Soviet-era intrigue, and time travel. I would describe it as Crichton-esque in concept (but not in execution). I'm about 37,000 words into this one, but the last time I worked on it was 2010. I tried reading through it a few months ago, and it's cringe-worthy. I can see all of my writing flaws in this earlier work. Still, I, Crimsonstreak had similar problems, and I managed to turn that into a readable book. Part of me thinks I should trunk this version and start over.

Synopsis: A man materializes at a county fair in the Midwest before collapsing, spreading a deadly new strain of bubonic plague that begins sweeping across the world. As millions die, CDC specialist Anna Manning makes a startling discovery: the disease appears to have been genetically altered in the past. The revelation dredges up painful memories of the Cold War and forces Anna to travel back in time, the fate of humanity resting on her shoulders

G-Men: I've had this concept kicking in the back of my head for a long time, and I have a rough outline. It would be a book set in the 50s about a superpowered team of government crimefighters. Basically, a special agent gets Robocopped; super-spy hijinks and Cold War intrigue ensue. Love Cold War Era stuff.

Mortimer: International Man of Taste and Intrigue: I think Mortimer P. Willoughby and the Crusading Comets deserve a book of their own. Or maybe two books. I don't know. Morty is my favorite character in the Crimsonverse. I think a standalone novel in which he recounts the adventures of the various Crusading Comets would be tons of fun. I have an outline for this one.

The problem is I have to pick something. It's a big commitment...we're talking months of work to get a first draft, revisions, that daily grind of putting out 2,000 words.

I'll have to think about it.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Revisions! Revisions! Revisions!

I'm obsessively revising one of my books right now.

I'm not exactly sure which draft I'm on, but I'm definitely approaching "almost ready to submit somewhere" status. I need to work on a query letter and probably a synopsis. Oh, synopsis. How I loathe thee.

I'm by no means a great query letter writer, but I feel a lot more comfortable with queries than I do synopses. At the Midwest Writers Workshop a few years ago, I sat in on a brief workshop in which an agent described the synopsis as evil. I think the program may have been called "The Dreaded Synopsis." Pretty much everyone hates these things.

Anyhow, I took a draft of my current book and added about 7,000 words to it. After reading through it again, I think the changes work. I just need to go through and eliminate some repetitive words and smooth out a few things. That's what I'm working on right now...taking care of about 160 little notations I made on my Kindle.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

III Crimsonstreak speeds off!

Although it's much later than I intended, III Crimsonstreak is racing (via email) toward Candlemark & Gleam!

I finished the appendices this week, and the book weighs in at a meaty 102,000 words. To put that in perspective, the previous two books were about 95,000 words each (with II Crimsonstreak being slightly longer than I, Crimsonstreak in total length).

In its current, unedited form, III Crimsonstreak's main story is about 85,000 words (similar to II Crimsonstreak, which was about 84,500 words but considerably longer than the original book, which was a much briefer 72,000 words).

As for the appendices, the third book is about 17,000 words. That's more extra material than II Crimsonstreak (11,000 words) and less extra material than I, Crimsonstreak (a whopping 23,000 words). The extra length of the third book's appendices is due to a long-form magazine article and a pair of short stories.

And, just because I like to fiddle with Photoshop, here's a completely unofficial mockup of a promotional banner:

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Writing update

I've been working on a fairly intensive rewrite of III Crimsonstreak using my own notes and those from a beta reader. It's almost finished and ready to submit. I have some material left to polish and I have to work on the appendices. Like II Crimsonstreak, I'll probably only write about 10,000-12,000 words of extras. For comparison, I, Crimsonstreak had significantly more extra material--in the ballpark of 20,000 words.

Once I get that finished, I'll send it off to Candlemark & Gleam. I'm submitting later than I intended, but sometimes that happens.

This will be the third and final book of the Crimsonverse series, although I may do a couple novels set in the same universe. Crimsonstreak's story, I feel, is complete.

After that's finished, I'm working on a science fiction-comedy novel that I'm really proud of. I think it has a lot of potential, but I'm keeping details under wraps for now. I don't like to do that, but I'll have to in this case. The book is ready for a good polish and revision, and then I think I'll see if I can get any bites.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Colts Observations: Divisional Round vs. Patriots

Another bad start. The hole wasn't 38-10 this time, but it seemed just as large. Andrew Luck threw an interception on the Colts' first drive to set up an easy Patriots touchdown. Before you knew it, the Colts were down 14-0 after another short TD run by LeGarrette Blount. The Colts continued to rally until the fourth quarter, when things got ugly.

Foxborough: Where Colts teams go to die in the playoffs. Really, I've seen this song and dance before. A "hot" Colts team goes into Foxborough and gets demolished by the Patriots. Different quarterback, different roster, same result. It's a tough place to win, and to beat the Patriots, you have to play a nearly flawless game. The Colts made too many mistakes.

Turnovers. Just like last week, Luck forced some throws into good coverage, and the result was four interceptions. Three of them were killers (the fourth one came in garbage time when the Colts were down by three touchdowns). The first one came on the first drive of the game. The second one came after the Colts "forced" a safety. I wonder how the game would've played out if they had marched down the field before the half and put some points on the board. The third interception followed Blount's backbreaking 73-yard TD run, when Luck misread the coverage and forced a throw that had no chance. The Patriots scored another quick touchdown to take a commanding 43-22 lead.

Gashed. The Patriots ran the ball 46 times, with Blount and Stevan Ridley getting the bulk of the carries. New England stuck with the run, and Indy couldn't stop it. The running game didn't produce a ton of yards in the first half, but by the second half, the beleaguered Colts were hapless against Blount, a 250-pound battering ram. They surrendered first downs in crucial situations and tackled poorly, no missed tackle more costly than LaRon Landry's whiff on Blount that led to that killer 73-yard run.

Tough day for T.Y. The game came easy to T.Y. Hilton last week, but that wasn't the case against the Pats. Hilton couldn't get on track in the first half as he was pushed around and double covered. He eventually found some space as the Colts tried to rally (he finished with four catches for 103 yards), but also got banged up, getting up and leaving the field slowly on at least two occasions.

And that's Belichick for you. He's evil, but he's a genius. Belichick teams take away the things you do best and force you to do the things you're not very good at. That's why the secondary made sure Hilton was a non-factor early and why New England ran the ball 40+ times. Belichick knew Indy couldn't stop his running game (and also knew his receivers weren't scaring anyone), so the Pats kept pounding the ball. It paid huge dividends down the stretch, and New England held a 35:00-25:00 advantage in time of possession.

Up to the challenge, mostly. While Hilton struggled, I thought the Colts got nice games from Coby Fleener (6 receptions, 74 yards), Griff "GRIFFNATION" Whalen (5 receptions, 67 yards), and LaVon Brazill (2 receptions, 73 yards, 2 touchdowns). The receiving corps helped keep the Colts within a touchdown by the fourth quarter, and if a few things had gone differently, maybe we have a more interesting game in the end. Da'Rick Rogers was a huge disappointment, however. He had zero catches and a couple big drops.

Too many "almost" plays. While the Colts had too many turnovers, they also had too many "almost" plays. Robert Mathis almost got to Brady for a sack-and-strip that would've forced a turnover or made the Pats settle for a field goal. Antoine Bethea almost came up with an interception in the endzone before the Patriots scored their final touchdown. Da'Rick Rogers almost caught a ball that would've picked up a key first down. LaRon Landry almost tackled Blount on that big TD run (okay, I'm being charitable on that one). The Colts almost stopped the Patriots on a drive, but Josh Gordy was flagged for pass interference.

First and goal. I hated the play calling on the Colts' first offensive possession of the second half. They were first and goal at the four-yard line. Their sequence: Donald Brown up the middle, Trent Richardson up the middle, fade pass to Fleener. I would've preferred a play-action pass on first or second down (or the Fleener fade route earlier). The Colts, who weren't exactly pushing the Patriots defensive line around (or anyone else's defensive line this season for the most part), should've also spread the field to give Brown some running lanes. Instead, they tried to win at the point of attack, which is something they haven't done since the San Francisco game.

And let's just punt the ball. With about ten minutes left in the game, the Colts faced fourth and one at their own 29. They ended up punting the ball. At this point, they trailed by three touchdowns and time was running out. I couldn't believe they chickened out here and decided to kick it. If something positive happens on the drive, maybe they make things interesting. If they get stopped, the Patriots already have a three touchdown lead, so another score just piles it on. Punting effectively conceded the game by allowing the Patriots to kill 7:35 of clock on their next drive. Couldn't believe it.

They managed to keep it close. Despite all the problems, the Colts still kept it 29-22 going into the fourth quarter. LaVon Brazill made a couple of great TD catches, Hilton got involved in the passing game, and Luck avoided pressure by stepping up into the pocket. Had Indy managed to prevent Blount's huge TD run, maybe things turn out differently. Maybe not.

Huge pass to Amendola. The Colts appeared to have some momentum after scoring a field goal to make it 21-15. Cam Johnson then dropped Blount at the 12 on a kickoff return, and the Patriots were backed up. The first play on their drive? A 53-yard pass to Danny Amendola, a completion that completely changed field position and led to another Patriots touchdown (and a two-point conversion). Just like that, the Pats were up 29-15. The Colts responded with a touchdown to draw closer at 29-22, and the teams exchanged a few punts before Blount's big run.

Have a nice trip. If a Patriots player trips Andrew Luck, but the officials don't see it, was Andrew Luck really tripped?

Take care of the ball. Stop the run. Close out third downs. These are the things the Colts needed to do to win this game. These are also the things they failed to accomplish. Four turnovers. Six rushing touchdowns and 234 yards rushing on 46 carries. Allowed Patriots 11-18 on third down.

Silver lining? Hmmm... hard to say. This Colts team clearly overachieved. They took advantage of a weak division and had a comeback for the ages to win a home playoff game. They overcame losses to front-line players like Reggie Wayne, Dwayne Allen, Vick Ballard, and Donald Thomas to reach the postseason. They looked like one of the NFL's best when they beat San Francisco, Seattle, Denver, and Kansas City. They had head-scratching losses to St. Louis, Arizona, San Diego, and Miami.

What did we learn? We learned this year that the team isn't quite there yet, that Luck has guts but is ultimately human. We learned that spending big money on defensive free agents doesn't make the defense dominant in one year. We learned that you should be wary when a team is willing to give up last year's first-round pick in a trade. We also learned that Luck is the real deal, a man capable of rallying his team and making clutch plays in close games despite an ineffective offensive line and a poor running game. And we discovered that replacing a legend isn't easy, especially when that legend puts up yet another MVP season in orange.

So that's it... another year of Colts football. Two years, two playoff appearances, a playoff win, and two playoff road losses. I'll see you again next season!

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Colts Observations: Wild Card vs. Chiefs (Did that really happen?)

Wow. Wowedy. Wow. Wow. Wow. That was an incredible game. I was so wired hours afterward that I struggled to get to sleep. Completely unbelievable for this one to have been a game after the way the Colts got pasted early. 38-10? No one comes back from that. No one.

T.Y. Hilton. I watched the game with my father-in-law, who said the Colts have basically two gamebreakers: Donald Brown and T.Y. Hilton. Hilton is the team's only consistent threat in the passing game, and the Chiefs couldn't stop him. The Colts got him involved early on their first drive. He finished the game with 13 catches for 224 yards and two touchdowns, including the game winner. Seems fitting that Hilton scored the team's first touchdown and the last one.

Supporting cast. While Hilton was certainly "the man," several other players stepped up to make big plays on offense. LaVon Brazill had a key grab. Da'Rick Rogers had a game-changing catch that set up a touchdown in the second half. Donald Brown delivered touchdowns by ground and air (and nearly had a third touchdown!). Coby Fleener caught a TD pass and came up big on a key third down. But they couldn't have done it without...

Andrew Luck. This is why the Colts drafted him. This is why the franchise made the toughest decision in all of sports to put the future of the Colts in this man's hands. For approximately 60% of the game, Luck was awful. His interceptions at the end of the first half and the beginning of the second seemed to be the final nails in the coffin. A third interception (which was kind of a fluke, but still counts) also made the comeback more difficult.

But champions are sometimes at their best when they're at their worst. That was the case with Luck, especially in the second half. He somehow erased our collective memory of every mistake with an incredible play. He had QB scrambles. He faked out the entire nation with a zone read that picked up a first down. He found Da'Rick Rogers downfield (and Rogers made an incredible catch). He kept finding T.Y. Hilton. No matter how bad the game got--and let me tell you, it got very, very bad--Luck held to the single-minded belief that he and the Colts would triumph. When the game looked the bleakest, and the Colts stared down a 38-10 deficit in the third quarter, Luck refused to give up. He finished with 443 yards (!), four touchdowns, and three interceptions. He also added 7 rushes for 45 yards and...

One for the ages. There were several memorable moments throughout the game, but the Colts' final two scores will stick with me for a long time. Luck handed the ball off to Brown near the goal line, and everyone gasped as the ball went airborne. It caromed to Luck, who picked it up and dove into the end zone for the score. Technically, it was a fumble recovery touchdown. Realistically, it saved the Colts' season.

And then T.Y. Hilton somehow got wide open for a 64-yard TD pass. Luck threw a frozen rope to Hilton, who badly beat the Chiefs' secondary. It was a perfect throw on a route, I later read, usually used to help clear out the garbage for underneath routes. The score completed the offense's role in the comeback.

Defensive turnaround. In the first half, the Colts defense gave up 31 points. They surrendered 13 points in the second half, and it wasn't always a pretty sight. However, the D stepped up and made plays when they badly needed them. Robert Mathis turned the game around with a sack-fumble (and a recovery that was reviewed, putting everyone on edge...seriously, in the future, just FALL ON THE BALL). And nothing was more vital than Cory Redding's stop on third and goal. Without that play, this would've been a different game. Credit also goes to Josh Gordy for forcing Dwayne Bowe to the sideline on that fourth and 11 play.

Greg Toler's groin. So this guy's been hurt forever. He finally returns to the starting lineup, and I think I could've outrun him. Toler was clearly injured. He gave up a huge pass to Dwayne Bowe (and tried to strip him instead of tackling him, leading to an even bigger gain). Then, he let Donnie Avery run right past him for a huge play. Toler never had a chance on that one. He was truly a liability out there, and it floors me that Indy kept him out there for so long. In other groin news, I don't think Vontae Davis was 100% healthy either. But then again...

At least they weren't the Chiefs. The Chiefs built a huge lead, but they kept losing ground and personnel. Jamaal Charles went out early. Donnie Avery left the game. Justin Houston left the game. Brandon Flowers left the game. Knile Davis (the backup running back) left the game. Losing key players clearly hurt KC. Let's pretend the Chiefs didn't blow a huge lead and won. Who would've played next week?

Speed it up. On their first drive, the Colts pushed the pace, getting up to the line of scrimmage quickly and letting Luck make calls at the line of scrimmage. They continued doing it that way for most of the game, making everyone wonder why they didn't just commit to the strategy earlier in the season.

Trent Richardson. One carry, one fumble. Richardson's turnover was a catalyst for the huge hole the Colts found themselves in. He didn't see much time on the field after that, and he never touched the ball again. I think fans are done waiting for this guy. Oddly enough, I had a dream Friday night that Richardson ran for 150 yards against Kansas City. Some dreams don't come true, kids.

The turnover battle. The Colts lost it. Badly. Luck gave away three interceptions, and each one felt like a soul-crushing turnover at the time. Richardson fumbled before the game got truly ugly. In the end, Indy was -3 in turnover differential. This is a team that prides itself on taking care of the ball and almost always wins the turnover battle. If you're the Chiefs, and you're up 38-10 at one point and force four turnovers, how do you lose the game? That's a question Chiefs fans will be asking for a long time.

Are the Colts the Chiefs' Patriots? As a Colts fan, I've had a quasi-irrational hatred of the New England Patriots for a long, long time. It's not just because they won three Super Bowls or because Tom Brady is an underwear model disguised as a quarterback. My dislike for the Pats goes back to a pair of crushing playoff losses in back-to-back seasons. I wonder if that's how Chiefs fans feel about the Colts. I thought back to the "Lin Elliott Game" in which the KC kicker missed three field goals, leading to a 10-7 win by the Colts at Arrowhead. The Chiefs were the top seed that year. His Wikipedia entry is kind of heartbreaking. During the 2003-2004 season, the Chiefs--the No. 2 seed--lost at home again to the Colts in a game in which neither team punted. And--I nearly forgot this one--the Colts beat them during their Super Bowl run. So basically, it doesn't matter if the quarterback is Jim Harbaugh, Peyton Manning, or Andrew Luck--the Colts have your number, KC.

Hold your breath. The Colts blew a coverage late in the game, allowing running back Cyrus Gray to get wide open down the right sideline. Alex Smith, who'd been on target for most of the day, overthrew him.

Take a knee, take a bow. After a hard-fought defensive stand, the Colts offense took the field in the victory formation. Luck took three knees, the clock ran out, and the Colts completed one of the most unlikely comebacks in NFL history.

Destination unknown...for now. Will it be New England or Denver? We won't know until the Chargers-Bengals game Sunday afternoon. If the Chargers beat the Bengals, then Indy books a trip to visit the Patriots. If the Bengals win, the Colts head to the Mile High City to take on the Broncos. I hear their quarterback is pretty good.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Studicus Selects 2013

Once, long ago, I posted on the internet as Studicus, an in-joke nickname related to a skit from high school. When I first started blogging, I called my year-end entries "Studicus Selects." The tradition has continued since 2005...although I skipped 2006 for some unknown reason.

You'll find past entries here (scroll down for the 2013 picks):

Studicus Selects 2012
Studicus Selects 2011
Studicus Selects 2010
Studicus Selects 2009
Studicus Selects 2008
Studicus Selects 2007
Studicus Selects 2005

Best sports game mode from 2011. That's not a misprint. I'm talking about NBA 2K12's My Player mode. I'm obsessed with this game. I bought it at Gamestop (while also purchasing other past-their-sell-by-date games like Assassin's Creed II and Red Dead Redemption) during a buy 2, get 1 free deal and dove right in. I'm a 6'11" power forward for the Phoenix Suns. Kobe and the Lakers bounced us out of the playoffs last season. We shall write a different script for this season, Mr. Bryant. The Lakers shall burn.

Strangest gift given, meat category. Meat cards! After my brother-in-law sponsored a llama last year, I had to strike back somehow. My solution? A beef jerky "business card." I got one for each of my brothers-in-law. One thought it was the best Christmas present ever; the other simply thought it was weird. If you're ever looking for a unique gift sure to leave your loved ones scratching their heads or extolling your gift-giving prowess, go buy them Meat Cards! For years, we will have a family joke when someone opens a gift: "And it's made entirely of beef jerky!"

Newest Crimsonstreak book, sequel category. We went Crimsonstreaking again with II Crimsonstreak! Last year marked the release of my very first novel; this year marked the release of my very first sequel. The book ends with a cliffhanger--a decision that readers either love or loathe--and I'm hard at work on prepping III Crimsonstreak for submission so everyone knows what happened to Chris Fairborne and his family. I think it may include some time travel. Actually, I'm 100% sure that it does. I'll send it off to Candlemark & Gleam very soon.

Best television show, program I never thought I'd watch category. Breaking Bad is a show I never expected to like. Seriously, Tim Whatley is a cancer-stricken science teacher who decides to make meth to earn money for cancer treatments? No way. Not interested. Sounds completely absurd. People said it was great. I ignored them. They said the finale was incredible. My Twitter feed exploded during the "Ozymandias" and "Felina" episodes. I became intrigued and started watching it on Netflix. I shotgunned the series in about three weeks, and had to get "creative" to find the second half of the final season. What an incredible show...from the acting to the production and writing. I loved how Walter White and Jesse Pinkman couldn't get away from each other. I thought the final scene was absolutely incredible:

Fondest farewell, Little Muchacho. Our KIA Sportage was a fantastic little car. We miss the SUV affectionately known as "Little Muchacho." I eulogized him in this Facebook post from July:
Today we honor the 2000 KIA Sportage my wife and I called Little Muchacho, a car that "just kept running" past the 200,000-mile mark. He began his life driven primarily by my father-in-law on sales trips around the state before spending the last half of his life as Anne's trusty sidekick.

I had just spent the day with him Sunday, when we stopped for breakfast at Hardee's before catching a morning matinee of "Man of Steel." I filled his tank and put air in his tires, and all seemed to be fine. Last night, his engine stopped for good.

Anne promised to replace him with another KIA, so we bought a KIA Forte last night.

It's hard to say goodbye, but here's to you, Little Muchacho:

Biggest acquisition, family category. And so my wife and I welcomed a new car into the family. With Little Muchacho's passing came the arrival of this KIA Forte. Anne was reluctant to warm up to him, but she's given him the nickname "the Blue Bandit," so we're getting there. The car gets awesome mileage and offers a smooth ride along with some cool extras like Bluetooth phone connectivity and steering wheel buttons that allow you to adjust the radio volume.

Favorite Twitter non-trend, Colts category. I'm a dedicated Colts fan, and I've been a huge supporter of Griff Whalen since the team signed him last season. He was sidelined by a foot injury and missed last year. In this year's campaign, he's been moved to the practice squad and elevated to the main roster approximately 8,000 times. But while some fans call him "Griffer," I prefer to call him GRIFFNATION. Will you join GRIFFNATION? Will you?

Most bittersweet homecoming, NFL legend category. After Peyton Manning's release, some Colts fans suddenly became lifelong Denver Broncos fans. That's fine for them. That's not how I roll. Look, I loved Peyton. Only the most stubborn fans can fail to see how there was no real way for the team to keep him and put together a well-rounded football team. It was a move they had to make given questions about his health and (the really big factor) his gigantic contract. That doesn't mean I love Peyton any less; he's a legend and I want him to win.

His return to Indianapolis couldn't possibly live up to the hype, could it? A Sunday Night Football game at Lucas Oil Stadium against his old team and the guy who replaced him? What we ended up getting was a classic, with Peyton and the Broncos jumping out to a quick lead and the Colts systematically dismantling Denver to build a huge lead in the second half. Then, in classic Peyton Manning fashion, he nearly pulled off an improbable comeback.

For me, the best moment was just before the game, when the Colts showed a video tribute to the beloved QB and the crowd gave him the most heartfelt cheer anyone's ever gotten in all of sports. Peyton got a little misty eyed; I did, too. It's one of those things I'll never forget. It was the fans' way of saying, "We'll never forget you, No. 18. We love you and we didn't get to say goodbye."

A perfect moment.

Best post about a scuttled video game studio. LucasArts had to shut down this year. I grew up playing countless LucasArts games and gave the fallen studio my own little love letter. It was one of my most popular posts of the year. Star Wars games by LucasArts dominated almost every era of video gaming for me, from the NES to the Xbox 360 and all my consoles in between.

Best movie I liked that no one else did, superhero category. I adored Man of Steel. I didn't get the common reaction that the movie was "cold and lifeless" or that it's "the movie where Superman murders everyone." People commonly said things like "that's not MY Superman," and I think they missed the point. It's not your Superman, and it's not supposed to be. This was a portrait of a man who isolated himself from society and didn't know how to handle his own gifts. While he wore the S-shield, he's not Superman yet. I'll give the filmmakers credit because they've given Superman room to grow and to learn from his mistakes (we're hoping DC/Warner Bros. can do the same thing, know there's this website). I also thought Russell Crowe, Diane Lane, and Kevin Costner were terrific in supporting roles. Maybe it was my Midwestern upbringing talking here, but I felt a connection to Clark and his childhood in Kansas.

Best internet/Twitter freakout, movie casting category. Ben Affleck is the next Batman. People called him Batfleck. I called him Batben. Batfleck won. But the real winners were those of us who watched the internet burn and contributed things like this:

Most inept attempt at a homegrown internet meme, presidential surfing category. My wife volunteers at the Benjamin Harrison Home in Indianapolis. Harrison is the only U.S. president from Indiana. One day, she blessed us with the following gem on Facebook about her experience with a group of touring students:
Had a group of 2nd graders at Harrison Home today. When I took questions at the end of the tour, one little girl raised her hand.

"You said Mr. Harrison passed away after being sick. What does that mean? Where did he go?"

I have to admit, I was at a loss for words. How do you answer this question in an appropriate manner to a public school kid without bringing your personal beliefs into it or scaring the kid. My saving grace was one of her classmates, who chimed in with this tid bit:

"When my grandpa 'passed away' my Mom said he went to visit my Uncle in Colorado, but I didn't believe her, cause my Grandpa didn't like my Uncle Rob. I think he's in Hawaii surfing and I'm going to visit him there someday."

Then he turns to me, "That's probably where Mr Harrison is, too, right?"

Thank God, Roger came in right then and said that bus was there, otherwise I might have found myself saying, "Yes, Mr. Harrison is catching waves and rays in Hawaii." lol!
And, lo, did Benjamin Harrison surf:

I usually play this post for laughs, but I also have some serious business to attend to.

I gained a sister-in-law. It was a lovely August wedding in which she married my brother-in-law. I think this photo says it all:

Last, but certainly not least, I want to remember a few people we lost this year.

Grandpa Riley. My grandfather passed away in March. It was unexpected. My grandparents live in Tennessee and I don't see them but a few times a year. Still, they were an important part of my life and were always interested in what my brother and I were doing. I remember Grandpa visited us when I was playing in a fall baseball league and I had the best game of my life at the plate. He also witnessed the infamous game in which I, a first baseman, got called for a balk in a nebulous umpire ruling that remains incomprehensible to this day. Going down to Tennessee to say goodbye was hard for the whole family, especially after we heard his back surgery had gone okay. Gene Riley was many things to all of us, but we'll remember him best for being a great man who was the rock of our entire family. I don't think his passing really hit until we went down to the annual family reunion in July and he wasn't there. Find his obituary here.

Jim Ladd. Jim Ladd was a good friend of my grandfather, and it seems fitting that they both passed in the same year. For several years, I had a paper route in Williamsburg, Indiana, and Jim was one of my customers. We had a fun little rivalry while I was a paperboy. At one time, Jim raised exotic animals. I had my brother call him and tell him that the FBI was investigating him for improper licensing, and Jim bought it hook, line, and sinker until I came to his door in a trench coat. He knew he'd been had. Things escalated from there, with Jim posting my face all over the local post office for "impersonating a paperboy" (he claimed he never saw me deliver a single newspaper). I also once made a mockup of the front page of the local paper (the Palladium-Item) in which the cover story was about an animal scam Jim was running. When I delivered the paper to him, he was talking to a couple people about some emus, and I remember his eyes got big as dinner plates when he saw the fake headline and quickly tucked the paper away. Find his obituary here.

Mike Ryan. If two polar opposites ever coached baseball together, it would be my father and Mike Ryan. My father was quiet, reserved, and never yelled at his players. Mike was fiery, opinionated, and always yelled at his players! He coached me for several years in youth league, where he uncorked a few gems. When a player would recoil at an incoming baseball, Mike would yell, "You're ten times bigger than that ball! That ball can't hurt you!" That maxim remained true until Mike got belted in the side by a foul ball. As he walked around in pain, my father reminded him that he's "ten times bigger than that ball," and Mike wasn't very appreciative of the gesture. I also quote him often when something goes wrong. "Ain't nobody hurt, ain't nobody hurt," Mike would say when someone made an error or a mistake. Find his obituary here.

These three men helped guide and shape me throughout my life, and I will certainly miss them.

On that's to a great 2014.