Surface-Level Fun

Writing styles matter, and change depending on medium. A blog post isn’t a romance novel isn’t an action blockbuster script isn’t a legal memo isn’t a blog, and so on.

If you’re writing for an on-line audience, it’s all about being pithy and visually appealing. Attention spans aren’t what they used to be, few read long-form pieces on-line, and there’s something about a screen that actively discourages long reads, whereas a physical copy of a book or magazine almost demands you take the time to focus.

I think it’s a fascinating that people take this personally. No, the written word isn’t dead. You just need to know your audience. Continue reading “Surface-Level Fun”

2018 Is Here!

Happy New Year everyone! It’s 2018, and you know what that means:

Retrospectives and lists!

I’ll spare you the worst of it, but suffice it to say 2017 was a year of good and bad for yours’ truly. The family was reunited, but apartment living in a new city continued to be a drag. We’re working on fixing it, though, so hopefully soon we’ll have a home again.

On the blogging front, 2017 marked my first full year, and it showed an increase in posting activity and visitors. Admittedly, 2016 was skewed when Scott Adams linked to a post, but still, an increase is an increase.

Doing the rough math, this blog averaged about 24 visitors a day in 2017 over about 23 in 2016, but almost 400 more total viewers. Remember also that I started this blog in May of 2016. It’s be more accurate to do a retrospective like this on May of this year, but where’s the fun in that?

Yeah, I’m trying to finesse the numbers. But I’m still happy about the growing readership here. It’s been fun connecting with lots of people, sharing and gaining new ideas and perspectives. For all of you who read and comment and get in touch via social media, know that you’re much appreciated! Continue reading “2018 Is Here!”

Reset: Chapter 13: Tuesday, September 4, 2001 (2)

The pretty girl with the black hair, turned around in her seat. “Hey,” she whispered.

Joe, dutifully trying to write down what he could understand through Professor Pfunder’s heavy German accent, looked up. Joe remembered her. She had sat in front of him every single day that semester. One didn’t forget a face like that, full and round with full, round lips. Her nose was straight, just shy of being called bold. And her hair was a deep black that shimmered under the fluorescent lights. For a moment Joe thought she was talking to him because he had done something wrong, liked kicked her chair or something, but then he noticed that the girl was smiling.

He didn’t remember talking to this girl during his first day of classes, or any other day, though looking at her he wished that he had. “What’s up?” he said.

“Do you get this?” asked the girl. Pfunder was talking about how nuclear reactions from supernovae created the heavier elements in the universe, a topic Joe found almost as fascinating as time travel.

“Yes,” said Joe. He smiled. “You would too if you paid attention.”


The girl made a sour face. Another girl a few seats over shushed. The girl with the black hair shushed back. “I mean,” she said to Joe, “do you want to start a study group or something? I have a few friends in this class. Maybe we could get together once a week or something and exchange notes.”

“Right. Study group,” said Joe. He nodded absently, trying to follow Pfunder’s words. In truth, now that a conversation had actually started he wished the girl would leave him alone. Wasting time with her would get him no closer to Jason.

To his surprise, she slid a small piece of paper onto his notebook. It had her phone number and dorm written on it. And her name: Gwendolyn Bennett.

“We’ll talk after class,” she said with a glint in her eyes. They were big and dark, like Sandra’s. “Right now, I’ve got to pay attention.” She turned back to her notes.

* * *

Joe hoped that this Gwendolyn would forget about the study group idea, but to his chagrin she waited for him as he gathered his things. She was about Joe’s height and very well-shaped, quite different from Sandra who was short and petite. His eyes, despite being connected to an adult brain, couldn’t help but admire her form, stuffed as it was into black slacks and a white blouse. The clothes fit her well.

“So you should probably tell me your name now; it’s only fair,” she said. “I can’t go around calling you ‘Hey you.’”

“Joe Gallagher,” said Joe.

“‘Gallagah.’” she said, giggling. “Boston?”

“I don’t sound that bad,” he said. He slung his backpack over his shoulders. “But yeah. I mean, I’m from Lowell, not Boston. How about you?”

“New Hampshire,” said Gwendolyn, not, Joe noticed, New Hampshuh. Her diction was very crisp without a hint of regional flavor. “The nice part. Not the flannel part.”

Joe shrugged. She had probably gone to private schools then. It made him wonder why ended up at NHU. “So where are your friends?”

“They were sitting over there,” said Gwendolyn, pointing towards the other side of the hall. “They came in late.”

Joe motioned for Gwendolyn to walk down the aisle in front of him.

“You could meet them tonight, if you’re free,” she said.

“Yeah? One class in and you already want to start studying?”

“No, not studying. The Improv Club is doing a show at the student union and we were thinking of going. Would you like to come along?”

Joe groaned. “Please don’t tell me Professor Brennan is performing.”

“I have no idea who he is, but what do you say?”

He almost said “No,” with the trained reflexes of a spoilsport. But something stopped him. Maybe it was the realization, insane though it was, that he was one of the few people in the universe who could actually change his own past. Whatever it was, it was enough. “Sure,” he said. “Why not?”

“Exactly: Why not? Let’s get some coffee before we go. This class almost put me to sleep.

With a tinge of guilt, Joe agreed. He wanted to follow the path that led him to Sandra and Jason, but it would be nice if things weren’t in rigid lockstep with the past. He could discipline himself later. Besides, he needed a break from Nick. And maybe, just maybe, the Improv Club would distract him from that other thing, too monstrous to confront right now. Continue reading Reset: Chapter 13: Tuesday, September 4, 2001 (2)”

Be My Guest . . . Again!

img_5421-1That’s right, it’s time for another guest post here on Amatopia!

Without further ado, I’d like to introduce you to Zigmund Reichenbach of All My Small Thoughts. Zig is a smart dude, funny guy, philosopher, intellectual patriot, and all around interesting cat who always has something trenchant to say. He is studying to become a full-blown Hannah Arendt scholar, yet still finds the time to write and publish his pieces.

His post is going to be about a topic near and dear to my heart: Skepticism! Read and enjoy, leave lots of comments, and as before I’ll be publishing my reaction to Zig’s piece afterwards . . . here or perhaps even at Zig’s site.

Mystery abounds . . .

Follow me on Twitter @DaytimeRenegade and @DaytimeRenegade

And check out my Instagram here.

Reset: Chapter Eight: Sunday, September 2, 2001 (1)


Foster’s Daily Democrat and the NHU Courier used the same photo on their front pages, Joe and Nick flanking Zack Henderson as he rested his arms over their shoulders, angled oddly on account of Nick’s height. One of the partygoers, an overzealous junior named Marissa Bowen, happened to be the editor-in-chief of the Courier. She always carried a camera with her and had taken the picture and their statements. She had also called the Democrat so the story could get wider release. Marissa’s goal, based on the Courier’s headline “Frat Row Nearly Claims Another,” was to strike a blow against NHU’s Greek scene. She was surely disappointed when the Democrat’s feature, “Freshmen Save A Life,” echoed none of her scathing commentary. In both stories, Joe and Nick provided bromides about coincidence, being in the right place at the right time, and doing the right thing, although Nick couldn’t resist throwing in this particular bon mot: “It’s almost as if we were meant to be here.”

Joe could have strangled him.

* * *

Joe saw the headlines the next morning when Nick threw the papers onto Joe’s chest, waking him from his deep sleep on the bottom bunk.

“Look at that!” Nick yelled. “Front page news! Not the lead story, but good enough for rock n’ roll. Damn, we look good, even you!”

Joe sat up and blinked, looking at the newspapers. “What time is it?”

“Time for church,” said Nick. “I’m going with Amy.” He stripped down and wrapped himself in a towel, skinny as he ever was. “Make sure you call your parents.”

The headlines sank in after his third read. Joe tossed the papers on the floor. He had so much he wanted to say to Nick, things he should have said last night, but instead could only muster: “What happened to your hair?”

“What do you mean, ‘my hair’? That’s all you can talk about? My hair?”

Gone were Nick’s flowing black locks, in their place a short and very stylish hairdo. Almost too stylish, as in a decade or so ahead of its time.

Joe flopped back down, turning towards the wall. “Never mind.”

“Amy likes it short, alright? When she asked what the deal was with my hair, I told her I was getting it cut tomorrow.” He strode over to Joe’s bed and gave him a shake. “Things are working out,” he said excitedly. “We saved a life, right? Some good has come out of this already!”

Joe grunted.

“That’s all you can say? All that talk about wanting to do something bigger with your life and that’s all you got? I don’t get you sometimes.”

“You sure you’re not still on coke?” Joe said.

“What do you mean, ‘coke’? What’re you talking about?”

Joe shot upright, his shoulder smacking Nick in the nose.

Nick reared back, hand to his face. “Hey! Watch the schnoz alright?!” It wasn’t bleeding, though Nick, who did have a rather large nose, kept checking his fingers for blood.

“How’d you know it would work?” Joe asked.

“Why are you so mad?”

“Just answer me: How did you know The Machine would work?”

“We’re not in a courtroom, Matlock. It’s too early for this. Just calm the hell down, alright?”

“Answer me!”

With a sniff and one last swipe, Nick left his nose alone. “Sanjay said they’d tested it in short bursts, like five or ten seconds, alright? I already told you this!”

“Oh. So they went back to when The Machine still existed. Smart.”

“Of course they’re smart. They invented this. What’s your point?”

“Nothing,” said Joe. He flopped back down on the bed.

“I don’t get you sometimes. Maybe you need to come to church, get a little Jesus in your soul. Maybe that’s your problem.”

Nick waited for a reaction. Getting none, he left for the shower. When Nick returned to change into his suit they both stayed silent like feuding lovers. They might as well be married, Joe thought. He spent more time with Nick than he ever had with his wife. Ex-wife. It still stung to think of Sandra like that.

Nick left Joe still in bed, determined to stay there all day, but his plans were thwarted by the ringing of the phone.

He answered the call and proceeded to have a surreal conversation with his mother. Continue reading Reset: Chapter Eight: Sunday, September 2, 2001 (1)”

Call for Beta Readers

So I finally finished the second draft of my novel. This took me forever because life gets in the way. 

This isn’t my first novel, but it’s the first one I’m going to try to put out there. I’m proud of it, yes, but it’s not about me. 

It’s about you. 

So with that in mind, I am soliciting feedback and asking for beta readers. 

If anyone is interested in reading through my manuscript for the purposes of critiquing and offering their impressions, please let me know! The best ways to do this are:

  1. Shoot me a message from my Contact page. 
  2. Email me at
  3. Message me on Twitter or Gab.
  4. Smoke signals or semaphore. 
  5. Comment on this post. 

I can’t pay anyone, but I’m also not imposing deadlines or asking for a line-by-line typo search. 

And I’m always, always, willing to return the favor. 

If you are interested, please tell me:

  1. Your timeframe (I have no hard deadline, but I’d prefer by the end of July at the latest).
  2. Your preferred format (Word, PDF, stone tablet, and so on).
  3. Your SSN and credit card info (just put this in here to see if you’re paying attention).

So what’s this book about, anyway?

It’s about 870 pages (rimshot, please!). 

Okay, let’s try that again. 

It’s called The Rust Man, and here’s my pitch *adopts movie trailer guy voice*:

There is a shadow over the Habsburg Empire. Newly powerful after victory over the invading Ottomans, a corruption has taken root, targeting the Empire’s most valuable treasure: it’s children. 

When the daughter of an English noble goes missing somewhere in Vienna, the locals know who to call for help: There is a strange ex-Janissary with a skill for finding the lost, a savage warrior with noble grace, renowned for battling the unnatural. 

He is their secret weapon: The Rust Man. 

But what he uncovers goes beyond runaway children and straight to the heart of the corruption, an age-old struggle that brings him face-to-face with the one foe who has bested him before. 

I call The Rust Man a historical fantasy/horror with a side of Castlevania. Check out Chapter 1 here and let me know if you’re interested. 

And thanks in advance. 

Follow me on Twitter @DaytimeRenegade and @DaytimeRenegade

And check out my Instagram here

One Year of Failure

Oh my goodness I’ve been writing on this stupid blog for over a year.

My first post was published on May 14, 2016. So I missed the official one-year anniversary. So I failed at commemorating the occasion. Big deal.

Here’s how I opened that post:

Hello. My name is Alex, and I’m a failure.

And that’s okay.

If you’ve never failed at anything, that probably means that you haven’t tried anything.

So you see? I’m merely living up to expectations.

All kidding aside, it’s always cool to look back and see that you’ve been doing something consistently over a long period. I’m going to claim victory on this one, since it’s the longest I’ve ever kept a blog.

And you know something? I’ve actually learned a few things during this time. Things I’m gonna go share because this is a blog and pompous, long-winded explanations are what people do: Continue reading “One Year of Failure”