Part III: Water, Rock, Man

I hiked with George once. We got lost on the Continental Divide Trail. We ended it eating breakfast at a cafe, offically closed for a private party, in Silver Plume.

My Name is SCHOOLS

“Weather is one of the things that goes on without you, and after a certain amount of living it is bracing to contemplate the many items not dependent upon you for their existence.” Thomas McGuane, Weather

Where I live, we do not observe the changing Autumn leaves with melancholy, or wait out the cold, dark Winter, or burst with life at the coming of Spring. We have days short and reasonably cold, and then days long and unreasonably hot. But I know there are seasons up high, and my year turns around following the melting snow, and beating the first flakes of September, and seizing the moments between that new life and the long, silent sleep that follows. You can confirm an entire life in that breach.

And here I am, inside my tent, waiting out the rain. Wind River surprised me with the quantity of water I’d have to…

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Aspen

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Given the choice, I’d choose to live in Telluride, but Aspen is very nice.  I spent the weekend there with my running tribe in a house with unbelieveable views of Mount Sopris, Capitol Peak, and the Maroon Bells.  Aspen has posh shops, gorgeous homes, and private jets piled up like discarded legos, but I was there to spend time with friends and run a 14 mile trail run.  It was all good.

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Jen 1, in the yellow jacket, and Jen 2 standing in front of me, and Rych in the white jacket, would finish 2nd, 3rd and 4th in the 50-59 year age group.  During the nearly four hours it took all of us to cross the finish line, we experienced a steep, glute-burning, 3,000 foot climb, an equally steep, thigh-crushing descent, bloody falls, and old-growth, aspen-lined trails.

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I mostly followed Rych and Dave up the hill, then ran with Jen and Jill, pictured here ahead of me, across the top of the ridge.

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Jen 1, shown above, has been my neighbor for the last twenty years.  She has a family blessed in athletic abilities.  Her son and daughter run on the Niwot HS cross country team, one of the top prep programs in the country.  Even her husband Kelly, a state champion wrestler in his prep days, continues to sport the athleticism of a man half his age.  Jen passed me in the final four miles while I was performing my cool-down routine.

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The real stars of our running tribe were our two marathoners, Bob pictured above crossing the finish line with his wife, Jen 2, and Keith pictured below with the bloody arm.

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Keith and Bob crossed the finish line near the 6 hour mark.  Mountain trail runs are notedly slower than street events run below 10,000 feet.  Mountain trail runs are tough.  Keith told stories of passing puking runners, and of a lady near the end who asked him if he would share some sunscreen.  Knowing his lotion was stashed deep in his pack, he declined, telling her they were only two miles from the finnish.  She pleaded, “but I’m a ginger!”  Keith forged ahead, telling us later, he’s no fucking aid station.  Mountain trail runners are tough.

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While I was out of town, running tough miles, Karen threw Brittany Noel her bridal shower.

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Just as well I wasn’t there, I wouldn’t have known what to wear.  Karen said Brittany was over the moon with joy.  It was a big weekend for all.

Thirty-Two Years

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Karen and I enjoyed the garden at the Greenbriar Inn Thursday night to celebrate thirty-two years.   Our conversation was less nostalgic, and instead focused on our daughter’s upcoming wedding.  Nothing against my childhood, it was fine, but life for me didn’t start until I married Karen.  I imagine Brittany Noel might feel the same about her life thirty-two years from now.  There’s nothing quite like growing a family.

It’s common to hear people say marriage takes work.  It has its ups and downs.  All those cliches.  I don’t know.  Maybe I’ve been blessed.  Life has hardships for sure, but marriage, fatherhood, life over the past three decades has been a dream for me.  I would change nothing and repeat everything – given the chance.

Okay, maybe I would pick a cooler month to get married.  But then Brittany Noel isn’t getting married deep in Texas like Karen and I did.  Her nuptials will be high in the mountains.  I wish her and Eric all the love Karen and I have experienced.

Box Sets & Writing Conventions

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If three books are a trilogy, what are two books?  You could call them a duology, but I think people tend to call anything other than three books simply a series.  There’s still so much I don’t know about writing.  I’m ignorant of many of the standard conventions.

But there are conventions.  There are formulas for writing and you ignore them at your peril.  On the series topic, all advice is to write them.  I didn’t think I would but I had one more cyberwar topic I couldn’t squeeze into the first novel, so I did write a second in order to discuss hybrid warfare.

The advice was that writing books in a series will promote additional sales, because people will go back and buy the earlier books.  I’ve seen that.  Four of my last five book sales were of my first book.  The second book has clearly rekindled interest in my first novel, Cyber War I.  Some people are buying both at once.  I think others are from the hundred promotional copies of Full Spectrum Cyberwar that I signed a couple of months ago at a tech conference in Austin.  Some of those books are converting into sales of the first novel.

I am going to write a third in the series.  In fact, I’m 10,000 words into it already.  Not understanding conventions better, I’m not confident it will be a true trilogy.  I suspose it will be.  But it will be twenty years into the future and a different genre – cyberpunk and a mystery rather than a tech thriller.

Another convention I broke was on my cover art.  Even self-publishers tend to purchase unique cover art.  They’ll spend from $200 to $400 with a cover designer.  I simply licensed art from stock photos.  From some of the writing blogs I read, I sense that’s frowned upon.  Still, I really like my covers because they so clearly say cyberwar.  They break convention though, not only in that they come from stock photos, but because they are on a white background.  Not unlike the first Jurassic Park novel.  But cyberwar and cybercrime books are expected to have dark backgrounds.  Maybe a hooded figure, or for some reason, a grid overlaying everything says “tech” to buyers.  I don’t know if my cover is hurting my sales or not.  I do know that writers care a great deal about their covers, and that covers do indeed sell books.

I’m committed to following the cover convention for book three.  I already licensed the photo I want, but it’s a bit racey and my family of girls have censored it from FaceBook.  It’s so perfect though in how it captures my protagonist.  I have time still to decide.  It’ll be the obligatory dark cover, in addition to being a bit sexy.  I have posters of my book covers hanging in my office.  Probably won’t be able to hang that one up at work.

Flattop Mountain

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Don’t you think this is an easy enough route?  On paper, it’s fairly straight-forward.  Park at Bear Lake Trailhead, as big and well-groomed a thrailhead as you will ever find.  This trailhead presents numerous options for more pedestrian hikes to various lakes.  I took the less-pedestrian trail that runs above treeline to merge into the Continental Divide Trail in a photopunk moonscape of alpine flowers.

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I drove through the ranger gate at 6:15am, and it was open for free.  Rangers have told me before that parking fills up by 7am. There are other trailheads along the drive, but this trailhead is a great place to start so many hikes.  The difficulty of the hike depends on which direction you go onto the Bear Lake Loop Trail.

You take the left trail—the epic hike ends, you see pretty new lakes every mile or so after cresting shallow hills. You take the right trail—you climb this hill, and I show you Colorado from the top. Remember: all I’m offering is the truth.

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The trail hits treeline about half way up, time and distance-wise.  Treeline is also about two-thirds up the 3000 feet of vertical.  The rocks are covered in alpine flowers here that should still be around in late August.

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This section of trail, just before cresting Flattop Mountain, is convered by snowpack still. I suspect some of this will remain in late August too, but it’s passable.  I’ll have a few pairs of trekking poles for those who want them.

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The top is surreal, like Mars with grass and flowers.

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The views were great the entire hike.  At the top here, you can see Longs Peak behind me.  There is an awesome view of the Keyhole and the Ledges on the northwest side of Longs Peak.

I know Nancy, Steve, my brother Steve, and really, most of you could make this hike.  It took me a little under four hours.  Expect five.  Like this post if you’re interested Sunday morning.

Mr. Sandman

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I had plans this weekend.  Then I didn’t.  Or rather, then Ellie’s plans were my plans.  She thought it would be cool to go camping at the Great Sand Dunes in the Sangre de Cristos.  After explaining to Ellie that the 4th of July is perhaps the busiest camping weekend ever, we booked a motel in Alamosa, because sure enough, all the camping spots were full.

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The San Luis Valley is notable for how flat it is, and just plain barren, but there are things to do.  Of all the random things, there is an alligator farm just west of the Sand Dunes.  Ellie’s friend Kathryn came with us.

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Since we got to Alamosa in the afternoon, we headed to the Sand Dunes at night to watch the stars.  It’s a unique national park.  To get to the Sand Dunes, you first have to wade across an ankle-deep creek.  The water is warm during the day but freezing cold at night.

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The creek is a bit deeper earlier in the season, carrying snow-melt down from Crestone Peak.  These are the head waters of the Rio Grande.

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The Dunes are a special spot to watch the sun set, and to star gaze after 10 pm.  We could also see fireworks 30 miles away in Alamosa.

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The girls were ready to sandboard the next day.  The sand was too hot to walk barefoot before noon.  I suggest getting there as early as possible in the summer months.

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Ellie got the hang of it quick.  She caught some air in this photo.  And she collected 72 mosquito bites.  Best to visit the Great Sand Dunes in April and May to avoid the mosquitos.

Two Girls Eating

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The only two things a girl needs when hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park is water and her smartphone.

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This is what we saw at the end of our hike in Wild Basin.  Sandbeach Lake is considered deep at fifty feet, and it has a deep-blue reflection.

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Two girls eating a sandwich, after a couple of hours of hiking, is basically the goal of hiking.

My Cozy Trail

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The first days of summer have been full of winter in Colorado, but I love watching a front come in while running the East Boulder hills.  There’s no better feeling than running into the oncoming weather.  Summer rain dropping the chill of mountain snowmelt.

I’m doing all my runs lately on the East Boulder Trail.  It’s nostalgic for me.  I ran this trail daily, nearly thirty years ago when I lived in the Gunbarrel Country Club area, across 75th from Heatherwood.

I was in my upper twenties and I acclimated to high altitude running on that trail.  I ran a 41 minute Bolder Boulder that year – 1990.  A decent time for that course.  I ran 43 minutes, twenty-five years later.  I still plan to break 40 minutes.  I like the idea of getting back into shape on this trail.

The grasses along the East Boulder Trail have grown quickly with all the moisture this spring.  The stems are waist high and my fingers brush through the spikelets as I run.  I think their lushness makes the trail cozy.  I like the experience.  It feels early in the season for the grasses to be so tall.  I hope they keep growing.

I remember running this trail in 1990, when I found my high altitude speed.  Half a year earlier, I’d lived at sea level.  I always launched my runs from the west side of 75th and my first mile took me to the top of the water tower hill.  The water tower is the high point and is a half mile climb, then a quarter mile flat stretch across the top, and a quarter mile drop into the hills.

I found my speed when another runner, young twenties, probably in college, passed me from behind on the far-side downhill.  He’d passed me on other days and I always let him go.  This time though, warmed up from the hill, I chased after him once he gained a good fifty meters lead.  I caught him easily and we ran together, chatting, for a couple of miles.  We were easily running a six minute pace, maybe faster, through the hills.  It felt good.

I rediscovered my speed on that run and I’ll never forget it.  I maintained my fitness for the rest of the year, until I got a job downtown and had to start commuting.  Then I had kids.  It would be another twenty-five years before I would run this trail fast again.

I’m not running fast now, but I can run the hills without walking.  That will get me back in shape.  Eventually.  The hills on the East Boulder Trail never disappoint.

 

Foot Bridge

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This is a photo of today’s foot bridge, taken earlier this spring.  No one was standing on it then, like today.  And yes, those are road apples in the middle of the bridge.

The East Boulder Trail had some runners on it today.  A young girl passed by me early on with elite form.  Then another guy, weight-lifter for sure, shirtless of course.  On my return, five and a half miles into an eight miler, I was crossing this bridge with some momentum.  Unlike in this photo, it was nearly crowded with hikers and runners.  And as I reached the apex, as if in a zombie movie, a lady jumped out at me, her hands reaching for my throat.

Too late to perform the move well, I understood the outstretched arms to be an attempt for dual fist bumps.  I figured I must know this person and bumped her fists, if that’s in fact what we were doing.  But I made no attempt to slow down.  I continued running past her.  I needed that momentum to take me into the next hill.

Two steps past Jen, I recognized her and stopped.  I turned around and saw that the guy with her was Bob.  They were training for a literary hike through the Scottish Highlands. One stop is on the path of Diana Galbadon, another on the passage to J.K. Rowling.

I’ve heard Galbadon talk at a RMFW’s Colorado Gold workshop.  The woman is bawdy.  Our coversation on the bridge deviated from The Outlander series to NetFlix porn.  I would say the current crown of Netflix porn goes to Tales of the City.  It’s in that porn with plot and dialog genre, Porn Plus.  I swear, I was searching for the Father Brown Mysteries, and I stumbled onto Tales of the City.

The fit, shirtless runner crossed the bridge on his return.  Jen did more than notice, she commented.  Even I was a bit envious of the guy.  We all started back on our runs, in opposite directions.  Jen and Bob headed for Valmont Road.  I headed for the hills.

512

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I’m sitting in an ATX bar drinking 512 IPA near gate 23, listening to live music.  If that makes you jealous, I won’t get home before midnight.  But what a week.

I was a booth babe for my company at the Palo Alto Networks Ignite 2019 User Conference.  It was a cool setup because it was less booth and more coffee shop slash drinks after five.  If that wasn’t enough to draw people in, and it was, I was signing promotional copies of Full Spectrum Cyberwar.

If it confuses you that I would be both working for my firm and at the same time self-promoting my book, I can explain the joint-marketing/co-branding concept to you in one word – LinkedIn.  If you need more words, my original content drew people into the booth.  My authenticity with a signed book increases customers and potential customers’ commitment to my firm.  It also lubed the conversational skids.  That helps my firm and for me, hopefully, a percentage of them will buy my first or future-3rd book.

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The vendor took care of me and my crew with an over-abundance of high-quality meals near the Austin Convention Center.  And when it was all done, I met my friend and neighbor, Steve Wolfe, also working in Austin at the time, and my brother-in-law Steve Collier, at Tomos for the best sushi on Parmer Lane.

I’m exhausted and won’t get home before midnight, but I’m drinking 512 IPA, listening to live music, and I’m good.

PING

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PING is one of the best acronyms ever.  It’s a tech spec, RFC 1739, that means Packet InterNetwork Groper.  It references when you validate the online existence of an IP address.  You ping it.  Techies also use the term colloquially in place of the word contact, as in ping me instead of contact me.  And, Ping is the name of the firm I sat down in Friday afternoon to be interviewed for the Colorado=Security podcast, by Robb Reck.

I drew a pint of the Codename: Superfan IPA by Odd13 Brewing.  At 6.5% ABV, it contains the hops Simcoe, Citra, Amarillo and Equinox.  I then esconcend myself in Robb’s office to be interviewed for my cyberwar tech thriller, Full Spectrum Cyberwar.

The talk was a lot of fun.  I forget which parts were recorded, but inevitably, when two old tech guys sit down to talk, the conversation turns to who they’ve worked with and where.  It’s nostaligic and fun, and then of course, what writer doesn’t like to talk about his book?

Being the CISO of Ping, Robb gave me grief over my storyline that characterized a CISO as the first bad guy.  Technically, I say Claire was an unwitting bad guy.  And I feel I should score points for representing women in tech.  You read it and tell me what you think.

 

 

Saturday night was even better.  The Jaggers hosted performer Jill Sobule at the house.  Jill was highly entertaining, and had us all singing along with her.  I just downloaded her latest album, Nostalgia Kills, because I liked her music that much.  Before the performance, Jabe passed around a hat for a young girlfriend with stage 4 cancer.  Jabe gave an impassioned plea that would have won the war for the allies.  Hoping the best for Sara.

I’m currently sitting at DIA, waiting for my delayed flight that I woke up for at 5am.  If any of my tech buddies are attending the Palo Alto Ignite User Conference this week, look for me at the CenturyLink Cafe.  I’ll sign a copy of my book for you.

The Tribe

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This is my running tribe, in Folsom Stadium after running today’s 2019 Bolder Boulder.  I want to be running with them again, but not in my current condition.  The Bolder Boulder is a celebration of running, and for me, that calls for racing.  I’d been improving my time over the last ten years and I’m not done yet.  I still think I can break 40 minutes, and I’m not running it again until I believe I have a shot at that.  Not sure I could break 60 minutes right now.

A young couple drove up from Colorado Springs this weekend to run the Bolder Boulder, and stopped by my house to buy Ellie’s old bunk bed.  I would guess they were in their thirties, but man, were they in shape.  The man looked like he could play linebacker for a pro team and his wife could have been an elite 400 or 800-meter track star.  Seeing people with such perfectly athletic bodies gets me motivated.

I got in a nice five miler on the East Boulder Trail today.  The weather was ideal for running, under  60°.  I wasn’t alone out there, other runners shied away from the 50,000 runners in Boulder today.  I think we had a better view, running among the Blue Flax Flowers, looking down on the valley.

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Fence Painting

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I was excited to get in three days of trail running this weekend, but like Aunt Polly, Karen sent me out to paint the fence Saturday morning.  I wasn’t thrilled about it, but after reading the paper and sufficient cups of coffee, I acquiesced.

I began with a trip to my local paint store, Boulder Valley Paint.  I estimated I needed three gallons.  At $50 per gallon, I didn’t want to buy more than I would need.  But with the paint store closed the next two days for the holiday, it was critical I not under-estimate.  Three gallons turned out to be perfect.  I know my paint.

Tiffany chatted me up while she stirred the paints.  I let on I would rather be doing something else, but that at least painting the fence would get me outside.  I didn’t tell her I’d rather be running.  Instead, I shared my other irritation with her, that I considered it my neighbor’s fence and I shouldn’t have to do this.

Tiffany might be 35 or 40, hard to say.  She has straight, long hair with bangs that give off a schoolgirl look, and colorful ink on both shoulders and upper arms.  She gave me a lecture on how it was important to not go into painting in a sour mood.  That I needed to find the joy in my task.  That I should consider drinking a beer first with some CBD.  A house painter and home decorator herself, she advised me on how to find the zen in painting.

Being Boulder County, my paint store lecture on the zen of painting wasn’t all that surprising.  What was bizarre though was we discovered we both learned to paint from our grandmothers, and in both circumstances, because we painted their rental property.  We’d led mirrored childhoods.  I left determined to have a positive attitude, which I rationalized by telling myself that painting would be a better workout than running.

Turned out to be an awesome four-hour workout.  And it got me outside on what was perhaps the most perfect spring day of the season.  I’ll run Sunday and Monday.  Not the Bolder Boulder though.  If you know me, then you know I’m a vain runner.  I’ll only run the Bolder Boulder again when I’m fast enough to be in a top-seeded wave with a chance for a competitive finish among my age group.  Hopefully next year.

50° in May

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I suppose if you wanted to swim at the rez today, 50° would have sucked.  But for running?  Shorts and a long-sleeve cotton T was the perfect gear for this weather.  If you recognize this street sign, you know what trailhead I ran at today.

After finding my pace a few weeks back, I can handle the hills of the East Boulder Trail just fine.  I can’t tell you my exact pace as I’m not going to bother wearing a watch at this point in my training plan, but safe to say it’s slow.  Feels to me about 10 minutes per mile.  I’m fine with that as long as I can complete the distance, and the hills, without walking.

But the cold weather today gave me a little skip in my step.  I felt fast.  Well, faster.  It’s amazing the impact temperature has on distance running.  And I like the look of the clouds sitting on top of the foothills west of Boulder Valley.  On a clear day, this trail affords spectacular views of the Indian Peaks, but this blanket of clouds gave it a cozy feel that we won’t experience much of as summer dries out the valley and hills.  It was a good day to run.

On Reading

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Everyone thinks like a writer.  Among their many character flaws, writers feel an obligation to share their inner dialog with the rest of the world, whether or not the world is interested.  Blogs are great for that.  I find facebook less great for that.  It’s famous of course, for self-publishing, as is Twitter and all the new social media platforms, but the format doesn’t suit my style of sharing my inner dialog.

So when I was invited to play a game by my facebook friends to post seven days of books that have influenced my life, I’ve instead taken to my blog.  I don’t play facebook games in general because most of them are simply intended to share little icons that contain adware.  This game was harmless, but I prefer the long form story with mixed photos and text to seven short bursts of content.

Old Yeller

I began reading in earnest in 4th grade.  Over the next two years I read every Hardy Boys mystery on the planet, which for me was the Carnegie-built library in Marion, Iowa.  Although the most influential book from that period of my life was Old Yeller, which made me cry.  I also read a fair share of Indian Chief biographies.  Whenever I played Cowboys and Indians, I was an Indian.

By middle school, I was in an advanced English class, and was forced to read some of the classics, such as Great Expectations.  I didn’t care for stories where authors were paid by the word.  I don’t mind long books, but I’m a fan of getting to the point.  The book from those years that opened my eyes to the world and the horrors of war was The Children of the Atomic Bomb.  One of my sisters borrowed it from the West High School library in Davenport, Iowa, apparently in 1966.  It still sits on the bookshelf in my study.  Don’t tell anyone.  I read Jaws in 8th grade as well.

 

My reading diminished in high school, first in lieu of sports, and then to afford me time for girls.  I found girls too pretty to ignore.  I tended, however, to read books after my mother was finished with them.  She was into financial thrillers by Paul Erdman, first The Crash of ’79, later The Panic of ’89.  In more recent years, my favorite author of financial thrillers became Michael Lewis, although his stories are more non-fiction.  His method though is to develop the characters in a manner similar to what makes good fiction, so he blurs the line.

 

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I read less fiction in college than I did in high school.  Not enough time.  I started my subscription to the Wall Street Journal then, which I continue nearly forty years later.  As I started my career, I shifted to more non-fiction.  Sometimes I have to force myself to read more fiction.  To stay competitive in the job market, I don’t understand how a generous amount of non-fiction can be avoided.  I read a book or two on the telecom market, which preceded my graduate studies in that industry, but the first book I read to support my job as a firewall admin was Firewalls and Internet Security: Repelling the Wily Hacker.  It was the tech bible at a time I found myself deploying firewalls between IBM’s Sydney data centers and the data networks supporting the 2000 Olympic Games venues.

My first truly fun read on cybersecurity was Clifford Stoll’s, The Cuckoo’s Egg.  It was also non-fiction, but read like a fictional tech thriller and was a strong influence on my desire to write a cybersecurity tech thriller.  My style though probably borrows more from reading everything Neal Stephenson has ever written, such as Snow Crash, Cryptonomicon, and Reamde.

My favorite genre is historical fiction.  I’m currently reading Pillars of the Earth by one of my favorite authors, Ken Follett.  It might have been first published forty years ago, but I received the 3rd story in his Kingsbridge trilogy, A Column of Fire, for Christmas last year, and I want to read them all.  My goal as a writer is to graduate to writing historical fiction, once I think my writing has improved enough for a more literary style.  Perhaps after I’m retired and have time for the requisite travel.