Thursday, May 8, 2014

SPORTS EXCLUSIVE: Breaking down the 2014 NFL Draft



Okay, so I typically touch on a bit of everything in this blog, from sports to music, movies, food, and of course… writing.  That said, tonight is FINALLY the NFL Draft (should’ve been two weekends ago at noon on a Saturday, but I digress) and given that this is one of my favorite days on the sports calendar, I’m devoting this edition of the Manifesto exclusively to that.  

What follows are my own thoughts on a few teams I follow, as well as a few of the notable storylines going into eight o’clock. 

TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS

As a longtime Bucs’ fan, I enter tonight’s draft with my first real sense of optimism in years.  Lovie Smith is a fabulous coach, and moreover, our knuckleheaded owners seem to be giving him the necessary latitude to implement his plan for the team.  The question now is: where will he go when the clock strikes zero on Pick 7?

Were it up to me, I’d take Darqueze Denard, CB from Michigan State.  I know, I know, I know.  The Bucs need a receiver opposite VJ, and that’s real.  However, this is an extremely deep draft at that position, and Jeff Tedford will still have his pick of the litter in round two. 

Denard, meanwhile, is clearly the top corner on the board, and given the Revis debacle plus Tampa’s membership of the NFC South (home to Brees, Newton, and Ryan) you can never go wrong with bolstering your secondary. 

And just to be clear… Don’t even think about a QB at 7.  None of these guys warrant a Top 10 selection, period.  Not Bortles, not Carr, and especially not Manziel (a late second-round talent, tops). 

CAROLINA PANTERS

Since trading in my Florida residency for that of a North Carolinian, I’ve kept fairly close tabs on the Panthers as they naturally occupy most of the local football coverage around Raleigh.  

So, where should the Panthers go at Pick 28, assuming they don’t trade out?  Simple.  Wide receiver.  For one, it’s far and away their greatest need, and for two, this franchise took a beating from the fan-base for botching the Steve Smith situation.  Should Carolina have kept Smith?  Perhaps, though I think you could make the case that Smith was old, and the time had come to upgrade that position. 

The only problem is, that’s exactly what Carolina didn’t do.  The Panthers signed no one in free agency, and that rankled a lot of feathers around Charlotte.  Now comes the chance for Rivera and co. to rectify that problem by drafting a shiny new toy for Cam Newton… a guy who is all but forbidden from stretching the field in Mike Shula’s POS offense, but that’s a topic for another blog in August. 

JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS

The Jags pick at three, and I’m anxious to see how this one shakes out.  The obvious choice here is Clemson wideout Sammy Watkins, IMHO.  I love this guy, and I truly believe he’s a star in the making. 

Still, this team has a ton of needs, not the least of which is quarterback.  Add to that the never-ending whispers surrounding a Jags’ move to Los Angeles, and if there was ever a franchise in need of a face, it’s this one.  

Johnny Football?  Maybe?  

Again, I hate Manziel as a prospect.  It’s nothing personal.  I just don’t see his game translating to the pro level.  Conversely, though, the hard truth is that Jacksonville, as a club and an NFL city, hasn’t been relevant since the Clinton Administration.  Now factor in Manziel’s upside if he does succeed (jersey sales, prime-time television slots, ad revenue… all through the roof), and the Caldwell/Bradley camp would be stupid not to at least look at him.  

Talk about a roll of the dice, though… too rich for my blood.

WASHINGTON REDSKINS

Not spending much time here, but on account of my wife who grew up a die-hard Skins’ fan, I’ll touch on it.  

Washington  is still paying the price for RG III, and thus won’t select in tonight’s first round.  When they do pick, however, they need offensive line and a tall receiver. 

Regardless of who’s under center (I’m not entirely sure it shouldn’t be Cousins, by the way), they need better protection than the garbage they got in 2013.  I mean, whatever happened to the Hogs, anyway?  That used to be the hallmark of Washington football. 

As for WR, the Skins have a fair amount of talent at that position with the addition of Desean Jackson to Garcon and Moss.  The only problem with those guys is that Peter Frickin’ Dinklage could out-jump every one of them! (A little nerd humor there, sorry).  

Get a guy with some ups, Gruden, and your offense will definitely be the better for it. 

OTHER STORIES TO WATCH…

Quarterback Roulette
As always, there’s gonna be a run on QBs.  It’s just how the NFL is built now, and regardless of the fact that none of these guys are fit to carry Andrew Luck’s jockstrap, several teams will draft them as if they were.  (Lookin’ at you, Minisota!)

Among this year’s class, however, I do like Teddy Bridgewater.  I watched his entire career at Louisville, and I love the kid.  Say what you want to about his pro day (it was one day in shorts, people), TB is sharp and he makes all the throws.  Granted, he’s a bit undersized and his arm is far from a bazooka, but for my money he’s far and away the most NFL-ready prospect of the bunch.

Bortles is solid but raw, Carr came from the same peon program that sold me Trent Dilfer, and I’ve covered Manziel. 

Aaron Murray of Georgia, on the other hand, could be a nice find in round three.

Texas to play ‘Let’s Make a Deal?’
They should, if possible.  St. Louis got a king’s ransom for RG III, and given the chance at a similar haul, the Texans should most definitely take it. 

Clowney is a gamble to me.  I know physical he’s a beast, and there’s no denying what he did at SC.  But equally as undeniable is the fact that he also took his fair share of plays off. 

In short, this guy could be the next Warren Sapp, or Booger McFarland.  Only time will tell, and considering all the other needs Houston has right now, it makes sense to let someone else take the risk and fall back for Buffalo’s Khalil Mack who fits their system better anyway. 

Soap Opera Watch
If by some miracle Manziel falls to pick sixteen, I’d pay good money to be a fly on the wall in the Dallas war room.  For all the trumpeting Jerry Jones has done on Romo’s behalf, the Cowboys’ owner LOVES making a splash, and taking the singlemost polaring figure in this year’s draft—from Texas A&M, no less—would definitely do that. 

Plus, let’s be honest, Jerry is just hypocritical enough to do it, too.

Alright guys, that’s gonna do it for this one.  To my readers who care nothing of sports, I promise to get back to the literary stuff next month.  But again, I’ve been a Draft nut for years, and I really wanted to sound off before the commissioner hits the podum tonight. 

Everyone take care, have a great weekend, and best of luck to you and your favorite team as we eyeball another year of “America’s Passion.”

Cheers, and Go Bucs!
IJM

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

A spring hodgepodge of stuff



Welcome one and all to Spring 2014!  Hope the holidays were fabulous to you and yours, and that your new year has started out with a bang — or at the very least, with little if any snow.  (What up, fellow east-coasters!)

As I’m sure will come as no surprise to those who know us; 2014 got off to a roaring start in the Malone house.  I’m happy to report that my first ever panel at this year’s illogicon in Raleigh went off rather well, despite a few pre-show jitters on my part.  We had a nice turnout, and I’d like to thank everyone who stopped by, as well as my partner on the panel — Lynn MacNamee of Red Adept Publishing.

Now it’s off to April when I’ll be part of a similar panel on indie publishing at this year’s ALT*Con in my hometown of Tallahassee.  Stay tuned here and on FB/Twitter for date/time specifics as they unfold.

RSD edits continue

The second draft of RED SKY DAWNING (Book Two n THE MAKO SAGA) continues to unfold.  Now that I’m back in the swing of things, I’ve had the chance to really dig into the content, and while there’s obviously loads to do, I’m happy to report that much of the story’s content from draft one remains intact.  As was certainly the case in book one, I find that the action scenes are always the toughest to write — a point usually reflected in my page count at the end of a given writing day.  Give me a setting, a conversation, and a pair of characters, and I’ll bang out 3,000 words in two hours.  But exposition, world-building, and tactical design?  

… Yep, put on a fresh pot of coffee and bunker in, cuz it’s gonna be a while.

I will say this, however, with regard to story differences: RSD is a more serious piece than MAKO in a lot of respects.  Believe me, you’ll pick that up in the prologue, and it’s a theme that carries straight through the entire story.  Don’t get me wrong, RSD still has all of the party humor, snarky dialogue, and pop culture references that most of you dug about book one… that’s the Renegades.  But this is a story set five years after the events of MAKO, and A LOT has changed in the lives of every member of the team.

MAKO hits actual bookshelves!

I’m also happy to report that MAKO may soon be available for purchase at your neighborhood brick and mortar bookstore!  As a lot of folks know (especially other indie authors), many independent shops won’t deal with CreateSpace as it’s owned by Amazon… you know, the 800-lb gorilla that’s presently trying to put them all out of business?

So, for that reason, I’ve expanded my distribution net by opening an account with Ingram Spark, and as such, bookstores can now go online to IS and order MAKO at wholesale by simply using its ISBN (978-0989032704).

FYI to anyone near Tally, I’ll be discussing a lot of this at the ALT*Con panel next month.  Trust me, this may seem like a fairly trivial thing at first glance, but it’s really not.  

R-E-S-P-E-C-T for Bucs fans… FINALLY!

As most of you are probably not Bucs fans, I won’t dwell on this.  But given the absolute nightmare surrounding my favorite NFL team for much of the last decade (most of which was self-inflected on account of piss-poor leadership from the front office), I can’t tell you just how stoked I am to see Lovie Smith in charge and making changes.  Greg Schiano, like Raheem Morris before him, was a joke of a hire — A., because he wasn’t remotely qualified for the head job, and B., because he had no clue how to manage an NFL locker room once he got it.

Smith, by contrast, is the antithesis of this.  He’s a great coach with fantastic credentials and strong ties to the Tampa community.  Moreover, he’s a man of impeccable character who commands the respect of all who know him.  To put it another way: he’s a leader, and a damn good one… something this team has sorely lacked since the Gruden days, and some even question whether we really had it then.

Great hire, Tampa Bay… finally.  Now let’s go play some football!

Okay guys, that’s gonna do it for Blog One of 2014.  Take care, keep in touch, and as always… Happy Reading!!!

RUAH!
 
IJM

Friday, December 20, 2013

Season's Greetings!!!

I love Christmas time, I really do.  I love the weather, the lights, the food, the time with friends and family… all of it.  Now couple everything I just said with the awesomeness that is New Year’s and college bowl season (which I’ll address shortly), and this really is “the most wonderful time of the year.”

Thus, much like last month’s Thanksgiving edition, we’re gonna keep this one fairly short with some minor house cleaning — then we’re out.

Red Sky Dawning (Draft 1) is done

Yep, it’s finally finished… the first round, anyway.  Mako: Book 2 is finally in the can, and while I plan to tinker with it a bit over the holidays, it’s my intention to burn full-steam ahead on it once I return in January.

I won’t spend much time on this, as I’ve already shared quite a bit about RSD’s plot and characters in previous blogs and during my interview with Self Publisher’s Showcase.  But, suffice it to say, I hope to have a solid manuscript ready for beta reading by the spring, then editing in the early summer.

Ruah!!!

Illogicon 2014 is right around the corner!

For those attending Raleigh’s illogicon science fiction convention Jan. 10, I’ll be partnering with Lynn MacNamee of Red Adept Publishing and others to present iAuthor: Indie Publishing 101, an in-depth panel discussion of all things indie books.  

Among the topics to be covered:

-        The pros and cons of indie vs. traditional publishing
-        Indie publishing platforms (KDP, Smashwords, etc.) and which to use
-        Book mediums: E-books vs. print vs. audio
-        Marketing through social media
-        Setting a budget/deadlines
-        The need for editing and cover design
 
Be sure to stick around after the panel and say hi, as I’ll be answering additional questions and giving away swag.  Truth be told, though, I just always enjoy meeting you guys.  J

IJM’s Bowl Game Predictions

Because I couldn’t resist, the following are my predictions for this year’s slate of BCS bowls, plus a handful of other matchups that struck me as potentially fun: (winners in bold)

-        National Title: Florida State vs. Auburn (Totally a homer pick, I know, but I love this matchup for FSU.)
-        Rose: Stanford vs. Michigan State (GO NERDS!)
-        Sugar: Alabama vs. Oklahoma (Saban won’t lose again, sorry OU.)
-        Fiesta: UCF vs. Baylor (Knights had a nice year, but they’re no match for the Bears’ offense.)
-        Orange: Clemson vs. Ohio State (As much as I abhor picking a Meyer-led team, I just don’t trust you in a game that matters, Clemson.)
-        Russell Athletic: Miami vs. Louisville (Without Duke Johnson, “The U” falls in Bridgewater’s finale.)
-        Chick-fil-A: Texas A&M vs. Duke (Johnny Football puts up stupid numbers in this game.  Aggies in a route.)
-        Gator: Georgia vs. Nebraska (Also a homer pick, as my sis went to UGA. GO DAWGS!)
-        Cotton: Missouri vs. Oklahoma State (SEC all the way.)
-        Alamo: Oregon vs. Texas (Mack Brown’s team rises up to send him out with a win.)

Okay, folks.  That officially puts the wraps on this, the inaugural year of the Mako Manifesto.  To everyone who follows this blog, you know I appreciate it, and I sincerely hope you’ve had as much fun reading it as I’ve had writing it.

In closing, and on behalf of the entire Malone household, I want to wish each and every one of you a very, Merry Christmas and a safe and Happy New Year.  As mentioned up front, we celebrate this time of year for a lot of reasons, the most important being the birth of Christ… which according to scholars, probably happened in April, but it’s whatever.

Don’t worry.  I’m not gonna beat you over the head with the “reason for the season” speech.  A., that’s not the purpose of this bog, and B., because the massive overuse of the phrase makes me want to punch my own nards.  Still, if you get a chance, take a moment to ponder why people like us believe in Christmas.  Then ask yourself two questions:

1.      Can I, at the very least, entertain the remote possibility that Jesus was who he said he was, and if not…
2.      Why?

Cheers, gang, and “see you on the other side” for 2014!

IJM

PS- For anyone scrambling to find last-minute, low-prep menu options for the holidays, check out this article in last week’s Raleigh News & Observer on Christmas meals and crock pots.  CRAZY helpful stuff!

Monday, November 25, 2013

Turkey Time!!!



Ah, Thanksgiving… How I’ve missed you and the gluttonous, calorie-rich glory you represent!  Smoked turkey breast, spiral-cut ham, deep-fried venison, sweet potato souffle, pecan pie, pumpkin pie, apple pie, banana puddin’, chocolate cake… vegetables that I’m sure someone not named Ian will eat!  I mean, seriously people!  Throw in all of your favorite friends and family with some good, ole fashioned college football rivalry games, and what else to you need in life?

Alas, it’s with a mix of cheer and fear of indigestion that I must digress…

Okay, so in the interests of time management (and because this cold is totally kicking my butt), I’m gonna keep this one short with a few housekeeping notes: 

Red Sky Dawning is almost done… the first draft, anyway

Draft one of the Mako Saga’s next chapter is nearly in the books, and I think you guys are really gonna like it.  Naturally, there’s still loads of work to be done (as is always the case with opening drafts), but the framework for the story is in place along with most of the key elements that will comprise the next chapter of the saga.

A new editor = Mako 2.0

I’m proud to welcome Raleigh-based Red Adept Publishing (RAP) as my new editor moving forward.  I bring this to your attention because A., I know many of you are fellow indie authors in need of a good editor, and B., because I’ve hired Lynn McNamee and her staff for a fresh proof of Mako to buff out some of the final blemishes from the original manuscript which, at the time, had tapped out my budget.

I’m running through the Track Changes now, but hope to have the new files formatted and up for sale by Christmas.  FYI, this in no way alters the story you’ve already read.  It’s more or less just an extra pass for grammar typos and spelling.

Illogicon 2014 in Raleigh

Speaking of Lynn and RAP, I’ll be partnering with her to conduct a panel on indie publishing at this 
year’s illogicon, held Jan. 10-12 at the Embassy Suites in Raleigh.  At present, I still don’t have any date/time specifics, but once I do, I’ll bounce them out via social media.   

Alright gang, that’s it for this Turkey Day edition of the Manifesto.  All the best to you and yours this weekend, travel safe if you’re on the road, and see ya back next month for BCS picks and an in-depth discussion of why non-alcoholic eggnog is useless!  ;) 

RUAH!!!

IJM

PS- Wanna give a quick shout-out to all the seniors on this 10-0 FSU football team.  Regardless of all of the legal crap that’s swirling around you right now, you guys were the class that kick-started this program’s climb back to national prominence and you’re to be commended for all that you’ve achieved.  Now, how about we roll on down to The Swamp and carve us up some Gator, shall we?  Good luck, boys, and GO NOLES!!!