Afghanistan: A Year After the Fall

The summer of 2021 was a particularly bad one. Aside from the ravages of Covid-19 and various government responses to the pandemic, we witnessed the collapse of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, the government which America had spent trillions of dollars and thousands of lives to build and maintain.

We all remember what happened. Then-President Donald Trump signed an agreement with the Taliban that America would withdraw all its forces in February of 2021. President Biden extended this date by 6 months to ensure the withdrawal could happen properly. Then, in late July, provincial capitals began to fall like dominoes. Kabul, the capital city, surrendered to the Taliban on August 15, with President Ashraf Ghani fleeing the country.

American forces constructed a perimeter around the airport there as a last line of defense. Taliban soldiers marched the streets as panicked Afghans swarmed the airport, hoping to get on a flight out of the country. Chaos reigned; people clung to the outside of an airplane as it was taking off. Nearly two hundred Afghans and thirteen United States Marines were killed by a suicide bomber. Babies were handed over strands of concertina wire, parents willingly passing their babies to strangers just to get them out of the violence.

Then, on August 30, one year ago today, we left. The last US flight departed Afghanistan, with Major General Chris Donahue being the last American soldier to remain on the ground.

The last American soldier leaving Afghan soil.

Since then, our greatest fears for the people of Afghanistan have been realized. Women and girls are oppressed, forced to wear burkhas and forbidden from school. Men are forbidden from shaving. The ruling Taliban violently put down any dissension or demonstrations. People are starving, children are sold into marriage or slavery, and the country is still not at peace. Anti-Taliban factions, as well as other radical Islamic jihadist groups, are at war with the Taliban.

My heart breaks for the people of Afghanistan. The country has been a hotbed of conflict and violence since the Soviet invasion of 1979. For over 40 years, Afghans have known nothing but warfare and occupation. Their economy is one of the weakest in the world, people making a living on $10 a week. There is almost no modern infrastructure. The literacy rate is barely above 40%.

When I first joined the Marines twelve years ago, I did so because I wanted vengeance for 9/11. I wanted to make the people who killed my countrymen, and anyone who helped them, pay for what they did. By the time I deployed to Afghanistan in 2011 and saw the reality of the situation there, once I’d seen an old man blown to pieces by an IED while his family watched, once I’d seen a young boy killed in an explosion in front of his own home, what I really wanted to do was keep the Afghan people safe from the Taliban. I wanted them to have the same life, opportunities, and safety that I had in America.

Despite my best efforts, Afghanistan is no closer to those things than it was 30 years ago. All we can do now is hope and pray for the people there to one day find peace. If we’re lucky, maybe we’ll actually get to see it in our lifetimes.

Mandate of Heaven: Now Available for Pre-Order!

At long last, the first entry in my new Ethan Chase series of thrillers is available for pre-order through Evolved Publishing!

You can find Mandate of Heaven just about anywhere you get your ebooks: Amazon Kindle, B&N Nook, Kobo, iBooks, and more! Just click on those links to go to their respective websites where you can place your order now!

I’ve run out of words to describe how excited I am for you all to finally get a glimpse at Mandate of Heaven. The Evolved Publishing team did a great job on it, and I think you all will really enjoy this new series and fall in love with these characters.

My self-published series His Name Was Zach was a darker, bit more niche story; Ethan Chase should appeal to a much wider audience of readers, so whether you enjoyed my previous works or not, this new story might be right up your alley! Read on for the description:

Ethan Chase’s past has finally caught up with him, and the entire world’s future now stands on a knife’s edge.

Ex-Army Ranger Ethan Chase breaks his oath of allegiance to the military when he deserts from the Army while deployed to Afghanistan. Years later, he’s captured and sent to military prison, but the director of a shadowy government agency takes him into his direct custody. They offer Ethan his freedom and a blank slate, but only if he can track down and retrieve the lost Heirloom Seal of the Realm, an ancient Chinese artifact believed to grant godly powers to any ruler who possesses it.

With little choice, Ethan takes on this quest, joined by three cohorts: his best friend, the federal agent who arrested him, and a beautiful treasure hunter. Yet they’re not the only ones seeking the Heirloom Seal, and some will cross any line, betray any loyalty, for a chance at supreme power.

Uncharted – Movie Review

I’ve been a fan of the Uncharted video games since the day they were released 15 years ago. The graphics have always been cutting edge, the gameplay exciting, and the story and characters unforgettable. Truly a masterpiece and one of the greatest series in video game history.

Almost inevitably, a movie based on the games was announced, but that was many years ago. Constant delays pushed it back, killing excitement and changing casting roles. Plus movies that are based on video games rarely go over well. So when the movie finally came out earlier this year, I was hesitant to see it. I decided to wait until I could stream it.

Now it’s available on Netflix, so I watched it. A few spoilers follow, so my quick, non-spoiler review is that it’s an exciting movie with some poor casting choices that dragged it down. I’d say that people who have never played the games or did not play them much will be the biggest fans of the movie.

Now for those spoilers!

First I’ll say that I really appreciated the airplane scene. This was ripped directly from Uncharted 3 and it was done well, and since it was the first scene of the movie I thought it served as an ice breaker for fans of the game. Like it was meant to tell us “You remember doing this, right? Of course you do! Wasn’t that so much fun? Get ready for even more!”

I thought the overall hunt and the treasure being sought was also well done, and very much in line with what we’ve come to expect from Uncharted.

And the casting of Tom Holland as Nate Drake was excellent. He played the role well, staying faithful to the digital Nate Drake while also lending it his personal flavor. And Antonio Banderas playing the villainous Santiago Moncada and Sophia Ali as Chloe Frazier were both solid choices. I really enjoyed these characters!

Unfortunately, what really dragged the movie down for me was the casting of Mark Wahlberg as Victor Sullivan. For one thing, while the other main characters looked pretty true to their video game counterparts, Mark Wahlberg is not even close!

A young Victor Sullivan from Uncharted 3
Mark Wahlberg as Victor Sullivan

The first, and biggest, problem with this portrayal? Where’s the mustache? Seriously, Sully’s mustache and cigar are foundational elements of his character! Beyond that, Wahlberg looks way too young to be playing Sully. In Uncharted 3, the only time we get a look at a younger Sully, he’s already at least 40 years old when Nate is a teenager. Fast forward several years to when Nate is an adult and Sully should not be looking like he could be Nate’s brother, which is how he looks in the movie. Kudos to Mark Wahlberg for looking younger than he is, but that’s a detriment in this role.

Second, I mentioned that Holland and Ali did a great job staying true to the video game characters. Unfortunately, Wahlberg didn’t even come close to mimicking Sully. He’s a great actor, don’t get me wrong, but Mark Wahlberg can play one character and one character only: sexy Marky Mark. That’s who he is, and that’s roughly how all his characters in movies are portrayed, no matter the genre. He plays as himself.

That’s not Sully. Sully has gravitas, suave, a certain je ne sais quoi about him in the video games. None of that is present in the movie. He’s just a buff, wise-cracking doofus riding Nate’s coattails.

Personally, I would have cast Christian Bale as Sully. He’s known as something of a ‘method actor’ and I think he would have absolutely nailed this role, plus he would have grown a damn mustache!

The other thing that pulled me out of the story (extra big spoiler alert here) is when they killed Moncada about halfway through the movie. Banderas was playing a masterful villain, and I was really looking forward to the ultimate showdown between Moncada and Drake. Frankly, he was the only interesting villain in the movie. But he was killed off and replaced by an antagonist that is far less interesting and that just made it feel like the movie slammed on the brakes.

These two things taken together made me stop watching the movie. As a big Uncharted fan, it didn’t feel like an Uncharted movie. It had Nate, sure. But who was this guy they kept calling Sully? That’s not Victor Sullivan. And the coolest bad guy in the film dying halfway through? Nope. No thank you. I appreciate the effort and it was really well done for the most part, but I couldn’t finish it.

Have you seen the movie? What did you think? Let me know in the comments!

Mandate of Heaven: Coming Soon!

I’ve been hard at work this past week working on Mandate of Heaven, the first book in my upcoming treasure hunter series to be published with Evolved Publishing! My editor sent the manuscript back to me Thursday evening, and I’m already a little over halfway done reviewing his work. He’s made some excellent suggestions on some small revisions, and I’m pretty excited with how the story is shaping up in these final stages.

So, for those keeping score, that’s: 1) cover art received, check, and 2) edits underway, check! Yes, publication of Mandate of Heaven is fast approaching, and I can’t wait to give you all a hard date on when it will be available (it will be sometime this Fall). As subscribers to my new blog you’ll be the very first to know when and where you can get it!

What’s Cooking? Nothing at All.

They say that trouble comes in 3’s, and I sure hope that’s true because that’s how many major appliances I’ve had to replace in my kitchen in the last 15 months and I really don’t want anything else to break. First it was the fridge, which, to be fair, wasn’t exactly a need, but we’d been planning on getting a new fridge for a while. But then the dishwasher broke just a few months ago, so we had to get a new one.

And just this weekend, the oven stopped working too, so we’ve now ordered a new oven as well. And on my daughter’s birthday when we still had a cake to bake, the timing couldn’t have been worse! I probably could have fixed it with a new igniter, but the replacement part would have cost $100 and Lowe’s was running a big sale that ends on the 3rd, plus we were planning on updating the oven with next year’s tax return anyway, so I figured might as well do it now.

But seriously, this better be the last big appliance I buy for a very long time!

Replacing or fixing broken things is one of the worst parts of home ownership. Back when I was single and living in my 1-bedroom apartment, it was a simple matter of calling the landlord, who would send a repair guy out usually that same day and it didn’t cost me a dime. That was the nice part of renting, even if almost everything else about renting stinks.

But for some good news (not really sure if it’s good news. Maybe… gratifying news?), as I wrote this blog post I noticed that someone overnight had read the entirety of Her Name Was Abby overnight on Kindle Unlimited! So thank you, whoever you are, for apparently really enjoying my story, and I hope you read Books 1 and 3 next!

If you’re reading this and you haven’t taken a look at Her Name Was Abby yet, you can check it out here. Read some reviews, see if it’s the right book for you on this fine August day!