What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. When the Secretary of State of the United States of America resorts to calling out a 30 year old techno-geek to “man up,” I have fear for the future of American “diplomacy.” Setting aside my personal position on what Snowden did or didn’t do, it strikes me as something that’s simply beneath the dignity of the Secretary’s office. Maybe I just have a hard time thinking of Henry Kissinger or Madeleine Albright going on national television just to talk smack. Call me old fashioned, but I want my Secretary of State to be the clear, articulate, authoritative voice of America’s foreign policy. “Man up.” If that’s the best we can manage, the republic really might be lost.

2. Triage. It’s been a week of doing my best to prioritize a metric shitload of competing “very important” things to do. Now keep in mind, I have no actual idea if any of the decisions I’m making on the fly are right or not, but I’m making them. I’m just going to go with the policy of any decision is better than no decision and keep moving out until someone starts screaming at me. That should probably start any time now.

3. Gun Control. I’ve articulated this before, but it seems to bear repeating: A gun is just one another tool among the many others that man has devised. It doesn’t have a conscience. It doesn’t have intent, It’s a simple inanimate object. In the hands of someone who is trained and competent in it’s use, a firearm is the last, best line of defense for an individual. In the hands of a lunatic or criminal it magnifies their harmful intent. How an individual uses the tools at their disposal makes all the differences in the world. My real problem with most “control” advocates is they simply want to paint lawful owners and lunatics with the same broad “guns are bad” brush. Intelligent people on both sides can certainly have a difference of opinion, but until that dialog gets a hell of a lot more objective I will never give up my Constitutionally derived rights and I will never be silent on the subject.

Aspirational additions…

While I was waiting for Retribution to work its way through the byzantine self-publishing apparatus of the big retailers, I took some time this weekend to make a few changes to jeffreytharp.com.

You may not notice anything at first – I haven’t changed the format or layout and just about everything is right where it was the last time you visited. Still, there are a few small changes, both visible and invisible that should make the site a little friendlier to use (and hopefully more efficient to maintain over the long haul).

The one change that’s most noticeable is that I’ve added two tabs to the header – one for Fiction and the other for Non-fiction. I like to think this little change is aspirational since those new options are replacing the single “buy the book” tab that use to live there. Adding these two simple collections of bits and bytes to the interwebs is my personal nod towards throwing my cap over the wall and making this whole writing things a permanent state of affairs for me. I’m a smart enough guy to be wracked with self-doubt most of the time, but this is one of those rare moments when something feels fairly right.


I keep seeing these Terminator-esque news stories pop up fueled by fear of computers gaining sentience and destroying humanity. Apparently it’s an actual concern and not just something you see on TV. I can’t quite bring myself to lose sleep over it, though. As long as Facebook keeps prompting me to “like” 5k runs and exercise clothes, I’d say we’re all pretty safe from Skynet. I realize an inordinate number of my friends have this strange obsession with running for “fun”, but I’m not going to be in the same town as that bandwagon at any time in the foreseeable future. I have a feeling it’s safe to assume that if our would-be evil computer overlords can’t get the advertising right, AI clearly isn’t quite ready for prime time. Sleep well Sarah Connor.


Retribution - CoverGod watched His creation evolve since long before the written word. He watched even as the first vertebrate flopped out of the sea. He watched long before that. He had great expectations for this new world. This was the one He hoped would finally get it right.

Even though Man was created in His image, they possessed a particularly irksome ability to veer wildly off script. It didn’t help that God’s one-time right hand spent every waking moment for eons finding new and exciting ways to tempt them away from their pre-ordained course.

Once upon a time, a bit of flooding, razing a few misbehaving cities, a smiting here and there, and the occasional miracle had been enough to keep the masses on the straight and narrow. In an age of endless entertainment and short attention spans, even an omniscient and almighty God was apt to have trouble getting His point across.

Retribution: Chasing Hearts and Minds is the story of what happens when the Old Testament God clashes head-to-head with the modern world.

My virgin effort at fiction in a short story format is available now from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords.

Letting go…

So, because it’s the thing that’s preoccupied the bulk of this long weekend, it seems that I can’t quite get my mind off the impending availability of Retribution. We’re in that interminable stretch where the retail giants are doing their thing. I have absolutely no control over how that process works itself out… and since a writer, at least an independent, has absolute control over every other step of the process, I’m finding this moment of “letting go” an absolute agony.

I’m not lunatic enough to think this little offering of mine is going to sell a million copies or really change the world in any appreciable way. It’s one small story out of hundreds (thousands?) that gets self published online every day of the year. The only difference is that this one is mine. That doesn’t make a lick of difference to the world, of course, but it makes all the difference in the world to me. That’s not surprising since this story has been living completely in my head for the last six months. I never really thought of myself as the “creative type,” at least until I sat down at the keyboard and realized creativity isn’t just paint on canvas or chisels and stone. I’ve heard that kind of self-discovery is a good thing.

For the first time so far in 2014 I’m sitting here without an active project in front of me demanding time and attention. Being “done” is a good feeling. It’s a happy place. It’s fulfilling in a way that’s rather hard to articulate. It’s also full of a gut wrenching fear that about whether what you’ve done is good enough; whether it’s going to pass muster with the dozen or so family and friends who you might be able to convince to give it a read.

So there’s your Sunday morning sample of what it’s like being inside my head. When you add that to the daily requirements of dealing with an unrelenting tide of stupid people, I’d say it leaves little doubt about why I end every day completely exhausted.

Three parts…

Since my iPhone wasn’t smart enough to know that I took the day off today, it went off right on schedule as the sky was just staring to turn grey. It wasn’t exactly the kick off I planned for the long weekend. At least I got to use the morning productively – which is something that almost never happens on a normal Friday. As per schedule, I loaded Retribution onto my Kindle and sat at the kitchen table reading it one last time word for word. I was tracking along on my laptop and making the final few edits as the story went along. It took three hours of wordsmithing, tinkering with format, fiddling with the dogs, refilling my coffee, and watching the morning fade away to do it, but what I ended up with today was a finished product. The very last thing to do is upload it to the retailers and cut it loose. That’s a big part of tomorrow’s plan of attack.

I’m a man of three parts this evening. The first wants to go out and get falling down drunk in celebration of a milestone. The second wants to crawl into bed and sleep for four days in an effort to make up for sacrificed sack time. The third, the one who’s the real glutton for punishment, he’s already casting around wondering what the next project is going to be. I’m trying to ignore that part right now… even if I do have a few ideas rattling around between my ears.

Since going out to celebrate means dealing with people, that’s not likely to happen. The sun is still too high in the sky for me to seriously contemplate bed. Finally, there’s as good a chance of my spontaneously combusting as there is of me writing anything more complicated than this post tonight, so it looks like I’m left with the 4th option – mixing myself a good strong drink and sticking my nose in someone else’s book for a few hours.

Now that I think on it, that option doesn’t really sound bad at all.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. The 9/11 Memorial Gift Shop. I hear people are up in arms about there being a gift shop at the freshly minted 9/11 Memorial in New York. Fine. I don’t get it, but I certainly don’t claim to hold a monopoly on righteous indignation. I hear the argument that that the site of the World Trade Center is hallowed ground; that Americans are interred there. Arlington National Cemetery is hallowed ground too. It’s sanctified by the blood of generations of America’s patriots, but they still operate a bookstore there catering to the millions of visitors who show up there every year (there’s one at the Pearl Harbor visitor’s center too). On Ebay you can buy artifacts raised from Titanic’s resting place in the North Atlantic. I hear that 9/11 is different, but that’s only because it’s still fairly recent in our living memories. In any other context, it’s just another memorial – like Arlington or Pearl Harbor or any of a thousand other places. I can’t wrap my head around selling trinkets at one being any worse than doing it at any of the others.

2. Finger licking. There’s something altogether repulsive about someone who licks their fingers to separate the papers that just came rolling off the printer and then hands your set of prints over as if they’re doing you a favor and all that paper isn’t now covered in their cast off saliva. It makes me throw up a little in my mouth… and there just isn’t enough hand sanitizer on the planet to make this an OK thing to do.

3. Anything that delays your departure from the office on the day before your 4-day weekend starts. I think this one is fairly self explanatory.


So, we’ve got the cover, we’ve got the narrative, and we’ve got the sales blurb. That means it’s time to race over to Amazon and get this thing published, right? Well, the answer there is more of a “sort of” than a yes or no. I’m not ready to pull the trigger today, but as always I have a roadmap laid out in my head of what I think the way ahead looks like for Retribution.

Sometime between tonight and Friday I’m going to load it onto my Kindle and read the thing from cover to cover one last time. I’ve discovered through a lot of trial and error that just because you think you followed all the formatting rules for e-readers, there’s a pretty good chance that you screwed something up. Unfortunately that mostly shows once you have things loaded onto the actual device itself. Yet another of the minor pitfalls and annoyances of self publishing that in the end will be worth the trouble. Fixing those will be the main event for this weekend.

Sunday, if all goes according to plan, is going to be the great day of reckoning. That’s when I’ll sit down in the morning and start uploading the final product to the retailers. I’m going to work primarily through Amazon and Barnes & Noble, but also fall in on Smashwords to get access to their own storefront as well as take advantage of their “special relationship” with Apple’s iBooks. By the time everyone’s long weekend is ending, Retribution: Chasing Heart’s and Minds should be going live. That’s the roadmap, anyway. How close that comes to reality remains to be seen.

Suiting up…

Due to circumstances beyond my control, I wore a suit to work today for what was possibly the first time in nearly four years. Given my regular “uniform” of solid colored polo shirts, khaki pants, and Doc Martens, apparently the appearance of a suit was a sufficiently big deal as to require the taking of photographs as documentary evidence. Had I known it was going to be a thing, I would have found something in a nice plaid or maybe a classic of the leisure variety. Alas, I’ve missed that opportunity.

As a dweller in cubicles, the idea that I should wear something that seems designed to be as uncomfortable as possible while spending eight hours in my little 6×6 slice of the world just strikes me as patently ridiculous. I’m not sure where anyone would have ever gotten the idea that wearing a tie will result in generating more fantastic PowerPoint slides. If I do say so myself, my slides are already pretty freaking fantastic. I’ve got this funny way of being more concerned with the end results than I am with how someone looks while getting there. Usually that leaves me a bit out of step with generally accepted practice. Trust me, I’ve gotten use to being out of step. It’s a role that feels like it suits me – no pun intended.

I don’t want anyone to think this represents the beginning of a great change in my personal dress code. I’d show up every day wearing ratty jeans and beat up boots if I didn’t think it would cause the worst crisis to face the government since the beginning of the Great Recession. As long as we can keep the suit wearing to once every thousand days or so, I think it’s a compromise we can all live with.


Stress is a funny thing. Actually, that’s not right at all. Stress is a pain in the ass thing, but what it does to people can certainly be funny. Based on my observations, there are two basic types of people: 1) Those who “externalize” stress and fly off the handle with little or no notice when put under pressure and 2) Those who internalize stress and let it seep into their pores and really fester. I tend largely to fall into the latter category. I’ve learned through hard experience that almost nothing good happens when you fly off the handle. I do my best to respond accordingly. Some people, though, they just let it blow. To each his own, I guess.

Cracking jokes on your way out the door when you’re seething inside is something of an art form. Conveniently, it’s also less detrimental to your career than putting your fist through the nearest available sheet of drywall, so there’s that too. Sure, it helps you better align yourself for he inevitable middle-age heart attack, but it beats all hell out of letting anyone know they’ve gotten under your skin. The cardinal sin in the animal kingdom is showing weakness. Experience tells me that we’re all just about a step up from our primate cousins under the best of circumstances – just a better dressed version of the animal kingdom. Therefore, I try to keep weakness showing to a bare minimum.

I walked away today without twitching, sneering, or picking a fight. I should get a goddamned medal for that, though I won’t dare hold my breath. Just one time it would feel incredible to let myself go off like a rocket. It would be bad on every other level imaginable, but God it would be so cathartic.