New Book Radio Interview – Listen In!

Many of you know I recently published a new book on high school and college umpires — not a dry, boring textbook for the men in blue, but a fun and enlightening read for you, the fans. Thanks to childhood friend Matt Pauley, I was featured on a drive-time radio interview with him on Tuesday afternoon on 1300 The Animal, a sports talk station out in Colorado Springs.

Take a listen!

While you’re listening, check out the book on Amazon.

Umpire Book Cover

Here’s the write-up from the back cover to give you an idea what it’s all about:

It’s an annual rite of passage. Every spring, baseball players of all ages launch a new season full of hits, runs, errors, and lots of life lessons playing the game they love. They hustle, they throw, they bust their tails to win. But what about the guys who call the games? Who are the umpires? Where do they come from? And why on Earth would anyone want to become one?

Veteran umpire David Workman takes you through the story of the guys behind the masks, into the little known world of the men in blue — not the Major League guys, but the ones who work your son’s games.

In this unique exposé, you’ll discover:
• Who becomes an umpire and why
• What it takes to get started and move up
• Weird rules that even the best umpires get wrong
• Why certain rules are different between high school, college, and pro
• Baseball myths you thought were true but aren’t
• What umpires and coaches really talk about during arguments
• Why umpires hate ejections
• Funny stories and anecdotes from years behind the plate
…and more!
So pull up a chair because it’s…Reader Up!

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Filed under Baseball, Umpiring, Writing

To Be or Just Be? Strength in Verbs

I was struck this evening. Not by a car or a Mack truck, but by a verb. Actually, a certain type of verb.

Now, I realize I just lost some of you, and that’s okay. But before you go scampering off, please understand that while grammar geekiness isn’t for everyone, it’s essential for me. It’s why I breathe.

But back to what I was saying…

I was struck by my overuse of “helping” verbs, which are really not very helpful at all. For an Instagram post, which featured remnants of our Christmas tree in the form of a blob of needles covering the area of the living room floor, with a perfect circle where the tree stood mere moments earlier, I wrote, “All that’s left of the Christmas tree. Now we will just be pining away for next year.”

I wish I could go back and edit. You see, if I had it to do over (there’s probably a way but I’m too lazy to figure it out, and besides, then how could I use it as an example?) I would rewrite it as “All that’s left of the Christmas tree. Now we will pine away for next year.” See the difference? I took out the helping verb.

This is a nasty habit I have, always throwing in helping verbs that aren’t helpful at all. When I think of something helpful, I imagine something that nudges another along, not in a forceful way, but in an encouraging way. Like wink wink, nudge nudge. A little push with the shoulder to get it moving.

But so many times, helping verbs diminish the strength of perfectly good verbs that can tell the entire action on their own.

Going back to my example, notice how much stronger the action is in the revision. In the original, the first verb you read is “be,” which is weak. It’s the helper, moving you along to “pining.” Is it technically wrong? No. Would it be graded down in a writing class? Maybe.

In the revision, the first verb you come across is “pine,” which, while not exactly awe-inspiring, is still stronger than “be.” So in this case, did the helping verb help? I’d say not only was it unnecessary, it weakened the impact (and the pun) of the stronger verb.

Writing is hard. Editing is harder. Editing your own work is nearly impossible. It can be done, but you need an amazing ability to distance yourself from your copy and look at it through an editor’s eyes, not your own. As you write, save yourself a headache or two and limit your use of helping verbs. You’ll have to take them out later anyway.

Strengthen your prose and create more impact with stronger, more complex verbs that move readers quickly through the scene, gasping for more.

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Filed under Editing, Word Usage, Writing

Explaining Context

Good writing is all about good communication. Fail to communicate and you’ve missed the point of writing. But what writing/communication works the best? It all depends on the context.

Which is why it’s so important to know your audience.

I have three kids: 8, 6, and 1-year-old. How I communicate with each of them is very different because of their ages. My 8-year-old understands more than my 6-year-old, and the 1-year-old can’t hold a conversation yet. How I communicate with them is completely different from the way I communicate with my wife. How I communicate with my wife is different from the way I communicate with my coworkers – not just because of the intimacy level but because we discuss different things at work than at home.

Now this all may seem really obvious, and some of you may be sighing “duh!” at this point.

I’m with you. But wait, there’s more…don’t give up on this post yet.

When you write, you not only write but also edit for your audience. Do you need to explain everything? Or does your audience get it?

Several years ago, I worked for a major technology company that sold optical fiber cabling and network solutions to businesses and utility companies. Dull, no? Not if you’re in the industry. To the engineers and IT gurus we sold to, it was drool-worthy. To the average person, not so much. And that’s the point.

Take your expert knowledge to a dinner party to practice your editing skills. Do most folks at your table understand what you do? When they ask you what you do, what will you say? If you get down and dirty about writing, will they follow? Try diving into the weeds about your editing regimen and see how many eyes glaze over.

If you have any social awareness whatsoever, you will adjust the amount of detail you disclose if you want to make new friends and keep the old ones. How far down do you dig? It’s important to choose the right size shovel.

When people asked me what I did back then, I had to decide: high level of detail or Reader’s Digest version? Usually it was the latter. (See what I did there? I assume because you are educated that you know what Reader’s Digest is. It was a pretty safe assumption, I’m thinking.) But when I wrote marketing pieces, the more detail the merrier. Customers ate it up.

When you compose a scene, how much detail do you include? How about a character description or an action sequence? Does the reader care what color hair the fairy princess has or the model of gun the bank robber is holding? Maybe, maybe not. Do you assume your reader knows a certain amount because of the level of writing and your target audience? How do you decide?

The key to effective writing is to make it fun and interesting, which means you have to make some judgment calls. It’s too easy to edit for ourselves because we know us and know what interests us. Appealing to ourselves is easy. Just the act of writing satisfies us on some level.

But does your writing appeal to your audience in a way they understand and want to pay attention? Or did you lose them in the opening sentence or partway through?

The challenge we all face as writers is to strike the balance between being too vague and too detailed. Do the details bog down the story or enhance it? Does the reader need to know everything to understand the story? Or can they fill in the gaps based on what they already know?

This is why you make the big bucks.

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Reader Up!

Many of my loyal fans have been asking about the sequel to my novel Absolute Authority. “When will it be out? How far along are you? I’m dying here!” is a common theme. I know, I know, I’m way behind schedule.

Real life kinda got in the way. You know, stuff like my day job (also as a writer, yay!), the birth of our third child (also yay!), and baseball season. So it’s been pushed back a bit.

But speaking of baseball season…I do have a new book coming out, and it’s all about the national pastime. Not the players, not any kind of history, but a new approach, one that to my knowledge has never been done before. (How’s that for a setup?)

Have you ever wondered who the umpires are at a high school baseball game? Who are they and where do they come from? There are tons of really good books out there about professional umps, the guys who work the big league games. But what about the little guys, the ones who bust their tails to work Johnny’s after school game on a Monday afternoon in early season March chill? Or the guys who work multiple games on a hot and steamy Saturday afternoon in the middle of July? Who are these guys?

In the non-fiction book Come on, Blue! A Fan’s Guide to Umpiring, I’ll take you through my personal journey of becoming an umpire, retell some of the funny stories that have happened to me and others along the way, and clear up some of the classic baseball myths that so many fans think are true. (Did you know the tie really doesn’t go to the runner?)

The project is now in the hands of the cover designer. As soon as he is done making it all look good, I’ll announce the definite release date, which will be very soon. Yes, football season is fast approaching, but baseball season isn’t over yet. And as they say in Chicago, there’s always next year.


Filed under Baseball, Publishing, Sports, Umpiring, Uncategorized, Writing

Why Putin Has His Way with Europe


Continuing the Russia-Ukraine theme, the points here cannot be overlooked. Russia has always been simply a renaming and rebranding of the old Soviet Union. Looking at world events through that lens makes everything a whole lot clearer.

Originally posted on Bayard & Holmes:

By Jay Holmes

This past February, Russian Dictator Vladimir Putin ordered his intelligence and military services to invade Crimea in the Eastern Ukraine. Western governments loudly condemned Russia’s aggression, but practical responses have been limited to minor economic sanctions and visa restrictions against major Russian supporters of Putin.

In predictable fashion, Putin responded with symbolic bans on U.S. involvement in Russian energy development. Neither Western responses nor Putin’s counter-measures count for much in the short term. However, in the long term, Russia wants the oil and gas fracking technology that U.S. companies dominate. To get that, Putin is betting that the West will forget about Russian aggression in Ukraine as quickly as it forgot about the Russian invasion of Georgia in 2008.

Poster on Rustaveli Avenue, Tblisi, Georgia, 2008 Wikimedia Commons, public domain Poster on Rustaveli Avenue, Tblisi, Georgia, 2008
Wikimedia Commons, public domain

Thus far, there are striking similarities between the Georgian and Ukrainian invasions.

In 2008, Georgia, like the…

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The Difference between Malaysian Airlines 17 and Iranian Air 655

Because this is mostly a blog about writing and authors and all things literary, I normally shy away from controversial topics, such as current events. The purpose here is to encourage writers and tout their wares, not make political statements.

However, because my book (and soon to be books, plural) mostly center around current events in the world of espionage and politics with a particular slant toward American patriotism and our ongoing tension with Russia, I think it’s appropriate to address a topic that is in the news related to all those things.

We all know about the tragic downing last week of Malaysian Airline 17 that killed almost 300 innocent passengers, including at least one American. Many of the victims were women and children. None of them deserved to be shot down by either the Russians or the Ukrainian resistance forces. (The jury is still out on who fired the rocket, although the evidence is leaning toward either the Russians outright or a Russian force disguised as Ukrainians, but it’s too soon to know for sure.)

Some in the apologize-for-their-own-country American media have already begun to compare this event with the accidental downing of Iranian Air flight 655 by the USS Vincennes back on July 3, 1988. While both incidents cost hundreds of innocent lives, it’s important to draw a distinction between the two. They are not the same.

One major difference is the intent. By all accounts (except for those of annoying conspiracy theorists), the US Navy never intended to shoot down a civilian jetliner. Instead, they mistook it for an Iranian F-14 fighter jet, a mistake that was apparently fairly easy to make back in the 1980’s, when radar technology wasn’t as good as it is now. Even the advanced radar system aboard the Aegis class cruiser, though cutting edge for its time and still better than some others today, was inadequate to identify the airplane accurately.

There was also the matter of the airliner’s pilots not responding when the ship tried to hail them on the radio in an attempt to positively identify what the radar had labeled as a potential threat. This is standard military procedure, both during peace and wartime. Know whom you’re shooting before you pull the trigger.

The operators on board the Vincennes also incorrectly identified IA655’s transponder code as Mode II, which is a military frequency, instead of the civilian Mode III, and fired on a plane that was no threat to them, an egregious mistake that cost hundreds of human lives.

The 1988 downing of IA655 was clearly an accident by a US Navy that was not actively engaged in hostilities with Iran or any other power in the region at the time. The ship was simply there as part of a carrier group patrolling peacefully in the Strait of Hormuz.

Did the US Navy screw up? No doubt. And it has admitted so, to the tune of almost $62 million paid out to the families of the victims.

Russian SA-11 Surface-to-Air Missile

In the case of MA17, however, there is no evidence so far that the troops on the ground, whoever they were, attempted to ascertain the identity of their target before firing. Once investigators analyze the voice data recorders (a.k.a. black boxes), they may uncover some sort of pre-shot communication between the airplane and the ground, but as of today nobody has said anything publicly about it.

As of this writing, nobody has alluded to the downing of MA17 as anything but a deliberate and unprovoked shooting down of a civilian airliner. Neither Russia nor Ukraine is claiming responsibility for the incident, as they gauge the severity of the international community’s response to see what they can get away with next. So far it’s been less than impressive.

Iranian Airlines 655 was accidentally shot down by an officially recognized navy that realized its mistake and admitted it.

Malaysian Airlines 17 was deliberately shot down by either the Russians or Ukrainians, neither of whom has the courage to stand up and take the blame.

There is a stark difference between the two.

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Filed under Espionage, Politics, Russia, Spies

What Spooks Really Do

I write spy thrillers. At least one so far. I’m working on the sequel. When people ask me to describe my main character, Gordon McAllister, I’m sort of at a loss for words. He’s an assassin, but he’s also an executive recruiter, a perfect cover that allows him to travel without drawing attention to his real mission. He’s not James Bond, not Jack Bauer, not Jason Bourne (what is it with J first names in the assassin biz?), or an amalgamation of any of them. He’s an ordinary man by design. Sure, he’s a trained killer, someone you don’t meet every day.

Or do you?

See, the best covert operatives never look the part. They don’t have the carefully arranged hair, the chiseled jaw, the perfect physique. The best covert operatives don’t look any different from the rest of us. That’s by design. It’s kind of hard to be covert if you stand out in a crowd.

Fellow author Piper Bayard writes with a partner who is one of those real life covert operatives, or “spooks” as they are called in the industry.

So what do spooks do in real life? How is the real world of covert ops different from Hollywood’s usually inaccurate portrayal? Let’s go straight to the source:



Filed under Characters, Storyline, Writing