Decisions

•February 6, 2016 • Leave a Comment

“Still asleep?”

I awoke with my heart in my throat, sweat covering my body. As I had gone to bed alone, I wasn’t expecting anyone else to be there. Yet there he was, seated in a chair not three feet from my bed, looking down on me with equal parts amusement and pity. I couldn’t honestly tell which emotion made me angrier at the moment, but I knew I was no longer by myself in my room.

He was a plain man, for one to break into someone’s home. Blonde hair snuck out from underneath his Panama hat, which was pulled low over crystal blue eyes. A sharp nose was between the eyes, and rested above full lips. Either his skin was too pale, or his lips were too red; regardless, he seemed very ordinary to me, sitting in my room, wearing what looked like a cream-colored silk suit, complete with cravat and rose boutonniere to round out the ensemble. Not fat, not thin. Just someone who came in off the street and wanted to converse with a tired man about his sleeping habits.

My first words were of little use. “Who are you? Why are you here?” I pulled the covers over me like an offended old maid.

“Who I am is of no importance,” he answered, and my first thought was, every word was a lie. “Why I am here is important.”

“I must be dreaming this,” I said, my suspicions confirmed by the nodding of the stranger’s head. “Then why are you here, dream? To torment me? To bring me more pain?”

This time, his head shook in the negative. “Oh, hardly, my friend. I am here to offer you a choice.”

“A choice?” I echoed.

Crossing one leg over another, the visitor smiled. “Exactly that.” He leaned forward. “Do you know who are you?”

I tried to answer, but he cut me off with a gesture.

“You are a creature of creativity. You make things from nothing. Your very livelihood violates the natural laws of the universe!” He clapped his hands in glee. “You rage against ignorance, against stupidity, against banality with your existence. It is you and those like you that make the world such an interesting place.”

“So what of it?” I was almost offended by his words. Yes, I was a writer, but there were greater out there than I, wordsmiths of a level I never dreamed, to say nothing of the artists, the painters, the musicians. Their skill made mine pale in comparison. “What do you care if I do?”

“I care greatly, because I know what it costs.” The hat went up, showing both his eyes, so light a blue they were almost translucent. “You barely sleep. You doubt. You second-guess your words. You hate yourself because the words never come out the right way, or sometimes never at all.” Thin fingers rubbed his lips. “The pain of never being good enough in your own eyes, always gnawing at you, tearing your up inside, bringing pain the likes no one would understand.

“Yet you bear it every day, just to keep creating.”

He was right again. My craft hurt me to use, if I was going to be honest with myself. I loved it because I was making something unique in this universe, but I hated it because it was never enough. I hated myself because it never came out exactly as I wanted. I felt like a fraud, like a charlatan. Most of all, I hated what I believed myself to be: an imposter.

“What if I gave you a choice?” My visitor said.

“What kind of choice?”

“You could be a wonderful successful writer,” he began.

“If I give my soul to you?” I interrupted, disgust snarling my words.

A disapproving look flashed across his face, a thundercloud on a bay. “Hardly. As I was saying, you could be a wonderful author. Your works will outlive you be centuries. You have talent, just as much as those to whom you compare yourself.

“It will cost you, though. Pain, anguish, heartbreak, ridicule,” he continued. “Your talent will flay your soul open. It will ruin you, reshape you, render you constantly dying inside. If you show a moment’s weakness, it will kill you. That talent, that skill, it will end your life with no more thought than you’d end the life of an insect.”

A slight smile, then, “The alternative is to quit this creative life.” The smile broadened. “Yes, you can do it. Give up writing. Forget it existed. Treat it like a dream from long ago. There will be no more pain, no more hurt. You’ll meet a girl, you’ll fall in love. You’ll marry, have children, perhaps, if you don’t take too long.” He shrugged. “I am no miracle worker; that part is up to you. You can then live out the rest of your life without the hurt and sorrow and doubt that cripples you every day.

“No more pain.”

Those words were like a siren song. No more pain? No more anguish? No more feeling as if the world laughed at me and tolerated my ridiculous presence? He said he was no miracle worker, but that would be a miracle the likes I had never seen. Then the cost hit me.

“But no more writing?” I sounded the words slowly.

“None. You might help your children with a book report, but you’ll no longer have the need to write. You’ll no longer have the pain that makes your fingers push keys, or move the pen, or even speak a tale.”

“And if I keep writing?”

The visitor sighed. “Then you will know hurt and anguish. Your heart will shatter, again and again, most of it your own doing. Perhaps you’ll find someone who will tolerate your occasional descents into depression, but really, what are the odds of that? Your talent will get noticed, though, and you’ll be somewhat respected and famous. Success will be yours, but really, is it worth the price?”

I laid back on my bed, the sweat cooled on my forehead. I often wished for an end to the constant hurt in my head and heart, often calling it my demon. It had always been there for me, even when I pushed everyone away, and I used it. Oh, how I used it.

But now I could be rid of it. Have a normal life. Be a normal person. Do normal things. Act normal. I asked my demon what it thought, but got no response. To be free of all that pain was a dream come true.

Could I give up my words, though? Was losing my knack for putting words on paper worth being normal? Was it worth it, to lose all that I was, to become something I was not?

On that, my demon was silent as well.

My heart, however, was not.

“No.”

My answer surprised my visitor. “No?”

“To give up my voice would be to give up my life,” I said, sitting up and facing him. “My pain is what made me. I cannot lose it, nor have it taken away. It would be like death.”

He leaned forward, taking his hat from his head. The flowing blonde hair went to his shoulders. “If you keep going this route, you will die.”

It was my turn to smile. “I would rather die as I am, than live as I am not.”

Tears welled in his eyes. “Then you are decided.”

“I am. Leave me my pain, and leave this place.”

“I once had to make this choice.” My visitor stood, looking down on me.

I shrugged as I laid back down. “Then with my decision, I will see you when this life is over.”

As he left my room and I drifted back to sleep, I heard him whisper, “I did not choose as wisely.”

Goals

•January 27, 2016 • Leave a Comment

The funny thing about goals is when you reach them, you aren’t just supposed to sit back, have a Dr Pepper, and relax. You’re supposed to just add new ones. Not just new goals, though; you have to make them more difficult to achieve because, apparently, you won’t learn anything if they’re easy.

This never really made sense to me. Life is, in a nutshell, difficult enough. What’s wrong with resting for a moment before getting back into the grind? How is basking in the glow of a job well done a bad thing?

The answer, of course, is nothing. If you achieve something, awesome. Tell the world. Have that Dr Pepper. Post on Facetwitgram! Most of all, though, let yourself know that yes, it’s okay to complete a goal, and you are amazing for making it as far as you did.

After that, though, lies the problem. Too many people make one goal, complete that goal, and just coast on that the rest of their lives. Al Bundy was one of those people. Granted, he’s a fictional character, but he represented those folks who did one amazing thing and just stopped trying to do anything else. This leads to stagnation, boredom, and really a growing emptiness in life.

The key is, like all things, moderation. Of course, humans don’t know what that is, but it is the only thing that will allow you to not only achieve your goals, but set new ones you can one day complete. It’s like the Queen song “Keep Yourself Alive”: Maybe I can grow a little bigger, maybe that could be my goal. Truer words were never spoken.

All too often, there are people who push themselves too far, too fast, and they fail, and stumble, and fall, all in pursuit of some lofty goal they knew they had no chance of completing. When they fail, they get disheartened and chastised, either by themselves or by others. “I could” becomes “I can’t”, and eventually “I never will.”

The easiest way to achieve goals is to start off with equal amounts optimism and realism. Make a huge goal, but break it down into smaller parts. Use the optimism to reach a little farther, and the realism to know your limits. After that, make sure you don’t get frustrated. Some of the best lessons in life come from losing. I’ve lost before. I will again. What is important is I learn from those losses and apply the lessons towards my goals. Always make sure you keep learning, and never let a moment’s teachings be wasted.

The bottom line is don’t ever get frustrated when you don’t achieve all your goals, but don’t just sit back and think the last second field goal will carry you throughout life. Grow a little bigger. Reach just a little farther.

Most of all: Never be afraid to keep dreaming.

Patience of a saint

•August 24, 2015 • Leave a Comment

Well, had a bit of fun for my birthday, thanks to my wonderful family. Fun and food was had, and it was awesome. So, since I’m always a paragon of technology and cool gadgets, I got a new laptop. It’s pretty flippin sweet, to quote the Napoleon. Thing is, it was 8 gigs of RAM, which is what I asked for, as I could get a 16 gig kit for less than half what having it pre-installed would cost. 

Don’t ask me; I don’t understand it either. 

Now, I’m a bit of a technophile. I can perform maintenance and install hardware with no problem. It’s my dayjob and helps pay the bills until my scribblings about Tom Statford start making a few bucks more. 

I got the kit from Amazon, and it looked fine. I look to install the memory and… Crap, it’s a different way to do things. Lovely. I then do what anyone in my position would do: Google. 

Word to the wise, kids: when you ask an IT person what’s wrong with your computer over the phone, and you hear that hesitation… We’re googling. 

Anyway, I check out how to install the lot and think “You know what, self? This would be a great time to use the Best Buy Geek Squad Tech Support your family for you!” As such, I did exactly that. I’m not too shy or too proud to say when something is over my head, especially when it’s a thousand-dollar computer that was gifted to me as a birthday present. 

If you want to see what goes into it, check HP’s support site for the Envy x360. It’s a bit involved. 

Sunday found me at Best Buy, dropping my laptop and kit off, and blissfully unaware of the fun I would have about 28 hours later. 

Monday at 5pm, I get the call that they’re finished and I can pick it up. Cool. I head there, which is a 30-plus minute drive in rush-hour traffic, nearly getting rear-ended and almost rear-ending someone who was changing lanes whilst chatting on their phone. I pick up the laptop, check that the system read the RAM, was happy, and headed home. Huzzah. 

Once I got home, I went to connect to the network. Nothing. As in, no wireless signal. As other wireless devices are working, I check the wireless card on the brand new laptop. 

Correction: I notice that there IS no wireless card on the brand new laptop. 

I call up the Geek Squad, tell em what happened, they go “bring it in” and they’ll “make it a priority.”

I was already half out the front door when they said that, in case you were wondering. 

Once I get there, I wait in line. For fifteen minutes. However, I keep my cool. I also tell them I’m not going anywhere until it’s fixed. When I got there, it was about 6:30. 

About an hour later, I get the news: someone broke the wireless card on the laptop while installing the memory, and I need to go pick out another one. That’s about twenty minutes to find someone to do it. 

All this time, I’m cool as a cucumber. Not screaming or yelling. Just letting my displeasure be known by telling the manager what happened. Just waiting for them to fix things and complete the install. 

At the end of it, I didn’t get home til almost 10pm. I have to re-install all my software. I didn’t have much on there, but it’s still a pain in the ass to go through it again. 

Anyway, Dalena and Perry at the Newport News Best Buy, you two were awesome. I want to give credit where credit is due, so thanks, you two. The guy who broke it in the first place? Off the Chridtmas card list. 

tl;dr: laptop broke after install, cool people fixed it. Woot. 

A little something I threw together

•June 22, 2015 • Leave a Comment

Drip.

Drip.

Drip down the arm. Down the fingertips. Dropping to the ground, the thirsty earth that had swallowed so much already. The red pool grew wider, the paths of blood from the wound all leading to it. The sawdust beneath him helped to soak up the fluids, but some still made it through to the dark earth.

Drip.

Drip.

The wound was deep, deep enough that he felt the exit wound through his back. What had been used was irrelevant. That it had been razor-sharp was also irrelevant; the instrument had been twisted round counter-clockwise at least half a dozen times. Maybe more, but certainly not less. He could see the raw meat that had once been his chest, shredded by whatever that creature had used. He could feel the last of his lifeblood flowing sluggishly down, pulled by gravity, to the thirsty ground.

Drip.

Drip.

Had he screamed with that first stab? No, before it. Screamed so hard he had felt his larynx burst. Screamed so hard he had pulled the chain that had held his right arm to the wall out by the bolt. He had screamed until blood had come from his throat, his voice no longer able to be found. The scream had been not for the instrument of torture, but for the sight of the torturer itself. The visage of the monster had burned itself onto his mind, and he would never forget it, much as he wished he could.

Drip.

Drip.

Why had he not yet died? He could no longer see clearly, and considered it a blessing. He was dying, and had made peace with his god. He had said his goodbyes to his family, his friends, himself. That he had made it this long after that implement had pierced the right side of his chest had amazed him. Soon, though, he would be beyond his torturer’s grasp, beyond the pain it inflicted.

Drip.

Silence, and he felt himself go. The wound no longer ached, and he could no longer feel that terrible draining of his blood onto the ground. This was a sweet release, one he had known awaited him since coming to this place. Fate had dealt this hand, and he had no reason to complain. He would go to the reward a lifetime of service had earned him; such was the promise of his god.

The burning pain ripping through his stomach and gripping his spine made him cry out again silently. His body, which had been floating upward and outward, gave such a spasm that he bent nearly in half. The peace he had accepted into his soul was shattered, scattered to the six winds, and fire flowed through him.

His torturer was not through with him.

“Martin,” it hissed, pulling him closer to it. He kept his eyes closed, not wanting to see it again, not wanting to see the oozing pus, the sores, the beautiful arrangement of scars and pain across its flesh. One sight had been enough. “You cannot leave, Martin.”

My god has promised me peace! Martin screamed. You must release me! He has commanded it!

It chuffed out laughter, the sound no different than rotten meat sliding over hot metal. “Your god has no power over me, Martin. You cannot leave.” The laugh again. “Look below you, Martin.”

Unable to stop himself, Martin chanced a glance below him, where he knew his body was. The blade was still there, the darkened metal looking so cold. From the exit wound, he saw that the blade had formed barbs, locking it in. Where the blade entered him, he saw a thin silver chain coming up from the handle. He knew where it led. Gods help him, he knew.

No! Martin’s voice wailed in anger and pain. You cannot hold me thus!

“Until I get what I want, I will hold you as I wish, Martin.” It moved into his line of sight, and Martin squeezed his eyes shut, for all the good it did. “You will give me what I want, or you, like those before you, will entertain me.”

What do you want, spawn? Martin tried to pull away again, only to feel the chain tighten, the pain increase sharply.

“I want the Walker Between Worlds. Give him to me, and I will release all of you.”

Martin laughed, unable to help himself. He does not exist, spawn. He is a myth, a legend of times past.

The torturer licked all six sets of lips, loudly. “Do not lie to me. I know when you lie.”

It is no lie, spawn. You know I cannot be false in this form.

“If that is the case, Martin, make yourself at home.” It sighed contentedly. “The Walker Between Worlds will be along before you know it, and I will have him.”

You know he does not exist. Why do you seek a myth?

“He will exist, Martin. Your own god said he would, and the Light never lies, does it?” Silence answered it. “You know, then, that he will come. When he does, he will be mine.”

When the Walker Between Worlds comes, you will not survive the encounter. That has been foretold by the Light, as well.

Another cascade of licking lips. “I have spent so long searching for the Walker that I have left nothing to chance, Martin. Indeed, you and your friends will be instrumental in that.”

What do you mean, spawn? Martin hoped he was wrong by the creature’s meaning, but knew he was not.

“Look around you, Martin. Look around you and know that I speak the truth.”

Martin let himself hear, then, truly hear the sounds around him. What he had taken as the wind through the stone passages were screams, and cries, and pleas. Around him were not only some of his own people, those who served the Light, but from other Orders as well. He could see the chains from their floating forms to the rotted and sometimes skeletal remains, binding them until they were released. Those near him had tried pulling the chain away, their hands weeping soul energy like blood. Crystalline tears flowed from their empty eyes. Martin looked farther out.

As far as his Sight could see, for miles upon miles, were others trapped as he. There were hundreds like him, perhaps thousands, tools for this creature, this spawn of the Abyss. Martin’s heart sank as he finally realized who had him in his grasp, and that he was just another in a long line of fools and tools for the Abyss.

“I always get what I want, Martin,” it said. “You would do well to remember that. Odi ego sum.

One day, one of us will get you, Beast, Martin spat, his eyes shut tight again.

“I hate, therefore I am, Martin.” The Beast snorted, some of the noxious phlegm from its innards flying onto the ground. “Only the Walker can threaten me, and until then, I am lord of all I survey. Even afterward, when the Walker is strung up much as you are, I am lord of all I survey. Once I have him?” The Beast dipped one of its digits into the pool of blood under Martin’s corpse. It flicked a scabrous tongue out, relishing the taste of fresh fluids. “I will be lord of all, just as I once was.

“And then, when that happens, only then will I release you, Martin. I will allow you to pass beyond, and give you some peace before I come to devour all.” The Beast sliced off a sliver of Martin’s flesh. The morsel sated its hunger not at all, but then, nothing ever could. “Delicious, Martin. Your faith flavors the meat so well.”

You will be destroyed, Beast, Martin snarled. The Light has decreed it so.

“Just as I told those fools who worship Science, I tell you: Nothing can destroy me, Martin. Even the Walker cannot destroy me. I have planned too long, Martin. Soon you shall see. Soon you shall know. Now, you will rest, my dear Martin, for I will have use of you.”

The Beast moved away, its corpulent form pulled forward by sightless creatures, vaguely humanoid, their minds destroyed by such close proximity. They pulled and pushed gently, their hands melting into the hide of the Beast. As more of their bodies were devoured by the Beast, other creatures came forward to take their place. It paid these poor things no mind; after all, did not everything in this world serve it at its will and pleasure? It would consume its entire realm if such an act would bring it more. It had done so many times before.

It went to the center of its home, no light anywhere. It did not need light to see, and nothing in this world needed to see, nothing living, anyway. It amused the Beast to let its playthings keep their sight, their suffering at the knowledge of their helplessness delighting it. The suffering of others was one of the few things that still gave the Beast pleasure, and it experienced it as much as it could. As it situated itself in its resting place, it let itself relax into its true form.

Odi ego sum, Walker Between Worlds,” it rumbled as it began to slumber. “I hate, therefore I am. I look forward to devouring you.”

Martin threw prayer after prayer, plea following plea to the Light, only to have them unanswered. Always before he had felt the Light, but here, in this place, this Place, the Light did not touch him. He was truly alone in this Place of the Damned. Before his faith could leave him, he gave one last prayer.

May the Walker Between Worlds shine Your Light upon this blight, may his wisdom be many-fold, may his victory be swift. Martin closed in on himself, trying to retain some semblance of sanity. His mind tacked on one final stanza to his plea.

Let his arrival be soon.

So, you folks think I should chase this to the end? I don’t see it as more than a novella, if that. Let me know what you all think.

The Black by Paul Cooley: a review

•October 16, 2014 • Leave a Comment

Hello there, you awesome people. Hope you all have been having fun while I’ve been writing and reading. Contrary to popular belief , writers do read. We kind of have to read, as we need entertainment outside of the plausible (and most times implausible) insanity that hops from our fingers to the keys. Also, it’s just fun.
That brings us to the review for today. You all know I’m a fan of Paul Cooley. He’s sick, twisted, and a fantastic author. I’ve been reading his stuff for the last couple of years, and even though horror is not my usual genre, I enjoy his work. Even though his foray into Muppets was a semi-lighthearted departure from gods and their children walking the earth, there was still the darkness behind the words. At his site, Paul says there are no happy endings. Damned if he isn’t right.
That said, let’s get into The Black. Paul sets the book on an oil rig in the middle of the ocean. There’s oil underneath the sea floor, and PPE, a petroleum company, wants it. Vraebel, the rig chief, is written as no-nonsense and a father figure to his crew. His opposite is Calhoun, who is just as protective of his people. Other characters, such as Shawna Sigler and Catfish, add depth and dimension to the story, thinking and acting just as you would believe real people would. A very refreshing thing in any story is realistic reactions, even in the most unrealistic circumstances.
These circumstances, of course, happen, and rather violently. While digging a test well, the drill cores through some kind of gargantuan Lovecraftian creature at the bottom of the ocean. What they bring up is horrifying. That’s the plot at its core, and it is a complete blast. Cooley puts the reader right into the characters’ heads, getting narrow points of view and showing readers exactly what the characters see and hear and feel as it happens. This adds to the suspense of events and keeps the reader riveted.
The care Cooley put into The Black is evident from the amount of research he did. The reasons for the research are evident at different points, such as the characteristics of oil fresh out of the ground, or the anatomy of a drill string. These things add to the tale, and help the reader understand why things happen as they do.
I can’t say enough good things about The Black, and I’m absolutely recommending it to anyone who enjoys a great thriller. There’s an audio version being done now, along with a paraquel, which I can’t wait to read.
That’s all for this time, good people. I’ll have more news about my own book All Good Things next time. Might even be a preorder announcement, so stay tuned. Have a fantastic day!

Empire of Bones: A Review

•September 7, 2014 • Leave a Comment

I know this is going to come as a shock to you folks, but I read. A lot. It blows your minds, I can tell. A writer who reads. Well, I do enjoy a good yarn, and I’m always on the lookout for good stuff to read that isn’t always in my usual repertoire of genres. You may have read the reviews I did for Paul Cooley’s incredible The Street (and if you haven’t read it yet, you’re doing yourself a disservice), along with Starla Huchton’s amazing Evolution series. I know what I like, and I know what I think I might like. I also know what I will plan on pestering someone for more books and very quickly. Terry Mixon’s Empire of Bones is one of those series.

For those who’ve not heard of Terry Mixon, he’s one of the three hosts of the Dead Robot’s Society podcast with the aforementioned Paul Cooley and the oft-mentioned Justin Macumber. The podcast is available on iTunes for your listening and learning pleasure.

A quick rundown on the world Terry has created: There was an empire from Earth, they’re human, some rebels did some bad stuff and fractured the empire and put back technology about two hundred years or more. Humanity is just regaining the stars, and that’s about where Terry starts us off. We’re introduced to Jared Mertz, a commander in the Empire’s Navy, given the opportunity to boldly go where no one has gone before and look for remnants of the old empire, and even Earth itself. Jared is a pretty decent sort who earned his position and commission without having to depend on his familial links. You see, Jared’s the Emperor’s son from the wrong side of the sheets, which of course starts drama with the legitimate family members of the imperial family. Jared is a bit above the whole thing and just wants to do his job, which is head out among the stars and explore.

Jared gets the chance to head out on an exploration mission, which is great. What isn’t so great is his half-sister, Princess Kelsey,  is coming along as an ambassador to whatever Jared’s ships might find. While the characters go back and forth with their preconceptions of one another, there’s definitely a mutual respect and growth between the two characters. The dialogue and verbal by-play between not only Jared and Kelsey, but with all the various people in the book was excellent and rather easy to follow.

Reading the highly condensed history of the Empire was informative without being rushed. Terry also doesn’t bog down the story with too much science as some authors do. The “flip points”, as an example, are simply wormholes, but calling them flip points makes them seem more accepted in the story. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy learning new stuff when I read a book, but if you bring too much hard science into the sci-fi, you run the risk of either losing the reader in the theorems, which is bad, or boring the hell out of the reader, which is much worse. Terry blends it pretty well, and keeps the story moving.

Quite possibly my only complaint, and it’s not really that, is the ship combat. I guess I’m a victim of the long drawn-out battles of television and movies, but I felt the ship-to-ship battles were over entirely too quickly. Perhaps a little more description for the battles would have been nice, but that’s merely personal preference on my part. I enjoyed it all.

If you’re looking for the beginning of a great space-based military science-fiction tale, pick up Empire of Bones by Terry Mixon. It’s a lot of fun, well-written, and I would definitely recommend it.

Tune in next time when I’ll figure out just how I’m going to appear at the Virginia Beach Book Festival on September 27th. It’s free and open to the public. I’ll be there with new stuff! And swag! And I’ll even sign more than just books! Woohoo! Until then, good people!

The Evolution series by Starla Huchton – a review

•August 15, 2014 • Leave a Comment

I have one of the greatest jobs/hobbies in the world. Being a writer and avid reader, I get to explore strange new worlds, seek out new life, and new civilizations…
Hang on, that’s Star Trek.
However, it’s also not far from the truth. In the past, I’ve had the chance to meet gods, angels, demons, heroes and villains. I’ve laughed, cried and cheered when the protagonists have triumphed over their challenges.
Also, as a writer, I get to meet some incredibly talented people. I’ve had the privilege of talking with other independent authors who have put their work out for all to see. I’ve reviewed their work and been amazed.
So it’s with pleasure that I introduce you awesome people to the Evolution series, by the incredibly talented Starla Huchton.
Evolution is about superheroes. Yeah, I know, there’s a bunch of those stories out there, but Starla takes a decidedly scientific slant to it, as she does with several of her other books, notably the Endure saga. The tag line of superheroes being made, not born, is the start of a rather interesting take on the genre. Following the life of Candace Bristol, Evolution begins with a bang, starting with Evolution: ANGEL. From a young age, Candace is enamored with superheroes, and even aspires to become one. Luckily for her, this is possible thanks to advanced genetic therapy and a lot of science. She becomes a super with the ability to control water. Anyone who thinks that makes her sound as threatening as Superfriends-era Aquaman or the Wonder Twins would have a rude awakening as Candace shows to be a powerhouse.
What makes the series is the believability. Though that sounds ridiculous, it really works. The interactions between the characters are natural and flow quite well, no pun intended. Candace is an excellent protagonist, and the challenges set before her aren’t always of the “evil super villain” type. There’s a bit of angst, of course, but it’s understandable as not everything in Candace’s world is as it seems.
Books one and two, ANGEL and SAGE, respectively, are excellent primers not only in the idea of creating superpowered beings, but what makes someone a superhero. HEX ends the series exactly as it needs to, with a definite “end of the beginning”, and a possibility of future tales in the universe of Evolution.
I thoroughly enjoyed all three books, and I’m looking forward to the promised ISLE books, set after HEX that continue the adventures and the life of Candace and the rest of the supers. If you’re looking for some fun reading and something that hits the “yes we can, but should we” ethical dilemmas, Evolution is for you. Look for it on Amazon. You won’t regret it.

Amazon v Hachette, or BSAB

•August 9, 2014 • Leave a Comment

 

In an attempt not to pile on to the “point-and-laugh” pile on Amazon for their email to authors, I’m going to go with something completely different.
Actually, that’s not true. I’m going to point and laugh a bit.
I use Amazon for getting my books out. I’m okay with Amazon allowing me to set my price for my ebooks. I’ve followed the Amazon-Hachette slapfight about as well as I’ve followed the career of Cousin Oliver from the Brady Bunch, which is to say… not at all. What I do know is that Hachette Publishing was price-fixing ebooks (established they were, anyway), and Amazon was being poopy and everyone has an opinion on who’s right, who’s wrong, and who left the oven on.
Here’s the point, my friends: Who the hell cares? If you’re comfortable with Hachette doing what it does to you, awesome. Enjoy. Have fun with it. If you’re okay with publishing through Amazon and getting very little advertising push for the books you write without paying an exorbitant amount of money, then rock on.
I can’t tell which way this is going to go. I’m just a writer. I have about fifty opinions in my head at a time, and they usually belong to the characters I’m writing. Most of them are a-holes, and some want to set things on fire. I don’t think those two sentiments are related, but hey, it is possible. Regardless, Hachette seems to have screwed up, and Amazon is trying to screw up and doing a good job at it. Until it starts affecting me to where I can’t write, I don’t care. Just stop sending me email unless you’re telling me you’re featuring my books for an award.

 

Watch_Dogs, A review

•July 18, 2014 • Leave a Comment

Hello again, my wonderful and awesome people. I have returned, this time with a review of a game that isn’t old as dirt. I’ll be doing a book review of the Evolution series by Starla Huchton next week, and sharing a bit of personal awesome too.
However, let’s get this review out of the way.

Ah, Ubisoft… Is there anything you can’t ruin? Watch_Dogs is Ubisoft’s attempt to make a modern-day Assassin’s Creed, where instead of leaping off buildings into bales of hay, you’re hacking into phones, bank accounts, wifi hotspots, and other places of an electronic nature with your superphone.
Reader’s Digest version of the plot: You play Aidan Pearce, a hacker who gets caught in a bad bank job and bails out. He doesn’t cover his tracks well enough and he gets found out. The attack on him doesn’t kill him, but his young niece. Aidan then goes on to become The Vigilante, fighting crime and beating criminals up with the power of both the internet and a spring baton, all in an attempt to find out who was the one who ordered the hit that got his niece killed.
Yeah, it’s not the most original plot, but then, neither was “My father was an assassin and got killed so I have to follow in his footsteps.” It has a hook, it has potential, it has the possibility for fun!
And that, folks, is all it has.
Don’t get me wrong, I want to love this game. Watch_Dogs has pretty decent voice-acting, excellent graphics even for a console version, and a great story. They get Chicago very well, and the atmosphere is rather nice.
What they don’t do, however, is make movement fun.
It’s difficult for one aspect of a game to completely overshadow and utterly destroy the rest of the game. However, when it’s the control scheme, as in “moving your character from one place to another,” that can kill the whole thing. That was what disappointed most, as Ubisoft pretty much invented one of the best free-run, go-anywhere movement schemes ever with the Assassin’s Creed series, and it’s like they tried rebuilding it from the ground up and make it completely different from AC. That, folks, was a mistake. In addition, the driving mechanic, which is nearly integral to Watch_Dogs, was horrendous. I might as well have been drinking heavily when it came to driving any vehicle in Watch_Dogs, as it might have improved things.
Graphically, the game is outstanding. Sound? Wonderful. Hacking? Very easy. The control scheme? Utter crap.
Just to give you an idea: I traded Watch_Dogs in. While I was doing so, someone else came in to trade it in. I asked him why. His response: The control scheme.
Ubisoft, you had a great idea here. Your execution was highly flawed. Good job killing what could have been an outstanding new IP. Better luck with the new Assassin’s Creed game. I can’t recommend getting Watch_Dogs to anyone. Rent it if you must, but buying it? Absolutely not.

See you awesome folks next week!

Book Review: The Street, by Paul Elard Cooley

•June 22, 2014 • Leave a Comment

Hello, you awesome people who read this blog and honor me with your patronage. Today I’m doing a review of a different kind: a book review. Yes, usually I do video game reviews, but I’m branching out. Besides, considering the amount of books I got from my trip to Balticon this year, plus all the awesomeness to come, books are much more fun.

Let me get started with this missive by letting you all know just who Paul Cooley is. Some of you may remember the Ten Questions I did with him many moons ago, and hopefully have checked out his amazing stories about Garaaga and his children. I’ve been rather a fan of his for awhile (called “fiendlings”) and I had the pleasure of meeting him for the second time at Balticon 2014. His stories of historical dark fiction are detailed, visceral, and some of the most fun I’ve had reading in a very long time. He is consistently a fun read, and his ventures into audiobooks are just as good. He is dark, he is twisted, and he gets you enjoying every syllable that you read and hear.

Which brings us to The Street. From the gritty and run-down scene on the cover, masterfully done by Scott Pond, to the harsh and cynical words of the protagonist private detective, Paul Cooley brings us— no, that’s not quite right. In fact, that’s not even in the same area code as “right”. Cooley drags us, kicking and screaming, into a world where our most beloved memories of television have come to life and been put out of a job by budget cuts. The Street is none other than Sesame Street, and the denizens are those who made us laugh and learn in those by-gone days of yore, when we all ate cereal and learned how to count and share and sing ridiculous songs that helped us remember how to tell when one thing was not like the others. The residents of the Street are also refugees from the Muppet Show, and Cooley brings them all to horrid life, showing how addiction, graft, murder and perversion can strike down even the most loved characters.

The whole book is through the eyes of the cynical private detective Oscar the Grouch, who spends what days he isn’t solving the Street’s problems drunk on Tuaca. Oscar is, if anything, even more a curmudgeon, hating pretty much everyone who is on the different sides of the turf war between Snuffalupugus and Cookie Monster. He may respect some of the other residents on the Street, but friends are very few. Oscar is loyal to the Street itself, and those who just want to survive one more day. What makes the book even more interesting is the Street itself becomes a character, a living, breathing thing with a character all its own. Seeing the Street through Oscar’s eyes, you can tell that, while he hates what it has become, he still loves it, and will give every bit of his stuffing to defend it.

While the action does center around Oscar who has a mean throwing arm and an addiction to Tuaca, the other characters from both Sesame Street and the Muppet Show make appearances in their dark forms. Bert and Ernie, Big Bird, the aforementioned Cookie Monster, Gonzo, Scooter, and even Elmo… They and dozens more show up in the pages, carving out their own bits of literary real estate and sticking in your mind. Even as I read words I would never hear on the real Sesame Street, I could hear them in my mind, even where Elmo is a badass, and is rightfully feared throughout the Street. That was the creepy part: how well Cooley was able to make the scenes on paper seem so not just possible, but inevitable.

I was cheering for a Grouch. What does that tell you?

If you’re looking for a book that will bring back childhood memories with a smile, this is not that book. If you’re looking for an astoundingly well-crafted tale about the downward spiral of the things we thought were pure and incorruptible, this is that book. As Paul Cooley says himself, this is a love letter to Jim Henson. It’s a twisted love letter, but at its heart, it is pure admiration for a genius who touched us all, helped us dream, and let us know that those dreams can be achieved. I cannot recommend The Street enough. Go and get it. I’ll provide the link to Shadow Publications, which is Paul’s site, and as an added bonus, Paul was donating a portion of the profits of The Street to the Sesame Workshop the last I checked. He might still be, which is awesome. Regardless, you need to read The Street. Now.

 
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