Immortal: The Chosen

TheChosen

This fast-moving story gets this series off to a well-written, suspense-filled start. While I’m not that much of a vampire fan, I was nonetheless taken in by the strong characters and interesting plot that gives the vampire/werewolf/witch culture an interesting new twist. Great fiction begins with convincing characters with whom the reader can connect, and the author did a great job of populating her tale accordingly. This was achieved by getting inside each one’s head by switching the point of view for each chapter.

While such a technique can be confusing, this was done effectively and allowed the reader to get to know the thoughts and feelings of each important member of this intriguing story. This method was much more intimate than an omniscient view point, which often weakens the reader-character connection. This method worked very nicely and reminded me of piecing together a mystery by reading the journals of each character.

My only criticism, which is really quite minor but enough for me to give it four stars, is that toward the end there were quite a few names thrown around of late-breaking characters whose place in the story was a bit fuzzy. I suspect they will be more important in the next episode and this was simply an introduction. However, I tend to stick to the convention of minimizing reader confusion by not naming characters who do not relate directly to the plot (except in the case of red herrings, of course). This resulted in having to deal with a lot of faceless people with foggy identities as the story climaxed, a slight distraction that really didn’t add anything other than slowing things down as each new person was logged in, so to speak. Nonetheless, it did show the gathering of forces that would play an important part in the sequel, even though this could have been done without names.

While the ending was a cliffhanger, it was handled in such a way that it didn’t leave me gasping or frustrated, but could see the next volume coming together. I thoroughly enjoyed this story, liked the characters, and will definitely be reading the sequel.

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Creative Fun for Halloween!

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If you’re looking for ideas for a Halloween-related story, either for yourself as an author or as a parent or teacher, this book is for you. Loaded with fun and appropriately creepy premises, there’s no need to look any further for inspiration. Teachers could easily use this jewel to spawn a creative writing assignment that students would actually enjoy. Great fun, not only for Halloween, but for coming up with stories around the campfire. Fostering a child’s creativity and imagination is highly recommended by educators and these clever ideas provide plenty of brain fodder. Don’t miss it!

Calling All Bibliophiles!

2017 WC&BE Badges

Whether you’re an avid reader, an aspiring writer, or published author, there’s something for you at RRBC’s Writers’ Conference and Book Expo. It’s open now and will be online until October 30.

Come meet dozens of outstanding authors, many of which are award winners, learn about their often amazing backgrounds, and explore their many books. Most of us are sponsoring a giveaway and all you have to do to enter is leave a comment on our author page! Be sure to stop by my Author Page for a chance to win an 8 gigabyte USB card preloaded with the Star Trails Tetralogy, including my latest release, “The Terra Debacle.”

Don’t miss the raffle, which has some spectacular prizes. For only $5, you get a chance at a virtual gift basket worth approximately $100 in gift cards! You can sign up here.

While you’re there, be sure to check out my Astrological Services page to discover how astrology can be a writer’s best friend, whether it’s timing a book release or rounding out a character.

Hope to see you there!

“Mr. Spaceship” is Mediocre Except for Context

MrSpaceship

This little known short story by Philip K. Dick, one of the all-time great classic science fiction authors popular from the 50s to 70s, is an interesting read for its historical value, if nothing else. If someone wrote it today, I suspect it would receive little acclaim or attention. It’s actual publication date I don’t know, since its copyright is expired and now in the public domain, but I would guess the 50s. One reviewer on Amazon summed it up beautifully by stating it “reads as if in black and white Rod Serling mode.” The detail is indeed sketchy and in the context of today’s technology, beyond lean, the theme now a worn-out cliche. However, it presents interesting brain fodder at the philosophical level.

The basic premise is that a human brain is used as the control mechanism for a spaceship. Of course the brain goes rogue with its new “body,” i.e. the spacecraft. In a way, this is the antithesis of artificial intelligence, and apparently his pet philosophical question with regard to what actually constitutes consciousness and reality. At what point, if ever, does an augmented human lose its humanity and at what point does artificial intelligence attain status as a living being? Clearly this has a lot of relevance today as both scenarios move toward reality.

What makes this more interesting to me is the fact that Dick is the author of “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” from which the 1982 movie, “Blade Runner” came, with a new one, albeit a sequel, just released. He also wrote “Minority Report”, “Total Recall”, and various others, so he did put out some outstanding work.

Reading about him on Wikpedia gives me the impression this guy wasn’t wrapped too tight. He had a drug problem most of his life and various other issues. Perhaps he was a genius, which isn’t an easy cross to bear, and would explain the otherworldly, dystopian essence of his work, which reflected his unique view of life.

This short story is worth reading for its historical value, but certainly not his best work, which didn’t even earn mention in Wikipedia. A novel of his won the John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Best Science Fiction Novel, showing he did put out some excellent, thought-provoking work. Clearly this really isn’t one of them. It has value, however, in the context of his other achievements, the Cold War climate during which it was written, and the many questions he posed, which have still not been answered, even as our technology brings us to the threshold of urgently needing to know.

You can pick up your copy on Amazon here. It’s free for Kindle and very reasonable for a print copy, if you’re so inclined.

The “Purrfect” Read for International Feral Cat Day

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Malcolm Gatta’s touching backstory transported me to a fantasy world I’ve not visited in a long time. I lean more toward science fiction and thrillers, not being that much of a vampire or zombie fan, which seem to dominate the fantasy genre of late. But as a cat lover and someone who has often envied my housecats’ idyllic existence, the idea of a cat shifter was intriguing, so I couldn’t resist checking it out. It’s the prequel to a trilogy which I have not yet read, but will probably add it to my reading list after experiencing this beautifully written, albeit heartrending tale of loss and renewed hope.

My only criticism is that I felt the sprinkling of expletives was unnecessary. There were probably only three in the entire story, but they were biggies, didn’t add to the story or characters, and such that I would hesitate to gift this story to my grandchildren. It’s not that I’m personally offended by such language myself. After all, my father was in the Navy and I worked at NASA over 20 years around engineers and such, plus have to admit I drop a few myself from time to time. There’s no question that some situations are best expressed through an expletive. Furthermore, sad but true, coarse language is now a part of today’s popular culture like never before, a possible symptom of what the world has become. However, there are still some who wish to avoid it and/or don’t want to condone much less encourage it. There are also creative ways to include such words in a story without actual use.

I feel crossing the PG barrier can cut off readers from an author’s fan list, which most can ill-afford. It’s apparently still enough of an issue that on sites where books are rated such as MyBookCave, inappropriate language is pointed out along with content related to sex and violence. I didn’t mean to go off on a total rant about it because this story really was outstanding, but it would have been even better to me without the bombs which seemed out of place with the smooth, even poetic, narrative as a whole.

You can pick up a copy on Amazon here.

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Global Cat Day

 

 

Sign up to Win an Autographed Copy of “The Terra Debacle”

lifechanging+ copySign up before October 30 for a chance to win one of three autographed copies of “The Terra Debacle: Prisoners at Area 51” being given away through Goodreads. Details here.

 

 

5 Stars for “Elon Musk: Tesla, Space-X, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future” by Ashlee Vance

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I’ve been fascinated by Musk for quite a while. I even entertained thoughts he might be some sort of space alien hybrid, helping us develop new technologies. I wondered where this guy came from and where he got all that money. I wondered why his new technologies, which are a threat to industries which have been known to resort to rather nasty tactics to suppress such competition, seemed to have no power to do so in his case. This book certainly answered all my questions and then some. I had no idea he was one of those dot-com millionaires, starting with his connection with PayPal. Explaining where his money came from certainly clarified quite a lot. His personality explained the rest.

As someone who worked as a NASA contractor for over twenty years, I can especially appreciate what he has done with Space-X. While some accuse him, and rightfully so, of being a obsessive workaholic and expecting the same from his employees, you have to admit that his system of finding the best and brightest and luring them to work for him works. Musk doesn’t suffer fools. You disagree with him or goof up and you’re gone. In today’s world of tolerance and dumbing down the general population via our pathetic education system, this certainly goes against the grain. But it gets things done.

I saw so much mediocrity at NASA it was pathetic. But it was only part of the problem as far as technological advances were concerned. I remember seeing an invoice one time for small a metal plate with a part number on it costing thousands of dollars. I mean, really. How ridiculous is that? But that’s how government contracting works. Musk, on the other hand, emphasized efficiency. It was his money, so he pushed for keeping costs down. Rather than buy from a manufacturer on the other side of the world, he would develop the needed facilities and make it himself. He demanded perfection and refused to give up.

One philosophy I always liked and employed as a manager myself was “If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.” Clearly he had the same attitude. His employees knew better than to simply complain about something being an obstacle. They needed to contribute to a solution or get slam-dunked.

There was so much about his management style that I admired. In most cases in today’s world, his tactics will either get you sued for harassment and/or fired. Which explains a lot. But if you want something considered impossible done correctly, that’s what it takes. The results of Musk’s methods speak for themselves.  He does what he says he’ll do and is a force to be reckoned with. He’s not been suppressed by existing industries since he has the money to proceed on his own, unlike most inventors who depend on selling their patents. In that case, they’re typically bought up by competitors, their ideas left to rot somewhere in a file cabinet to assure the status quo.

Along those lines, Tesla is another awesome success story, a venture that was more than once on the brink of failure. But Musk persevered, his vision and intentions a testimony to those who promote such tactics for manifesting what you want. I loved the part where Tesla acquired a former GM plant in Fremont, California (not too far from where I lived many years ago) virtually for free. Tesla is driving conventional car makers crazy. The cars are kicking butt in all areas from safety to speed to virtually “free” fuel as he builds recharging stations.  He’s out to change the world and making steady progress doing so, specifically in previously troubled industries collapsing under their own weight.

His personal life was certainly interesting as well. Did you realize he has 5 boys, i.e. a set of twins and a set of triplets from his first wife, Justine? Or that as a child he was bullied, in some cases brutally enough to land him in the hospital. His photographic memory has served him well, his intelligence and scientific understanding off the scale. If someone tells him something can’t be done, he usually fires them and does it himself. I find that inspiring, not obnoxious.

The author did a great job of providing a glimpse of what this guy is like, not only as a slave-driving manager, but as a person. I admire much of what he stands for and stands up for.  I loved the author’s candid writing style, often imbued with humor that had me laughing out loud. I don’t doubt that I will eventually read this book again. It’s inspirational to see what one determined man can accomplish when he sets his mind to what needs to be done, then commandeers the help and talent he needs to get there, leaving naysayers in the dust. His self-imposed mission is to save the world from itself and so far it looks as if he might do just that. It won’t surprise me one bit if he’s the one who gets us to Mars. If you have any doubts, then you should read this book. It made a believer out of me and restored my faith in old-fashioned hard work and ingenuity, which has somehow gotten lost in our crazy world.

This book convinced me, more than ever, that it’s people like Musk who should be considered heroes in today’s world. Not obnoxious sports figures, crooked politicians, and those who want to be taken care of at others’ expense. It’s time that we return a strong work ethic and intelligence to the status it deserves for making this a better world.

You can pick up a copy on Amazon here. I recommend it highly. I will warn you that it contains a multitude of f-bombs. If you want to share this awesome story with your kids, which I also recommend, there’s a cleaned up version you can get here.

Reveal Blast: “The King’s Ransom” by Cheryl Carpinello

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The King’s Ransom, book 1 of Young Knights of the Round Table

12Three Friends. Three Quests. Three Mysterious Predictions

In medieval Wales, eleven-year-old Prince Gavin, thirteen-year-old orphan Philip, and fifteen-year-old blacksmith’s apprentice Bryan are brought together in friendship by one they call the Wild Man. When an advisor to the king is killed and a jewelled medallion is stolen from the king’s treasury, the Wild Man is accused of the theft and murder. Filled with disbelief at the arrest of the Wild Man, the three friends embark upon a knight’s quest to save their friend’s life. To succeed, the three must confront their fears and insecurities, and one of them will have to disclose the biggest secret of all.



Prince Gavin
Gavin’s gaze was drawn back to the castle’s battle-scarred walls and the heavily armed guards. The evil Q.5.1emanating from the structure surrounded and held him captive, like a lone deer surrounded by hungry wolves in the dead of winter, unable to move, its eyes glassy with fear, its limbs frozen by the hypnotic gleam of the wolves’ yellow eyes. Even knowing its life was ending, the deer wouldn’t break and run. So Gavin sat frozen in front of the castle.
The enormity of his quest enveloped Gavin and he sighed. Continuing on meant he might save the Wild Man, but he might put himself in danger as well. King Edward was his father’s enemy and possibly responsible for Aldred’s murder. If Gavin were caught, Edward wouldn’t treat him kindly. The young prince summoned his courage and focused on the Wild Man. It had seemed so simple last night in the company of Bryan and Philip.

Bryan
Q2The air inside the blacksmith shop lay dense and heavy, making it difficult to breathe for any who ventured inside. The fire from the forge still burned red hot, even though the bellows hadn’t fanned the embers in some time. Sixteen-year-old Bryan submersed the newly formed sword into a cold bucket of water. Steam enveloped him, adding to the sweat already streaming down his face. With his free arm, he wiped his forehead and pushed back his soaked red hair.
The blacksmith, James, watched intently as Bryan Balyard lifted the sword out of the water, its blade cooler but still hot to the touch. Holding the sword in front of him, Bryan sighted down the blade’s edge as he’d been taught. Straight and flat, just as it should be. He made a few short cuts to check its balance. It responded well to his moves. Bryan handed the sword to James for approval. After checking its weight and doing a closer inspection of the craftsmanship, James nodded.
“You’re getting better. This weapon is good enough for a knight of the Round Table.”
Bryan beamed, his eyes reddened and watering from the smoke.
“I haven’t an order from any of Arthur’s knights, so make this your own.”
Bryan’s lower jaw dropped.
“Mine?” he forced out.

Philip
The late afternoon sun still held the day’s heat. Philip set the ax down and wiped his brow before getting a drink of water. Looking at the stack of chopped wood, he smiled sadly. Two years ago he would never have dreamed he’d be here, chopping wood for food and a dry place to sleep. He shook his head at his thoughts, his shaggy, ill-cut black hair falling unevenly across his forehead. Two years. It seemed like forever.
Two years earlier, he had lived with his parents and baby brother on their small farm up north. His parents worked hard to put food on the table and to pay off the farm. Philip’s main job was to watch baby Benjamin while his mother helped his father in their small field. When Benjamin fell sick, Philip helped his father clear the old stalks and rocks from the soil while his mother nursed the baby. He helped his father carefully plant the winter wheat and barley for harvest in the spring.
As autumn slipped into winter, Benjamin hadn’t gotten better. His tiny body burned with fever. Those last few days when Philip held him, the heat coming from Benjamin threatened to slowly engulf him like the embers of a dying fire.
Then one day, the heat drained from Benjamin’s body, and cold took its place. Philip didn’t understand at first why his mother and father cried. For days they’d waited for the fever to leave, and finally it had. Then he noticed the stillness of Benjamin’s body. His small chest didn’t rise and fall; he wasn’t breathing. Along with the heat, life had also left the tiny body.

Book Sound Track for Guinevere: At the Dawn of Legend, book 2 and The King’s Ransom, book 1 of Young Knights of the Round Table.



AUTHOR BIO

Original_Author_PhotoI am a retired high school English teacher. A devourer of books growing up, my profession introduced me to writings and authors from times long past. Through my studies and teaching, I fell in love with the Ancient and Medieval Worlds. Now, I hope to inspire young readers and those Young-at-Heart to read more through my Tales & Legends for Reluctant Readers set in these worlds.

 

NEW RELEASE from John Reinhard Dizon!

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If you love lots of action and strong characters be sure to check out John Reinhard Dizon’s latest, The Empire, a fast-moving sci-fi thriller. I had lots of fun designing the cover and plan to read it soon. Here’s the blurb:

Driven to the threshold of extinction, the human race has survived the destruction of the Solar System and found a New System to call home. Old rivalries surface, causing the Allied Federation of Alpha and the Terranean Alliance of Beta to take a stand against the Republic of Delta and the Scorpion Empire. A crisis results when Styrena Stone, the daughter of the President of Alpha, is kidnapped. The abductors demand that the Federation accepts a non-aggression pact allowing the Empire to conduct a campaign of terror throughout the System. Only a renegade captain commits an act of mutiny in turning an Imperial starship against Styrena’s captors. Federal agent Von Kilgore is sent to rescue Styrena, with the threat of war looming and the merciless Captain Grav Drachna standing in his path.

You can pick up a print copy on Amazon here or an ebook for 99c from Smashwords here. It will show up on other retailer sites soon. Don’t miss it!