Welcome to Thursday, everyone, and my roundup of interesting reading that I’ve found around the web. Before I get started, I want to share the latest news. Basically, there isn’t any. I continue to wait to see whether I’m going to be offered a contract to produce a series of horror novellas for a publishing house. I’m not superstitious, but I don’t mention any names because the editor is a reader of this blog, and I don’t want to influence his decision, pro or con, by something I might say about him or his business. I’ll get the deal or I won’t based entirely on the merits of the writing.
What this means in practical terms is that I’ve cleared the decks, so to speak, setting all my other projects aside and starting to work on outlines for the next several stories. I will say that these involve continuing characters in a specific situation with story arcs that will be developed over a period of multiple stories. If the deal is tendered, I’ll be ready; if it isn’t, well, that’s the easy outcome, and I’m already ready for that. Either way, this blog with its current features will continue more or less unchanged for the foreseeable future.
“More or less” doesn’t preclude tweaks to the format, and beginning today, I’m providing updated links to the blogs I follow that have recent activity. For the most part, I follow bloggers who have followed me, though there are a number who I follow unilaterally because they’re that good. There is a widget on my Blogger site that allows me to enter anyone’s URL and be advised every time they update. Unfortunately, some very good sites such as Radio Retrofuture, The Home of Lorna Lockheed, and Stephanie Kato’s blog, to name a few don’t have an RSS feed, and thus are not updated; I’ll do my best, but may miss some updates. Also, blogs that aren’t serviced for over a year will be dropped as being pointless to direct anyone to, and lost through following that rule were some good blogs and even good friends, including K.M. Alford, James Mace, and Bryce Raffle. If you folks are still reading, let me know if you become active again; I’d love to carry your links!
And on that note, let’s get started.
~ Books ~
Worldship Praxis. 166-page novel by J.D. Lovil. To save humanity from extinction, one captain must confront his own nightmares, and a host of deadly aliens. Jack Sadow’s crucial interstellar work requires him to be semi-immortal. The captain of the gigantic colonist vessel Worldship Praxis knows that every decision could make or break humankind’s mission to find habitable planets. But when a sleep shift brings him disturbing precognitive warnings of formidable aliens, he knows his toughest choices still lie ahead. Untrained for battle against lifeforms with superior tech, Sadow wonders if he and his small crew can possibly survive to find a second home. For humanity to endure after Earth, the captain has no choice but to use his mind and mettle to find his colonists a new safe haven. Can Sadow conquer the mysterious aliens of his nightmares, or will humanity’s dreams turn to stardust? Worldship Praxis is a fast-paced sci-fi colonization adventure. If you like futuristic tech, intergalactic journeys, and mind-bending alien encounters, then you’ll love JD Lovil’s expansive novel. $2.99 on Kindle.
The Elvish Prophecy. 488-page novel by Neil Port. 850 years ago the once mighty Western Elves were fatally weakened by the sacking of Elvish Troia and then almost totally destroyed by a cataclysmic invasion of barbarian hordes that came soon after. They now remain only in scattered settlements in the Black Sea region of Anatole. The Eastern Elves hold the last of the elf cities, the magnificent mountain fortress of Elgard to the east and to the north of Anatole. But the Elves are fading. They have lost almost all their magic. They no longer live longer than humans and each year they have fewer and fewer children. Not only that, their world is on the cusp of an invasion by the unbeatable Makedóne army from the west and the appearance of a new and far more dangerous barbarian far to the East. The final destruction of the Elves has been foretold two thousand years before, and now the time is all but upon them. Only through an ancient prophecy can they be saved, but it will require every bit of love, sacrifice and courage that a group of extraordinary people have to give. An Elf Princess of the Eastern Elves, an eleven-year-old gypsy orphan girl, and a mercenary tribesman are the first to be called. They must unite in a desperate search through Anatole for the key to the survival of the Elves, but first they have to stay alive! Free on Kindle as of this writing.
Permission. 519-page novel by Joe Dacy II. “Prepare to meet your Maker.” In 2045, with that ominous preface, the visionary CEO of a world-spanning Artificial Intelligence firm introduces a secret project to answer a vital question: Can a society consent to be governed solely by a heuristic Artificial Intelligence with the support of robots and androids? More than two centuries later, the Apprentice to the Maker, a girl of only 14 turns, discovers that the “Utopia” her people have inhabited for nine generations harbors a vile secret. She comes to realize a singular truth: In every Garden of Eden, there is a Serpent. During the Time of the Maker, a surreal religion has supplanted the CEO’s original dream. Supported by the Verses of the Codex, the people of Permission have come to worship the A.I., the entity which rules “In the name of the Maker, and of his Sons, through the Coded Spirit. For All Men.” $3.99 on Kindle.
Heaven to Betsy. 278-page novel by Pamela Fagan Hutchins. Dumped by her husband for a man, ex-rodeo queen Emily Bernal yearns for a fresh start. When a handsome local attorney named Jack offers her a gig, she’s not sure if it’s the right fit. But after a dead body takes a swan dive right in front of her and she learns a missing six-year-old girl is caught in the aftermath, Emily’s heart sends her from barrel racing to paralegal work in a hurry. As she and Jack interrogate the young girl’s tight-lipped mother, a string of strange coincidences don’t seem to add up. When sparks fly between her and her boss and dead ends start to become dead bodies, the race to save the girl comes down to the wire. Can Emily and Jack decipher their feelings and the contradictory clues before they become the next victims? Heaven to Betsy is a mystery thriller with a romantic twist. If you like strong-minded women, heart-pounding plots, and a side-serving of humor, you’ll love Pamela Fagan Hutchins’ nail-biting novel. 99¢ on Kindle.
The House that Homed. 44-page novelette by Ben Willoughby. Four young adults that venture into an abandoned mansion with some dark secrets. Two addicts soon enter as well, looking for stuff to loot. What happens to all six? Can any make it out alive? It’s the house that homed, yo. Read it and find out. 99¢ on Kindle. I should call to your attention the fact that these books I feature are sourced from myriad sites and pages, and it’s largely a matter of luck over design what I come into contact with. This one was not, but one I picked up from C.W. Hawes’ blog as part of his Good Books You’ve Probably Never Heard Of series. It’s very much worth a read, which is why I linked it as well as the book, so take a hint and check it out.
The Cobra. 38-page short by Tom Johnson. The Cobra is back. Raised in the mystic art of illusion in India, The Cobra’s power of mind control mystifies his enemies. On assignment to New York City, Dean Bradley of British Intelligence unwittingly causes a crime wave of terror when he brings a British master criminal to justice on America’s shores. Now it will be up to him to unravel the mystery in this new land before he can return to India. But will even the dreaded Cobra walk away from this new encounter with The Viper? And now that Dean Bradley has fallen in love with the girl who knows his secret identy, does India really matter? 99¢ on Kindle.
Testament of Cthulhu. 64-page anthology by Mark McLaughlin & Michael Sheehan Jr. Five tales of weird fantasy and horrorin the tradition of H.P. LovecraftandRobert W. Chambers. A grotesque deity exactsa terrible and unspeakably complete vengeance in The Foul One Lives To Destroy. Sea-Green Gown With Gold Buttons presents a tale of The King in Yellow, a forbidden book that brings madness to those who dare to read it. In this tale, a young performer is caught in a web of horror when he falls in love with a citizen of Carcosa. In The Testament Of Cthulhu, an ailing traveler visits a community with a hideous secret; a secret that might be the answer to his complex medical problems. The Ambassador From Ulthar tells of a young man who cannot escape his fate after injuring a denizen of the Dreamlands. While escaping from an abusive relationship, an aspiring writer encounters an unlikely ally in The Sea-Spider. $3.65 on Kindle.
Bring Her Home. 254-page novel by C.E. Nelson. Lake County Minnesota Sheriff Dave Trask and his identical twin brother Don, lead investigator for the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA), were bored. Their planned fishing trip to Chase, Minnesota had been hijacked by the weather, leaving them with time on their hands, which they decide to fill by looking into the three-year-old disappearance of a local woman. The weather improves, the Trasks go fishing, but they can’t shake the sense that there is something more to the woman’s disappearance than they see in the case files. Don Trask assigns Agent Danny Carlisle of the Duluth office to look into the missing girl’s background. Carlisle’s investigation leads her to the University of Minnesota at Duluth where she is stonewalled, and soon in danger, while the Trask brothers follow other leads bringing them to the conclusion that a serial killer is roaming northern Minnesota, abducting young women who disappear forever. Currently free on Kindle.
The Stone Seekers. 369-page novel by Jack Tyler. The Settlements cling precariously to a hostile shore where the very ground opposes them. The people, fleeing a vicious tyrant, had crossed an ocean to get here, and had nowhere else to go. They bear with them a parting gift from a powerful mage, the Wellstone, an artifact that can locate clean water among the vile poisons their new land offers. When it is stolen in a raid by creatures of the surrounding forest, there is no choice but to go in pursuit. But with who? The entire combined militia of all the towns haven’t the power to overcome the forest denizens, so a tracker of exceptional skill and a savage warrior with a dark secret are sent to achieve through stealth what cannot be accomplished by force. What possible chance could two people have? 99¢ on Kindle.
~ Podcasts ~
I’m breaking this section out for this issue, and time will tell whether it remains this way, but it seems to make some sense. The inaugural podcast is a fabulous piece of pop-culture examination called The Fire and Water Podcast Network. This is a collection of podcasts taking on various aspects of popular culture, and the one that caught my attention was Episode 27 of Gimme That Star Trek in which the host, , moderates an in-depth discussion of Star Trek’s goofiest episodes. Words fail me. Just check it out, all right?
Last week I plugged Michael May’s Sleigh Bell Cinema feature, and though I try to avoid back-to-back links, this week I’m plugging it again as he is joined by Jeeg of the fabulous Nerd Lunch site for a detailed discussion of 1984’s Gremlins and other Christmas-horror movies they’ve enjoyed. Yeah, good stuff.
~ Blogs ~
Starting right off, I encountered another interesting blog this week, this one the site of author J.T. Buckley (By Right of Arms, Blood & Steel). His latest post as of this writing concerns writing reviews for books on Amazon.com, and is some timely information for anyone who’s ever struggled with this. My own etiquette is that when I enjoy a book, I recognize the author’s skill and hard work. Mr. Buckley says you should always leave a review every time, and he makes a good case for doing just that. Check it out. My sole complaint with his site is that his provider is Wix.com, which means that in order to comment, you have to have a Wix account. That’s too bad, he seems like he’d be interesting to talk with.
Another newly discovered site that is frighteningly accessible is The Bold Mom. I won’t drop the lady’s name, as it isn’t on the blog, but this young woman runs a comprehensive horror site, and if you are a reader, writer, reviewer, publisher, or artist, she very much wants to hear from you. Click over and see why.
Laurie Bell covers a lot of ground on her blog Rambles, Writing, and Amusing Musings, and what she’s covered today is a book, The Truth Pixie, by Matt Haig and Chris Mould. This is alleged to be a children’s book, but Laurie is quite taken with it, and recommends this story of a pixie who cannot lie to everyone.
Cheche Winnie is a lovely young Kenyan woman, a conservationist, and an environmentalist, but one that doesn’t beat you over the head with it. She simply tries to raise her readers’ awareness of what we stand to lose. Today’s post is a beautiful and educational article about the Snow Leopard: Ghost of the Mountains. By all means, take a break and enjoy a peaceful interlude with one of the beautiful big cats.
The Rebel Fish blog generally deals in subtle and convoluted comedy, and that may be what I’m seeing today, but it may be too subtle for me to grasp. Judge for yourself as the Fish takes on the often unseen and misjudged relationship between happiness and failure.
Pointless Overthinking is a blog purported to be about understanding ourselves and the world around us. That is a noble endeavor, and one that they (there are multiple contributors) try daily to live up to. Today’s offering is a review of Extreme Ownership, a book by Jocko Willink, retired navy SEAL commander, about taking responsibility for your failures, and how much better that will make you and your team. There is an attached video, and all of it is life hacks of the best sort.
I still don’t have a precise handle on Lucid Being. Is it psychic awareness? Holisic healing? New age? A mix of all those and more, I suspect, but it sure is deep, and great fun to read. Open your mind and test the water, that’s all I can tell you; you may be pleasantly surprised.
The Bon Bon Lifestyle Webazine is about, well, life, and the many things that interact to make it what it is. Today’s offering, Small vs. Big and Tall, sounds like a discussion of clothing sizes, but no, not the case. At the link you will find a most charming video of toddlers (mostly) interacting with zoo animals. Sooooo cute. . .
The Firewater Site is pure popular culture, and incredibly entertaining to a nerd like me (hey, I write steampunk on an alternate timeline; deal with it!). The bits I find most entertaining, and go out of my way never to miss, are his treatments of individual Star Trek episodes. This week he goes in-depth to outline and review the two-part finale of The Next Generation, and a spectacular ride it is.
Millie Schmidt’s The Cat’s Write site blogs about writing and blogging, and today’s offering is about building your author platform. Great information there if you’re just setting out on this wonderful journey and would like some helpful pointers.
Some blog titles tell you in the first couple of words what they’re all about, and then others try to draw you in with misdirection. Such is the case with The Bold Mom, a pure horror site, and one of my frequent stops now that I’m leaning in that direction. Today, the aforementioned Bold Mom offers a review with video of Michael Reyes’ Clock’s Watch, a chill-inducing collection about a Guardian of Humanity going about his daily rounds. Mighty good reading if you’re a horror fan.
In 2017, Kirilson, the gentleman behind Kirilson Photography, visited a contemporary art exhibit in Venice, and he is still posting pictures from the event. He’s a very good photographer, and if you’re into these photo essays, you should make this one a stop.
Ula of the Simple Ula blog runs a straightforward exposition of health and beauty tips, but having just celebrated her 30th birthday, she has shared a huge collection of photos of the celebration. Not profound, just good fun, and a nice introduction to her site if health and beauty holds your interest. . .
Elves Choice is the website of Adam Hazard, a graphic designer and family man, and Elves Choice is very much his business site where he tries to earn some extra income for his family by selling T-shirts, coffee mugs and the like. Nothing out of the ordinary there, but for the holidays, since before Halloween, he has been providing almost daily recipes for festive goodies such as today’s Rocky Road Chocolate Cookies. This seems a superb way to raise awareness of his site and garner some valuable good will for the future. I recommend a visit at once.
MovieBabble is another site with multiple contributors and often multiple posts per day. Their stock in trade is movie reviews, such as today’s look at 2018’s An Evening with Beverly Luff Linn. Add this to your bookmarks for spoiler-free reviews of the latest movies, large and small.
Christian Mihai, who operates the Irevuo site, also maintains The Art of Blogging, where he offers really good advice to bloggers who are looking for ways to increase their traffic. Today is no exception. . .
I have mentioned Inmate Blogger on several occasions. It is well past time that I provide a sample, so here is one from Deborah Reese, Department of Corrections #301820, blogging about the California wildfires.
This is a blog predominantly aimed at writers, especially those just beginning the Great Journey, in the hopes of offering bits of information that will help them (you?) find their way. I found a wonderful article about language, and the limitations and cultural paradigms it imposes on its speakers. It’s complex, and asks a lot of the reader, but if it sounds interesting, it’s linked on my other blog, Jack’s Hideout. Come on over and check it out.
Finally, to end on a fun and frivolous note, I still receive steampunk-themed gifts, even though I no longer write the stuff, and that’s fine. I absolutely love the aesthetic, the creativity, the look and feel of the stuff. I still wear my goggles on my hat most times that I go out, and much of my decor is of the same theme. Which brings me to a little bragging, or at least showing off, and a warning.
‘Twas my birthday last month, and my kids bought me this lamp. This is a beautiful piece of work. A 2½” clock replaces the gauge that might typically be found on that mounting, and the red valve conceals the on/off switch. There is also a dimmer in the line that you can set at whatever brightness you like, then turn it on at the valve. It stands 12″ tall and is constructed of cast iron plumbing pipe. It is quite heavy as well as off-center toward the light fixture, and therein lies the warning.
You see, this comes mounted, and I use the word as loosely as possible, on the 9″-diameter gear in the picture. Disfortunately, the gear is cheap plastic, or perhaps even a ring of genuine Sleazite©, and all that heavy iron is glued onto the hub! The two pieces separated twice while they were unpacking it. My daughter finally got it to hold with liberal application of some industrial glue, but after sitting nicely on a table for a month, it came apart and crashed over. Fortunately, literally being cast iron, it is quite indestructible, but that doesn’t solve the basic problem.
It is a well-known fact, especially to charlatans, that steampunk enthusiasts love this stuff, and will pay a pretty penny, sight unseen, for something like this. I found several hundred of these on line by Googling “steampunk table lamps,” and most of them are priced north of $100. That’s pretty steep for something that’s going to fall apart as you’re unpacking it, so do your homework, and be sure that what you’re getting is worth the price tag. In my case, I was willing to mount it to my desk’s top shelf with three small screws, but the next guy might not have that option, and be stuck with something not fit to use or display.
And that’s 30 for this issue. Join me Sunday when I’ll be posting about the horror to be found in everyday situations. Now get out there and live life like you mean it!