I have been blessed to have made a lot of friends thanks to this gig as an author, and one of the best has been William J. Jackson, my “brother from another mother.”  Willy-the-J writes of the Victorian-era happenings in and around Railroad City, Missouri.  He probably won’t care for this, but the best description that I can offer of the Rail Legacy Series is Jules Verne meets the X-men.  In these stories, the strange element Negatrite, arriving from space on a meteor, has caused mutations in some small percentage of the population, and these changelings have instilled fear, wonder, and loathing in the populace at large, which is mainly what drives the stories.

While the concept may be familiar to comic book fans, William weaves powers that would be unfamiliar to Wolverine and Cyclops into wonderful stories of persecution, survival, and redemption set on the frontier of the American west way back when.  My poor powers of description can’t do them justice.  I can only say, read them for yourself!  And right now through next Tuesday, William is making that ridiculously easy to accomplish by giving away An Irradiated Crypt, the third book of the Rail Legacy Series.

He has gone to the effort of setting up this giveaway for readers in several countries, so find your home, and click the link to pick up your free copy, but move quickly, because the offer ends Tuesday.  I’ve laid out the subject, and if it appeals to you, if you believe that comic book themes aren’t just for kids, you’ll be hard-pressed to find finer tales of the weird and heroic.


And while you’re at it, visit William’s web page and sign up for his newsletter.  That way you’ll be notified, as I was this morning, when he announces these giveaways, which he is fond of doing as short-term surprises.  If you like a good yarn that is off the beaten track, join William in The Rail; he’ll be thrilled to welcome you!


Who am I again?

~ The Philosophers’ Couch with Jack and The Dude ~

dad & dude 4-16

Boy, this vacation is just what I needed!  Hanging out with friends and taking my ease is great medicine for these tired old bones.  Case in point:  The Dude and I were out for an evening stroll and enjoying a heart-to-heart the other night, and the conversation turned to heritage.  He’s a purebred, and rightfully proud of it, but my background isn’t so clear.  For Father’s Day 2016 my daughter had a DNA workup done on me by; note the brand as it is important, at least it is to me.  Having grown up within a family’s oral history of Scandinavian roots with a sprinkling of English, I was proud of being a mix of the Vikings who terrified everyone who encountered them, and the “Thin Red Line” who had stood up to every dictator from Rome to Hitler.  Then the results came back.

Imagine my surprise, then, to find that my largest genetic block was Irish!  That had never crossed my mind.  That portion wasn’t dominant, just slightly ahead.  The exact percentages were 38% Irish, – 35% Scandinavian – 17% British – and 10% trace elements from everywhere the Vikings had visited during their 300-year sailing party.  Okay, Irish is a cool thing to be, and I cheerfully embraced it.  I bought a pin and a hat to celebrate my newly discovered status, I was given a beautiful shirt calling attention to it, and even created a dish in commemoration.  I blogged about it on my old site and reposted it here.  Having never given it a thought before, I was digging it.


And then the email arrived in my daughter’s mailbox.  She has an account, has spent years diligently researching our family tree, and she has put an incredible history together for us, but this was more than a bit disturbing.  It seems that in the 2½ years since I submitted my DNA, the “science has been improved, allowing us to consider more markers.”  Apparently, these refinements have caused some of the determinations to change.  Okay, fine.  What does that mean to you?  When I heard it, I thought that the percentages would slide a few points one way or the other, making the slices of the pie-chart slightly different.  Nope.

My aforementioned Irish heritage which I had embraced and learned to be so proud of is gone, erased, zero percent.  And that 17% British?  That’s now 78%.  Scandinavian has slipped back to 21%, leaving one percent for what used to be ten.  And the groups included in that 10%, the North African, Middle Eastern, Crimean, along the Caucuses, gone.  That has been replaced by 1% sub-Saharan African from along the Ivory Coast, a possibility I can’t refute, as some of my distant ancestors were slave owners.

This frustrates me something awful, and makes me very angry as well.  This is the result of a little refinement?  This looks more like my sample was switched with someone else’s.  I don’t know what to believe now.  My instinct, coupled with what I learned from my family, tells me that the first report was much more accurate.  It also tells me that this is not the result of a little refinement, but if it is, what does that say about the science of DNA?  How did my Irish go from the biggest slice of the pie to nonexistent?  How did they see it as the main element the first time around if it was never there to start with?  How can I tell anyone or even believe that “I’m this” or “I’m that,” when next week they might decide that I’m an African Spaniard who came to America by way of southern China?  And how many poor bastards are sitting on death row after being convicted on DNA evidence?  What can a prosecutor say, given how radically the results change after “a little refinement?”

“Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, the DNA clearly shows that the killer was a white guy with roots in northern Europe.  The defendant is a white guy with roots in northern Europe, so clearly, there can be no doubt of his guilt!”

My personal opinion after the dust has settled?  This has a bit of an odor to it.  I’m not sure what, whether it’s simple carelessness and disregard for the customer, or a more sinister scheme centered around harvesting money, but at the very least I feel that this product is worthless, as I now have no idea what I am ethnically (other than a white guy, and I knew that already), and no faith at all in anything else they might tell me.  I can’t start telling people that I’m English now, because who knows what I’ll be tomorrow?  I feel like I knew more about my heritage before this “service” was ever performed.  My daughter paid for this (and it wasn’t cheap), but knowing what I know now, if I had to buy a screening myself, I’m afraid I’d have to try National Geographic or 23-and-me, and hope they were a bit more serious about their accuracy.  I’m sorry.  I rarely write a negative review of a product, but this is just ridiculous.

But that’s just me . . .  Now, with that off my chest, I may be on vacation, but my friends aren’t, so let’s take a look at some much more interesting blogs . . .

~ Other Voices ~

The Bold Mom:  Book review – Three Days in Ashford by Ty Tracey – Do you believe in eternity?  You better do.

Rambles, Writing, and Amusing Musings:  White Fire – another review.  Woooo!

MovieBabble:  Film review – The Last Laugh (2019)

Writers Helping Writers:  How to get emotion onto the page.

Richie Billing:  New flash fiction section added to list of publishers of short fantasy fiction.

Exploring the Epiphany:  The Face Molds.

David Lee Summers’ Web Journal:  Squirrel Girl.

Writers after Dark:  What’s your wellness strength?

Cool San Diego Sights:  Cool street art memories for a rainy day.

Experimental Film & Music Video Festival:  Experimental Festival testimonial – January 14th, 2019.

Pointless Overthinking:  Your emotions are in your way.

Tara Sparling Writes:  Superblogger Chapter 2:  The thinnest fitness blog you’ll ever read.

Firewater Site:  Good Omens by Terry Pratchett & Neil Gaiman – a book review.

Lucid Being:  Articles and the abstract.

Irevuo:  Quote of the day.

Bon Bon Lifestyle Webazine:  Meet the head of TikTok, a 35-year old who makes employees do push-ups if their videos don’t get enough likes.

Existential Tableau:  French might be the language of civilization, but it’s not the language Poles are particularly fond of. You know why.

The Art of Blogging:  A simple five-step guide to creating a popular blog.

Cheche Winnie:  Do your best.

The Pioneer:  English language daily news from India.

And that’s 30 for this issue.  Be with me on the 1st when I’ll be promoting more of the interesting reads I encounter on my travels, and raving about how refreshing my vacation was and how I can’t wait to get back to storytelling.  And if anything special crosses my path, you can count on me to drop a special edition.  So until we meet again, get out there and live life like you mean it!

Happy New Year!

This is the moment of embarking.

All auspicious signs are in place.


I’ve been on vacation for about a week now, and the relaxation is oozing through my system like a drug of high delight!  My purpose for this impromptu post is to wish you all a happy and prosperous 2019, to share my vision of where I’ll be headed next year, and to offer a peek at what I’ve come up with so far.

So, the vacation was a wonderful idea.  I’ve had this blog on a schedule, which means deadlines, and deadlines mean work, whether you’re getting paid or not.  Virtually everyone takes and benefits from a vacation from work now and then, and this blog appears to be no exception.  I expect to be in the feet-up position through the month of January, and I mean that almost literally.  Dearly Beloved has arthritis to the point that she can’t really enjoy going out anymore, so the days are filled with Xbox and TV, binge-watching old TV series, curling up in front of movies old and new, and reading books, blogs, and podcasts.

Going forward, I plan to blog a lot less.  This site will consist of two things:  Promotion of good reading, as I have been doing for a while in my Other Voices feature, and my ramblings on The Craft of writing; I may not do it anymore, but I haven’t forgotten how, and if my “insights” help ease anyone else’s journey on the path, that’s time well spent and brings an enjoyable sense of satisfaction.  Other extraneous stuff will be eliminated, and possibly some earlier names changed to bring them into line for ease of reference.

And as to writing, which is how I got into this mess in the first place . . .  Call this a New Year’s Resolution if you wish; to my mind it’s something I happened to think of around the new year, but every day from now on, I will set aside a block of time to get out my story materials and ponder on them.  No distractions.  No internet, no video games, no TV running in the background, no none of that.  I’m going to aim for an honest two hours each day.  I certainly have that to spare in my life of retirement, and I vow to put it to good use.  I’m still blocked, and may never recover, but if I don’t, it won’t be because I just gave up and never returned to it.  I’ll provide monthly progress reports, should there be any.

So here’s wishing all my friends, most of whom are fellow authors, and who have stood by me during this awful period of writer’s block, a most happy and prosperous new year!  May the Great Bird of Happiness dump all over you, and success touch everything you put your hand to.  I love you guys, the few I’ve met and the many I haven’t, and I cherish your comments and observations on my humble work here.  Above all, be safe as you head out to enjoy the World-Wide Party tonight; I’m not finished with any of you, and would be saddened beyond measure should anything untoward befall anyone.  Allow me to leave you with a poem that I saw about fifty years ago.  I didn’t write it, and there were many stanzas, but this one has stayed with me.  I don’t recall the source, but it’s actually a song parody that I think most of you will recognize . . .

Oh, you’d better watch out, you’d better not drive,
you’d better stay home, I’m telling you why:
Sodden clods are painting the town.

Blithe New Year’s drivers pickled
in alcoholic brine
will gaily bounce off walls and trees
to the strains of Auld Lang Syne!

So, you’d better watch out, you’d better not drive,
you’d better stay home, I’m telling you why:
Sodden clods are painting the town!

A Happy, Safe, and Prosperous New Year to Everyone!