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!

Other Voices, #19

Good morning, everyone, and I hope this finds you well.  I announced in yesterday’s post, Gone Fishing, I’m going to be taking a couple or three weeks of R&R; read it for the details.  But then I realized that I had today’s post about 80% complete, so why not post it, right?  So enjoy the books and the blogs, and take some time off to hibernate.  I highly recommend it!

~ Books ~


Zombie Road:  388-page novel by David A. Simpson.  After decades of planning, the contagion was unleashed and overnight hundreds of millions died and came back as rampaging, undead monsters.  The living that had been lucky enough to survive the outbreak soon discovered there was much more to worry about than just zombies.  In the high desert on the outskirts of Reno, there is an old truck stop frequented by a mix of hard caliber truckers, day tourists, musicians and travelers.  They have survived the chaotic first hours of contact with the undead and now must make their way across the country to a location they believe is safe.  Zombies are only the beginning of their troubles as they try to cover the thousands of miles of open road with their hastily armored 18-wheelers.  $2.99 on Kindle.


Murder in the Air:  152-page novel by David Pearson.  A local businessman’s plane crashes into bogland killing all three occupants.  Galway’s detectives investigate.  It’s not long before experts establish that the small aircraft’s engine had been tampered with.  From dealing with a tragic accident, senior DI Maureen Lyons is suddenly launching a murder inquiry.  The initial police investigation centers on the pilot, the local property development tycoon, Gerald Fortune.  The other occupants, Fortune’s daughter, Emma, and his architect, are seen as unfortunate bystanders.  It turns out that Fortune did not always play fair, and many individuals were left out of pocket by his business dealings.  But was that enough to kill?  Could there be a different motive at work?  The police inquiries set off a chain of events that lead to an assault, a kidnapping and a whole load of intrigue.  Who would go to such lengths to see off the plane’s occupants?  Who was the real target?  And why?  This could be the hardest investigation yet for Maureen Lyons and her team.  And she’ll have to light a fire under the sleepy west coast Garda to catch the killer.  99¢ on Kindle.


A Body on Fitzgerald’s Bluff:  185-page novel by Anna Celeste Burke.  Miriam Webster’s a woman with a few secrets — can she keep them after she and her spirited Dalmatian, Domino, find a body on Fitzgerald’s Bluff?  When Miriam Webster moves into the Seaview Cottages active adult community, the last thing she expects is to find a body on the bluffs nearby.  The mystery takes a quick detour when Miriam and her friends return to Fitzgerald’s Bluff with the Deputy Sheriff.  The dead woman’s gone, but not for long.  Where the body turns up is only one of the surprising twists the mystery takes for Miriam and her friends.  Convinced that the local deputy isn’t up to the task of finding a killer on the loose, Miriam and her gang of Grand Old Lady Detectives [G.O.L.D.] set out to discover the truth about a body on Fitzgerald’s Bluff.  Can they solve the mystery without becoming the killer’s next victim?  $2.99 on Kindle.


Titus Fogg.  452-page novel by Aaron Piper.  Titus Fogg hates magic, and with good reason.  Born into a murderous family of cruel and powerful casters in modern Massachusetts, magic has contributed to every bad thing that has happened to him since birth.  After finally managing to banish the most likely evil (but definitely dirty-minded) entity called Shade from his body to the sidelines as his shadow, Titus has the chance to have a normal, magic free, high school life.  But, when Tess Roe, his classmate, neighbor and model of justice at their school realizes she can see the creatures Titus calls the Wyrd too, Titus must return to the world of the strange to help her.  Soon Titus’s dark past comes to light as he must prove that he isn’t responsible for the death of one of Tess’s friends, and the theft of a magical book that could lead to the destruction of Arkham.  99¢ on Kindle.  [That price is listed in our writers’ group as “This Week Only.”  I found no reference to the full price, but if this looks interesting, get it soon!]


Down Jersey Driveshaft:  425-page novel by William J. Jackson.  World War on the American homefront.  But this is not the war against the Axis Powers.  Something sinister and beyond imagining has penetrated the salt marshes and idyllic surroundings of Salem County, New Jersey.  It will take the bravery of strangers and locals, along with some startling new technology, to beat back the tide of this unstoppable nightmare.  For those who have never experienced it before, this is Dieselpunk, a reimagining of the early 20th Century, more advanced, more deadly, more classy than what we have today.  It is yesterday’s look with tomorrow’s tech, retrofuturism.  This is Down Jersey Driveshaft.  This and all of Mr. Jackson’s novels are $1.99 on Kindle for the rest of this week.


CODE: Revelation.  206-page novel by Boris Sanders.  Introverted computer scientist Maximilian Gutenberg had no intention of acquiring a crystal with a being trapped inside, especially not one with the power to save — or destroy — humanity.  Her name is Lucy, and she cannot escape her prison until her mission is complete.  A mission she keeps secret from everyone, even Max.  But she needs his help.  To gain his trust, she offers to get rid of his abusive boss in one week, and get him that promotion he always wanted.  She’ll make him the hero of his own life, a man worthy of recognition, in exchange for helping her complete her mission.  This could be the opportunity of Max’s life, but he can’t help but wonder if Lucy is as good as she seems . . .  And exactly what mission she must complete to regain her freedom.  Set in a dystopian, futuristic city built miles into the sky, CODE: Revelation is a powerful, psychological thrill ride that calls into question the nature of good and evil, and the importance of taking control of your own destiny.  $3.99 on Kindle.

~ Blogs ~

Cool San Diego Sights:  Kids entrepreneur fair coming to Keary Mesa.
Inmate Blogger:  Change by Rodney M. Siler.
Karen J. Carlisle:  All I want for Christmas is Jólabókaflóð.
Metapunk:  Review of Mortal Engines, the movie (Podcast)
A Rambling Collective:  Christmas Presence.
Therapy with Books:  Best books of 2018.

And that’s 30 for a while.  Have a safe and happy new year, and I’ll see you probably around the end of January.  Ciao!