Book Launch: Planetary Anthology: Venus

Announcing

Planetary Anthology: Venus

The next installment of the Planetary Anthology series – VENUS – releases on Valentine’s Day!

If you like a little romance in your sci-fi & fantasy, or even a little sci-fi & fantasy in your romance, this one is for you.

My short story Thirty-Seven Shades of Yellow (yes, I went there, but it’s not what you think) is only one of twenty tales you can find featured in this new release called Planetary Anthology: Venus published by Superversive Press.

TSSoY takes place in the same universe as Quicksilver (from the Mercury Anthology).

Here’s the teaser synopsis:

Thirty-Seven Shades of Yellow – Terraforming Venus places human pioneers in a constant struggle against a raging environment, but the real challenge is finding that special someone with whom to fight the fight.

Help make this a great launch by  grabbing your copy on Amazon.

Take a look at this awesome launch video put together by Ben Zwycky.

Here’s the blurb:

VENUS

The second planet from the sun, a world of sulfurous gas and tremendous temperatures where the landscape features—mountains and valleys—are all named for love goddesses. Venus herself is the goddess most known for allure and romance.

Here are twenty stories featuring Venus, the planet, the goddess, or just plain love—both romantic and otherwise. Planetary Fiction explores the themes associated with these heavenly bodies as well as their astronomical, mythological, and in some cases even alchemical significance.

Included in this volume are 

Just Look, I’ll Be There by A. M. Freeman
Morning And Evening Star by David Hallquist
Ninety Seconds by Bokerah Brumley
The Wrong Venus by Lou Antonelli
Enemy Beloved by Monalisa Foster
Texente Tela Veneris by Edward Willett
The Happiest Place On Earth by Misha Burnett
Love Boat To Venus by Declan Finn
Venus Times Three by Margot St Aubin
Avalon by Dawn Witzke
The Rituals Of Venus by Joshua M. Young
First Cat In Space by  Dana Bell
Venus Felix by W. J. Hayes
The Rocket Raising by Frederic Himebaugh
Star-Crossed by Julie Frost
Honeymoon In Fairland by L. Jagi Lamplighter
Thirty-Seven Shades of Yellow by J.D. Beckwith
The Fox’s Fire by Danielle Ackley-McPhail
Smiley The Robot by Amy Sterling Casil
Stones In High Places by Jane Lebak

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Review: Planetary Anthology: Mercury

Planetary: MercuryPlanetary Anthology: Mercury by John C. Wright, Benjamin Wheeler, L. Jagi Lamplighter, Corey McCleery, Joshua M. Young, J.D. Beckwith, Bokerah Brumley, Lou Antonelli, Declan Finn, Misha Burnett, A.M. Freeman, Dawn Witzke, David Hallquist

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Firstly, I must state for the record that I am an author in this anthology.

Secondly, I also state that the opinions expressed in this review are mine alone, and are mostly for my own remembrance of the stories. I do this with all anthologies I read (and books, too). My reviews of individual stories sometimes contain spoilers, so read them at your own risk if you have not yet read the book.

As a summary, I can say that this anthology was definitely worth the five star rating. No, I didn’t think every story was a five star, but enough of them were to justify the overall rating. I’m not rating them individually because I am a co-author. I will simply state that none are less than three stars for me, with several fours and fives.

Don’t read further if you are worried about spoilers. I try not to, but it is difficult with short stories. Plus, this is intended for me to remember with, and other interested parties to compare notes.

In the Palace of Promised Immortality by John C. Wright

Wright’s story is very deep. It took me a moment to figure out what was going on with the MC, but once I did, things became clearer. The deeper meaning is the overlay of the Christian concepts of Grace, Predestination & Free Will. Also, the concept of Purgatory being a causality loop in a time paradox was astounding. I will admit to stopping two or three times just to boggle at the allegorical weaving that this story entailed. It is a masterpiece.

Schubert to Rachmaninoff by Benjamin Wheeler

Unfortunately, this tale didn’t relly do it for me. I have read one other of Wheeler’s short stories, and thought it was quite good. It started off on a low note because I instantly hated the MC because I don’t like cocky braggarts. Then, I didn’t find the reasons for the necessity of his dangerous delivery to be believable. There were some other issues I had, but the nail in the coffin was a physics oversight. (Lack of an atmosphere means there can’t be a vacuum that sucks in dust and the MC’s bike). Not wanting to be all negative (my grumpy nerd side is showing a bit), I will say that it was full of vividly painted scenery, and there’s definitely a good writing style with plenty of action to be had. Wheeler writes well, I just didn’t like this particular story.

The Element of Transformation by L. Jagi Lamplighter

Lamplighter’s story is another fantastic tale. The son of Prospero the Magician gets thrown into prison where he runs across Mercury (the god). A loss from his past prevents him from acting in motivated self-interest until Mercury shows him some things from another perspective. It is complex, derives a bit from history and the real world while weaving in the mystical. Amazingly, the MC actually has growth, even within the confines of a short story. The ending was terrific, unexpected, and uplifting.

In Tower of the Luminious Sages by Corey McCleery

This was a very vivid tale of Oriental Empires and Ancient Dragon-Gods. A young female thief gets more than she expects when she tries to rob a tower with magical significance. She discovers a truth about her own origins and reveals a truth that can save an Empire. Well written and highly descriptive, this story paints its images on the theatre of your mind that almost paint by number in its exactness. You almost have no choice but to see what is described. Gripping and had a good ending.

The Haunted Mines of Mercury by Joshua M. Young

A scary tale that is but a glimpse of a much larger world and universe. While investigating strange occurrences in a mine on Mercury, the MC must face ghost/demons left behind… in the distance past of the planet, and in the recent past of his own heart. The main action scene in this story are pulse-pounding, and the lead it is spot on for tension building. Bravo, Mr. Young!

Quicksilver by J.D. Beckwith <– Hey, I know this guy! 🙂

I enjoyed writing this story, and spent way more time designing the Chariot of Helios in my head than I should have. I hope you like it too.

Ancestors Answer by Bokerah Brumley

A Japanese woman whose family honor has been completely tarnished by the action of her descendants is given the power and responsibility to go back to the land of the living to correct it.

Last Call by Lou Antonelli

Mercury’s core has been mined out to make a space fleet to protect humanity. An old hand of forty years has known nothing but ore hauling. Now that it’s done, he stays behind to close out the books. This one is very shy on character development, even for a short. It’s meant to be a sympathy torque, but it missed the mark for me because I didn’t connect with the MC.

Deceptive Appearances by Declan Finn

Two rough and tumble detectives stop a weapons dealer on Mercury, but only one of them knows the full score… because where would be the fun if they both did? Nice detective noir style story that’s self-contained and fun.

mDNA by Misha Burnett

A genetic courier and artificial insemination expert makes house-calls for the few remaining reproductive people on a dying Earth. I was a bit put off by this one, as it was a bit depressing and kind of an icky subject matter. Good writing though.

The Star of Mercury by A.M. Freeman

An entrepreneurial inventor with money woes is stranded on Mercury with a sickly daughter he needs to get back home to Earth for treatment. A jealous and disreputable nemesis keeps stealing his work. This story was amazing. It made me SO MAD at the bad guy I could have spit! I loved the ending!

Cucurbita Mercurias by Dawn Witzke

Devotion to achieving fame leads a terraforming botanist’s work on Mercury to a dark place when sweat and tears are no longer enough. Short, but oh so dark!

The Wanderer by David Hallquist

A failed attempt to seed a newborn solar system with life leaves a sentient ship lost and alone for eternity. A mystery in Mercury’s depths brings one man face to face with what could be mankind’s greatest discovery. Epic in thought and scope, this story is by far my favorite of the anthology. I hope for a sequel or expansion.

View all my reviews

Movie Review: The Cloverfield Paradox

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Orbiting a planet on the brink of war, scientists test a device to solve an energy crisis, and end up face-to-face with a dark alternate reality.

The Cloverfield Paradox is a great science-fiction romp. I highly recommend it.

The critics’ response to The Cloverfield Paradox once again proves that ‘Critics Don’t Know Science Fiction’ or what’s good. The special effects are awesome. The suspense is great. The science referenced is deep (but don’t over-think it). The actors, although completely unknown to me, are terrific.

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This third installment of the Cloverfield franchise is much more on par with the first.

The original Cloverfield was a great movie. The style (jerky camera footage) made me a bit nauseous when I watched it at first, but it made for a sense of realism that pulled me in as a participant rather than just a viewer. That feeling of not knowing what would happen next (or what the heck was really going on, for that matter) was what made it a great movie to me. Well, The Cloverfield Paradox does that again, only this time it’s in space!

Spaaaaaaaace!

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Now, I won’t compare it to the fail that was 10 Cloverfield Lane. That was just psycho-thriller garbage with aliens thrown into the mix. It was like Signs, but with John Goodman manifesting the crazy of the entire cast himself right after a screeching fight with Rosanne Barr. Swing away Dan!

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Anyway, below I’ll discuss some details about the plot and give some nitpicks. There are going to be spoilers, so if you haven’t seen the movie, go watch it first. But come back and read the rest of this and see if you agree. I’d love to hear your comments!

—————-SPOILERS BEYOND THIS POINT—————-

The movie starts off in the middle of a gas shortage line. I was thinking we were going to get some Clover action right up front, but it was the character back-story instead. You find out that Earth is in energy depletion hell and about to fight about it. Soon though, you are on the space station where the super-collider is being built that will generate infinite power (nitpick #1). Fail, fail, fail again. Then success, but a BIG BADA-BOOM fail.

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After that, all sorts of weird happens. Not mega-critter or creepy critter a la Clover weird, but more Event Horizon without the malevolence weird. There’s plenty of eepy-creepy to enjoy. There’s also lots of space ‘spoldy stuff and a good bit of intrigue. Like I said before, trying to figure out what is happening is what makes it so good. And it has lots of different genre styles meshed together.

Now it’s time for my usual nitpick where I point out the things I didn’t like (sci-fi nerd complaints). 1) Infinite Power from the supercollider – Nope. Not even a theory as far as I know. I am not a particle physicist, however. 2) Play it again, Sam – They run the Shepherd (Collider) again to get back home. How does that work? They randomly jumped to the parallel dimension they were in, so why is the second time reversed? Why not another random jump. This was never fully explained to my nerdly satisfaction. And the third time they run it everything is fine because they blow all the condensation out. Huh? OK, whatever. 3) Displacement & Destruction – They appeared on the opposite side of Sol from Earth. Why did the other station go boom then? It crashed in the ocean (w/o burning up?). Why were they displaced. Why were able to go right back to Earth orbit when the returned after they spent days in a new solar orbit. It comes down to a case of ‘How Do It Know?’ for me.

Oh well, nerdy nitpick done. It’s sciency enough to enjoy, but like I said, don’t over think it (I don’t follow my own advice on this most of the time… which is why you should ignore most of my nitpicks in reviews.)

I give the movie 4 out of 5 stars with a healthy suspension of disbelief for the sake of enjoyment.

Free Story Friday (2-2-18) – Unintended Consequences

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Gratuitous Cute Kitten Ovelord

Free Story Friday – 2-2-18 (Unintended Consequences – A Peacekeeper Index Story)

This is the first of what I hope to make a bi-weekly blog event. Every other Friday, on Odd Weeks, I plan post a free short story. I will eventually figure out how to set up a mailing list to do this, but for now you will be able to catch them here on the blog. Of course, that means I have to write one every two weeks, which will be a challenge. This week, due to lack of time, I will admit to cheating with one I already had.

This story was written with the intent to be a one-off as a way to put a pin in the idea of The Peacekeeper Nanites. Microscopic robots in the brain that kept convicted criminals from committing repeat crime. It went on to become something much more complicated in my head, and eventually led to the origin tale that is the novel eConscience Beta3D-eConscience-Beta

 

Enjoy!


Unintended Consequences – A Peacekeeper Index Story

© 2015 by J.D. Beckwith

Silence reigned in the courtroom as Mr. Zebulon “Zeb” Brockway Edmonds, Attorney-at-Law began his closing statements. “Your Honor, my client is not some malicious criminal as the prosecution would have you believe. She is in fact the unrealized victim of one crime, and now, via the hands of the prosecuting attorney, the actual victim of two others… namely libel and harassment!

He strode back and forth in front of the judge, one arm casually resting in the palm of the other behind his back as he continued his monologue. “Now, Your Honor, I may make my living practicing law in a modern metropolitan city, but my roots go back to a much more rural upbringing. So I hope you’ll forgive that I’ve thought of a rather nice colloquial analogy for this situation.

“If a fox were killed by a farmer for trying to break into a chicken coop, would you hold the chicken at fault for being too noisy and drawing attention to itself, Your Honor? Highly doubtful. I mean, there might be some extenuating circumstance where perhaps the chicken is parading back and forth at the door yelling the fowl equivalent of ‘na-na na-na boo boo’, but, the more likely scenario is that the chicken is simply cackling over her eggs and being a chicken. No, sir, the chicken is not at fault for the fox’s ill intent, nor for the actions that the farmer takes to protect it.

“That is the situation you have in this case, Your Honor. You could hold this woman,” pointing toward his client, “no more at fault for what happened to the plaintiff than you could the chicken for the fox.

“To further that analogy, Your Honor, what if this isn’t the fox’s first time at the farm? What if he has already had a run in with that farmer before, survived the encounter, yet refuses to learn from it and returns again?” He said the last statement with a gesture toward the plaintiff, who sat at the prosecutor’s table.

He was a study in contradictions; a plethora of prison tattoos cover his forearms, neck, scalp, and even the bridge of his nose while he was dressed in a well tailored suit and tie. Most jarring of all though, were the colloidal scars on the left side of his neck and face, twisting upward to touch the corner of his empty left eye socket and his half-melted earlobe.

“The plaintiff certainly has a previous history of poor choices. In this instance, the farmer, in the form of Peacekeeper Nanites, protected the flock, Your Honor. The plaintiff is responsible for his own thoughts, and, as the Peacekeeper Nanite technology effectively demonstrated, his own attempted actions. Those actions are on the record of Required Confession from Restrained Parolees. The plaintiff admitted he intended to knowingly engage in a premeditated, illegal act against the defendant. Furthermore, as I’m sure Your Honor is quite aware, it has been established time and again in legal history that verbal antagonism — which was completely unintentional in this case, I might add — is NOT just cause for such acts!

“Additionally, Your Honor, I would like to put forth a note of caution. As conscientious actors within our the legal system, we cannot allow a case of unintended consequences to set a precedent that might be used as leverage against the first amendment of the Constitution. My client was having a private conversation in a public area in direct exercise of her free speech rights which the plaintiff just happened to overhear. The conversation was not even directed at him specifically! Did speaking aloud her opinion that “all Parolees should be required to perform menial labor at minimum wage for the remainder of their lives” kindle the plaintiff’s anger? We don’t refute that possibility. He is a Parolee, so maybe it did make him angry,” he said with a questioning shrug, a wobbling hand wave, and a slight purse to his lips. “But my client had no knowledge that he was a Parolee, nor was she even actively aware of his presence for that matter. He was in the kitchen behind various pieces of equipment. Further, one of the rights of Parolees is that they not be overtly identifiable, in which case, how could she know?

“Your Honor, the prosecution’s entire case rests on leading you to connect a very thin line of dots between events that would somehow show some culpability exists on the part of my client. It simply does not exist. My client is not responsible for someone else’s actions.

“Did the plaintiff’s anger at the defendant’s statements cause him to decide to act illegally? The answer is yes, by his own confession, it did! Did his subsequent Restriction by his implanted Peacekeeper Nanites cause his collapse and injury? That too, is a matter of factual record. However, Your Honor, the causal nature of actions does not convert to a conclusion of direct responsibility. The plaintiff’s anger, which he was not able to control in a positive manner, was his responsibility. His own failure of self-control led to his attempted illegal act, as recorded by his confession, which was the real cause of both his Restriction, and his injury. Had he chosen not to try to throw a boiling pan of hot fry grease at my client, which he knew to be an illegal act, he would not have been Restricted. His collapse to the floor — with said grease falling onto his own person — was the results of his actions, not my client’s. His injuries were of his own making!

“In conclusion Your Honor, my client has testified before you that she regrets the harm that the plaintiff has suffered. Even though, had he not been Restricted, his actions would have led to the same harm befalling herself; she still has compassion for him. That fact alone should show no personal threat or ill intent was, or has ever been, directed toward the plaintiff from my client.

“Your Honor, we ask that you please do not let an innocent victim be turned into a criminal by overzealous attorneys. And we also ask that you please do not let a victory for the Peacekeeper Enforcement Agency be turned into a mockery of justice by a frivolous lawsuit over a self-inflected consequence. With that, Your Honor, the defense formally asks that the plaintiff’s suit against my client be dismissed with prejudice, and that the plaintiff be held liable for all attorneys’ fees and court costs in this matter. The Defense rests, Your Honor.”

“Very well,” the judge said. “This court will be in recess for two hours while I deliberate,” he announced as he slammed his gavel once, and then left the dais. Noise returned to the courtroom as people and papers begin to shuffle around.

“Don’t worry, Zeb comforted his client, patting her folded hands. “There’s no way he can let this go forward. Come on. Let’s get out of here for a bit. We’ve got two hours.” He took her arm and they walked out the courtroom doors together.

“All rise!” the bailiff ordered loudly as the judge reentered the courtroom from his chambers. He seated himself and rapped his gavel three times in quick succession. After reciting the prerequisite formalities, the judge began his statements.

“I’ve reviewed this case thoroughly, and while I agree in principle with the arguments of the defense, I cannot help but see the pain and suffering that the plaintiff has endured. Let me be clear in saying that the fault for his injuries is not, in the opinion of this court, directly the result of the defendant’s actions. However, there is sufficient evidence that they were indirectly — through either negligent social behavior, or direct antagonism — caused by the defendant.”

A low murmur began in the gallery, causing the judge to rap his gavel for order. Zeb’s features darkened into a perplexed frown, but then lightened as he realized his client was looking at him fearfully. He gave her a reassuring pat on her hands, and gently encouraged her to return her attention to the judge.

The judge continued, “The court, at this juncture, cannot know with certainty which of these is truly the case. Therefore, reasonable doubt forces me to find the defendant not guilty on the charge of felony criminal threat.” The court suddenly began to buzz again with chatter, and Zeb patted his clients arm once more, and gave her a small smile as the judge banged his gavel to restore quite. “However”, he said, “on the charge of hate speech, I find the defendant guilty as charged.” The courtroom buzzed even louder this time. Zeb felt his client begin to sink to her seat, but he looked at her and shook his head quickly, indicating that she needed to remain standing.

The judge rapped his gavel several more times, calling for order repeatedly before the buzz died down again. “But, since I have not been shown conclusive proof of intent to harm by the prosecution, I will disallow the monetary damages being sought. Instead, I will take this opportunity to address an unforeseen gap in the protections and rights afforded Parolees. This court now renders the following decisions and directives.

“Firstly, by way of its granted power from the U.S. Congress through the Judicial Code Enforcement Act, the court directs the Peacekeeper Enforcement Agency to enact temporary civil code as follows: any person practicing speech or other non-verbal communications with the intent of inciting a Parolee, known or unknown, to trigger a Restriction event shall be classified as a hate crime. This code shall be enacted, and all Parolees informed of said code change as soon as practicable.

“Secondly, the court directs the prosecuting attorneys, in cooperation with the PEA, to issue a writ of legislation request to add said code to Federal Law, specifically to that law known as the Parolee Bill of Rights, such that if adopted it will be adhered to by all non-Parolee citizenry, thus becoming the law of the land.

“Thirdly, knowing that the functionality of Peacekeeper Nanite technology can prevent a future occurrence of direct verbal antagonism toward a Parolee with this code enacted, this court orders that the defendant be made a Parolee of the State, and released as soon as that has been affected. Should the defendant exercise Right of Refusal then physical incarceration shall be mandated for no less than five years in the federal penitentiary without the possibility of future offering of Parolee status. This court stands adjourned.” The judge banged his gavel once and immediately left the room.

With his client breaking down in tears, Zebulon Brockway Edmonds, Attorney-at-Law turned a stupefied stare toward his counterpart at the prosecutors’ table. The prosecuting attorney was staring at him as well. His brows were raised incredulously, and his jaw slightly agape. Shaking his head, he said to Zeb, “Well, that was unexpected!”

Chattacon 43: Dead Cons Tell No Tales – But I do!

—Note: Migrainus Interruptus kept me from finishing this yesterday, but things are better now… if much later than planned. I started this blog, but only got half-way through before I had to ditch the effort, so please excuse any seeming time-shift… carry on.—

Chattacon 43 is now dead.

Drive the last nail.

Throw the last shovelful of dirt.

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Chattacon 43 Convention Booklet
I know… Cheery sounding, right? Well, it matches[ed] my migraine hangover. But don’t worry, as the home brewed coffee tries to kick in and ‘fix’ the last remnants of the sinus/neck/head-ache that clobbered me starting Saturday eve and lingered through my ride southward home, my mood will slowly return to it’s mildly pessimistic and wholly sarcastic norm. In the mean time, I will regale you with a tale of terrible accommodations in a foreign land along with a terribly fun time with some really awesome people.
Chattacon was great. Remember that… set it aside, but keep it in mind as I bitch…um, I mean explain.

Friday, I arrived bright and early (1 PM), with zero traffic grievances along the way, at The Chattanoogan… then I drove all the way around it because my smart-ass phone (TM) wanted to just show me where it was, but not actually how to get into it… which you do around the back side, FYI. I was able to check in early (yeah) and ended up on the fifth floor (not so yeah, but elevator). Two trips had me ensconced in the room. I noticed  a slight odor from the bathroom, but figured it was just a lingering scent from previous guest that had yet to clear, because the cleaning crew had just recently left. I closed the door to let the vent system do its job, and thought no more about it. Next was put the vehicle in the parking garage, which took three floors of circling. I kept a careful eye out out for Parking Fairies, but thankfully they remained hidden. (I found it when I left today that it’s because they have two full time Leaf Blower Ogres that roam the garage during the day making lost of noise and blowing dirt around randomly to keep them under control.)

Next, to the registration counter…badges not ready yet for staff (I volunteered to help with gaming). So, then it was on to the meeting where the jovial game crew would be assigned their tasks. I walked in the direction where I though my map of the hotel had indicated things would be. Did I mention the front is not really the front, but the back is more the front for guests? This makes mental maps turn upside down in case you don’t think about it carefully. After a nice half-mile hike to the farthest reaches of the hotel I was fully convinced that someone had closed a corridor off and failed to put a detour sign.

I returned to the other wing of the building and, with a slight pant, asked the front desk just where the heck was the Ochs room (gaming room name for a former Chattanooga mayor or something… I knew that much… Mental map, you see). I was pointed in the opposite direction down a hallway that I had failed to notice the first time through (registration was set up on the opposite side of the REAR foyer).

After pondering the situation, mentally flipping my mental map like a lost person seeking north without a compass, I proceeded down said hall. Encountering others with badges and various nerdly attire convinced me that I was not, indeed, being punked… right up to the point I encountered the wholly unexpected T-junction in the hall that was no where in my mental map. I paused, mentally crumpled the mental map and discarded it as useless, then proceeded to enter cartographic mode in order to create a new one based on the new-found junction. I felt like Columbus charting the Indian Isles!

I headed off to the right while my Right Guard, having had enough of the long journey, decided to mutiny and go left. Had I listened to my armpits, I would have arrived sooner, but alas, my course was set. As the corridor curved, I passed the art show, and dealer’s room, and the con-suite. A hard left at an unexpected corner revealed a rest-room and the Amphitheater. I recognized this from the previously discarded mental map, which I immediately tried to un-wad in my brain once again, but by this point I was sailing on a cloudy sea at midnight with no compass.

I continued my leftward journey and found yet another con-suite… and then a third… and then an art show yet again. Just as I was about to use my emergency snack crackers to leave bread-crumbs for myself, I noticed the sign which read ‘Gaming – Miniatures’. Ah ha! Something new! I persevered and finally found ‘Gaming – RPG Room’… I was getting so close! At this point, I had somehow gone left at at least seven ninety-degree corners and had yet to return to my starting point. I come to believe that I was inside a gigantic conch-shell, when at last I found the ‘Gaming – Board Games’ room. At last Columbus had found the path to India!

 We met and hung out for a while discussing the do’s and don’t’s of proper game lending. I eventually decided I should go back to my room and bring down the pile of games I brought with me. Of course, I decided to go the opposite direction from which I had arrived, just prove to myself that the corridor was round. It was… I went around it twice before I found that stupid hallway leading back to elevators. I did solve the mystery of the repeating rooms in the process when I finally realized the art show and secondary con suite were in fact accessible from two sides of the Tardis… I mean hallway.

Games were delivered, badges picked up, and soon I had time to kill before Opening Ceremonies.

I placed some of my bookmarks for eConscience Beta on the freebie tables.

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Front

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Back

Then I swung by and perused the Art Show where I was able to harass some old friends. There were some great pieces in there, but well outside my price range. Next was the first panel I wanted to attend. It was going to be ‘Publicity for Newbies’ which would teach me how to Pulicitize stuffs! Unfortunately, influenza (or recovery from such) held several guests back from attending (to whom I am grateful for sparing the rest of us) which meant the schedule had to change last-minute. The result was basically an almost empty room that turned into a random conversation between four people and the fill-in panelist for thirty minutes, which was quite pleasant, as I got to know some new people that way.

At the Opening Ceremonies, attendance was low. I got there a bit early and was entertained by a ten year old girl (the con chair’s daughter) sitting up front with two of the GoH’s, Todd McCaffrey & Peter David. This same girl was given the task of introductions, and some subtle lessons in humility. Note: No matter what you have accomplished, a ten year old is not easily impressed! With a round of detailed introductions and speeches, the con was declared officially open!

I was to host a game of Castle Panic at 10PM, so I decided it might be a good idea to find some dinner. This was the beginning of my hotel disgruntlement. You see, it had been revealed when I arrived that there would be not ‘hot food’ at the con suite because The Chattanoogan did not want the competition with their in-house restaurants. I had been expecting to subsist on that source, but now I had to ‘scrounge’. Of course, as luck would have it, Friday night was ‘All you can eat seafood buffet’ at the Main Street Grille. I’m sure many would appreciate that, but I, being allergic to seafood, was not please in the slightest. I was even more displeased when I learned that it that the ALL in ‘All You Can Eat’ had a double meaning… there was NOTHING ELSE BEING SERVED. So, I spent the next hour trying to find an outside source of food that would not charge me an arm and a leg to deliver. Finally, I ended up waiting almost an hour for a pizza to be delivered. I planned to use that for my meal the following lunch as well.

I managed to scarf down three pieces before my slotted time for hosting the game rolled around. I set up and then waited until some unsuspecting victims arrived. We spent the next hour and a half getting our castle torn down around our ears. We almost had the Orcs, Goblins and Trolls defeated, but managed to wrest defeat from the jaws of victory with a really bad last pull of the cards. Alas, defeat!

But the night was still young. I manned the gaming desk and sat bored for an hour, occasionally rattling my chains to draw attention to my book that I had stowed away on the corner in hopes of a sale. My sequestration did not last long, however, as I was soon rescued with more conversation with friends, old and new. This lasted up until the clock struck two, then I excused myself to my boudoir in preparation to turn into a pumpkin for the night.

Now, my ire at the hotel in general was still only in the range of ‘slight’ at this point. When I reached my room, it went back up a notch when I discovered the bathroom had retained the odor I previously mentioned. Just out of morbid curiosity, I checked to make sure someone had not dropped  deuce in the tank of the toilet out of some morbid spite, but that was not the source. It was not something I could point toward, complain, and get a resolution of quickly, so I let it slide. It wasn’t ‘horrible’, just slightly off-putting. I didn’t want to have to change rooms. I wanted to sleep. So, I closed off the bathroom and let it slide. I never found source the entire weekend, nor did it go away.

The next morning, bright and early at 10 AM, I awoke to enjoy my first mug of coffee. I always bring my own pot because ‘no coffee’ is ‘no good’. I always manage to forget something too, which in this case was filters. I used three tissues carefully arranged to make up the deficit, though, so hurray for Engineerity! It was really a good thing I had that coffee to warm me up, too, because when I turned the shower on to it’s fullest ‘hot’ setting what I got was lukewarm water at very low pressure. This was my last straw as far as patience went with The Chattanoogan. It had been added the ‘shithole country’ list.

With that poor beginning to the day completed, I managed to warm up with my second mug of coffee and proceeded to my first panel of the day. ‘Playing in Someone Else’s Sandbox‘ conducted by Peter David.

Peter David

When I arrived at the room, I found said Sir, sitting grumpily outside the door waiting for someone to let him into the room. Hotel staff were soon badgered to do their job (strike seven… or was it eight?) and the doors were opened five minutes past starting time. Once inside, it was just myself and Mr. David, who was a bit surprised that the attendance was so low for a Guest of Honor panel. I explained that there had been copious amounts of alcohol consumed the night before into the wee hours of the morning by many con-goers, so many of them were probably still stumbling around finding breakfast and hangover meds. It did allow me the opportunity to mention my own book, of which I showed him a copy. I gave him a bookmark as well, but I have no idea if he kept it. Yes, that’s right, I showed off my SINGLE SELF-PUBLISHED novel to Peter David, prolific author of over 100! So… what’cha gon’ do about it! :p

Others finally showed up, and soon we were regaled with tales of pitfalls and head-butting, many quite humorous, that had happened to him in course of his writing career. I knew he had written for Star Trek (I have 31 of the damned books). I did not realize he had also written episodes of Babylon 5, many movie novelizations, and a huge number of comics. I’m not a comics guy, so please forgive what must seem unforgivable ignorance on the subject. Taking in the tidbits, as an aspiring author, I have an admiration for his ability to bite his creative tongue and do the work. The take-away secret that I acquired with regards to playing in someone else’s sandbox was ‘don’t get too attached because the work, world and characters don’t belong to you.’

An hour break before the next panel of interest let me head up to the room to scrounge my left-over pizza. Strike nine was the front desk informing me that not a single microwave was available to use to heat it. Of course, they could bring me one to my room (and charge me a fee), but it would take time… if they even had one left. It was at that point that I resolved that never again will I attend a convention without sammich makings. Lunch would have to wait for another hour and a half unless I wanted to miss the next panel, at which point I would have to spend another twelve dollars minimum in the bar downstairs for a burger. Not to mention the fact that most of a $15 pizza was going to be wasted. My stingy wallet was groaning in despair at this point.

The next panel was about ‘How Much Science Should A Science Fiction Writer Know.Stephanie Osborne was one of the ‘out sick’ panelists, but Mark Wandrey, Rob Howell & Christopher Woods ran with the theme. Ultimately, two conclusions were reached. One, you should have just enough science to satisfy your audience, but not so much that it becomes info-dumpy (unless you are David Weber, in which case rules do not apply to you). Two, Mark Wandrey likes mechs. 🙂 I’m going to have to add his Four Horsemen series to my ‘to read’ list now, I think.

Finally, the rumblings of my stomach forced me to override the grumblings of my wallet and I decided to head to the Foundry for a burger. The con had provided us with tickets to potentially win a free 2 night stay with entries earned by patronizing the hotel food establishments. For that reason, I ignored a friend’s advice to go across the street. The friend tagged along, and after seating ourselves, getting our own menus, we eventually got to place an order fifteen minutes later. The poor waitress was the only one working the place at 2 PM, although she did get some help about thirty minutes after that. This new person we flagged down and asked if we were going to be served our food. She went to check and found that they had apparently given it to someone else. ??? There were only seven people in the whole place. I informed her that I had to be elsewhere at 3 PM so they needed to bring me mine in a to-go box. I did eventually get the food, which was good, but I was going to be late for the one panel I did not want to miss. I was wondering about my Karma at this point, but my friend reminded me that I should really consider the Karma good because I did end up getting the meal for free. I’m still not sure about that.

On a positive note, I did make my panel before the book signing began. It was the Peter David Meet & Greet. I had to drag my box of books out of its hidden cubby in the game-room, stuff them in my bag, and hustle through to the back of the panel room, but I still made it. More tales of daring-David-do ensued. I learned some fannish lore (apparently well known in Comicon circles) regarding Teddy Bears and Babylon 5’s J. Michael Straczynski. I also learned some inside scuttlebutt about Star Trek movers and shakers. It was highly entertaining, and Mr. David is quite the casual name dropper. I was a bit impressed, but then again, I’m not a 10 year old. Anyway, below is a picture of the books I got signed. It’s not all I own (15 out of 31), but I would not have had time to get them all signed anyway.

20180121_233707.jpg

After that, the convention was a series of games interspersed with bouts of a sinus/neck-pain induced headache. I did manage to shake it off to play host for Five Tribes: The Djinns of Naquala with some new friends. I had to call it quits early though, and decided to see if the shower in my room was hotter at one in the morning… nope. Strike fourteen?

Sunday was the wrap-up with game & prize give-away and the Closing Ceremonies. Attendance was anemic on that one. I delivered my complaints. They were heard, but most likely ignored. Many excuses were given for why things would probably not change next year. I nodded, smiled, and wrote it off as a lost cause.

Summary: Chattacon is disorganized but fun. I would go again if they changed hotels and found a way to make the con suite have hot food. I have a bad feeling they are going to crash and burn as a con if they don’t up their game, though. Which is a shame, because the people are fun and friendly.

 

Review: Islands of Rage & Hope (Black Tide Rising Book #3)

Islands of Rage & Hope (Black Tide Rising, #3)Islands of Rage & Hope by John Ringo
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

YES! Finally we get to a real Ringo ringer! This one was perfectly balanced in terms of action, character development, and that patented Ringo ‘Holy crap, how did you think of that! That’s so friggin’ cool’ factor. I got several ‘Hell, Yeah!’ fist pump moments in this one, and one hell of an ending!

The plot takes you from the Atlantic crossing from the Canary Islands to Gitmo. Then you have lots of different scenarios encountered during the clearance of the Windward Isles as they search for the ingredients to make vaccine for the sub sailors that are still trapped in self-imposed quarantine. The last two ‘missions’ are pretty awesome, but I won’t spoil those.

The main characters grow a lot in this one, and the Smith girls are still hyper-capable, but not as in-your-face Mary Sue as the last book. You get to meet some other folks that I found quite interesting, but I won’t spoil that for you. Hey, you even get to meet some royalty in this one!

Even the logistics portions of the book seemed to be more interesting and less info-dumpy that the last book. Probably because it’s interspersed with more action. And, thankfully, the mil-speak was much better explained in this one. I actually learned quite a bit.

I highly recommend this book, and it alone make the series worth diving into. I give it five stars and call it an Hoorah! Read.

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Book Launch: Planetary Anthology: Mercury

Announcing

Planetary Anthology: Mercury

The day has finally arrived & I’m super-excited!

My short story Quicksilver (first non-self-published work), has been released as part of the Planetary Anthology: Mercury published by Superversive Press.

Help make this a great launch by  grabbing your copy on Amazon.

Take a look at this awesome launch video put together by Ben Zwycky.

 

Here’s the blurb:

MERCURY!

Innermost of worlds, blasted by the sun by day and frozen by night, Mercury remains an enigma. Mythical Mercury was also the messenger and trickster, and known for blazing speed and wit. Here are thirteen tales of science-fiction and the fantastic featuring Mercury.

Throughout history, the planets of our solar system have meant many things to many people; Planetary Fiction explores the themes associated with these heavenly bodies as well as their astronomical, mythological, and in some cases even alchemical significance.

Included in this volume are 

In the Palace of Promised Immortality by John C. Wright 
Schubert to Rachmaninoff by Benjamin Wheeler 
The Element of Transformation by L. Jagi Lamplighter 
In Tower of the Luminious Sages by Corey McCleery 
The Haunted Mines of Mercury by Joshua M. Young 
Quicksilver by J.D. Beckwith 
Ancestors Answer by Bokerah Brumley 
Last Call by Lou Antonelli 
Deceptive Appearances by Declan Finn 
mDNA by Misha Burnett 
The Star of Mercury by A.M. Freeman 
Cucurbita Mercurias by Dawn Witzke 
The Wanderer by David Hallquist

 

Review: To Sail a Darkling Sea (Black Tide Rising Book #2)

To Sail a Darkling Sea (Black Tide Rising, #2)To Sail a Darkling Sea by John Ringo
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Book 2 of the Black Tide Rising series is the continuation of the exploits of the Wolf Squadron, a rag-tag flotilla of ships and survivors of the zombie apocalypse. John Smith and his daughters Sophia (age 15) and Faith (age 13) continue to save as many people as possible at sea while pushing forward with plans to save humanity by reclaiming the land. First, they have to perfect their techniques for moving the fleet and clearing some beachheads.

The plot of this sequel is basically the continuing story of trying to get your ducks in a row… and the ducks are drunk. The hinted at objective from book 1, reclaim Guantanamo Bay and start manufacturing a cure, is postponed due to weather (hurricane season) and is only launched on the last pages. The rest of the story is about the re-establishment of military discipline & organization, and supply lines. It’s a book about logistics. It’s interesting, but it is also NOT much of an action adventure book. Sure, there are a few zombie encounters which keep the pacing decent, but the focus is heavily on military maneuvers, the reasons for following orders, and a lot of inside jokes that you almost have to BE military to understand. I am not, so they fell on deaf ears.

I also find that the Sophia & Faith characters are annoyingly Mary Sue. It’s difficult to suspend my disbelief at times, especially when they all start talking the same. The stilted replies of “Point” (meaning ‘You have a point.’) and “Works” (meaning ‘That works.’) from different characters is standing out so much that I cringe when I see it.

I like the series. I like the premise. I even like the logistics discussions. I just hope the third book is better with more action. I give this book three stars and call it a Mediocre Read.

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2017 Year In Books (& Writing)

My 2017 book-reading summary seems a bit anemic at first glance. Only 7300 pages?!? Only 24 full length novels? Compared to 2, 3 & 4 years ago, this is less than half of my usual. Here’s the thing though…. I also PUBLISHED a novel. The read-through count during editing was at least four times. And I also wrote lots of stuff (still unpublished, but coming soon). And I read tons of stuff on the Internet in the name of research.

Before I get to the reading/reviews summary, let me tell you what I managed to WRITE.

Novels Published: 1 – eConscience Beta
Stories Accepted to be Published: 2 (19,300 words)
Short Stories Submitted: 3 (24,500 words)
Novellas Written: 1 (49,500 words)
Stories Outlined or Started: 3 (6,200 words)
Blog Posts: 31: (18,660 words)

Grand Total: 118,000 words <—that’s a novel’s worth folks!

Yeah, like I said… busy. Anyway, back to the books I READ.

I found some really good books this past year. It’s probably the best quality reading year I’ve had in quite some time. 15 books at 4 to 5 stars out of 31 is (mathing….) >48% above average. That’s really good!

Here’s the breakdown for my reads & reviews this year.

Total books read for the year: 24 (+5 Comics & 2 Short Stories)

Total pages read for the year: 7,392

Book ratings: 8 – 5 stars, 7 – 4 stars, 15 – 3 stars, 1 – 2 stars, 1 – 1 star

I would love to hear from any readers in the comments.

How many books did you read in last year? What were your favs?

Wishing you all Happy Reading for 2018!


Showcase of some of my favorites from 2017 are below…

Five Star Books

eConscience Beta by J. D. Beckwith

My Book

Escaping Infinity by Richard Paolinelli

My Review

In Times Like These by Nathan Van Coops

My Review

The Chronothon: A Time Travel Adventure by Nathan Van Coops

My Review

Resurrection (The Frontiers Saga: Part 2: Rogue Castes #3) by Ryk Brown

My Review

   Critical Role – Vox Machina: Origins #1, #2 & #3 by Matthew Colville & Matthew Mercer

My Review

To Build A Fire by Jack London

My Review

Four Star Books

A Place Outside The Wild (Z-Day #1) by Daniel Humphreys

My Review

A Place Called Hope (Z-Day #2) by Daniel Humphreys

My Review

Rebellion (The Frontiers Saga: Part 2: Rogue Castes #4) by Ryk Brown

My Review

Fall of the Core: Netcast 02 (The Frontiers Saga: Fall of the Core #3) by Ryk Brown

My Review

Tech World (Undying Mercenaries #3) by B.V. Larson

My Review

Machine World (Undying Mercenaries #4) by B.V. Larson

My Review

Tanager’s Fledglings (Tanager #1) by Cedar Sanderson

My Review

 

Review: Monster of the Apocalypse

Monster of the Apocalypse (Monster of the Apocalypse Saga)Monster of the Apocalypse by C. Henry Martens

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I received a copy of this book in a giveaway from the author a few years ago. The delay in finally getting around to reading it was partly because I’ve gone digital, and I only had the paperback. The relative short length of it and the tail end of 2017 rolling up with my reading goals still incomplete prompted me to pick it up. Finishing in on New Year’s Eve is quite the testament to procrastination.

I have given the book three stars, even though on a grouchier day I might have gone with only two. The uptick is because the story was told well, and the conclusion was very satisfying. It isn’t often you find an ending like this one in an apocalyptic tale. The author writes quite vividly, and you are never at a loss for immersion into the surroundings of the world. It can make for some tedium at times, especially when describing things that are only encountered in passing… but then again, so can life.

The tale itself is centered around a brother and sister duo trying to make it in the post-apocalyptic world 20 years after the vast majority of the population has been wiped out by plague. There are few people left, and fewer that are decent human beings. The detritus of a technological society is left behind for them to sift through as it slowly turns to dust. What once was plentiful is now becoming scarce, and scavenging nomads are beginning to realize that eventually, it will all be gone. A chance encounter with another wanderer brings information that few know about the fall of civilization and the true Monster of the Apocalypse. Despite some very hokey conspiracy theory stuff about why society had gotten so bad before the plagues, I still found the general premise of this scenario plausible.

I do have to put down the negatives I see in the book to explain why it was almost a two star. I see some writing foibles that I, myself, had pointed out to me in my own work. The two most obvious are the sudden shifts in point of view, and the lack of transition of topics. There were many times in the book where I was jarred completely out of the story by the sudden shift from one head to the next, or even to an omniscient view that told me something as fact, rather than showing me how it developed. A couple time, I even got lost and had to re-read sections to determine which thoughts went with which character. There was also a tendency to write short clipped sentences, and to jump from one idea to a completely unrelated one in the next paragraph without any trail out or lead in whatsoever. It’s almost like a mental non-sequitur that leaves you asking ‘woah, where did that come from?’ The last gripe I have is character behavior. I enjoyed the tale, even though some of the characters were a little too silly in the mistakes they made. I can buy clueless teenager, but if you say they aren’t in once sentence and then make them act that way in the next, I get irked. Consistency in character traits are important to me.

So, to sum up, I probably should give only two stars, but the good plot, the decent descriptiveness, and the more than satisfying ending pulled it out of the ditch at the end. I give it three stars and call it Decent Apocalyptic Read.

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