Quick update

It’s Tuesday, so I’m blogging over at Mad Genius Club today. I’d appreciate it if you’d wander over there and take a look. The topics are the Kindle Unlimited program and an author’s decision not only to go indie but to do so without her agent and why.

Because of the MGC post, there’s not going to be a “real” post here today. I’ll be back tomorrow with one. Yes, I will. I promise. Now that my life is getting back to normal, I’m going to try to follow the schedule below:

Saturdays and Sundays will be catch-alls. I may be sharing some of my favorite posts from other sites or I may be talking about food or something fun. I probably won’t know until I write the post.

Mondays/Wednesdays — new posts.

Tuesdays — unless something really inspires me, I’ll be linking back to MGC and giving general updates.

Thursdays — snippets from the current works in progress and updates on what I’m doing. There may be a second post if there is something that inspires me.

Fridays — book recommendations and reviews.

And, of course, this is always subject to change depending on my mood. But I am back and blogging has returned to normal.

Posted in Annoucenments | Leave a comment

Recycled Plots

As a reader, you’ve probably found yourself in exactly the same spot I was in this past week. I’d picked up a relatively new book (less than a year old) from a best selling author who is one of my guilty pleasures. The first book in a new series, set in a location I happen to know and care about, I settled in to read after working on editing all evening. There was that sense of anticipation for what I knew was going to be an intriguing story with characters I’d quickly come to care about.

Only to come to a screeching stop less than one chapter in. There was something so very familiar about the book. No, not the book per se, but about the plot. I put my kindle aside and started thinking. Then came that mental finger snap and a sense of disappointment. I hadn’t read this book before but I had read this plot before and from this author.

The author was guilty of recycling not only a plot device but the same basic plot and characters. Oh, she’d changed the location and names. But it was still the same basic book. Color me very glad I’d only paid $1.99 because there was nothing of surprise in the book. Because I’d read the earlier series — completely unrelated to this one — I could pretty well anticipate what was going to happen scene to scene.

Now, I’m the first to admit that there are no truly original plots any more. Man — oooh, am I being sexist here? — has been telling stories for too long for that to be. However, the originality comes in how we tell the story. That is something most authors fight to do. But I find it extremely lazy when an author recycles her own plots and doesn’t do a good enough filing of the serial numbers to hide the fact it is a recycled product.

Worse, it is betraying your fans, especially those who have been reading you for years. I know that I am now debating whether to read the other two books of the series, even if I only borrow them, because I feel that the trust has been broken. It’s possible that the author would surprise me with one or both of the books, but I’m not sure I’m willing to risk it. Not when the first book of the series ran so close to the first book of the earlier series where the basic and important plot points are considered.

What this book felt like was a desire by the author to have a series set overseas but she she didn’t have a plot to go with the setting. So she took the earlier plot, amended it some — but not enough — and plopped it down in the middle of the her current favored location.

And cheated her readers in the process.

So, to the writers out there, as a reader all I can say is “Don’t do that!” If you want to take a basic plot device, fine. But don’t make me think about something else you, or someone else, wrote. Chances are, I’ll put down the new book and go back to the earlier work to look at it and there’s a very real possibility that I won’t come back. More than that, I will start wondering if the author is really writing the books now or if she – or he — has staff writing them to basic outlines instead.

As I writer, I’ll just remind you, and myself, that we all recycle plots. But remember to file the serial numbers off. Make that plot yours or, if it is already yours, make it something new and fresh. You don’t want your readers doing what I did. Don’t make it so familiar that the reader can tell what’s going to happen chapters in advance. In other words, don’t cheat your readers.

As an aside. I know I’m being vague about the book and author. I’m doing that on purpose for several reasons but mainly because this particular author isn’t the only one I’ve seen do this, just the latest one.

Posted in Musings, publishing | Tagged , | 15 Comments

Some reading recommendations

I’ve been remiss on blogging lately and I apologize. I’m going to try to get back into the swing of regular posts next week. To kick things off, here are some books I highly recommend as well as a few of my own which, of course, I think are pretty good too.  ;-)

First up is Murder World: Kaiju Dawn by Jason Cordova and Eric S. Brown.Captain Vincente Huerta and the crew of the Fancy have been hired to retrieve a valuable item from a downed research vessel at the edge of the enemy’s space. It was going to be an easy payday. 

But what Captain Huerta and the men, women and alien under his command didn’t know was that they were being sent to the most dangerous planet in the galaxy. Something large, ancient and most assuredly evil resides on the planet of Gorgon IV. Something so terrifying that man could barely fathom it with his puny mind. Captain Huerta must use every trick in the book, and possibly write an entirely new one, if he wants to escape Murder World. 

This is the second Kaiju book by Cordova and Brown that I’ve read. The first was Kaiju Apocalypse. Apocalypse was good. Murder World is great. The characters were folks I’d like to go to a bar, buy drinks for and spend the evening listening to their stories. They are the type of folks I’d trust at my back and want at my side in a fight.

There was a realism to the story that struck home. How many of us have agreed to do something, usually against our better judgment, only to find out when it’s too late that some pertinent information has been withheld? That is exactly the situation Huerta and his crew find themselves in. Add in a kick-ass second in command, a rather pissed off (and rightfully so) ex-wife, mercenaries and Kaijus, and you have a very fun read. I highly recommend Murder World.

Next up is War to the Knife by Peter Grant. This is the first book in a new series by Grant but, from what I can tell, this series very well may tie in with his Maxwell Series, something else I highly recommend.

Laredo’s defenders were ground down and its people ruthlessly slaughtered when the Bactrians invaded the planet. Overwhelmed, its Army switched to guerrilla warfare and went underground. For three years they’ve fought like demons to resist the occupiers. They’ve bled the enemy, but at fearful cost. The survivors are running out of weapons, supplies, and places to hide. 

Then a young officer, Dave Carson, uncovers news that may change everything. An opportunity is coming to smash the foe harder than they’ve ever done before, both on and off the planet. Success may bring the interplanetary community to their aid – but it’ll take everything they’ve got. Win or lose, many of them will die. Failure will mean that Bactria will at last rule unopposed. 

That risk won’t stop them. When you’re fighting a war to the knife, in the end you bet on the blade.

I have yet to read anything by Grant that I haven’t enjoyed. This book, in a lot of ways, reminded me of reading Louis L’Amour. This is a good thing. There is a gritty realism to Grant’s characters and settings that L’Amour was the master of. L’Amour was also the consummate storyteller, something else Grant is proving himself to be.

This book celebrates the human spirit. So, cutting to the chase, if you enjoy stories of determination and individual action, of fighting for what you believe is right, this is the book for you.

Other books I’ve talked about before but still highly recommend:

Stardogs by Dave Freer
Revolution rises! 

The Interstellar Empire of Man was built on the enslavement of the gentle Stardogs, companions and Theta-space transporters of the vanished Denaari Dominion. But the Stardogs that humans found can’t go home to breed, and are slowly dying out. 

As the ruthless Empire collapses from its rotten core outward, an Imperial barge is trapped on top of a dying Stardog when an attempted hijacking and assassination go horribly wrong. Trying to save its human cargo, the Stardog flees to the last place anyone expected – the long-lost Denaari motherworld. 

Crawling from the crash are the Leaguesmen who control the Stardogs’ pilots by fear and force, and plan to assassinate Princess Shari, the criminal Yak gang, who want to kill everyone and take control of a rare Stardog for their own, and an entourage riddled with plots, poisons, and treason. But Shari and her assassin-bodyguard have plans of their own… 

Stranded on the Denaari Motherworld, the castaway survivors will have to cooperate to survive. Some will have to die. 

And some, if they make it to the Stardogs breeding ground, will have to learn what it means to love. 

Pixie Noir by Cedar Sanderson
You can’t keep a tough Pixie down…

Lom is a bounty hunter, paid to bring magical creatures of all descriptions back Underhill, to prevent war with humans should they discover the strangers amongst them. Bella is about to find out she’s a real life fairy princess, but all she wants to do is live peacefully in Alaska, where the biggest problems are hungry grizzly bears. He has to bring her in. It’s nothing personal, it’s his job… 

“They had almost had me, that once. I’d been young and foolish, trying to do something heroic, of course. I wouldn’t do that again anytime soon. Now, I work for duty, but nothing more than is necessary to fulfill the family debt. I get paid, which makes me a bounty hunter, but she’s about to teach me about honor. Like all lessons, this one was going to hurt. Fortunately, I have a good gun to fill my hand, and if I have to go, she has been good to look at.” 

While you’re looking at the books above, I’d appreciate it if you took a moment and considered buying my books as well.

 

Posted in publishing, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The trouble with social media

Social media has become a part of our lives. Between Facebook, Google+, Reddit, Twitter and all the rest of the various platforms as well as blogs, it is now a means of communicating our thoughts and feelings. But there are problems with it, problems we know, intellectually, are there but that we tend to forget. This is something that came to back smack me in the face yesterday. I’m hoping it hasn’t cost me a “friend” but it may have.

A little background before I go on. Back in the dark ages, I worked in a job that put me in direct contact with police on a daily basis. I knew good ones and bad ones. I went on patrol with them from time to time. I saw what they had to do and deal with, including some of the situations they often found themselves in. I’ve stood by the gravesides of some who lost their lives in the line of duty and I’ve visited others in the hospital after being injured. Some of the ones I worked with became good friends. Others I learned to keep at arm’s length — or more.

I’ve also had to deal with members of law enforcement from the victim and witness side of things. I won’t go into details because, frankly, it’s no one else’s business. Suffice it to say it was something that has stayed with me for years. The one thing I will say is that, in that particular instance, the police dealt with me in a professional and caring manner. And, before anyone asks, this was before I began working with them, so it had nothing to do with any sort of working relationship we might have had.

Over the last few months, I’ve seen more and more memes on Facebook criticizing cops. Some of my “friends” have taken to lumping all cops together with the few bad ones. There have been calls to do away with cops. There have been statements that we don’t need a police force. While I understand and share the frustration these folks have with the bad a few men and women do, I disagree that the majority of cops are corrupt or inept.

Sunday morning, well, I saw one meme and complaint about cops too many. So I posted the following on my Facebook wall:

Fair warning, folks. Yes, I know there are bad cops. I know there are cops who pull their guns and use them when they shouldn’t. But those are the exceptions. Those of you saying we just need to arm everyone and do away with the cops are living in a fantasyland. So are those who simply say we don’t need cops. What we need are to weed out the bad ones. We need to make sure their departments don’t cover for them. But, speaking as both a crime victim and as someone who used to work closely with cops, they are needed. Don’t believe me? Then talk to one of your friends or family members who have been victimized by burglars when they weren’t home to defend their property or who were raped — and don’t say they wouldn’t have been raped if they’d been armed. Sorry, that isn’t a be-all-end-all answer. Some folks — men and women — just don’t have it in them to shoot another person. So yes, prosecute criminally and civilly those cops who break the law. Hold them to a higher standard. But condemning them all for the actions of a few are like condemning all soldiers because a few went outside their orders or all teachers because a few have sexual relations with their students.

I made the mistake of assuming folks would understand this was just me venting and not inviting discussion. That was my first mistake. But then someone came to my wall and proceeded to explain why he didn’t trust cops. He based it on personal experience and I understand why he feels as he does. However, I wasn’t in the mood to debate the issue and told him to take it to his wall if he wanted to lump all cops together with the few bad.  My second mistake was then addressing issues that had arisen in the thread that sparked my frustration and the original Facebook post instead of just leaving off with telling him to take any debate, etc., to his own wall.

The problem is that my response, without my meaning for it to, upset the person who had commented. He had given a personal reason for why he feels the way he does about the police. I understand that. He felt, and I am reading a bit between the lines here, like I was blowing him off by not responding in kind. Unfortunately, I hadn’t seen his comment on his wall when he did as I asked until hours later and, by then, it would have been too little too late, I’m afraid.

But the truth of the matter is, I have reasons for why I feel as I do about the police just as he does. I respect his stance and understand it is based on his personal experience. I hope that he can understand mine as well. The lesson learned is that I will be more careful about how I respond to folks on FB. I’ll also probably return to my earlier self-imposed rule to not post anything political or politically charged on FB because it simply doesn’t serve any purpose.

However, I do not regret my initial post nor have I changed my mind about what I said. There are, in my opinion, many more good cops out there than there are bad ones. I will support those who take their oaths seriously just as I will push that those who violate their oaths be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. However, I also know that I have not had the negative experiences that others have.

But social media, especially Facebook and the like, is not the place to go into it. That’s something I’ve learned the hard way.

 

 

Posted in Musings | Tagged , , | 13 Comments

As we celebrate the Fourth, remember how we got here

Today is an important day for our country. It was on this day in 1776 the colonies officially declared their independence from England. As we remember that event today, people across the country will celebrate in various ways. There will be parades, BBQs and fireworks displays. Some of us will gather with friends and family while others will brave the shopping malls and movie theaters. No matter how you celebrate, take a moment to remember the sacrifices those brave men and women made so long ago for our benefit and remember the sacrifices still being made on our behalf by the members of our military and their families.

If you have a chance, take a few minutes to read the document that is the very foundation our nation, the Declaration of Independence. Then read the Bill of Rights. I don’t know about everyone else, but I am very thankful to have these as the base of our government. Sure, there have been attacks on the Constitution, the Bill of Rights in particular. It is up to each of us to decide how to respond to the politicians and others who would limit our rights. But that is for another post.

I’ll leave you with a couple of clips from 1776.

 

Posted in Musings | Tagged , | 3 Comments

The sun, it burns

Vengeance from Ashes last coverIt’s been awhile since I’ve posted and many apologies. Let’s just say real life has not been fun and leave it at that. For those of you old enough to remember Stretch Armstrong, that’s what it’s been like. But it appears that things are finally starting to settle down and I can get back to what passes for my normal routine.

There are several posts I want to do, but they need a bit more research before they go live. In the meantime, I’m going to echo my post from Mad Genius Club this morning. It talks a little bit about my muse and then includes a snippet from my current work in progress.

I have a love/hate relationship with my muse. From what I can tell, I’m not unique in that. Most writers seem to feel the same way. In my case, it’s because I love to write but I hate when it comes time to writing sequels. That’s the situation I find myself in right now. I know the plot. I can see it in my head. I’ve been living with it for two months now. But getting it from my brain to the page has been next to impossible. That’s the really frustrating thing. As a result, I begged — well, browbeat might be more accurate — Sarah into reading the first scene of Duty from Ashes, the sequel to Vengeance from Ashes (Honor and Duty Book 1). She did and then she told me to quit dithering — yes, I cleaned it up some. She was a bit more, um, direct than that — and finish writing the book. Since I always do what my mentor tells me, I’m going to try to do just that. In the meantime, here’s the opening scene from Duty from Ashes, book two in theHonor and Duty Series.

 *     *     *

Smoke filled the air and the ground seemed to shake beneath her boots as another explosion sounded. It was close this time. Too close. Cursing, she ducked behind the makeshift barricade she and her team had erected outside the school and tried to catch her breath. As she did, the tell-tales from her battle armor warned that her heart was racing and her breathing was labored, not that she needed the onboard computer to confirm what she already knew. This was her worst nightmare come to life and, just like the last time, there had been no way to avoid it.

But she’d be damned if it ended the same way as before.

Not this time.

Carefully, she edged forward until she could see around the edge of the barricade. As she did, dirt and rock kicked up just inches from where she knelt as yet another round of enemy fire filled the air. Even as her team returned fire, she scanned the area, flipping through the various screens of her HUD. Then her lips pulled back into an almost feral smile.

There!

Finally, she’d located the last of the areas where the enemy had dug in. Now it was her turn to show them just how foolish they’d been to think they could get the drop on her and her team.

“Boomer, two o’clock. The culvert near the edge of the first building.” Once again, she cycled through the various filters on her HUD, taking careful note of what each told her. “Scans show six there. Looks like one SAM and three unknown heavy weapons. We’ll give you cover fire so your team and move into position. Hold your fire until I give the order. We need to take those guns out before they decide to turn their attention to the school.”

“Roger that, Angel.”

“Hound, second target’s yours. Same building. Four stories up. Third window from the corner. I spotted at least one sniper.” Once again, she cycled through her filters, scanning the building. As much as she’d like to just level the building and be done with it, she couldn’t. Not if there were civilians inside. “I’m not picking up any other life signs in that area, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have mechs of some sort up there. So don’t worry about being too gentle with your shot. Just remember your target zone.” She waited for his response, knowing he was calculating the best way to carry out her orders.

“Got it, Angel. I’ll be ready on your order.”

Her heart beat a little slower. So far, so good. Her team still had a chance to get out of this alive and, with a little luck, they’d manage to save those civilians sheltering in the school as well.

Knowing their next move could mean victory or defeat, she called up the last data they’d received on the enemy’s movements. As she studied it, her mind did the one thing she’d been fighting to avoid since the battle began. It went back to that terrible day more than two years ago. She’d been in this exact location, fighting this same battle. Only then she’d been given compromised intelligence. As a result, she and her squad, a different one from this time, had walked straight into a trap. So many had died. She and the six who had managed to make it back to the shuttle for extraction had been lucky to get out of there alive. At least that’s what she’d told herself. Of course, that had been before they were arrested, brought up on bogus charges, court martialed and sent to the Tarsus military prison.

Damn it! She couldn’t think about that. She couldn’t let the past distract her from what was happening right now. Not if she wanted her team to survive.

“We’re almost in position, Angel,” a voice reported over her comm a few moments later. Master Sergeant Kevin “Loco” Talbot. Another asset, an invaluable one, and one she hadn’t had on that previous mission.

“Roger that, Loco. Let me know when you are.”

She paused, waiting to hear from the final team she’d sent out. As the seconds drew out into minutes that seemed like hours, her concern grew. She’d been forced to split her forces before with disastrous results. Was history repeating itself?

She licked her lips and fought the urge to message the last team. It was difficult, but she didn’t. Instead, she reminded herself that they needed to move slowly and carefully to avoid detection. At least she hadn’t heard anything from the direction they’d taken that might indicate they’d been discovered. Surely that had to be a good sign.

Stop it!

She closed her eyes and breathed deeply. Her emotions and doubts were running too high. She had to get them under control. This was her command, her mission. If she couldn’t hold it together, they would fail. But she couldn’t think about that. She couldn’t let herself be distracted by the dead, hers and the civilian lives that had been lost in that previous battle. This wasn’t the time to let distractions in.

Finally, just as she was about to give up and demand an update, her comm came to life.

“We’re in position, Angel. We have four bogies ready and we’re ready to paint them,” Captain Lucinda Ortega reported.

“Hold position, Sorceress. I say again, hold position until we confirm air support.”

“Roger that, Angel.”

“Eagle, are you ready to paint your target?”

“Eagle is ready, Angel,” the squad’s sniper replied.

“Alpha Team, prepare to lay down cover fire. Boomer, the moment we do, you and your team haul ass and take out those heavy guns and that SAM.”

“Roger that, Angel. Beta Team is ready.”

She nodded, not that the demolitions expert could see her, and drew a deep, steadying breath. A quick check of her battle rifle and she was ready. It was now or never. With a glance at the four Marines crouching behind the barricade with her, she snugged the butt of the rifle against her shoulder.

“Now!”

She leaned around the corner of the barricade and opened fire. Instantly, the sounds of weapons – battle rifles, railguns and more – filled the air. Three of the four teams laid down heavy fire to cover the fourth team as it moved into position. On her HUD, three small green lights moved quickly toward the target zone. So far, so good.

“Almost there,” Boomer’s voice said in her ear.

“Keep it up, Devil Dogs. Don’t give those bastards time to breathe, much less regroup.”

“Fire in the hole!”

Boomer’s shout was the only warning they’d get. Instantly, she set her visor to block the flash from the explosion even as she kept firing. At least this time when the ground shook, it would be working for them instead of against them.

“Keep firing!” she ordered. “Eagle, Sorceress, stand ready. I repeat, stand ready. Paint the targets on my signal. Once the air strike begins, we move in.”

Without waiting for the teams to respond, she activated her ‘link once again. “Angel to Kali, we are a go for the airstrike. I repeat, we are a go for the airstrike.”

She waited, scanning the battlefield in front of her for any movement. Smoke and dust from the explosion filled the air. From the distance, she could hear the enemy. Some called for help. Some, those caught in the blast and not lucky enough to be granted a quick death, cried out for their mothers. A small part of her felt sorry for them. But another part, the soldier in her, knew it was either them or her and she much preferred living.

As she knelt there, ready to swing her rifle toward anyone who came her way, she imagined each member of her team wanting to look skyward, but keeping their eyes on the enemy locations, as they waited for the air support to come.

Air support that hadn’t come that first time. Would it now?

“Angel, this is Kali. We are on approach. Paint the target. I say again, paint the target.”

The voice coming over the battle-net was like an answer to her prayers. She relayed the message to the rest of her squad. As she did, she inched further around the edge of the barricade. Once in position, she raised one gloved fist, knowing the others were watching for her signal. Then she waited, knowing any number of things could still go horribly wrong and praying that they didn’t.

Moments later, the sounds of the fighter wing racing in their direction filled the air. The target, six heavy ground transports that had been moving closer and closer to the Devil Dogs exploded into a wall of flames as the fighters dropped their payloads. Instinct and training had the Marines diving for cover, any cover, as shrapnel from the transports flew through the air. Screams from the enemy soldiers unlucky enough to be caught in the open followed. Then, before the screams died out, she gave the order to move in.

“Take out those snipers!” she yelled as she sprinted across the clearing in the direction of the school.

Damn it, this time she would save those huddling inside.

Hound, moving at a speed no human could without the assistance of powered battle armor, leapt from where he’d been taking cover. The moment he landed, he turned and leveled the grenade launcher that was currently his armor’s primary weapon at the target. The building she’d identified for him a few minutes earlier was soon missing part of its far side. Smoke billowed from the area where the sniper had been holed up. Someone would need a new office or apartment when this was all over. But, hopefully, they’d survived the fight and would be able to return home soon. Even as the thought came, she knew the truth could be far different. War was never clean, no matter what the politicians wanted. There was always the possibility of collateral damage, especially when the enemy had no compunctions about hiding behind a shield of innocents.

Ahead and to her left, a head popped up from the culvert. A split second later, it exploded. She smiled slightly as Eagle gave a war cry that almost split her skull. She’d remind him later about how that sort of thing sounded through the battle-net. Not that she blamed him. They’d spent too much time hunkered down behind makeshift barricades and hiding in the shadows. It felt good to finally be on the move again. Now it was time to make the enemy pay for all they’d done.

“Angel, to your right!”

Loco’s warning came at almost the same moment that her armor’s sensors warned her of someone or something suddenly appearing and moving in her direction. She turned, bringing her combat rifle to bear. Her finger slipped behind the trigger guard and she felt her combat implants coming to life as she focused on the figure running hell bent for leather in her direction.

“Hold your fire!”

Without waiting for confirmation, she broke into a sprint, racing toward the small figure. The child couldn’t be more than five or six. Where he had been hiding during the fighting she didn’t know and, just then, she didn’t care. Not when her armor’s onboard computer was telling her that several of the enemy were bearing down on them.

She had to get to t child before he was hurt – or worse.

Without conscious thought, she switched out her battle rifle for her sidearm. Using the targeting system of her HUD, she laid down fire in the direction of the nearest enemy soldier. A scream of pain followed. Good. One down but who knew how many more to come.

Three more steps and she scooped the child up in her arms. He cried out as an enemy trooper appeared to the right and opened fire. Reacting on instinct, Angel shifted the child so he was shielded by her armor before returning fire. Then she pivoted, running in the direction of Loco and the rest of his team. They were laying down cover fire, forcing the enemy troopers to duck back down into the trench. At the same time, Sorceress was calling in air support. But that was all in the background. Angel was focused on the child in her arms and getting him to safety.

“Down!”

Loco’s tone of voice was all the warning she needed. She dropped, sliding feet first toward the barricade. At the same time, Loco stepped forward, Tank and Hound on either side of him, and all hell seemed to break loose. As they opened fire with everything they had, so did the rest of the squad. If that wasn’t enough, three Sabres, the newest and most deadly fighters the Fuerconese Navy had in operation, screamed overhead and opened fire on the culvert.

The ground shook again and another explosion – no, a series of explosions – deafened them. Then there was silence, the kind of silence that really wasn’t. Her pulse pounded and her breathing was ragged. The crackling of fire mixed with the heavy smoke that filled the air. She heard someone, one of her people, offering up a quick prayer of thanks. Someone else uttered a curse. For once, she agreed with both sentiments. Then she heard the boy whimper. Much as she wanted to reassure him, she couldn’t. Not yet. She had to make sure the area was secure first.

Still cradling the child in her arms, Angel twisted around so she could look in the direction of the culvert. Nothing moved except for the smoke rising from it. Without warning, the silence was broken by a single shot to her left. Instantly, half a dozen battle rifles responded. Then nothing.

Barely daring to hope that it was over, she went to active scans. For several long moments, she studied the readouts on her HUD. The locations they had tagged as being held by the enemy were either showing red, indicating they were too hot for anyone – even armored – to survive or there were the tell tales of the dead and dying. Could it finally be over?

“Sound off!” she ordered as she carefully climbed to her feet.

As she did, the medic assigned to her squad hurried forward to take the child from her. Except the child had other ideas. He wrapped his arms and legs more firmly around her and burrowed in. with a jerk of her head, she motioned the medic off. She could spare the child a moment as she caught her breath and her people reported in.

One by one, each member of her team sounded off. A few sounded the worse for wear but she’d lost no one that day. Thank God. The nightmare hadn’t replayed in all its horror. It had come close, though, and she wanted to know why.

Relieved, she looked down into the child’s face and the world came to a crashing halt. No! He couldn’t be there. Damn it, he couldn’t be there. As bad as that time had been, that would have made it worse, so much worse.

“End sim!” she ordered, ripping off her combat helmet. “I said to end the damned sim!”

*     *     *

Needless to say, this is a rough draft, so there may be changes between this and the final version. Now, to get back to work before Sarah puts on her pointy boots and comes after me for not minding her.

Posted in Musings, Snippets | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

Review — Stardogs by Dave Freer

I don’t often do reviews on this blog. The truth is, I’ve been so busy between real life and work that I haven’t had the chance to read for pleasure much over the last year or so. However, last week the wonderful Dave Freer asked if I wanted to read his soon-to-be-released novel Stardogs. Now, imagine me bouncing up and down like a little girl, clapping my hands and squealing in glee. Yep, that was the reaction I had to the offer and I was quick to thank Dave and ask him to send it on.

Stardogs is Dave’s first full-length indie novel. Here’s the description:

Revolution rises! 

The Interstellar Empire of Man was built on the enslavement of the gentle Stardogs, companions and Theta-space transporters of the vanished Denaari Dominion. But the Stardogs that humans found can’t go home to breed, and are slowly dying out. 

As the ruthless Empire collapses from its rotten core outward, an Imperial barge is trapped on top of a dying Stardog when an attempted hijacking and assassination go horribly wrong. Trying to save its human cargo, the Stardog flees to the last place anyone expected – the long-lost Denaari motherworld. 

Crawling from the crash are the Leaguesmen who control the Stardogs’ pilots by fear and force, and plan to assassinate Princess Shari, the criminal Yak gang, who want to kill everyone and take control of a rare Stardog for their own, and an entourage riddled with plots, poisons, and treason. But Shari and her assassin-bodyguard have plans of their own… 

Stranded on the Denaari Motherworld, the castaway survivors will have to cooperate to survive. Some will have to die. 

And some, if they make it to the Stardogs breeding ground, will have to learn what it means to love.

Stardogs is one of those rare books that caught me from the very first page and held my attention throughout. Dave’s wit and sense of humor are integral parts of the story, but often so subtle that you realize pages, or even chapters, later what he did. Then you don’t know whether to laugh aloud or smack yourself on the forehead for missing it.

If you are looking for a book that simply regurgitates the plot of the latest fad, this isn’t it. Nor is it a book that embraces the current cause du jour of either side of the aisle. What it is, is a rollicking fun ride through a universe I wish really did exist with characters I came to love — and hate in some instances. This is a book that will make you smile and that will also make you think without hitting you over the head with any sort of a message other than “read me. You know you want to.”  ;-)

I guess the best thing I can say about Stardogs is that I will be reading it a second, third and who know how many more times. I’ll also be sending it to my son to read. If you love well-written, well-plotted and just down right fun books, this is one for you.

In other words, hie thee to your nearest bookseller and get your copy. It is out as an e-book now and will soon be available in print.

This is most definitely a must read for every true science fiction fan.

Posted in Annoucenments, publishing | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Thursday thoughts

Let me start by saying I have a guest post up at According to Hoyt this morning where I look at some of the issues we currently face with our education system and some of the idiocy it is putting out there. Namely, the FitnessGrams sent home in New York where kids were told they were overweight based on their BMI and nothing else — and where those measurements are, in all likelihood, flawed in some circumstances.

I’ve been silent on this blog so far this week because I needed to calm down. This past Sunday I “shared” a photo on my Facebook feed that was meant to honor our fallen for the Memorial Day weekend. Someone from Australia took exception to the photo and what it said and decided it was up to her to educate and take us neobarb Americans to school. Among the things said or alluded were that instead of waving the flag — and she has a real issue with how we do that — we ought to be making donations to veteran’s organizations and how we don’t honor other countries’ equivalents to Memorial Day and how we ought not to post such things on an international forum.

Friends piped in and she then took to quoting the Bible and she didn’t like it when folks quoted it back to her. If finally came out that she really just has a problem with Americans and with the American military — at least that’s my interpretation. And that is a problem, you see, since my son is in the military and we can trace military service in our family to the American Revolution. So, I wasn’t in the mood to deal with her and basically told her to go away.

Her response was to go to her wall on Facebook but to tag me. Now, for those of you not familiar with how Facebook works, when you tag someone, that thread shows up on their wall. This one did. And it went nuclear fast. Even after I chose to quit taking part in the so-called discussion, my friends and folks I didn’t know were coming to my defense. I appreciate each and every one of them. What I don’t appreciate is the woman who started it all.

Worse in some ways, she is still posting in different threads on her wall allusions to the two threads and how 1) she is misunderstood and 2) Americans are basically boors and 3) who the hell knows. Now, this isn’t unusual behavior for her and the only reason I know about it is because the two threads were so active that, for the moment at least, her posts are showing up on my feed.

But what really sent me over the edge from frustration and “OMFG is she really serious?” into outright anger was to learn that she’d tried to continue the argument over into private messages to the men who responded to the threads. Funny thing, to the best of my knowledge, she didn’t do this with the women. Some of the guys who let me know said they didn’t even read her PM. Other’s basically told her to sod off. At least one wound up blocking her. And she wonders why folks aren’t taking her seriously.

Any way, trying to pick this particular argument over a holiday I take very seriously was not the thing to do. As my anger has abated, I came to the realization that one of the issues this woman has is that she doesn’t understand our culture. She abhors our “flag waving” and said we were putting more importance on the flag than we were on the fallen soldiers. What she doesn’t get is that the flag and the fallen are tied together. The flag, with its thirteen stripes representing the 13 original colonies and its 50 stars representing the 50 states, is part of our culture. We hang it from our homes to honor those who served in the armed forces. As Americans, we may be brash and vocal but that doesn’t make our ways wrong any more than the more subdued memorials held elsewhere do.

I guess the best way to put it is that while we commemorate the loss of our servicemen and women on Memorial Day we also celebrate their lives and their service. We have our serious ceremonies at the different monuments and cemeteries, places of worship and governmental buildings. But we also have our celebrations — the meals and activities like Carry The Load. Some or somber. Others not so much.

That’s not to say one way of commemorating the day is better than the other. To each his own. But do not, absolutely do not, come onto my wall and condemn the nation as a whole for how we do something, especially if you have never been part of the day. Then don’t make the mistake of telling me that it is soldiers who start wars and that they are not peacekeepers. If you believe that, go back and study some history. Talk to survivors of the Warsaw Ghetto and their families or Prague in 1968 or Hungary in 1957 or any of the other wars or conflicts, current or past. Then come back and tell me who starts the wars.

So maybe I’m not as calm yet as I ought to be. I will ask this much. If you read this and feel the need or desire to go leave a comment on my wall in either of the threads I’ve alluded to, don’t. I probably ought not to write this blog but I needed to get it off my chest. However, if you post to the threads on FB you are giving the gal exactly what she wants — another reason to play her victim card.

Instead, do me a favor. Thank a soldier or vet, let their families know how much you appreciate what they have sacrificed so their loved one could serve their country, whether it is the US or another country. And thanks for letting me vent.

* * *

Vengeance From Ashes (new)Vengeance from Ashes (Honor and Duty) (written under the pen name Sam Schall) is the first in the Honor and Duty series.

Here’s the blurb:

First, they took away her command. Then they took away her freedom. But they couldn’t take away her duty and honor. Now they want her back. 

Captain Ashlyn Shaw has survived two years in a brutal military prison. Now those who betrayed her are offering the chance for freedom. All she has to do is trust them not to betray her and her people again. If she can do that, and if she can survive the war that looms on the horizon, she can reclaim her life and get the vengeance she’s dreamed of for so long. 

But only if she can forget the betrayal and do her duty.

Posted in Musings | Tagged , , , | 8 Comments

Thank you, Mark Cuban, for at least being honest

Which is more than I can say for a lot of folks recently.

This morning, I was talking with my 80+ year old mother when the topic of Mark Cuban came up. More specifically, his comments the other day about how if he saw a black kid in a hoodie late at night, he would move to the other side of the street. He went on to say if he then saw a white guy, bald and covered with tattoos, he’d move back across the street. Oh the hue and cry that went up. So many have come out of the woodwork to decry Cuban for being a racist. What they fail to mention is how Cuban said he knows he has these thoughts and he fights them. He also makes sure his employees go to sensitivity training if they appear to have a problem with race.

I will admit using the hoodie comment wasn’t the wisest choice of words. It brought up memories of Treyvon Martin. However, Cuban did the stand up thing and he called the Martin family to apologize. I give him credit for that. I also give him credit for being honest and admitting he has thoughts based on stereotypes — and, be honest, don’t we all? — and yet is trying to get past them.

What I don’t applaud is the African-American sportscaster for, I think, ESPN, who said “shame on him” because Cuban owns a team with African-American players. I guess this so-called journalist would be happier if Cuban never admitted to having a racist thought. Not that such a thing should surprise me. There is a group of vocal folks who want to crucify anyone who doesn’t fall into lockstep with their right think ways.

Yeah, you knew this had to get back to Tim “Uncle Timmy” Bolgeo and Archon. I’m not going to to talk — too much at least — about the cowardice shown by the concom in caving less than 24 hours after an anonymous FB poster started calling Uncle Timmy racist. Nor will I spend much, if any time, wondering if it wasn’t all a set-up by the concom. What I want to address is the double standard shown by those attacking Uncle Timmy and by the concom — and by so many others who decry racism, real and perceived.

Yes, I know there are going to be those who will say I know not what I speak of. After all, I am white and grew up in a middle class neighborhood. I haven’t had people look at me and make judgments based on my skin color or whatever. There is no way a “white” can understand what it means to be torn from your home and loved ones, sold into slavery and then made into property, not even a second-class citizen.

To which I say bullshit.

First of all, prejudice is not a whites-only affliction. It is a condition all humans suffer from, whether you want to admit it or not. We all make judgments, conscious and unconscious, based on how a person looks, dresses, talks and even smells. Some of us are better at fighting those decisions and trying to get past them. But they are there nonetheless and, like it or not, those preconceptions will always be there in some form. It is part of being human. The challenge is to know it, recognize it and get past it.

The way to so-called enlightenment is not to do what we are seeing with Archon and even in the SFWA battles. It isn’t to take to social media and commit the same sort of behavior you are accusing others of. It sure isn’t to wear your victimhood like a badge of honor and demand that all grievances, real and imagined, against you, your family, your race and your sex or whatever be atoned for through reparations. Yes, there has been a post saying that all old white men need to make reparations for slavery.

Social Justice Warriors take note, those you attack today may be easy targets but what are you going to do when you find yourselves in the role of target? It’s going to happen. How do I know this? Because I’ve seen it happen in my lifetime. You attack white males in general as long as they are of a certain age. You forget that many of those same white males are the ones who marched with Dr. King or who volunteered to be part of the first desegregated schools in the South (yep, brought it back around to Uncle Timmy). You simply see a man of a certain age and race — hmm, sounds like profiling to me and isn’t that prejudice in action?

As for how can I, as a white woman raised in a comfortable if not affluent setting, sit in judgment? Well, let’s see. My great grandmother was born on the Trail of Tears, torn from the land her family had owned — yes, owned — and stripped of their belongings and friends. Another set of ancestors, further back, came over as indentured servants and worked their asses off to clear their “debt”. Not quite slavery because they could earn their way out, but not that far from it either. Do a little research on the lives of some of the indentured servants who came over from England and Europe if you don’t believe me. And I don’t mean the sanitized history we get now. Go to original papers and read it in their own words.

Then there was a turning point in my life when I realized what others must feel like when they were told they couldn’t do something because of how they looked or what they believed in. Yes, it even happens to gingers, which is what I was before there was more white in my hair than red. I was maybe ten when I visited friends of my father’s in Ohio. Other than my father, I was the only Gentile to ever be in their home. When I went shopping with them, there was more than one establishment I wasn’t allowed in because I wasn’t Orthodox Jewish.

Young as I was, I understood that it was religious but it had me thinking about how others must feel when faced with similar situations.  I didn’t take it as permission to protest against all things Jewish or to start deriding them for being evil because they wouldn’t let me in.

Maybe it all comes down to this: I was raised to be proud of my history — the good and the bad. But I was told history was just that, history. It may be the foundation but the important thing is to look forward. I’m not saying we should forget the ills of the past. But to continue to dwell on them doesn’t make them go away. It doesn’t change the minds of those who still think the good old days were the best. What it does is keep the wounds open and doesn’t give them a chance to heal.

Most of all, if you are going to condemn someone for being a racist or sexist or whatever, be damned sure you aren’t outing yourself as the same thing — or worse — in your comments. You may not like what someone says but that doesn’t give you free license to say even worse things, much less to slander them. If you want to use their words against them, fine. But do it in context. In this day and age of the internet, it is easy to find out what the context was and your attempt to manipulate things to meet your agenda will come to light. Guess what happens then? You damage your cause, possibly irreparably.

Most of all, get a sense of humor. You can turn almost any situation around and score points for your side if you can laugh at the offending comment and do a come back. Or learn history and how to apply logic in your arguments. Oh, wait, if you do that, you might see that your stance isn’t as solid as you thought.

I have no problem with folks taking stands for what they see as right. That’s the joy of this country. We have the freedom to do so. But, don’t come back and condemn me if I point out the historical fallacies in your argument or note that you are acting in the exact same way you allege the person you condemn has acted. I have no patience for double standards.

And, from what I am seeing on the internet these days, neither do a lot of other folk. The push back is beginning and the SJWs are about to see that just screaming and stomping their feet like a kid having a tantrum isn’t enough to win over souls and support.

*     *     *

Vengeance From Ashes (new)Vengeance from Ashes (Honor and Duty) (written under the pen name Sam Schall) is the first in the Honor and Duty series.

Here’s the blurb:

First, they took away her command. Then they took away her freedom. But they couldn’t take away her duty and honor. Now they want her back. 

Captain Ashlyn Shaw has survived two years in a brutal military prison. Now those who betrayed her are offering the chance for freedom. All she has to do is trust them not to betray her and her people again. If she can do that, and if she can survive the war that looms on the horizon, she can reclaim her life and get the vengeance she’s dreamed of for so long. 

But only if she can forget the betrayal and do her duty.

Posted in Musings | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments

GAAAAAAAH!

I have, on occasion, complained about AT&T Uverse. Still, those complaints have been relatively few and far between and the service has certainly been much more reliable than standard cable or satellite. But the last few days have been more than I am willing to put up with. Thursday of last week, I noticed several Uverse trucks in the immediate area around my house. Heck, it was hard not to notice them when a tech came to my door, wanting to get in my backyard to look for a pedestal. This despite the fact I told him 1) there is no pedestal in my backyard and 2) the pedestal for the house he was looking for would be across the street. We won’t go into how stupid it is for the techs not to have access to some sort of diagram or notation of where the pedestals are in any given area or what houses are plugged into which pedestal.

So, Friday rolls along and we start having service problems. For the first time in two years — barring when there was a system-wide outage several months ago — we were experiencing pixelation and freezing. Worse, signal interruptions meant internet and phone service dropped as well. Saturday came and the interruptions were getting worse. So, against my better judgment, I called tech support. I say against my better judgment because my past service with trying to deal with tech support on the weekends had been problematical at best. Guess what, same problem. It was clear that the person I was talking with 1) was reading off a script and didn’t have a clue one what to do if I varied from her script and 2) had an accent so thick it was difficult to understand her at times. So, frustrated, I simply said I’d wait until Monday and see what happened.

Monday happened and the problem was getting even worse so I called in. Imagine my surprise when I discovered a tech could be dispatched within the next two hours. I’d barely hung up from tech support when a tech called and said he’d be at the house within half an hour or so. Things were looking up.

Or so I thought.

Now, the tech was nice. But it is clear they have a set answer to problems in this area. The first thing out of his mouth was we were really too far away from the main box and probably shouldn’t have had Uverse installed in the first place. Now, this isn’t the first time I’ve heard this. It started about four years ago — a good three years after we had Uverse installed. Funny, the only way we could be too far is if the house had managed to move. I think if something like that had happened, I’d know about it. So, I basically called bullshit on that comment, mentioning again how long we’d had their services and how we had gone several years without any real problem until the last few days.

So he checked the system — which suddenly didn’t have near the number of line errors it had when he called to say he was on his way — removed a filter from the box outside and declared the problem fixed. Fingers were crossed that he was right.

So, yesterday rolls around and guess what. Yep, you guessed it. The problem had returned and was worse than ever. So, another call and another service call request made. Unfortunately, response time would require a wait of 24 hours. Funny, but not a single tech in the area w available to come check what is clearly an ongoing issue.

An issue that kept getting worse and worse. I quit documenting errors when we passed 100 freezes and complete service disruptions in less than 4 hours. Which sent me to the phone again last night with no assistance from Uverse because, yet again, the CSR couldn’t deviate from script.

Fast forward to this morning. Same issue. Bad enough that in the few minutes it has taken me to draft this post, we’ve lost service more than half a dozen times. IF I’m lucky, there will be a tech out here between 4 and 8. Even then I doubt the problem will be fixed. Why? Because instead of getting the senior tech I was assured would be coming out, it looks like the ticket is revolving back to the tech who was out on Monday and, in a short call a few minutes ago, he seems to now think the problem is on the line. Which means another tech will have to be sent out and that could be another day or more. Or at least that is what history has taught me.

If it was just me in the house, that would be fine. I’d be unhappy but I could cope. But my 82 year old mother is here as well. As I pointed out to the CSR last night, if I’m away from the house and something happens to her and she doesn’t have her cell phone with her, she faces the possibility of not being able to call for help because of the inability of Uverse to keep our service active. She also is unable to watch anything she has recorded on the DVR because Uverse has it set up so nothing is stored locally. If you lose the signal to your gateway, you can’t access the DVR, no matter how much you have recorded.

Color me not happy. Once this is dealt with, I will be on the phone to the business department to see what they can do to keep me as a customer. Of course, that assumes they get this fixed. Now to see if the internet stays up long enough for me to post this.

Posted in Musings | Tagged | 11 Comments