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Book Review: Wildcards: Three Kings Edited by Melinda Snodgrass and George R. R. Martin.

14 Jul

When I was thirteen years old, I purchased and read (and reread) the first volume of this shared universe and alternate history fantasy series. Now, thirty-five years later, I just finished the 28th volume, Three Kings, and I am just as enraptured by the storytelling by Wildcard’s many talented writers as I was back then. In fact, this volume (the second in the proposed British Triad) may just be one of may all time favorites.

The premise of Wildcards is that in 1946 and alien virus from the planet Takis, was released over New York City. 90 percent of the victims die almost instantly upon infection in lurid and gruesome ways. The majority of survivors and twisted physically and are designated Jokers. Occasionally, these Jokers gain useful abilities and are called Knaves. The lucky one percent are gifted with amazing superpowers and are designated Aces. In the previous volume, Knaves over Queens, the history of Britain during and after the first outbreak was detailed and we are introduced (or re-introduced) to many of the characters that become power players in this volume. Personally, I enjoyed this volume better, as it had a more direct and cohesive plot, with all of the characters contributing to the events that occur.

In Wildcards reality, Elizabeth died, leaving Margaret to take the throne. In this world Margaret bears two princes, Henry (a proponent of Britain First and an outright bigot) and the younger prince Richard (a closeted homosexual and husband to Diana). When Margaret dies, Henry ascends to the throne, but immediately threatens the cohesion of the British population with his hateful rhetoric. Jokers are being systematically attacked by the deplorables in British far right society. Richard challenges his brother’s rhetoric and begins scheming for power. The third would-be-king comes into the picture when rumor gets out that Elizabeth had given birth to a Joker prince who was whisked away in secret and may still be alive. It is against this royal conflict and the threat of mass riots that our main players most contend.

The main characters are a Knave historical figure, Alan Turing (known as ‘Enigma’), now one hundred and eight years old and serving the royal family, The Seamstress, an Ace who has been providing protective clothing to the royal family for decades, Double Helix, a teleporting gender-swapper who has previously betrayed his colleagues in MI7 (or Silver Helix), and The Green Man, a reluctant anti-hero who has been leading the Joker activist group, The Twisted Fists, for decades. Finally, one of the main antagonists is a monstrous woman from Ireland named Babh.

Three Kings winds through the shadowy conflict with plenty of twists and turns that will keep you turning the pages until you arrive at the satisfying conclusion. The protagonists are deeply flawed individuals who are doing their best and sometimes worst because of life circumstances that have forced them into service for one side or another. Although all of this conflict arising from dispute over a ceremonial throne may seem ludicrous, the book effectively shows how dangerous rhetoric can be in a time when too many individuals in our own world are choosing to act out of hate and fear. I don’t want to give anything else away, so I will end with this: if you enjoy intrigue, well-developed and flawed characters, superhuman battles and well orchestrated plot twists, then you should enjoy this recent addition to this remarkable series.

5 stars out of 5.


Book Review: Dragon Haven by Robin Hobb

28 Jun

If you are looking for an escape, love dragons, or want to read a triumphant saga brimming with fully realized characters then I recommend the Rain Wilds Chronicles by Robin Hobb. Dragon Haven, the second in this four volume series picks up where Dragon Keeper left off. The crew of the Tarman, Alise and Sedrick of Bingtown and the outcast dragon keepers take the long and hazardous journey up the dangerously acidic river of the Rain Wilds to find a place where their charges, a group of immature dragons can find refuge in the mythical city of Kelsingra. Everything that Hobb built up in the first volume, a rich cast of characters, dramatic and tense situations, and an intricately constructed fantasy realm with its own rules, comes to fruition in this fraught journey to find a haven for the remarkable dragons in the story.

Never have I so enjoyed and marveled at dragons as I have in this work. These telepathic and rounded characters are filled with the complexity, pride and wrath one can expect from dragons, and their evolving relationship with their keepers and the crew of the Tarman will keep you turning the pages. For the lovers of romance there is a 750 page “will they or wont they” situation between the captain of the Tarman and the noble character of Alise. And although I thoroughly enjoyed the Assassin’s Apprentice series Hobb wrote earlier in her career, I prefer this marvelous journey through uncharted regions. She has once again created a wondrous world which becomes real for the reader of this superb series. Perhaps most fascinating is the mythology of dragonwood, liveships and the mythical race of elderlings, and how they come to be.

I can’t recommend this book more. This series had risen in my esteem with every page to be one of my all time favorites. I am saving the final two volumes as long as I can to prolong the wonder and satisfaction of being immersed in this lovely series. Take the journey, you won’t regret it.

5 stars (out of 5)

A Novelette for you to enjoy!

2 Aug

Why don’t I update my writer’s blog more? In any case, last year my novelette, “The Missing Blossom” was published. It is a gothic 19th century epistolary story. I hope you enjoy.

Society of Misfit Stories May 2020

Horror For the Throne

2 Aug

I have a story published in the anthology: Horror For the Throne. It is full of short spooky tales to help you overlook the horror of possible splash-back from dropping your depth charges. Check it out!

Horror for the Throne

Final History project!

1 Aug

I have been taking history courses for a year now so that I can fulfill the liscence requirements for teacning Middle Grade Humanities. It has been exciting, tyring, and often depressing (mankind really can be unkind!). However, one of my favorite courses I saved until last. World History II, and I chose to focus on learning about the women of the spiritualist movement and how they crusaded for equal rights and a whole bunch of progressive reforms. I now look forward to spending all that time reading the stuff that I love, and writing things I want to write. However, I have chosen to think of a lot of this as preemptive research for all the weird and scary history-based stories that have been fermenting. In any case, I am posting the site below, should you think you will find these amazing ladies as intriguing as I did.


Book Review: Stamped From the Beginning by Ibram X. Kendi

3 Aug

When terrible times are upon us, we tend to turn our backs and busy ourselves with things that are less upsetting. Although, personally, I had to make the effort to keep the phone turned down each morning so that I wouldn’t scroll down through reams of infuriating events and the comments from people who have radically different outlooks on those very events, and thereby ruin my whole day, I decided to educate myself so that I was armed with facts that would help me navigate the confusing and unprecedented time we face today in America.

If you are like me and you would like a wealth of information that traces the history of racist ideas and actions in our country, than I couldn’t recommend more highly Ibram X. Kendi’s scholarly (yet accessible) account. The book begins with the first real racist work (from a Spanish propagandist for a Prince who saw lucrative opportunities in the market for human slaves), and then follows the history of racism through the lives of five influential people in history: Cotton Mather, Thomas Jefferson, William Lloyd Garrison, W. E. B. Dubois, and Angela Davis.

Why would I want to do that? You ask. Well, I believe it is as good or better a time as any to take a deep look into your own misconceptions about race, history and society, so that you and I can be better fellow citizens to all of our American countrymen and women. It is a difficult journey and, honestly, there were many moments when I had to put the book down and do something mindless, or routine. The book is revealing, disillusioning, and does the job of shattering some of those hard worn conceptions about why things are the way they are.

I do not feel qualified to give this work a full review, but I feel compelled to share that my reading of the work has been transformative for me and how I might think about our history, our current events and even how I might better instruct young people about history.

For those of you who don’t have the time to read this long account of the many instances and movements of segregationists, assimilationists and anti-racists throughout American history, then you should check out Stamped: Racism, Anti-Racism and You by Jason Reynolds and Kendi. Reynolds did a masterful job of boiling down the essence of Kendi’s work for a quicker, yet still insightful, read.

Some quick draws for me personally in this book was the inclusivity Kendi used in drawing together the events and people described in his book. He addresses sexual and gender rascism throughout and highlights many, many powerful women who have led the fight against racism. He also gives note to racism in culture, covering radio shows, and movies, showing how the different attitudes with race are metaphorically “stamped” into classic movies from Gone with the Wind, Tarzan, King Kong, Planet of the Apes and Rocky.

If you love history, wish you had a better grasp of the forces interacting still to this day on the very streets of our nation, or you just want a clearer perception of history, than I cannot recommend more this important work.

Book Review of The Twelve by Justin Cronin

10 Jul

I had the pleasure of reading Justin Cronin’s second installment to his vampire apocalypse trilogy, and I continue to be amazed with his lifelike characters, his poignant writing and clever plotting. If you haven’t read the first novel: “The Passage” you could read this one, but it would definitely decrease your enjoyment. These books are quickly ascending to my all-time favorites shelf.

The plot travels between year zero of a vampire virus epidemic that is destroying the country faster than a reality star presidency and 90 years or so later when the last stands of humanity face a land that is inhospitable at night. If you took Watership Down and turned all the rabbits into desperate humans fighting in a world ruled by hoards of countless undead, you might come close to understanding the excitement, allegory and fun of this trilogy. I cannot recommend it enough. There is a real literary standard observed by the writer that raises these texts far above other post-apocalypse or vampire novels. I can’t wait to read the final novel, and if you haven’t done so yet, read the first!

Book Review: The Blue World by Robert McCammon

10 Jul

If you haven’t checked out the incredible works of Robert McCammon, I highly recommend it. Overshadowed by the likes of King and Koontz in the 1980’s McCammon produced a ton of horror and dark fantasy work, and the good news is that he is still producing today. Some of the works that I have read that I would suggest are:

Boy’s Life – This coming of age novel centers around a young boy growing up in the 1960’s in a small southern town. There is a mystery and many, many subplots with magical realism and societal drama galore. The result reminds me of both Ray Bradbury’s nostalgic works mixed with the odd freshness of Flannery O’Connor.

Swan Song – This epic post-nuclear holocaust novel details a group of survivors who are trying to keep alive a very important little girl. Filled with memorable characters and lots of action, this novel gives King’s The Stand a run for its money.

They Thirst – This somewhat flawed but entertaining book is a perfect October read as it details the takeover of Los Angeles by a vampire epidemic.

However, Blue World is a collection of a number of McCammon’s brilliant short stories and an exciting novella (from which the title gets its name). McCammon shows the range of his craft and his ability to create clever social commentary with these gems. One of my favorite, “Nightcrawlers” was even adapted as an episode of the 1980’s reboot of the Twilight Zone. Some of these are touching, some horrifying, but all of them are thought-provoking. One of my favorites is called “Night Calls the Green Falcon” and features an aged ex-actor who once donned the super heroic persona of a Saturday matinee serial hero. The story is nail-biting and, well just plan wonderful. I recommend this anthology with great enthusiasm and a five star rating.

Love Letters to the Universe #26: Know Thyself- The Cavalier and the Paladin

4 Jun

Dear Universe,

Oh, to fall in love! Surely, that is the epitome of happiness? When else does one see the rose tint behind each scene unscrolled before them like a universe remade? When else does happiness reach such heights that it encompasses terror? When one falls in love (as I have with you), one sees his or her own existence in a new light; aye, sometimes as if he or she had not been privy to the solace of light before. In love, you know the crispness of the apple, for it is knowledge that you not only gain, but to which you must surrender.

Just as I have fallen in love with you, I have fallen in love with myself, for that one to be in love one must truly love and recognize that twin star that radiates from within oneself, not just from the object of one’s affection.

I would argue this happiness and its continuing growth should comprise the greatest proportion of one’s life. We should all be so enamored with you, that, through pursuit of your affection, we find an undiminishing appreciation for our own loveliness. To know you, my dear, is to love you. Socrates said: “Know thyself!” Surely then, this most beneficial of decrees and our need to heed it in acquiescence is never seen as poignantly as with the next two Superstar Archetypes that I lay before you to glitter in this most needed and appreciated spring sunshine:


  1. The Cavalier

Primary Mode of Operation: Recognition (South)

Secondary Mode of Operation: Influence (South)

Epithets: The Knight of Staves, Prince Charming, The Golden Boy, The MVP

Mythic Examples: Captain James T. Kirk, Sir Lancelot-du-Lac, Buffalo Bill

Description: When one thinks of the dashing knight in shining armor, one usually is summoning the archetype of the Cavalier to mind. The Cavalier constructs meaning for himself by establishing recognition, and through that, manifesting influence. The cavalier is usually known for his accomplishments for which he strives for tirelessly. His need for recognition also manifests as competitiveness the likes of which are not seen elsewhere in the other types. The true peacock, the Cavalier is often known for his pleasing appearance, his ingratiating charisma, his uncanny skill and drive, or a combination of all three. The cavalier enjoys attention and so will often be seen as an unrepentant flirt.

As a child, the Cavalier is the ultimate mama’s boy. His mother is of course his first audience,  and the Cavalier will challenge his father, his brothers, sisters or anyone else for her affections, attention and time. He will continue this pattern with other women as he grows, but in the end he will always remain the most faithful and the most hung up on his mommy dearest. It is why he often will leave many a starstruck maiden crushed against the rocks of lost love on his journey toward perfection.

The cavalier will find that the world is a place of masks, and he will become highly adept at fashioning a pleasing one and polishing it to a shine. He will sublimate everything about himself under this showy and gallant mask, to the point where he will often be confused about his own private inner life (with which he can dangerously lose all familiarity), and his grand social life. At heart, the cavalier can become secretly quite lonely, as he does not truly like himself, especially if he remains stunted as externally motivated for the attention of others.

Indeed, under the veneer of gallant success, the cavalier may appear to some as quite sociopathic, as he forgets that using influence to manipulate others constantly is not appropriate or beneficial for his own moral development.

Because of his drive, the Cavalier will master any number of pursuits, skills and fields of study. In his company, anyone can be made to feel a winner, however, and at his most magnanimous the Cavalier is a true champion of the people. He is a solid educator, guide, trainer, athlete, speaker, and when drawn to the helping careers, will shine as a healthcare practitioner.

The cavalier can master any external exercise, but his real problem will always stem for his often neglected inner self. This can eventually lead him into the more shadowy aspects of his archetypal personality. However, when balanced and at peace, the Cavalier will inspire, protect and aid his fellow hairless monkeys with a grace and a smile that will charm the most downhearted and sullied of souls.

Captain James T. Kirk is the perfect example of the Cavalier from popular science-fiction. His guarded inner life allows him to command the Federation’s premiere starship, while his affable charisma and competitive drive makes him suitable for dealing with whatever strange races he should encounter (both out and in the bed chamber).

A starlet will understand the Cavalier’s need for maintaining an image. She will become his best audience and a shining light, herself, inspiring the Cavalier to attain further glory on her behalf.

Ideal match: The Starlet

Challenging types for the Cavalier: The Craftsman, the She-Bear

The Shadow Type: The Glory Hound- When the Cavalier loses sight of his own inner conflicts, he is subsumed by his own ego which he wears as a mask, replete with matching tunic festooned with epaulettes and hanging medals. The Glory Hound is a self aggrandizing braggart, a heart-breaking cuckolder, and a true schlub. A good example of this would be the glory hound, Gaston, as we see in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. The Glory Hound becomes a caricature of himself, a grand and showy buffoon.

There is a much darker side to many a glory hound. The desire to influence becomes so complete, that he becomes a sort of vampiric sociopath, who will revel in emotional sadism, and could very well hide the tastes of a serial killer, who one would never guess is there, buried under the pleasing and gallant aspect of the gentleman next door.


  1. The Paladin

Primary Mode of Operation: Recognition (South)

Secondary Mode of Operation: Intuition (West)

Epithets: The Grail Knight, the Good Cop, the Seeker

Mythic Examples: James Gordon (of Batman/Gotham), Roland Deschaines of Stephen, King’s Dark Tower series, Kung Fu

Description: When one envisions a lone rider with a white hat coming into town and having to step up against a swarm of black-hearted no-goods, that is the Paladin. The Paladin uses recognition to carve his way through the world, both externally and internally. Externally he relies on his reputation as a straight shooter and a competent adversary (or ally) to survive a world that does not walk the same path as he. Internally, he uses recognition to assess the reactions of others and aide his perceptive sense of intuition. It is this inner-compass which sets and guides the Paladin on his path through life. It makes him a highly virtuous (or at least scrupulous) individual. Although he may be the least initially trusted of his fellow knight superstars, for he answers to the sovereignty of his own conscience, which will not take orders from anyone, unless the Paladin deems their perceptions and goals are aligned.

As a young child and man, the Paladin will often dabble in many pursuits, as he is anxious to try things out and find out where he can best be recognized. The most important difference between the Paladin and the other Superstars is that recognition must also allow the Paladin the freedom to develop and act further, against his own reputation if his intuition should call for it. It is this fact which has often gotten the Paladin ousted and hunted in the very societies in which he serves.

In the end the Paladin wants to be recognized as a good man, a virtuous and honorable person. However, the realized and mature Paladin has learned to really only live off the need to recognize himself as a decent and well-intentioned person.

The Paladin will often attract many friends and admirers who will try to walk in his footsteps. He will often allow them to stumble, but will patiently turn back and show the new upstart how it should be done properly and effectively. Thus Paladin’s make excellent teachers and guides. They also would make equitable and fair lawyers, judges, and policemen. They often can be seen involved in activist, volunteer, or philanthropic services. Their career will largely depend upon the path that they are following.

The paladin’s quiet confidence can inspire a state of calm and security to people and animals, for which most paladins have a knack and affection.

A paladin is on a mission to reach a state dictated by his ideals and inner-direction. He will die on this road, and this does not bother him over much, as long as he dies well, and that is with his integrity intact. Heaven help those who try to prevent the Paladin from living according to his code. There will be no help to those who stand in direct contrast to the moral fiber of this wandering hero, not when the Paladin comes to town, that is.

Ideal match: Enchantress

Challenging types for the Paladin: The Chief (Warlord), The Matriarch

The Shadow Type: The Outlaw: Just as in the case of the Glory Hound, the Outlaw is the Paladin who has failed to understand himself and heed that singular calling of his intuition. He has lost faith in the quest, and instead has chosen some other artificial means of establishing his path. This inner calling will often be replaced by the sole desire to establish his reputation with whatever immoral means necessary. Here we have the outlaws of old, living by a code that is little better than dog eat dog. It is this philosophical failing which is the tragic and bitter fall of the outlaw. He has nothing to live for, and his anger and brutality reflects his turmoil. Occasionally a truly mad Outlaw will appear in life and in art, such as the merciless likes of the antagonist of McCarthy’s No Country For Old Man and Batman’s Two-Face, who hinge their decisions not on their own compass, but the flip of a coin.

The most interesting character in this regard is that of Jules Winnfield of Pulp Fiction fame played by Samuel Jackson. This character begins the film as an outlaw and by the end has experienced a denouement that has turned him into the roving paladin that has decided to save life rather than take it.

Just as the the Cavalier can be the inspiration for his people, the Paladin, in his fullness, can be their savior. However, they both must learn to understand their own natures and heed their own inner-calling, and, of course, undertake to fulfill the responsibilities that such natures embody.

Let’s hope there will be more heroes that undertake the quest for the betterment of themselves. For we accompany them, and become better ourselves in the process.

I promise to write more often, my sweet universe. I apologize for my interruption in our correspondence. I have been busy tackling and beating my addiction to tobacco so that the two of us will have a much longer correspondence indeed.

Your loving admirer,


The Valkyries: The Bone Snake is free for the Kindle! Download today!

23 May

For a limited time, The Valkyries: The Bone Snake is free for the Kindle! Download and start enjoying this tale of gothic terror and motorcycle mamas that ride into town to deliver a can of whoop-ass on evil.