So I saw a ‘Writing Prompt’ on Facebook today, thus:wiz

And the following came almost immediately…
Wiz1: “What’s he up to?”
Minion: “Dark One, He is with the King. He is about to set up a new Orphanage Fund…”
Wiz1: “Excellent! I developed a spell especially for this day! I cast “Expanding Bureaucracy!” ”
At the Palace…
Wiz2: “So you see, Sire, this will not only set up a shelter, but it will also start both a school, and a cafeteria, and go a long way to matching the children with childless couples…”
King: “Excellent! I love it! I’m going to hook you up with some of my best people to get our end started!”
Wiz2: “Wait, what?”
King: “Yes! It’s our new program for government work! Bring them in!”
<<About thirty well dressed and a bit soft looking men enter the court. They are all carrying multiple quills and stacks of parchment…>>
…several hours later…
Aide Barnes: “M’Lord? Is everything alright?”
Wiz2: “Ah, Barnes! Bring me wine. I have such a headache!”
Barnes: “I’m sorry, Sir. Did it not go well with the King? I thought he was onboard with the Orphanage proposal…”
Wiz2: “Oh, he was! He loves it! But just as he agreed, all the sudden there were about a thousand officials that I had to appease… This is not at all normal, and I smell a rat. A magical, wizardley rat… Tell me, do you know if ~He~ is still seeing Cindy?”
Barnes: “Oh, yes, sir. They were seen together at Bishop Devero’s just last night. It was quite a scandal, I swear she saves the especially outrageous dresses for events involving the clergy.
Wiz2: “Doesn’t she just. Well, Cindy has always been a bit excitable, which brings us to this… I cast “Strange Perfume”.
A Dark Wizard’s Tower
Wiz1 is bent over a small table, using tongs to hold a delicate vial over a strangly purple flame.
The door bursts open, startling him, causing him to drop the vial. It shatters on the floor and a noxious green mist starts eating the carpet.
In the door frame is the Enchantress Cindella (Cindy) Malatroi, dressed in her typical skin tight leathers…
Cindy: “You cheating sonofabitch…”


I thought it was fun, but I am pretty easily amused.


Dusting things off

I’ve decided I need to get back into things. For my own sanity, for stress relief, whatever. I’ve been writing or trying to write, and I’ve even submitted a short story. We’ll see how that goes. And as I think about it, I do need the stress relief. This is a lot better than obsessing over politics, or facebook, or facebook politics. So what am I going to do…

I think the plan is to hit this site up once a week or so, and either write a meander, or a rant, or find some art or prompt that gets me to write a snippet or short or something. I need to practice, and the only way seems to be to sit at a keyboard and beat the crap out of it. It’ll be pretty raw, and minimal editing. This week, I found a pretty cool SciFi soldier. So here we go.


[Art Credit: Johnson Ting, ]

He could see electrical shorts crawling up and down his arms, like miniature lightning. As it passed, his body became clearly visible, the active camouflage netting failing. He was exposed. He quickly crawled, low and backwards, away from the edge of the roof. The last thing a sniper wanted was to be noticed.

That last flash, he thought. It must have been an EMP. No other explanation for it.

He checked his weapon. It was fine. Nothing about the rifle would be effected by a pulse, but the scope was fried.  Guess we’re back to Iron Sights, he thought, hitting the release on the scope. That’s going to make this a little bit harder.

Things were already hard. The Ber’teth had taken over large portions of Earth three years before, and all humanity could do was fight a desperate rear guard action, retreating into equatorial zones that as of yet, the aliens didn’t seem to like. Too little was known about the Ber’teth. They stood about 8 feet tall and were generally humanoid, their extra-long arms allowing them to shuffle along on three or four limbs as needed. From all reports, outside of their armor, they weren’t all that much tougher or stronger than humans, but it was rare to ever see one outside its armor. And that’s where the sniper corps came in.  The issue weapon was the Walleker-Browning 50, the WB50, or just the WB. About 30 years ago, someone had the bright idea to try to downsize the main weapon on the Abrams for snipers. Bolt action and firing a .50 caliber discarding sabot wrapped around a .22 caliber depleted uranium (DU) dart, it was way over-kill for human targets and at the time, violated several tenets of the Geneva Conventions. The designers were arrested, and it was never deployed. All that changed when the Ber’teth landed.

The Ber’teth armor defeated most rifle and small arms fire, somehow able to react to incoming rounds by shifting from a semi-liquid state to a solid mass. Someone had tried to explain it to him once. Something about non-Newtonian fluids and radar tracking. It was way over his head. But they found out that could get past the armor if they were fast enough, and humanity adapted. Someone remembered the WB50, and they managed to get their hands on the test bed production run. About 45 of the beasts. At just over 6500 feet per second, the DU dart would plow through the reactive armor of the mechs and the ground vehicles like tissue paper.

His task had been simple. From about 2200-2500 meters, he would engage and remove the commander of a Ber’teth patrol. This kind of harassment had slowed the alien advance to a crawl. From that distance, a good sniper had about a 90% survival rate. The older snipers, being properly paranoid, pushed that number to 97%. He knew why the command was so set on snipers getting back alive and it wasn’t pretty. In the southern and western areas of what used to be the United States, good shots were a dime a dozen. But the rifle? Until they could get some of the Mexican factories on line, each WB was worth its weight in any precious metal you cared to name.  So a sniper that wanted to not get wiped out by the counter-fire took his shot from at least 2000 meters. That was before the EMP fried his scope. He’d have to get closer.

That’s enough for tonight. As I said, snippets. If I like this, I’ll take a look at it later and maybe continue it. Could be fun. I think our unnamed protagonist is going to have a bad day.

Review Godzilla:Planet of the Monsters

Netflix and TOHO animation have teamed up to bring us Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters. This hour-and-a-half animation starts in the late twentieth century as humanity is confronted by outbreaks of Kiaju wreaking world wide devastation. Paris, New York and Tokyo are all in flames and at the same time, two alien races have come to Earth. The elf like Exif, who seek to convert humanity to their own religion, and the burly Bilusaluda, who offer to defeat Godzilla in return for being allowed to immigrate onto Earth. godzilla 2018 2 The Bilusaluda’s  plan does not go well. Humanity is forced to flee Earth, and seek a new home in the stars.

Twenty years later, the colony has not found a home, and confronted with shrinking resources and despair among the people, they are forced to attempt to return to Earth They theorize that, due to their method of space travel, the time dilation would have resulted in possibly thousands of years having passed on Earth. They hope that in that time, Godzilla is gone, and the ecosystem would have had time to recover.

godzilla 2018

Yeah… it’s a Godzilla Movie. That is not going to be how it works out.

Almost immediately, a probe is destroyed by “atomic breath”. Now the three races must either flee, or attempt to fight the beast and win back humanity’s home.

OK, that’s the premise, so let’s see what was good and what was bad.

On the plus side, I found the animation of the monster(s) and the scenery very well done. It was smooth, detailed and you could certainly see the influence of the 2014 Godzilla movie


Godzilla and the other creatures are well done and represent everything you want in a monster movie. Powerful, terrifying and deadly.

On the minus side, it had one characteristic that is hard to forgive in a Godzilla movie… I was bored. Not with the monster, but with the humans. Our lead, Captain Haruo Sakaki remembers watching his parents killed by Godzilla, and he is obsessed with revenge. He is an outspoken advocate for the return to Earth, and has built a strategy to defeat the monster. And I don’t care. He’s not very like-able, and it’s very difficult to find any rapport with him as a character. I’m not sure if it’s the animation style or the dialog, but I’m leaning toward the writing. Maybe it doesn’t translate well, but he’s just a bit of an ass. In military terms, he seems to be the type of soldier that gets people around him killed. At one point, he begins the ultimate-sacrifice-for-the-common-good gambit, and all I could think was, “Wow, that would be abrupt…”.

Still, it’s free on Netflix, so go take a look for yourself.  It’s not a bad way to spend an afternoon.  I’m giving it 3 of 5, but maybe I expect more out of Godzilla movies.


Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters is the first of a three part series (Part 2 is projected for 2019) , so I am looking forward to the next. There is a lot of potential here, hinted at by a post credit scene that indicates the planet may not have been completely abandoned by humanity. Enjoy!


Review- The Four Horsemen: Alpha Contracts

Well, I’ve reviewed Mark Wandrey’s work before, and it seems I’ll be doing it again. This time, He and Chris Kennedy have given us The Four Horsemen: Alpha Contracts. (4H:AC) for the rest of this post. If by some chance, you aren’t familiar with the Four Horsemen Universe (4HU), and you like your Science Fiction with a military slant, you should take a look at this, and then go on to buy Cartwright’s Cavaliers, as well as the rest. Good fun.

4hu–> Click here for Alpha Contracts at Amazon <–

To summarize the 4HU,  these are the stories of what happens when mankind makes contact, and we learn that the only thing we really have to offer the universe is our capacity for violence. Earth’s governments tap their military, and also allow private groups to seek out their fortune as mercenary companies. 4H:AC is the story of the four mercenary companies that survived.

I’ve said before that I usually don’t enjoy books with shared authorship. Often the transitions are jarring, and the differences in style become distracting to the point of frustration. In this, I think Wandrey and Kennedy do very well. They take four very different characters and put them into four very different situations. Four very different people, as they try to lead their companies to, if not success, then at least survival. Within these four stories, the characters’ actions and motivations remain believable, and the authors manage to bring them to a single encounter where they all come to common ground. This is a great read, and I recommend it highly.


The Very Short Tale of How Cindy Got Her Cadillac

Many moons ago, there was a debate about the visibility of vampires in reflective surfaces. One theory was that the real issue was the purity of the silver that historically formed the reflective surface, so in the current era, it is not an issue.  A good theory, but I argued, oh no, it is any reflective surface, and vampires spend a fortune on makeup so people don’t notice them. That is why there are so many pink Cadillacs. The inestimable Mrs. Hoyt said, “Write that!”.

So I did, or at least part of it, then I forgot, then I found it, then I finished it, then I re-wrote it. And so without further gilding the lily and with no more ado, I give to you, How Cindy Got Her Cadillac…


Cindy stared at the house in front of her. Like her, it was in pretty good shape, but had seen better times. Just a little run down, a couple things here and there that needed a quick fix that the owner hadn’t quite gotten around to. In the early twilight, just after sunset, it was easy to see the fine frame of the house and let the little rough areas fade from attention. Just like Cindy.

Her husband had been giving her grief about the whole thing. Mark had many a comment about selling makeup door-to-door and the topic had spurred on more than one fight. “Really, it’s like sand in your shorts,” she thought to herself, slipping back into the south Texas sayings she’d gotten from her grandmother. Mark made plenty, and they didn’t really need the money, but it would be nice to not have to explain, and dammit, she liked being able to just blow some pocket money without having to feel guilty about it.

But one more smart-ass comment from Mark about “Finally getting the keys to that pink Cadillac,” and 12 years of marriage or no, she was going to smother him in his sleep.

She looked again at the door, the faded wreath ringing the peep-hole and thought, “Just one more. One more door today, and back home.”

Her friend Judy had gotten her in to this. “Oh, it’s so easy,” she had said. “What woman doesn’t want to sit down and talk makeup!”

“Quite a few, apparently,” she thought again. This was the 15th house today, and so far she had sold exactly two tubes of lip balm. To the same teenager who wouldn’t let her in while her parents weren’t home.

They had been cheerleaders together, Cindy and Judy, and in high school Cindy probably spent more time thinking about makeup than she really needed, but after, she and Mark had gotten married, and makeup was just there, just something you did because it was expected, and you tried not to let it become too much time spent.

As she walked to the door, she could smell the faint smell of burgers drifting in from someone’s back yard, and she thought about what she still needed to get done for the day. Tonight was taco night, and Mark had been giving her grief about that as well. He didn’t like her being out, not doing the things he thought of as “her role around the house”, mostly cooking and cleaning up after him. She didn’t understand his problem there, either, the house was clean, and frankly, Mark ate himself stupid every time they had tacos.

“Last one,” she thought again, and knocked. She heard a quick thump from inside, and the door opened. A bit. Enough to see some unkempt hair, a strikingly pale cheek and one eye tired looking eye.

“What do you want?”

Based on the voice, Cindy was fairly certain she was dealing with a young woman. She launched in to her now practiced, if a little worn, spiel.

“Hi! My name is Cindy and I am so excited about some new products I’m selling, do you have a quick minute? I have these great skin products and makeup that are so amazing that my company is letting me give free facials and makeup demonstrations! It looks amazing and it feels like you aren’t wearing makeup at all!” She felt like if she said ‘amazing’ one more time today, she might just lose her mind, but the door had drifted open, and she could now see what she was dealing with.

The woman behind the door was small, petite even. Dressed in a robe thrown on over loose pajamas, she looked like she had just gotten out of bed after a particularly long and unrestful sleep. Her hair, which judging by the bulk, would probably hang down to at least her mid-back, was a violently tangled black mass, mostly on the top of her head, but there was a lot of hair that was making a break for it in a wild assortment of directions. Her face was pale, and the shadows under her eyes spoke of a weariness that made her look old. It looked like some makeup had been applied, but Cindy doubted that the end result was what the young woman had in mind.

“Makeup?” came the quiet, doubtful question.

“Yep! The best, most natural looking makeup money can buy!” Cindy continued, holding out her horribly pink business card. “And while the first session is free, you are just going to be astonished at how affordable it all is!” Astonish, and all its variants, was another word Cindy was prepared to cut from her vocabulary. She rolled on. “These products are every bit as good as anything you’d buy at the mall, at half the price, and so easy to use that you’ll be amazed at how quickly you can be ready to face the day!

That line earned her a sort of suppressed snort from the woman, but still, the door was open, and she hadn’t actually stopped her, so Cindy rolled on. “But seriously, if I can have just 10 minutes to show you the basic foundation and rouge, you won’t regret it. If you don’t like it, we can stop right there, and it won’t cost you a thing.”

The woman narrowed her eyes for a moment, and seemed to come to a decision. “OK, Cindy was it? I’ll give this a shot. Enter my home freely and of your own will.” Cindy was a little confused by the phrasing, but so far, this was the best she had done all day. As she entered, the woman turned on the entryway light, and led her into the dining room.

“Well, Cindy, welcome to my home. My name is Margaret, but please, call me Maggie. Can we work here from the table, or would you prefer somewhere else?”

“No, no. The table is fine, everything else I need is right here in my kit.” Something was bothering Cindy, but she couldn’t quite isolate it. As she moved to the table she put her case down, opened it, and began to lay out what she called, “the tools of the trade.” Brushes, compacts, and lip-glosses, as well as a mirror.

Maggie reached out to the mirror and turned it down. “Let’s just let you do your magic then, shall we? And we’ll look when you’re done,” she said, with an odd tone in her voice. If Cindy had to put a description to it, she would have called it a faint willingness to be pleased, with extra helpings of preparing to be disappointed.

“Well, Maggie, let’s talk shop. What kind of face do you want to wear today? As women, we both know that makeup is just one more tool in our arsenal when we take on the world, so what are we wanting to show today?” Cindy looked across the table and was surprised when Maggie wouldn’t meet her eyes.

There was some reluctance, and in a quiet, hesitant voice, Maggie replied, “When I was a… bit younger, I wasn’t nearly so pale. I’ve been ill. Do you think“, and the hesitation was back, ”do you think you could put just a little blush in my cheeks?” Now she raised her head and looked across at Cindy. In Maggie’s eyes, Cindy saw a fragility and sadness that brought a lump to her throat.

“Oh, honey,” she said and set to work, ‘we can do that.”

It took more than 10 minutes, but Maggie was more than willing to sit for it, and Cindy, channeling her inner cheerleader, wanted nothing more than to make this woman smile. After a final brush of gloss to the lips, she said, ”OK, we’re done, let me show you our brand new Maggie.” She reached for the mirror, and Maggie stiffened in her chair.

“Wait, wait,” she burst out and looked at Cindy. “Are you sure we are ready?” The sadness, which had left during the session of brushes and small talk, was back. Maggie’s small hand held Cindy’s down on the mirror like a cold vise.

“Maggie, trust me.”

Maggie nodded, and released her hand. “I trust you,” came the small voice.

“OK, let’s look.” Cindy held up the mirror, moved behind Maggie and held it so they both could see the results. As she let Maggie take it in, she admired her own handiwork. She could see delicate shading of the blush as it faded across the cheek, and the gleam of the lip-gloss, but something, she knew something was screaming at her but she just didn’t know what.

Maggie turned happily to her, a huge smile breaking across her face. “Oh, Cindy, it’s wonderful!” You really have no idea what this means to me!”

Looking directly into Maggie’s eyes, Cindy felt the contagious excitement and she felt the smile spreading across her own face, but there was something…

Maggie turned back to the mirror, and Cindy froze. There were no eyes in the reflection. Cindy could clearly see the eyeshadow, but were Maggie’s warm, green eyes, should be, there was nothing. It was Maggie had no eyes at all. She felt the blood rush from her face, and an icy streak of terror flew up her spine.

Maggie stopped, and her shoulders slumped a little. “Ah, I see. You have come to a realization.”

Maggie turned back, and Cindy managed to get her frozen legs back under control, and started to scramble away.

“Stop,” came the quiet command, and Cindy’s legs became as unresponsive as clay. Maggie sat in her chair, hands folded in her lap and looked at her sadly. “I cannot tell you how grateful, how appreciative I am of you, Cindy. I can’t say it enough and you really have no idea of how sincerely I mean it. I hope that we can be friends.”

“What… Who… What are you? “ Cindy whispered.

“Please don’t panic, Cindy, please? I don’t want to hurt you, and I think there is a lot we can do for each other.”

“What do you mean?” Cindy asked.

“Oh, Cindy, you saved me!” Maggie cried. “I’m… I’m a… vampire. I’ve been this way for a couple of months now. The elders keep telling me I’ll adjust, but I… I can’t I can’t see myself, I can’t do makeup right, I can’t brush my hair right, I’m freaking out and I’m ready to walk out into the sun and I nearly did today!”

Maggie calmed down. “I need you, Cindy. I need you to help me with my makeup, and help me blend back in and look like a typical 22 year old. I need you to help me keep attached to ‘normal’ so I don’t become one of those creepy old corpses that look at people like cattle. You have helped me so much today and I just want some part of normal back!”

Cindy could hear the fear, and it sounded like someone holding desperately to the edge of sanity, and someone afraid that sanity was already gone. Strangely, her felt her own anxiety calm. “I… I don’t understand…” she managed to force out. The fear might be gone, but if her throat had ever been dryer, she couldn’t remember it.

“It’s the mirror thing, and all the rest.” Maggie replied. “Every bit of it is true. I haven’t been able to see myself in over two months. What you saw in the reflection,” Maggie gestured to the mirror lying on the table, “was just the layer of makeup. Without the makeup, nothing.”

Maggie stood and walked to the window, looking out at the darkening Texas skies. “Yep. There’s all sorts of things they’ll tell you when you’re depressed and lonely as hell, and just looking for something, anything…”, she started upbeat but her voice trailed off. “They’ll tell you about the power, and the grace and all the exciting things that you’ll be able to do. But they never tell you that you can never come back, never undo your choice. And your choice sucks.”

Maggie turned back to Cindy. “I can’t have my life back. I can’t see my family, I can’t see my old friends. I’m literally dead to them, and today I was ready make one more choice I’d never come back from. Today I was going to get out of the house, get through one last night and then drive out to the lake and watch the sun rise. Then you knocked.”

She came back to the table. “Look, I know it seems like a little thing. Makeup. Looking ‘pretty’… Being able to go out without freaking people out, just being able to relax.”

“Can’t you, I don’t know “, Cindy waved her hand and wiggled her fingers vaguely, “do things, and people don’t notice?” Cindy thought back to some of the movies she had seen with vampires. The vampire always seemed dreadfully obvious, but could always seem to do something and people just ignored them, or even worse accepted them as normal.

Maggie laughed a little. “Actually, yes. The Glamour.” Cindy was certain about the capital “G”.

“When we want them to, people see what we convince them they want to see. Sometimes, it’s so easy that I wonder if I could have done it before.” Maggie paused and considered. “Probably. Some of the people I used to hang out with were idiots.”

“Still,” she continued grimly, “I don’t like to do it. It seems wrong somehow, and I feel like I’m lying even more than I already have to them. And I’m lying a lot. The old ones, they barely care. They only care enough to not cause an incident, and they complain the whole time. It’s always, ‘Back before television’, or ‘Back when there were no cameras’, and they talk about what they used to do.”

“How… how do you survive?” Cindy wasn’t sure she wanted to know the answer.

“Nowadays?” Maggie turned and smiled. “Nowadays it’s all trips to the bloodbanks, and willing groupies,” she admitted. “Thanks to that Rice woman there are always young folks ripe for the recruiting.” A little bitterness creeped back into her voice. “I’m not-living proof”.

“Now some of the not-quite-so-crusty-and-ancient ones understand money,” she continued. “Money and finance are good things and keeping a low profile keeps everyone alive, sort of, and happy. Abell runs that part and Abella runs a tight ship.”

“Abella?” Cindy asked.

“Sorry. Abella is our mother, our leader. Whatever you want to call the head vampire in charge.” Maggie answered. “She’s from France… originally… and I think she’s about 180 years old. She won’t say and says that it’s impolite to ask, but I’ve heard her talk horribly about a man named Mansfield Lovell. Thanks to Google, I now know that Mansfeld Lovell was a General during the Civil War. Most of the time she still has her accent, but when she gets mad it gets very… southern. She manages the money, and she does it quite well. Honestly, I’ve never had money like I have it now. But Abella insists that we maintain a low profile and says, and I quote, ‘torch wielding mobs are horrible, but torch wielding mobs with repeating firearms will ruin your whole afterlife.’ She seems to speak from experience, and I don’t want to test it. I know vampires are tough, especially the old, crusty ones, but there are limits.”

Maggie turned back to the window and was silent for several minutes. Cindy felt slightly detached, like she was coming out from the sedative at the dentist’s office. Her mind started to dwell on trivia from the rest of her day, the heat, how full was the gas tank on the car, where was she going for the tacos to take home. Everything but what was in front of her right now. She straitened herself up and refocused.

“What now?” She asked. A voice in her head kept telling her she should be much more panicked than she was, but somehow, part of her simply couldn’t accept the situation. It was beyond believable, but there she was

“Now. Yes, what now?” Maggie repeated. She turned to Cindy for a moment, and then turned back to the window. “Now, we see. Honestly, there a couple of ways this can go. I can use the Glamour, and you’ll forget. At best, you’ll remember this as one more house visit that came to nothing, and you’ll go on with your life. Back to doing whatever. We’ll go our separate ways. Another option is this,” the loneliness in her voice was joined by a note of faint hope. “You can help me. I promise you absolute safety. My word on it, and you help me. You help me learn how to do all this again,” she said, gesturing to the kit, “and I get something that resembles a life again, at least for a little while. Either way, I promise you, you will come to no harm from me.”

Cindy thought back across her day, and across the days before. She thought about Mark and her home life, and she thought about the terminally enthusiastic Judy, who had gotten her into this makeup mess. If she was completely honest with herself, she had been having a really good time with Maggie before she looked into the mirror.

“Well, Maggie, let’s see what happens.”


Cindy started awake, as the peppy ringtone from her phone assailed her. From Mark’s side of the bed, came a slurred, “phone, phooone!” only partially muffled by the pillow, as she reached for it, she saw the time.

“Please, it’s 4:15 in the morning,” she mumbled into the phone. “Who is this?”

“Cindy! Cindy! It’s Maggie! Oh, Cindy”, Maggie’s excited voice pierced into her ear.

“Cindy!” Maggie gleefully continued, and started to giggle. “You have got to come over tonight! I was out last night and everyone noticed! It was awesome! Right this second, I’ve got three ladies here at my house who want to meet you. I told them there was no way you’d come over now, but you’d come over tonight. Oh, Cindy, this is going to be SO MUCH FUN!”






Overture, Earth Song Book 1, by Mark Wandrey. A review.


Overture is the story of the end of the world. A Near Earth Object, previously thought to be in a safe orbit, has mysteriously shifted onto a collision course with our planet, and no one knows why. At the same time, a device has appeared in New York’s Central Park. One of 12 placed by aliens. It may represent an escape, but only for a small fraction of the population, and only if the team studying it can figure out what it is.

In the meantime, the other 11 devices have inflamed tensions around the world. As certain factions come to realize what the device is, a possibility of escape from the devastation of the impact, violence and conflict erupt as they vie for access and control of the portals.

This story introduces us to Mindy Patoy, a disgraced former astronomer, as she tries to decipher the purpose of the device, how it works and where it leads. Further complicating the issue is that this device, like each of the 11 others around the world, will only transport 144 individuals before shutting itself down. She must try to survive, as various different groups try to seize control of the device for their own ends, all before a world killing asteroid destroys all of humanity.

Overture is the first book in a series of four available, with more forthcoming. It is, as far as I can tell, Mark Wandrey’s first published work, and self-published, at that. I went into it with some trepidation. Mark is someone I know and talk to online, and I’m always a bit leery or reviewing someone I know. He didn’t ask me to read it, nor know I was planning on reading or reviewing it. My plan was, in fact, to give it a shot and if it was bad… we would never speak of it again. As far as I was concerned, it would never appear here. At least, not from me.

And yet, here it is.

It’s good. Really good. All of the technical aspects of a good, professional author are there. The dialog is believable. The characters act on believable motivations in believable ways. As to the story itself, it flows very well and I found myself reading deeper and longer, just one more page, one more chapter. This does not appear, to me anyway, to be the effort of an amateur.

As a fan of science fiction, I found the science to be solid, believable, and internally consistent. To me, there is nothing more likely to jar me out of an otherwise good story than just bad science. I have no problem with McGuffins, mind you. You know, those plot devices, like faster than light travel, or laser swords, or portals to other worlds for that matter, that the author asks you to accept when we don’t have the science to back it up. That’s not bad science, it’s just speculative, and that’s OK. Mark has his McGuffin in there, but no bad science.

I will say that it isn’t the absolutely best book I’ve ever read, but as I look over to my bookshelf, I see Tolkien, Pratchett, Herbert, Heinlein and McCaffery, so best book is quite a high hurdle. On the other hand, I honestly think that Wandrey can go on that bookshelf in good company and deserving of inclusion. In fact, I’m going to give the best one-sentence evaluation I think I can give an author or a book in a series.

It’s time to buy the next book.



Tell me a Story

Being an Editor, I imagine, is a lot like being the Battalion Logistics officer, or a worker in a Network Operations Center… The only time your name comes up is when something goes horribly wrong. When things are perfect, you are invisible. And even for those people in the know, for those who get to look behind the curtain and see the complex dance that goes into NetOps, Logistics and Editing, one hundred “attaboys” will be wiped out by one “Aw, shit”.

That is why I want to take this time to personally thank Toni Weisskopf for what she has done, both as an Editor, and as the head of Baen Books. When I do an inventory of books in my possession (sorry, former Logistics officer), both physical and e-copy, I see a lot of rocket ship logos. I see names like Weber, Drake, Correia, Williamson and Hoyt. And of course, “Oh, John Ringo, no!” Her handiwork is there, for anyone to see, if they know what to look for.

On the various pages and blogs that I visit, many revolve around writers and writing. I don’t do write myself, but just as someone who loves food likes to sometimes see what goes on in the kitchen, as a lover (if not a TruFan) of Science Fiction and Fantasy, I do like to see the stuff behind the curtain. As a result, I see many authors at various levels in the publishing world talking shop back and forth, discussing the mechanics of publishing, the challenges of getting stories out of the head and onto the paper, what it’s like to see cover art that is either perfect or not quite what they meant, and of course, working with an editor. Remember, these authors are everything from NYT Bestselling authors, to midlisters, to self-publishers, to those folks struggling to get that first story out of their head… All of them respect Toni. All of them.

From my own experience, Toni is also the one who took the time to write to a fan temporarily in Kuwait, about how to get a Baen care package. She would take the time outside of her busy work schedule, to drop an encouraging word on Facebook (to someone she has never actually met) to keep after that never-sufficiently-damned P90X fitness program.

I have written before about not wanting Gatekeepers. Before that ever occurred to me, Toni had embraced that philosophy. It can be summed up in one sentence…

Tell me a good, entertaining story.

So, thank you, Toni, for getting more good stories out there. Having read the books, seen the eARCs, and perused the slush pile, I know that there is a lot that goes into getting from that first rough manuscript to final, published copy. You have done your part in making sure that finished product is the high quality we, as readers, expect from Baen Publishing. As for me, I will do my part to make sure that you and your authors continue to win the coveted “George Washington” awards.