#WATWB – Your Monthly Shot of News That Doesn’t Suck

Thanksgiving is the quiet time before the madness as far as I’m concerned. For those of you that don’t live in the US, the day after Thanksgiving is widely known as “Black Friday”. Not to commemorate the stock market crash of 1869 or the stock market crash of 1929 or the stock market crash of 2008, but rather it’s because this is the one magical day when retailers hope to “get into the black” and hopefully become profitable. So, like all good Capitalists, they drop some blood in the water in the form of cheap-ass electronics no one needs at deep, deep discounts and let the consumer sharks feast on each other.

In past years, Black Friday has been responsible for a number deaths by trampling and at least one person waving a gun around in WalMart because she really, really wanted that XBox. It’s also the day I stay as far away from stores as possible. Partially because I don’t really like crowds and hate being trampled, but also because it’s all just a bunch more crap I really don’t need. So, I largely eschew buying a bunch of presents and focus on being happy that I’ve got my wife and son around.

Samantha Baines, a children’s book author, took things one step further and pledged to send a gift-wrapped copy of her own book to anyone who asked for it so no one will have to wake up Xmas morning without a gift under the tree. You can read her story here.

But, you know what? That kind of got me thinking. I don’t have a bunch of copies of my own books lying around, but I have plenty of digital copies. So, if you want one of them or all of them, drop me a line and tell me what format you want and I’ll be happy to email you copies.

Our lovely and talented hosts this month are: Sylvia Stein and yours truly.

~~~GUIDELINES~~~
1. Keep your post to below 500 words, as much as possible. (Wow, I totally missed that mark this time around).
2. All we ask is you link to a human news story on your blog on the last Friday of each month, one that shows love, humanity and brotherhood.
3. Join us on the last Friday of each month in sharing news that warms the cockles of our heart. No story is too big or small, as long as it goes beyond religion and politics, into the core of humanity.
4. Place the WE ARE THE WORLD Badge on your sidebar, and help us spread the word on social media. Tweets, Facebook shares, G+ shares using the #WATWB hashtag through the month most welcome. More Blogfest signups mean more friends, love and light for all of us.
5. We’ll read and comment on each others’ posts, get to know each other better, and hopefully, make or renew some friendships with everyone who signs on as participants in the coming months.
6. If you’d like to join the madness, check out our Twitter feed or Facebook page.

And now, your moment of Zen.

Book Review – Gods Are Born by D.W. Hitz

I love a good superhero story. I especially love the ones that break from the norm. The superhero genre is one of those places where it’s easy to go the established route. Guy (or gal) puts on tights and fights crime. Plug a little wiggle room into and you wind up someone in tights violently fighting crime. Maybe you get an anti-hero or two who are almost as bad – or worse – than the criminals they’re fighting. Toss in a supervillain to give the hero or heroine a need for their skillset and powers and do your best to keep making the stories crazier and crazier while avoiding calling it what it is: Gods fighting gods while the rest of us look on and wonder whether or not our insurance will cover the damage to our car when some asshole drops another car on it. Probably not. Act of god and all that.

D.W. Hitz, in his book Gods Are Born, does away with both the notions of tights and crime fighting and gives us some human character with very human flaws who had power foisted on them. Rather than immediately head out to make things right by punching evil in its sniveling little face, most of them are simply trying to survive like normal people. At some recent point in the past there was a devastating war between some of the gods that left the world a complete train wreck. Imagine an entire planet run by Texas and you’ll get the idea.

All the characters – gods, as Hitz calls them – have very normal human traits. Some want to rule over everything and have zero qualms crushing anyone in their way, others use their power to make a quick buck, while others use their powers to remain hidden away from the world. In other words, these are all people with all of the usual quirks and failings people tend to have. They’re not perfect and they don’t have some internal quest to fulfill. Most of them just want to be left alone. And that is a pleasant change from stories about people with a mad quest to save the world from itself.

Of course, this is a story, so almost no one gets their wishes fulfilled. In fact, a goodly number of them see their dreams crushed, often violently. Which bring us to the 400lb gorilla in the room. While officially marketed as superhero fiction and first contact sci-fi (there are aliens in the book, BTW, but they’re less interesting than the gods), the cover almost shrieks YA. Not that there’s anything wrong with YA, but Gods Are Born doesn’t feel YA to me. The cover isn’t necessarily bad, it just doesn’t fit with the book in my opinion. This is a mature read covering some dense turf and handling it well. So, ignore the cover and listen to the story: This is about people with godlike powers trying to figure out what to do. And not a single one of them has chosen to fight crime. It’s YA in the same way The Dark Knight Returns was YA. In other words, not really YA at all. Not that a younger audience wouldn’t be able to read it or appreciate it, mind you, it’s just written for an older, wiser reader. A serious story on serious Earth, if we were to look back at the bat again.

So, where does that leave us? Honestly in a good place. Ignore the cover art and focus on the story. There’s a good deal of exposition – mostly the bits about the preceding war – that is fertile soil for a novel unto itself. (Yes, D.K., I am asking for a prequel). More to the point, we’ve got fully realized characters striving to just make it in a world gone pretty bonkers. Superheroes, but not the goody two shoes kind we’re used to.

Definitely a good read and worthy of a prequel.

This is not the world you know.

When aliens crashed on Earth, everything changed. Humanity has been decimated by predators and plague. Electromagnetic waves render most technology useless. The survivors are afflicted by strange mutations—some troubling, others amazing.

Kaysa simply desires to live her life. When forced to use her powers, someone always gets hurt.

Tony loves being a hitman. The pay is good, and with his abilities, most jobs are a cakewalk.

The bloodthirsty King of the Republic is unsatisfied. A power greater than his own beckons to him from the beyond.

And to realize his destiny, he must bring the others to it.

Gods are Born follows the paths of seven extraordinary beings as they struggle to survive, to find peace within themselves, and ultimately to defeat the King…

…and something far worse than they can imagine.

Get your copy on Amazon

Follow D.W. on Twitter

Check out his website

#WATWB – Your Monthly Shot of News That Doesn’t Suck

I got both my Covid booster and my flu vax shot last night. Same arm. One show two inches above the other like a badass. Other than a bit of soreness in my arm that may just be due to my earlier badass workout, I’m all good. No second head. No super powers. No 5G brainwaves. No more government tracking than usual. It could be the tinfoil fedora I wear around, but it’s beginning to look like all the horror stories of the vax turning people into slavering mutants were just the fevered dream of people who know fuck-all about how the world works.

But I digress.

We’ve tried vaccinations and masking and while those work to some extent, there’s still a contingent of mouth-breathing knuckle-draggers out there who seem hell-bent on dragging this whole pandemic out as long as possible in the name of their freedoms. At this rate, it doesn’t seem like there’s that much we can do to smash Covid in its tiny balls. It’s too quick for us, too ready to change, too fully ingrained into the environment for us to ever be completely rid of it. Which means years from now you could be innocently planing boards or robbing sperm banks, take a breath at the wrong time and – bam! – your sense of smell and taste have borked off and a fever is treating your body like a two-dollar whore.

The vast majority of people who get that level of sick – especially when they’re fully vaxxed – is will walk away from it within a few days. But what about the drooling idiots who refuse to wear masks because reasons and refuse to get vaxxed because they’re worried they’ll grow a second head? Or, worse yet, what about all those countries that simply cannot afford to vaccinate their populations?

Take those problems together and you’ve got yourself a recipe for problem soup with a side of endemic bread topped with a delightful ivermectin crema.

Fortunately, the big pharma groups have decided to play a little ball with the world. Don’t worry, they’re getting paid so it’s not like they’re going hungry. Merck, for instance, developed a pill that seems pretty damned good at stopping the bad Covid infections before they become disastrous put-you-in-the-hospital-with-a-tube-rammed-down-your-throat-and-not-in-a-sexy-way infections. And Merck, possibly looking forward to an endemic future where Covid pills are a regular thing, has agreed to share the formula royalty-free with others until the WHO (not the one with Pete Townsend, the other one. The one with the doctors) has decreed that Covid is no longer a world-wide emergency. Considering the fact that Covid will be with us probably forever, that means Merck has years of royalties to look forward to even after the pandemic is “over”.

So, on the one hand, good for them. Merck’s putting people over profits at least for the time being. On the other, maybe we don’t need to throw out our shoulders patting them on the back since Covid will never fully go away.

Check the original story here.

Our lovely and talented hosts this month are: Sylvia McGrath and Belinda Witzenhausen

~~~GUIDELINES~~~
1. Keep your post to below 500 words, as much as possible. (Wow, I totally missed that mark this time around).
2. All we ask is you link to a human news story on your blog on the last Friday of each month, one that shows love, humanity and brotherhood.
3. Join us on the last Friday of each month in sharing news that warms the cockles of our heart. No story is too big or small, as long as it goes beyond religion and politics, into the core of humanity.
4. Place the WE ARE THE WORLD Badge on your sidebar, and help us spread the word on social media. Tweets, Facebook shares, G+ shares using the #WATWB hashtag through the month most welcome. More Blogfest signups mean more friends, love and light for all of us.
5. We’ll read and comment on each others’ posts, get to know each other better, and hopefully, make or renew some friendships with everyone who signs on as participants in the coming months.
6. If you’d like to join the madness, check out our Twitter feed or Facebook page.

And now, your moment of Zen.

Book Review – Night Shadow by B.K. Bass

2019 was the last time the world was normal. Our president was loud-mouthed idiot, but we’d learned to make fun of him, everyone was still working in offices, and we didn’t have to wear masks everywhere or listen to mouth-breathers explain how vaccines turned us into mindless robots with 5g connectivity. Covid was lurking, but it was still in the shadows, and we all had heady expectations of 2020 being a great year instead of the massive cluster-fuck it turned out to be.

2019 was also the year I got to read B.K. Bass’s first entry in his Night Trilogy – Night Shift. It was a novella focused on taking a traditional hard-boiled detective and dropping him into a cyberpunk reality with all the fun gritty nastiness one would expect from such a mashup. Early 2020 saw the release of part two – Night Life – where the antes were upped and nastiness got, uh, nastinesser. Nastierness. Let’s just call it a good time in a city that likes to eat people.

Now 2021 is grinding to a halt and sharpening its claws for one last dig into our throats, but at least we’ve got the conclusion of Bass’s trilogy – Night Shadow.

Night Shadow finishes the adventures of Harold Jacobson, now on the run and hiding out while he plots his revenge. The world has other plans for him, though, and Harold finds himself stuck in the middle of fiery revolution that will leave the city quietly sobbing to itself in the corner. Being the badass that he is, ol’ Harold will find a way to use the revolt to his own gains.

While the first two books in the series focused on corruption growing like a cancer in the shadows, Night Shadow lets the cancer loose on an unsuspecting city. My guess would be Night Shadow was heavily influenced by the events of summer 2020 (see, there was a reason I was talking about last year). 2020 was the year the United States exploded. Too much pressure, too much uncertainty, and way too much fear and loathing. Bass manages to capture that powder keg atmosphere in Night Shadow and isn’t afraid to let it loose.

It could be argued that there’s a certain meta-ness to the story. A hint that while the revolution is of the people and for the people, there are plenty of folks out there who, for better or worse, have no qualms about using the chaos to their ends. The final entry in the Night trilogy is bigger and badder than the first two and takes us in an unexpected direction. It still feels like part of the trilogy, though, and that’s no mean feat to pull off.

Taken as a collection, it could be argued that there was a certain prescience in the trilogy. All the corruption and violence of the first two books only served to increase the pressure until an explosion was inevitable. The ethical quandaries of exploiting the explosion aside, the only question left to ask is whether Harold did the right thing for all the wrong reasons or the wrong thing for all the right reasons.

And questions like that are what cyberpunk/detective-noir mashups are all about.

New Angeles is in turmoil.

The government, the corporations, and the organized crime families have the city in an iron grip. As that grip tightens, the people decide they will not take it anymore. When the citizens rise up and the city burns, Harold sees an opportunity to exploit the chaos.

But is his crusade one of justice, or vengeance?

Get your copy on Amazon

Follow B.K. on Twitter

Check out his website

Book Review – The Evening Lands by C.L. Spillard

Some people get guardian angels. Others get guardian devils.

That’s a key element in The Evening Lands, a philosophical masterpiece from Dr. C.L. Spillard. Evil isn’t necessarily something we are, it’s something we do. So, even though Mills is a guardian devil, he has something of a close relationship with Verity Player, a woman who’s outplayed him in the past. This interplay between human and devil is at the heart of Dr. Spillard’s deep dive into the nature of evil.

It’s not the entire plot, but it’s a key portion of the plot. The basic plot is in the blurb below. Anyone who’s read this blog for a while now knows a couple of things about my reviews. Notably, I very rarely regurgitate the plot – this a book review not a book report. I also won’t review a book I didn’t enjoy. If you want to read negative reviews of books check Amazon, there’s always someone who didn’t like a book and wants the world to know about it.

While I very rarely discuss plots, the subplot of Mills and Verity is an import piece to understanding a book that sometimes reads like a dream. That’s not a bad thing. We need more books that read like dreams and we need more tales where not everything is laid out in easy-to-digest chunks. Sometimes pondering a portion of a book is a good thing. It makes us think through things the author wants us to think through.

The Evening Lands isn’t a completely traditional book. The important elements aren’t necessarily the things happening in the foreground; they’re the parts happening in the background. The vague shapes lurking in the shadows, ready to leap out at you. It’s also one of the rare books where the plot is moved along largely through dialog rather than traditional narrative.

It is, in a word, brilliant.

It’s an easy book to read, but it’s not an easy book to get, at least not to squeeze the important parts out of it. But much like climbing a mountain, the view from the top makes it all worth it. If you’ve ever seen black box theater with all of its intimacy and grandiose nuance, you’ll recognize what The Evening Lands feels like.

Dr. Spillard is asking big questions here. What is evil? At what point does regular dickishness tip over into bald-faced evil? Fortunately, she’s not shy about providing some answers. She’s also not shy about poking the United States in the eye because, let’s face it, we in the US are full-on into dickishness and it would take just a nudge to push us face-first into evil.

Her guardian Devil plans to drive the world mad through fear—the fear on which he feeds. Verity needs allies—and fast. She crosses the ocean to meet The Professor and agrees to participate in his gruesome, dangerous experiment into the nature of Evil, hoping that in return he will use his knowledge to help her.
She never expects him to hold her captive and threaten to destroy her mind!
Can Verity escape The Professor’s lab and save the world from the wrath of her Guardian Devil?

Get your copy on Amazon

Follow Dr. Spillard on Twitter

Check out her website

Follow her on Instagram

WATWB – Your Monthly Shot of News That Doesn’t Suck

This post might piss a few people off, but fuck it; here goes.

Robert E. Lee was a vicious bastard. In a world of slave owners, he reveled in cruelty. And yet, for some reason, there was a 12 ton statue of him in Richmond, VA. The question of whether or not he was a great general is debatable, but the question of whether or not he was a decent person is crystal clear.

Now, before we get too deep into the weeds, remember something: I’m not calling you a racist. So put down the pitchforks and torches and listen for a moment.

Lee has been lionized by history as a great man, a scholar, a gentleman, and a war hero. But the simple fact of the matter is he was a traitor to the country, a slave-owner, and an avid believer in the racist treacle he espoused. To sum it up: he genuinely felt blacks were not smart enough to take care of themselves. And for this he got a statue.

That big ol’ honkin’ statue of Lee astride his horse was erected in 1890, not long after the US Civil War and a time when the South was still licking its wounds and referring to the war as “The War of Northern Aggression”. They’d been hurt badly, stomped into the ground by Grant’s larger and better outfitted armies and Sherman’s march to the sea. The Confederacy was smashed and dragged kicking and screaming back into the United States where it’s continued to be a thorn in our side.

Last summer, after Derek Chavin – bastard and murderer – knelt on the neck of George Floyd for nine minutes, people had enough. The statue of Lee was graffiti tagged eight ways to Sunday and calls to remove a memorial to white supremacy were renewed. In a similar vein, the statue of Juan De Oñate, another brutal murderer and general bastard, was removed from Old Town in Albuquerque, NM. It’s almost as if the country is waking up and looking at the past without the rose-tinted glasses we were handed in elementary school.

And what went up in place of Lee’s statue? Nothing for now. But just a couple of miles from Lee’s old statue a monument honoring abolition was erected. Now, you tell me which is better for a country that has right in its Declaration of Independence the phrase “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness”? A monument to white supremacy and failed insurrection or a monument to actually trying to live up to the words we like to say?

You may now pick your pitchforks and torches back up. The comments section is below.

Read the article here

Our lovely and talented hosts this month are: Susan Scott and yours truly.

~~~GUIDELINES~~~
1. Keep your post to below 500 words, as much as possible. (Wow, I totally missed that mark this time around).
2. All we ask is you link to a human news story on your blog on the last Friday of each month, one that shows love, humanity and brotherhood.
3. Join us on the last Friday of each month in sharing news that warms the cockles of our heart. No story is too big or small, as long as it goes beyond religion and politics, into the core of humanity.
4. Place the WE ARE THE WORLD Badge on your sidebar, and help us spread the word on social media. Tweets, Facebook shares, G+ shares using the #WATWB hashtag through the month most welcome. More Blogfest signups mean more friends, love and light for all of us.
5. We’ll read and comment on each others’ posts, get to know each other better, and hopefully, make or renew some friendships with everyone who signs on as participants in the coming months.
6. To sign up, add your link in WE ARE THE WORLD Linky List below.
This is a Blog Hop!
Click here to enter your link and view this Linky Tools list…

And now, your moment of Zen

Your Author Website And You

Web design is one of those things I never could completely wrap my head around. I’m decent at print design, bordering on good when the right inspiration strikes, but I suck at web design. Which is kind of odd since I’ve been a graphic designer and I am a programmer. You’d think that mesh of skills would work, but whenever I start designing website, I fall back to the mid 90s and start throwing animated gifs at the screen until it looks like Homer’s site.

I honestly miss the flying toaster screensaver. Or screensavers in general.

Fortunately for me, there are skilled and qualified folks out there who create site templates and sell them. Then, I can leverage my programming skills to modify the raw code until it’s more to my liking. Add in a purchased URL and an AWS S3 bucket and I’m good to go.

In case you’re wondering, my author website is here: http://ericlahti.com

Why no www? Because I hate www, that’s why. If the world wide web consortium had been on the ball, they would have standardized on web instead of www. One syllable instead of nine. Talk about a cost savings. Also, the www isn’t technically necessary. www is supposed to indicate a website in a DNS name, just like mail indicates incoming mail, either POP3 or IMAP and smtp indicates outgoing mail. See what kinds of interesting but useless bits of trivia you learn when you hang out here?

Anyway, websites.

Like I said, I’m crap at designing them. I’d much rather be lurking in the back-end of the server space setting up databases and service code. But the fact of the matter is, any author should have a website. Fortunately, it’s a hell of lot easier to get one up and running than it used to be. About ten years ago, all sites were custom-coded html and css hosted on a fly-by-night hosting service run out of some backwater. Hosting was expensive and painful to set up. So much so, that I finally got frustrated at one point and set up my own server and hosted my site straight out of my house.

Nowadays, you’ve got AWS, Azure, and whole host of cheap, effective hosting systems that are easy to set up and maintain and don’t require you to build a server and do a whole lot of port forwarding on your local router.

I have no idea what this is supposed to prove, but it’s apparently a firewall gif.

Or, you can go the easier route and use a company like Wix or WordPress that not only have slick interfaces for building your site, but will host it for you, too. Often for free. Don’t worry, they get their money by putting ads up on your site, so they’re not going to go hungry.

If we break down the pros and cons of each type, you’ll find there is no clear answer. Wix and WordPress are free and have snazzy tools for design, but you’re limited by what they make available. AWS and a custom site aren’t free and take more time to implement, but you can do exactly what you want to do. The choice is yours.

But all this stuff begs a question: What the hell is an author website and why do you need one? We’ve got Twitter and Facebook and blogs and Instagram and all these other places that you can get information out to people with. Why a website?

Aside from the simple fact that you can put whatever you feel like on your website without worrying about character counts or getting lost in the maelstrom, your author website is your home. It’s likely going to be the first thing people come across when they look for their new favorite author. (What’s that website address again? That’s right: http://ericlahti.com. So much awesome.) It allows you to brand yourself, display your wares, drop the occasional free short story, set up mailing lists, list all your social media, market yourself, tell the media how to contact you, and is a perfect place to drop that dancing Jesus gif.

Never gets old

Ingram Spark, who knows a lot about these things, put together a nice list of what to include on your author page. Check it out here: https://www.ingramspark.com/blog/what-should-i-put-on-my-author-website. Then go check out what other authors are doing. Kinda feel like I’m beating a dead horse here, but…http://ericlahti.com is a nice place to check out with lots of cool images and very few pictures of Lahti himself.

I reached out to the writing community on Twitter to get some samples of sites to check out. You’ll soon find out there is no standard template of what to do or how to do it, but there are some good ideas to pilfer borrow for your own site. Just remember to set aside some time. An author site requires a lot of work to set up and should have the same level of polish as your latest novel.

Casey Kimberly’s blog: https://caseykimberly.wordpress.com/

R.A. McCandless’s site: https://www.ramccandless.com/

Rowena Tisdale’s site: http://rowenatisdale.com/

Damyanti Biswas’s site: https://www.damyantiwrites.com/

DK Marie’s site: https://dkmarie.com/

Ryen Lesli’s site: https://ryenlesli.com/

Robert People’s site: https://robertpeople.com/

Peggy Sue Perry’s site: https://dragons4me3.com/

Nancy E. Dunne’s site: https://nancyedunne.com/

Eric Lewis’s site: https://ericlewis.ink/

In researching this, I found there’s a lot of technical elements to setting up an author presence. Getting hosting, buying domain names, stuff like that. Over the coming weeks, this blog will be taking a deep dive into the technical abyss to better explain what things like DNS, SEO, AWS, and so on are. Don’t worry, I’m a professional; it won’t be overly confusing or boring, and you might just get some useful information out of it.

#WATWB – Your Monthly Shot of News That Doesn’t Suck

Remember Rick Perry? The dumbass who wanted to shut down the Department of Energy because he thought all they did was study alternative forms of energy like hippie solar panels and liberal windmills. The same guy went on to become Secretary of Energy and therefore in charge of the Department of Energy where he hopefully learned that the DOE is in charge of all things nuclear, including the fun stuff that makes the big ol’ kaboomies.

The DOE actually does do a lot of stuff; it’s not just a bunch of people playing with nuclear weapons. To be fair to Rick, they do research into alternative means of energy – it is part of their charter to do energy-related research among other things – it’s just not all they do. But, contrary to popular belief, there is no liberal conspiracy running wild at the DOE to take away your car and make you ride bicycles everywhere. There is, however, a deep desire in the DOE to make sure that nuclear weapons don’t go off unexpectedly, nuclear reactors keep reacting correctly, and no one makes off with enough fissile material to level the Eastern seaboard.

See, energy production and use is big-time national security stuff. Any time you have to do business with people who don’t really care for you, you’re running the risk that someday the other shoe will drop and your supply of sweet, sweet crude will dry up. That’s in addition to the environmental hazards of things like internal combustion engines and the looming threat of simply running out of things to burn for fuel. Bottom line: Traditional energy mechanisms are outdated and dying off and something has to give or we’re all gonna be walking everywhere.

So, it really shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that the Department of Energy has set up a fund to help support scientific innovation and energy research in the civilian corporate arena. They’re doling out $127 million in Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfers to see if they can get corporate American to help bring government breakthroughs to market. Yes, you read that correctly: Breakthroughs that happen in government-funded research are being handed off to small businesses along with a check and a request to turn those breakthroughs into viable products.

In case you’re wondering, my idea of strapping a piece of buttered toast to a cat’s back and then dropping the cat has NOT been approved. Since toast always lands buttered side down and cats always land on their feet, there’s no way either could ever touch the ground and the resultant spinning in space could be tapped for endless energy. I guess it’s just too advanced a project for some people. Study it out, eggheads!

At some point, advanced government research will trickle down into day-to-day life. Maybe it’ll be cheaper electricity, more efficient solar panels, or a Texas power grid that can sustain the pressure of being used. So, the next time some knuckle-dragging dirthead screams about shutting down the Department of Energy, kindly remind them that the DOE a) has nuclear weapons and b) does some important stuff that can directly impact you in a good way.

Anyway, if you’d like to read the original brief article, you can find it here.

If you’d like to connect your blog and help spread a little joy (or snark, like I do), it’s easy to sign up. Just ask and ye shall receive. Or go check it out here: here.

Our lovely and talented hosts this month are: Sylvia McGrath and Belinda Witzenhausen

~~~GUIDELINES~~~
1. Keep your post to below 500 words, as much as possible. (Wow, I totally missed that mark this time around).
2. All we ask is you link to a human news story on your blog on the last Friday of each month, one that shows love, humanity and brotherhood.
3. Join us on the last Friday of each month in sharing news that warms the cockles of our heart. No story is too big or small, as long as it goes beyond religion and politics, into the core of humanity.
4. Place the WE ARE THE WORLD Badge on your sidebar, and help us spread the word on social media. Tweets, Facebook shares, G+ shares using the #WATWB hashtag through the month most welcome. More Blogfest signups mean more friends, love and light for all of us.
5. We’ll read and comment on each others’ posts, get to know each other better, and hopefully, make or renew some friendships with everyone who signs on as participants in the coming months.
6. To sign up, add your link in WE ARE THE WORLD Linky List below.
This is a Blog Hop!
Click here to enter your link and view this Linky Tools list…

And now, your moment of Zen:

Book Review – Owl Eyes Motel by Barbara Avon

No matter what that huckster on late night TV claims, no one actually knows what happens to you when you die. Yeah, yeah, yeah, bright lights and a sensation of floating. Maybe some angels doing angel stuff or some devils shooting dice in an alley. When my dad died, I had a dream where he had managed to get a message to me that basically said the afterlife was a place to unlearn all the bad shit we’d done in life. An anti-college, if you will, where forgetting was the key. Probably no raging keggers, either. So, kind of like going to Oral Roberts U.

Personally, I think it’ll be different for everyone and I’m hoping somehow or another drag racing factors into the afterlife equation. Not because I’m good at drag racing or have even ever drag raced, it just seems like it would be fun and if you’re already dead it’s not like drag racing accidents could make you even more dead. Plus, I’m sure dragsters in the afterlife would be bumpin’ AF.

Owl Eyes Motel, the latest work from multi-genre author Barbara Avon, does not have any drag racing in it. But that doesn’t make it any less entertaining. What the motel does offer is a full service afterlife experience including clean rooms, an experienced staff, and an on-site psychotherapist. Think of it as a stopover on the road between life and death where you can wash up, relax, and get excellent room service. Which, if you think about, is almost as good as drag racing and significantly quieter. And, when you realize that most of the people in the Owl Eyes don’t realize they’re dead, the place makes even more sense. It also explains the lack of drag racing since the recently deceased suck at driving. But don’t let anyone know I told you that; it’s a secret.

It would have been easy to simply tell a story about each guest’s death whether untimely or expected and call it good. Drop a little morality play in there and you’ve got comedy gold. But Avon took it a bit further and even though most of the stories center around a single person’s death, the novella as a whole revolves around the hotel itself. While individual deaths could be interesting for a while, even spinning yarns about people managing to run themselves over while back out of their driveways can get old. But hints of history and purpose about a stopover point for the newly dead that includes a breakfast buffet and nightly lounge acts? That’s cool stuff right there.

Avon writes with a certain glee, not necessarily happy that people are dead, but rather a tone that she appreciates her words and wants them to live and breathe. While the subject matter may vacillate from melancholy joy to crushing sorrow, the words – and the characters they represent – hop off the page to tell you their tales. In this collection, Avon is the thrilling narrator, but the stories all belong to the characters.

All in all, a good weekend read that doesn’t get bogged down with its subject matter. I’m not sure I’d fully classify as horror because horror doesn’t carry your luggage or provide room service, but it’s an excellent musing on life, death, and what comes beyond those things.

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The year is 1985, and there’s a storm brewing. It’s the kind that forces even the derelicts to retreat to their gutters. Each room is its own unique story; each chapter, a room. Check in at Owl Eyes and stay a spell, won’t you? There’s always room for the dead.

“Come in! Come in! Welcome to the Owl Eyes Motel. My name is Milton and I am the owner of this fine establishment, situated on Route Number 666. That’s six-hundred and sixty-six. Owl Eyes offers impeccable service. There is no lack of creature comforts at this here motel. At Owl Eyes, we pride ourselves on our attention to detail. Management kindly reminds you that we are not responsible for lost luggage…or souls.”

*Some scenes depict dark and sensitive themes.

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Book Review – The Cauldron by Sirren Rossi

This was a departure from my normal reading fare, which is kind of odd if I stop to think about it. The Cauldron is billed as sci-fi erotica, erotic sci-fi, and sci-fi romance. All good-hearted people love sci-fi and most people can dig on erotica when the mood strikes. Yet, somehow or another this was a story I wouldn’t have sought out. But you meet other authors on Twitter, someone asks nicely for a review, and, well, the rest is history.

Long story short: I really enjoyed this story.

Now, for those of you who don’t think you can intertwine erotica and sci-fi, I’d suggest a little-known book called Altered Carbon, which contains more sex than the average Game of Thrones episode and without the ritual beheading at the end. Sex and sci-fi can play nice with each other if the author has a solid handle on both genres and understands how to intertwine them for the best effect. That doesn’t necessarily mean busting out the R-4310 Orgasmatron, either. It means linking science fiction – the best examples of which are about people not tools – and erotica – again, people not tools. Not saying there’s no room for the R-4310 Orgasmatron in erotic sci-fi, just that the story shouldn’t be solely about advanced sex technology.

So, enter Sirren Rossi, an author who gets that good stories, no matter the genre, always come down to people. And the people in this case largely revolve around one Commander Scirocco Piers who starts the story doing a little sex therapy for a crewmate and ends up showing a softer side of herself spending time with a friend. After fighting off an alien ship with all the gusto of a Klingon yelling, “Perhaps today is a good day to die.”

Ostensibly, The Cauldron is part one of a series and the novella does a good job of leaving us wanting more. It wraps up its own plotline nicely, but teases that’s there’s much more to the story than we’ve seen so far. One would hope Rossi is working on a sequel that will answer some of the underlying questions left behind as well as provide another opportunity to let Commander Scirocco spread her wings and fly a little further into the manic wonderland The Cauldron is setting up.

As an added bonus, like all good sci-fi, this one comes with detailed pictures of the ships involved. It’s like a bit of sex, a lot of action, and some cool nerding out to spaceship porn at the end. Everything you really need in one tight, taut, story about aliens, sex, and interstellar naval battles.

It is the 24th century. Deep in unexplored space lays the uncharted star system GS-104. The Terran Alliance starship ‘Lightning’ – a long range scout vessel – is tasked with surveying this far-flung system for potential colonization. The ‘Lightning’s’ Chief Intelligence Officer – Commander Scirocco Piers – part spy, part officer, and part sex therapist – expects another routine mission.

What she does not expect is that the Lightning will encounter an alien ship from a rival galactic empire – and that the ship will break a long-standing treaty and attack – stealing secrets vital to Terran security across known space.

Now, Scirocco is called upon to use her many and varied skills to attempt to retrieve the stolen secrets and prevent the enemy from getting away with them and putting the whole of the Terran Alliance at risk – all without starting a war.

But with her captain dead and her plans falling apart, Scirocco is faced with challenge after challenge – on the alien ship, on her own ship’s bridge, and in bed – forced to test all her skills with the fate of two empires hanging in the balance.

Can she find it in her heart to be what she must be and do what must be done?

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