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

Okay, so I’m late this month. Technically, this post was supposed to be up Friday at midnight UTC and now Damyanti’s gonna have my legs broken. In my defense, I’ve got two things that prevented me getting it out on time. 1, I’ve got a new book that just came out (link over there to the right, Roadside Attractions. Great book. I’m very proud of it). 2. I’m lazy. In fact, I just now got around to putting the link to Roadside Attractions over there even though it’s only, like, a two-minute process.

What was that title? Oh, yeah, Roadside Attractions. Jeez, talk about your gratuitous plugging.

Anyway, I went back and forth on what to write about. On the one hand, Kuwait has relaxed its book censorship laws, so that’s a good thing. On the other hand, women in France are eschewing bras. Which is also a good thing. But, considering the coming civil war in America, I decided to stick with the homefront and remind everyone that it’s, like, totally okay to not be a dick.

If you live in an area where you can get on Nextdoor, you’ll find it’s something of a mixed bag. For those of you not in the know, Nextdoor is an app and website where everyone in the neighborhood keeps an eye on things. That’s a good thing. Unfortunately, a lot of folks on Nextdoor have nothing to do with their lives, so their posts consist of, “OMG, strange man walking down the street! WTFBBQ!”

For a country as xenophobic as America, strange people can raise our blood pressure to dangerous levels that can only be alleviated with automatic weapons and cheap beer. So, given that mentality, when a man sees a kid constantly riding a bike in his driveway, you can imagine what comes next.

He draws the kid a race track in chalk on his driveway. And updates it frequently so the kid has a new track every now and then.

See, just because someone’s reading something you don’t like or going around braless, or riding their bike on your driveway, doesn’t mean you need to haul off and be an ass about it. Sometimes, just drawing a chalk racetrack is the best solution.

Read the original story 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: Lizbeth Hartz, Peter Nena, Shilpa Garg, Roshan Radhakrishnan, Sylvia Stein.

~~~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 – Beneath A Fearful Moon by R.A. McCandless

I’ve always felt the novella doesn’t get enough love. In this day of digital and on-demand publishing, there’s really no reason to focus exclusively on massive tomes just because they’re easier to run through the printing press. Not every story needs to be four hundred pages long and trying to stretch a shorter tale into a full-length novel just gives you Star Trek: The Motion Picture. A story should be precisely as long as it needs to be and no longer.

Returning to Aqualine in the form of a novella was a good thing. It’s the perfect length for the story it’s telling. The story is clever and handled well and, thankfully, didn’t get dragged out into 400 pages of extraneous details. McCandless aims the story right at the point and stands on the gas. What comes next is a short, intense read that builds on his work in The Clockwork Detective.

And just like Clockwork Detective, Beneath A Fearful Moon is a great example of blending two genres to come up with something new. Part steampunk, part urban fantasy, Moon is a story that straddles worlds without letting the setting be overbearing. Imagine clicking gears and the so-perfect-they’re-alien Fae. Sundry things like steam-powered tree strippers meet fantastic water dryads. Nature buts up against iron technology. Even Aubrey, our protagonist, is a study in straddling worlds.

If you like steampunk or urban fantasy or just want to see what happens nine months after they get drunk and have a torrid affair, check out McCandless’s Constable of Aqualine series. Both The Clockwork Detective and Beneath A Fearful Moon are available on Amazon and both are well worth the read.

Constable Aubrey Hartmann did her duty, fought for the Empire and lost her leg in the process. All she wants is a quiet life, and the chance of some fun, romantic entanglements in the frontier town of Aqualinne.
When bodies start turning up, slashed from head to toe, she’s duty-bound investigate. As the clues start to point to the reclusive and deadly Fae in the prohibited Old Forest, Aubrey must rely on her war-forged nerves and her trusty Manton pistols. The challenge isn’t just to solve the case, but to survive it.

Get your copy on Amazon

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Check out his blog

Check out his website

Book Review – The Man Without Hands by Eric Malikyte

Traditional narrative structure follows a three-part process: Introduce the characters and the plot, drop the characters into the worst possible place, Salvage the situation just before everything goes completely to shit.

Both of you longtime readers out there know I’ve reviewed Malikyte’s books before. Both Echoes Of Olympus Mons and Mind’s Horizon were clever, well-executed books that took horror into some amazingly fun new places. Rather than simple hack and slash, put on the hockey mask and kill some teenagers having sex, both books added a sci-fi spin to horror. They both had a brooding sense of “something is terribly wrong” that lurked in the narrative like an overbearing lover looking in your window.

The Man Without Hands has some elements of Echoes and Horizon – you can sense the DNA in the stories – but is very different beast. While the celestial horror is still there, The Man Without Hands is more both more exploratory and more action-packed. This is Malikyte taking his time, building worlds and giving us hints at a lot of back story that hopefully will be fleshed out in future installments.

At its heart, The Man Without Hands is about rebellion. All the magic and action and high-powered fighting serves to emphasize the differences between the protagonist on one world and everyone else and the antagonist on a different world and everyone else. And through the threads of the narrative we see the similarities between the protagonist and antagonist and begin to wonder if our initial assessments of “good guy” and “bad guy” are accurate. Which, frankly, is no mean feat and shows that Malikyte has a big idea brewing in his head.

As usual, Malikyte spends time developing his characters. They’re not two-dimensional cutouts, there’s a richness to them that makes them pop off the page. Even the minor characters have enough quirks to make us feel something for them. For some of them, it’s concern. For others, it’s an undeniable desire to punch them in the nose.

The Man Without Hands is book one in a series. Book two, The Rise of Oreseth, is available now. The Man Without Hands serves as step one of the traditional narrative; we get a good idea of who the players are and what’s at stake. I’m expecting book two will take the characters we’ve come like and drop them into the meat grinder.

The last war is on the horizon…

On an alien world, beneath an alien sky, deep beneath the mountains, the last remnants of a doomed people are preparing to go to war. Their enemies rule the humans of the world above like gods and command the power to reshape the planet itself.

The High Elder has declared that all Sulekiel youth must enter the Trials, giving them months to prepare for a deadly test of strength and otherworldly power when they should have had years. For Sage, the son of a traitor, it is a chance to prove himself to those who never trusted his tainted blood.

But none of the Sulekiel are aware of the power sleeping inside of him—or that one of their brethren has traversed the veil between universes, traveling to a place called Earth on a reckless quest to fulfill a bargain with an Eldritch god, leaving a trail of death and destruction in his wake. As the consequences of this traveler’s doomed bargain reach across worlds, powers beyond comprehension stir. The fate of both worlds might just rest in the hands of the traitor’s son and a desperate small-town cop.

Get your copy on Amazon

Follow Eric on Twitter

Check out his website

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

Let’s start by facing a couple of ugly truths:

  • The Confederacy were a group of traitors who lost the US Civil War
  • The Nazis were a group of vicious bastards who lost World War II

There, now that we’ve got that out of the way, we can move on.

So, in case you’ve been living on Mars in a cave with your fingers in your ears, you might have noticed that United States is undergoing an upheaval. Which is a fancy, polite way of saying, “Shit’s on fire, yo.” Underlying tensions finally hit a boiling point and the resultant explosion has been felt around the globe. While the ongoing protests were officially kicked off by the death of George Floyd, the turmoil has been lurking there in the dirty underbelly of my country for a very long time. Frankly, it’s like unwrapping a bandage and finding maggots digging around a festering wound on your arm. No wonder everything was so itchy and painful. We had maggots. And festering.

While this post isn’t necessarily about the Black Lives Matter movement – I support it by the way, feel free to throw rotten fruit – it is about change. Now, racism is an attitude and attitudes are very hard to zero in on. While mainstream American culture decries racism, it’s always been there like those maggots in the festering wound.

Yes, that’s an ugly description. But it’s racism we’re talking about here, saying we found cute puppies in a box isn’t an apt descriptor. It’s an ugly thing and it deserves an ugly description.

Anyway, narrowing in how many people have a particular attitude is a tricky thing. Especially in the case of racist bastards who’ve learned to hide their beliefs under a thin veneer of respectability. So, how do you figure out if an attitude is changing if you can’t actually find it because it’s so well hidden? Well, one thing you can look for the active removal of physical aspects of that thing. When someone gives up Pokemon, they toss a mountain of cards in the trash. When someone gives up martial arts, they send their gi to Goodwill for the next generation to pick up. Not that Pokemon or martial arts are bad things, but they represent an attitude that doesn’t always have an outward representation. So you look for the removal of less-than-public affectations. In the case of racist beliefs, you check for the removal of tattoos. If there’s a sudden influx of people who want their swastika covered up with puppies (or Pokemon), you can safely assume there’s been a turning point in the attitude.

Interestingly, enough, exactly that sort of thing is happening. Maybe not in vast numbers, but it is happening. People are going in and getting their swastikas and Confederate flag tats covered up or removed entirely. Consider it a growing-up process, looking in the mirror and thinking, “Shit, dude, I’m not that person anymore. Maybe it’s time to toss this crap in the garbage.”

Racism isn’t going to go away overnight. It’s something that will have to be starved out of existence and, unfortunately, that’s gonna take time. And it’s going to require exposure to the sun. Those maggots and that pus would exist forever in the dark. Ripping off the Band-Aid ain’t pleasant, but it’s the only way to see the root cause of the crippling pain in your arm. So, while the country is tearing itself apart right now, it’s a necessary thing to get at the rot in the middle. Don’t worry, we can put it back together again. We’ve done it before.

Read the original tattoo removal article 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:

Yours truly, Susan Scott, Inderpreet Kaur Uppal, Shilpa Garg, and Peter Nena

~~~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 – Tales From The Hearse by David Allen Voyles

Imagine you’re riding through a cemetery in the back of a hearse on a quest to find some ghosts. No, you’re not one of the ghosts, you’re just looking for ghosts. Notoriously difficult critters to find. Fortunately your guide, in addition to driving a hearse like a real American, knows the lore of the land and isn’t afraid to share it with you while guiding you to your doom. Because, honestly, what else are you going to drive through a cemetery in, a Honda Civic? No way, that’s not how things are done.

It’s the little things that count when you’re trying to creep out your audience. Hearses. Cemeteries. Good stories with dastardly endings. Those are the things that turn good horror stories into excellent horror stories. Details. Nitty gritty stuff. It’s not enough to just say, “And then it turned out he had a hook for a hand!” There must be a build.

Too many horror authors get themselves wrapped up in the gore and the shock and don’t realize that jumping straight to the knife in the chest or the mouthful of alien juice doesn’t work. It’s not a shock or a terror if you can’t juxtapose it with the normal.

Voyles doesn’t fall into that trap. He doesn’t rely on jumping straight to the scare like a teenager in the back seat. Voyles romances us, sets us up, and then pulls the floor out from under us.

He also doesn’t skimp on details. For such short stories, they’re richly detailed without being overbearing. Voyles gives us a world that lives and breathes, something alive and normal, and characters that aren’t trite caricatures. That reality makes the horror elements feel more real and that’s when things get scary.

So, if you’re into gore, this isn’t the collection for you. If, however, you can feel the rumble of Hell’s V-8, hear the voice of the frighteningly knowledgeable driver, and see the silver moonlight casting shadows over rows of tombstones, then this is the collection for you.

“Virgil Nightshade is an expert storyteller, mixing the local supernatural lore and a bit of theatrics with a stage magician’s flare to create a sophisticated carnival ride. All while riding in a hearse.” – TripAdvisor Review

In Tales from the Hearse, David Allen Voyles evokes his past role as Virgil Nightshade, the storyteller and ghost tour host, with this collection of thirteen stories of the macabre. One can easily imagine riding in the back of his 1972 Cadillac hearse through a spooky graveyard listening to him tell his tales of horror just as his customers did in Asheville, NC. If you love ghost stories, haunted houses, and walks through the graveyard, climb in the hearse and take a dark ride with David Allen Voyles. Just make sure your doors are locked.

Get your copy on Amazon

Follow David on Twitter

Check out David’s website

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

It ain’t easy finding good news these days. We’ve still got a pandemic going on, one that scientists are finding is much uglier than previously thought. The riots are slowly dying down, but the underlying turmoil that drove them is still there. And American leadership is at an all-time low. On the plus side, the murder hornet subplot seems to have been ditched, so we’ve got that going for us.

All in all, 2020 has been something of a dumpster fire. That’s why next weekend, I’ll be tossing some candy into the streets, eating some turkey, passing out some presents, and calling the year done.

In the milieu of the year, it’s easy to forget there are some good things going on. I nearly wrote up this post on how Dolly Parton and Nina West are starting up a charity for LGBQT+ and children’s literacy because, hey, Dolly Parton. You can’t go wrong with Dolly Parton. I was also tempted by the very important story of how a topless woman saved a drowning family because topless woman.

In the end something a little more timely won out. Namely the fact that NASA renamed its DC HQ after Mary W. Jackson, the first black female engineer at NASA. Women have had a tough road to hoe in the sciences – even Hedy Lamarr who co-invented frequency hopping spread spectrum had to step back from her invention and let a man take the credit – but black women have had an even tougher road. Mary Jackson worked her ass off for NASA publishing twelve technical papers, working on high-profile projects like Mercury, and worked on helping women and minorities figure out how best to advance their careers by offering her insight on classes and career paths. In other words, someone worth looking up to.

So, while the world is changing, hopefully we’ll be able to see more stories like this. They won’t erase the past but maybe they’ll help us reinvent the future.

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, Susan Scott, Shilpa Garg, Damyanti Biswas, 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.

Petrichor, Potvalor, Sapid. #vss365

I play some of the Twitter writing prompts every day. There are dozens of them out there. Some are good, some not so good, and some go through bouts of greatness followed by pits of despair. One of the biggest and longest running prompts is #vss365, short for very short stories 365 days a year. It’s big enough that there’s no chance in hell you’re going to read them all on a given day. Well, unless you have significantly more free time than I do.

The way these prompts work is someone posts a word and you can either dig through your existing works or write something new that uses the word. The idea is to use the word in some creative fashion. With some words, like machine which was the theme word for both #scififri and #satsplat today, it’s relatively easy. Machine can mean a lot of things from a physical machine to a metaphorical machine to Sharky’s Machine. There’s a lot of room to play with the theme word.

Then there are some of the words that have popped up on #vss365 lately: Potvalor, petrichor, and sapid. Among other things. Personally, I think it’s telling that Brave’s spell check is telling me all those words are spelled wrong, but because they’re so rare almost no one ever uses them. It’s like fustian or polyglot; outside of certain realms of communication those words simply don’t exist.

So, for those of you scratching your heads and wondering just what the hell potvalor, petrichor, and sapid mean:

  • Potvalor: Courage or bravery from resulting from drunkenness
  • Petrichor: That pleasant smell after a good rainstorm
  • Sapid: Having a strong, pleasant taste

There, now you can use your potvalor and describe your sapid drink and the petrichor next time you’re trying to seduce some hot little number at a party. You’re welcome.

Aside from the sensuous art of verbal seduction, what’s the good of trying to shoehorn potvalor, petrichor, and sapid into writing? Especially when you consider most writing should fall into about the sixth grade reading level. Well, here are two things to keep in mind: If you want to get good at something, do it a lot and if you want to get better at something, push yourself.

As with anything else, writing is a skill and skills can and should be developed and nurtured. You don’t hear about pro athletes saying they’re just naturally so good they don’t bother to train. Want to get better at punching? Punch something. Want to get better at cycling, get a bike and go ride. And each time you do that thing, pay attention and focus on getting better. If you want to get better at writing, write. And just like the athlete that pushes his or her boundaries, break out of your skill set. Write a different genre of story or a different style. If you’re an action writer, try your hand at writing a romance and vice versa. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but the act itself will illuminate things you’d never thought of before. For instance if you’re gonna try your hand at erotica, you’ll be amazed at how many euphemisms there are. Also, writing the word “cock” over and over gets boring. Dig deeper. Tease out those other words. Penetrate your own style. Trust me, the explosion at the end will be worth it.

Now, of course, none of this is to say I didn’t take a few cheap potshots at the #vss365 theme words here and there.

But ultimately, I like to think I rose to the challenge. Words like petrichor, sapid, and potvalor aren’t easy to incorporate, especially if you want them to be interesting and feel natural.

It’s all too easy to grouse at the challenges, but those challenges are what make you better. So, next time someone says, “Work fustian into a sentence without sounding like a pompous ass” you can do it. After you look it up, of course.

In fact, go do that and drop a line in the comments.

Guest Post – Guillaume Sauvé

How to Become a Storyteller Without Writing a Single Word

Did you know that 90% of people want to write a book? It’s true. Unfortunately, most people never even write the first word. Of those brave enough to begin, less than half actually finish. Then comes the scariest part: Submitting the manuscript to agents and publishers. Not only is it a painful process that makes you feel like a total and utter fraud, but your odds of landing a contract are about as good as you winning the lottery. And, if by some miracle you actually get your book published, you’re unlikely to sell more than a handful of copies.

No wonder most people never take the plunge.

Luckily, the days where the above-described scenario was the only option have come and gone. The rise of self-publishing has revolutionized the publishing industry. While better than the mahogany desk approach of old, self-publishing still has many pitfalls. Not only must you pay for all the expenses—editing, proofreading, cover design, etc.—out of your own pocket, but you must master the skills necessary for a successful career as an author. That means learning how to create a website, how to run a newsletter, and how to promote your books because the days where you could just throw a book up on Amazon and watch the sales roll in have long since past. All in all, self-publishing requires hundreds of hours of training and thousands of dollars in expenses.

By now, you’re probably thinking, “Why the hell would anyone choose to be a writer?”

I feel you. Unfortunately, writing isn’t something you choose to do. It’s a calling. I’ve always known I wanted to be an author, but I denied it for many years. It wasn’t until I had a near-death experience that I decided to go for it. Since then, I’ve spent thousands of hours honing my craft and invested over $15,000 into my passion. While I don’t regret it, I know it’s not something most people are willing to do. But I also know how incredibly gratifying it is to hit the “Publish” button on your very first book, so I started brainstorming ways to help aspiring writers fulfill their lifelong dream of becoming a published author. It took a while, but I finally came up with the perfect solution.

Storytellers Unite!

The concept came to me when I stopped thinking as an author and started thinking as a reader. I remembered how popular Choose Your Own Adventure books were back in the ‘80s and ‘90s and realized I could do the same thing. Only, instead of writing a book with predefined paths for readers to follow, I would let them vote on what happened next as I wrote it. Not only would it allow aspiring authors to contribute to the creation of a novel, but it would make my job easier—and way more fun.

I won’t bore you with the details, so here is a quick overview of how it works:

Each week, I write one new chapter and provide three possible options for what could happen next. All you must do is vote for your favourite and watch as the story comes to life.

Intrigued? Good. Here’s a short description for our current collaborative project:

The Memory Thief

There’s a thief on the loose. A memory thief. No one is safe, not even the thief. The main character awakes to a blank mind. He doesn’t know who he is, but the note in his pocket claims he’s the only one who knows the thief’s true identity. At least, he did until his memories were stolen. Now, he must find the clues he left behind and reclaim his stolen memories in time to unravel the mystery and stop the thief once and for all. Will he succeed? Help me find out.

Want to know more? Great! Here’s Chapter 1:

Chapter 1

The world slowly came into focus. Blurry mountains gave way to rundown houses. Fuzzy shapes turned into pedestrians hurrying along dirt roads. Glowing spots of pure light became streetlamps, lighting up the city. Piece by piece, my surroundings emerged from the endless void that was my life.

An aura of hardship infused the landscape, like a scene from an old steampunk novel. The pedestrians walked around with slumped shoulders and grim faces. The buildings—if you can call them that—were pieced together in giant patchworks of metal and wood. Trash littered the streets. Mangy mutts scurried about amid the rat-infested landscape, looking for their next meal.

Where am I? I wondered, scanning my immediate surroundings. To my left stood a sharp drop to a lower level of the rundown city. A makeshift park lay to my right, empty but for a few filthy children playing in the mud. Directly in front stood a statue of a young man. His jaw was square and his gaze piercing. Worn by time and abuse, the sculpture was missing an arm, and a middle finger had been carved into its metallic surface. Whoever this man was, he was despised.

Continuing my study, I focused on the house that lay behind me. Mediocre in both design and craftsmanship, it seemed on the verge of collapse. I’m surprised the pressure of my body pressed against it didn’t finish the job time had begun long ago.

The patch of hard-packed earth upon which I sat was bare but for a few discarded objects. The occasional blur of movement told me I wasn’t alone, but whatever vermin was hiding in the shadows chose not to antagonize me.

The final detail I took into account was the starless sky that hovered high above. Vast and devoid of colour, the expanse hung over the city, like a giant raincloud heavy with impending doom.

Now that my first question had been answered, I moved on to the next obvious one.

“Who am I?” I asked, this time aloud. The rumble of my voice sounded foreign, just like everything else in this strange world.

Ignoring my rising sense of panic, I scanned my body for clues. My clothes were torn and stained to the point where determining the exact colour of the fabric was impossible. My feet were bare and calloused from years of navigating this strange landscape. My hands were covered in scars. My stomach was flat, though I couldn’t tell if it was the result of malnutrition or frequent exercise. My facial features remained shrouded in mystery, but a few quick touches revealed my jaw was square, and a subtle scruff had begun to invade the lower half of my face. The jaggedness of my nose seemed to indicate it had been broken—on more than one occasion—and three of my teeth were missing. The final detail I noticed was the triangle that had been carved into my left forearm. Fresh, the wound was red and swollen.

“Who am I?” I repeated, worry once more rising within me. I scoured my memories in search of a hint, but all I found was emptiness. As impossible as it seemed, I had no recollection of my life before now.

Now more terrified than worried, I leapt to my feet and once more scanned my surroundings. I studied every detail, hoping to jog my memory, but the desolate scene that stretched all around remained unhelpful. As were the worn faces of the pedestrians. It wasn’t until I patted my body for hidden objects that I finally found my first hint.

A balled-up wad of paper had been stuffed into one of my pockets. Crisp and white, the note seemed out of place among the surrounding filth. Hands trembling, I smoothed out the square sheet and read the words written upon it.

Find the clues and solve the mystery. The fate of the entire city rests on your shoulders.

I re-read the note twice more before returning it to my pocket. Though far from helpful, the enigmatic message filled me with hope. Whoever wrote it knew what happened to me. Finding them would mean unravelling the mystery that was my life. Unfortunately, I had no clue where to begin. Fortunately, the burden of choice was taken from me when a dark shape emerged from my right.

I turned to find…

Option 1: …a massive, snarling beast.

Option 2: …an odd-looking robot.

Option 3: …a little girl with tear-stained cheeks and a headless doll clutched in her hands.

I hope you enjoyed the start of The Memory Thief. Click Here to keep reading and become a Storyteller.

—G. Sauvé

NOTE: You DON’T have to join my newsletter to read The Memory Thief, but only subscribers can vote, and you get a FREE book for joining.

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

The country is slowly reopening. It’s like coming out of a short-term, fucked-up relationship followed by a nasty breakup. Walking around in one of Albuquerque’s many indoor flea markets – albeit with masks and social distancing – felt almost like being alive again. Sights! Sounds! Things that weren’t my house or the odd trip to my abandoned cubicle at work. Stuff other than food. I found an original copy of Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s Welcome To The Pleasuredome on vinyl and it brought back all those wondrous moments of misbegotten youth when I didn’t have to worry about pandemics or riots or a renegade president threatening to change the rules because Twitter applied the rules to him.

Normally, these posts are supposed to be about a recent news article that was uplifting. Dog finds its way home. A tiny bit of justice happens somewhere. Stuff like that. It’s kinda hard right now to find positive news articles that don’t include cops getting arrested for murder or Twitter slapping warning labels on tweets. Those are good things, don’t get me wrong, but they’re band-aids over wounds that have been hemorrhaging and festering for years. A step in the right direction, but nothing more. So, I’m not going to link to any positive news articles. Let the WATWB police come after me.

So, to quote Moshav, the whole world’s on fire.

It’s times like these that you have to look for the small things. The last broken Oreo in the package, that single shot of bourbon you forgot you had, the half-smoked cigarette when you wake up in the middle of night and can’t get the dream out of your head. Follow the smoke up into the æther and find some peace.

Or it could just be that old record (in mint condition! Frankie says Relax!) or the free concert from Le Chat Lunatique that those amazing Albuquerque mainstays put on tonight over the web or even just eating frozen custard at a roadside shop and enjoying the weather.

There have been more people eating in parks than I’ve ever seen. People in my neighborhood have little get-togethers on their front lawns. The little roadside trail I ride is filled with people. It’s like America suddenly discovered there’s more than just reality TV and trying to get laid in bars. That there’s a life outside of the life we thought we had.

To quote Colonel Kilgore, “Someday this war’s gonna end.” So, here’s your uplifting bit of news. Yes, the Cronizzle is still out there. No, it probably won’t go away any time soon. But everything comes to an end. And what’ll be important isn’t what happened. It’s what you carry with you out the other side. The riots will end, the incompetent oaf running the country into the ground will end. Or, as Charlie Chaplin said in The Great Dictator:

“To those who can hear me, I say – do not despair. The misery that is now upon us is but the passing of greed – the bitterness of men who fear the way of human progress. The hate of men will pass, and dictators die, and the power they took from the people will return to the people. And so long as men die, liberty will never perish. …..”

Lines like that keep me warm at night.

Keep what you’ve learned. Hold it tight. Never let it go.

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: Susan Scott, Lizbeth Hertz, Shilpa Garg, Mary Giese, and Damyanti Biswas

~~~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.

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And now your moment of Zen.

Book Review – The Dark Land by D.M. Shepard

Alaska is the land the U.S. seems to have forgotten. Other than a brief flirtation with the state back when Sarah Palin claimed to be able to see the back of Vladimir Putin’s head from her porch, it seems like Alaska doesn’t really exist in popular culture. There’s plenty going on about the rest of the country from sweet tale of overcoming cancer in New Mexico that was “Breaking Bad” to the lovely travel documentary of Georgia in “Deliverance”. But aside from that terrible Steven Segal movie back in the day, Alaska seems to have fallen off the face of the planet. Which is a pity because there’s a lot of cool stuff in Alaska beyond the annual winter-time vampire feeding fest and HAARP.

So that’s why DM Shepard’s The Dark Land makes for such a great story. Don’t get me wrong, it’s more than just Alaska, the story is good and well-written, too. But setting something in Alaska and having it written by someone who actually lives in the state brings a great deal of detail to the story. In fact, if you’re so inclined, go read Shepard’s guest-post about the myths and legends she tapped to spin her yarn of terror, adventure, and romance.

Details are all fine and good in a story, but it is possible to get bogged down in them. They’re like tequila – fine in small doses but too much can leave on the floor questioning your sanity. Fortunately, Shepard understands that and uses the real-world details to add spice and depth to the story without overpowering it. In other words, she makes the frozen hell-hole that is Alaska live and breathe. She populates the world with characters you feel like you can almost touch and monsters that are just as alien as anything you can imagine. And throughout the whole thing makes a Southwestern guy like me wonder what the hell people are doing trudging through the snow when its, like, four degrees below absolute zero out there.

As I said earlier, this is blend of action, horror, and romance. Which would seem to make for strange bedfellows, but Shepard pulls it off brilliantly and lets each style emerge on its own terms. It would be easy to have a romantic interlude in the woods that leads to getting eaten by monsters. It’s far harder to put two characters together and not have them go steamrollering straight to the sack. She lets the story develop in its own time. So, you can go from some pretty intense action to a calming sequence to some pretty intense action of another type, if you get my drift. Wink, wink. Nudge, nudge. Say no more.

All in all, I really enjoyed this book. It’s a good story, well-told, with enough mystery and detail added to make it feel real, even when the tale points the car toward mythology town and steps on the gas. Truly a treasure. This is the kind of story they make movies out of.

A dark tale of legendary creatures stalking the isolated trails of Wrangell-St. Elias National Park in the deep cold of winter.

Lured by her high peaks and vast forests, adventurers swarm to the siren call of Alaska’s backcountry. Her harsh bite scars many. Some never return.

Please find my son’s remains…

Haunted by the last request of her foster mother, experienced outdoorswoman, Rose Long, skis into the Wrangell-St. Elias wilderness to search for clues surrounding the missing man. Concerned about the suspicious circumstances surrounding the older woman’s death, her childhood friend, Ulrik, joins the quest to protect the woman he secretly loves.
Ancient evil seethes in the ice-locked boreal forest, watching their every move during the long northern nights. The legend of the Headless Ravine is steeped in blood. The Dark Land’s hunger for flesh never sleeps, even in the deepest cold of winter—and it has marked Rose as its next victim.

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