Getting Lost in a Good Goodreads Binge…

AbandonedArmyBase
A potential site for my upcoming middle grade horror book? Or is this what the world looks like out there without humans after a month? *laughs* (Photo Courtesy of Canva 2020)

 

I’m starting to get a little rambly with the shutdown. And I was pretty bad for rambling on and on even before the pandemic restrictions…

Anyhoo, I’m finally getting caught up on everything that got pushed to the wings when I was working the full-time day job and trying to write full-time on top of that.

I finally found enough time to squeeze some reading in: Beautiful Darkness by Jay Wilburn (which I read in order to review on Madness Heart Press) and so that may be posting sometime soon (at that website’s/publisher’s discretion, of course).

And manage my social media on top of all of that. But now I have plenty of time to waste! Well, not really, as I seem to be even busier than before the day job. 

When I’m not wasting time pining over homes for sale on Old House Dreams and Circa Homes, I am spending more time than I should on Goodreads. I love that site almost more than reading everybody’s blogs. If I didn’t set a timer, I could spend hours there reading reviews and checking out new books…

But, I got my middle grade horror/suspense manuscript back from the editor (Lady Knight Editing: https://ladyknightediting.com/) and so it’s back to the grind on the next round of edits and rewrites. Hopefully (ha ha :-p) I’ll be done in time for #PitMad.

So, I’ll have to start minding my “Ps & Qs” on my blog, and work on my blog’s tone so that it can also appeal to a younger audience. But maybe by then, I’ll be able to get a custom website to go with the book’s release. 

And it’s time to go shopping, pandemic-style, soon. And who doesn’t want a kitty-cat mask to wear out and about?

Other than that, I’ve been re-watching Psych, and I just love Dulé Hill for the class and polish (well, mostly!) he brings to counteract James Roday’s goofball character.

And, that’s it. That’s enough rambling. Gotta go order supplies for my spoiled, fat, ex-feral kitties. And get back to writing and editing and snacking in-between!

The Dark Side is Not So Dark After All: The Need for Satanism in the Twenty-First Century

Not too long ago, I was doing research for a short story involving demons and the Christianized concept of the devil, and I came across the tenets of the Satanic Temple.

The tenets resonated with me from the first read, especially as I’m entering into middle age, and, after some (non-philosophical) musing, I made the decision to become a member of the Satanic Temple.

The civic-minded nature of the Temple, the respect for others’ rights and freedoms, and, especially the “compassion and empathy toward all creatures in accordance with reason” (as quoted from their tenets on their website: https://thesatanictemple.com/pages/tenets), which, of course, appealed to my nature as an animal rights activist and tree-hugger environmentalist.

In addition, I think organizations like the Satanic Temple are essential to combat the alarming trends and shifts in the world today (or, a continuance of imperialism and intolerance that is history’s long-standing legacy, but we can engage in that deep philosophical/intellectual conversation some other time) such as Donald Trump’s insane and greedy hate-filled antics, and the widespread climate change and loss of valuable non-human species.

As a card-carrying Satanist now, I decided to submit an essay for a Satanic voices anthology put together by publisher Daniel Cureton at Forty-Two Books, and edited by Faustus Blackbook, and I was very excited to learn it had been accepted for inclusion in this anthology.

Check out the diverse collection of essays, short stories, poems (and a fascinating creative nonfiction piece) to learn more about Satanism today!

Satan Speaks! Contemporary Satanic Voiceshttps://www.amazon.com/Satan-Speaks-Contemporary-Satanic-Voices/dp/1734006714/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=satan+speaks%21%3A+contemporary+satanic+voice&qid=1583328273&s=books&sr=1-1 )

I also greatly appreciated the review a fellow blogger, Assholes Watching Movies, posted (a blog which I’ve followed for years now) about the movie Hail Satan? Read the review here: https://assholeswatchingmovies.com/2020/02/28/hail-satan/

I’ve included the link for the Satanic Temple, should you wish to learn more about this organization: https://thesatanictemple.com/.

Just for posterity, here’s the link to the form of Satanism that continues to follow in Anton LaVey’s footsteps: https://www.churchofsatan.com/.

 

 

Taking Flight With Ufology Books

I’ve never even had anything close to a UFO sighting, or even had any one of the numerically classified encounters with extraterrestrials and their transports of choice.

I have the iconic poster, though; you know the one, the poster that was hanging in Mulder’s basement office (with no work area for Scully, mind you) that says “I want to believe.”

I’ve been to the UFO museum in Roswell for one of their anniversaries—I think the 50th—and picked up a bunch of books written by UFO experts and aficionados. Some were nice, one was rude and dismissive (I immediately regretted buying their book), and most of the speakers there had interesting presentations on the topic of UFOs and alien visitations. But, overall, it still had a “boy’s club” feel to it, and, as a woman, I didn’t feel very welcomed in the house of Ufology. Like it’s a grown-up version of a secret fort, and there’s a big sign out front that says “No Girls Allowed”.

New Picture

 

Anyway, I also paid a visit to the crash site while I was in Roswell. At least there was nobody out there to suggest that I, as a woman, didn’t belong among all the self-titled “UFO scholars.” It’s desolate out there—there’s nothing for miles, until the land runs into the mountain. And spooky, even in the daytime. For anyone who’s been out to New Mexico, you know what I’m talking about. It’s very quiet and the silence and the wind gives you chills. It’s easier to imagine paranormal activity courtesy of old-world spirits rather than any residual physical traces of the UFO crash hiding beneath the desert soil. Now, apparently, you can tour the site of the crash. But when I was there, there was just a sign, and the site of the Roswell crash was on private property.

 

New Picture (1)

 

So, regarding UFOs, I still remain a little more on the skeptical side, despite my intellectual curiosity. I do not want to detract from anyone’s experience who has had a sighting of aliens/extraterrestrials, undergone an alien abduction, or seen a UFO in the sky or on the ground. I, myself, have seen some things that I am still trying to come up with a rational explanation for, but, for me, the allure and magic of fantasy and anything else one’s imagination creates relies on the fact that it is unreal and not of this world. I mean, if I saw unicorns and fairies and krakens every day, they wouldn’t have a strong a hold on my inner spirit and psyche. I am quite comfortable with the unsolved, the mysterious, the unknown, and undiscovered.

I mean, it was exciting to entertain ideas that the transport in the bible was actually a UFO; that the gods and goddesses from lore and myth from various cultures and religions (including the bible) were actually visitors from outer space; and that the Mayan carving was a figure piloting a  ship. But I also feel intrigued by theories that alchemical magic was behind some of the great architectural feats that created the pyramids and other such massive structures.

But then I “want to believe” in the science that can rule out such fanciful explanations, and there does seem to be too many holes in the theories of UFOs that have not even being explored as an alternative, rational explanation and either thereby suggested as an area for future study or eliminated thoroughly as a cause.

I think of Barney and Betty Hill. The soiled and torn clothing, and other elements of the case could also point to an attack by very human individuals. And I couldn’t help but think if the UFO explanation was simply a protective façade created by the mind for a similar situation where they both felt powerless but couldn’t come to terms with the reality of a brutal assault by people very much of this world.

Which leads me to my most recent reads into the clandestine world of UFOs, and the secret agenda of…extraterrestrials? Or some as-yet-unrevealed sinister force that has been at work since the dawn of (human) time and memory?

I’ll start with the first of Ken Hudnall’s books, The Occult Connection: U.F.O.s, Secret Societies, and Ancient Gods.

 I liked the main part of the book, and I would probably keep it on my shelf for a while as a research resource, where all these conspiracy tidbits and theories  I’ve read about over the years (And taken with a grain of salt—or is it sand? I forget how it goes.) are condensed into one neat volume. And Hudnall’s tracing of the “Men in Black” phenomenon into history (though not comprehensively) is an interesting theory to add to my research database.

Generally speaking, and not necessarily in Hudnall’s book, I have the problem when U.F.O. sightings and speculation, and extraterrestrial visitation cross over into props used to support the “superior” technical, scientific, and engineering knowledge of what Ufology scholars and abductees, et al, refer to as a suspiciously “ Great White Aryan” race of people. This race is depicted as not only “white” but one that was so advanced it was classified as divine. The whole history of U.F.O. and extraterrestrial sightings reads like a tribute to the wonder of the European races—a racist, revisionist area of study and oral history/stories that erases the knowledge and accomplishments of people like the Maya or from China, for example, as well as many more. (A family member, once, told me about an March 26, 1880 article in the Santa Fe New Mexican that related a sighting of a “fish-shape balloon, with ten human occupants in it from which strong singing, music, and shouting in an unknown language. The article reports that a rose tied to a letter written with ‘unknown characters’ and a cup of ‘unusual workmanship’ were dropped from the vehicle. According to accounts the following day, a person unknown to the residents purchased both items for a ‘large sum of money,’ declaring them ‘of Asiatic origin’.” The context of this was that U.F.O.s could, in fact, be touring balloons launched from China and/or Japan and reaching the coast of the United States. This family member referenced this as a potential explanation for some U.F.O. sightings in more recent history).

Ultimately, I would like to know what side Ken Hudnall falls on, more specifically. Because some of the points included in the appendices, especially, seem a little too extreme even for my “I-want-to-believe” curious mind. He terms the mysterious author of Appendix D Bruce Walton (presumably the whole section, or does Walton leave off and Hudnall chimes in, at the end of the appendix?) as an “outstanding researcher” (Occult Connection, pp 173). What does he think about the “Globalist conspiracy” of which “Satan and his Demons” are using to “enslave the world” that is mentioned at the end of Walton’s appendix? (Occult Connection, pp. 181-182). This seems to be a little less balanced even for the what could be termed as fringe topics in Hudnall’s book. But I’m going to move onto Hudnall’s second book I picked up recently.

Like Occult Connection, Hudnall’s Beyond Roswell is a compact summation; this time of other U.S. UFO crashes and the one that happened in Mexico, right across the border, which makes it a handy reference for my bookshelf. It’s accentuated with oral transcriptions and interviews from the witnesses and others whose lives were impacted by the things they witnessed during, and after, the UFO crashes. As a historian whose field is public history, especially oral history, those included firsthand reports made the book that much more interesting. And, again, the chapter on the Men in Black made the sometimes confusing appearances of these mysterious figures a little more clear in their sinister connection to UFOs. And, of course, being visual, I love having a book with photos and illustrations!

The last book I picked up at NecroNomicCon here in New Mexico, was Travis Walton’s Fire in the Sky: The Walton Experience.

This was a very detailed, comprehensive book about Walton’s recollection of his abduction by purported aliens on November 5th, 1975, and the resultant aftermath of his traumatic experience. So detailed, in fact, it’s hard not to accept that Walton did go through something very extraordinary. When I read most of these books that are written about, or record, a person’s alien abduction experiences, I wonder who would make up stuff like this. Especially someone like Travis Walton, whose experience seems to come right out of the blue (or out of the sky) for just an “average guy” type (No offense—I’m sure Travis wasn’t average, but you know what I mean.). I don’t question that these purported abductees think they experienced something, and far be it from me to question the validity of their experience, but it seems that if they had an event of this magnitude happen to them as a figment of their imagination or state of mind at the time of the purported abduction, there would be signs leading up to it. Signs their mental state was fraying—paranoia, previous experiences, talk of being followed or persecuted, feelings of being surveilled—things like that. Imagining alien craft and abductions doesn’t seem to me the hallmarks of a psychopath/sociopath, whom (or so I’ve read—I’m not in any of the licensed mental health professions) are pretty good at hiding their true mental state from the general public.

The only thing I can think of is that it was a very vivid dream after some traumatic event. But a dream that his fellow workers also had? It doesn’t even seem likely. Maybe it’s the result of stress—stress can do funny things to a person’s mind, and Travis, himself, mentions that their job is a stressful one. Maybe their tired, stressed minds triggered some sort of visual hallucination.

But by now I’m circling back to my Betty and Barney Hill argument. Could something so terrible happen at the hands of our fellow humans, especially those that we know and trust, and live among, that our minds can’t handle it, so we reach for a handy scapegoat like aliens and UFOs and alien abductions?

Finally, Travis Walton lays out several points that many of his debunkers have raised, and presents evidence as to why those skeptics’ counterarguments aren’t feasible. Still, though, as I reached the end of the Walton book, I’m not sure I was convinced, but through lack of any other feasible theories as to his abduction experience, who am I to say that it didn’t happen?

In reading another tale of an abductee’s experience, Flashbacks: An Artist’s Memoir of Alien Abductions, Native Spirits, and Enlightenment, I remember thinking that some of the events seemed very farfetched. Also, when (in the book) there was a chance to get concrete medical evidence after Sean Bartok’s abduction experience, and I couldn’t understand why anyone wouldn’t jump at the chance to get the tests done. They would then have proof, or at least, an alternate explanation that would ease one’s mind after what seems to be a very frightening experience.

So, I still am not convinced there’s aliens out there, gliding through our skies, and abducting humans and animals and conducting tests on them. But sometimes, as I look around at our world, I wish there were. Not up there wasting time on humans, but floating up there as an extraterrestrial Noah’s Ark; rescuing animals that are on the verge of extinction thanks to us humans, and that their ships are also big arboretums full of trees and plants and grasses we humans love to hate. That the aliens are taking these non-human life forms back to a peaceful Eden where they can flourish and evolve unmolested.

That’s what I want to believe.

On Muses, and the World Not Seen

A short blog today; if you’re in the U.S. it’s a holiday for some (but not for the poor turkeys!).

We’ve had a rare heavy snowfall here in New Mexico. It’s lovely and overcast for once, but I am still pining for rains and a stormy ocean outside my door.

I (successfully!) made pumpkin muffins, courtesy of a recipe from Blessings By Me, a blog I follow: https://www.blessingsbyme.com/2019/09/13/pumpkin-muffins/. They are scrumptious!

I’ve had a new muse show up in the other-dimension space. I’m enjoying having a new source of inspiration. Got a poem titled “Tidal Pool” out of it, and even a short story that I’ve submitted to Sirens Call Publications (the irony, right?). The deadline is not until November 30th, so if you’re looking for a home for your dark fiction, check out the latest theme:  http://www.sirenscallpublications.com/open_subs.htm.

Speaking of sources of creative inspiration, I also had the chance to read poetry by Alex Vincent. The book is titled Below the Surface, and it’s available here: https://alexvincent.bigcartel.com/product/poetry-book.

It’s not a full-on review, I’m afraid.

When I read poetry, it’s like looking at art. It’s an…impressionable…experience. Very right-place-right-time, in-the-moment happening. Visceral and yet symbolic synchronous experience.

And there’s a little part of me that, when I read poetry, I want to keep it all to myself. The feelings and thoughts inspired by the poems. I don’t like to talk about it much with others. But I liked the poem about the horror convention (it brought back memories of when I met one of my muses in real life), and a darker one that (if I’m remembering correctly) was set in a motel room.

So I’ll leave it a secret between me and my muse(s). But I’d recommend reading his poetry for yourself. https://alexvincent.bigcartel.com/

But, I’m grateful to all my amazing (imaginary!) muses that keep showing up in dreams and the odd serendipitous, synchronous moments. (Until next time, in our shared alternate dimensions…)

Keep writing, keep creating, and keep dreaming…

(You’re welcome to share your sources of inspiration and your personal muses in the comments if you wish…)

 

Reviewing Books for Madness Heart Press (And Other Changes)…

I’ve written a couple of reviews over at Madness Heart Press’s blog–check it out, here: https://madnessheart.press/blog/.

I’ll be working on rewrites and edits on my horror manuscript for the next couple of months, as well.

And, I’m considering a move to another realm in the internet world, and I’ve comparing Wix and Weebly and other such website homes. I’ve not been happy with WordPress for a while–I could use a ton of words to describe it–but I’ve put it off and put it off, because packing up something as simple as an internet presence is overwhelming. 

Speaking of packing up and moving on, my internet issues and phone issues (i.e. I can’t get internet at my house, and won’t be able to get cell phone service early in the next year), and a myriad of other issues with New Mexico have forced my hand in terms of relocation. Not to mention that it’s been difficult to break into the job market here, in terms of finding a job with a liveable wage.

So I’ve been looking at different cities around the country (and the world!) to begin a multiple-step move.

If where you live is absolutely fantastic, feel free to share your locale and what you love about it, in the comments, and I’ll add it to my research list! Also, if you use Wix or Weebly or have another suggestion for a blog/website host, please share those as well.

Are there ANY bad restaurants in France?

 

Why, yes! Well, according to Alexander McCall Smith in his latest Paul Stuart novel, The Second-Worst Restaurant in France. (I still find it hard to suspend disbelief that France could have a terrible restaurant. Hence the appeal of Smith’s great title!)

But this book was delicious enough to make up for the book’s restaurant that’s being run into the ground by a restauranter-hopeful named Claude.

It reminded me of how much I love to read. More than that, though, it also appealed to my former self that used to work in the restaurant biz, and loved shows like Restaurant Impossible and Kitchen Nightmares back when I had access to cable in a non-rural, non-frontier locale. This book is a great literary version of that.

But, more than that, I found that the side character of Chloe (Paul’s mysterious and unconventional cousin) upholds what Alexander McCall Smith does best–using the main character to develop secondary characters that are just as interesting, if not more so, than the main character. And, without giving away too much, I also related to the character of Hugo–a sensitive individual trying to create his own life based on his ideals and passions. During the course of his journey, he’s aided by Paul in fulfilling these dreams. And I can really relate to Hugo at his stage in life, even though he’s a lot younger.

(This review contains spoilers!)

This is where I struggled with the book. I love the works of Alexander McCall Smith that I’ve read but my own life development stage and mindset as I enter middle age sometimes made The Second-Worst Restaurant in France an emotionally fraught read. And, boy, did I have bias in spades that was hard to put aside while I read the book that I won via a Goodreads giveaway hosted by the publisher, Alfred A. Knopf.

But that’s also the great thing about reading. It’s just you and the book and the characters that feel real enough to debate with in the privacy of your own mind and feelings.

As most writers will agree. Especially when you find out that Paul Stuart can’t work in his apartment where, for some reason, his girlfriend has decided to bring her noisy two cats for a staycation at his apartment, even though she has a flat of her own.

Anyone who’s ever had cats would be like “why on earth would she do that?” Naturally, the cats complain a lot to Paul about the situation, but he’s got a book to write, and eventually has to relocate his writing space into another apartment that Chloe offers him use of.

Poor Paul.

But the apartment doesn’t suit him either, as there are a bevy of young people upstairs doing what they do best–making sure everyone knows they are there with lots of loud music. 

And poor Paul ends up in a silly man-predicament with the younger woman, where he swears the interaction they have in the store is “innocent” to his girlfriend Gloria, who witnesses the weird olive-feeding interaction that somehow gets mistaken for a kiss. Let’s hear it, everyone: a big, resounding “Innocent, my a**!” *laugh*

So, poor, poor Paul has to pack up and relocate to the French countryside to finish his book that he doesn’t even want to write, but in between lecturing his experienced, worldly secret agent cousin about how to act and think, and nurturing poor, belittled, sensitive, chef-hopeful Hugo in fulfilling his cooking-promise, he realizes he doesn’t want to write the book he was working on, about the philosophy of food, and he also realizes that nobody will want to read it, either, despite the fact that his influential editor/girlfriend Gloria has pulled strings and gotten a publisher to back it.

So, wonderfully understanding and supportive Gloria arranges a whole other wonderful project for Paul to undertake, all the pieces fall into place, and everything is happily ever after–all thanks to Paul, presumably, not Gloria and Chloe (who comes to the aid of a local mother-to-be in an unconventional and fascinating way)–in the idyllic French countryside villa that I, and a million other hardworking writers who are also working day jobs (like me) and (unlike me) also trying to raise kids and maintain romantic relationships, are probably thinking that poor Paul is anything but poor.

But it’s proof positive that a main character doesn’t have to be likeable in order for you to fully engage with a book. And that’s why I like books so much. So much diversity there that gets left out of movies.

And, despite my mixed critique of Alexander McCall Smith’s book (which, again, I liked so much I read it twice!); yes, I’m a fan! I would definitely read more of the Paul Stuart series, including his first book in the series, and others. It comes down to the writing, which is, as always with Smith, so good!

And the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency is fabulous, of course! Visit Alexander McCall Smith and discover his fantastic writing and compelling characters for yourself, here: https://www.alexandermccallsmith.com/.

 

Under a “Hunter’s Moon” with Philip Caputo

Book Review: Hunter’s Moon by Philip Caputo

Well, of course, I read his A Rumor of War in history graduate school. So, I was excited to receive a copy of Hunter’s Moon: A Novel in Stories in a giveaway hosted via Goodreads.

Not to stereotype, but I’m pretty sure I’m not Caputo’s target audience. A) I’m vegetarian B) If it were the zombie apocalypse, I’m pretty sure I would starve to death rather than hunt (and eat) one of my beloved animal friends.

But who knows what you would do in that scenario to survive? Maybe I’d be a pretty good hunter and gatherer. Which is why these stories surprised me, in much the same way as if I would become the Darryl (from Walking Dead fame) with his hunting acumen. But, even in my writerly let’s-get-a-story-from-them daydreams, I still can’t imagine shooting an animal.

Because of that, I wanted not to like this story collection.

I’m not even really a fan of general fiction. I’m a genre reader, pretty much these days.

So that’s at least two strikes. The third being that I’m getting more and more women-centric these days–way above and beyond my usual feminist beliefs. Men have had the limelight for long enough in this world.

But the writing won me over. The good old turn-of-the-phrase. Haunting, sparse, compelling me to read on.

And, because, as I’m entering into the confusing swamp of middle age, these stories all had a theme I could relate to.

I don’t know what to call it, really. A loneliness that feels like an old friend. A poignant seeking for something that will not be able to be resolved as long as we’re still sitting in the box called the human condition. A quality that reminds me of the kid that so wanted to be a child of the forest and the wild, instead of living among people, and yet was drawn indoors by the lure of sustenance, or the fear of punishment.

Of being alone, still, among all the other seven billion and counting people on this planet, taking up more and more space. And that it is, in fact, even more lonely for people like me.

It’s a transition that I haven’t come out the other side of yet. But the stories captured in Hunter’s Moon tell me that maybe I don’t have to know, yet. I can just sit with it a while, under the hunter’s moon, until the sun rises on the next part of my life. Or that the moon keeps an eternal watch on this, the end times (sans zombies).

(I received this book via a giveaway hosted by the book’s publisher/author via Goodreads.)

 

 

Clowns That Don’t Go Bump in the Night…

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What could be better for my forthcoming birthday (September 20) than a whole book of horror stories featuring clowns?

The fact that my story’s among them!

So, “send in the clowns,” and don’t forget to bring balloons and plenty of gifts! Or, you can make my wish (and those of the other authors) come true, and buy the book, here: Bloody Red Nose: Fifteen Fears of a Clown.

Still here? Yes, you. You in the corner, clowning around. Well, I can’t get you an invite to clown school on that audition, but if you want more information about the book, check out Editor Dave Higgins’ blog post: https://davidjhiggins.wordpress.com/abstruse-press/fears-of-a-clown/bloodyrednose/.

Still can’t get enough clowns? Do you take your horror with a splash of humour? Well, Dave Higgins has released not one, but two, clown-featured books. Perhaps this one will help rekindle your childhood dream of becoming a clown. (Or not? I’ll have to read it, myself, to find out.) If you read Deadman Humour: Thirteen Fears of a Clown, please no spoilers. That’s worse than a clown without a smile!

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Sadly, I never did run away to join the circus. Which was probably a wise choice, as I imagine it would have been rather difficult to liberate elephants, giraffes, and lions as a twelve-year-old. Nevertheless, I do have a little bit of circus cred by association with my hometown, where I was raised, which was the winter headquarters of the Ringling Circus. (Until they moved to Venice, Florida.) Which, these days, I suspect that the Gulf Coast of Florida is pretty much all one swath of strip malls and gated communities with some six-million-dollar condos thrown into the heart of Floridian downtowns, just to give the residents a chance to kvetch about the slightest noise after 9 p.m. Or support noise meter companies. I forget which.

But don’t worry, even though more and more of Florida’s wetlands, wild areas, and farmlands are being parceled up and sold to developers by local politicians to become an on-every-street-corner Walgreens, or a toxic-turfed six-bedroom McMansion, you can still find sparkling sequins of circus history in Sarasota.

Check out the circus museum that’s part of the Ringling Museum historio-industrial complex: https://www.ringling.org/circus-museum. (Beware the museum’s staff, though; they can be more terrifying than any nightmare we writers can dream up. And enter into the gift shop at your own risk.*)

If you’d like a more genial experience, visit Bob Horne at his restaurant, Bob’s Train. His knowledge of circus from his own experiences, and his vibrant recitation of circus history, will add life to the museum visit. In fact, his own restaurant is filled with photos and memorabilia from the circus, and is the perfect setting to read certain clown anthologies (Can I drop any more hints?).

If you need any more convincing, yes, the restaurant is in an actual Pullman railroad car. Oh, and on the very same track is JoMar. Yes, that JoMar (look it up!). Which Bob Horne is restoring.

Here’s the link to Bob’s Train: https://www.bobstrain.com/location. (But I can’t promise there will be clowns.)

 

*I was born in Bradenton, and grew up in Sarasota. For those not from the area, that pretty much means I have carte blanche to be as snarky as I want to about my hometown(s). And it’s a gold mine for snarky humorists, let me tell ya.

 

Dancing Through Time and Space with Michael S. Fedison’s The Eye Dancers

Review: The Eye Dancers by Micheal S. Fedison

(possible spoilers, though I tried not to reveal too much)

I won’t be presumptuous enough to claim that I understand what it’s like to be a kid today, but I can speculate that some things never change.

And I haven’t forgotten, even after all these years, what it was like for me to be a kid.

What it felt like being bullied. The fear. The dread of having to go to school every day. The loneliness. Being left out of things by the popular or cool kids. The alienation coming at me from all sides. Always the misfit, and the last to be picked for the team.

How the classrooms felt airless: like you were drowning or suffocating. A tomb. A punishment that matched the cruel one that waited for me in the halls.

How the tiniest sounds and faintest smells seemed magnified in the forced silence and seemed to claw into your brain until you wanted to scream. Or to run and run and not come back. Or at least run as far as the school bathroom where you could get a breather from the stress of being cooped up. How you never felt like yourself until the last bell rang.

For me, it felt like hell on earth.

And the worst part of it all? What it felt like when no-one listened to you, or took you seriously?

Matter of fact, as a grown woman, I still face that sort of patronizing attitude. And it makes me just as angry as it did when I was a kid.

But, as an adult, as a teacher, I get it. Well, sort of, since I’m not a parent. But I imagine that it’s so hard to walk the line between giving kids a chance to be kids, but wanting to keep them safe.

The world–my world–was a confusing, ugly, terrifying place back when I was a kid–one I wouldn’t want any kid to have to live in.

And in the middle-grade/young adult book The Eye-Dancers, things haven’t changed much, in that aspect, in either of the book’s two worlds.

But the kids in Michael S. Fedison’s book? They don’t wait for grown-ups to listen. They act when they are suddenly thrust in a scary situation. They not only cope, but they keep fighting, although the odds are against them. They do this by joining forces, by combining their strengths, and forging bonds with those they wouldn’t ordinarily be friends with, as a way to navigate the challenges they face. Challenges that could be very real for many children today, but one that Fedison handles with appropriate discretion for the kids he’s writing for.

Could it be a Goonies-like book for young people of this generation? I don’t know. I don’t even know if I’m reading into the book’s premise too much with my grown-up mind, but I would love to have kids reading something that shows young people they can have agency, that they can make things better, that they can change worlds with their actions. That they can still be heroes even if they’re scared and confused and unsure of themselves, and their place in the world. That within all of this coming-of-age madness, there can be moments of hope that will carry them through the darkness of life’s changes. And that, as I think Fedison’s character Mitchell Brant realizes, are the things that can make reality as wonderful and sustaining as our youthful dreams (referenced from pages 317-320).

My hope is that books like this are enough to carry them into finding their dreams as they move into adulthood. And I hope that adulthood doesn’t come too calling too soon for them–that they still have a chance to be kids no matter how the world changes around them.

(I’m considering donating this book to one of the local school libraries. After I read the follow-up Singularity Wheel, of course! Or I’ll just hoard it with all the rest of my books, most likely.)

 

The Once and Future Greece

 

Ah, Greece.

Classical architecture, timeless culture, glistening seas, golden beaches, and…the latest in cutting-edge AI technology.

This opens Nicholas Rossis’ suspenseful romance, A Heaven for Toasters

     Sadly, I have never been to Greece, but that made it even easier to immerse myself into this futuristic romance. Although I don’t have a toaster of my own to fall in love with, the ones I dream over in the Victorian Trading Company catalog are a very alluring alternative.

     As you probably already guessed, the toasters in Rossis’ book aren’t actual toasters; they are androids. Apparently, the human race doesn’t get any more PC in the future, European charm notwithstanding, and they slap this disparaging term onto their own creations. Never mind that the main character, herself, relies on augmentations to her own body–like hololenses and an biologically implanted link to her police station’s AI system.

This dynamic comes into play when the book’s protagonist, Detective Mika Pensive, is assigned to work with a toaster. She grudgingly accepts working with her new by-the-rules partner on her latest case. It’s a perplexing case that takes them through the artistic fringe society of Hydra and deeper into Clonesville–Clonesville being the village-like refuge for the clones created after scientists were no longer permitted to clone sentient humans. The duo’s budding relationship is fostered by their determination to uncover the secret evil lurking underneath the paradisal atmosphere of these Greek islands.

I’ll try not to give too much away about the book, but I especially loved the Detective Pensive’s visits to the artist colony. The only fault I could find in the book is that, having never been to Greece, but equally in love with most of Europe/overseas culture, I wanted more “flavour of Greece” in the book. Having said that, setting it in Greece definitely made this speculative-fiction read all the more distinctive. 

Take a journey to futuristic Greece yourself by acquiring Nicholas Rossis’ book here: https://www.amazon.com/Heaven-Toasters-Sci-Fi-Romance-Islands/dp/1724773410/.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to find a Greek restaurant for a “make-do” Greek flavour experience–that is, if there is such a thing in this frontier state. Here’s hoping that the author returns to Mika’s and Leo’s world sometime in the near future!

 

In addition to the blog link I posted above, you can also visit Nicholas Rossis at this website: http://nicholasrossis.me/.

 

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