Archive for April, 2020


Sometimes I’m lucky enough to read two wildly different genres by the same author. The last time I had the chance to review one of Myke Cole’s works was a couple years ago, this is actually his first book with Angry Robot. I got to read it for review thanks to netGalley, here’s Sixteenth Watch. Enjoy!

Sixteenth Watch cover

After a riot between Helium 3 miners evolves into a brief, tragic armed conflict between American and Chinese naval forces career Search-and-Rescue woman Captain Jane Oliver is returned to Earth and a teaching position away from the sixteenth watch and the death of her husband. But tensions remain high and the best hope of preventing the first lunar war rests with the Coast Guard. Oliver has a new mission, return to the moon, get the Coast Guard SAR-1 team ready to win this year’s Boarding Action, and prove that they are the right force to keep the peace.

Myke Cole’s Sixteenth Watch feels like a bit of an odd duck when it comes to military science fiction. It feels more character focused and less hard sci-fi than other military sci-fi I have read in the past. How things are done is important, but pulling the team together is more so. Each member of the SAR-1 team is the best at what they do in the Coast Guard, but they have issues jelling with each other.

This is also the most anti-war military sci-fi that I have ever read. The entire reason Oliver is there is because the Coast Guard are a better fit for policing the folks avoiding quarantine without starting an armed conflict than the Navy is. The goal is to avoid a war, to keep things cold as it were, to keep people not only on the moon but also back on Earth safe.

But the only way to convince people to take them seriously is to win what is essentially a massive sporting event, so she has to get the Coast Guard team ready to secure a victory against the Marine team that has won several years running. It kind of winds up being funny, how the ability to keep war from breaking out on the moon is dependent on them winning what’s essentially a sporting event, but it is treated dead seriously and a lot of the challenges Oliver faces wind up being in service to getting her team the kind of practice they need to come together as a team. In a lot of ways that takes the place of a proper antagonist, no single person is standing between the SAR-1 team and active work and the Marine team is brilliantly good at what they do rather than antagonistic. That lack of a direct antagonist feels to the book’s credit. It would be weird if there was just one person actively pushing for the Coast Guard team to fail, rather than any number of people following orders that happened to get in their way or following their own need to see someone else succeed or getting wrapped up in the idea that a war is going to happen so they need to be backing the Navy over the Coast Guard. It is a complicated situation that Cole chose not to simplify.

This actually stands in something of a contrast to the pacing and the characters other than Oliver and her XO. At several points in the plot I found myself naming off the part of the hero’s journey that was coming up. This is very much not a complaint, the hero’s journey is the basis for a lot of stories, but it did make the flow of things a little predictable. I would have liked to have seen more character for the SAR-1 team, a lot of Sixteenth Watch is focused on Oliver working towards getting the team ready and working through the trauma of the events of the beginning of the book, which does not leave much space for the Boarding Action team. I would have liked to have seen more of them growing together as a unit and more individual growth for each of them. But, again, that is mostly a personal quibble the team are not the focus of the book. Oliver is the protagonist, so of course she gets the most focus on her arc.

Ultimately Sixteenth Watch leaves me wanting more, if not a further series with these characters, then more writing in a similar vein from Cole. He is definitely an author I am going to try and keep a better eye on now. This one gets a five out of five from me.

House Keeping 4/28/20

I’m behind on a lot of things just now. Days are a little weird, nothing separates them except blogging here. But then I’ve been trying to get ahead of things again so that I don’t miss anything which, ironically enough, leads to me missing things when I get out of the habit of trying to keep up as I go. It’s a bit funny at this point.

I’ve run out of a couple colors of yarn I wanted to do a project with, so I have this one mint-chocolate granny square a little bigger than a place mat. Hopefully I’ll be able to find the colors again at some point. Always other things to work on though!

I missed the dice review again this week, going to try and get ahead on those a little since this is the second week in a row. Everything else for the blog should be pretty well good to go for the week.

This one’s super short, that’s about it.

Standard stuff, if you like what I’m doing here leave a comment or a like. I could always use the feedback. And, of course, if you really like what I’m doing here you can feed my caffeine addiction and buy me a ko-fi. Either way, any way, stay safe and have a great rest of the week!

Level Ground Comics

Hey all, I wanted to take the time today to introduce you all to an up and coming publishing group that’s doing what I think is something really cool. Level Ground Comics were kind enough to offer some word on what they’re doing and why. Plus their first project, live now on Kickstarter, A Taste of Home: A Cooking Anthology combines two of my favorite things, food and comics. Enjoy!

Level Ground Comics is a student-run publishing group that was founded to help level the playing field between beginner artists and industry professionals. In addition to giving less-experienced artists an opportunity to be published, Level Ground Comics also gives aspiring comic editors a chance to learn about the publishing world and refine their editing skills. We recently launched our first project, A Taste of Home: A Cooking Anthology, on Kickstarter and we were fully funded within the first week! This project focused on what “A Taste of Home” meant to our 16 artists, and they cooked up an incredible array of stories for us! But, in addition to running anthologies, Level Ground Comics also offers opportunities for webcomic artists to work with one of our editors, get feedback, and level up their storytelling!

As of right now, there’s five days left to back A Taste of Home: A Cooking Anthology and Level Ground Comics. For my part, totally worth it to get some up and coming artists a leg up on their careers and a chance to see some nifty food comics.

Meeting 4

So, I can’t remember but half or so of what happened last meeting.

I talked to Jimmy during the week. He seemed to think that an exorcism could work, so he got some of the folks from the alternative religion side of the club as well as some folks from the African Students Union to help out.

We got it all set up so that we’d be ready when Viv got there. You know? Talk to her, tell her what we were planning to do, get the spirit out of her. And if that didn’t work, restrain her long enough to do the exorcism and get the spirit out anyway.

She came in looking like eight miles of bad road, like she’d been sick for weeks. Insisting that she was fine, that she would be fine, that this really wasn’t necessary. We got her in the chair. Jimmy took lead, doing most of the work for the exorcism. Louis and another guy covered the door from outside. I had it from inside.

Something happened though. Like her body warped or something, making her all gaunt and stretched looking, and there was a blast of power centered on her. Jimmy dropped to his knees, vomiting blood. She charged the door, punching me in the head hard enough it sent me to the floor. Through the guy outside. Broke Louis’ ghost zapper. Then out the doors and into the city.

Someone called for an ambulance. The cops showed up. I think I rambled about superstitions and how human beings build stories based on histories and fears to an EMT while they took me to the hospital.

Everyone should be fine. I have a little bit of a concussion from the blow to the head, but that’s all. Jimmy’s stuck in the hospital for awhile though and everyone who was there has to be tested. It looks like Consumption somehow inflicted Jimmy with TB and a pretty advanced case of it at that. He’s stable though, and should recover.  Campus will be closed for a couple weeks while everyone is in quarantine though. Got to make sure it doesn’t spread.

Apparently Skip told the cops that Viv had tweaked out or something and Matt took umbrage at the suggestion that she might have done drugs. He’s worried about how all this will affect Viv once this is all over, I think. It’s understandable. It’s understandable, but I don’t think any of us really realized how dangerous she could be while possessed. I don’t really think that Matt’s realized that yet.

Kind of a downer here, isn’t it? I’ll try to have something more positive to report next time. For now though, Note to both of you, I’m changing the header to these to “the Consumption Incident” because incident is no longer a placeholder word and things have gotten so, so much worse than expected. Hopefully I’ll be able to change it back soon and the rest of the year will just be standard ghost hunts.

So, it’s taken me awhile to get one of these written, hasn’t it? I don’t know that I’m back back, but I feel like at some point with this one I fell back into my groove. That should make it easier to keep going. Anyway, this one’s Grady Hendrix’s We Sold Our Souls. Enjoy!

We Sold Our Souls cover

The Blind King is rising one last time, a final five nights of Koffin before they close the crypt for good. Millions of metal heads across America are desperate to see Terry Hunt perform before he retires, to be part of what promises to be rock and roll history. The advertisements for it are the ugliest thing Kris Pulaski, Best Western night manager and once band mate of the Blind King himself, has ever seen. She’s tired and buried in stress and the ad reminds her of Dürt Würk, the band that had so nearly taken them all to the top back in the nineties. The band that nearly had something great with Troglodyte, that last album that never was. The band that had been torn apart on contract night, when Terry sold out paving the way for his solo career.  As she sets back out to try and set things right Kris starts to realize that Terry might have sold more than the band’s credibility for his own success.

We Sold Our Souls is a book that simultaneously makes me wish I had started reading Grady Hendrix’s books way earlier and a book that I’m not quite sure how to talk about. This is a book that I both want to fangirl over some of its character work and that I also want to dig into and dissect other aspects of the writing.  It’s an interesting balance.

See, We Sold Our Souls is a horror novel that can feel far more urban fantasy than I’m entirely used to in the genre. The character work is the focus here with the horror following from the past, from things that were forgotten and choices that characters made in the intervening time. It builds as Kris meets with more of her former band mates and the audience learns more about Troglodite, the album that wasn’t.

There are between chapter bits that sort of introduce the weirdness and horror aspects a little at a time. It works well for pacing, starting slow and then ramping up as things get more serious. Though the content of some of them feels at odds with Kris and some of the other characters, I’m sure this is purposeful, I’m just not sure that aspect of it works for me. It can also wind up feeling a little on the nose further into the book. There was also this bit that I really loved, a call back between various former members of Dürt Würk about how they used to quote The Runaways’ “Dead End Justice” back and forth to each other. It was used sparingly but well and it added to the reality of the characters, giving them a sort of in joke from when they were still a band. It was also a nifty character bit to see how they invoked or reacted to it from character to character.

The end, while I don’t want to talk too much about it for fear of spoiling the experience, made for a fantastic tying together of the various plot threads that lead into it. And it was a thematic fit for the rest of the story that wasn’t exactly difficult to see coming but that was still more than narrative expectations might have lead it to be. It made me want to go grab my guitar and start practicing again.

We Sold Out Souls was definitely a right book at the right time thing for me. Having read it, I’m definitely going to go check out some of Hendrix’s other books and keep an eye out for if he has anything new coming out soon. It gets a five out of five from me.

House Keeping 4/21/20

As my adventures in quarantine continue I’m seeing if I can make a granny square big enough to use as a blanket. It is, as of now, nearly big enough to serve as a place mat. I’m going to work my way through so much of the yarn stash on this!

Of course, that’s assuming that I don’t zoom off to try out a different crocheting project instead of finishing this one. Novelty is the spice of life these days. It’s what keeps me from sleeping through everything.

Which is what happened to the dice review for yesterday. I wound up one more videoing myself into staying up well past sun-up and then crashed hard. I think right now I’m planning on posting the review Saturday, sort of break up that three day span of no posts.

On to other blog stuff, there is a book review happening this week. It is written, it is scheduled, I finally finished one. Now it’s just time to see if I can keep that going.

There’s another “Raven’s Notes” post ready to go. Things are getting more intense for our erstwhile ghost hunters.

I find myself thinking occasionally that I want to pause the “Raven’s Notes” posts for a week or so and talk about how my DM is handling how player rolls effect the story. That’s probably something I’ll wind up saving for the wrap up though. And that’s a long way off, I’m sure.

That’s about it.

Standard stuff, if you like what I’m doing here feel free to leave a comment or a like. I would love to talk about the non-blog crafty things I’ve been doing or table top games or whatever. And, of course, if you really like what I’m doing here you can feed my caffeine addiction and buy me a ko-fi. In either case, in any case, stay safe and have a great rest of the week!

Hey all, much like when Dice Envy was doing their mask drive we have another set of dice companies doing good in their communities. Which brings us to Cerberus Supplies’ Dice4Masks, they’ve teamed up with eleven other dice sellers to get PPE masks into the hands of healthcare professionals.

Dice4Masks Mockup White.png

Each purchase of one of the Dice4Masks mystery dice packs comes with one full set of seven polyhedral dice from over a hundred styles, a mystery card with the description for an item or spell for Dungeons and Dragons, and the bag is resealable so you can keep using it after your dice arrive.

All proceeds from the dice will go towards the purchase of N95 masks to be shipped around the world.

These masks will be shipped out based on where the sellers the Dice4Masks sets are purchased from are located. So if 1500 dice sets are purchased, 500 from Canada, 500 from the US, and 500 from the UK, then the masks will be distributed in even thirds.

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Guest Post: Jon Biddle

Morning everyone! I’m back with a guest post for you all. This one’s from Jon Biddle, author of Hypnos, talking a bit about how he does research for his writing and the varied life experiences that flavor it. Enjoy!

Hypnos Cover

 

I think I have the most varied CV in the world. The only thing I left school with as Sixteen year old, was a packet of fags, and an old dog eared copy of Razzle magazine. I did get one O’ level, in Biology, which came into play in later life.

I then spent the next ten years in the army. The Infantry, shooting things and being shot at. I grew up quickly while on the streets of Northern Ireland as a soldier; they were tough, mean and dangerous. It shaped the person I have become in so many ways.

After that, I joined the family business and became a potter. These are the days I miss the most. They were idyllic and perfect. Living amongst the rolling hills of Dorset in the South West of England, nothing could be more amazing. The business grew to where we had to sell up. I became a full-time dad to our very young children, again, some of the best days of my life. My relationship with my now grown-up children is a close bond of which I do not take for granted.

It was during this period; I realised, that the wind blowing between my ears was in fact cognitive thought, what was weird, I was pretty good at it.

So I searched what would be a good job for a thirty-something to do that had meaning and came across my career as an Operating Department Practitioner. I stayed on at university for another four years and became a surgical first assistant and getting a whole heap of certificates which I cant find anymore.

I’ve covered everything in surgery from orthopaedics, which I love, to cardio thoracic, neuro, general surgery, ENT, MaxFax, urology, obs and gynae. I am dual qualified in assisting and anaesthetics, which makes me a rare commodity. I can slot anywhere within the Perioperative setting and be very comfortable.

What has this got to do with researching books?

I have a very broad knowledge of surgery, disease and trauma, drugs, the humanistic interaction between medical professionals and their patients, which are often complex along with trauma and the worst conditions that we as humans have to face. I had coupled along with my military background with law enforcement in Northern Ireland, there’s not much I haven’t seen or done.

I know firsthand what it’s like to lose a patient, I cannot remember any of my patients that left the OR and made a full recovery from their treatment, the dead though? I remember those. All of those, their names, what they looked like. I couple them with levels of high stress, guilt, anger and emotional distress and in some cases, utter heartbreak. I haven’t done CPR on anyone and not broken most of their ribs, I have had my hands, deep inside a patient, around their aorta, trying to stop a patient bleeding to death while helping a surgeon, likewise; I sat and held the hand of a dying man while he told his son how much he loved him on the phone, and how proud he was of him. Sadly, not being able to be by his father’s side in the final moments. The man looked at me square in the face with some form of clarity as he faced his own mortality, he thanked me for being there and that it meant everything to him, and it meant everything to me. I hope that I made up for his son’s absence. It’s these things that stay in my mind, that keeps me focussed, charged and driven to be the best person I might be.

I also can remember the first time that someone tried to kill me, the sound, the energy, the stones being flicked into my eye from the ricocheting bullets, the twenty litre can of water being tossed into the air as 7.62mm rounds slammed into either side of me, I remember I was about to be mortared, and when the first one came into my base, I watched glass almost bend concave slowly as the blast swept through the base until the glass surrendered and smashed to a thousand pieces. Why did I survive while others didn’t? I have no idea. I have many friends that are not with me today, dead from enemy action, or even the biggest killer, the enemy within. These voices I have, as does most of us that have walked that path, I am not immune to the label of complex-PTSD, I won’t affirm to like it, but there it is.

My body has spent most of its life in fight-or-flight mode, something that I am learning slowly to deal with, with the help of a therapist. Every day that I and my brothers make it through is another day we can chalk up to success.

I hope that this transcribes into the narrative of the books I write.

I am an educationalist by nature; I love learning and reading deeper into the psychology of people which really turns me on. How people tick. We’re not all that unique. Humans are humans, and a large proportion and wonderful souls that want nothing but good from this life. The scum bags, villains, and psychos are the people I have a keen interest in, and this behaviour really inspires my writing.

Take this current covid-19 pandemic, people are so predictable in how they behave, this fascinates me and use that core human interaction in my books. My protagonist Alex Brown is especially deft at dealing with human emotions on many levels, I love how she sees the lie coming, and heads the lie off at the pass. These are complex cognitive skills which I have learnt as an empath myself. Daily from my childhood, but that another story.

I hear the term Google Authors. That’s something that I definitely am not.

Jon Biddle

Jon spends his days smashing out people’s hip and knee joints, and his nights writing medical thrillers.

A veteran and a medical professional who spends 45 hours a week in the OR, Jon brings considerable medical and military/law enforcement expertise to the crime thriller genre, evident by the attention to detail in his six books.

Jon’s writing is dark and eclectic, provoking and deviant. He surrounds himself in the white glow of pureness, with one foot always in the dark. The dark always surrounds us, but Jon has a knack of making his readers ask “Could this happen to me?”

There is nothing too dark for Jon to write about. He has no level, base, or filter, and will get into your head and “scare the living daylights” out of you.

Jon lives in the south-west of England with his childhood sweetheart, Sam, and two Springer Spaniels. With full-time medical responsibilities in his day job, Jon spends 15-20 hours a week writing for his growing online audience. His new medical thriller, The Harvester, was released in 2019 as the first of six books in the Dale Broc series.

Find out more about Jon Biddle, including his new releases and regular short stories, by going to www.jonbiddle.uk and joining the mailing list.

Meeting 3

So, first things first, it has been a wild week. Between classes and stuff I’ve been digging into the difference between ghosts and spirits and if there is actually a difference. At first everything I found was either outer court Wicca stuff or things written by the million and a half occultists who want to be the next Ed or Lorrain Warren, all demons or shining angels of love and light. Not great that.

But then I started looking into exorcisms and sealing spirits away, that turned up good stuff. There’s this former priest who broke down how a Catholic exorcism works, why it works, and how it could be adopted by other faiths without losing effectiveness. Not sure why this guy seemed so sure that people would need the information, but I’m not complaining in the least. I’ll send you guys a link to it. It looks like the evil eye talisman Saul gave me should work effectively for me, since I trust that it’ll work to keep me safe.

Which is good, because I used the former priest’s work as a jumping block back into the difference between ghosts and spirits. Right? Turns out there definitely is one. Based on what I found, spirits are everywhere and they seem to be more neutral or even benevolent than not. Problem is, the kind of spirit that would charge through a ward like Consumption did seems to be in the not category there. Not really surprising there, but I mean, it’s confirmation that Consumption is, if not outright a threat, then definitely not our friend.

I also found documents in a strange language or code or something. Google didn’t want to translate it but there were enough terms defined with English words that it’s clear that it was talking about spirits. I saved a copy of it just in case I couldn’t find it again. I’ll attach that here, see if you can make anything of it. I’m going to pick away at it as I can, but who knows how far I’ll get.

On to meeting things though. Because oh boy, was this week a serious cluster of horrors.

It started off with a message on the group chat from Viv, all “the moon is right tonight” and “I’ll show everyone something wonderful” and “don’t trust, don’t come”. A lot of stampeding over the point that the spirit hasn’t done anything to prove its worth trusting. Setting the meeting off in a corner of the campus away from everything and everyone. And after that it didn’t even do anything there, it was just like “follow me to this creepy alley way away from campus, the veil is totally thin enough for me to show you all the thing there, this is totally not sketchy”, that’s me getting ahead of myself though.

I met with everyone except Viv at a coffee shop off campus to share the bits of information I’d found, including the bit where a guy at SU had done a paper on the brothel. Everything Viv/Consumption told us last week was in that. Matt said this is exactly like any other time Viv’s had an episode and what he’s said about her past, I find myself worried about how many times this has happened in the past. Following that, the likelihood that it’ll happen again once we’ve gotten Consumption expelled and sealed.

But yeah. We went to the meeting, staggering our arrival times so she wouldn’t suspect we’d met ahead of time. It was talking in plural, like Viv had any measure of control, assuring us that it was just a short bus ride and then a bit of a walk before it would show us this glorious thing. Talking about “Belishu” rat spirits and “Uratha” man or dog shaped spiritual jailers, how the veil wasn’t thin enough on campus to show us what it wanted to. Never giving a reason why we should trust it long enough to follow it to this supposed thin spot. Being a passive aggressive threat when called on that, claiming it wouldn’t do any of us harm and then, when called on that, specifying lasting harm.

Not going to lie, I’d have picked more than a bit of a fight over that if Skip hadn’t stopped me. I know Viv said that spirits don’t think like humans do, but this thing seems to go out of its way to push my buttons.

So we took the bus ride and the walk. Wound up over by a big waste ditch with standing water and what looked like places where homeless folks had been sleeping, but then abandoned.  Some trees that Skip almost immediately started photographing. Just a nice normal place to get murdered by a wicked spirit possessing one of your friends, right?

But then Consumption started walking out into the water chanting. No language I recognize, but that doesn’t mean much. Then the sky split. There was this whirl of sepia before it and rats the size of your gran’s corgi, all of them chewing at the world. More than that, a figure, not like the billowing thing that initially possessed her but like a scarecrow puppeteer, floating above Viv and controlling her. A glimpse of what Consumption looks like now, I think.  One of the rats got too close and it dispersed and absorbed it without breaking stride or stopping chanting. We tried to chase them out of Consumption’s range with salt, but it kept absorbing them.

So I threw my salt jar at Viv’s body. Hard as I could, hoping it would jar her enough to distract Consumption’s chanting. It worked but I hadn’t expected it to make her drop like her strings had been cut. It doesn’t seem like she’d been knocked out so much as knocked back into control. When I went to help her she seemed fine, just confused. She didn’t know where we were or how she got there. It seems very like Consumption can just do whatever it wants and Viv wouldn’t know better until she got hit with the consequences.

Speaking of, as soon as the sky tore open Matt started babbling about sewer gasses and the rats being reflections from under the water. It’s like having proof in front of him broke him so he had to reject it as hard as he could.

There wasn’t much after that. We all got back to campus and got cleaned up before going off to a diner to talk things over. Viv brought the schematics for an aura camera she’d been looking into last week. Louis seems to figure they’re pretty good. Viv seems to want this over with as much as the rest of us, though she doesn’t think that there’s a way to get rid of the spirit without just letting it run its course and use her until she’s not longer of any use to it. She did suggest talking to the leader of the alternative religion side of the Occult Club, Jimmy Tame, if I’m looking for a way to seal it away. So maybe she’s willing to try other options.

For now though, I have more research to do and homework to catch up on.

House Keeping 4/14/20

Heads up, I have a full post for this going up later in the week, but Cerberus Supplies is organizing Dice4Masks. I will have a full post for this up later in the week, but essentially they’re working with several dice sellers to sell mystery bags of dice with all proceeds going to supplying N95 masks for hospital workers.

Still plugging along on book reviews. I’m a good way through getting next week’s “Seattle Incident” post ready to go, so I’m on schedule for that. And I’ve got a guest post coming up for you all on Friday, it’s the guest post for the The Loss of Some Detail blog tour.

I’m getting a lot of rest and working on a lot of my crafting projects. I think all the rest might be leaving me fuzzy, it’s a little hard to focus on something as still as reading when it feels like all I do is sleep and sit around. Video games have been a good distraction from that, I’ve spent a fair amount of time on Fallout and Dungeon Siege. It’s been fun to go into older games like those.

But that’s about it for me just now.

Standard stuff, if you like what I’m doing here feel free to leave a comment or a like. And, of course, if you really like what I’m doing you can feed my caffeine addiction and buy me a ko-fi. It’d be a big help just now. In either case, stay safe and have a great rest of the week!