Film Review: The Martian

Back in March, I reviewed this book knowing I would eventually end up seeing the film, which I did!


It’s a proven fact that any book-to-movie adaptation is going to divide an audience into those you think it was done well to the point of being fantastic and possibly better than the text, and those who think it was done badly to the point of being a travesty against the written word itself. It’s rare that someone who has enjoyed a book – loved it even – will take the middle ground with the film adaptation. Strangely, I find myself feeling about the movie quite the same way I felt about the book, which is that it’s helluva entertaining, but lacks gravitas, and thus I’m in that liminal middle-ground regarding this adaptation.

The Martian is Ridley Scott in high-gear, not quite Gladiator gear given a few peculiar editing sequences (more noticeable if you’ve read the book) and no breathtaking Hans Zimmer score to accompany it (I honestly could’ve even remember the music in the movie – composed by Harry Gregson-Williams who can certainly compose some awesome scores!). I actually went to the cinema to watch this with my husband who has read the book too and a few other friends, none of whom had read the book – so opinions after the credits rolled were going to be interesting, and I suspected, divisive.


I enjoyed the film. It was funny, managing to capture quite a bit of Mark Watney’s humor while maintaining its PG rating, and Matt Damon did a good job of showing a more emotional-psychological aspect of the character. I still wanted more however. The tone of the film was kept light and breezey, at times even lighter than the book, playing up the absurdity of his situation rather than the serious life-or-death nature of Watney’s every action and decision. Consequently, the movie – like the book – was highly entertaining, but was a little disappointing because it seemed to make his journey appear a lot easier than in the book. What made the book exceptional was how it showed Watney’s thought processes and his step by step ‘applying the scientific method’ approach to everything he did. In the movie, much of his space-MacGyvering is whittled down to Eureka moments that never really show just how intelligent, adaptive, and resourceful the character is in the book. Those who have read the book will undoubtedly be disappointed that certain key parts of the narrative and some particularly nasty mishaps on Mars are left out of the film altogether. Because a lot of the method gets skimmed over, if addressed at all, there are certain things that simply are in the film without any explanation – such as the ‘balloon’ on the rover. This frustrated my friends who hadn’t read the book because they felt like they had missed something, and this frustrated me who had read the book because it was clear the movie-makers had missed something! That said, the scenery is spectacular and at no point did I ever not believe I was actually on Mars. For that reason alone, I am extremely thankful I went to see this on the big screen.

The verdict on this film is much like the verdict on the book: entertaining, engrossing while watching, humorous and good press for NASA and science in general, but not a story that will leave me thinking, pondering existential questions, or haunted by the plight of this lonely astronaut – all things I believe this story should and could’ve done without losing any of its cool sci-fi-ness. Still, this scores 4/5 ink splats.

4 inksplats

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Posted by on November 8, 2015 in Reviews


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Gail Z Martin Guest Post: Days of the Dead Blog Tour 2015!

Hey folks, Dave here, and though I’m a bit late to the proceedings I’ve got Gail Z Martin’s guest post for her awesome Day of the Dead Blog Tour – the 2015 edition! :)

Gail Martin, Dreamspinner Communications

Gail Martin, Dreamspinner Communications

Gail Z. Martin is the author of the upcoming novel Vendetta: A Deadly Curiosities Novel in her urban fantasy series set in Charleston, SC (Dec. 2015, Solaris Books) as well as the epic fantasy novel Shadow and Flame (March, 2016 Orbit Books) which is the fourth and final book in the Ascendant Kingdoms Saga. Shadowed Path, an anthology of Jonmarc Vahanian short stories set in the world of The Summoner, debuts from Solaris books in June, 2016.

Other books include The Jake Desmet Adventures a new Steampunk series (Solaris Books) co-authored with Larry N. Martin as well as Ice Forged, Reign of Ash and War of Shadows in The Ascendant Kingdoms Saga, The Chronicles of The Necromancer series (The Summoner, The Blood King, Dark Haven, Dark Lady’s Chosen) from Solaris Books and The Fallen Kings Cycle (The Sworn, The Dread) from Orbit Books and the urban fantasy novel Deadly Curiosities from Solaris Books.  

Gail writes four series of ebook short stories: The Jonmarc Vahanian Adventures, The Deadly Curiosities Adventures, The King’s Convicts series, and together with Larry N. Martin, The Storm and Fury Adventures. Her work has appeared in over 20 US/UK anthologies. Newest anthologies include: The Big Bad 2, Athena’s Daughters, Realms of Imagination, Heroes, With Great Power, and (co-authored with Larry N. Martin) Space, Contact Light, The Weird Wild West, The Side of Good/The Side of Evil, Alien Artifacts, Clockwork Universe: Steampunk vs. Aliens.

The Days of the Dead Blog Tour happens every year (check out what’s already been happening at the main website), and during this time Gail shares excerpts from her books, has plenty of giveaways and always manages to come up with excellent guest posts, among all the other things happening. :)


This year, Gail wrote a guest post that plenty (if not ALL writers) will want to read; one of the biggest problems we face as writers is making sure that readers know about our work, where to get it, and a bit about ourselves, too. We may not be offering products like BluRay players, cell phones and smart cars, but we still need to market our works and ourselves. In short, if a writer struggles with marketing, that writer struggles more and longer than those who don’t.

So here’s Gail’s guest post, focusing on Marketing for Writers:


Selling Your Soul – By Gail Z. Martin

It’s a deal you can’t refuse. Everything you’ve ever wanted. The man making the offer is dressed in black with a tall top hat, and you had to meet him at a crossroads at midnight, but that’s okay. It’s going to make your dreams come true. You don’t even realize, until later, that the pen that signed the contract wrote in blood.

Welcome to book marketing. Otherwise known as, the things we do for love.

Once upon a time, writers just wrote. Publishers took care of everything else. The mechanism by which a book became a bestseller—or a good-enough-to-get-more-contracts seller—was a black box, somewhere between alchemy and Voodoo. The book went in, the wheels went around and around, a bestseller came out. Like sausage—don’t ask what’s in the mix. But for a long time, that system worked, so I’m told.

It’s a brave new world these days. Even the most committed big publishers can only spare a small amount of promotional mojo for new authors or rising mid-listers. Most of the energy and the big bucks go toward recouping the large advances paid to the superstar authors. That means less effort and energy spent developing new talent, creating breakthrough opportunities, and developing visibility. Small presses are doing a great job bringing new authors to market and serving niche markets, but they have very little marketing muscle to offer aside from social media.

The work still has to be done. Guess who does it? Yep—you, the author.

We could talk all day about book promotion (and I have), but let me highlight the five most important tools every writer needs to compete in today’s very cluttered publishing environment. These five are essential whether you publish with a big traditional publisher, a small press or whether you self-publish. They’re the backbone of your marketing efforts. When you want to get fancy, you can add all kinds of bells and whistles, but without these five elements, you won’t have a foundation on which to build. Ready?

No. 1—A good author website.  Buy your domain name, don’t settle for a freebie site that is just a meaningless jumble of letters. First choice would be or If those are taken, try Avoid picking a domain for a character’s name or a series if you intend to be in the game for a long time. (If you’ve already done that and have an investment in your site, see if you can get your name as a domain and redirect the URL.)  I’m not a fan of .net or the other extensions because no one thinks of them—they go straight to .com.

If you do your website in WordPress, you can make most of your updates yourself. I’d suggest paying someone who is better at web design and web graphics than you are to do the layout. After that, you can probably keep up with it yourself. This is your home base. It should be on all your bookmarks and on your email signature, on the back cover of your books and on your blog posts—literally everywhere.

No. 2—An email newsletter. But wait—haven’t you been hearing for years that email newsletters are dinosaurs? That was before Facebook got greedy and suppressed organic post reach to around 1%. Social media site algorithms determine how many of your fans actually get to see your posts, but you own your mailing list. Facebook’s recent moves have sent everyone scrambling back to building their newsletter lists. And as fans realize that they aren’t hearing from the authors they signed up to hear from on social media, well-done newsletters are gaining popularity.

A few key notes—don’t spam your readers. Send out at most once a month, maybe less, and make it worth their time or people will ignore you or unsubscribe. Offer trivia questions, contests, etc. to keep it fun. Build your list with Rafflecopter contests and by doing drawings at conventions and book signings when guests put their email info into a fishbowl and you pick the winner.

No. 3—Social media. Hey, didn’t I just say social media isn’t delivering the results it used to?  Yep. But it’s still the best way to reach a global audience for free, and it’s still a good channel to update your fans on what’s going on and coming up—it’s just not as great a channel as it used to be. At a minimum, you need to have a Facebook fan page and a Twitter account. Beyond that, I’d suggest Goodreads, Wattpad, Pinterest as core sites. Add YouTube if you’re into video, and consider Tumblr or Instagram if your audience skews young and female.

No. 4—Blog.  This could be part of your main website, or you could have a separate blog. If you can create a blog with a handful of other dedicated authors in a similar genre (so your audiences are likely to overlap), that can make it easier to keep up a steady pace of blog posts. The more regularly you blog, the more readers you’ll get. What to talk about? I recommend staying away from hot-button controversies (since 50% of your readers are likely to disagree but you still want them to like you), but otherwise, muse about life, talk about cooking, or vacation, or your cat/dog, upcoming book events, how the book is going, etc.

No. 5—Get out and meet people. Go to genre conventions and meet readers and other authors. Do book signings and get to know the local bookstore managers and staff. Go to book clubs and library events and Meetup gatherings. Be personable and polite, don’t try to hard sell, just get to know people and let them get to know you. Relationships matter!

Remember that you want to win readers for life, not just for one book, so while marketing takes effort, time and some cash, it’s a long-term investment–and it’s more important than ever in today’s publishing environment.



My Days of the Dead blog tour runs through October 31 with never-before-seen cover art, brand new excerpts from upcoming books and recent short stories, interviews, guest blog posts, giveaways and more! Plus, I’ll be including extra excerpt links for my stories and for books by author friends of mine. You’ve got to visit the participating sites to get the goodies, just like Trick or Treat! Details here:

Book swag is the new Trick-or-Treat! Grab your envelope of book swag awesomeness from me & 10 authors before 11/1!

Trick or Treat! Excerpt from my new urban fantasy novel Vendetta set in my Deadly Curiosities world here Launches Dec. 29


More Treats! Enter to win a copy of Deadly Curiosities!

Treats! Enter to win a copy of Iron & Blood!

I&B final cover

No Tricks! Here’s an excerpt from my Jonmarc Vahanian Adventure Raiders Curse

Halloween goodies! 2 FREE complete haunted novellas! The Final Death, set in my Deadly Curiosities world & Grave Voices set in our Iron & Blood world

More Halloween loot! An excerpt from John Hartness’s Bubba The Monster Hunter series, Hall & Goats –


Massive thanks to Gail for the opportunity to host her here once again, and for the excellent guest post. :) Remember to check out the entire blog tour for all the goodies! :)

Until next time,


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Posted by on October 30, 2015 in Blog Tour, Guest Post


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Film Review: Crimson Peak

I don’t think I have ever been this excited to see a ‘horror’ movie before and man was it a disappointment.



Judging by the trailer, this film was going to be a campy, Gothic horror-fest complete with a haunted house on the bleak British moors and buckets of faux-blood. Actually, I was most excited for this film because it didn’t look all that terrifying (I’m a total wimp when it comes to horror) but looked more Gothic and grotesque, which I adore! So, off to the cinema I went.

Firstly, I remember now why I stopped going to the cinema and would rather wait for films to come out on DVD/streaming-sites. The inconsiderate asses behind me talked non-stop and even took photos of their popcorn (I just can’t even!!) with flash during the freaking movie!! My irritation at the selfish imbeciles behind me no doubt eroded some of the pleasure I might’ve derived from the film.

That said, it took almost an hour’s worth of two-hour run time to even get to the titular Crimson Peak! I thought the entire film was set in this rotting estate replete with bleeding walls, but nope, first we had to endure a bunch of back-story and long-winded set-up. By the time we got to the blood-soaked house, I was almost bored despite the charming good-looks and distinguished awesomeness that is Tom Hiddleston when he plays aristocratic British characters.

Now the house itself was spectacular and well-worth the wait, but what I thought was blood from the trailer was in fact red clay and iron ore leaching into the ground and turning it red – somewhat anti-climactic. And the horror of the house, combined with the appropriately unexpected frights courtesy of ghosts so grotesque they were more humorous than frightening, was pretty much all this film had going for it. I expected a lot from the story. I expected the house to be more, I actually expected it to be sentient. I expected the siblings to have a lot more going on in their past than an almost justified murder of a cruel mother and illicit love affair. Siblings falling in love is no longer as shocking as it used to be. Blame the Lannisters maybe, but this revelation wasn’t a revelation at all and the sort-of love scene between Tom and Lucille was barely a love scene at all, so the whole thing just fell flat for me. The only part of this story that horrified me was that Lucille murdered their mother at 14 when the mother found out her children were lovers. When Lucille was 14, her brother was 12. And they were lovers. People, THAT’S the true horror story!

Despite the underwhelming plot and predictability of the scares, the acting was on point for this penny dreadful-esque story and the cinematography was spectacular. Seriously, I would watch this film again (the second half) just to ogle the scenery and that delightfully dilapidated house.

Perhaps I went into this with my expectations far too high. I may or may not have confused Guillermo del Toro with Terry Gilliam, and when you go into a film thinking Brazil and Tideland only to be met with the guy who did Pacific Rim, well, it was my own fault really. That said, it was still reasonably enjoyable, although I don’t think this will give horror fans the frights they want, and won’t be nearly sinister enough to satisfy Gothic fiction lovers. Basically, Crimson Peak is little more than a flirtation with the macabre that’ll keep yours eyes entertained while you chew on popcorn. A disappointing 2.5/5 ink splats for this.

2.5 inksplats


Posted by on October 20, 2015 in Reviews, Video Reviews


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Book Review: An Ember in the Ashes

I heard a lot of buzz about this book, particularly noted for its diversity and fresh setting. I couldn’t wait to read it, but when I did, I was left a little shocked to be honest.

*Spoilers ahead – you’ve been warned!*


Laia is a slave.

Elias is a soldier.

Neither is free.

Under the Martial Empire, defiance is met with death. Those who do not vow their blood and bodies to the Emperor risk the execution of their loved ones and the destruction of all they hold dear.

It is in this brutal world, inspired by ancient Rome, that Laia lives with her grandparents and older brother. The family ekes out an existence in the Empire’s impoverished backstreets. They do not challenge the Empire. They’ve seen what happens to those who do.

But when Laia’s brother is arrested for treason, Laia is forced to make a decision. In exchange for help from rebels who promise to rescue her brother, she will risk her life to spy for them from within the Empire’s greatest military academy.

There, Laia meets Elias, the school’s finest soldier—and secretly, its most unwilling. Elias wants only to be free of the tyranny he’s being trained to enforce. He and Laia will soon realize that their destinies are intertwined—and that their choices will change the fate of the Empire itself.

This book is YA, meaning it’s technically for teen readers about teen characters doing teenish things and dealing with teenish issues even in fantastical settings. And it was with that understanding that I cracked open the spine on this novel.

While I did thoroughly enjoy the Spartacus TV series (back when Andy Whitfield was the lead) and can generally handle the violence and brutality in shows like Game of Thrones, I was absolutely not prepared for the brutality of one of the very first scenes in this book. Remember this novel is aimed at teen readers… and yet, in one of the opening scenes introducing readers to Elias and his life at Blackcliff (much like the ludus in Spartacus only for kids as young as 5) a ten-year-old boy is publicly flogged to death by a commanding officer. I struggled with this scene. Even more so because the vast majority of the characters in the story seem so unaffected by the brutal abuse (actually, it goes beyond abuse really) of a child. A child! I should’ve known from this opening scene that the rest of the book would continue in a similar vein.

This book is brutal! The CO of this elite warrior school is an unapologetic sadist delighting in the continuous and brutal torture of slaves and Martials (the upper echelon attending the warrior school), even tormenting her own son! The brutality visited upon Laia is unspeakable and had me cringing for the majority of the book. If this were a movie, it would have to be R-rated for violence. But it gets worse, because the physical damage done by a sadist isn’t nearly as bad as the psychological torment Elias endures as part of the trope-ish three trials he is meant to pass in the hopes of becoming Emperor. The violence and brutality kicks up yet another gear to the point where I actually felt queasy reading some scenes and had to put the book down. I was so overwhelmed by the brutality, which often felt unnecessary and senseless, that when the few tender moments did happen, I was so relieved, I felt myself falling in love with these characters for the most minor of niceties.

Aside from the brutality – which I really shudder to think is considered okay for inclusion in a book aimed at young readers – the plot is complex and kept me intrigued. The main characters you couldn’t help but feel for given their circumstances and heinous mistreatment. I loved Elias and Laia although I could’ve done without all the convoluted love-quadrangling going on.

The biggest issue I had with this book was the constant threat of sexual violence against the girls in the story and the numerous near-rape scenes. Had there been at least one threat of sexual violence toward a boy (completely realistic) it would’ve perhaps felt more balanced, but as it stands, it seemed to be a stereotypical ‘boy taking what he thinks he can get without consequences from the weak and frightened girl’. Even the strongest female character in the book wasn’t immune to rape threats and that infuriated me! Why is rape always used!?

Had this book being marketed as adult or even new adult, I probably would’ve enjoyed it more or at least handled it a little better because I would’ve known to expect a different level of violence. There are several books with big cross-over appeal being marketed toward a more adult audience, books like Six of Crows and A Court of Thorns and Roses, and I think An Ember in the Ashes should’ve been marketed similarly. I was left emotionally damaged after reading this book and had nightmarish images of dead children playing in my mind for days after I turned the last page. Even as an adult book, I think this story will upset some readers with the amount of violence leveled at children. Did I mention a five-year-old little girl gets deliberately blinded with a hot poker as retribution for something an adult slave did? Yeah. Nauseating.

So, good plot, good characters, good prose if not very descriptive, and an interesting world with a slightly Arabic or Middle Eastern flavor featuring a cast of PoC characters, but it wasn’t quite as diverse as I was hoping. I kept waiting for an LGBT+ character to make an appearance but sadly, they never did. I find it really difficult to rate this book. I was intrigued, I kept turning pages – when I wasn’t battling nausea – and I did sort of enjoy it, but the brutality was simply too much for me. This gets 3.5/5 ink splats from me.3.5 inksplats

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Posted by on September 23, 2015 in Reviews, Uncategorized


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Guest Post: Literary Social Science Fiction

Today I’m handing over to Robert Eggleton, the author of the satirical Rarity from the Hollow, discussing Literary Social Science Fiction.

Robert Eggleton has served as a children’s advocate in an impoverished state for over forty years. He is best known for his investigative reports about children’s programs, most of which were published by the West Virginia Supreme Court where he worked from 1982 through 1997, and which also included publication of models of serving disadvantaged and homeless children in the community instead of in large institutions, research into foster care drift involving children bouncing from one home to the next — never finding a permanent loving family, and statistical reports on the occurrence and correlates of child abuse and delinquency. Today, he is a recently retired children’s psychotherapist from the mental health center in Charleston , West Virginia , where he specialized in helping victims cope with and overcome physical and sexual abuse, and other mental health concerns. Rarity from the Hollow is his debut novel and its release followed publication of three short Lacy Dawn Adventures in magazines: Wingspan Quarterly, Beyond Centauri, and Atomjack Science Fiction. Author proceeds have been donated to a child abuse prevention program operated by Children’s Home Society of West Virginia. Robert continues to write fiction with new adventures based on a protagonist that is a composite character of children that he met when delivering group therapy services. The overall theme of his stories remains victimization to empowerment.


Saving an entire universe is a big job for anybody, though. It takes more than just magic. Lacy Dawn needs a team and a very strong sense of humor. First, she motivates the android into helping her fix her family by putting her foot down and flat out telling him that she won’t save the universe unless he helps her first. The android agrees to the terms.

After Lacy Dawn’s father is cured of his mental health problems and stops being so mean to Lacy Dawn and her mom, Lacy Dawn next arranges for her to mother get her rotten teeth replaced, pass her GED, and to get a driver’s license. The mother feels so much better about herself that she also joins the team. By this time, the android has fallen so deeply in love with Lacy Dawn that she has him wrapped around her little finger.

Add a pot head neighbor who sells marijuana and has a strong sense for business transactions, Brownie, a dog who proves to have tremendous empathy for the most vile occupants of any planet, and Faith, the ghost of Lacy Dawn’s best friend who was murdered by her own father — the team is ready to embark on a very weird off-world adventure.

Working together, the team figures out how a few greedy capitalists had made such a mess of the entire universe and how to prevent its destruction without intentionally killing one single being.

Rarity from the Hollow is a Children’s Story For Adults. The content includes serious social commentary and mature satire. There are graphic scenes in the first chapters before Lacy Dawn’s family is fixed.


“…You will enjoy the ride with Lacy Dawn, her family and friends, but don’t expect the ride to be without a few bumps, and enough food to last you a long time.”

— Darrell Bain, Award Winning Author

Literary Social Science Fiction

Life can be tough, that’s for sure. Most of us need a break from reality at least every now and then, in one way on another, and to some degree. Of all addictions, reading is probably the least harmful, and sometimes it may be healthful or beneficial during our individual pursuits of happiness. Books present a terrific way to temporarily escape from the stress of real-life. Many people read “genre” fiction, like young adult, mystery, fantasy, or romance novels. Other people choose to read “literary” fiction. It is less about escaping from reality and more like escaping into reality, if that makes sense. Real-life issues, like racism or poverty, are often part of a character driven literary fiction story. Genre fiction tends to leave out such issues and is more plot driven with action and imaginary detail. While these two may sound very different, they share a common function — entertainment. Different strokes for different folks, right? I read both literary and genre fiction.   

Of course, some books don’t fit neatly within this or that box, literary or genre. Plus, there are a zillion subgenres, like paranormal romance or young adult science fiction and some of them may very well address the human condition, a criterion that some apply to distinguish literary from genre fiction, such as dystopian or utopian adventure stories. Sometimes critics will use the term, “popular” in reference to genre fiction. What about The Color Purple?  Few would argue that this story was both literary fiction and very popular literature. Plus, nobody really cares because it was a GREAT story, regardless of where it fits within the schematic. What the heck does “highbrow” mean? Is it a story with excessive adjectives and adverbs with a few big words thrown in? In my opinion, nobody writes any fancier than Ursula K. LeGuin, a genre fiction writer, and if someone does, I’ll just call it something that I don’t want to read, or write.

For me, if I privately reflect on the words of a story long after the last page has been turned, experience the magic of the story over and over again, I’ve just read a “literary” work. On the other hand, if I give a story little deep thought after I’ve finished it, that book may fall within “genre” literature. Any fiction story can have great (or poor) writing. Commercial or “the-most-popular-kid-in-school” type of fiction may not have anything to do with quality. Originality of ideas may set literary fiction apart from some genre fiction because genre fiction may be more likely to have fan bases, such those readers who are so in love with Harry Potter that no other boy will do.  

You know how two biological species cannot successfully mate? That’s not the case with book. Another animal exists. Its first name is “literary” and its middle name is the genre of the story. As examples, there is literary science fiction, literary fantasy, and, conceivably, any other genre. A story that falls into the “western” genre could have the first name “literary” if it has strong characters who address sexism in the Wild West instead of just more gunfights at the OK Corral.

I selected the SF/F backdrop for my debut novel, Rarity from the Hollow, because it was the best fit by process of elimination. While it is a fun read, the story does include early scenes and references to tragedy: child maltreatment, poverty, domestic violence, and mental illness in contemporary America . As such, it was not a good fit to the historical or western genres, although the social problems addressed in the story have existed throughout history, and are not restrained by our world’s geography, cultures, or religions. I felt that biographical and nonfiction wouldn’t work because the story would have been so depressing that only the most determined would have finished it. The story had to be hopeful and I especially wanted it to inspire survivors of child maltreatment toward competitiveness within our existing economic structures, instead of people using past victimization as an excuse for inactivity. I didn’t think that anybody would bite on the theme of a knight on a white stallion galloping off a hillside to swoop victims into safety, like in the traditional romance genre. That almost never actually happens in real life, so the romance genre was too unrealistic as the primary. There was already enough horror in the story, so that genre was out too. What could be more horrific than child abuse?

The protagonist and her traumatized teammates needed fantastical elements to achieve empowerment. But, as in life, one cannot overcome barriers by simply imagining them away. That’s where the science fiction came into play. It provided a power source. I tied the science fiction to Capitalism because in today’s reality it will take significant financial investment by benefactors to improve the welfare of children in the world, and to invest in economic development. As symbolized in the story, I feel that our governments are unlikely to fund effective solutions to social problems in the near future because of the politics. The systems in place to help victims of these types of problems are woefully inadequate.

At the 2013 International Skoll Forum, Nobel Laureate Muhammad Yunus of Bangladesh reportedly said something like, “We have science fiction and science follows….” He heads a company that loans money to entrepreneurs who live in impoverished areas and who would not otherwise qualify for financial assistance. Dr. Mark Manary of America headed a scientific breakthrough in the processing of peanut butter that is having a significant impact on the social problem of child malnutrition. It’s called a ready-to-use therapeutic food (RUTF) and is made in Malawi , Sierra Leone , and Ghana . The lives of thousands of African children have already been saved by RUTF. In the 1970s, Ursula K. LeGuin was credited with coining the term, “social science fiction.” It’s just my opinion, but I don’t think any of these famous people are talking about new cell phone technology.

Since Rarity from the Hollow has been pegged as drama, comedy, satire, horror, romance, paranormal, science fiction…I decided to tell the world the proper term for the kind of writing that I enjoy — literary social science fiction cross genre. How’s that for a mouthful? Despite the use of colloquialism, I consider my novel to be literary because there’s enough food for thought to last a long time. So what if there ain’t no fancy words in the story? I consider it to be social science fiction because the story not only includes social commentary, but needs science fiction to pull off its mission — to raise funds for the prevention of child abuse, yes, real-life kids, as real as world hunger. Author proceeds have been donated to child abuse prevention programs operated by Children’s Home Society of West Virginia. Maybe I should call my writing science faction instead of science fiction because the correlates of society’s failure to help maltreated children are fact: addiction, poverty, crime, divorce, suicide, mental illness…      

Read the 1st Chapter here!

Buy the book here: Amazon | Doghorn Publishing

An Excerpt from Chapter 13

Jenny (the mother) walked up the hill to Roundabend. She called Lacy Dawn’s name every few yards. Her muddy tennis shoes slipped and slid.

            I hear her voice. Why won’t she answer me? 

            “Sounds like she’s talking to someone,” Jenny said to the Woods. 

            Nobody responded. The trees weren’t supposed to since Jenny was no longer a child. Her former best friends had made no long-term commitment beyond childhood victimization. They had not agreed to help her deal with domestic violence in adulthood. She hugged the closest tree.

            I will always love you guys. 

Jenny quickened her pace, stopped, and listened for human voices. A few yards later, she stopped again.   

            Now it sounds like she’s behind me instead of in front. 

            Jenny looked to the left of the path.

            There ain’t no cave Roundabend, but there it is. 

            She walked toward the entrance. The voices grew louder and she looked inside. Lacy Dawn sat on a bright orange recliner. Tears streamed down her face.  Jenny ran to her daughter through a cave that didn’t exit and into a blue light that did.

            “All right, you mother f**ker!”

            “Mom!” Lacy Dawn yelled. “You didn’t say, ‘It’s me’ like you’re supposed to (a traditional announcement mentioned earlier in the story).”

            DotCom (the android) sat naked in a lotus position on the floor in front of the recliner.  Jenny covered Lacy Dawn with her body and glared at him.   

            “Grrrrr,” emanated from Jenny.  It was a sound similar to the one that Brownie (Lacy Dawn’s dog) made the entire time the food stamp woman was at their house.  It was a sound that filled the atmosphere with hate.  No one moved.  The spaceship’s door slid shut.

            “Mommmmmy, I can’t breathe. Get up.”

            “You make one move you sonofabitch and I’ll tear your heart out,” Jenny repositioned to take her weight off Lacy Dawn.

            Stay between them.

            “Mommy, he’s my friend. More than my friend, we’re going to get married when I’m old enough — like when I turn fourteen. He’s my boyfriend — what you call it — my fiancé.” 

            “You been messin’ with my little girl you pervert!” Jenny readied to pounce. 

            “MOM!  Take a chill pill! He ain’t been messing with me. He’s a good person, or whatever. Anyway, he’s not a pervert. You need to just calm down and get off me.”

            Jenny stood up. DotCom stood up. Jenny’s jaw dropped.

            He ain’t got no private parts, not even a little bump.   

            “DotCom, I’d like to introduce you to my mommy, Mrs. Jenny Hickman. Mommy, I’d like to introduce you to my fiancé, DotCom.”

            Jenny sat down on the recliner. Her face was less than a foot from DotCom’s crotch and she stared straight at it. It was smooth, hairless, and odor free.  

            “Mrs. Hickman, I apologize for any inconvenience that this misunderstanding has caused. It is very nice to meet you after having heard so much. You arrived earlier than expected. I did not have time to properly prepare and receive. Again, I apologize.” 

            I will need much more training if I’m ever assigned to a more formal setting than a cave, such as to the United Nations.

            “Come on, Mommy. Give him a hug or something.”      

            Jenny’s left eye twitched. 

            DotCom put on clothing that Lacy Dawn had bought him at Goodwill. It hung a little loose until he modified his body. Lacy Dawn hugged her mother…    

            …(scene of Dwayne, the father, overheard by those in the spaceship while talking to himself)… “Besides, the transmitter was part of Daddy’s treatment. There’re a lot of other things that he did to help fix Daddy. DotCom is like a doctor. You can see that Daddy has gotten better every day. And no, there ain’t no transmitter in you. DotCom figured you out like a good doctor and the only things wrong are a lack of opportunity and rotten teeth that poison your body. You don’t need no transmitter. He just gave you a few shots of ego boost. I don’t know what medicine that is, but I trust him. You ain’t complained since the shots started — not even with an upset stomach.”

            “He’s a doctor?” Jenny asked.

            “What’s your problem anyway?” Lacy Dawn asked. “I know.  You’re prejudiced. You told me that people have much more in common than they do that’s different — even if someone is a different color or religion, or from a different state than us. You told me to try to become friends because sometimes that person may need a good friend. Now, here you are acting like a butt hole about my boyfriend. You’re prejudiced because he’s different than us.”

            “Honey, he’s not even a person – that’s about as different as a boyfriend can get,” Jenny said.


            Mommy’s right. Maybe I need a different argument.

            A fast clicking sound, a blur of motion, and a familiar smell assaulted them.

            “What’s that?” Jenny asked. 

            She moved to protect her daughter from whatever threat loomed. Brownie, who had been granted 27 / 7 access to the ship, bounded over the orange recliner, knocked DotCom to the floor, licked DotCom’s face, and rubbed his head on Jenny’s leg. He then jumped onto the recliner and lay down. His tail wagged throughout. Jenny sat down on the recliner beside Brownie and looked at Lacy Dawn.

            “But, you were crying when I first came in. That thing was hurting you.” Jenny shook her finger at DotCom to emphasize a different argument against him.

            “Mommy, I’m so happy that I couldn’t help but cry. My man just came home from an out-of-state job. I didn’t talk to him for a whole year. Before he left, he told me that he wasn’t even sure if he’d be able to come home. I still don’t know what happened while he was gone. We ain’t had no chance to talk. All I know is that he’s home and I’m sooooo happy.”

            “Your man came home from an out-of-state job?” Jenny patted Brownie on his head, some more and some more…. 

            It’s unusual for a man to promise to come back home and ever be seen again. Brownie likes him and that’s a good sign. Maybe she’s right about him helping Dwayne. Something sure did and it wasn’t me. It is a nice living room. They’ve been together for a while and I ain’t seen a mark on her. That’s unusual too. He ain’t got no private parts and that’s another good thing. Hell, if I get in the middle, she’d just run off with him anyway. Id better play it smart. I don’t want to lose my baby. 

            “What about his stupid name?” Jenny asked.

            “I’ve got a stupid name, too. All the kids at school call me hick because my last name is Hickman.”

            “My name was given to me by my manager a very long time ago. It represents a respected tradition — the persistent marketing of that which is not necessarily the most needed. I spam…,” DotCom said. 

            They both glared at him. 

            “Dwayne is sure to be home. I don’t want him to worry. Let’s go,” Jenny said. 

            “Okay, Mommy.”

            “I love you, DotCom,” Lacy Dawn stepped out the ship’s door, which had slid open. Brownie and Jenny were right behind her. 

            “I love you too,” DotCom said.

            Lacy Dawn and Jenny held hands and walked down the path toward home. The trees didn’t smile — at least not so Jenny would notice. On the other hand, no living thing obstructed, intruded, or interfered with the rite.   

            Jenny sang to the Woods, “My little girl’s going to marry a doctor when she grows up, marry a doctor when she grows up, when she grows up.  My little girl’s going to marry a doctor when she grows up, marry a doctor when she grows up, when she grows up….”

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Posted by on September 15, 2015 in Guest Post


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Book Review: Fathoms of Fenlake

Today’s review is going to be a little different, because the book in question is a little different too. I received this book from the author for an honest review so here goes…


Aigi’s journey into the mythical world of the Sami people starts with a race for the first ray of sunlight of the New Year, and continues with a plunge into the wondrous Saivo realm to search for a childhood friend. On the journey the knowledge of beings such as the gobmi, skammaidas and other fantastic creatures will surely be needed.

Fathoms of the Fenlake is a groundbreaking fantasy story. A solid nature connection, ingenuity and courage along with mystical powers have always been present in the Sami culture. The colorful pantheon has survived the attempts to abolish it, and the Aigi-saga draws from that legendary folklore. The bewitching novel will charm its readers.

Ante Aikio is a reindeer herder and modern entrepreneur living between two worlds himself, splitting his time between his company and his reindeer herd. Both are far beyond the polar circle – in the land of Sami mythology and tales. This is the one from the fathoms of ancient lakes…

*There are a few spoilers ahead*

This book is unique in that it is written by a Sami reindeer herder from Finnish Lapland and is all about Sami mythology, a mythology rarely seen (if ever) in mainstream fantasy. This book was originally written in Finnish and since my Finnish comprehension isn’t quite up to the challenge of reading a full novel, I decided to read the translation instead. I’m generally quite hard to please when it comes to translations and this book was sadly, no exception.

Firstly, I have to applaud this author for writing down what has, for the most part, been an oral tradition of story-telling. The Sami have a unique outlook on the world, their traditions entwined with nature-worship, and are a rather isolated group of people living at the edge of the world so this book has the potential to reach readers around the world, letting readers know that the Sami exist and that their story-telling is rich and profound.

Despite being exposed to Sami music while living in Finland and getting to know about some of their traditions during my studies, I didn’t know much about their mythology before reading this book. While I did enjoy getting to know more about Sami mythology and tradition, this book fell short of its promise.

This book is presented as an epic fantasy novel. It is not. Instead of reading like one cohesive story, the book is structured more like a collection of mythological stories as one might find in a non-fiction tome on the subject. The writing is similar in style to narrative non-fiction, heavy on telling and light on dialogue. This style does not make for an immersive experience. The main character is interesting and the story teases the promise of a Chosen One who has only to develop his magical powers. Sadly, this remains a tease and the character doesn’t do too much growing towards that destiny. Perhaps this was intentional, leaving room for a sequel, but this didn’t work for me. It seemed very anti-climatic when the main character, who could be a powerful sorcerer, doesn’t really amount to much at all despite having endured various travails in the Hero’s Journey tradition. This for me was the biggest disappointment and, combined with the dry prose, didn’t really allow me to enjoy the story that much.

Story aside, which will definitely be interesting to those who enjoy reading mythology anthologies, the writing itself made reading this book difficult. Perhaps simply a case of poor translation, this book suffers from bad grammar, tedious repetitions, incorrect vocabulary, and bland description. I really wish I could read this in the original Finnish to get a better feel for the story-telling.

As an epic fantasy novel, this story falls flat and would not easily rival the works of Rothfuss, Eddings, Lawrence, Erikson, Marillier, or, of course, Tolkien. While the story is rife with nasty beasties and liberally sprinkled with magic, the writing just isn’t up to scratch and the story suffers for it. As an experience in diversity and as a study of Sami mythology, this book excels, enabling global readers a more accessible means of discovering a relatively unknown culture. Perhaps I went into this book with unrealistic expectations. Perhaps had I approached this book as I would the a ‘Collected Tales of Greek Mythology’ I might’ve enjoyed this book far more. Regardless, I strongly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in exploring Sami tradition and mythology.

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Posted by on September 8, 2015 in Reviews


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Review: Stuck on You and Other Prime Cuts by Jasper Bark (Crystal Lake Publishing)

Hey everyone, Dave here, and I’ve got a new review for you – that of a short story collection from an author I’m now a huge fan of!

This is collection featuring stories from a storyteller who should be spoken of in the same breath as Stephen King and Clive Barker. Very few storytellers, especially in the difficult and harrowing genre that is Horror, have managed to grab me from the get-go, and Jasper succeeded.



The first tale blew me away and made my gorge swirl in my mouth. It describes the fate of an utter asshole as he travels across the border to help his girlfriend. One thing leads to another and a while later he has been lightning-struck and … well, I’m not spoiling it, but fuck.

I was astounded by what this guy went through, even more so by the way Jasper describes it all – pulling no punches, thrusting the reader into the mind, terror and pain of this character to such a degree that trying to tear myself away was like, well, fiddling with a very fresh scab. By the end of the tale I was breathless, shaking my head over and over, and hoping to hell that I never find myself in the kind of situation the character found himself in.


Damned fine tale that, in my mind, asks the question: ‘If you could right a wrong, and in doing so caused a lot of pain to someone, but could get away with it, would you do it?’ By the end of this tale I was cheering on what had occurred – a mean feat, considering just what it is that happens, but Jasper has a way, man…


The Catholic in me *loved* this tale, and if any stock-broker, insurance-broker, tax-guru type reads this then I’m pretty sure they will, too – long live Suchs! ;)


A tale that plays with your expectations right until the end while it explores the notions of betrayal, love and obsession in a twisted, horrifying manner. Also one of the ‘hotter’ tales in the collection. ;)


This tale surprised me – in the beginning I thought I knew who the victim was and how that victim had been wronged, but as the tale progressed I was pleased to have been proved wrong. This tale also explores something entirely new when it comes to blood-rituals, so the crazier among you will definitely enjoy it. ;)


Remember that scene in Hannibal (the novel and the movie adaptation) where Hannibal feeds a character his own brain? I never thought I would read something that would trump the horror of that scene. Not until I read this tale.


This tale was chilling and hard-hitting (not that the others aren’t), and follows how a man trapped in a house after a terrible event begins to understand just where he is and what he is doing. You might struggle to sleep after this tale, folks.


A tightly-plotted and awesomely explored take on a couple of tropes, those being The-Guy-Who-Can’t-Remember-a-Thing and The Maze – didn’t see the resolution coming, and neither will you.


Probably the very first Horror-Western I’ve read, this tale takes a whole bunch of ideas and mashes them together – coherently and masterfully written, it builds mysteries and characters until the very end. Damned good tale!


Taken together, these tales are shocking, brutal, utterly creepy and, in at least a part of every tale, beautiful. Jasper explores many different themes and ideas, pushing imagery into the mind and causing physical reactions while reveling in the settings his characters explore. There’s a seamless blending of physical settings and mind-scapes in these tales, and even though I sometimes didn’t want to be dipped into the various character’s minds I just couldn’t put this collection down.

If you’re looking for something that pushes many, many boundaries, this is it.

10 / 10


This collection was published by Crystal Lake Publishing and is available from Amazon for both your Kindle and as a paperback. The collection also features excellent illustrations by Rob Moran (who also did the cover), so those looking for a ‘book with pictures’ can’t complain. ;)

Remember to check out Jasper’s site and keep on eye on Crystal Lake Publishing for future tales from Jasper.


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Posted by on September 1, 2015 in Reviews


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