Monday, May 29, 2023

Postcards from Foolz: Book 4 of the Postcard series.


This review is going to be a challenge to write, because the stories are limited to 50 words each. It’s difficult enough for me to review anthologies, for reasons detailed elsewhere, but THIS is going to really test my flexibility. 
The way I understand it, Texas authors Jonna Hayden, Cedar Sanderson, and “C. V.  Walter” (it’s a pen name for K______ B_____, but I don’t know if I’m supposed to say that) started handing out art samples at cons, with the expectation that recipients write a postcard-sized story (meaning, 50 words or less) to match the artwork. Somewhere in all this tomfoolery, they were bestowed with super-hero status (rather, their status was recognized), and they became Three Moms of the Apocalypse.
This seed for this volume was sown at FoolzCon, which presented the challenge/opportunity of distribution to folks who only had a virtual presence. The other cons were MarsCon,  Louisiana’s World Steampunk Exposition, and FantaSci, and if writing this review doesn’t kill off the desire, I’ll go back for the first three.
Since I just discovered the series (yes, I will go back for the first three), I’m likely getting some of the details wrong. 
In my opinion, the art samples given out are deliciously beautiful. As a VERY special feature, in addition to displaying the artwork for the inspired stories, five extra pictures were included, with space to write your own 50-word story. 
It’s Raconteur Press, so EXPECT radical creativity, and check often for nose-bleeds. Here are the stories:

A Matter of Some Urgency, by Jack Wylder. If you CAN’T keep up with your stuff, then either leave it at home, permanently attach it to your body, or just die in the field. 

In Memoriam, by Richard Hailey. I used a laser pointer to provoke my mom’s poodle into running head-first into the wall, when he couldn’t stop in time.

Peace of Meat, by Diana Walser. Only the bravest rulers can resist the cries of the mob demanding military action.

Fool’s Paradise, by Bethany Petersen. Never try to make a deal with supernatural beings. 

Morning Moth Mayhem, by Trey Thurber. I rode my manly motorcycle to the pawn shop to buy a laptop. They sold it to me in a Hello Kitty bag. I was all the way home before I realized why people in cars were laughing at me. 

Wight Squirrel, by Jessie Barrett. It’s not a stupid idea, if it works. Wear protective gear, anyway.

Geoffrey’s Lament, by Wally Waltner. Very few things are sadder than a former child star trying to hang on in Hollywood.

Lusty Fool, by Crystal Gayle. There’s definitely an added attraction when a hunk puts on a uniform.

Mine, by Bex May. When the story is The Lady AND The Tiger, no low-born courtier boyfriend is necessary.

A Note to the Spider That Dressed Me this Morning, by C. V. Walter. No, I LIKE the dress, I really do! It’s just that I can’t scratch my itches with it on.

She Taught Me to Dance, by John D. Martin. No one dared to cut in, because true love was in the air.

The Tenor, by Z. M. Renick. An incredible future opened, with offers for voice actor work piling up at the mailbox.

The Wizard You are Trying to Reach is Currently Unavailable, by Sara Martinez. All of my friends told stories about sneaking their father’s car out in the middle of the night. But the first time I tried it…

Cedar v. Ford, by Samuel A. Miller. Big companies have clout, but small companies can turn on a dime; you can’t teach an elephant to tap-dance.

Enlightenment, by Lee R. Anderson, Jr. You really should have just gotten off my lawn when I told you to.

Thrift Store, by Michael A. Hooten. It’s really good that trucks are so easy to rent these days.

Magic Beans, by Stephen White. All kidding aside, there are definite side effects when you prop up pole beans with a ‘34 Tula Mosin Nagant, with all matching serial numbers.

One Last Ride, by Petra Lynd. It wasn’t a betrayal of his promise to love, honor and cherish her; it was a fulfillment.

She Doesn’t Love You, by Wayne Whisnand. Every cop in the world hates a domestic disturbance call more than a bank robbery in progress.

Siege Perilous, by Ben Hunsinger. It’s your job to capture or kill; but sometimes, the fugitive does your job for you.

For Want of a Sky, by Nancy Frye. Ig you can’t see potential just over the distant horizon, this job is not for you.

Wrong Order, by Kortnee Bryant. When the Fonz showed up, everything was suddenly all right.

I hope I have managed to communicate the flavor, without spoilers. If you think I missed, kindly let me know. And also, PLEASE understand that I LOVE reading both short stories and these super-shorties; it's just that reviewing them is a challenge.
Peace be on your household.

Friday, May 26, 2023

Twisted Tropes, by Various Miscreants: A review

Why does the Buffalo wear a Red Hat?

To keep the sun out of his eyes.

Sigh. I really don’t know who to blame this on; there are SO many candidates. I’m gonna have to go with “It’s Texas, of course,” even though I don’t know for certain that all of this collection of hippies, renegades, rednecks, bikers, pilots, gingers, and associates of African special-ops chaplains are all currently dwelling there. My second guess would have to be North Carolina, and I’m just basing that on my mostly-legal experiences in Asheville and Chapel Hill.

Anyway, while perhaps not ALL of them ever proudly wore the ‘Sad Puppy’ badge, this work CLEARLY demonstrates that they are now, and likely forever more, be regarded as ‘sick puppies.’

What did I expect? Right up front, we read that the only goal was to take a trope (movies, books, whatever) and twist it into something new. Achievement: UNLOCKED! Sigh. I confess: I really love the way these people write….

If I can actually identify the (untwisted, original) trope, I will. I promise NOTHING; not coherence, competence, nor consistency.

Caliborne’s Curse, by Monalisa Foster. Presumed trope: New Orleans has vampires. Bless her sweet heart, Mallory Claiborne needed inexpensive housing, and took what she could get. Bad choice; it’s a house, at least, but it’s old, dilapidated, and packed wiuth extreme amounts of clutter. That might be fixable, if her landlord was reasonable. Or even human.

Late Night Drive, by Ethan Whisnand. Presumed trope: A monster is waiting for you, along the dark, deserted highway. (If this was ONLY a horror story, it could have ended as soon as we learn that Jane is working retail in a hardware store; although, perhaps only those who have been there and done that (or something closely similar) would understand. NICELY done, Ethan!)

Plaza of Pain, by Tom Rogneby. Presumed trope: Resourceful hero is himself the weapon; the guns/knives/whatever are just tools. Also, there are ten million puns, references, and McGuffins included. That last statement might not be accurate.

The Luck Breaker, by Rhiain O’Connell. Presumed trope: Something something the Fae something something. Sorry, I just don’t know this branch of literature well enough to identify it, but, like Potter Stewart and pornography, I know it when I see it. Powerful princess, humans, plots deeper than we can imagine...

The Chosen One, by Cedar Sanderson. Presumed trope: In times of great danger and chaos, the Chosen One will return to set all in order. If you happen to run across anything written by Cedar Sanderson, RUN! RUN FOR YOUR LIFE! Unless, that is, you wish to fall in love with the works of one of the finest wordsmiths, story tellers, and balloon manipulators of all time.

Dog Saves Man, by Christopher Markman. Presumed trope: In the deep woods lives a hermit, with a dark and terrible secret; also, the Government was behind it the whole time; and Man’s Best Friend is his dog. Hey, Christopher: Melanie was right. Glad you followed through; you did her proud.

Demons and Dishes, by Dorothy Grant. Presumed trope: "Some things, you should never say their name after dark." Okay, I confess to cheating; that’s the first sentence in the story. It's PERFECT though (and I like that). Also, the Dark Side has cookies. GREAT cookies!

Nick Slade-Private Eye, by JL Curtis. Presumed trope(s): Hard-boiled Detective, The Newsboy (or Shoeshine Boy) Knows Everything, and It Always Goes Down on Monday. Jim, STOP mentioning old cars, because it induces Vehicular Lust; I almost bought a Studebaker pickup truck off eBay, after reading that the private eye drives a Ford Deluxe.

Let us now stand by for the next activity by this band of loonies, or other loonies in a different band.

Peace be on your household.

Wednesday, May 24, 2023

A Cowboy in Modernopoli, by Tim the Idahoan

 Amazon has yet to publish ANY of the reviews I've submitted in the past week, and that's LIKELY due to a glitch caused by their distaste for the first graphic I submitted with my review of Danny Trejo's book. So, until they either publish or formally reject, we will wait. In the meantime, here's my review of Tim the Idahoan's latest book.

A grillion years ago, when pterodactyls ruled the skies (1973, to be exact), I was a new Christian believer. I was ALSO a massive bookworm, specializing in gobbling down science fiction.

Those two things may not have caused conflict for others, but they did for me. I KNEW that some of the things I had read were NOT going to help me develop my Christian walk, and for me, it was a matter of life and death. 

So, I sought to satisfy my double thirst in the fiction section of the (tiny) Christian book store, located about 100 miles away from where I was stationed. There was NOT a great selection. However, I did find a copy of John Bunyan’s “Pilgrim’s Progress.”

Take “Pilgrim’s Progress;”  add 345 years; and you get “A Cowboy in Modernopoli.” I’m not certain how many allegories are being written these days, but this is one. Whereas Bunyan’s work was an allegory of the perils and rewards of the Christian walk, The Mighty Tim (h/t to Monty Python) has chosen to focus on a single peril: that of idolatry. 

As he points out in his prefatory material, our current civilization is not much given to erecting pillars on mountains, or forming a golden calf. (Or are they?) Instead of looking for suspicious construction as a manifestation of modern idolatry, The Mighty Tim has selected certain causes which appear to have to power to seduce the individual beyond interest,  to obsession, and perhaps even into worship. 

I think he is on to something. 

This is a light, easy read, and it’s very almost always very clear just what person, place, or principle he was discussing/skewering. It never took me more than a few seconds, even if I did have to say the words he was using out loud, in order to identify the real-life counterpart. 

I’ll not cross the line into Spoiler-opolis in this review, by specifying the things The Mighty Tim has offered as possible objects of idolatry. Please, read for yourself; and, should you find something that pinches a bit, consider whether you might have crossed the line yourself. I really don’t think that this work will offend anyone NOT in that category. 

Interestingly, The Mighty Tim goes to great length to identify the difference between involvement and worship, and while commendable (and altogether in line with the gentle spirit he has shown me), I think that was a waste of time. The non-idolater will recognize the issues, and find the humor contained in the exposition, while the idolater is just going to lose their mind. I may be wrong about that; and, in any event, I do appreciate the extra effort The Mighty Tim took to avoid breaking off the bruised reeds. 

Peace be on your household.

Tuesday, May 23, 2023

Athenaeum Inc. Door Number Three, by Dan Kemp: A Review

 Happy Tuesday, to all of us who have made it this far, and for family members who have dropped by: should I try the family reunion this year, or not?

I found this in my Kindle library. I don't remember ordering it, but my Amazon account says I did back in April, and Dan Kemp, the author, is friends with some of the authors I have reviewed in the past, so, mark it up to MY memory lapse. 

As I did in the past, I submitted a review to Amazon first, but they haven't published any of the reviews I've submitted since last Thursday, beginning with my review of Danny Trejo's book. THEREFORE, I'm dusting off my blog posts, and I might even have to resort to Goodreads.

Which is something I should do, regardless. And it's been so long since I was working my Review-fu that I've had to go look at the older ones to see if I'm doing it right. Wonder if I am?

 So: what follows is what I submitted to Amazon 


Don’t waste ANY time looking for the first two books in this series; they don’t exist. The ‘Door Number Three’ in the title references ‘The Price is Right’ game show, in which contestants can pick from one of three doors. Door Number Three is a bit like The Gripping Hand, in that there are two choices which are pretty nasty, and then a third choice, which is better for the narrator and his comrades.

The Professor is a former US military special ops person, now working for much more more money in a civilian agency which is also involved in special ops. Because they are civilians, they can get involved in things the government needs to remain distant from, and so they have come to rely on government contracts and funding to operate. The government links aren’t exclusive, though, and thus the private sector also provides them with some work. 

Taking the name Athenaeum Inc, with some associated links and influences elsewhere, the agency is governed by a small group of aging spooks, goons, happy guys, and whatever else seemed good at the time. As we enter the story, recent and impending death, plus a desire for a less active role, has resulted in The Professor getting drafted into heading the organization. 

A word about The Professor: he is solidly ensconced in middle age, but years spent doing physically damaging activities have left him with a body that is somewhat-almost-maybe near-crippled. Mentally, though, he’s still got what it takes; more importantly, he has some (unspecified, I believe) moral compass that is the real reason that the old guard are comfortable in hiring him. Perhaps most valuable is his ability to recognize that he REQUIRES help in some areas, both physical and intellectual.  

Nearly first in line among the required help appears in a flash of glitter bombs (not literally!) TA DA! As a financial genius who has been stealing LOTS of money from cartels. She’s about to get killed, or arrested, when The Professor appears in her bedroom holding a gun. Of course, she takes door number three (SWIDT?), and goes to work for the Professor at Athenaeum as their accountant.   

Quick plot summation: steal lots of money from very bad people, then meet bad people who are kind of good, who can help you turn lots of money into something useful (and hidden). Will it work? Read the book to find out!

The author is, I believe, a person who truly appreciates guns and gear. I know NOTHING about gear, but I do appreciate assorted firearms, and I found all of the passages in which they are discussed to be quite pleasant. By that, I mean that there are NONE of those goofy errors found all too often when it becomes bitterly clear that the author doesn’t know the difference between a Dan Wesson revolver and a Dan Wesson 1911, or even the fact that Dan Wesson exists. I believe this type of writing is referred to as ‘gun porn,’ and Mr. Kemp has my heartfelt thanks for getting it right. 

I have no means of assessing whether he gets the rest of the gear/equipment/transport/customs items right, EXCEPT that his writing style consistently deals with THOSE issues in the same way he discusses assembling a complete Ithaca 1911 from loose parts. So, I’m going to say he’s got it right.

I hope you don’t find those things boring. The ONLY things I found boring were the mind-numbing political debates he has with assorted semi-governmental drones in the latter part of the book. HOWEVER: I THINK those debates were really intended to prove just how stupid/incompetent/goofy the drones were, and they end badly for his opponents. 

Minor quibble: a person as damaged as The Professor is NOT going to easily engage in bedroom gymnastics. Fortunately for geezers (I’m one), mostly the bedroom door is closed on those scenes, anyway.

Minor (maybe) quibble: my Kindle says this book has 476 pages. I would have PREFERRED this to be more than one volume, and give me a better story of what happened in Dallas, and other background mentioned tangentially. Maybe that’s going to happen, as Door One and Door Two?

Peace be on your household.

Thursday, May 18, 2023

"Trejo: My Life of Crime, Redemption, and Hollywood" (a review)

 I hope I haven't forgotten how to do this. I submitted the review to Amazon, but who knows if they will accept it? I titled it "The Mexican Rancor," and included this picture with the review:

From Season 1, Episode 3 of 
"The Book of Boba Fett"

Here's the text of my review:

I received my hardback copy as a gift from my daughter, the Beautifuful Princess Bride (yes, it IS spelled that way). She knows I have been walking down the road my brother Danny describes so vividly for 35 years, which is a bit over half of my life; and, because she knows me so very well, she knew my brother Danny’s story would speak to me.
For some years, I have used e-readers. Thus, I didn’t give the hardback copy of “Trejo” the attention it so richly deserved. I implore you not to repeat my mistake; my brother Danny filters mountains of pain to produce the sweet redemption story found here. It’s worth the sacrifice of foregoing a backlit, searchable text!
Prior to reading the book, I thought my brother Danny was only a bad-ass criminal who had lucked into a bunch of Hollywood suckers who paid him to convert real-life thuggery to the celluloid version, and that was responsible for his seeming transformation. As in the case of all lies, a great deal of truth is there. There are two missing elements, however.
The first is that his transformation preceded his Hollywood experience; it came about when he got sick and tired of being sick and tired. 
My brother Danny was never, from the moment he was born, given an environment free of fear-driven rage and violence, with the only solace coming from alcohol, drugs, sex, and inflicting violence on others. That wasn’t presented as insanity to him; it was simply the way life worked. From an early age, he was actively encouraged to follow that path, by people who took the deepest interest in his well-being. He took those lessons to heart, until the thuggery put him behind bars, and made it near-impossible to even realize that the real bars were those of the soul.
But God.
The second element missing from my earlier image of my brother Danny was that his battle to remain clean and sober was nothing, compared to his battle to recognize and overcome his character defects that prevented him from giving and receiving love.  For long decades, he was tormented by a pathology that prevented him from accepting love from the many women in his life, and he gave back rejection in exchange. 
But God.
I was delighted by the most recent appearance of my brother Danny on screen, in Season 1, Episode 3 of The Book of Boba Fett. After reading the book, I re-watched his scene (starting around 23:40) in which he presents Boba Fett with a rancor, a most horrifying and powerful beast. It hit me that in describing the rancor, he was telling his own story. His last words reveal the depth of healing he himself has been given in real life: “Don’t worry. He’ll be back.” This is THE answer to the fear that drove all of his transgressions, and his confidence in that statement show me that he, too, has learned that those he loves will not abandon him. 
My brother Danny discovered at the deepest level that it is more blessed to give than to receive, and he carries the message of redemption and recovery to those who are still suffering at all times.
He is doing it right now. 

Peace be on your household.