Review of ‘Choose Your Truth’ by Jo Miles

‘Choose Your Truth’ by Jo Miles is a very dystopian look at ‘market share’ of the viewing public. The story begins with a look inside one of these companies and a meeting on how to decide to regain their lost market share to rival companies and how they are influencing the public with lurid bits of information that may or may not be factual.

The pacing is steady with an undercurrent of insecurity because no one’s job is truly safe unless the market share increases. There is a small group that opposes the large conglomerates of media distribution, but they are too marginalized to be effective at pushing the truth, or are they?

This is well-written and offers a fascinating look at what might be if media actually became the primary source for all information and entertainment. 1984 anyone?

Review of ‘Snail’s Pace’ by Susan McDonough-Wachtman

‘Snail’s Pace’ by Susan McDonough-Wachtman has two interesting adages which define it. The first being ‘Be careful what you wish for because it could come true’ and ‘In any situation, endeavor to keep an open mind’. The first comes true very quickly, and the latter is a constant struggle for the protagonist Susannah Maureen Chambers McKay, as she learns that her new employers are aliens. Not foreigners with a different language but ALIENS, from another world. The governer is intent on having her teach diplomacy to his son and this is where keeping an open mind continues to be a struggle for the heroine. It is a fun thoughtful story nearly devoid of combat which I found to be a refreshing change from the norm. This is a well-crafted thought-provoking story that has lessons that could be used by today’s society. I heartily recommend this book.

Review – The True Son by Vanessa McLaren-Wray

‘The True Son’ by Vanessa McLaren-Wray is definitely a teaser, a short story that directly points to her novel ‘Shadows of Insurrection’. It is also a good short standalone story that sets the stage for your imagination to wonder at the world of Jeska and what else might go on beyond the small glimpse of the life of a purchased ‘son of the king’. The main character is a son purchased from a father who struggled after his wife died to care for his son. In order to provide a better chance in life, he sold the child to the crown as one of a number of similar children who, if they work hard in both physical and mental exercises, could replace the king’s own son as the new king.

The story follows the main character and how he grows and learns to deal with the growing hatred between him and the ‘True’ son of the king. It is well written and the story leaves you right at a point where you ask yourself ‘what happens next’.

Review of ‘One Man’s Trash’ – by Ryan Southwick

One Man’s Trash starts oddly slow. There is a lot of descriptive action going on at the beginning but it’s more like watching the action happen rather than experiencing it with the characters.

This changes once the main characters get onto the station – The Truck Stop at the Center of the Galaxy. Ryan Southwick does a marvelous job of delicately fleshing out the main characters with thoughtful and engrossing looks at their motivations, the situation they’re in, and whom they meet and interact with on the station. (Spoiler note: ‘Eckle’ is an interesting character.) Their adventure changes direction midway through and launches them into a desperate search to save a new friend. The story is well-crafted and presents a dual-level conflict with one being internal to the characters, and the other being a situation thrust upon them. It is well worth the read.

Brandished Destiny – Chapter 1 – Open Door

The blast of power blotted out the cloudless blue sky with a rippling distortion that turned everything grey. It smashed into me like a runaway truck. I held my ground and diverted the power upwards by imagining a curved surface in front of me. The surface did its job and the power flashed upwards to break apart in blots of grey surrounded by flecks of blue. Imagination is a great weapon when you don’t need a circle to cast, but you pay for it with strained mucsles, headaches, bodyaches, and lethargy. I had them in spades.

We’d finally gotten a handle on what we experienced facing off against a huge entity that a weird cult, led by David Cameron, had put their compound over. Both Fawn and I suddenly could do major magic without needing any kind of practice or particular item to focus. It was just there. Believe me, we were very happy it was just there back then. We’d have died along with a lot of naked senseless people trapped in cabins that were going to be used for some kind of sacrificial ritual that would have wakened said enormous entity. That we’re still alive is a testament to sheer wild luck, and perhaps magic’s own agenda.

Larry has never heard of this kind of thing ever happening before. If Larry doesn’t know, it’s a good bet that it’s something potentially unprecedented. Which ratcheted up our own paranoia about becoming lab rat test subjects for the powers-that-be in the Canadian government. We’ve kept what happened secret for our own peace of mind. Neither of us wants to give up our life as it is.

Fawn and Larry, through a lot of counseling and a lot of work, stuck together. Zhira, their daughter was born healthy and Fawn was pulled back from death’s embrace via shocking her heart back into action. I helped out for the first five months until Fawn told me to get lost and take care of myself. She’d recovered totally, and was the picture of Amazonian health. If anything, she looked more together than she had since high school.

She was back on her job and had been promoted again to precinct captain and still managed to hang on to the leadership of Dayning/Halifax police department’s Magick response team. That organization went through three incarnations before settling on the current the current ‘Special Response Unit’ moniker. The SRU was her baby. Larry had given up on trying to get her to drop that position, but had at least gotten a compromise with her being the precinct captain which meant her forays into the field were now more limited.

Fawn relaxed and glanced over to her left, where Zhira was making sand castles with daddy Larry. She turned her gaze back to me.

One more time?”

No, I’m wore out. Spend some of that extra energy on those two” I laughed, then winced. I’ve said in the past that Magick is a pain, and now it was a literal pain in the head, and the metaphorical neck. It’d be a few minutes before the headache went away, but at least it’d go. I hadn’t been terribly interested in practicing Magick, especially since it was something that just came natural after being dragon possessed.

One big consequence is after it happened the cases I got hooked into suddenly were a lot more weird and unsettling. The giant entity was the first and the most disturbing to me. Others were just plain weird.

The latest example of Weirdness was Klaus’s liquor store down the block from my office. He called me to solve a problem with missing stock. The security system he had showed no one in the place, and no one leaving. Bottles and kegs were full one moment, and empty the next. Not gone. Empty. How someone empties a full bottle of alcohol without removing the cap would have been beyond me before Prince Edward Island, now it would be simple. I’d have to do it one bottle at a time, but I could do it. Whoever played this trick on Klaus was way more practiced than I, and possibly as vindictive.

I looked everything over and couldn’t find anything – physically or Magickally – that even hinted at who, what, how, or why. I promised Klaus to come by later and bring Rynun along. I’d just gotten to my office when Klaus called me saying he’d found the missing booze.

One thing you should remember about Klaus is that he’s a bookie. He’s not big-time, and he deliberately keeps his client list small, which makes more like a hobby than a business. Apparently, he found the booze when he opened the door to the small back room where he has the booking operation. All of the booze had been transported into the room and nearly drowned him when he opened the door.

As it was his equipment was shot, and I think the critters in the sewers had a grand old time with that much booze flowing into the system all at once. I haven’t found out why or how that happened. Rynun wasn’t hanging around the alley any more so I couldn’t ask him. He’d returned to the area around my folk’s old cabin since the spell conjuring up Ahiah was finally broken.

I rubbed the nub of my little finger. Ahiah had bitten it off during that fight. I broke the original bottle with Rynun’s knife and Ahiah was banished back into the ground. We won, or more truthfully, survived.

I’d tried to forget that particular nightmare for years without any luck. It seems more than just my Magickal abilities were improved. My memory was nearly eidetic now. Maybe that was a reason why I could do spells so easy and without a circle. I could remember every sense and emotion for lack of a better description, of each spell.

It made my head swim thinking about it, so I turned my attention to my niece. Zhira was two. Her birthday was last week, and she’d gotten a genie costume. Yes, she wanted one. How did we know? She told us. Yes, at twenty months she was forming sentences. Not great ones, but definite, distinct, sentences. She saw the costume on sale for Halloween. Yes, that’s still a holiday, only one with more meaning than before. Regardless, she saw it and wanted it. And ‘Auntie’ Fern just couldn’t say no.

She hadn’t taken it off since she’d opened her present, with exceptions to wash it. I could only wonder what she’d be like by four if this was two. Maybe she’d be casting spells though gods I hoped not. Which brought my thoughts over to Fawn and I.

I find it amazing how Magick fitted itself to us in such disparate forms and yet so appropriately. Fawn’s Magick works internally. Basically she can harden her skin, increase her strength, speed, vision, hearing, etc. Anything dealing with physical attributes, she can do it. Me, mine’s all external. Fire, water, earth, air. The four classical alchemical elements. I could lift and toss rocks up to the size of a bulldozer over two kilometers, create heat that could melt brick and cause the earth to glaze. I could form shapes from my imagination, just like the earlier ramp to divert Fawn’s attack away from me.

That brings me to the most interesting part. As I said before, we’re both huge Magick batteries. Whatever happened to us at the circle when our folks cast the spell created a result that Fawn and I constantly drew Magick into us. Plus if we’re within a few meters of each other, our skills blend. Each of us is the power source for the other.

We can do those Magickal things each other can do. Fawn can punch power at me; I can harden Magick around me. They’re not quite the same, but it is close in form. If we hold hands, we become one source that can do everything. We think the same, hear the same. Our powers become one all encompassing cauldron of Magick that is anything we deem it to be. It’s intoxicating, and scares the both of us all the way to our toenails.

Something that feels that good without any apparent limits is something to avoid using. Magick is seductive enough on regular days. It’s why a number of potential wizards don’t live long enough to become wizards. They play with power and want more to play with because it’s like a heavy shot of your favorite method of getting high.

Drunk on power is not just a metaphor. Knowing when you’re getting into that kind of power is what keeps you alive and sane. It made us paranoid. We did some research and had Larry help us out. We found nothing describing what was going on with us.

Larry is still hunting through whatever’s on the ‘net. And we live as quietly as we can with this power and try not to go too crazy with it all. Thankfully Zhira seems unaffected by it. She’s a normal active little girl with curly Ash blonde hair and the most intense violet eyes. Eyes like that usually presages Magickal ability, and with her parents, it’s kind of a given she’d be some kind of Magick wielder. Honestly, I’m looking forward to seeing it and dreading it at the same time.

Magick is has been the one big constant in my life since the craziness started happening with Hervald Thensome. I could definitely do without more crazy Magick. Which was why Fawn and I were practicing. You know the old saying of ‘waiting for the other shoe to drop’? We knew it was going to happen. Magick’s got its own agenda, and like it or not anyone that practices Magick is part of that ongoing agenda.

Reminiscing can get you really lost in your own head. However, sometimes the past comes knocking at your door. When it does, you really should avoid answering. I’d left the door wide open and the past came waltzing through in full party mode. What’s a girl going to do?

Dark Renaissance – Chapter 4- Appearance & Chapter 5 – Interlude 2

Chapter 4

Sapphire walked back out of Diagon-tubely, heading for the Checkpoint. With luck she’d have a note at the dead-drop. The note would also give her a location to lead the children to. Those hiding the kids had regular jobs. Moving the children themselves would jeopardize their cover, and their lives. Once at her hidden tube, she changed to the black-clad huntress, and sped off to the small drain that emptied the subway during storms. Crawling on hands and knees to exit, she accelerated towards downtown London. She emerged from the Tube at an abandoned spur near Charing Cross. A quick sprint away from the small crowd at the Tube and she was in the open.

Cars dotted the streets, with a few pedestrians hurrying home just before curfew. The cars were easy to avoid, and she darted forward, outrunning them easily. A quick turn brought her to the edge of the Park. Here she ran past the entrance, and to the first bench seat. She knelt quickly and felt underneath the seat, finding a small taped plastic package. She pulled it loose and tore the plastic away. Opening the letter she got the location for the next dead drop and the one for the children – Charing Cross Orphanage.

The children had been hidden in the closed orphanage as it had adequate beds for them. Her job was to get them north to the border. The first step would be to get to the orphanage without being detected. Her speed would make it hard to track visually. The trouble was that any report would give Control a place to start looking. If they started looking, the kids would be found. The first order of business was to be seen elsewhere. She bit back a sob. The decoy would have been her job, and Selene would have been leading the kids to another stop northward. Now, she had to do both jobs. She offered a silent prayer to her sisters, and hoped they could hear it. Then she ran towards downtown once more.

Chapter 5

Hamish Montrose fidgeted at his desk. He liked the desk, and hated the work. The desk represented power. It was his. The work was the captain’s. He glanced at the paperwork, then opened the bottom drawer, and swept the papers into it. He kicked the drawer shut with savage satisfaction, and stood up. Grabbing his coat, he stalked towards the Seeker room. It was here that spells to find were cast. Not that they worked, but it did catch those that couldn’t hide themselves, or were too poor to have a obscurement spell cast for them. The Seeker on duty glanced up as Montrose entered. “We’ve got a sighting, sir. “Two blocks east of Charing Cross Station. Yellojakket. Report says she’s moving south at a high rate of speed. Casting’s confirmed she’s out and about. Whatever’s protecting her is still working, we can’t narrow the search down.”

Montrose nodded, then turned back around. “Keep me updated. I’ll grab a mic, set it to channel K. I’ll be listening in.” “Of course sir. Anything else sir?” Montrose shook his large square features. “No, yes, yes there is. Can you track Captain Sheffield for me? I’d like to talk with him soonest. There’s an irregularity that must needs cleaning up.” Very good sir, I’ll pass the captain’s location on when we have it.” Montrose nodded, then continued out of the room. Yellowjakket was waiting, and he intended to finish the job he’d started.

Dark Renaissance – A look at Sapphire

Sapphire is the main protagonist in ‘Dark Renaissance’.  She is the last surviving triplet of Saffron  Carter-Hargrave.  Her sisters were named Shiva and Selene.

Sapphire was the odd triplet.  She was born not breathing and her umbilical cord wrapped tight about her neck.  Heroic measures were taken to save her life, and they worked, but her brain had been starved of oxygen long enough that some portions, such as the connection between the other two triplets, did not exist.  Shiva and Selene both could anticipate the other’s thoughts, Sapphire was alone while identical.

Her sisters grew up highly intelligent, and driven.  Sapphire was not the brilliant mind her sisters were, but made up for most shortcomings by being determined and persistent in everything she attempted.  Power-wise, her sisters shared a greater portion of abilities and powers, Sapphire’s own power set was a part of her mother’s who was the original Yellowjakket.  Sapphire’s powerset was in speed, and electricity, being able to fire bolts of it that could burn out equipment and stun human opponents.  She could push her power and use it effectively against hostile superhumans.  Her sisters could teleport, use light to create solid objects and use electricity like Sapphire, only with more control.

Her sisters never felt sorry for her, nor did Sapphire feel envious.  They were sisters and looked out for each other, just like their father and mother taught them.  As stated in the book, they took their mother’s identity as Yellowjakket when she was killed.

In the story, Sapphire is picking up the pieces and attempting to carry on as the sole-surviving Yellowjakket and protect people from the powers that be in the form of Hamish Monroe.  She is thrust into a far bigger role as she discovers that her sisters were aiming far beyond just saving lives in London.  The story is as much about where Sapphire comes from as it is about her differences from her triplet sisters and what they have set in motion.

Grimaulkin Tales – A Review

Grimaulkin Tales is about the main character in Grimaulkin, Mike LeBonte.  It’s also about those characters that appear peripherally within the series also.  Through their experiences we see some of the costs of magic, repercussions, triumphs, and tragedies that come with being a witch.

The Demon’s Tale – This is a story of revenge; it is also one of tolerance, and a cautionary tale. The protagonist is the victim of constant bullying in and out of school. When the temptation to use power to stop the bullying happens, he immediately succumbs to the quick fix, only to find that all he accomplished was to change whom he was bullied by. The use of power amounted to a temporary fix. The story is dark, but also interesting, as we get to see the formative situations for the main character of the “Grimaulkin” series. And what causes him to eventually be thrown in magical prison.

The Origin Tale – This short tale gives the reader the signal moment that created Mike LeBonte’s new life, and the consequences that follow him into the first book of the series. It’s a classic example of ‘going postal’ that you read about, only with a different method of ‘revenge’.

The Tale of the Eight Deaths – We seldom see the results of actions we set in motion, but in this vignette of short tales we are able to experience the full result of Mike’s actions in ‘The Origin Tale’. These tales encompass revenge and tragedy in equal measures, show also how temptation in the form of carrot and stick can take a person over the moral line they’ve toed to this point.

The Knight’s Tale – “The Knight’s Tale” poses an interesting question of what constitutes being saved. Is it for simply saving a life … or saving a life for something else?

The Inmate’s Tale – This tale is an interesting look at the inside of a prison. How relationships are made, how your life is molded by the choices you make in an instant that change the direction of your life.

The Jailer’s Tale – “The Jailer’s Tale” is somewhat of a misnomer but it was the best fit with the characters and place. This is a tale of more a second chance than about a Jailer, though the Jailer is the main character. There’s more about mercy, and acceptance than jail.

The Prodigal’s Tale – This tale is somewhat like the Knight’s, but is a bit different. It deals with a person more suited to back alleys than a confrontation, but does end up being ‘called’ as a knight. One might see ‘The Scene’, the life outside of the church, as a chance to experience the difference between the secular world, and the place he grew up in.

The Squire’s Tale – The Squire’s Tale is about finding family secrets — and in a surprising way. In a sense, it’s also about a child ‘coming of age’ in an unusual manner.

The Tale of the Unicorn – This story is a sidelight of sorts, being more about how magic can be used to build rather than tear down. The effect of magic is muted here, and we can infer that magic may be working, but the situation is just vague enough to question the use of magic in the situation.

The Rogue’s Tale – This is a bit of a misnomer considering the subject. I suppose that with magic involved, if you want to be rid of a person, you do the job yourself, or have irrefutable proof that they are gone. Otherwise things tend to bite you at the most inopportune moments.

The Tale of the Two Rings – “The Tale of the Two Rings” is about prejudice, overcoming it, love, and some of those things a person in love does … and how sometimes it all works out into a happy ending.

The Family’s Tale – “The Family’s Tale” is one about Family, obviously, and acceptance. It’s also about finding your place in the world and avenues that need to be explored to more fully understand one’s part in it. It’s also about magic, the family kind, and the kind that allows the scientifically impossible to happen. Family is the greatest place of joy, and can be the deepest place of unhappiness, horror, and hatred. There is a little of everything to go around in this tale.  I like this story the best of the series.

The Apprentice’s Tale – This is a tale that becomes intensely personal for Mike, and his new apprentice. It begins with a request from a Police station in Portsmouth, New Hampshire involving a young child, and a satanic cult. The writing is compelling and could easily be turned into a much longer and more involved story.