A MelanieM Review: The Beast Without by Christian Baines

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Rating: 4.75 stars out of 5

The Beast Without coverReylan, a Blood Shade, the correct term for vampires,, likes being on his own.  He is wealthy, gorgeous,  sexy and particular in who he eats.  He picks out his prey from the popular gay clubs of Sidney, on Oxford Street.  Reylan is always careful not to take too much, just enough to last a few days  before he has to feed again.  So when a crazed werewolf kills his latest companion, Reylan is not happy.  He is even less so when the werewolf, young Jorgas, seems to have developed an obsession with him.  An obsession that puts Reylan and those he cares about at risk.

In order for Reylan to take care of the situation, he finds he must work with a mysterious supernatural organization  called The Arcadia Trust and its leader Patricia Bakker.  The Arcadia Trust has its own agenda and wants Reylan to deliver the werewolf to them alive.  But things change when Reylan hunts down the young werewolf in question.  In a moment of intense need and hunger a tenuous relationship is formed between vampire and werewolf, a relationship neither wants.

As more people are murdered around them, Reylan, Jorgas and The Arcadian Trust must look further than Jorgas for the cause while trying to protect the ones inside their circle.  Reylan soon realizes that the civility he has cloaked his life in is no longer enough.  Its time for his true predator nature to come out and stay out if he is to stay alive and locate the true murderer among them.

What an excellent take on vampires and werewolves.  The Beast Without is such a far cry from the Twilight movies and other more current representations of these two supernatural beings. The werewolves and vampires of The Beast Without are not the benign creatures of the night that we see in popular movies and books these days.  No, the supernaturals of this novel, The Blood Shades and the Flesh Masters (werewolves) are apex predators, vicious and superior to humans who are regarded as food.  It’s actually kind of refreshing.

The vampires, werewolves and other supernatural beings like Cloak Masters (invisible beings) are genetic by nature.  All come from families where the various genes for each type of creature runs in the family.  It can skip generations and then, right around puberty, those that carry the gene mutate into the creature whose genes they carry, whether it be vampire, werewolf, or something quite different.  Christian Baines is developing a great back history for these supernaturals, a history that is being revealed slowly throughout the book.

Along with his impressive world building, Baines takes particular pains to make his characters complex, otherworldly and sometimes cruel in their outlook.  Take Reylan.  He is not human and revels in being a Blood Shade, finding the term vampire to be distasteful and tawdry. An asexual being, at least in the beginning, he dines on men, preferring the power and vigor in their blood to the caution and other traits that occurs in female hemoglobin.   As created by Baines, Reylan is a loner, a predator and absolutely absorbing.

I can’t  say enough about the characters i found here.  Whether it is Jorgas, a confused, raged filled werewolf, Father Isaac O’Baer of Saint Barnabas Church, a Father handy with advice or a knife, or Patricia Bakker, the enigmatic leader of The Arcadia Trust, these beings are intricately layered, wildly unpredictable in nature, and totally absorbing to read about.  I can’t get enough of them or anyone else that pops up in this story.  It’s really just a roll call of strange and wonderful creatures, each more exciting, dangerous and complex  than the one before.   They may not be real, but they certainly feel that way.  Here is Reylan’s thoughts on Cloak Walkers:

It’s said, perhaps cruelly, that you can smell a Cloak Walker long before you hear him – such is the inevitable toll of invisibility on personal hygiene. It’s even been claimed that the condition brings on leprosy, and that a Cloak Walker may be tracked by the body parts he leaves behind. I find what this theory lacks in credence, it makes up for in originality.

I love that wry, amused tone.  A little mean and deceptively mild. Perfect.

The plot is just as twisted and deceptive as the characters.  Baines has really done justice to each element here.  Both the story line and supernatural beings are totally worthy of each other, working their magic on the reader from page one.  Baines’ style of writing is smooth, his descriptions vivid and sometimes almost graphically realistic.  Here is our introduction to Reylan as he heads out to hunt at night:

 I’m not human, but even so, this is a reality I can’t ignore. If I’m not careful when I feed, when I take my fill of blood, I can quickly become the wrong one-nighter.

I’ll thank you not to use the ‘v’ word.

Given my proximity to Oxford Street, the sleazy, pulsing artery of Sydney’s nightclub district where I’ve lived for the better part of thirty years, I try not to visit any club twice in the same week. It’s safer that way, particularly for a man whose lifestyle depends on discretion. Barely two nights ago, I’d graced Fantasy, a club full of pretty, if flighty young things – some gay, some straight, most happily open minded on the subject. So the following night’s destination was Blaze, a club currently serving as de facto cathedral to the Church of Saint Muscle Mary, where the buff and beautiful took time out of their forty hour a week gym schedules to model, preen and occasionally dance the night away for the slack-jawed ogling pleasure of curious onlookers.

For hunting clothes, I chose a pair of tight leather trousers, an equally tight lycra vest and a silver-studded belt. A little attractive, a little sexual, and a little ridiculous. The perfect human mix I’d developed over the years. Not the epitome of modern style, but on a healthy twenty-four-year-old man, which is what I appear to be, it did say ‘come hither and bed me,’ which was the whole point.

Then, there was the pill. I rarely use them, but if options are lacking and I get too impatient, a little chemistry in a capsule can seal the sumptuous fate of any prospective companion. You needn’t judge me. You do a lot worse to your food. Besides, it’s not as if I’ve had to use it – recently.

There he is, all deliciousness in tone and outlook.  But soon Reylan will demonstrate just exactly how good a predator he is.  How I came to love him.

I should make one thing clear.  This is not a romance.  There are m/m relationships, there is sexual need, blood lust and heat a plenty.  But if you are looking for roses and candlelight dinners, this is not the story for you.  A convoluted relationship does develop between Reylan and Jorgas, but it is just at the beginning stages and it is certainly not based on love or even affection.  A bond certainly, but of need and blood and baser emotions.  It is realistic and involving as any I have read, and I love it.

Incredibly, The Beast Without is Christian Baines first novel. I came so close to giving this  remarkable story a 5-star rating but there are just too many loose ends that remain unresolved at the end of the story to go that final inch.    Christian Baines lays out a mystery for us, several in fact but nothing more.  Just speculation and insidiously addicting clues to a larger mystery looming behind the smaller ones. Everything about The Beast Without cries out for a sequel and I can only hope that one is in the works. At any rate, I highly recommend this rich and rewarding take on vampires and werewolves, especially for those of you tired of sparkle.

Cover art and design is terrific. Cover Images: Ivan Bliznetsov (front); DSNR (back) Jacket Design: David P Reiter

Afternote:  Christian Baines has indicated that a sequel to The Beast Without is planned, very good news indeed.

Sales Links:     All Romance (ARe)          Amazon      buy it here

Book Details:

Paperback, 234 pages
Published March 27th 2013 by Glass House Books
ISBN 192212043X (ISBN13: 9781922120434)
edition language
also eBook edition

January is Down Under Author Showcase Month and the Week Ahead at Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

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DownUnder_January Is Banner

 

 January is Down Under Author Showcase Month!

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Starting January 1st, Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is having its first annual Down Under Author Showcase.  Each day in the month of January we are featuring a different author from either New Zealand or Australia and their stories in an effort to promote these wonderful authors, not all of whom you might be familiar with.

This year many of my favorite books as well as  those of my reviewers came from these 28 authors who were able to bring their cities, territories, and people so vividly to life in book after book.  Each Down Under Author of the day will have their own individual contest as well as participate in the larger overall Down Under Author Scavenger Hunt.  More about that later.  There is a whole slew of prizes, over 35 to be exact for the readers to win.  Among those prizes include a $75 Amazon gift card, and gift baskets from the Embassies of Australia and New Zealand here in DCa, the 6 books that make up Dreamspinner’s Under the Southern Cross Anthology (thank you, Dreamspinner Press) and much, much more.

Those prizes are part of our Down Under Author Scavenger Hunt.  Somewhere on each day’s post is a hidden “Hunt” word or phrase in bold green.  Find and collect all the clues and then follow the instructions for submitting them at the end of the month!  Originally we were going to select 5 winners but the boxes from the Embassies overflowed with goodies so we are going to bring them up and award 2 boxes from each country as gifts.  My thanks to the staff of the Embassy of Australia and the Embassy of New Zealand for putting these gift boxes together for our event.

Want to know whose participating this month?  Check out this amazing role call of authors from Down Under:

Christian Baines         N.R. Walker            Anne Barwell              Nic Starr

Meredith Shayne        Renae Kaye             John Wiltshire           John Terry Moore

Lily Veldon                  Barry Rowe             L. J. LaBarthe            Beany Sparks

Jack Burnes                Nicki J. Markus      Michelle Rae              A. B. Gayle

Lisa Harris                 Isabelle Rowan        N. J. Nielson             Bette Brown

Lisa Henry                 Toni Griffin             Pelaam                        R. J. Jones

Penny Brandon          Cecil Wilde             Ellen Cross                Maggie Nash

Also hanging out with us this month Bottom Drawer Publications and Wayward Ink Press, also from Down Under!  What a month it’s going to be!   Author interviews, guest blogs and books, and contest, contest, contests!  If these amazing countries weren’t already on your travel want list, they will be after this.

And of course, we are still reviewing away as well as hosting book tours.  January has never been so busy or so full of authors and stories.

Now here is our week at Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words:

Monday, December 29, 2014:

  • Aria Grace “Just Stay” Book Blast and Contest
  • Cover reveal – The Adventures of Cole and Perry by Amanda C. Stone (tour and contest)
  • A Mika Review: Designs of Desire (Desires Entwined #1) by Tempeste O’Riley
  • A Mika Review: Bound by Desire (Desires Entwined #1.75) by Tempeste O’Riley

Tuesday, December 30, 2014:

  • A Mika Review: Desires’ Guardian (Desires Entwined #2) by Tempeste O’Riley
  • A Mika Review: Temptations of Desire (Desires Entwined, #3) by Tempeste O’Riley
  •  Barb, the Zany Old Lady’s Best Books of 2014 List
  • Paul B’s Best Books of 2014
  • MelanieM’s Best Covers of 2014

Wednesday, December 31, 2014:

  • According to Hoyle by Abigail Roux Book Tour and Contest
  • Skye Jones’ “Claimed by Love” Book Tour and Contest
  • A MelanieM Review: One Holiday Ever After by Tere Michaels, Elle Brownlee and Elizah J. Davis
  • A Mika Review: Truth in Lace (Desires Entwined #3.5) by Tempeste O’Riley
  • Aurora’s Best YA Books & Covers for 2014

STRW down Under Banner sm Hearts

Thursday, January 1st, 2015 – Down Under Author Showcase Starts!

  • Down Under Author of the Day:  Christian Baines (contest)
  • A MelanieM Review:  The Beast Without by Christian Baines
  • Mika Review: All That Heaven Will Allow by DW Marchwell
  • Down Under Author Showcase Contest Recap and notes
  • A Barb, the Zany Old Lady Review: Vixen’s Valor by Charlie Cochet

Friday, January 2, 2015:

  • Nicki J. Markus- Down Under Author of the Day
  • Two Gentlemen of Altona Henry/Rock Riptide Book Tour and Contest
  • A Sammy Review: Making Nice by Elizah J. Davis
  • A MelanieM Review:  Fair Play by Josh Lanyon

Saturday, January 3, 2015:

  • Anne Barwell – Down Under Author of the Day
  • An Aurora YA Review: Children of the Knight (Children of the Knight #1) by Michael J. Bowler

 

Remember, a different contest each play plus hidden clues to find for the overall prizes!  And coming in May, Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words First Annual Authors Across the Pond Showcase!  It’s going to be a wonderful year!

 

 

 

 

Review: The Prince and the Practitioner by Christian Baines

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Rating: 3 stars out of 5

The Prince and the Practitioner coverEliot had been practicing magic for most of his life but never had he been successful in summoning a demon…until now.  Far too impulsive for his own good, Eliot’s spell casting has always been a hit or miss proposition.  Sometimes it worked, mostly it didn’t.  So when the summoning succeeded and brought forth a demon, it didn’t work out exactly as Eliot had hoped.  Instead of a demon to control, the demon Prynthius now had control of Eliot.  With Prynthius deep within Eliot’s body, Eliot decides, to his horror and pain, that the only way to dislodge the demon is to pass him on to another unsuspecting body, one that the demon must approve of before the transfer is made.

Dean, tall, gorgeous and sexy, seems like the perfect target when Eliot sees him at the local gay hookup bar.  With the demon’s pain induced instructions echoing in his mind, Eliot accepts Dean’s invitation to return home with him for a night full of hot sex and kinky exploration.  But is Dean as straightforward as he appears?  Who will be left standing when all the secrets are exposed?

Christian Baines’ first novel, The Beast Without, was a terrific supernatural tale of horror.  It contained multidimensional characters and a complex plot.  At 234 pages, the author gave himself the length necessary to explore in detail the world he was creating as well as construct a complex history for his main and secondary characters.  It was a refreshing take on creatures dominating all forms of media these days,  vampires and werewolves, and I loved it.

The Prince and the Practitioner has many of the same elements that exemplified The Beast Without but at approximately 27 pages it seems to be missing the breadth and detail necessary to make this story feel as well constructed and polished as the one that preceded it.

Once again Christian Baines has chosen to feature in his story a couple of creatures seen often in novels and on tv and movie screens these days, the demon and the wizard.  Baines appears to enjoy tearing away any romantic overlay from often used character types to pare them down to the horrific bare bones they are capable of.  That is certainly the case with his characters here.     Eliot is not an especially admirable person.  He is certainly not one most readers will relate to.  His is a slapdash morality, one more composed of expediency and self interest than one based in any sort of ethicality and righteousness. Prynthius is everything a malevolent demon should be or at least the backstory provided by the author makes him out to be.  Prynthius is more a dubious outline of a monster than a fleshed out one.  And that lack of solidity lessens the impact his demon is supposed to make.

Dean only snaps into place as a credible character midway through the story.  I can understand why the author made this decision but again it delays the cohesion to the narrative.  The story starts off more like a simplistic piece of porn than a tale of horror.  Had Baines given the reader a little more substance, a little more back story to the opening scenes of The Prince and the Practitioner, this would have felt more polished and solid than the story it finally morphed into.

I don’t have to like a book  or its characters to admire the cleverness of the plot is or the preciseness of the prose, both of which can be found within this story. Like fun house mirrors, nothing is as it seems here but still I had an issue or two with Eliot. With characters whose sense of morality has the same properties as a puddle of muddy water, one character’s righteous indignation at the end seemed false and out of place, especially considering the events that preceded it.  Either the author meant to show Eliot’s gift of self deception to be as endless as I felt it was or the hypocrisy of the scene didn’t bother him as it did me.  This departure from the persona the author has created felt like a break in the characterization, an unnecessary one to my mind.

I do feel the twist at the end elevated The Prince and the Practitioner past porn into a story with layers as opposed to merely sequential sex scenes.  I only wish that the author had included trace elements early on that hinted at the depth and twists of plot to come.  So too does any tenderness and compassion feel completely out of place among these egocentric masters of magic.

This short story contains elements of bdsm (whipping to be precise), D/s, and non con.  For some readers, including lovers of horror, this quick read might be just the thing for you.  For others, especially those lovers of stories of romantic love, I recommend you look elsewhere and to another author as romance does not seem to be in Christian Baines’ box of literary ingredients the way horror and the supernatural most certainly are.

I am looking  forward to what his imagination turns to next.  At any rate I expect it to be entertaining and worthy of discussion.  I leave any recommendations up to you.

Cover art by Wilde City Press.  This cover has a generic feel to it.  It certainly does not speak to the magic and demon you will find inside.

Book Details:

ebook, 1st Edition
Published January 15th 2014 by Wilde City Press

A Touch of Spring, a Ray of Sunshine and the Week Ahead in Review

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Winter-Tree-34870004It’s 60 degrees here today.  The sun is shining, the snow is melting, and thoughts of Spring are crowding into my mind.  I know that February still has to run its course.  And March can and most likely will be blustery and cold.  And yet, and yet.  All this warmth and sunshine is playing games with my head, luring me out to garden centers bare of plants and hardware stores still packed full of snow shovels and sand for the driveway.

There I linger not over the snowblowers and mittens, but the seed packets and starting trays.  The small portable greenhouses and adjustable hoes for tilling around established plants in the gardens.  New feeders and birdbaths beckon, and then even more until I have to flee before I find myself laden down with purchases at the counter.

Instead I am heading off to lunch with our DC Metro Romance Group of authors, publishers, bloggers and readers.  We postponed it already once this month due to snow.  I can’t wait to hear how every one is handling this long winter.  New books, new conferences, time to get caught up.

Here is the week ahead….Its almost March and I hear my gardens calling.

Monday, Feb. 24:           The Experiment by Alicia Nordwell

Tuesday, Feb. 25:           Where You Lead by Mary Calmes

Wed., Feb. 26:                 Jasper’s Mountain by John Inman

Thurs., Feb. 27:               The Prince and the Practitioner by Christian Baines

Friday, Feb. 28:              February 2014 Summary of Reviews, Best Covers of the Month

Sat., March 1:                  Hunter By Blood by Robin White

Scattered Thoughts Best Books of 2013

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ScatteredThoughtsandRogueWords Presents:

best-books of 2013

Time for Scattered Thoughts to look back at all the wonderful books read and reviewed in 2013 and try to pick those stories that stood out the most among all the many stories I read.  As always it was a hard thing to do because there were so many this year that crowded at the top.  How to choose between Sarah Black’s The General and the Horse-Lord and her sequel, The General and the Elephant Clock of Al-Jazeri?  Or Ariel Tachna’s Outlast the Night and her Conquer the Flames?  It was only by the mm (seems reasonable) that the latter book for each won out.parabook

Some authors did end up with two books in my lists, whether it was because they were in two different categories or because they were in different series or just because they were that good.  I also ended up with more categories this year, including  Best Humor, Best Young Adult, Best New Vampire and Best New Werewolf.  The variety in genres just begged for subcategories so I created them.  Something really new this year was the interconnected series from the Pulp Friction group. Each series and main characters were intimately connected to each other and culminated in a four author four series finale story.  It was outstanding and earned all four a place on my list.

And then there were the marvelous novels like Harper Fox’ Brothers of the Wild North Seas whose review has slid into 2014 but is one of my top novels of any year.  Anyway, here are the books I chose in alphabetical order.  Which authors/stories were on your list this year?

Best Contemporary Novels of 2013:

  • Best Stand Alone Novels:

Illumination by Rowen Speedwell
The Sky is Dead by Sue Brown

Best Action/Suspense Fiction of 2013:

Collusion by Eden Winters (Diversion series)
Corruption by Eden Winters (Diversion series)
Pulp Friction Series of 2013 (4 interconnected series)

Shock & Awe by Abigail Roux
Touch & Geaux  by Abigail Roux (Cut & Run series)
Worlds Collide by R.J. Scott

Humorous Fiction of 2013:
Books with wings in the sky

Shy by John Inman
Hobbled by John Inman
Tell Me It’s Real by TJ Klune

Young Adult/YA Subject Oriented Fiction:

Christmas Kitsch by Amy Lane
Necromancy and You by Missouri Dalton
Vampirism and You by Missouri Dalton

Best Historical Fiction:

Lessons for Suspicious Minds by Charlie Cochrane
On The Lee Shore by Elin Gregory
Trick of Time by JL Merrow

Best Horror/Fantasy:skeleton-clip-art-15-315x600

Dance Only For Me (Dance With The Devil #6) by Megan Derr
Too Many Fairy Princes by Alex Beecroft
The Mingled Destinies of Crocodiles and Men by Eric Arvin

Best Science Fiction Novel/ Series of 2013:

Aria of the Eclipse by Vivien Dean
One Breath, One Bullet by S.A. McAuley
Dominant Predator by S.A. McAuley  (sequel to the one above)
Fragile Bond by Rhi Etzweiler
Scorpion (Memory of Scorpions #1) by Aleksandr Voinov (fantasy)

Best Supernatural/Paranormal Fiction of 2013:

Close Quarter by Anna Zabo
Into This River I Drown by TJ Klune
Re-entry Burn (Superpowered Love #5) by Katey Hawthorne
Undertow by Andrea Speed (Infected series)

Best New Vampire (a tie):

The Beast Without by Christian Baines
The Family: Liam by K.V. Taylor

Best New Werewolf:

Strength of the Wolf (The Tameness of the Wolf #2) by Kendall McKenna

Happy New Year, everyone!  Happy Reading To All and May 2014 Be Great!

New Year Book

Scattered Thoughts Summary of Reviews for August 2013

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August banner with pencils

August 2013 Review and Blog Summary:

5 Star Rating:

Fifty Fifty Chances Are (Chances Are #3) by Lee Brazil, contemporary
Ghost of a Chance (Chances Are #4) by Lee Brazil, contemporary
Wicked Guidance (Wicked’s Way #4) by Havan Fellows, contemporary
Wicked Incarcerations (Wicked’s Way #3) by Havan Fellows contemporarysummer images with book

4 to 4.75 Star Rating:

Chances Are (Chances Are #1) by Lee Brazil (4.5 stars) contemporary
Dance Only For Me (Dance With The Devil #6) by Megan Derr (4.75 stars) fantasy
Demolished by Astrid Amara (4 stars), contemporary
Home Sweet Home (Home #5) by T.A. Chase, (4.5 stars) contemporary
Second Chances Are (Chances Are #2) by Lee Brazil
The Beast Without by Christian Baines (4.75 stars) supernatural
Welcome, Brother (College Fun and Gays #5) by Erica Pike (4 stars) contemporary
Wicked Bindings (Wicked’s Ways #2) by Havan Fellows
Wicked Solutions (Wicked’s Ways #1) by Havan Fellows

3 to 3.75 Star Rating:

Burden by Annmarie McKenna (3.5 stars) contemporary
Faire Fugitive by Madeleine Ribbon (3.75 stars) fantasy
Fall For Me (Rock Gods #1) by Ann Lister, contemporary
Handle With Care by Josephine Myles (3.5 stars) contemporary
Mixed Tapes, Vol. 2 by Kris Jacen editor (3.5 stars) contemporary
Nischal (Leopard’s Spots #9) by Bailey Bradford (3.75 stars) supernatural
Subtle Innuendos (Mixed Tape series) by Z. Allora (3 stars) contemporary
The Boy Who Came In From The Cold by B.G. Thomas ((3 stars) contemporary

2 to 2.75 Star Rating:

The Queen’s Librarian by Carole Cummings (2.75 stars) fantasy

1 to 1.75 Star Rating:

Aching For It (Dominican Heat #1) by Stanley Bennett Clay (1 star) contemporary

Other Blogs:
Author Spotlight: Havan Fellows    
Author Spotlight: Lee Brazil
Wait? That Was The Ending? A Writing Mini rant From Scattered Thoughts

A Touch of Fall and The Week In Reviews

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So you know that certain color of blue that only appears in the fall skies?  That is the color of the sky outside this morning.  The air has a certain crispness about it, so foreign usually in August here in Maryland.  The light is shining at a different angle, portending the coming fall and the promise of colder weather.  I even heard a flock of Canada Geese this morning, honking as they flew overhead in the largest formation I have seen this year.  What does it all mean?  Probably nothing.  But as I love autumn, I am sure that my step is a little lighter this morning and the dogs a little bouncier on this day that seems so full of anticipation.

So I will be gathering up knitting, Kindle, dogs and my coffee and heading outside to bask in the light of a fall to come.  I cannot tarry inside for I know how fleeting such days are.  Here is the week ahead in reviews and a mini rant on story resolutions.

Monday, Aug. 5, 2013:                    Dance Only For Me by Megan Derr

Tuesday, Aug. 6, 2013:                    Wicked Solutions #1 by Haven Fellows

Wed., Aug. 7, 2013:                           Faire Fugitive by Madeleine Ribbons

Thurs., Aug. 8, 2013:                         Wicked Bindings #2 by Haven Fellows

Friday, Aug. 9, 2013:                        The Beast Without by Christian Baines

Saturday, Aug 10, 2013:                 Wait? That Was The Ending? A Story Writing Mini Rant