A MelanieM Release Day Review: Once Upon a Time in the Weird West Anthology

Standard

Rating:  4.75 stars out of 5

 

once-upon-a-time-in-the-weird-westThis isn’t the same old Wild West. The usual suspects are all present: cowboys, outlaws, and sheriffs. There’s plenty of dust, tumbleweeds, horses, and cattle on the range, but there are also magical gems, automatons, elementals, airships… even dinosaurs and genetically modified insects. Roaming among the buffalo and coyotes, you’ll encounter skinwalkers, mad engineers, mythical beings cloaked in darkness, and lovers who stay true to their oaths… even beyond the grave. On this frontier are those at the mercy of their own elaborate devices as well as men whose control of time and space provides a present-day vision of the West. There might even be a dragon hidden amongst the ghost towns and wagon trains.

If you like your Westerns with a splash of magic, a touch of steampunk, and plenty of passionate romance between men, these genre-bending tales will exceed expectations.

Hold on to your hats, cowboys and cowgirls. The West is about to get weird, and you’re in for a hell of a ride.

Its been quite a while since I’ve  read such a strong and outstanding anthology.  I can recommend almost every story and most are 4 to 5 stars.  Its remarkable.  The American West has always been wild but never this weird and extraordinary.  In the hands of these authors, they transport the readers and romance into other dimensions  and worlds entirely.  From steampunk to mages to things supernatural, all the roads to love, however strange and mysterious, can be found here.

I’ve listed them in the order they can be found in the anthology with my comments and ratings.

Reaper’s Ride by Astrid Amara  – 5 Stars

Johnny Jenkins  loves  most aspects of riding  for the Pony Express, but  the  loneliness  can  be  hard  to  abide.  When  a  raid  injures  the  station keeper  at  remote  Jacob’s  Well,  Johnny  is  left  alone  to  tend  the  incoming riders until a replacement can be found. Isolated and without even a horse to keep him company, Johnny thinks he might go mad from solitude. 

That is, until he meets Sye Fairchild, a rider for a different kind of express.  This  one  operates  in  the  shadows,  and  the  deliveries  are  of  a much  darker  nature.  Sye  is  dashing  and  kind,  but  he’s  also  under  a deadline—he’s  got  to  finish  his  deliveries  by  Friday,  or  he  breaks  a  very old and very serious bargain. 

And  as  Johnny  finds  a  kindred  soul  in  Sye,  he  realizes  that  soul needs saving—even if it means ruining his own.

 Astrid Amara does her normal outstanding job of melding accurate historical fiction with the supernatural in the Reaper’s Ride, one of my favorites.  It launches this anthology with a bang and I still have this couple hanging about in my head.

Wild, Wild Heart by Shira Anthony – 5 stars

Al Pennington and Cyrus Reese are both damaged men. Apprenticed as a child to a master who created clockwork wonders, Al now prefers to spend his days on his secluded homestead, toiling over his own fantastical inventions. But when he takes the wounded Cyrus into his home and nurses him back to health, Al realizes he wants Cyrus to stay. Al’s tired of being alone, Cyrus is tired of running, and maybe their time together can be a balm to wounds left by their difficult pasts. 

When an outlaw bent on dragging Cyrus back into a life of crime comes knocking, Al is seriously injured. Cyrus must quite literally take Al’s broken heart in his hands to save his life.

 Wild, Wild Heart by Shira Anthony makes steampunk inventions believable as she does the men who  toil over them.  Here a simple sound become ominous, and then  joyous.  I loved it.

Dr. Ezekiel Crumb’s Heavenly Soul Purifying Elixir by Lex Chase – 3.75 stars

Dr. Ezekiel Crumb’s Medicine Show runs a booming business conning homesteaders with his Heavenly Soul Purifying Elixir. He takes advantage of the gullible, who believe the only way to be purged of their sins is with his moonshine—strong enough to strip paint at forty paces. 

When a sandstorm buries his caravan, Ezekiel is hauled to safety and trapped in his wagon. His savior is none other than Levi Everett, his lost love. But Ezekiel put him in the ground years ago, and he fears Levi is the Devil, come to demand atonement for his sins. The tale Levi spins leaves Ezekiel wondering if he’s lost his own soul—or maybe his mind. All he knows is that not even his elixir can heal his broken heart.

 I thought this story got stronger the further in I got and loved the ending.

Corpse Powder by Jana Denardo –    4.75 stars

Doctor Isaac Adler came to Virginia City, Nevada, to escape the horrors he witnessed during the War between the States. Despite a living in a thriving Jewish community, Isaac’s having trouble finding his faith… and finding work. Just when he’s contemplating leaving the desert, life takes an unexpected turn when the airship Aurora is attacked by pirates and Isaac is called upon to help the wounded.

The ship’s first mate, Tsela “Alexander” Zhani, is also trying to outrun a nightmare, his in the form of the powerful skinwalker who drove him from his Navajo village. Tsela’s friendship with the handsome doctor responsible for saving the lives of his friends gives both men a fragile hope for a better future. But their demons aren’t as far behind them as they thought.

 Corpse Powder  blends two religions and two disparate men and comes up with a remarkable romance.  One is Dr. Isaac Adler, Jewish and afraid of heights.  The other, a flying ship’s first mate, Tsela Zhani, a Navajo being chased by a skinwalker.    The imagination shown by the author in not only Denardo’s world building but the battle scenes and the characters is amazing.  Another world I could happily have stayed in.

The Sheriff of Para Siempre by Jamie Fessenden  – 3 stars

In 1875, Billy Slade is one of the fastest gunmen in the territory of New Mexico, despite his youth. With his lover, Joe Brady, he travels from town to town, hiring out his skill wherever he can—provided the cause is noble. Billy fancies himself a hero defending the common man against bandits and ruffians. But a night of passion gets Billy and Joe run off the ranch they helped defend from rustlers.

In the failing mining town of Para Siempre, Billy’s skill as a marksman lands him the job of sheriff. But the town is run by the corrupt Cassidy brothers, who take a liking to Billy and Joe, and they’re used to getting what they want. When Billy rejects Jed Cassidy’s proposition, Jed challenges him to a gunfight. It’s a fight Billy could easily win—but the Cassidys don’t play fair.

For me, this was the only story I disliked.  The writing is good but the story is one that I actually ending up rushing through.  From a rape and murder, its sad, bittersweet and left a awful taste in my mouth.  Its 3 stars only because the writing is so good.  Disliked everything else. 

The Tale of August Hayling by Kim Fielding – 4 stars

August Hayling went west following the discovery of gold in California. While most prospectors were hoping to strike it rich, August was more interested in a place big enough to let him get lost. Sitting alone in a saloon, he is approached by a peculiar man named Georgios Cappadocia, who offers August a fortune in gold if August will come along and help him fetch it. August soon learns that his strange new employer is engaged in some kind of ancient dispute. And when they arrive at their destination, both men will realize that not all treasures are golden—and sometimes destinies can be changed.

Ah a Kim Fielding story!  I never know which way its going to go.  This time its whimsical.  I sort of guessed at the identities of the characters but that didn’t take away my enjoyment of the story.  Extra bonus?  Features one of my favorite fantasy creatures!

 Time Zone by Andrew Q. Gordon –   4.5 stars

Some people possess gifts that allow them to change the world. For Wesley Blake, it’s all a matter of time. He can stretch a handful of seconds into a whole day. But his ability hasn’t saved Wesley from being hurt by others. As a field agent for the Department of Gifted Americans, Wesley throws himself into his work to forget that he is alone. The only person Wesley trusts is his handler, Lothar.

Then a vital mission brings a new partner, Eric, who refuses to let Wesley shut him out. As they train for their assignment, a friendship builds between them. Wesley cautiously lets Eric into his life, until he learns Eric and Lothar lied to him. Betrayed and angry, Wesley struggles to control his powers, and when things take a dangerous turn, even Wesley might not have enough time to get out with his life.

 Another strong story. Time Zone and Andrew Q. Gordon delivers great characters and a fascinating world.  Wesley Blake in particular, a vulnerable gifted man with a dependancy on his handler Lothar, who he’s never met.  How the story unfolds, its revelations, including the spectacular one at the end?  It kept me involved and connected to Wesley and his path to love.  Outstanding story.

Get Lucky by Ginn Hale – 5 Stars  

Pinkerton detectives, saltwater crocodiles, the Borax Brothers, and the sinister Swaims: seems everyone is out to get water mage, Lucky Spivey.

Lucky Spivey just wants to pay off his dead father’s debts and forget about the gunslinger who left him waiting at the stagecoach station three years before. But when he stumbles across a handsome Pinkerton detective in mortal peril, he can’t abandon the man to his fate, and all too soon Lucky finds himself in a wild chase filled with magic, murder, and a triceratops or two. Surviving the marshlands might mean working together with a disturbingly familiar gunslinger…. 

 Ginn Hale had me at Lucky Spivey.   What a wild ride!  Mages, crocodiles, swamps and a lost love returned.  I really wanted so much more at the end.  If you’re listening Ginn Hale, bring Lucky back and his beau too. 

From Ancient Grudge to New Mutiny by Langley Hyde – 4 stars

In the small town of Wilson Creek, two handsome lovers, destined for death at each other’s hands, attempt to end their families’ Shakespearean feud over precious magical minerals.

When James Caplin, inventor of a new magic-detecting device, returns home after graduating from Hinton’s Academy for Boys, he’s looking to have one last hurrah with a handsome cowboy. But he discovers not only that his handsome cowboy is Frank Montgomery, the son of the Caplins’ hated enemies, but also that the Montgomerys are accused of stealing the Caplins’ precious illudine, a rare magical stone. When the argument between the Montgomerys and Caplins becomes heated, James and Frank are expected to settle the matter with a duel. If James doesn’t want to put a bullet in Frank, he’ll have to recover the illudine, reveal the thief, and end a centuries-old rivalry… and he needs Frank’s help.

 Romeo and Jules with Alchemy.  Another neat twist on the  Romeo and Juliet  tale with  a M/M twist and turns.  I wish I had more background on the world but it was  fascinating in the bits and pieces the author set out.  

POMH by Venona Keyes  4 .5 stars

Lorem Farcome makes inventions that cater to the working class. He dreams of a lost chance in love and a lost apprentice. The lost love he can do nothing about, but an apprentice, he can surely build. With a rare red prism, Lorem creates and animates his assistant, dubbing him “Pomh.” The road never runs smooth, and a wealthy and powerful competitor, Markus Reighn, accuses Lorem of stealing the red prism and claims Lorem’s mechanical man for himself. But an odd-looking prospector might hold the key to clearing Lorem’s name and giving Lorem his true heart’s desire.  

Lorem has lost someone and he makes  wonderful inventions.  He finds a rare prism, and something miraculous  occurs.  Venona Keyes takes us on a steampunk journey of lost love and heartbreak and miracles.  Its one to be treasured, a standout in a collection of standouts.

 

Oh, Give Me a Home by Nicole Kimberling – 5 stars

Corporate terraformer turned social justice worker, Gordon gave up a good living to pioneer New Saturn, where the ranges are as vast as they sky—just the way Gordon likes them. Together with his partner Henry, Gordon herds the ankle-high genetically modified insects, which deposit crucial bacteria into the soil so the ground can one day be farmed. But when rustlers strike, the barren beauty of the frontier  turns deadly, and Gordon must risk everything to keep himself and Henry alive. 

Nicole Kimberling has long been a favorie of mine, especially her Bellingham Mysteries.  Here you have an established  couple Henry (born earthbound) and Gordon (born in space) and their herd of bugs each with their personalities.  Yes from Screwloose to Queen Esther, you’ll be falling in love with these terraforming bugs too.  Kimberling gives us the complete world, including Gordon’s space born physiology and what that must mean when it comes to making love or even existing within quarters with gravity.  A stunning story all around.

Gunner the Deadly by C.S. Poe – 5 stars

Special Agent Gillian Hamilton is one of the top magic casters in law enforcement. Sent to Shallow Grave, Arizona to arrest a madman engineer responsible for blowing up half of Baltimore, Gillian isn’t expecting a run-in with notorious outlaw, Gunner the Deadly.

Gillian and Gunner become temporary teammates when it turns out they’re after the same man. The Tinkerer will stop at nothing to get rid of the two so he can steal the town’s silver mines and build an army of steam machines to take down the country. If facing Gatling guns, airships, and magic wasn’t enough, Gillian must also struggle with the notion that he’s rather fond of his criminal partner. But perhaps a union between copper and outlaw isn’t so weird out in the wild and lawless West.

 Gillian and Gunner and a madman on the loose in a steampunk world.  Its wildly imaginative, its fast paced, and its romantic.  Loved it.

After the Wind by Tali Spencer     –  5 stars

Plagued by drought and raids from hostile Comanches, the West Texas frontier is a hell of a place to carve out a living. Twenty years ago, a mysterious disaster devastated the Llano Estacado and cursed the survivors with supernatural abilities over Fire, Air, Water, and Earth. The Anglo government promptly outlawed these powers—and they’re willing to pay good money to anyone who turns over an elemental, dead or alive.

When rancher Micah Dawes desperately needs water for his herd, he strikes a deal with two unsavory bounty hunters for the services of a chained, blue-haired water elemental named Rain. Micah pities Rain, but he has to play his cards close to his chest—because Micah, too, survived the Wind, and the reason he always wears a hat is to hide his glowing red hair….

We end up this extraordinary collection with a strong story.  After the Wind by Tali Spencer.   Is the Wind an environmental foreshadowing?  Whatever the cause the devastating effects on the human and animal population is swift and brutal.  Genetic changes for the remaining populations in some areas that cause them to be hunted and killed for their properties.  Its heartbreaking and Spencer brings that out in vividly described passages and the character of Rain.

The story is stark and yet, full of hope at the end.  Its a perfect way for Once Upon a Time in the Weird West to come to a close.  But these characters?  They will continue to stay with you for some time yet.  What great stories!  What marvelous world building.  More,  I want much, much more.  I highly recommend this anthology.  Its one of the best I’ve read and it will in my Best of 2016 List!

Cover Artist: Nathie Block.  I just love this cover.  Eye catching and works for the stories.

Sales Links

           

Book Details:

ebook, 400 pages
Expected publication: December 16th 2016 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN 1634779185 (ISBN13: 9781634779180)
Edition LanguageEnglish

An Anthology Special! Check out Contact (Gothika #5) by Kim Fielding , F.E. Feeley Jr. , Jamie Fessenden , and B.G. Thomas (guest post, special excerpt and more)

Standard

gothika-contact-5

Contact (Gothika #5)
by Kim Fielding , F.E. Feeley Jr. , Jamie Fessenden , B.G. Thomas

 

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to have F.E. Feeley, Jr. here today to talk about Contact (Gothika #5), an upcoming anthology from Dreamspinner Press.  Welcome, F.E.

~~

Hi! I’m F.E. Feeley, Jr., one of the authors in the upcoming anthology Gothika: Contact. This is the fifth installment in the Gothika series, which has featured androids, werewolves, voodoo curses, and ghosts! Contact is about encounters with extraterrestrials and alien abduction, and it includes four stories by me, Kim Fielding, Jamie Fessenden, and B.G. Thomas.

In my story, “My Final Blog,” I explored the idea of extraterrestrials establishing contact not by landing a spaceship in our backyard or making toy monkeys come to life (Why do we have those creepy things, anyway?), but by chatting with us online. We’ve already got a worldwide network where it’s possible—and expected—that people will communicate without revealing their identities. How easy would it be for an alien to establish contact with humans on social media, scope us out, and maybe even establish a form of relationship with us before revealing itself?

Here’s how I handled the idea of alien contact in “My Final Blog.”

Blurb

George is an average guy who’s led an average sort of life.  Always fading in the background, he never garnered much attention. People seemed to pass him by or not notice him. Except, of course, in high school where he was tormented by his sexuality. Finding solace online, George developed a blog early on that helped him maintain his sanity.  It was an anonymous link to the outside world to vent his frustrations and express his creativity. And he gathered quite an audience of similar spirits and allies who stayed with him for over the years. 

Especially one commenter, Universal47. In the spirit of anonymity, George never pushed him to expose who he really was.  And over a period of years, began to have feelings for this faceless person. When George finds himself in a horrible one sided relationship with an abusive and neglectful partner, Universal steps in to help George break up with him.  Devastated by the outcome of his failed relationship, George threatens to withdraw from Universal47 as well unless he tells him who he really is. The answer may be more than George can handle.

Excerpt

We were wandering into dangerously choppy waters. I was defensive over my relationship. I mean, there were good times. Christmases and birthdays were great. But there were times when I could dry up and disappear and Joseph, I don’t think would have cared. As a matter of fact, it was sort of ‘go away, come back’ messages that I received from him that confused me. Which, I must say looking back, was sort of pathetic. But you know what they say about hindsight. It was always fifty/ fifty. I ended up saying goodnight and went about my evening. But his words haunted me.

Yet, fast forward to the night he told me his name, I sat staring at my computer screen as his name flashed in front of me. Elijah. I liked the name. I, of course, understood the biblical reference. Elijah was a prophet that once called down fire from heaven to consume a sacrifice to God.  Or, it was the name of a really blue eyed actor who played Frodo Baggins in The Lord of the Rings movies. I put those two things up for consideration in the chat box and was greeted with a great big LOL for my efforts.

Universal47: Neither. But that’s funny.

I tilted my head for a moment before typing: Will we ever meet?

Universal47: I believe so. Do you want to meet me?

Me: Of course.

Universal47: Why?

Me: To put a face with a name?

Universal47: Is that all?

Me: Sure. Isn’t that enough.

Universal47: And what would we do if we met.

I rolled my eyes hard at that.

Me: Well, you’re not getting laid if that’s what you mean. I could go on GRNDR for that.

Universal47: HAHAHAHA! I’m sure you could. And no, that isn’t what I’m after either.

Me: so you are after something?

Universal47: Companionship? Is that weird?

Me: No. I don’t think so. You must get lonely, too.

Universal47: You have no idea.

Me: Well, if it’s any consolation to you. At night, when I fall asleep, you’re not far from my mind.

Universal47: That’s really the sweetest thing anyone’s ever said to me. But you don’t know what I look like.

Me: No. I guess not.

Universal47: What do you think about when think about me before you fall asleep.

Me: Honestly? You’ve had many faces. But your arms are always the same. Strong.  There. Just like you’ve been all these years. There. That’s what matters to me, Elijah.

He was quiet for a long time after that and before he could reply, I felt my eyes grow heavy. It had been a long couple of days. And since it was Friday night, I had a whole weekend’s worth of work to do. I bid him goodnight and logged out. I hoped I hadn’t said too much. I hope I hadn’t freaked him out. But my ability to bullshit was completely depleted by that time that truth sort of rolled out of me in waves.  That night, as I lay in bed listening to the wind howling over the prairies it was so mournful and so lonesome sounding that I cried myself to sleep.

gothika-contact-5

Anthology Blurb

Since ancient times, humankind has looked into the night sky and wondered: Are we alone? Are there other civilizations beyond the stars? Will we ever encounter these beings? Who are they, what are they like, and what might they want with us?

These questions are about to be answered, but those who discover the truth might wish they had never asked. On the other hand, some might find salvation in visitors from other planets. For while some aliens are hostile, others are benevolent. Some have little in common with humans, but for others, the need for love and acceptance is universal. Lives will intersect and otherworldly passions will ignite as four acclaimed authors of gay romance explore first contact—and where it can lead.

Buy Links

        

STRW December 2013 Summary of Reviews and Best Dec. Covers

Standard

Winter trees longs

December 2013 Book Review Summary and December Best Covers of the Month

December 2013 Review Summary

*Key:
S series
C contemporary
F-fantasy
SF-science fiction
PN-paranormal
SP-supernatural
H-historical
YA-young adult

5 Star Rating:

Christmas Kitsch by Amy Lane, C
Grime Doesn’t Pay: The Brothers Grime, Eddie by Z.A.Maxfield C,S
Oceans Apart by Laura Harner, C, S
Odd Man Out (4 series finale, #6)by Laura Harner, TA Webb, Lee Brazil and Havan Fellows C,S

4 to 4.75 Star Rating:

Blue River by Theo Fenraven (4 stars)PN
Christmas Serendipity by Liam Livings, (4.25)C,
Continental Divide written by Laura Harner, Lisa Worrall (4.25) C,S
Indelible Ink by Marie Lark, (4.5) C
Kick Start by Josh Lanyon C,S
Lost and Found by Z.A. Maxfield (4.5)C
Mindscape by Tal Valante (4.5) SF, S
Model Love by SJ Frost (4.25) C
Roughstock: Tag Team – Fais Do Do Season Two  by BA Tortuga(4.25)C,S

3 to 3.75 Star Rating:

Christmas Wish by Mychael Black, Shayne Carmichael SN, S
Housekeeping by Kim Fielding (3.75) C
Ride-Off (Polo #2) by Mickie B. Ashling (3.5)C
2 to 2.75 Star Rating:
N/A

1 to 1.75 Star Rating: N/A

Best Covers of December 2013:

Christmas Kitsch by Amy Lane, cover by LC Chase
Housekeeping by Kim Fielding, cover by Paul Richmond (his M/M American Gothic)
Lost and Found by ZA Maxfield, Cover by LC Chase
Mindscape by Tal Valante, cover by LC Chase

Housekeeping

LostAndFound_500x750

Mindscape_500x750

Christmas Kitsch cover

Review: Housekeeping by Kim Fielding

Standard

Rating: 3.75 stars out of 5

HousekeepingNicky Hauser has never been able to figure out what he wanted to do with his life so he’s been gliding along from job to job until he rolled his life and love into one person by working at his boyfriend’s restaurant and living in his boyfriend’s apartment.  Then he walks into work only to catch his boyfriend cheating on him with  a co-worker and in that moment loses everything.  Now out of a job, a home and a lover, Nick scrambles from friend to friend, sleeping on their couches while looking for jobs.  Finally Nick lands a job housesitting for a wealthy couple and discovers he can make a living doing the one thing he loves to do – cleaning.

Computer consultant Spencer Cartwright is a messy person and has a cluttered, garbage strewn house to prove it.  When Spencer needs to go out of town on  business, friends recommend Nicky to house sit and clean, changing Spencer and Nicky’s lives forever. But Spencer is coming off a divorce and Nicky is wary of romance and a relationship so soon after being dumped.  Can these men sweep their past failures away and find love in a spotless home together?

Housekeeping by Kim Fielding is a charming little romance, a happy quick read that is perfect to way to spend some free time over the holidays.  Nicky Hauser and Spencer Cartwright are two quirky and complementary characters, each totally endearing in their own way.  Nicky is somewhat recognizable as that person who has never quite found their way in life.  Not quite emotionally a grownup, too old in years to be a teen, he has managed to go through life without making any real decisions over his future whether it be a profession or even something to be passionate about.  Fielding has made him totally believable, letting us connect with someone lacking direction in life and uncertain how to proceed.  He’s just too nice and gentle, and lacking in ambition.

Kim Fielding has crafted Spencer Cartwright  with a different set of issues.  Spencer’s been married, to a woman, before finally admitting his homosexuality.  He’s colorblind, constantly busy, and a total slob.  Clearly his life needs cleaning up and Nicky is just the person to handle the job.  And happily for us, Fields lets her characters turn from employer/employee to friends and finally to lovers, letting us watch as their relationship builds over trips to Ikea and a mixing of friends and relatives.

Don’t look for any angst, there isn’t any.  No real highs or lows to be found in this story, just a group of funny, lovely friends and two men looking for love and finding it where they least expected it, at home amongst cleaning supplies.  It’s charming and smile worthy.  I love Kim Fielding’s stories, she rarely lets me down and didn’t with Housekeeping. Consider this definitely recommended.

Cover art by Paul Richmond is really very funny, his m/m version of American Gothic.  I loved it.

Book Details:

ebook, 98 pages
Published November 13th 2013 by Dreamspinner Press (first published November 12th 2013)
ISBN 1627982183 (ISBN13: 9781627982184)
edition language English

Twas the Week Of Christmas Poem and the Week Ahead in Reviews

Standard

Winter trees longs

Scattered Thoughts “Twas The Week of Christmas” Poem!
(with my apologies to Clement Clark Moore)

It’s the week of Christmas and all through the house
Everyone was running around like crazy, even the mouse
Stockings need to be hung by the chimney with care
But until they are found, the mantel is quite bare.

The dogs were all nestled all snug in my bed
while visions of Dingle Rounds and bacon danced in their heads
And with Captain in his cage and the fish swimming laps
I settled in my chair for a long over due nap

With a bang and a pop on the lawn, there was a clatter
That I slowly rose out of my chair to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I tottered without a crash
Only to knock over the books on the table I had stashed

The moon on the crest shown on the lawn below
to highlight the waving penguins, bears and deer ornaments aglow
When what to my nearsighted eyes should appear
Not one fox but two instead of miniature reindeer

 
With my old wooden driver, I tried to be quick
So I hollered and shouted until I was sick
More rapacious than gluttons, definitely not tame
Those foxes yipped and danced until they were lame

Go Away, now, happy foxes, Be Gone you, Vixens
It’s late at night, everyone is sleeping or fixin’
to head up to bed, but to sleep won’t happen at all
until you find yourselves another place to hold your fox ball.

As the dry leaves before the leafblower did fly
Through the lawn figures and lights the foxes  did spy
A bunny running across the neighbor’s yard with a bound
So with a yip and a bark, they ran after the prey they had found

The bunny so brown, white tail and fleet of foot
That the foxes, exhausted and panting, found that it took
More energy and speed than had their little pack
So before I knew it they were all headed back

To commune with my lawn animals who twinkled so merry
That to those foxes eyes, they were not even a little bit scary
The penguins were waving, both wearing a bow
And the polars bears glowed white, glistening like snow.

The figure of the dog held a fake bone in its teeth
On its head was a Santa hat, with ribbons beneath
The figures were tall, with heads as large as their bellies
That they often fell over, looking like Great Aunt Nelly(snort)

The foxes danced as I watched, “so happy” I said to myself
that they looked like the fox figurine that now sat on my shelf
With a prance and tongues hanging out of their heads
I knew without a doubt, I had a wonderful memory to take with me to bed

I watched a bit more, and then with a jerk
I waved to my visitors and left with a smirk
And grabbing my cane and with a rub to my nose
Up the stairs to bed and my pups I did go

As the foxes went on their way, running through the thistle
Captain woke in his cage and gave a sleepy whistle
And I thought I heard that parrot say, as I turned off the last light
“Goodnight, sweetheart, Merry Christmas and Good Night”!

With my apologies to Clement Clark Moore’s poem, Captain didn’t say that.  What he said is not suitable for print (he cusses a lot). But I am sure the mumbles I heard were in keeping with the spirit of the week before Christmas.  I do have a wonderful yard for wildlife and they will be getting their own treats for Christmas and winter time.  So will the terriers three and Captain, the AG.

Here is hoping for joy and love and good health to all for the holidays no matter what or if you celebrate.  Especially for two special men in Virginia in so many peoples hearts and prayers at this time.  If you are inclined to give a little bit more at this time of year, I have a link below to the Eric Arvin Support Fund.  All donations are welcome no matter the size.

Now to the week ahead in reviews:

Monday, Dec. 23:          Indelible Ink by Marie Lark

Tuesday, Dec. 24:          Housekeeping by Kim Fielding

Wed., Dec. 25:                Shira Anthony’s Symphony In Blue Guest Blog

Merry Christmas!

Thurs., Dec. 26:              Christmas Wish by Mychael Black ,Shayne Carmichael

Friday, Dec. 27:              Tal Valante’s Mindscape Blog Tour and Contest

Sat., Dec. 28:                   Mindscape by Tal Valante

Mired in the Miasma and the Week Ahead in Reviews

Standard

Miasma, such a wonderfully descriptive word.  Miasma: from the dictionary, literary the miasma from the stagnant swamp made us choke and gag: stink, reek, stench,fetor, smell, fume, odor, whiff; gas, cloud, smog, vapor.

Yep, that is exactly what it feels like in the Metropolitan DC area these days.  Most people forget that Washington, DC was built on a swamp and the regions around it are riddled with water.  There is a reason Foggy Bottom is called Foggy Bottom.  We have water everywhere.  The Potomac, the Patuxent, the Severn and a ton of other rivers and streams, the Chesapeake Bay and of course the Atlantic Ocean.  It’s delightful, it’s outstanding, except when our humidity is around 99% and stays there, making our area feel downright tropical and swampy.  The air is thick, stagnant, some call it soupy.  It is so heavy  it almost takes on a form of its own.  The skin feels clammy, your clothes stick to the skin as though they were glued, perspiration rolls down the face to disappear into your collar and sandals are the only footwear you can bear on your feet. And when someone mentions that they didn’t have air-conditioning in the “olden days” so we should all come outside and enjoy sitting on the porch…well,  you just want to swat them.

Back to miasma.  I grew up in a Southern family where the word miasma could be frequently heard in conversation, especially by my grandmothers.  It went something like this:

“Oh the miasma is so bad for you, stay away from the window.”

“Heah, keep those windows closed so the miasma doesn’t come inside.”

Or when my Mamaw smelled something bad, well, then of course, it was the “miasma”.

I love that word but it seems to have fallen out of favor.  I mean, scientifically, we know that swamps are a wonderful thing, necessary for the environment as delicate habitats and nature’s filtering system.  A swamp is not a purveyor of disease and that illness did not waft in on the moisture laden air (hey, we are not talking mosquitos today). So with knowledge in hand, the word miasma started to disappear.  But I want to bring it back.  Miasma a term rich in eloquence, laden with romantic images, mired in the gothic and teaming with meaning.  If I am to be drenched in sweat, with hair and skin soaked with moisture, miserable and lethargic, then I want to put a layer of something magical, otherworldy and significant on it.  I want miasma!  I will have my miasma.

And besides what other explanation is there for Congress?  Its miasma. Stay away from the windows.

We are all over the place in book reviews for the coming week. Plus I am still focused on the subject of short  stories so expect another Scattered Thoughts blog on the subject on Saturday.  This is how the week looks to play out:

Monday, July 15:                Tattoo You by Willa Okati

Tuesday, July 16:                Forever Promised (Promises #4) by Amy Lane

Wed., July 17:                      Worlds Collide (Sanctuary #7) by R.J. Scott

Thursday, July 18:              Waiting for Ty by Samantha Ann King

Friday, July 19:                    Side Line by Ben Ryder

Saturday, July 20:               Anthologies? Love Them Or Hate Them?

And to help fight the miasma, a Red Sangria recipe to cool you down:

Ingredients
1 bottle (750 ml) dry red wine
1/4 cup brandy
1/4 cup orange liqueur
2 tablespoons sugar
2 sliced oranges
1 sliced green apple
1 1/2 cups seltzer

FNM050111_143
Directions
Mix the wine, liqueur and sugar in a pitcher, stirring to dissolve the sugar, then add the fruit.

Refrigerate at least 1 hour and up to 1 day.

Add the seltzer just before serving.

April 2013 Book Reviews

Standard

Unbelievably, today is the last day  in April and the start of something new for Scattered Thoughts.  I am going to post a summary of each months books reviews on the last day of the month.  Hopefully, this will make it easy to find a new book to read, a book review you might have missed or a book you just might want to reconsider.  It also helps me gather my  Scattered Thoughts when it comes to the year’s Best of in  December.

It was a very good month, with some remarkable stories from new authors and beloved writers and everyone in between.  Trust me, there really is something for everyone here this month:

April Header

           April 2013 Review Summary

5 Star Rating:

Collusion by Eden Winters

On The Lee Shore by Elin Gregory

The General and the Horse-Lord by Sarah Black

Touch & Geaux  by Abigail Roux

4 to 4.75 Star Rating:

A Beautiful Disaster by Willa Okati (4.25)

Brute by Kim Fielding (4.5)

Fire For Effect by Kendall McKenna (4.5)

Freedom by Jay Kirkpatrick (4.75)

Into This River I Drown by TJ Klune (4.5)

Josh of the Damned, Triple Feature #2, The Final Checkout

by Andrea Speed (4.25)

Loving Hector by John Inman (4.25)

Masked Riders by Lucius Parhelion (4.5)

The Fight Within by Andrew Grey (4.5)

The Good Fight by Andrew Grey (4.75)

Unearthing Cole by A.M. Arthur (4.25)

3 to 3.75 Star Rating:

Highland Vampire Vengeance by J.P. Bowie (3.75)

Love You Like A Romance Novel by Megan Derr (3.5)

Sensei by Karenna Colcroft (3)

2 to 2.75 Star Rating:

The Astral Mage by Hurri Cosmo (2.75)

Review: Brute by Kim Fielding

Standard

Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

Brute coverOrphaned at an early age when his father was hanged and his mother committed suicide, Brute is further isolated by those around him by his unusual size.  A giant by any standards, Brute knows that others look at him as though he were little more than a dumb animal, good for nothing more than moving large rocks and trees.  But inside of his monstrous frame, the real Brute is gentle and kind with a heart equal to his size. Then one day Brute’s world changes.  Brute’s job is to move rocks on a bridge project being built outside of his village and one day the palace sends the youngest prince to  check on the progress.  When the prince falls off the edge of the cliff, Brute rescues him but at the cost of his arm.  Now maimed, Brute wonders how he will live when the prince sends for him and gives him a job.  His new job is caretaker to a imprisoned traitor, one with a special gift.

The prisoner, Gray Leynham, hates his gift, he can see the deaths of others in his dreams. Gray Laynham is blind, chained, and nearly mute from his misery. Where others see a wretched traitor, Brute sees a person in need of kindness and a friend.  Palace life gives Brute a new perspective on life and his own self worth.  As his friendship with Gray progresses into that of lovers, Brute is faced with several life changing decisions.  Brute has always believed in doing the right thing, no matter the cost.  But this time, Brute must decide what is the right thing to do and it might cost him everything he has finally achieved, friends, home, lover and  even his own life.

Brute is a lovely story, a tale of a gentle giant with magical overtones.  Kim Fielding does a nice job of creating a universe where magic or to be more exact, certain gifts like the ability to heal or prescience, the ability to foresee the future, are acknowledged and valued amongst a society existing at a medieval level.  When we meet up with Brute (not his real name), he is grown and working as a day laborer.  Brute exists at the bottom rung of his villages social strata, earning a pittance wage, taken advantage of, abused  and generally treated as an idiot.  And it is all mostly due to his extreme size, well over 7 feet tall and 300 pounds in weight.  But the author also gives us a glimpse of a happy childhood that came to an abrupt end and we feel for the poor little boy left all alone to fend for himself.  Brute is such a gentle, sweet soul that it is easy to empathize with his physically and emotionally barren life he is living.  And all the changes that happen to him during the course of his arrival at the palace are revealed in such a way that we get to experience it first hand as Brute does, marveling at everything from his new boots to the food he gets to eat.

And then there is Gray Leynham, rumored witch, traitor, and blind prisoner at the palace.  Again Fielding lets us feel how Brute perceives the prisoner and then watch as the relationship is forged between Brute and Gray, stemming from Brute’s compassionate nature and sense of right and wrong.  I liked that Gray is flawed and actually at fault for the position he is in, something I did not expect but should have considering the author behind the pen.  Kim Fielding always puts her own twists on story elements we have seen before, turning them into her own creations and Brute does that again and again.  Every time I thought the story might sail into fairylandia, Kim Fielding brings it back down to the ground with a brush or more of reality.  Brute is not some overgrown child adult but someone who sees the consequences of his and everyone else’s actions, someone who accepts responsibilities and the painful truths that life delivers.  Fielding consistently brings a grittiness to her stories that gives them an authenticity I appreciate.

Fielding does an excellent job with layering her characters, making them so accessible in their personalities and actions that  we are engaged in the storyline and their futures immediately.  You can count on realistically drawn characters, speaking dialog that matches their stations and personalities whose actions mesh perfectly within the parameters the author has set for them. Specifically, Fielding deals realistically with Brute’s disability.  Brute had his hand amputated and in the story, Fielding addresses the fact that his clothes need to be altered so Brute can put them on easily with one hand. I find this type of authenticity one I have come to expect from Fielding’s writings, just another way she brings her story and characters fully to life. Do not be surprised to find yourself so emotionally connected to these people that the tears flow on their behalf.

My only quibble with Brute concerns the ending.  I wished that the author had left us with a little more idea of what the future holds for Brute.  Not to imply that I was unhappy with the ending, I was satisfied but just wanted that little bit more.  There were several characters that I also connected with, including the cook Alys and her brother, Warin, especially Warin who I loved.  And I wanted to know what happened to them as much as I did the main characters.  But that qualm aside, I can recommend Brute as a wonderful fantasy story that will warm your heart and leave you smiling once the story is finished.

Cover: Paul Richmond is perfect for the story in tone and graphics.

Book Details:  Brute by Kim Fielding,ebook, 270 pages

Published December 3rd 2012 by Dreamspinner Press

Glorious Books, A Web Hunt and Glorious Weather Too! What A Week It’s Going To Be!

Standard

The weather is perfection today so I am getting ready to pull on the gardening gloves, turn the water for the outside faucets back on and prepare to spend the day getting down and dirty.  I have ferns, some grasses and even an English Daisy or two to plant and weeds to uproot.  To say the least, I am grinning like crazy in anticipation.

Also this week I am reviewing some books that are not only on Scattered Thoughts “Must Read” lists, they have made my Best of 2013 List as well.  Among them are Sarah Black’s The General and the Horse-Lord, T.J. Klune’s Into This River I Drown, Abigail Roux’s Touch & Geaux and Jay Kirkpatrick’s Freedom.  I can’t remember when I had so many wonderful books to read and recommend that released almost at the same time.  A surfeit of riches for us all to enjoy time and time again.

And on Monday, Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is participating along with many other websites in Riptide Publishing’s Web Hunt for ???????????????????????????????????????Abigail Roux’s Touch & Geaux, book 7 in the amazing Cut & Run series.  On April 8, 2013, all participating book blogs will be joining the party by posting about the book and including one of their favorite quotes from any book in the Cut & Run series. Readers who collect each quote and submit their findings to marketing@riptidepublishing.com will be eligible to win one of two runner-up prizes and one grand prize.  More about this Cut & Run fun will be posted tomorrow along with my blog of Cut & Run favorite moments in the afternoon.

What a week!  So here is the full schedule, don’t miss a day!

Monday, April 8:          Riptide Publishing’s Web Hunt for Touch & Geaux,

Scattered Thoughts Favorite Cut & Run Moments

Tuesday, April 9:          Touch & Geaux (Cut & Run #7) by Abigail Roux

Wed., April 10:             Freedom by Jay Kirkpatrick

Thursday, April 11:      The General and the Horse-Lord by Sarah Black

Friday, April 12:           Brute by Kim Fielding

Saturday, April 13:       Into This River I Drown by T.J. Klune

Really, just turn this week’s lineup into a shopping list because you won’t want to miss a single one.  Now the flowers and worms are calling me, really I can hear them right now.  So off I go or should I say Geaux in keeping with the books this week.  Have a wonderful Sunday everyone and I will see you right here on Monday.

Review: Venetian Masks by Kim Fielding

Standard

Rating: 4.75 stars

Venetian Masks coverJeff Dawkins is 30 years old.  His partner just left him for an older, richer man and now he has to sell his house because he can no longer afford the mortgage.  And on top of it all, he has been left with a prepaid, non refundable month long Grand Tour vacation package they planned to take together and that Jeff never wanted to do in the first place.  So when his  mother, the real estate agent. explained that the least painful way to show and sell his house was if he was away, Jeff grudgingly agreed to go on the vacation as planned and leave everything in her hands.

Jeff has never travelled outside of Sacramento, unless you count one trip to Canada as a kid with his parents.  But prepared as always, he has his Kindle, laptop, travel guide and plans well in hand, hoping to make the best of a bad situation.  Then he arrives in Venice and all his carefully laid out schedule flies out the window when he meets ex pat Cleve Prieto.  Cleve is handsome, tattooed and familiar with the language and city.  So when Cleve offers to be his tour guide, for a price of course, Cleve is both suspicious and intrigued enough to say yes.  But nothing about Cleve is what he says it is, his story about his background is constantly changing and he appears to have no visible means of support. Still even with all the lies and misleadings, something about Cleve just pulls at Jeff’s heart, drawing him in just as the City of Venice does, making him fall in love twice over.

Then Cleve’s dark past arrives in Venice looking for him and Jeff must decide whether to hold onto his precious control and safe life or throw all caution away to pursue a love he never expected to find across a continent where nothing is familiar or safe, starting with the languages. Venetians like to hide behind masks and Jeff must discover what is under Cleve’s before it is too late for both of them.

What an amazing, lush journey Kim Fielding sets the reader on in Venetian Masks.  Everything is here, a sumptuous banquet of travelogue, mystery, self discovery and of course, love.  It doesn’t hurt that Fielding sets her story in the city of love, Venice, Italy, a place it appears she is familiar with and loves with a fervor equal to that of a Venetian themself.  The city is described in vivid, knowledgeable, and affectionate terms, from the well known Piazza San Marco (St. Mark’s Square)  to the less familiar island of “Isola di San Michele” where the main cemetery of Venice is located.  We tour the canals via gondola or by the water bus known as vaporetto, and always we feel as thought we are sitting next to Jeff and Cleve instead of reading a tourist pamphlet on local sightseeing trips.  I have been to Venice and still Kim Fielding made me see it again through Jeff’s eyes as it works its magic once more on those who visit her.  I thought this section of the book perfection.  Because it takes time for Jeff to fall in love with the city, so caught up in his breakup and preparedness that it takes a while before he starts to let go and enjoy himself.   And I loved it as we are there every step of the way.  Every day as Jeff starts out from his timeshare, the desk clerk, Mita, asks him if he has fallen in love with her city yet, and with each new day we listen in as the answer evolves.  This is how it starts

Jeff shakes his head. “Well, she’s pretty cute, but I’m not sure if she’s my type.” Mita laughed. “You will see. My city is special and she will claim your heart.”

And you just know it will.  You will too.

Into this amazing city, Kim Fielding creates two totally human and endearing characters, Jeff Dawkins and Cleve Prieto for her story of love and self discovery.  We meet Jeff at a crossroads in his life, a life that has not been easy by any standards.  He has lost his partner of 6 years, he is losing the house he loves because with his partner’s income gone, he can’t afford the mortgage and this trip is pulling him out of his comfort zone of his hometown of Sacramento, California.  He is also 30, a crossroads age as well.  He likes his life safe and he likes being prepared for any contingency and now Jeff feels like that is gone.  Furthermore he is forced to go on a trip he never wanted because it is prepaid and his mother needs him gone to sell his house.    Here is a man adrift in every aspect of his life while still trying to assert some measure of control.  How can you not love him?  Jeff is human, complex, and recognizable in his flaws.

Then he meets Cleve Prieto, his opposite in life.  Like Jeff, the reader isn’t sure what to make of Cleve at the beginning.  His personality is all shadow and smoke.  But soon flashes of uncertainly and pain show through his smooth, casual demeanor, and we are trapped along with Jeff. We are unable to look away from this charismatic man, who might be a liar and thief who still manages to be the love of your life.   Fielding did an outstanding job when she created the dichotomy that is Cleve Prieto.  We understand immediately why Jeff cannot let him go, no matter what his actions say about him.  Cleve is the one person who can make Jeff leave his carefully built zone of safety to reach for something more, and we get that immediately.

I think the plot here is thrilling and actually realistic and when the angst and adrenaline kicks in, it does so with a punch right to the gut as Jeff races across Europe with only a vague destination to go along with the goal in mind.  Just sensational.  And yet here is where my only quibble also makes an appearance.  As Jeff arrives in Zagreb, he is on a mission and knows  his time is running out, yet Fielding cannot let go of her inner travel agent.  Too much time is spent on describing the gray edifices of Zagreb, bland communist buildings everywhere, local food and cafes, even the facial expressions of the denizens as they go about their everyday business.  Jeff is too consumed to have noticed all that, intent on his goal and for the reader it just interrupts the flow of the story unnecessarily where the descriptions of Venice enhanced it.  Had the descriptive portions of this section of the book been parred down, then this would have the 5 star rating this story deserves.

Kim Fielding is an author I only recently discovered and she went immediately into the “must read” column because her books are so well written and enjoyable.  Venetian Masks is a wonder of a book and I cannot recommend it enough.  The same  goes for its creator.  Make note of both and go get this book.  You’ll be thanking me even while spending more money to grab up everything else she has written.  But start here and prepare to fall in love with Jeff and Cleve and of course, Venice, the City of Love.

Cover Art by Shobana Appavu.  This cover is as gorgeous and sumptuous as the story within.  One of the best covers of the month and probably of the year.