Story Review: A Bolt from the Blue by S.K. Gregory from Alien Days Anthology

Cover image taken from the book’s Amazon buy page for review purposes under Fair Use doctrine.

Spoiler Free Summary:  A Bolt from the Blue by S.K. Gregory is the ninth story in the Alien Days Anthology. Iris is on a nature walk with her boyfriend when lightning strikes, and not the romantic kind. As literal as that lightning is, the terror it brings is that much more terrifying.

Character:  Iris was one of the few characters in this anthology I could really sympathize with.  The open was slower to give readers more of a connection. It’s not the best way to do it, but at least Gregory made sure the reader cared about Iris before moving on to the plot. This story has a sort of “thrown into the kettle” feeling. it doesn’t make Iris seem very competent, and it forces her to react rather than to act. However, the circumstances that force her to move feel relatable.  

Exposition: This was solid. There was some internal monologue where description or action would have been better, but the story moved pretty quickly. 

Image of Gregory taken from her website for review purposes under Fair Use doctrine. 

Worldbuilding: This story takes place on earth, and the plot sort of stops (see below) short of evolving, so there wasn’t much worldbuilding to work with. I felt frustrated because the very moment where I was hooked and interested to know what happened is the same moment the story ended. It has a cliffhanger ending that just doesn’t do it for me.


Dialogue: The dialogue was good. It wasn’t the best I’ve ever read, but you could tell the conversations were relevant and helped to reveal the characters. I’d probably say this was the author’s strongest attribute. 

Description:  The description was solid. I had what I needed from the scene without getting bogged down. It was sparse, which I liked, but most scifi readers wouldn’t appreciate. I liked that we got a somewhat proportional amount of scenic and character descriptors. This let the environment be every bit as real in my imagination as the characters. 

Overall: My only problem with this story is honestly that it just kind of froze at what I felt was the beginning of a much better story. Short fiction doesn’t have to end in a cliffhanger, and it certainly doesn’t have to end before the characters have had any opportunity to grow or take action. The idea had a ton of merit, but just as I was about to embrace the story, it ended. 

Thanks for reading



Story Review: Discovery by PP Corcoran from Alien Days Anthology

Story Review: Discovery by PP Corcoran from Alien Days Anthology
Cover image taken from the book’s Amazon buy page for review purposes under Fair Use doctrine.

Spoiler Free Summary:  Discovery by PP Corcoran is the eighth story in the Alien Days Anthology. The crew of the Discovery is about to use integrated alien technology to test its first FTL drive to visit a far away planet. Will they make the jump? Will they meet their first alien race after this test, or is the test something completely different?

Character:  My primary grudge mentioned last week remains. I couldn’t name a single character or event without going back to look at the story. In this case, it took even longer. All of these authors are fantastic in research and description. But a great majority of their characters are sadly lacking, and this story continues that trend. 

Exposition: The good news to not remembering much means I don’t remember getting angry at how slow the story moved. This is always a good indicator that the exposition is solid or even good.  

Image of Corcoran was taken from his blog for review purposes under Fair Use doctrine.

Worldbuilding: This entire story takes place on a ship. There’s not much world building or character setting at all. We establish the plot, but we don’t set any scene.

Dialogue: Most of the dialogue was thinly hidden exposition used just to keep the plot moving. It wasn’t wooden, but it didn’t build character in any way.

Description:  Probably the strength of the story and probably the strength of the anthology. It feels like this story is an amazing outline for events and plot structure. However, it lacks any sense of conflict or characterization. This is even evident in the description itself, which is vivid in the science, but absent with the characters or scenes.

Overall: I think I’m onto something with the realization I came to above. All of these stories (or at least the bulk of them) read like rushed outlines that have pretty cool plots, but they didn’t bother to take (or have) the time to develop character and establish conflict. This story sums up to be the story of a crew that traveled across the galaxy, realized no one was there, and went back home. The end. The drama that this story could have had (the anticipation of meeting an alien species, the desire to learn from new cultures or the fear of facing more advanced beings) just isn’t there. That really just undercuts everything else for me. I’ve said it before, and I’ll repeat it every time. If a story’s characters don’t grab me, the story isn’t going to grab me either. This story might best represent the main issue I have with the entire anthology. 

Thanks for reading


The First Draft of Betrayed is Done! A Call for Alpha Readers

The First Draft of Betrayed is Done! A Call for Alpha Readers

Greetings all,

caught-front-coverHappy news! I’ve just wrapped up the first draft of Betrayed! That means I’m looking for people willing to read this story at this stage and provide feedback.

Alpha Readers are guys who catch issues with events in the story. In this particular draft, I’m looking for former or current military who are familiar with close quarters battle (CQB) and other military things. If you like high-octane action, this is something you should have fun reading.

I’d need your feedback by Dec. 1. In fact, I’d like it sooner, but I genuinely try to give alphas and betas a month to read anything.

If you’re interested, please shoot me an email.

In the meantime, I’ll get back to plotting Discovered, which is the third and final book of the trilogy. Discovered will also probably be the largest book too. We meet a few new cast members and finish the evolution of this story. My hope is to finish the trilogy in 2020. I’d also like to get some smaller projects out, but I’ve been promising more from Oneiros for years now since I published Caught, and I simply owe it to those who loved the story show them where it goes from here.

Thanks for reading,


Story Review: Dead Reckoning by Anthony Regolino from Alien Days Anthology

Story Review: Dead Reckoning by Anthony Regolino from Alien Days Anthology
Cover image taken from the book’s Amazon buy page for review purposes under Fair Use doctrine.

Spoiler Free Summary:  Dead Reckoning by Anthony Regolino is the fourth story in the Alien Days Anthology. Bennett is dead, but that won’t stop him from having one last mission. Bennett’s death is the result of an alien weapon that imitates life, but forces the victim to drift into a vegetative state.  When offered a chance at a literal suicide mission, he takes it.

Character:  Bennett was sympathetic and proactive, which is why this story moved for me. I understood his motivation and wondered how the story might go. Given how the first part of the story works, that mystery sort of died for me (yeah, I took that pun).  My struggle is that I didn’t have a “what was gonna happen” feel for me. Now, I personally hate prequels for the same reason. If I already know what’s happening, I’m just not invested. I think if a writer does enough to make the characters matter, the story might be successful, but I’ve never seen it. 

Exposition: This was fantastic. This story moved. Sure, we get a lot of dialogue exposition (This is how you are dead but still walking), but it still came in a natural, conversational tone. So while I may not have been on the edge of my seat wondering how things would go down, I didn’t feel like I was slugging through a muddy plot to get there. 

Image of Regolino taken from his author page for review purposes under Fair Use doctrine.

Worldbuilding: In this case the reader has to take more on faith than I think a typical SCIFI fan would like. The exposition mentioned above feels a bit like a, “just go with it, OK?” vibe. Given that I’m not the most persnickety SCIFI reader, I didn’t mind so much. My mental answer was, “OK.” This is a more character-driven story, so I don’t think the author wanted to get too caught up in the hows and whys. It didn’t bother me much, but fans of Herbert and Zahn aren’t going to want to suspend their disbelief as much as I could. 

Dialogue: There isn’t a ton of dialogue in this story, and I’d say at least forty percent of it is explaining how a story like this is possible. Still, it felt conversational, and the speakers still had a unique voice. 

Description:  I liked this aspect of the story. I say this pretty much every time, but I have no way of know who’s reading what review I do. I don’t need a ton of description. Just get my imagination going, and let said imagination take over. This story did that. I saw what I needed to see. Can I give you one character quality or descriptor for Bennett? Nope. So yeah, we probably could have had more, but I rank plot over description and character over everything. I got what I wanted from this story.

Overall: If it weren’t for the beginning of this story, I’d have put this tale at in my top three. I already mentioned why above. It’s still got some clever scenes and an interesting premise. If you’re not over invested in worldbuilding, you can give this story a chance if you want some interesting philosophical fiction with a touch of action. 

Thanks for reading


Stealing Freedom Gets Its First Review!

Stealing Freedom Gets Its First Review!

StealingFreedomGreetings all,

I just love it when reviews come in! So I’m happy to share this 4-star review for Stealing Freedom.

This (click the link) review was only a sentence, but it’s a moment the reviewer took to offer a rating and a few words, and those words were particularly encouraging because he took that moment to say he liked the end. He even went the extra mile and left the same review on Goodreads, which is just an amazing help.

If you’ve had a chance to read the story (or any of my work), I’d appreciate it if you also took a moment to drop a rating and/or review.

Thanks for reading,


Book Review: 9 Common Lies Christians Believe by Shane Pruitt

Book Review: 9 Common Lies Christians Believe by Shane Pruitt
The cover of this book was taken from its Amazon buy page for review purposes under Fair Use doctrine.

9 Common Lies Christians Believe and Why God’s Truth Is Infinitely Better is a book that takes nine phrases and explains why they are misperceptions. However, this book doesn’t stop there. Like the title, if you  just say, “9 Common Lies Christians Believe,” the reader doesn’t really understand the purpose of the book. The book takes those lies and shows how the truth is indeed better.

This book really had an impact on me. You see, some of these phrases are ones I’ve used and even sought for comfort, and they weren’t effective. Many of them (in my opinion) are just to the left or right of the truth, but to seek these things and not scripture can leave a person unfulfilled and even disenfranchised because they have only a partial understanding on what it is to be Christian, and the lack of a complete truth becomes an effective lie that works against the faith.

Shane Pruitt does an amazing job of breaking down each phrase and clarifying it with solid theological information if not direct Biblical reference, which might be the only gripe I have on this book.  It’s been about three months since I finished the book, so I can’t be sure, but I don’t recall any scriptural reference, which I think would have multiplied the effectiveness of the premise.

I don’t want to take from Pruitt’s book, so I’ll only tease a few phrases he looks into:  Follow your heart. God just wants me to be happy. God doesn’t give more than you can handle.

This image of Mr. Pruitt was taken from his website for review purposes under Fair Use doctrine. 

I’ve used almost all nine of the phrases in the book (I think). And this book helped me see in a different light. Some of these things I have come to learn through my own walk in life, but this book validated a lot of those evolved ideas. Others I realize what I meant, but what I meant (connotation) was vastly different than what I said (denotation).

I think this book is something I’d recommend to anyone new in the faith or someone who is interested in becoming a Christian.  Obviously, the best book to read is The Bible. This book does provide some pretty good context to a lot of things many Christians say or even think.

Thanks for reading,


Sonnets For My Savior 43

Sonnets For My Savior 43


A mother protects her son from foolish deeds.
The son wails and gnashes his teeth in frustration.
His mind wants danger more than what he needs.
He sees the mother’s love as an act of restriction.

How much more has this happened to God the Father?
How often have we cursed Him for what would become our blessings?
How many times have we called His commandments a bother?
How frequently have we scorned Him out of desire for harmful things?

But our Father is patient, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
He has plans for our welfare, which give us hope.
If everything that happens comes from God above,
why not be still and silent, for with Him, we can all cope.

How can we receive good from God and not receive the bad?
Why do we grumble over what we want, forgetting all we have?



The Change

In my mind, there is a mirror
Showing me the man I used to be.
The change in me becomes clearer,
for that wretched man sickens me.

He was angry and lustful.
He believed everything had to be done by his own hand.
He was bitter and mistrustful.
He only sought God to meet his every selfish demand.

How can such a different man wear the same face?
What can explain such a change?
It can only be God’s glorious grace.
Now the man I was seems strange.

Still, the mirror is a great comfort to me;
It shows me how I’ve changed and proves I’ve been set free.



Peace of Mind

Almighty above, you created man and his mind.
You have the power to quiet a man’s thoughts.
Hear now our prayer, for if we seek so shall we find.
His emotions are racing, and his ideas are tied in knots.

Let your servant’s head be clear.
Help him and guard him from false ideals.
For to you I surrender my anxiety and fear.
For only You can help; only you can heal.

Our trust is in your mercy and grace.
For you are slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
Look kindly upon your servant’s face
and grant him peace from above.

Let your name be praised, and bring glory to yourself.
Bring peace to his heart and return this man to himself.



Lament For A Guide

How long will your servant suffer?
How long will illness ravage his body?
Only You can free him, no other.
Hear our prayer and grant him the grace You embody.

How long will those who scorn you mock his testimony?
For he proclaimed his health to your name.
Heal him lest doubters scoff and call his praise of you phony.
Cleanse him lest doubters use this in attempt to bring you shame.

Our faith and trust are in You alone.
We praise You, for your mercy abounds.
We kneel before Your mighty throne.
When our strength fails, Your power compounds.

We sing Your praises even amid our pain.
We pray in hope, for in You our hope will always remain.



The Why

Why do you obey?
Is it for His glory or your reward?
For what reasons do you act in a certain way?
What are your treasures, and where are they stored?

What would you do if your prodigal brother returned?
Would you gnash your teeth and grumble?
Would you begrudge the loss of what you thought you’d earned?
Or would you be glad and remain humble?

Man can observe your actions and think you righteous,
But God sees the heart of every man.
It does you no good to only act pious,
if your actions are only part of a selfish plan. 

Deeds can seem wonderful to a merely human eye,
but those deeds are fear less important than the reason why.




Thunder booms inside my mind.
The core of my spirit quakes.
In You is the only peace I’ll find,
For I lack the strength it takes.

My heart breaks with sadness.
My souls cries for relief.
My eyes seek and only find darkness.
This confusion vexes me beyond belief.

You understand that which is beyond my understanding.
Your comfort can soothe any pain.
Your love is far beyond human comprehending.
I cry out to you and pray in Your holy name.

Grant me wisdom and compassion to help my fellow man.
Work through me to comfort them even when I don’t understand.



You’re Going To Suffer Anyway

Pain comes to the wicked and the redeemed.
Misfortune falls on the generous and the selfish.
Trials come to the reviled and esteemed.
Death comes to those you hate as well as those you cherish.

Curious are those who turn from God because pain exists,
for their stiff necks don’t lead to lives without pain.
Curious are those who blaspheme God, shaking their fists,
for what does their fury ever obtain?

They make the same argument; pain comes to everyone,
but they only think in earthly ways.
However, what those who’ve turn to God have won,
is glory immeasurable in future days.

What is the reward of those who suffer without belief?
Those who have it can at least take comfort even when they feel grief.

Book Review: Mordecai by Michael G. Manning

Book Review: Mordecai by Michael G. Manning
This cover for Mordecai was taken from its Amazon buy page for review purposes under Fair Use doctrine. 

Mordecai is the first book of The Riven Gates series, which is the fourth series in the Mageborn saga. My review for the first the last book in the previous series is here. My review for the earliest series (Embers of Illeniel) is here.  My review for the central series (Mageborn) is here.

Spoiler Free Summary:  Mordecai has seen the passing of the Dark Gods. He’s saved Lothion, placed kings on thrones. His children have done similar things. However, now his past, and the past of the She’Har, are coming together to put him in a position he’s never been in. Tyrion, the progenitor of human mages and Mordecai’s distant ancestor, has returned to the flesh. The ancient enemy of the She’Har has also set it’s sites on Mordecai’s home. The ensuing conflict will cost Mordecai more than ever.

Character:  Mordecai is as wonderful as ever in this story. To me, this book sort of put the series back on track. Any series this large and this old is going to have ebbs and flows. While this book wasn’t as good as some others, it was one of the better ones in my opinion, and Mordecai’s story is why. I loved seeing Tyrion again, and most of the cast get’s some good screen time. The thing that has always elevated the series to me has been its characters, and they remain the driving force behind this outstanding saga.

Exposition: Previous books gave us the background and context we needed, so now we can get right into the drama and the action. Sure, I remember some scenes that might have slowed down a bit, but I’d say this was some of the better exposition I’ve seen in the series in a while.

Dialogue: I’ll admit that this is probably Manning’s weakest area. A lot of the dialogue feels like exposition sometimes. We get told things rather than listening to other characters talk. It’s not honestly such a problem. A lot of writers (including myself) tend to lean on this. So you’ll read conversations that feel more like plot outlines here or there, but it’s still conversational and engaging.

Description:  Any Manning book feels like watching a 3D film in iMAX. This story is no different.

Overall:  This book takes everything you know about Mordecai and his world and flips it on its head. Everything that’s been building for more than ten books comes to a satisfying climax in what’s only the start to what I hope is the most amazing series yet. I’m not going to pretend this is the best book, that right is still reserved for Betrayer’s Bane. However, this book was a shot of adrenaline after a more youth-reader-centered trilogy from the younger heroes in the story. I already think this series is better than the last, and it has potential to evolve into one that rivals the first (chronologically).

Thanks for reading


The Need For Pain: Why Happy Characters Are Boring

The Need For Pain: Why Happy Characters Are Boring

Greetings all,

First a few notes:  For starters, I have the files for the Sojourn in Captivity audio book. I’m reviewing them now. The (very early) results seem wonderful.

Next: My wife an I are officially trying to have a child. This required a surgery to reconnect her tubes (which had been done during her previous marriage). The surgery went well, and I’d just like to take a moment and thank God for that. She and I both truly wanted to have more children, and we’re grateful the door is open. Her recovery has us both growing (code word for frustrated, which is actually why I’m doing this topic today). She’s stir crazy, and my routine is shot. Her number one comfort is being outgoing and doing things, which she can’t. My number one comfort is routine and consistency, which is nonexistent when I’m working and running a house.

But I truly mean it when I say this helps us grow.  You see, I aspire to have a boring life. I love the idea that tomorrow will be just like today. (Not at all my wife’s idea of a good day, but in this case opposites attract).  It’s all fine and good for a person to like what he likes, but if we don’t experience pain, we don’t grow. No one wants to read about the guy who encountered no stress and overcame nothing.

When we encounter struggles, it changes us. Pain  helps us grow. No, I don’t look forward to it, but I’m better when it’s over. Our characters are the same way.

Image taken from A Wheel of Time Wiki for character study purposes under Fair Use Doctrine.

A lot of my favorite characters are characters who suffered plenty: Rand from Wheel of Time suffered a ton (as did my favorite character in that series, Perrin). I’d say these characters are the extremes in terms of my top three series ever. Still, all my favorite books (personally) feature characters who truly struggled.

Here’s the next part to why this is so important. The readers or viewers must believe the characters might fail. I often have playful (yet also serious) arguments with a friend of mine (Hi Terry!) regarding why I honestly don’t care for DC. The characters are too powerful.  They have near Olympian power. Sure, Marvel has some OP characters, but most DC characters are of a ridiculous power level. I’m not afraid for them. I’m not in the least bit worried they won’t win the fight or meet their goal. This makes the story boring. If you want readers interested in your story, you need to convince the reader that character might fail.  This is all the more difficult to do because most readers expect a happy ending. They anticipate that, so it’s such an art to instill an honest sense of fear of failure for the character.

The wife and I don’t hate Jodie Whittaker or her Doctor, but we really couldn’t get into her first season. Now, other than Matt Smith (who remains the greatest Doctor ever), I hated every first season of every doctor. I think the writers take time to figure out the new Doctor just like the new Doctor (in the story) takes a minute to figure him or herself out. But we couldn’t get into it. Then something occurred to me: She never lost. Yes, the grandma died (was it the first episode?), but there wasn’t a connection. In fact, I’m of the opinion that character was pretty expendable. Why? Guess:

She was happy.

Image taken from for character study purposes under Fair Use Doctrine.

The only good thing a happy character can do in a story is die. They have no struggle, and therefore they have no interest. The most interesting thing that could happen is to see this wonderful, happy character die, thus causing all the other characters to become even more interesting as they try to adjust to life after happy character.

Most of my readers who I talk to during conventions often ask me about the characters who die. We talk about this a little. The one character I get the most (playful) anger with killing (no spoilers) was the character who was happy. But that character’s death shook the readers and gave them an emotional jolt. This loss affected not only the readers, but the characters around the the dearly departed.

So I had some interest, but then life got consistent for the Doctor. Then things got easy. I can think of a few instances when there was great opportunity for this Doctor to face true loss on a couple different stages, and the writers didn’t take the plunge. But you can only put Lois Lane on the train tracks so many times before the readers don’t even care anymore.  Sooner or later, that engine needs to plow over Lois, or the “act” gets boring. That’s what I feel happened with this latest season of Doctor Who.

So I wanted to throw out those ideas when I had a moment. Hopefully things calm down for me. (I really do appreciate growth, but I miss my routine something fierce right now, and my wife is going to go out of her mind if I can’t take her out next week.)

What do you all think? Do you have a story you realize you didn’t like so much for this reason? Do you disagree?

Let me know in the comments below.

Thanks for reading,