Favorite Mothers in Books and Anime

I’m a bit late to the Mother’s Day party with this post, but as can be seen on site and its (lack of) activity, late is the order of the day, so here we go!

It’s long been a goal to use this site to talk about the kinds of things I like in media, particularly books and anime, my two favorite storytelling mediums (Video games are third, with live action TV and feature films a distant fourth and fifth), and what better way to kick that off than with a (belated) Mother’s Day piece? Because if it’s one thing anyone reading this has in common with each other and with me, it’s that we all have mothers in our lives. I use the term in the plural not to make a political statement, but rather a sociological one. Whether or not any one of us has a relationship–good or bad–with our biological mothers, we all have motherly figures in our lives who have helped to shape and mold us into the people we are. For better or worse, because not all parents or role models are created equal, and even the best have their failings because we are all flawed creatures.

That said, let’s keep the focus on the positive. Following are some of my favorite depictions of mothers and motherhood in fiction, with an emphasis on anime for the post since that’s what’s coming to me the most at the moment:

  1. Soh-Yon (Beast Player Erin)
  2. Trisha Elric (Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood)
  3. Clara Magnolia (Violet Evergarden) with a bonus(!)

Soh-Yon (Beast Player Erin)


Beast Player Erin follows the tales of a little green-haired, green-eyed girl named Erin as she grows up in a fantasy kingdom and attempts to follow in the footsteps of her mother Soh-Yon, who is a veterinarian for huge lizard creatures called Tohda. The Tohda basically serve as the backbone of the kingdom’s military, their equivalent of horses and war elephants rolled up into one scaly package. Life is good for Erin, who is the granddaughter of the village elder, but all is not as it seems in her idyllic community. Despite being related to the village elder, her mother is an outsider, from a nomadic clan that is not seen in a positive light by the people of the kingdom. She slowly comes to realize this, but through many of her formative years she has her mother, Soh-Yon, to watch her back, to tend to her needs, and to give her someone to look up to. I can’t write more about her without major spoilers, but just know this is one of my favorite anime of all time. It used to be available on Crunchyroll, but I think it’s been pulled down as of this writing, and no one has published it physically or digitally in the United States. A shame, since it’s deserving of a lot of acclaim in my opinion.

P.S. I just realized that the book this is based on is out in English, both in audio and in hardcover. Let’s goooooooo…!

Hey, where’d the green hair go? And that looks like a wolf, not a lizard. Ah, whatever. Still excited!

Trisha Elric (Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood)

Trisha Elric - Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood - Image #745384 ...

Trisha Elric is the mother of protagonist Edward Elric and his brother Alphonse. She alone raised Ed and Al after their father Hohenheim up and vanished one day when they were young. They saw him leave, and that was that so far as their father was concerned. (Or was it…? Plot thickens!) Trisha raises the brothers on her own as best she can, always a smile on her face and never a harsh word for the seemingly irresponsible father of theirs who left them in their formative years. Right on up until her death (It’s in the first episode, so it’s not a spoiler!) and in all flashbacks to come, she clearly had nothing but trust and love in Hohenheim, knowing that he was doing something important enough that he had to leave them behind for now. Up until the end she fulfilled her duty as a mother with love, grace, and humility. And occasionally a big spoon or broom for when the smacks needed to get laid down. Am I imagining that last part? Hmm…

For those who have seen the show, I’d love your input on a theory of mine. There’s a moment in the fifth opening of the show (The last “season” or “arc) where we see her approaching what we think is Ed in a dream, before she bends over and extends her arm. Then we cut to Ed who is asleep with a smile on his face. Is he dreaming of Trisha coming back for him, or someone else? I think it’s someone else, and he’s happy to see it. But, hey, that’s just a theory. An anime theory…

This moment gets me every time since my “realization.”

Clara Magnolia (Violet Evergarden)

Violet Evergarden is an anime that, at its heart, is about someone with PTSD attempting to reintegrate into society. Violet, the titular character, is a former child soldier who has just survived her land’s equivalent of World War I, and not without severe cost to body and soul. In the final battle of the war, she lost both arms attempting to protect her commanding officer. Her commanding officer’s best friend takes her under his wing after the war and hires her to work for his company, a mail delivery and letter writing service. The majority of the story follows Violet as she learns to convey the feelings and desires of those she’s contracted to write letters for and, as a result, learns to understand and convey her own feelings. It’s an emotional roller-coaster at times, and the visuals and music are gorgeous. I can’t recommend the show enough.

In one of the episodes, Violet visits Clara Magnolia, a chronically-ill woman in need of Violet’s skills to help her write a series of letters. While there, Violet meets Clara’s seven year old daughter Ann, who has a love-hate relationship with Violet. On the one hand, she’s glad to have a new friend. On the other hand, she hates that Violet is taking her mother away from her when she needs

Bonus – Unnamed Mother (Violet Evergarden)

There’s another mother in Violet who reaches out and comforts Violet in a shared moment of grief. I can’t say any more or show her without spoiling an entire episode, but it’s a testament to both the woman’s strength of character and her motherly instincts that she, in the deepest grief imaginable, would be able to show compassion for another who’s suffering. It’s beautiful, it’s tragic, and I love it. It’s the kind of emotional impact I hope to impart on readers.

This is strength right here.

And that’s it for the moment. There are a ton of other examples I could give, but this post has already gone on long enough. If you’ve made it this far, thank you! Please consider leaving a comment. I’d love to know which fictional mother is your favorite.

In the coming days, look for a link to a newsletter sign-up page. It’s high time I get one going, and it is in the works! For those who sign up, a free novella set in my Necrolopolis fantasy universe awaits! Learn how necromancer Adelvell wound up in the undead city of Necrolopolis, employed as the assistant to the city’s director herself:

“So, how did you end up in this position, Addy?” Ferryman looked up from his ale, his face lost deep inside the hood of his black robe. “Originally someone from the Necromancer’s Guild was favored for the position, but you’re not a member.”

“Addy isn’t a member of the guild?” Mad Molly floated her plump form closer, a fresh tankard in each translucent hand. She set them in front of us. “Am I hearin’ that right?”

I took a long pull to finish my first tankard, then reached for one of the new ones.

“It’s not something I go around advertising, but yes. And you’re right, Ferryman. One of my rivals was a member of the guild, along with someone from the Cult of Mortus.” I shrugged. “In the end, I had the job.”

“That sounds like a story.” Molly’s green eyes glinted with ghostly mischief. “Care to share?”

“It’s a bit of a long one,” I warned. “It starts in a distant city, with a couple of missing pieces of mail…”


Season of Anthologies

Last week, a fantasy anthology came out that contains, amongst other great entries, another short from my Necrolopolis universe. Check out Songs of Valor for the short story “On a Wing and a Train” where Addy has to infiltrate an elven Root Way train to rescue a ghost at risk of exorcism by the undead-hating race of pointy-ears. And, while he’s there, potentially save the world from a soul-devouring demon. Oh, and his only backup is a succubus who has a tendency to go her own way when she’s needed the most. Will our necromancer hero survive long enough to complete his mission? There’s only one way to find out!

Oh, and did I mention that Larry Correia, David Weber, and Glen Cook all have stories in this anthology? I’m sure you’re coming for Adelvell and Necrolopolis, but make sure to stick around for those heavy-hitting writers, as well. They never disappoint!

Oh, and did I also mention that the guy with the glowing hand and skull is Adelvell, the protagonist of my Necrolopolis stories? It blew me away when Rob Howell told me he’d be on the cover! I saw the image and initially thought, “Oh, hey, one of the aforementioned heavy hitters has a necromancer in his story! Awesome!” Then I found out it was Addy and, well, mind blown.

In other anthology-related news, I have two stories due in and around March 31st, one for the sci-fi anthology reboot of the Starflight game series, and another for the urban fantasy thriller Hit World universe. After that, there are more stories due for at least three or four other anthologies of various genres and themes, with at least two of those additions to the Necrolopolis universe. Most of these haven’t been announced to the general public yet, and I forget which ones have been, so for now the veil of secrecy is on all of them. When I know I can mention them, I will!

In the meantime, here is a short excerpt from “On a Wing and a Train” available in Songs of Valor! Get it free with Kindle Unlimited, for $4.99 in Kindle EBook, and it’s also available in paperback!


“I need to get away for a few days,” I muttered.

“Careful what you wish for,” a sing-song voice answered.

I jumped and spun around, the sack of skulls slapping my backside. A beautiful lady stood nearby, her red irises shining in the gloom. “Mina? Mortus, you scared me!”

Mina’s blonde ringlets danced about her face as she laughed. “Sorry, Addy! That wasn’t my intent.” She clasped her hands behind her back and leaned forward. “Well, maybe a little. It’s rare to see a necromancer who gets spooked so easily.”

Of course. I held up the sack. “I was coming to see you.”

“Mr. Landas again?”

“Yes, and these ‘relatives’ of his haven’t paid their interment fee, nor do I think they can afford it.”

“I see.” Mina made a face, but her smile soon returned. “I’ll take care of that. You need to get to the Hall and gather your things. You’re needed for an assignment outside the city.”

Did I mention that concurrent new moons often brought ill tidings? My stomach churned. The last time I’d left the city on official business, I had chased down a gang who carved up ghouls and sold their limbs to amputees and wealthy eccentrics. It hadn’t been pleasant.

“What’s the situation?”

“Oh, nothing as messy as last year.” She removed a letter from a blouse pocket and held it up. “An old friend of mine was killed and has returned as undead. She needs our help.”

Were it anyone else, this seeming nonchalance at a friend’s death and reanimation would be disturbing. But, Mina was an immortal being who’d spent centuries managing the affairs of the restless dead. Many of her friends had likely walked this same path.

The skulls’ chattering grew louder. I shook the sack to quiet them, but they only squawked more. I raised my voice as I asked, “She can’t reach the city on her own?”

“She has to be careful of her movements at the moment.” Mina took the sack of skulls from me. The chattering ceased the instant her fingers touched leather. No matter how cheerful her disposition on most days, one did not cross Lady Grimina, the half-human daughter of Mortus, god of death. “It’ll be dangerous, so I’ve asked Lilana to tag along.”

“The proprietress of Oblivion’s Joy?” I blurted. Heat instantly flooded my cheeks. “Er, not that I’ve ever been there, mind you.”

“Uh-huh.” Mina’s eyes twinkled. “Normally I wouldn’t believe a man who reacted that way, but you’re a special case.”

In truth, I had been to the city’s succubus brothel on several occasions, but only for drinks. Lilana, the teasing minx, refused to accept my patronage beyond that, and it was the same with any necromancer. That afforded me a lot of frustrated time to witness how much coin she and her kind earned from both the living and the undead still capable of such things. I wasn’t sure who was thirstier: the clientele, or the shape-shifting demonesses.

I frowned. “Why Lilana?”

“The target is a mutual friend of ours.” Mina tapped the letter with a finger. “She’ll keep you safe.”

“Safe? Can’t I use my magic?”

“I wouldn’t recommend it, not where you’re going.”


“Oh, don’t worry so much.” Mina slipped her free arm through mine and pulled me down the street. “It’ll be fine.”


“How is this fine?” I murmured as I stepped onto the wooden platform at the edge of an icy lake. A mix of humans, gnomes, dwarves, and elves milled about, but I kept my distance. “How is this even a good idea?”

Lilana leaned close, her tan face shadowed by a broad-brimmed hat. “What’s the matter, Addy?” Her hot breath smelled of jasmine. “Nervous?”

We faced a dark, knotty root twice the height of a man. This was a tendril of A’Ealfarnien, the World Tree, and one of many such entrances into the Root Ways, a magical roadway the elves controlled.

I shivered and drew my traveler’s cloak tight. “Of course I’m nervous. Elves don’t hold necromancers in high regard.” An understatement. Necromancy carried the death sentence. “If I’d known this was the job, I’d have refused.”

“So you’ve said every day for the last week. And yet here you are.” She arched an eyebrow. “Why?”

On the way back to Necrolopolis Hall the evening I dealt with Mr. Landas, Mina had filled me in on more details. Lilana and I were to travel to the Graendelvale Marshlands and board a living carriage train in order to smuggle an undead elf out of the Root Ways. Her interment fee had been paid in full, with a bonus for the danger involved for me. And the danger for her was even worse than for me. If discovered, she would be exorcised immediately. That meant her soul would be obliterated, never to cross the Veil into the afterlife.

My duty in this situation was clear, and the bonus money didn’t hurt, either. If all went as planned, we’d be back in the odorous confines of the city within a week, two if our undead charge wasn’t ambulatory. Still, I couldn’t shake the fear that something awful would happen. Damn those new moons. “What if we get caught?”

 “Why, Addy, if that were to happen, I’d unfurl the black wings wrapped around my tight little body, scoop you up, and fly us to safety.” Her smile stretched enough to reveal a fang. “As to whether you survived what happened next…well, we’ll have to see.”

Before I could entertain the thought, an oblong section of the root slid open, revealing a tunnel filled with blue luminance. A wave of balmy air blew out of the portal, and the sudden warmth against my freezing cheeks sent another shiver down my spine. The blessedly hot air carried a low rumble that steadily grew to a roar. “Here’s the root train,” Lilana said. “Try not to gape like a fool.”

A series of linked cylindrical carriages made of living wood and glass soared past the portal, first as a blur and then with more detail as the train slowed. Each carriage was a work of art unto itself: richly colored wood panels adorned the outer walls; trim so freshly painted it looked wet bordered each window and doorway; leafy canopies adorned the rounded roofs, fed by water misting from the root’s ceiling; and ornate scrollwork ran along the carriages’ bottoms, the runes glowing with soft white light.

Lilana jabbed my arm. “You’re gaping.”

I snapped my jaw shut, but the sense of awe remained. The whole setup raised many questions. Where had the elves come up with such an idea? How had they grown the train carriages? How did they even fit? The root wasn’t physically big enough to hold the train and all that empty space between the ceiling and the carriages’ canopies. And what happened when the World Tree’s tendrils shrank the further they went from the trunk?

Fae magic was a wondrous thing, indeed.

As the train came to a halt, a single carriage filled the oval portal. Its doors opened and a forest sprite drifted out on fluttering wings. “All aboard!”

Lilana and I hung back in the rear as everyone lined up. A group of dwarves huddled nearby, miners if the pickaxes and hammers were any indicator. They laughed and carried on about how much ale they’d pound down between here and their destination.

A drink wouldn’t be a bad thing right about now, that was for sure. I licked my lips, and tried to steady my nerves as we boarded the train.

Lilana pressed a hand against my back and gave me a gentle push. “No going back now,” she whispered.

Blue Salvation is submitted!

As of just a few minutes ago, Blue Salvation has been submitted to Chris Kennedy Publishing. It clocked in at roughly 108,000 words, or 432 pages in standard publishing format. I imagine that will fluctuate by a couple thousand by the time editor Beth gets through with it, but it should be close to that mark when it’s published.

It was a fun ride! It took far longer to outline than it should, but between the draft and the edits it took about seven weeks to complete. If I can just manage to take care of that normally, I’d be able to crank out a lot of books in a year’s span! And that is the plan, no rhyme intended. 2020’s been a crazy year, but there is a lot left to come!

Blue Salvation’s Rough Draft is Finished!

It took a lot longer to get here than it should have, at least to me, but Blue Salvation’s rough draft is finished! For those who enjoyed the first book Blue Crucible (And it’s available here), you are in for an even wilder ride! Lots of action, lots of great characters, and more than its fair share of ups and downs. There were a few scenes that even got to me as I was writing them, so I have no doubt they will get to you, too.

I’m looking forward to digging down into the edits over the next few weeks. For now, here is the opening scene to the book. It is edited and polished, but always subject to change as editor Beth may see fit to change some things. I can do edits to an extent, but it really takes an editor to make a work shine, and that’s what she’s great at. I hope you enjoy it!


The late night air in downtown Columbia was quiet but for the sharp sound of booted and shoed hooves striking pavement. Calico Countess walked northeast along Paris Road at a steady pace, her natural night vision letting her see obstacles in the street that I couldn’t make out without a flashlight. I kept a loose hand on the reins and trusted my tri-colored American to get me where I needed to go: to the next intersection, and then the next.

I rode at the head of a column of fifteen mounted officers, with my brother Sergeant Danny Ward of the Mobile Alabama Police Department on my left and Sergeant Berengár Silva of the Marajó military police on my right. Each of us, human and animal, was decked out in bulletproof riot armor, a huge upgrade from the stuff previous generations of officers had worn. Well, an upgrade in protective qualities, anyway. Sweat trickled down my neck and soaked into my already drenched undershirt. Late July in Missouri wasn’t nearly as hot and humid as late July back in Mobile, but it didn’t mean it was enjoyable. And since armor didn’t breathe too well…

“I’m glad there weren’t ever any riots in Mobile,” Danny said. He rode with the faceplate of his helmet raised, so he could periodically mop his face with a handkerchief. “Can you imagine wearing all this day in and day out, in August?”

“I’d have died. No question about it.” I glanced to my right. “Silva, how hot does it get in Brazil in the summer?”

The stout sergeant tilted his head up as he considered. “I can’t speak for the mainland, since I never spent much time outside Marajó. On the island, the average is around twenty-seven degrees Celsius. During the rainy season, it can go up to thirty-two.”

I did the temperature conversion in my head. “That’s between eighty and ninety degrees Fahrenheit.”

Patrolman Jeremiah Jones whistled from somewhere behind us. Between his dark riot gear and his even darker skin, the six-foot-eight giant was practically invisible in the dim moonlight in an otherwise lightless city. It didn’t help that his stallion Rambo was as black as Danny’s aptly named Noir. He’d gotten beaten up pretty badly during the assault on the Country Hotel, but he’d recovered swiftly. “Damn, Sergeant Silva. I’d be happy to trade Mobile’s weather for yours.”

“Yeah, it’s a lot hotter by us,” I said. “Maybe it’s why the fire ants like it so much.”

“Isn’t Mobile the port city that fire ants came in through?” Danny asked.

“Thanks for that!” Patrolman Lewis of the Atlanta PD said. “I hate those little bastards.”

“Don’t thank us!” I hiked my thumb at Silva. “Take it up with him. They came from his neck of the woods.”

“What is it you Americans like to say from time to time? ‘Sharing is caring?’”

Everyone laughed at that. Well, most everyone. As I turned in my saddle, I noticed the only local riding with us tonight wasn’t laughing. Lieutenant Kevin Hanson, sole survivor of the St. Louis police department. He and his squad had ridden back to the neighboring city after the bombs dropped, but all they’d found was an irradiated wasteland. He and Patrolman Orson McGraw had been the only ones to make it back to Columbia, and both had been in bad shape. McGraw hadn’t even lived long enough for the responding medics to arrive, but Hanson had somehow made it to the hospital and pulled through, at least physically. “Kevin, is this kind of heat in the middle of the night normal for this area?”

Kevin had been idly stroking the dark mane of Watson, a red gelding our department had given to him after his had horse to be put down due to radiation poisoning. He looked up at hearing his name, but I couldn’t see his face in the shadows. “Been awhile since I was on night shift, but if the daytime’s hot enough, I don’t see why the night would be much better.”

His tone was that of someone who didn’t care, and that worried me. Kevin was normally a jovial person, the kind who could put a smile on the sourest of faces or calm down the most violent of criminals. He’d changed since the fall. He was more withdrawn now, only spoke when he was spoken to, and his eyes had such a haunted quality about them. He also had fallen into the habit of doing the absolute bare minimum when it came to personal care. His uniform was often wrinkled, his riot gear dirty, and his face had the unkempt beard he’d acquired while in the hospital. It surprised me that Captain Graham and Sheriff Welliver had cleared him for duty, but maybe they thought getting back in the saddle would help snap him out of it.

I don’t know that anyone could be “snapped out” of this situation. We’d all suffered in the fall. Nearly every member of the unified mounted patrol that made up the core of Columbia’s defensive garrison had lost their hometowns and families. With the exception of my two children and Danny, I’d lost every blood relative, and I was uniquely blessed in that regard. Or cursed, depending on your outlook. Many were glad their families hadn’t survived the fall, because they feared what was coming next. Compared to them, I had a lot more invested in keeping this city alive and functional, and it weighed on me daily.

Distant gunfire echoed through the moonless night, reminding us that the fall had done more than change our demeanors. It changed our entire way of life. “Imagine that,” Jones said. “Gunfire in Columbia? Must be a Tuesday night!”

A bright ball of blue light suddenly lit up the eastern sky, in the direction of the gunfire. That signal flare meant at least one of the parties involved in the firefight requested police protection. With telephones and most radios down, it was the best way to notify us of trouble, which is why we distributed them to neighborhood leaders we could trust.

“Jones, I thought you said it was Tuesday.” Danny pointed. “Signal flares are a Wednesday night thing.”

“My bad, Sarge!”

I checked the nearby street sign to get my bearings. We were a little north of the university, and that flare had come from the east. There was only one neighborhood in that direction that I could remember handing flares over to. “Gotta be Jay Dawson and his folks.”

“That the guy you were having sweet tea with while I was getting shot at in a doughnut shop?” Danny asked.

“The very same. His wife brews a damn good pot.”

He grinned. “Well, let’s go get some, then.”

“My thoughts exactly.” I squeezed Countess’s sides with my knees, urging her into a trot, and then a canter. “Follow me!”

A horse or buffalo can eat up a lot of terrain in a short amount of time at a fast jog, but it was situations like this that reminded me of how much slower animals were to vehicles. I chafed at the delay as the sounds of gunfire grew louder the closer to the scene we got. With so few vehicles working in the city due to the EMP shockwave, we were often the fastest to respond, as slow as that had once seemed. Then again, with so many disabled vehicles clogging the streets, we would probably still be the fastest to respond. Horses and buffalos could maneuver these tight spaces much better than a car or truck.

“Why does it feel like we’re never going fast enough?” Danny demanded.

I chuckled. “That’s twice in one night you’ve read my mind.” The staccato sound of automatic weapons fire stifled my levity. “It’s the nature of the job. No matter how fast we can go, it wouldn’t seem like enough.”

Jay’s neighborhood was a relatively new development, built sometime in the last twenty to thirty years. After JalCom had bought the city and proceeded to knock down and rebuild huge swathes of it, a number of people had moved out into what had once been farmland and put down roots there, close enough to the city to still be able to work there, but not so close that the Corporate hand was upon them. Trees surrounded the fenced-in subdivision on three sides, and the wrought-iron fence and gate facing the street had been fortified with sandbags, old furniture, scrap metal, and as much other debris as could be found. Some industrious individual had even hauled over a few broken-down trucks to add to the growing wall.

Shadowed figures stood in the beds of those trucks and fired across the road into a crop field that had been plowed up back in early May, shortly after the bombs dropped. More shadowy figures crouched behind caged tomato plants or peeked out between cornstalks to fire back at the neighborhood entrance. I didn’t need to use too much deductive reasoning to figure out what was going on here. Someone was rustling up food that someone else had gone to the trouble of growing, and that wasn’t right.

I put my whistle to my lips and blew. The sharp trill pierced the night, rising over the gunfire and the distinct clop-clop-clop of our mounts’ hooves. “It’s the police!” one of the neighborhood defenders shouted.

“Kill ‘em!” someone in the crop field yelled.

Rounds zipped past our heads or skimmed along the pavement. Countess snorted and danced away from an impact that showered us both with chips of asphalt. “Way to make the locals angry, Nate,” Danny said as he pulled his Remington 870 pump-action shotgun from the scabbard connected to Noir’s saddle. He put the weapon to his shoulder, lined up his ghost-ring sight on an enemy, and squeezed the trigger. I looked forward just in time to see the target dive for cover. Danny clicked his tongue. “Damn. Missed.”

“At least his pants are ruined!” I drew my assault rifle, clicked it over to semi-auto, and stared down the glowing tritium sights at a bad guy crouched between two rows of caged tomatoes. I realized he was aiming at me, and we both froze. I recovered more quickly, and squeezed the trigger once, twice, and again. The man’s body shook with each bullet’s impact, and he slumped to his knees, and then fell face-first into the soft, tilled soil.

A round buzzed past my head, and I shifted to fire at a pair of men hiding in the cornstalks. I know I hit one, but both spun and disappeared into the corn. “Fall back!” someone shouted.

“Silva, take your squad around back on the right side! The rest of you, follow me!” I spurred Countess into a gallop. To the defenders of the neighborhood, I shouted, “Hold your fire!”

I led Danny, Jones, Kevin, and four other officers down the street, our horses’ hooves thundering along the pavement. Countess and I raced past a pair of bodies on the hard-packed dirt shoulder. Both had died facing the crop field, so I wasn’t sure which side they belonged to. One of them was a young boy, by the look of it. “Shit,” someone muttered behind me. I know how he felt. I’d seen a lot of corpses in my time as a cop and more than I ever wanted to since the bombs dropped a couple months back, but the sight of dead kids never got any easier.

The day it did was the day I’d hand over my badge.

The tomato patch near the road turned into peppers, then summer squash, but the cornfield beyond them stretched for a good fifty yards or so, and there was no telling from here how deep it was. I had to hand it to the folks of Jay’s neighborhood. They were hard-working.

As we neared the edge of the crop field I turned Countess off the road and onto the grass. Row after row of leafy green cornstalks flashed past my periphery in a blur as we galloped toward the far end of the field. Shouts and gunshots echoed from somewhere up ahead and to the right, along with Silva yelling, “Police! Drop your weapons!”

Movement in the corn up ahead caught my eye, and I reined Countess in. “Woah!” I called to the others.

A trio of figures burst from the cornstalks, each laden with sacks full of what I assumed had to be food. I flicked on the flashlight attached to my rifle and shined it in their faces. Even though it was directed away from me, the sudden intensity brought tears to my eyes. “Freeze!”

The three men snapped their heads in my direction, their expressions like a deer caught in the headlights of a speeding truck. If not for the seriousness of the situation, I’d have laughed. “Put down the sacks and get your hands in the air.”

One of them had canted his body away from us slightly. My flashlight caught the glint of metal. I shifted my aim to him. “Drop the gun. Tomatoes and corn aren’t worth dying over, man. I don’t care how well-grown they are.”

“Drop it, man!” one of the man’s buddies hissed. “I don’t wanna get shot!”

“Tch. Fine.” The armed man tossed the rifle to the ground, then dropped the sack. He raised his hands over his head and glared at us, heedless of the lights shining in his face. “Happy now, you pigs? You enjoy picking on hungry people?”

“Do you enjoy shooting it out with equally hungry people who are expending the effort to grow food?” Danny demanded.

“They’re only in it for themselves! They’re not helping us out.”

“Mr. Dawson and his people contribute vital supplies to the city on a regular basis.” I kept the weapon light focused on them, but I removed my finger from the trigger. “Supplies that get distributed every other day. Supplies you were stealing for yourself. Now, each of you get about five feet apart from the other, turn your backs to us, and keep your hands in the air.”

Kevin, Jones, and Lewis slid from their saddles and approached the trio. Jones and Lewis moved with purpose, but Kevin’s slumped shoulders and downcast gaze didn’t give me a good feeling. “Keep an eye on that one, Lieutenant Hanson,” I said.

Kevin’s head lifted, but only slightly.

Lewis reached his target first and pulled the man’s arms down behind his back. He let himself be cuffed without incident.

That wasn’t the case for Kevin’s suspect. When he reached for the man’s wrists, the man smashed an elbow into the side of Kevin’s helmet. Kevin staggered and fell just as the suspect spun around, his hand going to his waistband.

I set my finger back on the trigger. “Put your hands in the air!” I prayed I wouldn’t have to shoot over Kevin like this.

Jones appeared in my view and swung his fist down into the man’s face. The suspect’s head snapped back and he dropped like a sack of potatoes. Jones stood over him, his right arm extended, his left hooked around the man he’d cuffed. He’d dragged him along with him when he set out to neutralize the threat. Jones forced his charge down into a sitting position and put a finger in his face. “Don’t go anywhere.” Then he knelt next to the man he’d downed and started to cuff him with the set Kevin had dropped in the grass.

The man groaned as Jones roughly pulled his arms behind his back so he could cuff him. “Fuckin’ pig.”

Jones grinned. “Oink oink, baby.”

Silva and his buffalo riders came around the corner then. A few had dismounted to drag along a half-dozen cuffed thieves. Tonight had been a good haul, it seemed.

Blue Crucible Release Day!

As of midnight, Blue Crucible has gone live on Amazon! It is available in Kindle, Kindle Unlimited, and Paperback formats. It is marked as the seventh book in the Fallen World universe, but note that it is the beginning of a new series in that world. It can be read separately and out-of-order from the other six books. In fact, in terms of chronology, I believe it is the first. All the other books take place months or decades after the fall, but Blue Crucible begins on the day it all turned to crap.

From the back cover blurb:

The end came fast for Lieutenant Nathan Ward. One moment he was participating in an international convention of mounted police officers, the next he was in a command bunker watching the world’s two biggest Corporations—Obsidian and Teledyne—destroy it in an exchange of nuclear hellfire.

While Columbia, Missouri was spared a direct strike, a near-miss EMP fried most of the vehicles and the electrical grid. Then the Corporations started a shooting war in the streets, and they didn’t care who got caught in the crossfire. But Columbia was one of the last cities still standing, and Nathan and his fellow officers weren’t going to give it up. Even if it meant facing the worst the Corporate militaries could throw at them.

The Corporations had no intention of giving up the city, either, and Obsidian called in reinforcements to match Teledyne’s Specialist, a woman with the power to defeat a company of soldiers all on her own. Both Corporations intended to reign supreme and were willing to crush anyone who got in their way. In the post-apocalyptic world, there was only one law—theirs—and not the one with a badge.

The world may have fallen, but the Thin Blue Line’s battle is only beginning.

For those who read it, please consider leaving a review! Every review helps Amazon take notice of the book and start to passively and then actively promote it. It’s how small-press and indie authors get noticed. Thank you for your support!

And a huge thanks to Chris Kennedy of CKP, Christopher Woods (the creator the Fallen World), Beth Agejew my editor, William Joseph Roberts and RJ Ladon for helping me with the rough draft, and to all those on the early reader team! That includes two very good friends of mine (Aubree and Bill, thank you both!) and my wife, who has to suffer through all my, “Hey, what about this…?” moments. Thank you all!

Lastly, please consider joining my mailing list. It is rudimentary at the moment, one of those free plugins that comes with WordPress. I am looking into some of the professional services like MailChimp, AWeber, and a new one that’s meant specifically for writers. In the meantime, though, I plan for posts on the blog once or twice a week, and e-mails no more than once a week unless something big is happening.

Again, thank you all!

Blue Crucible Cover Art Reveal!

Since my publisher went public with it, I can only assume I’m free to post about it here. All I can say is, wow. I’m absolutely blown away by this cover art. Never in my life did I expect my very first novel would have this kind of artwork.

And the coolest part about it is Chris let me help design it. He came to me back in early December after I announced the draft was finished, and asked what I would like on the cover. From what I understand of traditional publishing, this isn’t typically how it’s done. The big firms have marketing departments who figure all that out. Authors get a little bit of input, but not much. Depending on the author, anyway. I laid out a few ideas based on scenes from the book, and this was the one we decided would be best: a crazy charge into the hotel the bad guys are holed up in at the climax of the book.

I forget what the third idea was, but the second one was a close-up shot of the main character, Lieutenant Nathan Ward, charging towards the “camera” with mounted officers behind him. We axed that idea pretty quickly because Amazon has some new weird rule for cover art that effectively bans any kind of artwork where weapons are being pointed at the “reader.” Why, I don’t know. The audience has been getting shot by James Bond for decades and there hasn’t been any outcry over it that I’m aware of. But, such is life. And this cover art turned out amazingly well. I would argue it’s the best Fallen World artwork so far, but all of it’s excellent. Elartwyne Estole just gets better and better!

Blue Crucible is Finished!

After a month of edits and rewrites and lots of red ink from a pair of really good writer friends, Blue Crucible is off to the publisher! As I submitted it, the document sat at around 92,500 words, or 315 double-spaced pages. I have no idea what that will translate into in terms of Kindle pages or the paperback version, but it’s in the realm of a longer novel for the Fallen World series.

The story begins on the day of the fall itself: May 1st, 2067. It follows a mounted police officer trainer as he, his subordinates, and the men and women of numerous visiting police departments fight to restore order to a city spared from direct nuclear attack but still hit with an electromagnetic pulse strong enough to bring down most of the electrical grid and disable most vehicles. Horses will be the main mode of transportation, so it’s a good thing so many mounted officers are gathered together in one spot. And things are going great, until Teledyne and Obsidian – the two Megacorporations responsible for the nuclear exchange that destroyed most of the nation – start a shooting war in the city of Columbia. The officers are ordered to stand down and let the two fight it out, but as civilian casualties rise, how many of the good men and women of the Thin Blue Line are going to just stand by and watch? Not many, that’s for sure.

Expect lots of gunfights, horses, a titanic clash between a Teledyne Specialist and an Obsidian Agent, and regular officers caught in-between as they try to serve and protect.

SpaceX Falcon Heavy Successful Launch

Not a long post today. Meetings at the day job kept me busy for quite awhile. Not a complaint, just a statement of fact. Lots of good stuff on the horizon both for the company and for the writing, so it’s all good. I’ll keep the post short with just a mention of something I find cool: rocket launches. Mercury, Gemini, Apollo, the Space Shuttle, the Soyuz rockets. All of it’s cool to me, and it’s really cool to see private firms like SpaceX taking a greater part in the space race. Part of me wishes NASA was still in the game of sending astronauts into space on their own rockets, and that same part hopes they get back into it with the Space Launch System or something similar. Then again, part of me also hopes that the private sector keeps on keepin’ on and starts for-profit space travel sometime in the near future. SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy might just be the ticket, especially with its reusable boosters:

Here’s to more successes in the realm of space exploration and commerce!

Anime Review: Konosuba 1 & 2

If you like it when your sides hurt, this show is for you. 4.5/5.0

When season one of Konosuba ended, my wife and I were excited to see a second season was already in the works! It’s taken us a bit of time, but we’ve finished with season two, and we’re hoping for a third to come, a third that seems highly likely if rumors are true.

If you haven’t seen season one yet, I won’t be throwing any spoilers in this post. To sum it up, the story is about a Japanese teenager named Kazuma who dies in a rather silly way and gets the chance to be reincarnated in another world as himself (Same age and everything) and with one item or skill of his choosing. The goddess Aqua, who greets him on the other side with mockery and derision, learns the hard way that Kazuma is, if nothing else, rather vindictive. He chooses her as his “item” and both of them are thrust into a fantasy world oppressed by an as-yet-unseen demon king, with the mission of defeating him if either want to go back to their respective worlds. They then add two new members to their party, and hijkinks ensue (  Hijinks ensue. (Hi-jinks? High jinks? It’s an odd word).

Behold, the face of a masochist!

Season one was hilarious, and season two is just as good. The humor is mostly a result of the interactions between the four main characters as they attempt to accomplish whatever quest they’re dealing with in that particular episode or episodes. Kazuma’s party couldn’t be more different. Kazuma is more-or-less the straight man for the show, though he has his moments. Aqua is an amazing healer, but she’s dumb as a box of rocks and always ending up in debt. Megumin is a magician obsessed with only the most powerful spell in her discipline (Think Meteo in the Final Fantasy universe). And Darkness the Paladin is a bit too interested in being a damage sponge, to the point that she’s useless with her sword.

There’s almost always a complication, and those complications are almost always caused by one or more of the team members. For instance, a recurring issue for Kazuma is a rival hero who came to the world much like him, only he chose some mystical, legendary sword for slaying evil. When the two end up facing off against each other, Kazuma steals the sword with his special ability and then sells it. Funny at the time, but there are several instances throughout the show where that hero and his sword would have come in handy, but now Kazuma and his party of misfits are on their own. And then there’s a general of the demon king’s army who sets up shop in a nearby castle and is content to leave the heroes’ city alone until a certain explosion-obsessed magician decides to go and blow his castle up. Every day. For weeks:

For those seeking a good laugh, this show has it all. I will warn that there is also a fair amount of fan service in it, especially with Darkness’s character. Lots of bounciness and some “might-as-well-be-naked” moments. Even then, it’s done in a way that parodies other shows.

Everything’s Gone to Sha’Daa!

A short story I wrote is going to be published in the Sha’Daa: Toys anthology by Moondream Press this December! It is titled “Bag of Tricks” and it is about a magician who has to stop the apocalypse in his little patch of Pennsylvania Dutch country with little more than a toy fireman’s cap, a robot claw, a miniature dump truck, and a package of barbecue ribs. We can only hope he’s caught up on his MacGyver seasons.

What is the Sha’Daa, you may ask? It’s quite literally the end of the world, a 48-hour period where thousands of portals to the hellish realms open up and threaten the very existence of mankind. Only one individual stands in the breach, ready to defend life on Earth as we know it: Johnny the Salesman, an enigmatic figure who always seems to show up at the right time with the right item, available at just the right price. Better pay up, because you’re going to need whatever he’s offering if you want even a chance at beating back the hordes of hell ready to bust up your neighborhood.

Sha’Daa: Toys is to be the sixth and final short story anthology set in the Sha’Daa universe. The others are all available on Amazon either as a Kindle Unlimited item or as a paperback book, each filled with stories ranging from the serious to the campy. All are fun reads. I burned through them after I heard about the Sha’Daa series from editor Mike Hanson down at LibertyCon in Chattanooga, and I can’t wait to read all the stories in the Toys anthology.

List of the Sha’Daa Anthologies:

  1. Sha’Daa: Tales of the Apocalypse

  2. Sha’Daa: Last Call

  3. Sha’Daa: Pawns

  4. ShaDaa: Facets

  5. Sha’Daa: Inked

Look for Sha’Daa: Toys mid-December! I will post a link as soon as I have one.