“Melting Ice”, by Jordan Ray Allen – Review

Jordan Ray Allen has written a high-speed romp portraying petty (and not so petty) criminals engaged in what they supposedly do best. The titular character Ice Pick, also known as a priest, runs a loan shark business out of his church. His right hand man Frank, also known as Deacon Frank, loyally helps him do so. A larger criminal Texas Pete, an attractive yoga-practicing 50 year old woman, objects to Frank running business in her turf and imposes a tax payable by Easter Sunday or else a handful of her own “Franks” would help emphasize the point. Ice Pick and Frank come up with an idea to squeeze more money from the congregation (fake miracles are involved) at the same time other criminals are plotting to help themselves to the ill-gotten gains. All the characters in Melting Ice are criminals of one type or another, including the nice guy character. A whirl of double, and triple, crosses bring all of the characters together in the final reel.

I found Melting Ice to be a very entertaining read. The length is that of a novella or long short story, written as a screenplay but in an accessible way. The dialog is witty, well-crafted, and consistent within character. The chapter titles are excellent. I can easily see this as a movie, because the writing creates a visual image which wouldn’t need much in the way of translation. Jordan Ray Allen has created a fun universe for those, like me, who enjoy anything inspired by Elmore Leonard or Tarantino films like “Pulp Fiction”.

Reviewed for Readers’ Favorite

February 2019 Production

February got back on track with regards to new words written. Days where I fell below the target (1K/day) were made up on other days. February also saw completion of the Pandora’s Children manuscript. Time for the editor and her chainsaw! I also changed the project/title list to exclude published items. Titles which show complete are pre-publication (short stories are the lower word counts).

I have a few more short story ideas where I need to add placeholders, next month!
Something every day

“Jordan”, by Victoria Landis – Review

Victoria Landis has written a wonderful story about the titular character Jordan, who is discovered to have special powers seldom seen in humans. The book relates her reemergence into the world after having been missing for three years. Her limited memories of the past complicate even the simplest of questions: Where has she been? How did she get back? Is there a larger purpose to her new powers? Who can she fully trust? Why is she here? The secondary characters have their own reasons to discover the same answers. Jordan finds people she can trust and begins to work the task she has been given as best she can. But for every miracle there is an equal and opposite backlash. Can Jordan win through the gathering darkness into a better world?

I found Victoria Landis’ story to be simply superb. She very accurately (although optimistically in my opinion) predicts society’s reaction to someone like Jordan. I very much enjoyed the parallels drawn from religion and mythology, right down to the names of the participants. The text is tightly edited and without wasted exposition, i.e. nothing structural will prevent the pages from turning to the very end. The characters assumed their own life and breathed, along with this reader. I could smell the smoke and feel the heat. Jordan’s story doesn’t answer all of the questions I had about her and those close to her, but hopefully they will be addressed in a sequel. I know I will be one of those eagerly lining up to see what’s next!

Reviewed for Readers’ Favorite

“Abhorrent”, by Michelle Merz – Review

Abhorrent is a collection of horror stories by Michelle Merz. Each story requires only a few minutes to read, making them perfect for short breaks or anytime when longer periods aren’t available. The stories run from tales of the supernatural to those of purely human monsters. One story, Emergency, spans five shorter tales before wrapping things up. Stories include nightmares within dreams, schoolgirl invocations, itches which demand scratching, fancy dinner parties, unlikely snuff video fans, aspects of working 911, rubber ducky games, crowds of creepy children, and one more thing to worry about when handing your keys to a parking valet. As far as could be readily determined, no pets were killed off in any of the stories.

I found Michelle Merz to have an excellent touch when building her Abhorrent stories; tension is built appropriately, characters are remarkably well-rounded and vivid for short or flash fiction pieces. In addition most of the stories have endings you definitely will not see coming. My favorite story is Dinner which, in my opinion, is the exemplar of those aspects. If you’ve ever had a hard-to-reach itch, your skin might start to crawl reading Itch/Scratch, I know mine did. All of the sub-stories in Emergency are strong alone and again the global ending came as a delightfully macabre surprise. I don’t know how many more of these stories Michelle Merz has in her catalog but, based on the strength of Abhorrent, I would eagerly read them as well.


Reviewed for Readers’ Favorite

“The Wishnik”, by Kurt Newton – Review

The Wishnik relates a story of a man, Kenny, who inadvertently activates an evil entity by wishing his abusive comatose father dead, and offering up to the universe whatever it takes to get the job done. The response is the Wishnik, who after Kenny’s dad dies now wants to be fed more and more by Kenny. The music from “Little Shop of Horrors” played in the background of my mind as I read it, “Feed Me! Seymour!” All-in-all this kind of story has a somewhat predictable arc, deals struck with forces they don’t understand and the prices necessarily paid to extricate their sorry backside. Personally I have trouble identifying with people who make such bad decisions, but it is a pleasant enough read and told well. Definitely worth a purchase!

The only small beef I had with the book is the characterization of a Marine brother, which wasn’t up to the standards of the rest of the book. There are some popular tropes used there which are dead wrong, if one knew something about the topic. But suspending disbelief and accepting alternate universes where tropes are reality, alrighty then.

“The Truth of Fiction”, by E.E. King – Review

The Truth of Fiction by E.E. King is a story of stories, a top level story where short stories are presented in a context which ties them all together. Some of the short stories were previously published in various places, some are previously unpublished. Elizabeth Eve has so many short stories in her back catalog she could probably do four or five of these. An unimaginative author might just slap a set together and call it an anthology. But Ms. King is definitely imaginative, so we have this delightful offering. She certainly has a talent for taking old myths or tales and making them more interesting.

I would have appreciated the stories even in a more mundane setting, but tying them together takes one to the next level. This is how it should be done, folks!

“Misquoting Jesus”, by Bart D. Ehrman – Review

Author Ehrman has taken the relatively dry topic of academic literary criticism, applied it to the Christian New Testament, and provided the results in an accessible format for the interested reader. He starts by explaining how a scholar engaged in literary criticism uses abductive reasoning to get at what the original text actually said (in Greek) versus what was changed over the years. He talks about the various ways scribes would modify the texts while being copied, whether intentional or not. He distinguishes between changes which were made to render the text more harmonious to the then-current practice and those which were simply mistakes made during the transcription process. In addition he explores, at a high level, examples where some of the known textual changes significantly impacted how Christian doctrine is currently perceived and understood.

I very much enjoyed Misquoting Jesus and Bart Ehrman’s scholarly approach to a very controversial topic, especially among Christians who believe the King James Bible is the inerrant Word of God. I was raised in the same tradition myself and am all too aware of the many problems with that point of view. He doesn’t bother with all of the contradictions in the current text, focusing instead on passages where key words or phrases were clearly changed from more definitive Greek manuscripts. Yes, the changes are significant. The book won’t change those minds who accept the KJV as inerrant on faith, but if you are evidence-driven I sincerely recommend this short book.

Random Quote

“Big fish in little ponds should occasionally take a humbling swim in the ocean.”
Dan M. Kalin

For the metaphor-challenged, the following covers most of it;

“..There’s always a bigger fish.”
Qui-Gon Jinn – Star Wars Ep. 1

“No Tears for My Father”, by Viga Boland – Review

The author, Viga Boland, does something akin to carving herself open for the reader. In a matter-of-fact way, she reveals the gripping account of her father’s controlling criminal mental and sexual abuse which persisted into her early adult life. She makes sure the reader doesn’t get too far by accident, there are numerous warnings before the story begins in earnest. She graphically spares herself very little in the account. I hope the telling provided some modicum of catharsis for her and her loved ones. By the time you’ve read to the titular passage, you applaud a recovery which took more than four decades.

As a father of a grown daughter, who becomes more beloved as time passes, I cannot imagine the thought process of the author’s father. We start with ‘narcissist’, but quickly run out of diagnostic labels for a true monster who never really paid society’s price for such crimes. The book doesn’t really get us to “why”, but it does depict the “what”. Monsters like this are out there, we need to watch for those signs, as I suspect most victims of such abuse don’t make it through to the sunlight without help.

This is an important book. Not all books are meant for entertainment, sometimes they must be read regardless.