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White Mesa Chronicles Book 1:

Fledgling militia officer Tommy Thaxton is used to scavenge missions in the ruined city. He’s not used to being in charge of his team of young men…but he can handle it. They all can handle it. It’s just a simple scavenge mission.

Until things go horribly wrong, and Tommy’s team finds themselves facing a full-scale gang attack – something their superiors never anticipated.

Now, getting home on schedule is the least of Tommy’s worries. Getting the entire team home alive is much more important.


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How to Stay Single and Lonely

Are you single, Christian, and lonely? Plenty of people are single…and a fair number are Christian. But to be all that and lonely, too – well, that’s something hang on to!

Are you SCL? Own it! Life will try to tear that affiliation from you, and you’ve got to fight back. Here are some ways how:

DON’T Spend Time With Your Family

How to Stay Single and Lonely — Kimia WoodDo you have any siblings? AVOID THEM AT ALL COSTS. Sure, they might bug you, but that’s just another way of paying attention to someone – and the core of Loneliness is having no one pay attention to you. Your brothers and sisters will try to un-lonely you…shun them!

Also, ignore your parents. Do not cook meals for them. Do not help them with yard work or home repair. And definitely DO NOT have long, in-depth conversations with them about your life, their lives, God, or events in the world.

Even talking about your favorite things can be a danger-ground. Stick to two subjects: the weather (especially if it’s gloomy), and your miserable lack of success in finding a spouse.

Possible loophole: if you’re now older than your parents were when they got married, talk about that. A lot. Continue reading

“Chronicles of Amber” by Roger Zelazny

 The “Chronicles of Amber” have long been my dad’s example of what inspired him to write. He told us that Zelazny’s writing was so bad, he figured, “If he can get published, so can I.” And, at the same time, the story Zelazny was telling was so gripping he had no choice but continue.

Now, I’ve had an opportunity to form my own opinion. I agree about the story part…but the writing wasn’t that bad. If Zelazny had gotten an editor who could actually read, we’d have nothing to complain about.

But let’s talk about the story.

Who Is “I”?

Our first-person protagonist starts the story in a private medical institution, with no memory. As he makes his escape and tracks down his past, we’re eased into a fantasy world unlike any other.

Corwin is a good traveling companion. While he has to grow in several areas, he’s got enough deprecating humor, goodwill, and smarts to make us root for him.

Book 1 is Nine Princes in Amber…and that’s not even counting their sisters. So there’s a big cast of characters to get a handle on. However, many of them are scattered, letting us meet them a little at a time.

Trust Him Like a Brother…That Is To Say, Not At All

You like learning about the Romanovs? Fancy meeting a broad, sprawling family of princes, with their own cliches, personalities, and alliances…a family constantly trying to kill one another across an infinite spectrum of worlds, but who nevertheless are eager for the latest gossip about all their varied relations.

They’re as immoral as any other royal family. Casual sex intrudes on the story a couple times…but Zelazny does a decent job showing us the serious consequences such flippancy can have.

Brothers can go from trading comments to crossing swords at a moment’s notice…and at their next meeting, they might have returned to civility.

Ready to wrap your head around the tangled strands of alliances, plots, and deceits? The mystery might lead deeper than you think…

The World is Amber

In fact, Amber is the reality. Corwin and all his brothers are princes of Amber, while an infinite number of Shadows stream away from Amber, casting “realities” from the similar to the bizarre across creation.

And beyond all the Shadow worlds? Chaos. And the creatures of Chaos aren’t all too pleased to have Amber and its Shadows cutting in on their game.

But to say more might say too much.

It’s a Wild Hell-Ride

My dad has long told us about how the idea of Amber and Shadows captured his imagination. The description can be very evocative, indeed, as Corwin and the others travel between shadings from one distinct landscape to the next.

And as for the mystery they unravel? The deep plot that threatens to shatter Amber itself – that overshadows their struggle for the vacant throne? It is indeed a fascinating onion to unpeel. The royal machinations and reversals are gripping. And the final book, The Courts of Chaos, is nearly psychedelic as Corwin rides through bleak, philosophical landscapes, racing the surging storm of Chaos.

It’ll make sense once you read the book. (Well, most of it will, anyway.)

Caveats?

Is this story “mother-in-law safe“? Mostly. There’s a smattering of profanities, some violence, and (as I said) a few mild hook-ups.

It should be no surprise that long-living, powerful royalty who can do pretty much what they want aren’t super moral. Part of the satisfaction of the story, though, is to see them shift, discover new goals, change their focus outward, and transform.

Who is the ultimate king of Amber? I’m not telling…but it made me cheer.

The other thing to note is that the series is one continuous story arc. I’ve ranted before about cliff-hangers, so for the sake of intellectual integrity, be aware that each individual book (while containing a mini-arc) is much more about its place within the whole, than it is about the plot contained within each volume.

I’ve been pushing my brother to read it, but he still hasn’t.

Tell Your Sister. Dad Was Right.

Even if you’re not usually a fantasy person…or if the slew of generic “quest” fantasy has you jaded…pick it up. Tired of “chosen one heir-apparent” tropes? Pick it up.

Tired of vague medieval-era worlds? Discover worlds that are different from ours for a reason…and characters who are smart enough to work with those differences!

Was the writing a little clunky at times? At times…but like I said: if the editor had actually done his job, he would have caught the few places a word was missing, would have corrected a spelling or two, and the book would be that much more a cut above the rest.

How you phrase something is style. (Says the girl who frequently confuses her beta readers with “poetic” turns of phrase.)

Anyway…Why don’t you read it and find out for yourself?


The first book, Nine Princes in Amber, is available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and the Book Depository (as an audiobook).

You can also find all five books in one volume on Amazon (hardcover), or as a ten-book paperback from Barnes & Noble or the Book Depository (Note: I have only read the first series: Nine Princes in Amber, The Guns of Avalon, The Sign of the Unicorn, The Hand of Oberon, and The Courts of Chaos).

Cover image is from this five-book collection, via the Book Depository.

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“Ivanhoe” by Sir Walter Scott

"Ivanhoe" by Sir Walter Scott — Kimia Wood Published in 1819, if you’re looking for some honest-to-goodness, played-straight, exhaustively researched yet swashbuckling-fun story of medieval chivalry and derring-do, you could do worse than Ivanhoe.

Set in the 12th century – during that period of time made famous by every rendition of Robin Hood, when the head-strong and vivacious King Richard was out of the country, and the unpopular Prince John ruled in his stead – Ivanhoe explores racism, classism, male-female tensions, concepts of chivalry, and religion, all mixed with enough action and entertaining turns of phrase to keep the pace going.

Setting the Stage

The first chapter or two drag along, as Scott describes our initial characters – their dress, situation, the landscape – in exhaustive detail. This is necessary to give us a flavor of the strange place and time we have entered.

Scott’s original readers would not have seen dozens of “medieval” movies and plays, and so might be unfamiliar with the particular dress and customs of the 12th century. Even our modern reader will probably have a romanticized or blurry impression of exactly what was involved in  12th century life, and what was important to the people then.

Quick example: short cloaks (that only covered the back) were a Norman thing…unpractical, foppish, ineffective at keeping out the damp, and representative of the conqueror’s ruling class. Long, full cloaks were a Saxon thing…simpler, warmer, but more “red-neck”.

Parrying with Words

With the preliminaries out of the way, the characters can start talking. You might think that sounds boring, too…but it isn’t really.

It’s through their conversations that the layers of class resentment, anti-Semitism, religious feeling (or lack thereof), and feelings of patriotism are expressed and explored.

Sir Scott also has a way of phrasing things that adds energy to the prose. Not punchy, exactly…in fact, his sentences tend to use more words rather than fewer. But they’re the kind of words you can eat up, because of the way they express their thoughts and dance with the issues they portray.

And that’s the best way I can think to express it.

So…Many…Characters

Scott loads us with quite an entourage to escort us through this story. The first half or two-thirds of the story keeps repeating events, going back over the time-line to establish where a different group of characters were and what they were doing.

One of the characters is the Jew, Isaac of York. Sir Scott explains and explores how the stereotypical Jewish occupation of banker developed from this people’s separation from other cultures.

Norman and Saxon alike disdained to associate with them – and had no qualms about wringing as much treasure as they could by any means necessary. Yet the Gentiles just as obviously borrowed money at staggering interest rates from the Jews (Scott claims in order to fund their socially pretentious lifestyles).

Isaac, for his part, is a melodramatic, obsequious, and paranoid individual. The constant danger of pillaging – coupled with his own love of his vast wealth – has made him a cautious, cringing man…but who is still willing to face torture and death.

As his daughter says, money is both their strength and their weakness.

The Religion of Man

The 12th century established church does not have its best foot forward in Scott’s work. There’s the Abbot (who should be celibate, poor, and sober) who dresses in furs and jewels, plays with a maid when he can, and parties with the best of his congregants…and the Knight Templar (a Crusader monk swore to piety and defense of Jerusalem) who actually worships himself, scorns the self-righteousness of his superior, and tries to take advantage of a defenseless Jewish girl.

Even the head of the Templar order is portrayed as self-important, self-righteous, stick-up-his-butt, superstitious prig – who thinks that condemning a Jewish girl as a witch is more reasonable than disciplining his own Knight for abducting her for ignoble purposes.

All of which goes to show that “these people honor Me with their lips, but their hearts are far from Me” (Is. 29:13). I could draw a snarky parallel to the 1950s, when people had their external lives together, but their hearts were like “the inside of men’s tombs”…but maybe not right now.

Ideas Have Consequences

And it’s important to study ideas. It’s helpful when that study is entertaining.

There’s much more to chivalry than can be portrayed in a 90-minute movie. Or even in a 387-page book.

If you’re ready to confront some of these ideas…if you think of the “Middle Ages” as a uniform time block, and want to change that…if the generic, medieval-ish fantasy worlds have left you dry, and you just want to see some honest-to-goodness jousting matches for a change…try Ivanhoe.

I recommend an edition that has footnotes, so you can get even more background of some of the weird words. Some of the spelling might be wonky, too, so have fun with that 😊!


Ivanhoe is available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble (hard copy or ebook), Kobo (lots of audiobook versions also), Librivox (audiobook—public domain in the USA), and the Book Depository (free worldwide shipping).

Cover image is from Amazon, and features the edition I read.

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Best Video Games for Kids

I grew up on video games from my earliest childhood. Many of these I watched my dad play — in fact, we have a photo of my brother, not yet old enough to walk, sitting on Dad’s lap watching Warcraft III.

But I myself played my share of video games. You may scoff, but some of my fondest memories, the most enduring stories, breathtaking characters, and immersive experiences have come from games.

If you have kids, you want them to be encouraged, educated, and edified by the media they consume. This includes watching the books they read and the friends they play with.

Dare you let video games play a role in their development? If so, let me share with you the best and brightest games from my youth…the ones that taught me most, or touched me the deepest.

DISCLAIMER: CHECK YOUR OPERATING SYSTEM AND THE GAME’S SYSTEM REQUIREMENTS BEFORE BUYING ANY GAMES. After all, I’m not exactly a spring chicken…

Teaching Games

Admit it. We parents are duplicitous, and want to sneak little nuggets of knowledge into the things our kids think are just fun.

Sure, there are lots of games like this, some more recent or successful than others. But from my own vast childhood experience, these are my top picks:

Alphabet Express

Best Games for Kids — Kimia Wood

Image credit: mobygames.com

Do you know your alphabet? This game has a colorful scene for each letter, filled with colorful characters and hidden “H”, “L”, “Q”, or the like.

This “game” is simple, but entertaining. Clean and cheery, it’s also perfect for little kids.

The Blaster Games

Blatant educational content has a name. In my childhood, it was Science Blaster Jr., Math Blaster Jr., Reading Blaster, and Math Blaster (Ages 6-9).

There are many more in the series, as I learned from the walkthroughs on YouTube. (A walkthrough for a kids’ educational game? That’s like taking a Dr. Seuss book, designed to get kids to read, and making it into a movie! Ya dig?)

Best Games for Kids — Kimia Wood

Image credit: EliSoftware.org

Meet Spot, G.C., and Blasternaut – my first self images. Spot is also my first game crush; he’s the cute little blue robot. I even have a notebook featuring a pictogram story about them.

These bright characters introduced basic science facts, easy math, and reading puzzles to us youngsters on their spaceship full of mini-games. Not so arduously academic as my exposure to Reader Rabbit, and not so story-driven as the Humongous games, the Blaster games hit a sweet spot of fun and function.

Be careful playing the Big Kid game, though: Math Blaster Ages 6-9. It features Gellator – the Brain-Drainer…an evil yellow ooze-being who kidnaps Spot and terrified my five-year-old self. To the point that I would never play the actual story-line, only test mode.

Ah, kid fears. Continue reading

“Purple Fish” by Mark O. Wilson

 TL;DR: If you need another kick in your Jesus-sharing pants, or if you’d like to read some examples of evangelism from the “more Pentecostal” side of the church-spectrum, it’s worth a look.

As the third book on evangelism I’ve read this year, Purple Fish seemed to depend more on pithy quotes from other writers than the previous books. The outline for the book was also less clear than what I’d read previously.

Fisherman’s Guide to Sharing the TRUTH

The title comes from the idea of hunting for purple shell-fish — the ingredient used in the ancient world for purple dye, an expensive commodity for emperors and senators.

Pastor Wilson urges us to view lost people as “purple fish” — just like Jesus came all the way to earth to hunt after his treasured children, we should go “fishing for men” with the same passion. Continue reading

“The Saint” by Leslie Charteris, Starring Roger Moore

"The Saint" Starring Roger Moore — Kimia Wood Intrepid adventurer. Con-man and detective. Infamous man of mystery. The dashing, dangerous, and irrepressible Simon Templar is played by Roger Moore in this black-and-white television series of suspense and excitement. (Seasons 5 and 6 were shot in color.)

A little lacking in the luster, you say? Paltry in comparison to its peers? Nevertheless, these puzzle-packed episodes of action and glamor have plenty to offer the thrill-seeker.

I Say, A Tad “On the Nose”, What?

Perhaps Simon Templar’s adventures are a little of the pulp-fiction variety. As my mom said, the plots he unravels aren’t so bafflingly complex as Mission: Impossible.

And it’s true he breaks the forth wall every episode as he introduces the audience to his locale, perhaps philosophizing on his surroundings. In the intro segment, someone always says his name, and a little halo appears above his head…to indicate his moniker “The Saint”. By the third and fourth seasons, Simon is tired of this repeated performance, and glances wryly above his head as it appears. Why, if you looked hard enough, you might be able to see the characters roll their eyes as they work each episode’s title into the dialogue at the conclusion.

"The Saint" by Leslie Charteris Starring Roger Moore — Kimia Wood

Image credit: uk.movies.yahoo.com

Is it campy that the villains always recognize this man, and darkly threaten his life to one another as the episode progresses? Is it tiresome that gorgeous, wealthy girls are always throwing themselves at him? And that his name and face are only as well-known as the episode needs them to be?

But this is not about deep, meaningful plots and intricate mysteries. This is about cool fight sequences and smashed crockery…kissing beautiful women and chasing around in 1950s cars…and, of course, Roger Moore’s hair.

If you didn’t want James Bond Lite, go listen to NPR or something. We’re busy here.

Dashing Good Show, Old Boy

Prepare yourself.

If every police chief in the world warns you to behave yourself…if you can afford the ritziest restaurant on the Riviera and are personal friends with half the elite hotel-owners around the world…if beautiful and troubled girls seem to cross your path at every turn…

Well, then, why not pursue your curiosity about whatever strange events happen to unfold around you?

Revel in intricate heists. Suffer succulent double-crosses. Defeat cold-blooded black-mailers. Catch murderers and terrorists.

Watch, transfixed, as Simon counters knives, garrots, and grapples with his bare hands, using only his +13 Dodge ability. Then, watch him counter axes, spears, bottles, and other improvised weapons with chairs, tables, books, and other smash-able fixtures and furniture! (Interspersed, of course, with gun-battles.)

Watch as his perfect hair gets tousled in the heat of combat. Then see him emerge victorious. (Usually.)

The show would probably earn a PG-13 from the smoking alone, never mind all the consumption of alcoholic beverages. This is a show to shock your 1950s sensibilities!

But the twists are predictably thrilling. The Girl is usually innocent…but sometimes (gasp) she isn’t!

For those of us who like our soda Caffeine-free Diet – who want an adventure show that’s sweet and also calorie-free – check out this blast-from-the-past, this relic for the ages!

Try out The Saint!


Title card is from Wikipedia.

Check it out on Amazon (Seasons 1&2 here).

Kimia Wood lives with her family somewhere in the American midwest, bracing for the collapse of society by baking, knitting, hobby-farming, writing, and reading as much Twitter as possible before the web goes dark.

Join the mailing list for a free copy of her post-apocalyptic adventure novella Soldier, plus periodic updates on her latest writing and reading adventures!

How to Detect a False Teacher

How to Detect a False Teacher — Kimia WoodThe Bible calls false teachers “wolves.” Unlike a shepherd – who feeds and protects the flock – these saboteurs creep in and tear apart the flock – spiritually, physically, and corporately. (See Jude 3-4…and the rest of Jude, too.)

Thanks to some recent sermons at our church, here’s a quick list of red flags to spot these duplicitous leaders. Continue reading

“Save the Cat” by Blake Snyder

"Save the Cat" by Blake Snyder — Kimia Wood As Mr. Snyder says in his prologue, “Why do we need another book about writing?” Apparently even in 2005 when he first published Save the Cat, you couldn’t swing a cat without hitting an eager, helpful guru determined to instruct young writer hopefuls in his way to plot, write, and sell.

So what makes Save the Cat any different, and why has it taken the industry by storm to be required reading for newbies and professionals alike?

I decided it was time to buy it and find out. Continue reading

“Good News for a Change” by Matt Mikalatos

"Good News for a Change" by Matt Mikalatos — Kimia Wood Who doesn’t like good news? That’s the premise of Mr. Mikalatos’ new book, which is all about improving our conversations so that when we tell people about Jesus, it actually sounds like good news to them!

This book was challenging, encouraging, and convicting all in one, and I hope to use its principles in all my interactions, not just those times where I’m talking about God. Continue reading

“Coffee Cake Days” by Amanda Tero

"Coffee Cake Days" by Amanda Tero — Kimia Wood This story is short enough to read in less than an hour. It feels very much like a personal anecdote that just got written down.

Perhaps this is especially true because I could easily picture the homeschooling, Bible reading, five-children family where it took place. How well I remember those days doing school at the dining room table while toddlers played underfoot!

That’s Meg’s problem, too. Although she’s graduated, she wants to spend time in God’s word…but her chores and her siblings keep getting in the way.

Ever had something you wanted to do “for” God, but it seemed things kept not working out? Maybe you were working up to sharing the gospel with a coworker, who ended up being off that day? Maybe you were studying to be a missionary, but then your mother got sick and you had to take care of her? You might even wish you could give more money to charity, but the sickness of a child drains all your spare funds.

Meg has the same problem. She wants to be like Mary, sitting at the feet of Jesus! Then why does life keep turning her into Martha, swallowed by cooking, cleaning, and serving? Desperate to read through and memorize more passages of Scripture, she steals moments here and there, and snaps at her family when they intrude on her devotional time.

Might her problem relate to our own?

My singular quibble is about the shortness of the story. Not that I think it needs to be longer; no, I loved being able to zip right through it, and all necessary details are included. But as a stand-alone file, many readers might be expecting more than this…especially if they’ve paid actual money for it. If I were the author, I might bundle this with some other, similar stories and charge for the collection…possibly even making this lone story perma-free to tempt people to plunge into the larger volume. That’s a marketing decision, and I can’t exactly claim expert knowledge of marketing principles.

To avoid making my review longer than the story itself, I’ll just say one more thing. The struggle between reading what God wants and practicing what God wants is real…in the same way that reading twenty Bible chapters and learning what those chapters have to teach you are two different things.

This story is an exploration of that…another little picture along the journey of life to prove we’re not alone in our struggles. Jesus taught in stories — well, here’s another one.

Read. Learn. Then apply. ‘Cause that last one is the part that always gets us…and is most important.


Disclaimer: I received a free ebook copy of the book during a promotion. I was not required to write a review, positive or otherwise.

You can read my interview with the author here, or find more on her website here.

Coffee Cake Days is available on Amazon, and as of this reading was available to read free via Kindle Unlimited. The book includes a recipe for the coffee cake on the cover.