6 Things I Learned From Beta-readers

Beta-readers are the people who read your manuscript before it’s published to give you advice about how to make it better.

Sort of like “beta players” in the gaming industry are the lucky dogs who get to see Destiny 2 before the rest of us players who test the game while it’s still in “beta” and not ready to be released for the masses.

So what have they taught me?

  1. I have a coy writing style, frequently sacrificing “communicative” for “cute”.
  2. When you tack a beginning onto the front of your book…people can tell that you just tacked a beginning onto the front of your book.
  3. Layman beta-reader: “I like it.”
    Author beta-reader: *3 pages later…*
  4. Not everyone has lived in my pretend world for years the way I have.
  5. REWRITE REWRITE REWRITE and don’t stress it, ’cause you won’t please everyone.
  6. High-quality beta-readers = worth their weight in gold.

Thank you for reading this week’s stand-in blog post; now I’m off to rework that tacky beginning 😉

Eternity in a Chick’s Eyes

Stare at the Chicken

…And Your Soul Stares Back At You

Meet Gimpy.

When my mom recently mail-ordered 15 baby chicks, one of them came with a bum leg. It seems twisted backward somehow, and makes it hard for the poor little guy to walk.

He’s my favorite, though – partly because he’s the one I can usually identify with certainly.

Life isn’t all roses and Starter Feed for our flamingo-wannabe. For the first few weeks of his life, we had to separate him from his siblings because they would peck at him and his leg. Without human protection, he’s in greater danger from predators; he can’t climb the ramp to the chicken coop as easily as his coop-mates.

And, as my mom has callously said, we’ll probably have to eat him.

(I realize that was part of the whole point, but it won’t be me putting him on the chopping block. That’s what little brothers who were sent away to survival camp are for.)

Why would I get so attached to a bird? It’s a bird – an animal with a brain the size of a pea that poops in its food and thinks the morsel its sibling is holding is way tastier than the rest of the banana peel right under its beak!

Yes, they’re all trying to sit in their food pan.

I think we’re meant to form emotional attachments. We’re commanded to meet together (Heb. 8: 24-5), encourage each other (1 Thes. 5: 11-4), and be invested in each other’s lives (Matt 18: 15-7) because we’re intended by our Maker to create super-material bonds…with other human beings, and with Him.

And because blessings always seem to come “pressed down, shaken out, pouring over” (Lk 6: 28), we automatically project the same emotional/cognitive/spiritual complexities and connections on the dumb beasts that share our lives. We can’t but help touch and be touched by the creatures around us.

It says much more about us than about them.

It’s how we’re made. Image-bearers of the Creator, assigning meaning to things that didn’t have it before…

SOLDIER—A Friend in Need

The brutal truth: I procrastinated too much and didn’t get a post together for today.

The glossed-over story: Hooray! You get a special look at the first chapter of my latest release, Soldier (White Mesa Chronicles Book 1)!

(I checked, and the Amazon preview doesn’t go all the way to the end of the chapter, partly because of my little prologue thing.)

Anyway, enjoy! And if your curiosity is piqued, check out the book on Amazon (.mobi), Smashwords (most digital formats), Kobo.com, or Barnes & Noble (.epub)!

A Friend in Need

1330 hours

Tommy eased the motorcycle to a stop, his teeth clattering as they jolted over one last pothole.

He flicked a look over his shoulder, bracing as his “partner” jumped down and swung his rifle up and down the street.

“Clear,” called Ricco Dobson.

Tommy eased forward to be more in the lee of the torched cop car, and engaged the kickstand. Below the smashed roof lights and burned-out interior of the vehicle, the door still bore the peeling words Chicago Police. It had to be five decades since that had meant anything to anyone except history geeks like Tommy.

Creaking to a standing position, he also scanned their surroundings, tugging off his driving gloves. The road looked deserted except for the dog corpse they’d passed a dozen yards back, its mangey skin stretched tight over its skeleton. Three or four crows stared down at the two young men from tree branches or power poles, waiting ’til the coast was clear to return to their meal.

He slipped his helmet off, watching Ricco unclip his own and toss it toward the motorcycle’s back-rack.

Tommy sucked in a breath and grabbed the saddlebag that carried their goods to trade.

“Your watch,” he told Ricco.

Ricco nodded. “I know,” he retorted.

Tommy suppressed a reply. He knew Ricco had made this run before, but they’d never done it together. All he’d meant was to make sure Ricco had the routine down.

He preferred doing this run with Ben McConnell. Ben was perfectly content to avoid needless “adventures” – and he didn’t drive like a maniac hyped up on sweet tea. But Captain Dempster had asked Tommy to keep an eye on Ricco, and the least he could do in the absence of their commanding officer was honor his wishes.

As Tommy moved toward a boarded-up building across the street, the door squeaked open, revealing a middle-aged man in carefully mended legacy clothes.

“Morning, Mr. Pollock,” said Tommy.

“The same,” Mr. Pollock answered. “Real glad you guys came in today.”

“Thanks. How have you been?”

Mr. Pollock shrugged and led the way into his shop. A fat-lamp glowed on the counter, as the two-by-fours over the windows blocked most of the sunlight.

“Haven’t seen Percy Grasshopper for a while,” he remarked. “Heard what happened to him?”

“The Grasshoppers haven’t had an election, have they?” asked Tommy.

“No, more like…he’s been laying low,” Mr. Pollock answered, rounding the counter.

Tommy frowned, sucking his lip. They were toward the border of Grasshopper territory, but it still didn’t make sense for the gang captain to be “lying low”. It could mean he had the wind up about one of the neighboring gangs, which would mean bad news for Tommy and his team. The Grasshoppers were the friendliest gang they’d met in a long time.

“I’ve got more preserves,” Tommy began, pulling jars out of the backpack.

Mr. Pollock smiled. “I found something extra special I thought you’d be interested in. Lucy!”

Mr. Pollock specialized in legacy tools that someone or other had scavenged from the buildings around, then brought to him for identification. Other people came and bought the tools and containers with other things, such as deerskin clothes, distilled vinegar spirits, and the occasional tin can of ancient preserved food.

Tommy and his team, on the other hand, specialized in fresh foods (in season) and recently preserved pickles, beets, jams, and peanut butter when that year’s farm produce wasn’t ripe yet. Mr. Pollock was polite enough not to ask where the fruits and vegetables were grown.

A girl appeared in the inner doorway, her hair glinting in the gloom of the back room. A few years younger than Tommy, he estimated, Lucy was already developed as a woman – but had not yet taken the protection and provision of a “boyfriend,” as the gangs called it. Though it would surely have benefited both her and her father to connect into a gang that way, Tommy couldn’t help being happy she hadn’t moved out.

“Do me a favor – go grab the special box?” asked Mr. Pollock.

His daughter smiled. “Sure. Hi, Tommy.”

“Hi, Lucy.”

She turned and disappeared into the back room.

“Are you doing all right?” asked Tommy, watching the creases in the shopkeeper’s forehead.

Mr. Pollock held a jar of preserved pears up to the lamp, and set it down. “Oh, fine. Just…they’ve been late collecting our protection payment this time.”

“And you haven’t seen the officers around for a while.”

Mr. Pollock nodded.

Tommy nodded back. The Grasshoppers weren’t enforcing this border. Shifting gang territory would make things hard on the Pollocks, too. Most people respected the neutrality of a shopkeeper, since providing goods from different territories was one of the reasons they were valuable, but not everybody took the long-term view.

“You seem to be selling down,” Tommy remarked, glancing around at the boxes of merchandise. “Business been up?”

“Down. I haven’t had any Cowboys for a while.”

Tommy frowned. The Cowboys were pretty far to the south-west, toward the plains. This could mean they just weren’t bothering to come this far, or it could mean gang movement between them and Pollock.

“What about the Bigshots?” he asked.

A whistle sounded from outside. Ricco’s alert. Tommy instinctively checked the positions of his rifle and two sidearms.

The next moment, Ricco burst through the outer door. “Company,” he announced. “Looks like the Bigshots.”

Mr. Pollock cleared his throat and moved toward the inner door.

Tommy gritted his teeth. Ricco was supposed to stay and guard the bike. The team had better chances if they weren’t all clustered in a confined space.

The outer door opened and a tall, muscular man stepped inside. Tommy recognized the Bigshot mark on his forearm, and the scar across his forehead that identified him as their captain, Randal.

Today of all days.

“Hey,” Randal Bigshot grinned, stepping forward as his men shoved through the door behind him. “What’s shaking, Grandpa?”

Mr. Pollock stiffened, and gave the inner door a push, but it didn’t quite close.   

“Nice selection you got,” went on Bigshot, dumping a box of clothes on the floor.

His men were rooting through the tools and other things on the other side of the room. One of them grabbed a jar of pickles, smirked at Tommy, and popped the lid open.

Tommy eased around ’til his back was braced against the counter. Not the ideal fighting position, but it was better than nothing. With the corner of his eye, he spotted Ricco by the wall near the door, fingers twitching. Tommy willed him to calm down.

“I’m afraid I never got your payment for your last visit,” Mr. Pollock said.

“Sheesh, did those buggers forget to bring it? My bad,” laughed Randal.

“Here, this is what you meant, right?” called Lucy, appearing in the partially open doorway. When she saw the Bigshots, she froze, shrinking back against the doorpost.

“You’ve been holding out on us, Grandpa,” grunted Randal, with a gap-toothed grin.

Tommy stiffened. There were at least six gangsters in the shop…the chances of him getting off that many shots –

Randal lunged, there was a scuffle, and the next moment Mr. Pollock staggered back against the counter as Randal dragged Lucy away from the inside door and toward the front of the store.

“I like this merchandise best of all,” he crowed.

“I draw the line at that,” gasped Pollock, forcing himself upright. His face was ghostly white in the dim room, and he drew a broom handle from under the counter. “I’ve never made a fuss about the stock you don’t pay for. You know I work fair by everybody. But you let go of my daughter.”

“Scrap it, Grandpa,” said Randal Bigshot. “You start talking big, you might break something…follow?”

He gave Lucy a shake that made her head snap back and forth. She’d been clutching a slim metal box — with a squeak, she let it go and slapped Randal’s face. He grabbed her wrist and started twisting her arm.

“Let her go.”

Randal swung his grin around, and froze.

Tommy tightened his grip on his pistol; he’d taken the split-second to cycle chambers, so he had a zap-pellet ready to fire – not just a BB. He could hit Randal anywhere, and the neurological mixture would penetrate his skin, knocking him out within a second or two and hopefully protecting Lucy.

The magazine, however, was full of BBs. Any shots he took after that would have to be vital organs.

“Let her go,” he repeated.

“Stay out of this,” grunted Randal, grabbing Lucy more tightly. She stomped on his foot, and he snarled something into her ear.

“I’m giving you a chance, here,” Tommy said, low and distinct. “Let go and walk away.”

A flicker of movement caught the tail of his eye. Like a well oiled machine, Tommy’s off-hand swung up, grabbing his second sidearm along the way, and training it on the threat.

“Don’t bother,” he went on. “I could mow you down like dandelions — it’s not worth it.”

Blood pulsed through his ears. He wasn’t ready for a massacre. And that’s what it’d be. He could take out half of them before they knifed him, and Ricco could neutralize the rest – if he didn’t get himself knifed before then. Lucy and Pollock might survive by ducking behind the counter.

Definitely not a scenario he wanted to explore.

“Like you’ve got a bullet,” sneered Randal.

“You want to find out how many I’ve got?” asked Tommy, directing the pistol muzzle right at his eyes. “It only takes one for a man, you know. Just one. And there are only six of you.”


Tommy smiled. “Wanna stay here? For good? The rest of your gang would never know.”

The other Bigshots glanced at each other, shuffling their feet. Tommy kept his breathing even, forcing them to contrast his (apparent) confidence with their anxiety.

Randal eyed his men, and shrugged. “Scrawny girl,” he grunted. “Wouldn’t last long, anyway, huh?”

Tommy clenched his teeth and stayed motionless as Randal shoved Lucy toward the counter and sauntered out the front door. His men tagged after him, one of them still clutching the jar of White Mesa pickles.

Tommy fleetingly wished Mrs. Long’s batches were prone to botulism.

He followed the Bigshots outside, still covering them with his sidearms.

Randal said nothing, but smirked over his shoulder at Tommy as he made his way up the street. Tommy’s pulse hammered in his temples as he forced himself to stay calm. Bigshot was walking away. He was really just walking away.

One of the gangsters walked over to the motorcycle. With a sneer, he reached up and grabbed the radio antenna. He pulled it down until, with a heart-stopping twang, it snapped. Tommy felt the nerves in his finger tingle, but he stayed rigid while a few nearby gangsters laughed. Not worth killing over. Grinning, the gangster dropped the end of metal and turned away, letting it bounce and clank against the pavement.

The last of Bigshot’s gang disappeared up the street. Heaving a sigh, Tommy lowered his weapons and turned toward the shop.

Mr. Pollock stood in the doorway, peering down the street toward where the Bigshots had disappeared. Lucy clung around his neck, while he squared his shoulders protectively between her and the road. Ricco, pistol still out, stared after the gangsters, eyes glinting. Thank goodness he’d had enough sense to keep a lid on his enthusiasm. He had nothing but BBs, so would almost certainly have killed someone had things come to shooting.

“Are they gone?” Lucy asked.

“For the moment,” Tommy muttered.

“Jerks,” said Ricco.

“So…” Mr. Pollock began. “Do you really have a bullet?”

Tommy holstered his spare pistol and flipped the lever to cycle his chamber back again. “I wasn’t just bluffing.”

For a moment, Mr. Pollock stared at him, the wheels of his mind almost visibly turning.

“Honey, go pack,” he said, giving Lucy a squeeze and releasing her. “Quick – we need to leave.”

She nodded and drew a breath. “Jerks. It makes me so mad –”

“It’s all right. Run along, quick.”

The girl brushed a kiss on her father’s cheek and disappeared back into the building.

Tommy drew his hand across his eyes. He’d subconsciously figured this would be the end result, but losing Mr. Pollock would leave a big hole in their intelligence network, right when gang territories were shifting again.

“I’ve been thinking about this for some time,” Mr. Pollock began in a low tone, beckoning Tommy back into the shop. “I’ve heard about a new gang – they call themselves a Republic, or something – that’s securing borders and keeping ferals and mean gangs out.”

“Like a compound?” asked Tommy.

Pollock frowned and stooped to pick up something. “I don’t know much about it, but something like that.”

When he held the object out to Tommy, Tommy saw it was a legacy CD drive, practically untouched. The LED display lights would be worth quite a lot, even if the laser read-write head had been damaged when Lucy dropped it.

“I thought this looked like the kind of special-thing that you like,” Mr. Pollock said, helping Tommy shove it into the backpack. “Just take it. Take anything you want, really.”

He glanced toward the back of the store, where Tommy knew the stairs to the living quarters were. “I know I can’t ask you for anything more, but – apparently it’s a long walk to the Republic.”

Tommy steadied his breathing, guessing where this was heading. “How are you going?”

“I thought I’d try the sewers; I’ve heard they’re clear until you get close to the lake, and then I could just follow the lakeshore.” He swallowed. “But Lucy…”

“We can take her with us,” put in Ricco.

Tommy shot a glance at his subordinate. Had he never even heard of procedure, and precedent, and ranking officers? If they were going to get any further involved, it should be Tommy’s decision, not Ricco’s.

“Can you…Can you keep her safe until I set up shop again?” asked Mr. Pollock. “I don’t have anything that would pay you for that. But you do have bullets.” His voice dropped to a hush in awe. “And I’m sure you could find me again, once I found the new Republic and found out whether it’s really better or not. You know I have trouble trusting gangs. Even the good ones…well, like the Grasshoppers.”

Tommy had to nod in agreement. Mr. Pollock’s “tax” hadn’t bought him much protection.

“We can be in touch,” Pollock went on. “You could leave word with Todd Lewis — they’re in Python turf. Once I got another place set up, I could leave a message for you.”

“Of course we’ll keep her safe,” said Ricco.

“Go guard the bike, so nothing else bad happens to it,” Tommy ordered.

Ricco glanced at him, half rolled his eyes, and stepped out of the shop.

“We could take her to some friends, until you get a new house,” Tommy told Pollock. On one of the satellite farms, Lucy wouldn’t be in violation of White Mesa’s security protocols. Besides, no matter what the non-interventionists on the security council thought, they couldn’t just leave Lucy to the caprices of fate.

“Do you have directions to where you’re going?” he continued. He was sure he’d heard about a “Republic” before – probably snatches of a security briefing he wasn’t supposed to be at.

“Here’s a googlemap,” Mr. Pollock continued, easing a yellowed piece of paper onto the counter. “From what I’ve heard, the Republic is right on the big water. I’ll follow this road as straight as I can, then follow the lake-side.”

The two looked up to find Lucy standing in the doorway, her arms full of backpacks.

“We’ll need some food,” she began. “Have we paid you for your jars, Tommy?”

“As soon as I copy that map, we’re even,” Tommy answered, pulling out notebook and pencil to capture the details of the information. His dad had been pushing to increase the bounds of the intelligence network: possibly sending teams out to collect gang information and map updates more than physical scrap. Mr. Pollock’s move would actually fit right into that program, and returning his daughter to him would be the ideal means of reestablishing contact.

“This one has your heavy coat in it,” Lucy was saying, handing one of the bags to her father. “Are we bringing –”

“I’m sorry, darling, but…Listen, I want to go downtown, but I’m not sure how safe it’s going to be, so I want you to go with Tommy and Ricco.”

Lucy’s eyes widened, and she swallowed.

“They’ll take good care of you, and just as soon as I have a good, new shop, they’ll bring you to me. Understand? You’ll be very safe.”

“And I will see you again?” she said, leaning against Mr. Pollock as he wrapped his arms around her. “Soon?”

“As soon as possible. Where did you put your mother’s locket?”

“It’s – It’s in my pocket.”

Tommy slipped outside.

Ricco had been busy at the damaged motorcycle. He’d retrieved the antenna and stowed it on the back-rack somehow, but it sure wouldn’t be sending any signals. Which meant they were incommunicado until they reached line-of-sight of the rendezvous point.

Tommy rubbed his eyes and heaved a sigh. At least Lucy would be safe. He’d feel better, himself, knowing she wasn’t hiking across the wilds of the city unprotected – well, virtually unprotected. It was more adventure than they’d expected on this mission, but Intelligence Chief Henderson would love having new data to play with.

“There’s plenty of room on the bike,” Ricco was saying. “And at this rate, we’ll be back ahead of schedule.”

That was true. The team had still been loading scrap when Ricco and Tommy had left on this side mission, and with this short a turn-around they’d get back while the others were still finishing up. Then they could start for home, taking a short detour to drop Lucy with one of the ally families outside the fence of White Mesa proper.

Captain Dempster had said the boys didn’t need him to carry out a mission — they’d show him he was right. They’d show all the officers that the “younger generation” could handle themselves without supervision.

The Pollocks stepped out of the shop. Lucy had put on a leather jacket and changed her moccasins for some legacy boots. She also held a small wooden crate.

“You sure you don’t want to check out my other wares?” asked Mr. Pollock. “I can’t thank you enough. You’re welcome to anything. Anytime. I’ll just take a crate of the smaller things.”

Wire cutters, matches, and other high-price items, probably.

“We’ll be fine,” Tommy answered. “This is probably as much as the bike can handle, anyway. What’s that box?”

“My best egg-layers,” Lucy answered, holding it up to show the feathers peeking out. The box squawked in protest.

“How’re we going to get that on?” asked Ricco.

Tommy shrugged and took the crate from her. “Get some straps.”

“Promise me you won’t do anything silly,” Lucy said, pivoting toward her dad. “You’ll take care of yourself.”

Mr. Pollock smiled and stroked her head. “Promise. As long as you’re safe…”

Ricco gave the strap a final tug and shook the crate. It looked awkward, but it seemed stable enough anchored to the bike’s back-rack.

Tommy nodded to Ricco, walked the motorcycle around for an easier return and flicked it to life. The chickens screamed and pounded the sides of their crate. Lucy twitched as the engine roared, but she stepped toward the machine with a set face.

“Here, put your helmet on, first,” Tommy suggested, handing her the spare from one of the saddlebags. “The roads are rough.”

She clipped it on, mimicking Tommy as he fastened his own, and clambered up behind him, Tommy bracing his feet against the ground to steady the bike.

“Don’t be a stranger, huh?” Tommy called to Mr. Pollock.

“I’m counting on it; I’ll leave you a message,” Mr. Pollock answered.

“The Lewises in Python turf; we’ll be in touch.”

“Thank you again.”

Tommy watched Ricco swing onto the rack on the back. The sergeant grinned and waved at Mr. Pollock, one hand gripping the rack.

“Love you, sweetie,” called Mr. Pollock as Tommy pushed off and headed back the way they’d come.

“Dad, remember to take Megda the rest of my chickens,” called Lucy, twisting around to wave with the hand that wasn’t gripping Tommy’s jacket. “See you soon!”

Tommy set his teeth as they went over a little bump, and shot a glance at Ricco to make sure he was overseeing the passing scenery. Just because they could move faster than anyone (even the horse-riding gangs in the western plains) didn’t mean they wanted to charge into trouble without warning.

Time to go see how the team – Corporal Davis, Ben McConnell, and the Parker brothers – was faring back at the rendezvous point. It was a day for firsts: the first time a team ran a scavenge mission without the senior officers, and the first time Davis had been in charge of a sub-group of the team. Tommy hoped he was keeping a close eye on Matt Parker – the youngest team-member still had some immature impulsiveness to be disciplined out.

Of course, so did Sgt. Ricco.

Now available DRM-free on Amazon (.mobi), Smashwords (most digital formats), Kobo.com, or Barnes & Noble (.epub).

Also available in paperback on Amazon.

Character Meet—White Mesa Chronicles

The publication date of White Mesa Chronicles Book 1: Soldier is upon us! To celebrate, I’d like you to meet some of the principal players!

White Mesa has one of the largest casts I’ve written (necessarily, being a series) and it took me quite a few drafts to get all their personalities nailed down. It was fun getting to know them, though!

In the effort to refine the characters’ essence, and make them not identical to myself 😊, I’ve used a number of character types and writer tricks. See what you think!

Capt. Lasky; Image credit: TVTropes.org

Thomas “Tommy” Thaxton

  • Family: General Michael Thaxton (member of the WM security council) and Dr. Joanna Thaxton (missing, presumed dead). No siblings.
  • Glass is 🍵 half-full or half-empty?: Half a cup only comes to a quarter-cup of water for each of us, but you can have my share because…you know…that’s the right thing to do…
  • Temperament: Melancholic
  • Favorite book/movie/TV show: That Hideous Strength, C.S. Lewis; Columbo
  • Destiny Class: Sun-singer Warlock (Knowledge) [New Monarchy]
  • D&D/WoW Class: Paladin [DPS]  Alignment: Lawful Good
  • StarCraft race: Terran
  • Strengths: Sniping, Charisma, Compassion;  Fears: Heights, Failure
  • Favorite means of transportation: truck or bicycle

Image credit: BrianOverland.com

Ben McConnell

  • Family: Parents are farmers on the periphery of White Mesa. Has one older sister (married), three younger sisters (who all adore him).
  • Glass is 🍵: Only half full, but I’m sure we can get more.
  • Temperament: Phlegmatic
  • Favorite book/movie: Hardy Boys/Chronicles of Narnia
  • Destiny Class: Sunbreaker Titan (Strength and Defense) [New Monarchy]
  • D&D/WoW Class: Warrior [Tank] Alignment:  Neutral Good
  • StarCraft race: random (doesn’t matter)
  • Strengths: Muscle, Confidence, Focus;  Fears: Small spaces
  • Favorite means of transportation: “Let me walk; I won’t get tired, and that way we can see the beautiful scenery.”

Image credit: Grim-Fandango.com

Ricco Dobson

  • Family: Mother is Fortuna, a former gangster from the Hornets. Adoptive father is Reuben Dobson, who married Fortuna when she moved to WM. Has two younger sisters and a younger brother.
  • Glass is 🍵: I drank it already. Is that bad?
  • Temperament: Choleric
  • Favorite book/movie: Sneaky Uses For Everyday Things, Cy Tymony
  • Destiny Class: Striker Titan (front line tank) [Future War Cult]
  • D&D/WoW Class: Barbarian/Warrior [Tank]  Alignment: Chaotic Good
  • StarCraft race: Zerg rush!
  • Strengths: Determination, Loyalty;  Fears: Rejection
  • Favorite means of transportation: MOTORCYCLE

I just want to help. (Image from Pixabay)

Sam Parker

  • Family: Father is a blacksmith, mother is a medical doctor. Has two younger brothers (Matthias and TC).
  • Glass is 🍵: There’s – There’s something floating in it.
  • Temperament: Melancholic
  • Favorite book/movie: Watership Down, Richard Adams
  • Destiny Class: Nightstalker Hunter (strike from the shadows, never let them see you) [Dead Orbit]
  • D&D/WoW Class: Priest [Healer]  Alignment: Lawful Good
  • StarCraft race: Terran
  • Strengths: Loyalty, Focus, Humility;  Fears: Blood
  • Favorite means of transportation: Bicycle

Mephibosheth Davis

  • Family: His mother (Rebecca Davis) is Reuben Dobson’s sister, making him Ricco’s cousin
  • Glass is 🍵: *dumps it down someone’s back, then realizes the someone is Tommy*
  • Temperament: Sanguine
  • Favorite book/movie: Actually I mostly play games…
  • Destiny Class: Warlock [New Monarchy]
  • D&D/WoW Class: Hunter [DPS]  Alignment: Neutral Good
  • StarCraft race: Prepare to meet my carrier – YOU NUKED MY CARRIER FLEET!
  • Strengths: Loyalty, Cheerfulness, Amiability;  Fears: Indecision, In-the-Limelight
  • Favorite means of transportation: “Just put me on the back of whatever Ricco’s driving…”

Who sounds like your favorite character? Who sounds the most like you? Can you guess which one is me 😜?

Kimia Wood grew up under an aspiring writer, so

Image from Starcraft.wikia

weaving words and spinning plots is in her blood. She currently lives with her family somewhere in the American Midwest bracing for the collapse of society by writing books…because that’s more fun than gardening.

Terran. Mage. Dead Orbit. And I get inordinately irritated when people take my cup before I’m done with it 🍵

White Mesa Chronicles Book 1: Soldier is now available for your reading pleasure! Find out about one scavenge mission that didn’t at all go as planned…

You can find it in ebook and paperback on Amazon, or in all digital formats on Smashwords!

My Dad

Why should I celebrate my dad?

  • I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for him (!)
  • He’s told me about God for as long as I can remember.
  • I know I am a princess, because Daddy said so.
  • He taught me everything I know (except for Home Ec., introvert-coping, and all the other things Mom taught me instead).
  • What he doesn’t know that can’t be easily referenced from Wikipedia probably isn’t worth knowing.
  • He makes me laugh. And laugh. And laugh. Oh, boy.
  • If I need him, he will come…time and distance no object. Literally.
  • So many computer games I would have never seen without him…
  • Did I mention he’s wildly in love with my mother? My future husband has some expectations to live up to…
  • Don’t tell Dad about the problem unless you want him to fix it – or buy you something. He loves to buy people things.
  • We’ve never had a TV in our house, and we never missed it. Dad is the news, the sit-com, the reality show, the late night talk show, the skit team, and the weather channel – and for commercials we have youtube. (And, yes, he does have different accents for all those!)
  • He is the self-declared “worst influence in my life”.
  • I have a website designer, IT trouble-shooter, network technician, netiquette consultant, and device-whisperer in-house. He fixes my problems because I am his precious little princess.
  • ALL MY STORY PROBLEMS GO AWAY WHEN I TALK TO HIM. Now, remembering the brilliant solutions he gave me when it comes time to write is another thing…
  • One of the reasons I write about fathers is that not everybody could have my dad as a father, but they can have God as a father and that’s even better! But it’s hard for dads to be the superheroes they were built to be, and maybe having role models in fiction will help them, and their kids. (Maybe.)

Whatever the big, scary thing is, I know my daddy will protect me. That’s what daddies do. And if he can’t – because the thing is inside me – he’ll do the next best thing: take it to our Father in Heaven (who is even more big and awesome than anything you’ve ever seen!).

Thanks, Dad. Love you lots – but you loved me, first.

Why I Don’t Need College

It’s a season of transition for many, as students graduate and prepare for the next stage of their lives. My cousin and brother have both graduated from high school. Many high school students will go on to college/university.

But this cultural edifice is not for me.

Be careful how you share this online, so my grandparents don’t see it (!) but in spite of their repeated entreaties, I don’t feel the need for more than my 4.0 Associate of Arts degree. In case some of my reasons resonate with you, I’m sharing them. Continue reading

Eris: The Tale of the Story

Let me tell you a story. It’s a story about a story.

July 6, 2009, is the date I have recorded that the story first emerged as recognizably itself:

How we did story-boarding in the dark ages.

A human prince – Eris – is banished and branded, but accompanied on his wanderings by his elf and dwarf best friends.

As I usually do, I took the seed to my dad, who is an expert in taking my infantile premises and giving them plots. We began working with this prince (whose name comes from the dwarf planet at the edges of the solar system) and soon discovered why he was branded (to allow them to send him through a portal into regions unknown), what his supposed crime was, and a few other details.

I struggled and thrashed my way through a draft (at that immature stage of my author-hood, I was much more a “pantser” AKA making it up as I went along AKA begging Dad to get me unstuck after every scene) until the plot was complete, and the draft was about 85% complete. I had travel brochures for two of the fantasy worlds (that’s called procrastinating). I even had a cover idea!

Back when I didn’t know about proper cover dimensions…

Then I let it drop.

I had written the interesting parts, and all that was left was some blah plot points, so I moved on to other things. I wrote and published my medieval adventure Sons of the King, my contemporary murder mystery/romance Hayes and Hayes, and started work on my cheerful post-apocalyptic series White Mesa Chronicles.

NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) 2015 loomed on the horizon, and my dad and brother started planning their projects. With my permission, Dad decided to revamp Eris (since, after all, much of the plot was his to start with).

December, 2015, dawned with a first draft of WMC: Zombie from me, a military sci-fi story from my brother, and Eris: A Tale of the Nether from my dad.

The document I had was the infant. The manuscript my dad crafted is the strapping young man, tall, comely, ready for adventure…and pain. Not only did the characters grow in depth, detail, and humor from the hand of an older author, but having the plot laid out beforehand has been a great boon – allowing the story to swell past the potential I imbued it with and rise to incredible heights.

What of this? It’s my own story – and my own dad’s words! Of course I would wax eloquent in its praises! Allow me to assure you that no financial benefit for me attaches in any way to the success of Follis Wood’s Eris…except insofar as I’m still mooching off my parents for most of my living.

But that doesn’t matter. The book speaks for itself.

Eris is the crown prince of Teluria, but when the king disappears his world begins to fall apart. Banished, and branded a traitor, he must learn about the mysterious Nether to defeat the usurper and regain the kingdom.

If you like fantasy – exploring different worlds – stately, mysterious elves – raucous, hilarious dwarves – character development – father-son relationships – if you like any of these things, don’t miss this book! Join Eris as he discovers the dark and burning Nether that joins the Worlds together, finds out what happened to his father, and bears the suffering caused by the brand that allows him to travel the portals and the Web…

Am I ever glad Dad took my story. Not only is it so much more than I could have made it, but it’s now available for all of you to enjoy! And I hope you do! Enjoy it, that is.

Kimia Wood has been writing stories since she was little, and listening to her dad’s bedtime stories for even longer.

Join the mailing list for updates on the stories that actually escape the mists of her mind to live new lives on the pages of books!

Distance and the Heart

My brother just spent nine weeks at the International ALERT Academy Basic Training in Big Sandy, Texas. The fall-out has been interesting.

I didn’t miss him as much as I had suspected, seeing how close we are. A little background: we are the only “real” siblings in our family. While we had several foster siblings off and on growing up (that we love in a different way) he and I have a special bond, especially as we’ve grown older and more mature. We still get on each other’s nerves, but we’d die for each other in a heartbeat…

Anyway, the way I missed my brother was not a deep, pangy missing – rather, I missed him in the little things like, “Oh, he’d enjoy seeing that,” or “He’d be talking about this here,” or “Ha! He’d react like this.”

In that way, while I did “miss” him, it was more “it’ll be great to share this with him” than “oh, I wish, I wish, my throbbing heart…”

My dad is the sentimental/techie one, so he camped out on the organization’s Facebook page for most of the nine weeks, poring over every new video or picture they posted to find Jack. That meant we could sit back and wait for him to show us which seconds were personally interesting, or point out which of the uniformed, buzz-cut young men was ours.

My mom showed love in her characteristic way. She wrote notes, sent snacks, and prayed. We all prayed, I know.

Jack’s grown incredibly. We had to smile as each evaluation from his superiors pinpointed exactly his personal faults and struggles, but going through this crucible – a crucible designed to make you fail, then succeed in God’s strength – has challenged him and stretched him in important ways.

It’s funny how quickly I’ve gotten used to his presence again. While I didn’t lie awake at night thinking about how our house was missing a person, bringing Jack home we fell right back into our family patterns.

He is changed, and yet he’s the same. He talks incessantly, laughs, geeks out about Destiny, and is his same-old enthusiastic self. Now, however, he calls everyone “sir”, stands with his hands behind his back, yells out, “Yes, sir!” if he thinks he hears his name, and had to be re-taught to use first-person pronouns.

I know it’s been rough for him, but anything worth having is hard to get. We’ve all been challenged, and I pray that each of us hold on to what we’ve learned.

When everything you clung to is stripped away, when you’re 14 hours into the 24 hour hike and your feet are all blisters, there’s nothing left to do but lean on God’s strength.

Praise the Lord, my brother leaned, and came away with something far greater than physical fitness!

(I’m still prying my grip loose…and letting go… God is faithful…)

“Pride and Prejudice” by Jane Austen

 It might seem that to pen a review of literary titaness Jane Austen’s best-known (and possibly best-loved) novel would be presumptuous.

Nevertheless, I shall proceed to gild the lily and explain why, when I finally crossed its threshold several years ago, I found it worthy of every adulation ever laid at its door. Continue reading