Dear Diary…I had this weird dream

I don’t understand.

Last night I slept the sleep of the dead…almost literally. The only one in our party still on his feet was Kelsier.

And yet…some time, I had the strangest dream.

It was like I was awake, in the room on the second floor of the temple. My companions were around me, and the doors were blocked by benches. Then…

Then the two people showed up. One was bright, shining…so bright, like looking at the sun.

The other was a beautiful woman – older, like getting grey and stuff – but a beautiful older. And she had bread and a jug with her.

The bright, shining one came around, touching our heads. The lady set down her bread on one of the benches.

Ezekiel asked if there was some way he could serve. The shining one said, “Yes.”

Kelsier asked who they were. The shining one said, “This is her house.”

And then…well, when I woke up, I felt more rested than I have in a long time. All our wounds have been healed, too. And there was bread and a jug of water on one of the benches.

Talking with the others, sounds like they all have the same dream. Which kinda gives me goosebumps, but at the same time it’s encouraging.

We are in Merikka’s house, after all. These Evil cultists or whoever they are have been messing with her stuff, and defiling her temple with skeletons and monsters.

It is Good that we’re cleaning it out…but you know it’s encouraging when she has your back, as it were. Makes us feel more like invited guests, than like a band of vagrants looking for easy loot.

(Ezekiel is raving about his message from Ao…says he was told, “When you see the face of the snake, bar the gate.” Absurdly excited. I mean, if you’re a Cleric but you’re used to never hearing from your god, I can see that something out of the ordinary would be exciting…but really? “Face of the snake, and bar the gate”? What’s that supposed to mean?)

Well, with full stomachs (and our wounds fully restored somehow), we’re all fighting-fit and ready to clear the rest of the second floor.

Someone has been misusing Merikka’s house. No matter who it is, you shouldn’t misuse someone’s house…but especially not a goddess’.

****

Took the chance during breakfast to question the monk. Says his name is Raven, he’s been out of town for a year on family business, and has no idea why there are skeletons in the Temple of Merikka.

Sure.

Whatever the other elements of the case, he was attacking the skeletons, not us.

What can I say? I’m naturally trusting. (Also as paranoid as Old Man Griff who thought the village chief was putting potions into the well water. Because, you never know – do you?)

Moving into the rest of the temple, now.

****

Crazy.

The next door we opened led us to a small anteroom, with a couple of chairs and bottles of wine.

Smelled funny. Familiar…and stinky.

(Scolded Kelsier for trying to pocket a wine bottle…then remembered I’m wearing the late priestess’s chain-mail. Probably shouldn’t get portentous about it.)

The only door onward led to a corridor – also stinky. Beyond that was a large room.

First thing we saw (Ezekiel was in front, since he used to be a man-at-arms for the Temple of Heironeous, followed by me) was a table. Man-sized, waist-high, and covered in…well, let’s pretend it was wine. Also had leather straps attached.

Ever get that crawling sensation up your spine? Like someone’s watching you behind your back? Well, that feeling hit me right about then.

My Ranger Master used to tell me, “Trust your instincts, kid.” And then he learned more about my instincts, and anyway…

“We used to store vegetables here,” Raven was saying. “Farm produce. What on earth is going –?”

That’s when the doors crashed open, and goblins poured out of the walls, weapons drawn. I hate goblin voices. I hate goblin smells.

I also hate the way goblins dodge my arrows, the filthy little –

Mikael was in the back, where it was supposed to be “safe.” Joke’s on us. Three goblins piled on him, and left him battered in a corner while Ezekiel tried to charge in to offer support.

Kelsier, of course, started making music on his bowstring. Raven and Ezekiel started beating on goblins.

And I? I stood there, looking pretty and letting the goblins “try” to hit me. Oh, I hit a goblin back. Once. At the very end.

Yeah. I hate goblins and their short, dodge-y selves.

Things looked bad. Mikael was down; Raven the Monk was down; Ezekiel and I were both hit. We still had several goblins to deal with – and then we heard stomping and ringing and – boom! Lancell the Paladin was at the other end of the hallway, falling on the goblins from behind.

He attacked from behind the goblins that attacked us from behind! Boom.

I counted nine of the little beasties. Once they were all dead, we could draw a deep breath and bandage our companions.

Apart from the rack, an iron maiden, and several brand-new, unused coffins, there was nothing in the alleged “storeroom”. Nothing except little secret doors for admitting goblins.

Very fishy. We’re close to the heart of it all…I can smell it.

(Or maybe I’m just smelling the stink of goblins.)


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“Red Rabbit” by Tom Clancy

"Red Rabbit" by Tom Clancy — Kimia Wood A Soviet plot to assassinate the pope. A KGB communications officer trying to defect to the West. And star CIA analyst Jack Ryan, who…is there.

Tom Clancy builds his Cold War-era spy adventure slowly and deliberately…with detailed settings, in-depth character philosophizing, and realistic portraits of the mind-sets and world-views that create the situation.

Characters

Clancy’s recurring star, Jack Ryan, is a CIA analyst and teacher’s pet (and possibly the weakest character here). In fact, he does very little except agonize until the last chapter or so.

He does, however, act as a bridge. His ostensible role in the plot is as liaison between the British and American intelligence operations…and in this way, he also provides for Clancy to paint a clear and memorable picture of the differences between America and Great Britain.

A diverse cast

One of the things Clancy does with excellence is draw out the differences between different countries.

Ryan moves from America to a station in Britain, his homeland’s ally. Yet there are still so many things he must get used to: they drive on the “other” side of the road…everyone drinks tea, not coffee…words are pronounced differently (and some things are called by different names altogether)…the outlook on life is subtly shifted…even the TV shows are different (and Ryan doesn’t understand the sit-coms’ humor).

This underscores the culture shock of the Soviet “Rabbit” and his family when they flee a country of regulations, controls, and corruption to one of individual freedom. From assuming that the KGB watch and follow everyone at any and every time, to a place where you can walk onto a car dealer lot, pick out a car, pay for it, and drive away. From a nation where VHS players, bras, and nylons are luxuries snuck in through Hungary (and only affordable to the elite, like KGB officers) – to a place where they’re taken for granted, and every middle class family can afford them if they wish.

The ground-work for this change is laid with deliberate and poignant brushstrokes…perhaps slower than I would have chosen, but there’s no denying Clancy’s touch for choosing an exact turn of phrase to communicate his meaning, or for seeing to the heart of a mind-set he doesn’t hold himself and portraying it in believable philosophical prose.

This laying-bare of cultures holds the greatest value of the work.

Life Philosophies

A lot of time is spent in the different characters’ thoughts, dealing with their mental outlooks on life in minute detail.

Like the KGB chief…does he really believe in the Communist party’s rhetoric? Or does he rather believe in “power” – AKA himself?

When the communications analyst discovers that his government wants to kill the pope, what will he do? Should he blindly trust that his government knows best? Is he developing…a conscience?

What about Jack Ryan and his CIA overseers? Are they in this game for patriotism? To protect innocent people? Because the Soviets are inherently evil and must be stopped? When they hear that the pope is in danger, they debate whether they can protect him without revealing how they learned about it…because of course national security comes before the life of the head of the Catholic Church, right?

Some Complaining

Ryan’s loose Catholic faith adds an interesting dynamic, as he weighs his patriotism and religious feeling against the political concerns of his CIA bosses.

It also gives him something else to worry about, which seems to be most of what he does throughout the book.

When his bosses assign him to accompany some Brits on an operation as a CIA liaison, he freaks out and insists that he’s an analyst, not a field operative. He’s had some bad experiences with “hands-on” cases in the past…he has apparently stopped a terrorist attack in London before as a tourist (ex-Marine tourist, of course) and faced down a terrorist home invasion, but these experiences were only hinted at. Is there a different book I should have read first? Did Jack Ryan really need to be in this book at all?

His wife (an MD eye surgeon) is even more annoying – adding practically nothing to the narrative, nosing into Jack’s job even though she knows it’s secret, and nagging him for smoking/eating unhealthily. The only time her complaining seems well-founded, and actually lends sympathy to her character, is when her surgical colleagues leave a patient sedated on the operating table while they go for lunch and a pint. Remind me to never get medical care in Great Britain!

Cautions!

Clancy sometimes has trouble making it clear whose head we’re riding in, and you have to travel back through several paragraphs of mental narrative to get re-oriented.

There’s also sporadic language (including f-bombs and profanities) that seemed to get more intrusive as the book went on.

Also includes references to sex within married couples.

The Chess-man of Spy Thrillers

This book is about three-dimensional, conflicted people interacting with each other from different mental starting points. Mr. Clancy takes his time setting up all his dominoes, so that when they collide we say, “Oh, it was inevitable” as well as, “Oh, how is this going to turn out?”

If mental exercises, world-view exploration, and slow-cooking spy drama is your thing, you might enjoy Red Rabbit. I did enjoy it, but for my main spy-action reading, I prefer the bullets-and-fisticuffs of Robert Ludlum.


Red Rabbit is available on Amazon, Barnes&Noble, Kobo (as paperback or audiobook), and the Book Depository (free worldwide shipping).

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Dear Diary…When life gives you skeletons…

Hand shaking so bad I can hardly hold the pen, but I don’t want to forget what happened today.

Hard to believe just last night, our whole party was limping along the road, holding each other up. After a full night’s rest at the inn (the Slumbering Serpent) and an amazing breakfast, we hashed out a plan of attack.

You see, we’d looted a chest of treasure from the cellars of the Temple of Merikka. Did I mention that? Must have been too low on blood. Well, we did – it contained a load of money, and a silver brooch.

Ezekiel the “Cleric” (hard to call him a real cleric, but he has had some education) and Lancell the Paladin (went to better schools than I did) both looked at the ring we looted off the evil priestess, and decided it wasn’t evil.

(She also had a gold snake necklace, but we didn’t trust something with a snake on it.)

So Mikael the Druid is wearing the ring. He’s about as thick around as a beanstalk, and can use all the magical assistance he can get.

Jill the Magic User was really done in by the fight. I guess pretty robes aren’t much armor against weapons. Anyway, we decided she should stay here with the chest of loot (with Lancell to guard her) while the rest of us investigated the strange goings-on in this town.

(I have the key to the chest. We’ll divvy the money up among us later, because math is hard.)

Strange Happenings

Innkeeper (Olwin? nice guy) says people have been “changing”. Like, they’ll disappear for a couple days, and then come back more hostile. Like mean, and suspicious. And then, of course, some people have disappeared completely. It seems centered on the Temple of Merikka (he says it’s not a place people should want to go – which doesn’t sound like a Lawful Good goddess!).

(By the way, his wife can cook like a dream!)

Suggested we go to the old hermit who lives in the woods behind the inn for more answers.

We went to see the hermit. Seemed suspicious of us…maybe because I couldn’t keep my big mouth shut, and spilled the whole story to him from beginning to end.

(Should’ve let Kelsier talk to him. I know he’s a Halfling, and not a pretty one at that, but once he opens his mouth people really seem to take to him. After all, he chatted up a stranger in the inn pretty well.)

Didn’t get very far with the hermit, except that something very wrong is going on in the town. Merikka is Good. So, her followers should be Good, also, right?

The whole party decided to do some more digging – starting with the abandoned house north of the inn.

We checked around (making ourselves look kinda weird peering in the boarded over windows) and decided that someone had removed all the furniture several months ago. Couldn’t find any trace of the family, or who they might have been…or where they went.

The mystery centered on the temple, so we headed there.

(Covered the party’s footsteps on the dusty floorboards of the house. Not like anyone will investigate, but it exercised my skills.)

Investigate temple!

Through the open gates of the temple, we found the bodies of our victims still strewn through the courtyard. Out of human decency (and to cover our tracks) we buried the bodies, and Ezekiel said a few fitting words.

(I guess they were fitting words. That’s outside of my line. I don’t know if Ezie’s god, Ao, actually takes charge of dead spirits. I’d never even heard of him until Ezekiel showed up, and from what I gather he – Ao – doesn’t concern himself with mortals. He’s the upper god, the one the others – like Elohnna and Merikka – supposedly serve. Feels cheeky for a human like Ezekiel to try serving him, but it’s no skin off my nose.)

Searching the courtyard got us nothing. We searched the ground floor of the temple, and found nothing except the body of the priestess we had killed (and of course our late comrade Lefty). Nothing new.

I supposed we should have been thinking, but we trooped upstairs with the Druid (Mikael) in front. The top of the stairs was a narrow room, with one door…and Mikael opened it.

Next thing I know, he’s yelling about skeletons, and white arms are hacking at him in the room beyond.

Ezekiel surged forward with his mace, while Kelsier started sending arrows into the room beyond.

Finally, I had enough of a target where I could shoot over Kelsier’s head (I’m short, but I’m still taller than a Halfling!).

Mikael hit the ground, and while Ezekiel was bandaging him, the skeletons landed a blow or two on his back. (Didn’t want Mikael to bleed out before the combat was over.) There must have been at least five of the animated monstrosities!

Kelsier dropped one after another, sending the creeps into clattering piles of dust and bone fragments – but after Ezekiel went down, I had to step forward and make the enemies focus on me.

Just as well. Sending an arrow through a spine or ribcage is a lot harder than you might think. And so is landing a sword in their vital parts.

I was cradling an injury when…

A swish of robes, a flash of Merikka’s colors, and a monk was there. Leaping over us, he threw a punch at one of the skeletons.

Attacking the skeletons.

Shortly after, I got felled to the ground. Huddled in the corner on the bodies on my companions, desperately pressing my bloody wounds, I watched the strange monk take down a skeleton or two before being pummeled to the floor.

An arrow split the last skeleton, and it crumpled to the floor in clattering shards. Kelsier joined us in the room.

I couldn’t do more than give him a triumphant smile. He’s really a tough little guy. He’s even shorter than I am, but he rearranged the benches in the room to block all the doors, and settled down to keep watch while his battered and bandaged companions slept it off.

Good thing he’s our best fighter. None of the rest of us will be moving in the near future.

Already soaked through my bandages. I hate soaked bandages.

No idea where this monk came from, but he was fighting the skeletons, and he’s currently incapacitated and unconscious on the bench.

Hope Kelsier can keep his eyes open.

Tired sleep now.


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“Never Leave Me” by Priscilla J. Krahn

"Never Leave Me" by Priscilla J. Krahn — Kimia Wood I hadn’t recently read the description blurb before I opened Never Leave Me, so I jumped into this Christian indie novella without many pre-conceived notions.

On Page 1, Amy’s dad (sole custodial parent) sweeps her from in front of the TV, across state lines, and dumps her on the doorstep of some cousins she’s never heard of, let alone met (while he flees the police).

Within the next chapter or two, the large, farm-living, “homeschooler” family has shared Jesus with her, and Amy is “born again.”

Within a chapter or two of that, we have a kidnapping, threats of violence, and hints at Amy’s dad’s dark secrets.

So…of all the “indie Christian” books I’ve read, this one probably does the best job at equally balancing raging evangelism with melodramatic adventure.

Amy

I did know this was a series before diving in (the “Adventures of Amy”, in fact). So I was perfectly ready to study Amy as a main character…and also anticipated her adventures taking longer than a single book. (Well, sort of. See below.)

However, I did struggle with the character of Amy from time to time.

What’s well done:"Never Leave Me" by Priscilla J. Krahn — Kimia Wood

Amy is just thirteen. She’s not a superhero, or a detective, or even emotionally mature. When her dad (ahem – the man she’s called Dad all her life!) snatches her away from her predictable life, and reveals on the drive that he’s a criminal, she’s realistically shocked and skeptical.

As traumatic events continue to pile on, she shows relatable signs of stress, anger, panic, and fear. At the same time, her rational side fights with her emotions as she tries to please her new Heavenly Father, and figure out what’s going on around her.

What challenged my disbelief:

Some things are foreshadowed so heavily I saw them coming several chapters before Amy finally tumbles to them.

She also exhibits fanatical devotion to her dad (except when she persuades herself to cooperate with the police).

I understand that family loyalty is complicated (which is one reason domestic abuse situations are so messy). But as a third-party, observing the situation from the outside, I saw plenty of evidence and red flags that left me sighing heavily at Amy. It was obvious to me that the man who had raised her wasn’t all he claimed to be…and while it was realistic for Amy to struggle with this, I think it needed something more.

For instance: later in the book, she reminisces about the good times they had together…piggy back rides, movies, all the things he did to demonstrate his love for her. I realize flash-backs are hard to do well, but if I were writing the story, I would have sprinkled some of those good memories into the narrative early on to remind the audience Amy is adding Dad’s current illegal behavior to his previous loving behavior…and isn’t just blinded by her own love for him.

Another niggle:

Speaking of planting things earlier…

Amy dashes out of her home with a single suitcase of clothes. But it never states what those clothes are.

About three-fourths through the book, the author drops that Amy’s wearing a skirt.

This may seem like a really weird thing to bring up, but here’s why. Amy’s seven-sibling cousin family has family meals together, does family devotions, lives on a farm…you can practically smell the Christian homeschooler on them. Thus, it is totally legit for her female cousin to wear skirts.

But worldly, “city girl” Amy?

See, when Amy is (SPOILER) being placed in foster care by a social worker, she thinks about how she’s a different girl now…after her adventures, and after coming to Jesus. She thinks she wouldn’t like the same music as she once did. She’s wearing a different clothing style now…because she doesn’t care about style and popularity anymore, but about pleasing Jesus.

Bringing these pieces together: if the author had made a bigger deal about how Amy dressed in the beginning (being careful to pack her favorite jeans; feeling weird that she’s wearing make-up, but her girl-cousin isn’t) then the change at the end (her cousin was much older than she was, but her old skirt fit Amy perfectly…) would make the character change clear to the audience from the evidence. It wouldn’t just be something the author pulls out of nowhere.

Christian Transformation

Speaking of character changes, though – Amy’s Christian transformation is pretty deep. Her dad is an atheist (and apparently her mom converted mere weeks before dying in an accident)…but after Amy “gets born again” in the early chapters, she jumps into evangelism with both feet. Within a month of her conversion, she’s led a man to the Lord, and has shared the gospel repeatedly with her relatives (and a few strangers).

Maybe…Maybe coming to Christ at four years old is a drawback. I don’t want to bare my soul too much here, but let’s say that has not been my experience. Not only was I not challenged with evangelism from Day 1 (or even Day 2), but over a year after “getting serious” about sharing my faith with others, I have yet to see a single fruit (in the form of unbelievers showing an interest).

It makes sense that someone who came to faith later in life would be more inspired with the part of Christian discipline that directly led to their conversion (AKA evangelism), and I also recognize that we have different testimonies.

This is just one of those things that’s really hard to balance. Just like real life.

Balance

I’ve read stories that were almost horrifying in the way they shoved the gospel to the forefront, at the expense of the tale they were supposed to be telling.

I’ve read stories that wore their evangelism on their sleeve – and carried it with varying degrees of success, but with no misconceptions about what kind of story they were presenting.

And then there’s this story. I don’t think it’d be overestimating to say a full half of the book is devoted to religious/Christian themes. The cousin family is deeply religious…and the need for Amy to “trust God” with her traumatic situation and let Him “keep her in perfect peace” (and perfect King James’ English) is heavily leaned on.

But there’s a lot of action layered in there, with constant kidnappings, evil uncles jumping out of cupboards, guns, child abuse, threats of violence or use of deadly force…it’s like an adrenalin junkie’s playground.

Even the ending, which is stuffed with more religious theme-izing than the rest of the book, has actual story conflict issues to keep the tension and pacing brisk.

For all the book’s missteps, the juggling act between gospel-mission and Impossible-Mission is pretty well-handled.

Cliffhanger!

(I could make you all wait until the next review to see where I was going with this…but that would be really dumb! :D)

I knew this was a series. I fully understood that further adventures were in the wings. And yet…

I mentioned briefly how Amy was such a bad deducer (or the clues were laid on so thick) that the plot twists could be seen a mile off.

Thus, I felt a certain story element was so heavily hinted as to be a foregone conclusion…but the book ends before I could see if I was right!

Not only does the book have a kind of unhappy ending, but if I really wanted to see the resolution of that plot-thread, I have to get the other book(s)!

Blah! Don’t the foolish mortals realize I never pay for anything if I can help it? Why should an author want to eat off their earnings? In vengeance, I shall wreck havoc with their review rating –!

Anyway.

I know about the pitfalls of balancing a series-wide story arc with stand-alone installments. I wrestled with the same thing in the White Mesa Chronicles. In this instance, though, I felt disappointed that something had been so built up, just to have it unresolved at the end.

While I’m complaining…

The professionalism of the book was pretty good. Only towards the end (call it the last fourth of the book) did the copy-editing slip, and petty things like typos and word choice crept into the text.

The author does note at the end that this is the first book she wrote — and it’s pretty good for a first book! My own first publication is not mentioned on my online presence…

Incidentally, for some weird reason, the PDF copy I had went cray-cray on my Nook…and used two different fonts (and size of fonts) on the same page – usually within the same paragraph or sentence! Reading it in the programs on my computer, though, had no issues.

TL;DR

If this really was too long, and you didn’t read it, how did you get all the way down here?

The balance of pulse-pounding action and shameless evangelism was one of the best I’ve ever seen. The characters (especially the main character) were a little clueless. Even the villains had one-track minds…but who expects villains to be rational?

Pick it up, support a young, independent, Christian author, and form your own opinion!


"Never Leave Me" by Priscilla J. Krahn — Kimia WoodDISCLAIMER: I received a FREE copy of Never Leave Me for participating in the November 2017 Indie Christian Book Sale. I was not required to write a review of any kind, and all opinions are my own personal opinions.

You can find out more about the author on her website – PriscillaJKrahn.com – or in my interview with her here on the blog!

Never Leave Me is available on Amazon.

Subscribe to Kimia Wood’s mailing list for a FREE e-copy of her post-apocalyptic adventure novella Soldier! You’ll also receive periodic updates on her latest reading and writing exploits.

Dear Diary…RIP Lefty

The others are fast asleep. The inn is quiet. I think I finally have the mental and emotional distance to write it down.

Lefty is dead.

It’s not like I knew him…he was a Fighter in Hochcoch, and volunteered to accompany us here to Orlane. I don’t know why. Maybe all he wanted was the loot.

You see, while we were exploring the Temple of Merikka (lots of stone hallways and little rooms), we passed through a corridor lined on one side with huge golden statues…of vegetables.

Potato and carrot are the ones I remember. I don’t know what religious significance they had — maybe they were used to worship Merikka…maybe they were past donations in gratitude for bountiful harvests.

They are beautiful, intricate, and must be worth more than their weight in gold. But I don’t exactly have the best appraiser’s eye.

Lefty must have figured it that way, though. I think we were on the way out, but I could be wrong…Anyway, he grabbed one and started to walk off with it.

The things some people will do. But it gets worse.

He hadn’t taken two steps when he staggered. The way he grabbed it, you could tell it wasn’t too heavy for him – but now, he was tripping over his own feet.

He grunted, and the carrot sagged in his arms.

One of us should have warned him. We should have shouted at him to put it back. I think Ezekiel tried to, but he was at the wrong end of the group to do anything helpful.

Next thing we knew, Lefty was drooling out one side of his mouth. He tripped and bumped against the wall, clearly in trouble.

What he did next… He must have been brain-dead, or decided things couldn’t get worse.

He put the golden carrot on the floor and stomped on it.

I… Kelsier had to dodge to the side as Lefty fell.

Lancell and I got to his side at about the same time. He was dead. I don’t know how, but he was dead…instantly…boom.

Lancell was the first to think of something to do. He stepped forward – slowly and carefully – and picked up the carrot – muttering prayers to his patron, Pelor, the whole time.

Balancing the statue as far away from his body as possible, he set it back on its pedestal and stepped back.

We held a moment of silence…not by any organization on our parts, but just because we were all stunned.

When we finally moved on, we left Lefty’s body lying there. After all, to support the wounded Jill, and carry the treasure chest from the cellar, we couldn’t well take him with us.

And maybe we didn’t feel like touching a goddess’s victim…not yet.

I never thought of myself as particularly religious (I’m certainly not such a deep theological thinker as Ezekiel) but at least I know better than Lefty:

Leave a goddess’s stuff alone.

Especially given all the other stuff we found wrong in the temple (like, say, the evil priestess?!) these statues hadn’t been messed with at all.

And we should have done the same.

Still gives me goosebumps. I don’t know Merikka like I know Ehlonna, and Ehlonna my lady isn’t exactly the “rigid dictator” type, but I guess even the sweetest, generous-est deities have lines you don’t cross.

Lots of time while I’m on watch to do my rites to Ehlonna. Maybe she’ll forward some apologies to Merikka.


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Dear Diary…How did it all start?

ALERT: May Contain Spoilers for the Adventure: “Against the Cult of the Reptile God”

In feels like ten years since we left our little village in the forest. By “we”, of course, I mean me (Elwyn), Ezekiel (the “Cleric”), and Mikael (the Druid). Though both Ezekiel and I both came there later in life, the people and the familiarity make it feel like home.

Which is why it made me so mad when goblins attacked! It’s more than the goblins, of course – my Ranger master discovered bugbears in the caves, and other nasties just waiting to burn our poor village to the ground.

We had no choice but to evacuate the people for their own safety. I had lived there only five years (since I was fourteen) but it felt like home. (More like home than the crowded-to-bursting family estate.)

Well, Mikael, Ezie, and I aren’t the types to take goblin invasions lying down. In the larger town of Hochoch, we heard rumors of a gnomish scholar who might throw some light on the goblins’ actions.

More than that: some of the locals agreed to accompany us to the gnome’s town (Orlane), and give us some direction along the way: Lancell the Paladin, Lefty the Fighter, Jill the Magic User, and Kelsier the (Halfling) Fighter.

If your head is spinning right now, I don’t blame you. Ranging in the woods for fun is one thing; following a road and trying to get somewhere is another.

Even Lancell, who assured us he knew how to get to Orlane, got us a little off-track…meaning we started out heading east, but somehow circled around and entered the town from the east side.

And then…well, then’s when things really started getting weird.

The first thing we saw was the local Temple of Merikka, goddess of harvest, set on the hill above the town. Judging from the amazing farmland around the town, she’d been generous to her faithful worshippers…and besides, Merikka is probably like a friend of my own patroness, Elohnna.

Long and the short of it, our whole party headed for the temple for information, direction, and encouragement.

What we found there…Look, my head is still ringing, so I might not have all the details right.

We talked to the priestess there. Everything seemed to be in order…some of us might have paid our respects briefly before the jade statue of Merikka in the main sanctuary.

Lancell decided to try out his “Detect Evil” ability or whatever paladins call it – and discovered an aura of evil emanating from the priestess. A “palpable stench of evil” he called it!

Evil or not, the priestess was ticked off. In here is where I don’t remember everything, because y’see, we had a big battle. Somehow or other, the monks of Merikka were attacking us, and so was the priestess. I think we would have been wiped out if some guy hadn’t shown up and thrown lightening around, but at any rate we escaped from the temple courtyard and headed for the nearest inn we could see – the Slumbering Serpent. (Inviting, huh?)

After healing our wounds there, we snuck back to the temple at night – only to be attacked by the gardener, some temple lay-men, and some wolves. (Not like you can blame them, of course.)

I know I was hit on the head at least once. Somehow or other, we were staggering along the road, heading back to the inn. Lancell the Paladin and Jill the Magic User were both badly hurt, but behind us was a pile of dead bodies. (Also, I was wearing the priestess’s chain mail, which we looted off her body.)

We didn’t come here to be typical looters. All we wanted was to find this gnome, and uncover what was happening.

Maybe after some rest, my head will stop pounding, and we’ll be able figure out what we should do next.


Find the next entry here.

“Red vs. Blue” (Seasons 6 thru 13)

"Red vs. Blue" (Seasons 6 thru 13) — Kimia Wood The internet is a dark, mysterious place…full of dangerous things like web series. If you aren’t careful, you might find yourself…watching Red vs. Blue.

And if you have a little brother, you might find yourself compelled by those big brown eyes to watch it, despite your better judgement. #askhowIknow

In all honesty, though, is RvB really that bad? Well…it has some content “not for mothers-in-law“, but it also has a lot of powerful, heart-moving themes.

You gotta decide if you’re up to getting there.

Premise

This might sound weird, but RvB is a Halo-based Machinima where two teams of soldiers camp on opposite sides of a valley in color-coordinated teams (yes…Red and Blue). It streams free on YouTube (in five-minute episodes organized into seasons), but is also available in DVD format.

I gather that early on, it was basically an excuse for cheap skits and foul-mouthed jokes while these pathetic losers tried unsuccessfully to kill each other.

But I wasn’t brought in until Season 6…when they actually start telling a cohesive story. Continue reading

Unforeseen Consequences of “Economic Abuse”?

I just learned that Great Britain is working to include “economic abuse” in its anti-domestic abuse law (thanks to this article from Public Radio International).Unforeseen Consequences of "Economic Abuse" — Kimia Wood

Domestic abuse is nothing to joke about, or shrug off. But this new step concerns me on a number of levels.

For one thing, physical abuse against spouses is already illegal (at least here in the U.S. – I assume it would at least fall under assault and battery across the pond). Is adding this new category to the equation really worth it? What benefits will we gain…and what might we lose?

First, “financial abuse” is a nebulous term that’s hard to define. Second, focusing on these varied abuses seems to assume that women are victims – not masters of their own fate – and need protection from abuse. (I say “women” specifically because the example used in the article is a woman, and the main thrust of these abuse movements are to protect women. But we all know that men can be abused as well.) Lastly, if we admit that women are at risk and need protection, who should those protectors be? Their immediate family and friends, who know them, know their significant other, and know the emotional make-up that attracted them to each other? Or some third party, like a loan officer (whose business is money), who has no vested interest in the woman beyond being a “good neighbor” (and abiding by the law)?

What Does “Economic Abuse” Even Mean?

Just how do we define “financial abuse”? Do we really want the government inserting itself into the intimate give-and-take of married life?

Spouses are supposed to communicate, argue, cooperate, and work through the struggles of life as a unified team. Some couples do better at it than others do, but that’s just life.

Can the government really understand (let alone referee) this complex relationship?

In the original article referenced above, an interviewed woman (called “Anna”) describes her own experiences of so-called “economic abuse”:

She says her husband forced her to co-sign a loan to cover the bank fees, against her will. That loan left her saddled with debt after their marriage ended. He never paid any of it.

(By the way, why was she still responsible for the debt after the divorce? Couldn’t she – or her attorney – have said that the loan was made on behalf of her husband, and that the husband should be responsible for paying it back? We already have systems in place to help situations like this…do we really need another law on top of it?)

Anyway, we agree that abusing shared credit cards, or abandoning co-loans with your spouse, is mean and bad. But it doesn’t always look the same to different people. Continue reading

“Incredibles 2”

 The Incredibles was practically perfect. Gorgeous animation blended with a deft plot; escalating tension melded with heart-warming family dynamics; an adorable yet realistically high-stakes romance between a husband and wife strode alongside the every-man struggle of a middle-aged father to find his place in life again; and weaving through it all was a truly diabolical yet savory villain.

Well, perfect is understandably hard to top…even for a writer and director of Brad Bird’s impressive story skills.

So……did the sequel pull it off?

That’s a question each viewer must answer for themselves—but here is my take. Continue reading

Books I Meant to Read In 2018 but Didn’t Get To

Stop me if you’ve heard this before…Last year, my mother set each of us a goal to read fifty book within the year. So, I started scheming for titles to scratch off.

As these things happen, though, I hadn’t gotten to everything on the list before I reached my goal – and the year ended. For Top Ten Tuesday, here are some of them:

The Crown and Covenant series, Douglas Bond

This is a favorite of my brother’s, and I figured it’d be a good way to fill up my list of books read.

As it turns out, I did sample Mr. Bond’s work for the first time last year — but with Hand of Vengeance, which is a cool, stand-alone Saxon/Viking-themed mystery/romance.

Never Leave Me, Priscilla J. Krahn

This is one of several stories I received for participating in the Indie Author e-Convention (May 2018). I figured they’d be a good way to sample fellow authors’ work, while racking up some short reads for my list.

I’ve currently read about three out of five, I want to say — but this is one that I didn’t get to.

Monster Hunter Legion, Larry Correia

This is Book 4 in the Monster Hunter series (y’know, the series my brother chewed through like a machine gun chews through zombies).

I intended to read it, after reading some shorter, fluffier things to clear my head and palate…but the long and the short is I never bothered to load it onto my phone before I had hit my book goal, and December was over.

Next time.

October, J. Grace Pennington

I’ve consistently enjoyed Mrs. J. Grace’s work, and appreciated the spiritual themes she weaves into them.

From the description of October, I wasn’t so sure about it, but hey! she was giving it away for free!

As with so many other things, though, this one didn’t make it onto the list before December had run out.

(It is currently available free through Kindle Unlimited.)

Prize of War, Carole Towriss

This one I actually paid money for (during an indie author sale). It sounds like a cool story about Caleb’s daughter and nephew/son-in-law during the conquering of Canaan — but I didn’t get to it before the year ran out.

(It is currently available to read free through Kindle Unlimited.)

Time and Again, Richard E. Elkins, PhD, and Agnes Lawless Elkins

My grandparents gave me this book. It’s some kind of missionary book. It’s really skinny. I should really read it one day.

Jesus On Trial, David Limbaugh

My grandpa gave me this one, too (actually, he gave every family member one. That’s what he does when he likes a new book).

It sounds really cool (a lawyer’s analysis of the four gospel accounts and his journey to saving faith in Jesus) but once again, I didn’t make the time to get through it.

I did start reading the intro, but got bogged down with all the quotes I wanted to Tweet. Oh, well.

The Shattered Helmet, Franklin W. Dixon

I borrowed two Hardy boys mysteries from my grandma (as well as a boatload of Robert Ludlum, Alistair McLean, etc.). I only read one of them: The Sinister Signpost.

As a long-standing Nancy Drew aficionado, it was interesting to see the masculine side of things. (Nancy never got in that many fisticuffs.)

That’s what YA used to be like, kids 😉

The Nine Tailors, Dorothy Sayers

Wow, a Sayers book I haven’t read yet!

I started reading this one…it must have been 2017, because I would have had to start over to make it count for the reading challenge.

I faded out a few chapters after Peter fell asleep reading about bell-ringing sequences. I’ll try again one day – depend on it.

Sense and Sensibility, Jane Austen

I should read this. I really should. I have it in a big, thick, hardback three-novel collection.

It’s a New Year

This year, I’ve set myself the goal to read thirty books; because fifty was so stressful, that I didn’t like committing to reading long books.

Also I have other things to do…like bake cookies, write novels, play video games, and talk theology with my family.

Perhaps I can pick up some of the books I missed last year!


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

Subscribe to the mailing list for a free e-copy of her post-apocalyptic adventure novella Soldier! You’ll also get periodic updates on her latest reading and writing exploits (currently sent out every other month).