Catherine Ryan Hyde’s “Ask Him Why”

Synopsis:  Ruth and Aubrey are just simple teens when their older brother, Joseph, ships off to the Iraq.  But when Joseph returns only 3 months later, with a dishonourable discharge, his family is put in a media crossfire.

We view the story from the perspective of Ruth, as she tries to get the secret out of her parents and Joseph.  She is beside herself that no one will talk about it, and feels the ramifications of Joseph’s actions are directly affecting young Aubrey.  Ruth has to be the grown up in her family, at a time when she is really too young to understand the politics of it all.

Joseph, thinking removing himself from the situation is the best option, goes into hiding.  Not only has his tarnished his family name, but his relationships are in shambles.

Ruth and Aubrey are determined to find him, and figure out the truth.

Outlook: This was my first book by Catherine Ryan Hyde, and I bought it based on ratings and the synopsis.  It was written in the biographical style I prefer (although the book is fiction) but it also had a slight thriller element to it.  At least, I was gripped by it at certain points.  I was captivated by the plot, and I just had to know what Joseph had done to deserve 333 pages of scrutiny.

Although we don’t find out till almost the end of the novel what Joseph has done, a long the way Ruth and rebellious Aubrey meet a man known as Hamish, who Joseph viewed a father figure.  The introduction of the Hamish character really pulls the story together, and the scene Hyde sets up around Hamish and his home makes for a great read.

However, there are times when the book is slow, and I could easily put it down and come back later, often doing just that.  Overall, I would recommend this book despite its slow middle, as the Hamish character is not to be missed.

Featured image courtesy of JP Solatorio

Why I Write, and Why WordPress

George Orwell most famously wrote his “Why I Write” in 1946.  It is now used in curriculums around the world.  Although I am no George Orwell (and don’t strive to be) I thought I would post my own small snippet of why I chose this hobby.

When I began an actual English class at 13, I never tried.  I enjoyed writing, but I never followed the standard protocol for an essay assignment.  The classic “5 paragraph essay” always bothered me.  Now that I am older, I of course understand why it is the corner-stone for teenage essay development and composition.

Because of my lack of structure, I never got higher than 70% in any writing assignment. I just liked to put my head down, and go.  My teachers always said “your content is great, you make valid arguments with a smattering of examples, but you didn’t follow the instructions.”

I felt like I was losing time constructing a format, or my writing wouldn’t be perceived how I wished it to be.  With the introduction, 3 points, and conclusion,  it created a block in my mind.  I just wanted to write.

Not that I thought I was good, in fact I thought I was terrible.  Even to this day, some 20 odd years later, I still feel inadequate as a writer.  People I don’t even know, well before WordPress, always said the same “Hey, you can write!” – but I never believed them.

The same sentence always bounced around in my mind: “There is no way someone like me could have a way with words, or a concrete idea.”

So, why write?

  • I write because it brings me joy
  • I write because it brings me pleasure
  • I write because it’s therapeutic
  • I write for myself
  • I write because I want to get better

There is always room for improvement, even in a hobby.  I’m always scouring the Reader, and of course devouring books, really looking at the different styles people choose to write in.  The styles that make them comfortable.  The endless stream of ideas people come up with.

To the reader, why do you write? I’d love to hear about it.

Why WordPress?

Over the course of 15 years, I’ve had several blogs.  All personal, across various platforms.  For whatever reason (probably age) I never kept up with them.  I actually moved from wordpress.org to wordpress.com, where most people go to with former.

The community.  WP offers a community like non other, and is a truly unlimited source of reading, interpretation, and feedback.

I enjoy meeting new people here, and seeing the different genres everyone chooses.  A great resource that I’m sure we all take for granted.

I’ve always wrote for myself, it’s one of the reasons I choose to write in the first person style.  That being said, I am humbled that people choose to read, like, or comment on my work.  Whatever feedback you choose to give, whether its a drive-by-like-n-smash, or a full blown comment, I am truly grateful to anyone that has stopped by the Ares landing pad.

I wish you all continued success.

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Hard Times in Black Creek

I had been years since I was in this part of town. Run down and forgotten. Barely standing in the distance, the old paper mill where my father spent 40 years of his life. To be perfectly honest, I forgot this place existed. Rarely patrolled and used as a dumping ground, Black Creek was hardly the warm community it once was.

Homeless standing over barrels of fire covered every corner. Spray painted buildings displayed violent gang art. A way of letting people know who ran that block. I never saw a lot of people, if my supervisor had asked me who the king pin down here was, I would have said “a mangy dog, and a malnourished cat.”

The pollution from derelict plants still lingered in the air. The place was retched and cold. When the plants closed and the work dried up, people turned on each other. The violence escalated too quickly. There was nothing we could have done.

It was abandoned, and forgotten.

I drank the remainder of my Jack Daniels, lit a cigarette, and locked the car.

A voice came over my radio, “Jacobs, you there yet?”

“No,” I mumbled “check back in ten more minutes, I’m having a look around.”

I lied to my boss, as I always did. I couldn’t locate the body. At least, not where the initial report said it was. All I could see through the wiry gate was old clothing, furniture, beds and lights in abundance, but no body. Only thing to do was enter this place and look around.

I needed help. I needed my partner. “Bring Reynolds to the scene, I need his eyes,” I text back to base.

By the time Reynolds arrived, I located the body.

Twenty seven, she was far too young. Hands zip tied like all the rest. Her lifeless body was nearly swimming in a pool of rusty water. It went against every instinct I had to not move her, and wrap her up in a warm blanket. Let the woman pass with some fucking dignity.

I had been doing this for 20 years, and for whatever reason this body set me off. I couldn’t take the death, the lies, the system working more for the criminal than the ones who help the victims. I checked my pockets for my flask, seems I left it in the glove box.

“It’s too fucked.” I said to Reynolds.

He put his pen away, and looked at me oddly. “What is?”

“All of this. I can’t take it. I can’t fucking take it.”

I swept my coat to the side, removing my side arm. Before I could raise it, Reynolds was all over me. I struggled and struggled, how was this man so strong? Everything I did made him tighten his grip. The man was just shy of 5’7 but had ox-like strength.

“Calm down, Jacobs!” He raged.

“Get off of me, I need this! I need this!”

Reynolds grabbed his radio, “get the needle, get the needle! For fucks sake give me the needle, now!”

Who was he talking to? I fell to the ground, completely devoid of energy.

When I opened my eyes, all I saw were 4 piercingly white walls and a padded door. Reynolds was looking at me through the inch thick glass viewing panel set in the door.

Pressing his finger on the intercom, “we will try again tomorrow, Jacobs.” He said.

A woman walked up to him, I read her lips.

“Any progress, Dr. Reynolds?”

“No, we can’t get him passed seeing his daughter.”

via Daily Prompt: Zip

Kent Wayne’s “Echo” Volume 1

Synopsis (via Goodreads): In the late 21st century, humanity left Earth due to multiple resource shortcomings aggravated by an acceleration in climate change. They settled Echo, a planet that was nearly a carbon copy of Earth except for being devoid of all but the most basic life forms.

Fast forward 1200 years later. Echo has endured over a thousand years of dark age. Corporations and government merged early on, becoming the oppressive authority known as the Regime. Military and police merged into the Department of Enforcement, their only mission to crush the huge network of rebels known as the Dissidents.

Over half the planet is covered by decaying cityscapes and the elite live high above, removed and remote from the greater populace on the moon-city of Ascension. Hope lies in one man, a former Enforcer named Atriya. But before he can break the cycle of darkness and ignorance on Echo, he has to do it within himself.

Outlook:  Wayne instantly had me by the opening chapters.  His novel is fast paced, well written, and I know exactly where he is coming from with his characters.

Speaking in generalities, the stereotype is accurate for males where being a “military super soldier, delta force, black water private security bad ass” is the best job in the world.  Politics aside, that is.

We are immediately dropped into the world of Echo, where Atriya begins another day of hard training.  Seeing as this is the future, and humanity requires the best of the best, would-be soldiers are put through gruelling tasks.  Pushing their physical capabilities passed natural limits, often requiring a “little help”.  Gear, is what I’m saying.  A bunch of super elite roid pigs with guns!

I often sat back in my chair, saying “Jesus…” or “Savage!” aloud, reading Wayne’s words regarding “Crew” training.  Those who fail, are beaten severely by successful Crew graduates.  All sanctioned and A OK’d by top brass.  Being a Crew member was considered a great honour.  Each member of the “Elevated Risk” team had to go through extreme mental and physical training, and it only got worse and more life threatening with every advancement.  Wraiths, for example, were barely human anymore.  The training killed thousands.  In order to beat the Dissidents, only the best would do.

We learn about futuristic weaponry, ballistics, and mechanical suits.  Physical enhancements are the norm, showing the populace that a Crew member has entered the room – and is not to be messed with.

The world of Echo is complex and vast.  Wayne leaves most of the imagery up to the reader, which for me I enjoyed as I could picture his scenes, creatures, and armaments any way I liked.

We learn about the type of person Atriya strives to be, including his doubts and fears.  He wants to be more than Crew, and is willing to die to prove it.

Volume 1 ends on a cliffhanger, as one could imagine.

Volume 1 focuses on plot, character, and scene development.  Leading us into the fray for Volumes 2, 3, and 4.

Science fiction is my favourite movie genre, but one of my least favourite when it comes to novels.  But, seeing as Wayne is a fellow WordPress writer, for $1 I would get hours of entertainment and could support a buddy.  Because of that reason, this review is a bit bias, however I did finish it and will continue to read future volumes.  If I don’t enjoy what I read, I always put the book down and move on, rarely going back to it.  So, that should tell you something.

Wayne’s work can be purchased from his site, and the beginning chapters of volumes 1 and 2 can be read for free: https://dirtyscifibuddha.com/

Featured image courtesy of Kent Wayne

Dreamland

I’ve always had a fascination with numbers. I skipped two grades in elementary school. Graduated secondary at 16, and finished college at 18. I couldn’t get enough numbers. Passion? More like obsession.

My parents had me tested for autism. At the time, I took great offence. Now as an adult, it would have made a lot of sense. Turns out, I have a higher than normal IQ, and love what I do. That comes as a shock to some people (loving what I do). Someone once said “you can sleep, and be miserable, or never sleep, and be happy.” I chose to be happy.

If you’re reading this, then it’s no secret you know who I am. Mark Jacobs, 35, known as the “Mob Accountant”. Over the course of 10 years, my associates and I shaped the way organized crime operated in the United States.

When I first started, I never knew who my clients were. Not only to protect my identity, but there’s as well. I can’t testify if I don’t know names.

Yet, I never knew my actions would lead to so much chaos.

Over two years, a large syndicate began to bring me stacks and stacks of books. The amount of money coming off the top was staggering. I didn’t know what they were trying to buy (or hide) but it was big. In the summer of ’85, I returned the cooked books and was paid handsomely for my efforts.

The Sartuzzi family had more wealth than any other family in New York, and had deep ties to Sicilian blood lines. The old school of old school. Of course, I never knew who they were until after I was indicted.

If I knew that I was directly involved with facilitating their drug trade, I would have denied them as a client, and moved to the Arctic.  Street name “Dreamland” would render your victim helpless, making them believe they were stuck in a form of purgatory. The perfect drug, fit for a psychopath.

The death toll was high.  The drug was untested; too pure.  Few survived.  The ones that did let the doctors take whatever they needed from their blood, and the largest state funded operation was underway.  Agencies from all over the US came together to bring Sartuzzi, and everyone involved, crumbling down.

“Now can I have my cigarette, please?”

via Daily Prompt: Avid

Development Sunday

This week is a continuation of last weeks Development Sunday.  There is a TL;DNR at the bottom for those interested.  Lots going on this week!

I’ve made progress regarding imagery and plot for another short story, Retribution.  I believe I will keep that title, the alternative was “Crusader”.  I think Retribution will have more pull when I begin to write it.

I started writing some prompts earlier this week, that ended up turning into two short stories instead! “Santino’s with a Bed of Roses” will be auto published on the 27th.  “Frailty” will be soon after.

I began experimenting with what works, and what doesn’t work, as far as story development.  Whether it be prompts or short story ideas.  I found I really struggled when staring with a blank page, as most of us do.  More so, the block seemed to come more frequently when using the computer.  I switched to pen and paper, and began throwing random ideas together in point form.  Seeing what I could use, and what was garbage.

Since I started the blog, I have been writing solely on the actual WordPress website, but now I have taken to OSX Notes which I quite prefer.  Actual word documents felt too clumsy, even in a smaller window.  With Notes, I can manage all of my work from a tab, without having to fumble around with a new .docx every time I have an idea on a piece.

When writing prompts, I write down 1 or two words of anything I can think of that may be pertinent to the story.  These little reminders are very helpful as I don’t have to expand on them right at this instant.  For one of my prompts coming up next week (which I prescheduled as I will be travelling) had about 30 words at the top of the document.  Leaving little mental notes where I can scroll up and add to the list, or remember that I wanted to add that in.  It’s been most helpful.

I mentioned in my last post that I would be working on a 3 part series regarding the Alien franchise.  After doing several hours of research, the work I had produced did not impress me.  Moreover, there is a plethora of information the topic already, and because of this I felt like I was simply re-wording everything I read or watched, instead of creating my own theories.  I may work on it again in the future, but for now its on the back burner.

The Artificial Intelligence article will be posted however, I am finishing up some final revisions and should get those parts online shortly.

As I mentioned I will be travelling and away from the internet for 3 days, so I have wrote a couple reviews and a short story, which will be posted on those days.

I started a new section called Foto Friday, where I take one of my favourite photos from over the years and post it every Friday.  This works well in conjunction with the Weekly Photo Challenge from the Daily Post.

  • Short story “Retribution” has imagery and plot set, working on characters
  • Short story “Santino’s with a Bed of Roses” coming on the 27th
  • Another, “Frailty” soon after
  • Found new writing tips that work well for me, making it a lot easier to get words to screen.
  • Alien franchise series got shelved
  • Artificial Intelligence series still a go.  Working on consolidation.
  • Away from WordPress for 3 days due to travel, posts automatically scheduled across those 3 days.
  • New section under Photography called Foto Friday, where every Friday I post one of my favourite shots.

As always I hope you all have an excellent week, and happy blogging.

The Resistance

For years my team and I had been tracking their movements.  From small gatherings, to ferocious victory speeches with thousands in attendance.  Drones were abandoned in the late 20th century, moving to more sophisticated techniques such as “Citadel Recon”.  Citadel Recon involved using a handful of space stations to observe the ground.  To insure complete accuracy, ground units of informants practiced espionage, relaying information back to command.

From the comforts of the Russian fabricated “Ripper” space station, we would watch the tyrannical leader command his army of followers.  Seven days a week, 365 days a year, we observed.  Never to intervene.

Named after her creator, Dr. Anatoli Ripernski, Ripper was our greatest achievement since the success of the Colonial Wars, in 2045.  Nothing of this magnitude had been created until now.  Developed in complete secrecy, against all authority.  Almost 1 kilometre in length, and 5 football fields wide, it was the pinnacle of Soviet ingenuity.  Capable of 10% light speed and filled to the brim with various armaments, we now controlled what was said, and done on Earth.

“Popov, bring us around 30 degrees, align us with this … gathering of worms.” Marshal Volkov ordered.

“Sir” I promptly replied.  No questions asked.

Volkov had been losing his mind a little each day being up in this “tube” as he called it.  The fact remained, Ripper had just as many luxuries as home, if not more.  If you had to be up in the frigid loneliness of space, Ripper was where you wanted to be.

“I can’t take the sight of them,” Volkov said, leaning against the center console “they have no idea the power I could unleash.  They think they are being strong, coming together as one.  Cute, but folly.”

I had been secretly destroying logs for months.  Not because I was an agent of the resistance, but because I simply believed that all humans deserve a right to a full, prosperous life.  Being born into a lesser society shouldn’t attach a shovel to one’s arm, so to speak.

Images, video, audio, everything was being systematically and meticulously destroyed.  The biomechanical drives were being physically erased, and vented into space.  New ones were transferred semi annually during our reprieve.

Volkov must have known.

“Popov, put your key into Omega 1” Volkov ordered.

“Sir?” I questioned.

Volkov removed his pistol, placing it firmly on my temple.

“Omega … 1 … NOW!” he barked.

My life, or millions of theres? I had no choice.  My beliefs a side, I followed my commander’s orders, entering my key into Omega 1.  Bomb bay doors 1 through 25 opened, with nuclear warheads armed and ready.

As quick as I had entered my key, a flash of light like a solar flare suddenly lit the space around us.  Our ship tilted slightly as the spacial matter was temporarily sucked into the void.

“Sir! Radar contact bearing 285, range 50 miles!” A voice beaming from across the room announced.

“What the fuck, they’re on top of us!“ Volkov stood frozen in complete disbelief.

A sphere more than 30 kilometres in diameter appeared from the void, opening all 200 of its nuclear silos.

USS Harmony had weapons lock, and fired.

From the author: I didn’t have as much time to write as I normally do, so I challenged myself to get this from concept to published in 45 minutes or less.  Not my best work, but the mental block with a passive word such as ‘Harmony’ was strong. Went with the first thing I thought of and started mashing keys.  Quite challenging, and borderline stressful!

via Daily Prompt: Harmony