My own opinion 3 – End Times

 Armageddon-2

Do I have your attention?

Cool, but that’s not what this piece is really about. Much like the title of My own opinion 2, this one is a little bit of a misleading play on words. Those of you who might have been expecting a ramble about Armageddon, Ragnarok (Götterdämmerung), or maybe ‘The Rapture’ are doomed to be disappointed. This is a list of things I would like to see come to an end. After the first two or three, the rest are not ranked in any particular order of importance.

I’m not going to bother with over-reaching goals like ending: world hunger, war, racism, or any other mostly impossible dreams. Pretty much all rational, well-intentioned people want to see those things end even as they disagree (sometimes violently) on how to get such results. This is more about things that are, at least theoretically, [semi] achievable.

I’ll be giving various reasons for each, and the first couple may drag on a bit, but I’ll try to keep them as succinct and civil as possible, though that wont be an easy job considering the subject.

*Note: I’ve made no secret of my intense dislike of Trump/Pence and my desire to see that stain on our nation legally removed. This includes ALL of the advisors, appointees (whether or not Senate approval was required), aides, and, most especially, an end to his [Trump’s] nepotism.

Anyway, here’s the list of things I want to see end.

* * *

First – The GOP, or rather the end of the GOP as a significant or relevant political party.

This doesn’t mean I want to see and end to conservatives or conservatism. Some of my own beliefs and ideals tend in that direction on certain issues. Conservatives are a necessary component of our political system, there to keep runaway socialism in check. Not that I believe one or the other is evil. In and of themselves, political/ideological beliefs are neither good nor evil. Take capitalism, for example. For the last couple of centuries it’s been a driving force behind innovation, technological advancement in particular, and the advancement of the middle-class in general. It has also been one of the most egregious abusers of the that same middle/working class, labor-wise and economically (especially lately)I’m no fan of over-regulation, but runaway capitalism—unfettered, unregulated capitalism—is, in my opinion, an evil thing. This lesson was driven home quite emphatically in 1929, 1986-1995 and 2008.

Many things, both good and bad, can also be said for socialism and communism as well. Ideologically, neither of them are bad things. Much like capitalism, it’s their implementation, their real world practice, that leaves much to be desired, and this is partly why I want to see an end to the GOP.

Aside from their purposeful obstruction of all investigations of Donald J. Trump’s (then, but no longer) alleged collusion with Putin/Russia before the appointment of Robert Mueller, they’ve been fully complicit in everything Trump is intentionally and blatantly trying to destroy (all mentioned in my previous opinion piece). Sadly, and despite the fact that both one of his top advisors (the Necromancer Bannon) and (the Thrall Trump) having specifically stating their intentions:

Trump-Bannon-Objectives

the GOP continues to enable and support everything this administration does.

The list of individual Republicans I’d like to see replaced is far too long to post in this piece, which is why I’d rather just eliminate the party wholesale. Much as I hate to sound like a conspiracy theorist, listed below are just some of the things that this party supports and/or is actively trying to accomplish. (Click on each for links to information and feel free to look up more on your own.)

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Citizens United – founded in 1988 by Floyd Brown, with major funding from the *Koch family (industrialists who own “the second largest privately owned company in the United States”).

*Note: These folks, along with the Mercer and DeVos families, among others, will come up in several of the following listed items

America First Policies – or as I call them, Asshole First Policies. A (supposedly) non-profit organization founded by a group of Trump loyalists (incl. the Mercers), many with deep connections to Mike Pence, including Nick Ayers, a Republican consultant who is regarded as the vice president’s top political adviser.

American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) – Also heavily funded by the Koch brothers, among many others. Highly conservative group with far too much influence on State/Federal legislative agendas. This group, along with the Convention of States Project, is trying to get enough states together to call for a constitutional convention, ostensibly to try to call for and ratify a “Balanced Budget Amendment,” but is really about much much more – here and here and here are examples of what they’re attempting to force on everyone.

This might be where you think I sound like a conspiracy theorist, but these things are happening right now, and if they’re allowed to succeed, things will go very badly, for science, education, voter rights, and many other freedoms we take for granted right now.

Freedom PartnersAnother supposed nonprofit 501(c) organization headquartered in Arlington, Virginia. Founded in 2011 under the name Association for American Innovation, it purports to promote “the benefits of free markets and a free society. “It is partially funded by the Koch brothers, and sponsors various Republican politicians and conservative groups.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

From their previous and disastrous attempts to ‘Repeal and Replace’ the ACA (the Seven-Year-Bitch-Plan), to their current attempts to do the same in the sort of secrecy they accused the Democrats of doing, and their very obvious attempts to suppress the votes of minorities and other poor, disenfranchised citizens, the GOP has been engaged in the systematic destruction of every last one of our hard-won protections, all in the name of ‘less government’, and it was already happening long before Trump was elected.

This ‘less government’ mantra, sadly, is their not so subtle code for the slow move from a democratic republic to an authoritarian state (dictatorship). It’s already begun at the departmental levels with the dismantling of the US State Department (Tillerson), the Department of Justice (Sessions), the Department of Education (DeVos), the EPA (Pruitt), the Department of Energy (Perry) and the Department of Health & Human Services (Price) to name more than a few. With only one or two dissents, all of these people were approved by the full Senate GOP (except Sessions), and, sadly, many Democrats as well. I’ll get around to what I want done to that party in a different, future opinion piece.

There are more of these things that the ultra conservative right is trying to force down everyone‘s throats, but I don’t have room here to detail them all. The above things are more than enough to scare the hell out of me, and should give any rational, open-minded person reason to pause and take a second look at the party that’s trying to do this to our country.

I don’t want to lump all of the Trump/Pence/Bannon supporters into one category, mostly because I don’t believe they all belong there (the majority don’t), but Trump’s election has emboldened a shitload of hate-fueled racists to crawl out from under their rocks and parade around in the open more than they’ve done in decades. This is not in any way, shape or form a good thing, and the entire GOP, along with Trump and his whole administration, are turning a blind eye to it at the very least. Many, far too many for my peace of mind, are fully and actively supporting it.

So . . . the time has come, at least to my mind, to end the GOP as a relevant or influential political party.

#EndTheGOP

* * *

Second – Reality TV shows. End them. All of them. Every last one. Immediately. Now and forever more. No exceptions.

This one is on all of us, I’m afraid. Liberals, moderates and conservatives. While others may legitimately argue about when it started, in my mind it is reality television thats responsible for the exponential increase in “The Stupiding of America”. And yes, I realize stupiding is not a word, but it’s appropriate, I think, that a non-word be used to describe what this bullshit medium is doing to American Culture.

It began with that fucking ‘Survivor’ show, and I specifically blame Mark Burnett for the decline of quality shows from national television networks, and the mind-numbing stupidity it engendered in the American Electorate. There are easily hundreds, if not thousands, of these cheaply and easily produced pieces of shit out there and it’s precisely for this reason that there’s no end in sight. And please, please, please stop referring to these people as ‘celebrities’. There is no such thing as a reality TV star. That’s a misnomer at the very least, if not an outright oxymoron.

Sadly, I don’t see this crap phenomenon ever ending, but it’s definitely very high up there on my wish list.

* * *

Third – Very closely related to my second thing, please let’s have no more ‘celebrities’ of any kind running for public office. Kid Rock? No fucking way! Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson? Same. No fucking way! Al Franken is a rare and welcome exception, since he at least brings some intelligence to the job along with a dash of humor. But those kinds of exceptional people are rare finds, and I don’t want to see an experimental merry-go-round of candidates trying to follow his lead. It’s a recipe for disaster.

And while I’m on this subject—no more fucking business executives either. We’ve had several, (eight, including the latest) and none of them, not a single one, is considered great or even all that good. They rank in the bottom third of the 44 we’ve had to far. (Yes, that’s 44. Grover Cleveland brings the count to 45 only because he counts twice—his two terms were not consecutive. He was the 22nd and the 24th president).

While the jury is still out on the orange clown now in office, history and his performance to date suggest that his reign, as I’m sure he likes to think of it, will not be a successful one. I’m sure I won’t be asked when the time comes to rate him, but he’s already the worst president ever in my book.

Anyway, it’s time to end this celebrity/business executive as political animals nonsense. Now.

* * *

Fourth – Hmmm. I had several more things in mind when I started this, but they seem to have slipped my mind. 😳 Ah well, this has already gotten longer than I wanted it to be, largely because my first rant ran on a bit. Some of you may be thinking to yourselves—this guy sure bitches a lot for someone who offers no solutions—and you’re right.

Well, I actually do have some general ideas about that, but like my first opinion piece, they’ll require smarter folks than I to make them workable, if they even are. But that’s going to have to wait until next time.

Anyway, it’s time for me to end this bullshit entry . . . for now.

RSL

#Resist

Moo 2 < Go to

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My own opinion 2 – Trump, Lies & Video Tapes

Mockingrump

Despite the title, I don’t actually have any videos to post, and I wouldn’t be able to even if I did. The free version of WordPress doesn’t support that, and I can’t afford to upgrade it at this time. Besides, most everyone is aware of @realDonaldTrump‘s most embarrassing moments. Theyre easily found with minimal effort. Most of them are still making the rounds on Twitter and Facebook.

I need to make something clear that may or may not have been so in my first opinion piece (My own opinion 1 – Change).

I do not like the far left any more than I like the far (alt) right, and I absolutely detest the hate-fueled, fear-mongering far right. Both get far too carried away with their political views and agendas. Also, violence advocated—much less perpetrated—by a few right and left wing nut jobs against any and all people regardless of political opinions, race, creed, gender, color, etcetera should:

1. Always be condemned by anyone and everyone with morals and/or a conscience.

and

2. Never be associated with or used to denigrate everyone associated with those movements. Their views may be extreme, but the majority of them (not counting the actual hate groups) aren’t violently so.

That being said . . . onward.

Much of the following comes from a rant I posted on twitter May 26th, though this is much longer and far more detailed because I’m not character limited here. Also, a lot has happened between then and now. Other bits are from older opinion pieces that I took down a while ago but am reusing now as they’re still relevant. So here goes.

First off, I am not in any way a leading business owner/employer, civic leader or any other type of community leader/activist. I’m not a well-known commentator or experienced political analyst. I don’t have any degrees in political science or journalism. In fact, besides the knowledge living gives everyone, (and bearing in mind that knowledge does not always equal wisdom), I don’t have any relevant experience at all, except maybe the kind those who’ve served a few years (or ten) in the military get, but Donald J. Trump wouldn’t know anything about that.

I’m just an ordinary average person like the majority of Americans out there. I do not identify as either democrat or republican. I will admit that the majority (but not all) of my core beliefs do tend to lean to the left, some further than others depending on the issue. I also do not identify with any specific religion, I’m more spiritually than religiously inclined. I dislike all organized religions equally, though I’m fully for and will defend others’ rights to believe and worship as they wish, when they wish and where they wish—with a few exceptions (public schools, for one, unless it’s privately).

About a month ago, our ‘so-called’ president claimed that appointing a special counsel for the Russia investigation would divide the country.

Divided-1

Well, @realDonaldTrump, here’s the thing. You are the one who has been dividing this country, starting with your bullshit ‘birtherism’ shtick, and continuing on in an uninterrupted flow up to and including today. Despite your painful, pitiful, sorry calls for unity, none has come nor is it going to. No one bought those lame, emotionless, half-hearted pleas then, and no one is buying them now. Your mostly hate-fueled rhetoric and false claims of persecution have done nothing positive for our country.

From the moment you first rode down that escalator in your gold-encrusted tower, you stepped up your divisive agenda, referring to all Mexicans as criminals, rapists and drug dealers and calling for their deportation.

You called for a complete and total Muslim Ban with a very broad and open-ended “until we can figure out what the hell is going on” tag line, which effectively let your most corrosive followers interpret as “forever.”

You still pursue extreme versions of both of these policies today, even though there were already adequate measures in place that only needed a little fine tuning (removing corrupt/incompetent managers, supervisors and senior personnel, and other possible improvements).

You’ve alienated and denigrated the the MSM, the Justice Department, the Judiciary itself, and all of our intelligence agencies with your constant accusations and #FakeNews bullshit. The Mainstream Media is not the enemy of the people, sir. You are.

You openly mocked a disabled reporter—and please stop telling us you didn’t … it’s on video—and you’ve done nothing at all designed to unite anyone except your cult core. None of us have the time, energy, inclination or experience to deprogram them, although we will welcome any of those who finally become disillusioned with your bullshit and see the light on their own.

You had a chance to begin uniting the country during your transition period, but you didn’t. Instead, you spent it undermining US policy, alienating our allies, toadying up to every dictator you could find, and apparently avoiding the chance to fill most of your cabinet positions. You could at least have used that time to denounce the overtly racist, minority portion of your fan base, but you didn’t. And, by the way, when your friends, closest advisors, appointees and policy makers (Bannon, Miller, Sessions, Spencer, Jones et al) are known racist assholes, you don’t get to claim you aren’t.

Your inauguration speech could have been a message of hope and unity; it could have been a chance to bring the country together and move forward, but it wasn’t and you didn’t. Instead it was a dark, uninspired message from an uninspiring man—a message of despair and division, appropriately delivered in the rain.

No, the sun did not shine upon you that day, but it did the next, when millions of women and their friends, boyfriends, girlfriends, lovers, husbands, wives, daughters, sons, pets and all, did, in fact, deliver a positive message. A message of hope and unity that should have come from you, but didn’t.

You also could have delivered a positive and inspiring message to congress during your speech to them—but again, you did not, even if a few pundits were temporarily fooled into thinking you’d become ‘Presidential’. By the weekend, you, Donald J. Trumpcorrected that mistaken impression by accusing your predecessor of ‘wiretapping’ you in your own Golden Tower.

You could have publicly, repeatedly and believably denounced the rampant antisemitism that has markedly increased since your election/inauguration, but you didn’t. Not convincingly, anyway.

You spent your first days (month) appointing people who immediately began dismantling their respective departments (specifically: the aforementioned Justice Department, Education, The EPA, the State Department to name just a few). You’ve spent the majority of your time creating scandal after scandal and praising every petty dictator, tyrant and demagog that had nice things to say to/about you while spurning decades (centuries in some cases) old friends and allies. Well done, by the way. WELL DONE!

This continued even as you made your first overseas visits, embarrassing both yourself and, more importantly, us . . . the US . . . Americans . . . with your incredibly accurate portrayal of the stereotypical ‘ugly American’. The boorish, arrogant, petty, childish lout who needs to be the center of attention despite having accomplished little to nothing of real or lasting consequence.

Sad.

Your Travel Ban has been rejected multiple times; the Health Care proposals (Trump/Ryan/McConnellCare) being secretly concocted and put forward by both houses are a joke; you have no actual tax plan to speak of (that useless, one-page piece of shit doesn’t count); and most of your EOs are being legally opposed or only partially implemented.

And now . . . NOW, sir, you’ve got left wing nut jobs shooting elected officials and right wing nut jobs killing whoever they don’t like (POC and Muslims or suspected Muslims mostly, but others as well). Despite calls for unity from both sides after the shooting, that situation is already degenerating to the point where your @GOP supporters are using that incident to make and air extreme ads that are not only nauseating, but just plain old, outright lies.

All of this and I haven’t even gotten to the #RussiaCollusionInvestigations or the obstruction of justice #ComeyFiring yet, and I’m not going to bother going there. I’ve already more than made my case for you being a complete and utter failure as a president. No matter what you do, no matter how hard you try or how many of your predecessor’s accomplishments you attempt to eliminate, your greatest achievement will never match the least of Obama’s accomplishments.

You will never be as loved or as respected or as popular. You will never be seen as anything other than a failure as a president, and most likely a criminal politically, as well as a mediocre criminal/businessman.

I realize that I am also of little consequence by myself, but I am not alone. While I’m sure your cult core and most of the complicit @GOP will always be with you (the complicit ones don’t really have a choice, anymore), they are not the majority. We are.

#TheResistance may be fragmented in some ways, but we’re united in far more. You are not now, and never will be, our President. We will not allow you, your racist/nationalist advisors/appointees, or the @GOP to dismantle our democracy. Despite this banner:

Not-Leaving

we aren’t going away. We aren’t giving up. The continuing obstruction of the @GOP will not stop us. We’re coming for you. Slowly but surely—WE. ARE. COMING.

Believe me.

RSL

#Resist

Moo 1 < Go to

My own opinion 1 – Political Change

A-Little-Rebellion

I feel fairly confident in stating that pretty much everyone wanted to see some sort of change in our representation during our last election cycle. Sadly, at least in my mind, the same people who wanted—demanded, really—that change, voted for and returned all of the same old clowns back to the house and the senate with relatively few and mostly insignificant changes. Except for one.

A very large percentage of our population somehow came to believe that a lying, buffoonish, narcissistic, immature, reality show clown who is almost certainly corrupt and quite possibly deranged would be a good president. While some of them may be starting to become disillusioned with this man, a fairly large percentage of his core supporters still believe in his constant cries of #FakeNews and complete bullshit that have come streaming out of his mouth (and his Twitter fingers) every day since he first rode down that escalator.

He promised change and he definitely brought some. Not all change is good, however, and change simply for its own sake is almost always bad. In this case, it has been very bad. I have no desire to get into all the things that have gone wrong (the #RussianHack of our election or the constant bombardment of our media by foreign sites before and after it) and are still going wrong. This isn’t about that—it can’t be, anymore.

This is about how actual change in the current system can be accomplished.

I’m guessing that there are more than a few people who are dissatisfied with our current two-party system. It was, in my own opinion (Moo), the second biggest mistake the founding fathers made. Personally, I’d like to see a zero party system or a thousand (infinite) party one. Either would accomplish the same thing—a lot of *Independent candidates. (*More on this below.)

It doesn’t require that any laws or amendments be proposed/submitted or approved/ratified/passed. No action of any kind is required by either house of congress, or any branch of the government for that matter. The only things really needed are: for the next generation of politicians/leaders to follow their hearts and offer real, rational, well thought out plans for the future – and an informed electorate (the rest of us) to keep a close eye on their careers, and the plans and policies they propose. (There’s an element of the media that needs to change/be involved also, but there’s nothing voters can do about that except not follow them.)

It won’t be easy and it certainly won’t be fast. There are a number of things that have to happen before these changes can occur. While most of the specific information and links that follow pertain to national elections for the Senate, the House of Representatives and the President, the basic premises can and should be applied to all elections from the local level on up. I believe that the local/state levels are where the real changes need to start, and are also where they have the best chances of succeeding.

First and foremost are our future representatives. Pretty much everyone knows that the office of the President of the United States comes up for election or re-election every four years and he/she is limited to two terms. I assume I don’t need to provide a link to prove that.

U.S. Senate terms run for six years, with one third of the Senate seats up for election/re-election on even numbered years. – http://www.senate.gov/reference/reference_index_subjects/Elections_Campaigns_vrd.htm

The House of Representatives, on the other hand, is a different story. All of its members come up for election/re-election every two years. – http://classroom.synonym.com/elections-house-representatives-held-two-years-12375.html

I recommend that everyone reading this click on those links and thoroughly read the contents (and follow at least some of the sub links). This is part of what I mean by an informed electorate.

That being said, the next things are some basic ideas/suggestions for how real change can be accomplished. This is not an all-inclusive list. Wiser souls than I should consider revising and/or adding to these suggestions. In fact, I recommend it.

Future Political Leaders (all levels):

One: Beliefs, Goals & Policies – It’s not possible to be everything to everyone, so be very clear and precise about your platform and do not vacillate once you’ve made it known. It will be restricted if you join a party, any party, so consider running as an *Independent very seriously before making a choice.

#Side note: There’s no such thing as an Independent Party. That’s an oxymoron. By definition, one cannot be part of a large group of people with common beliefs, goals and ambitions and still be independent.

Two: Campaign Financing & Promotion – Accept only individual donations. No donations of any kind from any business, PAC, SuperPAC, organization/group (AARP, NRA, NAACP, ACLU, Church etc.), or other private/public/religious enterprise. Make sure all donation records are kept open and public at all times. There are already laws concerning this,

http://www.cfinst.org/law.aspx

but some forms of donations can be kept private (certain types of PACs etc.). Don’t.

#Side note 2: I would have posted the links to fec.gov, but considering how much info has been changed/removed from all .gov sites by the current administration, I do not trust those at all.

Avoid negative campaigning & advertising. Stick to your own beliefs and policies and promote them positively. The other candidate(s) believe just as strongly in their message(s) as you do in yours, so try to avoid negative confrontations with them and do not marginalize your opponents or their supporters. No one wins when that happens, and it only turns the public off in most cases. (Debates are an entirely different story, but you should try to keep those as positive as you can as well.)

Also, denounce/refute any independent ads that concern or are about you or your opponents immediately, regardless of their content. Don’t let others make your case, they’ll want some sort of tit-for-tat.

Three: Media Coverage/Endorsements – This should probably follow along the same rules as corporate/organizational donations. Avoid allowing any media endorsements (newspapers, media groups, etc.) to have any influence in policy stances in exchange for their public support. Any endorsements from that area should come with no strings attached or not at all.

The Electorate/Voting Public (Us)

One: Above all else, keep informed and make every effort to get legitimate information from multiple sources (The candidates’ own official platforms first). Bear in mind that pretty much all other sources are going to be biased in one way or another to one extent or another, so keep an open mind when reading/listening to their opinions. Be especially leery of unsourced stories, or ones that claim to have witnesses/sources with only a first name such as Moe or Chaz or Kwasi or something.

At the risk of marginalizing some folks, I implore those who tend to read and believe only fringe news sites to please consider other, more mainstream sources and try to combine the information available from both areas. Much as I’d like to go on, it would only become a confusing and biased ramble so I’m going to stop here on this subject.

Two: Pay attention to all of the words and deeds of the person or persons you intend to support. Under the conditions proposed here there are going to be a lot of different positions taken by various candidates, and likely a fairly large pool of candidates if few to none of them follow/join a specific party.

This approach will eventually work itself out, but in the beginning it’s unlikely any one candidate will have a perfect platform. We will have to prioritize our stances in this regard and choose to support whoever we’re in agreement with on the most issues that are of the most importance to us as individuals at that time. Much of this will depend on the various candidates and on how they get their message(s) out.

The Media

This is where we, the voters, have the least amount of control except as far as viewership/readership is concerned, so I cannot give any specific steps for them to take. By design, the media outlets are free to cover any thing in any manner they choose. A free and independent media is both necessary and desirable in a free state, especially if it wants to remain free. Sadly, recent media coverage has not been fair and balanced (despite a certain organization’s claim), especially in this last cycle. As stated above, a lot of the unfairness was due to the huge amount of actual #FakeNews that was forced into our feeds (twitter, Facebook, etc.) and the ease and degree with which it was spread by those all too willing to believe it.

I especially recommend that all of the 24-hour news channels be viewed skeptically at best. Despite their claim, FoxNEWS is very obviously a conservative republican propaganda machine. msnbc is just as obviously a liberal democratic propaganda machine, though, in my opinion only (Moo), they do make some small attempt to present more sides of certain issues. I have no idea what CNN is trying to do, they seem to be all over the place. HLN does not qualify as a news organization at all (sorry HLN fans, but it’s true).

Generally, I tend to flip back and forth between CBS and ABC for evening and early morning news, and otherwise I follow the news feeds from my homepage and tend to pick and choose which stories to read depending on its source. Sadly, every damn one of them is ad-driven, which tells me one of the biggest problems going forward will be trying to reduce the amount of influence big bucks (the previously mentioned Corps. Pacs etc.) have on American politics. (Again, Moo)

Some final thoughts:

I realize that the list is incomplete and the above suggestions are simplistic and probably infeasible/unworkable as presented. Many issues have not been addressed (getting registered nationally if you have presidential designs is a major one, for example). They’ll need a lot of tweaking and reworking to be become even remotely possible. Considering the immense obstacles, they are likely completely impossible, but that doesn’t mean I can’t propose them, or that some future, modified, more workable version can’t be tried at some point.

Even if anyone starts following this plan, it will take several election cycles for any results to start becoming noticeable. At this point in time, I support anyone and everyone who is dedicated to removing Donald J. Trump and the majority of the gutless @GOP asses who are selling our country out and allowing *45 to destroy our democracy. #Resist #NeverTrump #IllegitimatePrez

RSL

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A Bit of a Twist – An Anthology of Short Stories

a_bit_of_a_twist

The second volume in the Read on the Run series by Smoking Pen Press, A Bit of a Twist is a collection of twelve short stories by various authors. Each of the stories presents its own unique spin on what might be considered a twist, with the first story getting extra credit for being a mini anthology inside an anthology.

***

David’s Not Herewas actually written in five mini sections by five different people (The Asylum). Considering the difficulty of pulling a story like that off, it actually comes out as a fairly smooth effort. The minor attempt at humor in the middle section, though not a story-killer, did distract slightly from what is otherwise an excellently twisted tale of revenge. While I do, in fact, know who wrote that section, I won’t embarrass that author by naming him here. 3 stars. (Because of the middle 😉 )

Eternal Youthshows what might happen when one’s goals are repeatedly put off due to the various stresses of living from day to day. While the story seems to drag at first, once the twist at the end is revealed, it turns out the story was exactly as detailed as it needed to be. One of my favorites. 4.5 stars.

The Reunionturns out to be a tale of revenge, but not in the way such stories usually go. The twist at the end of this one is sure to give several readers pause as they wonder what they might do if confronted with a similar revelation. 4 stars.

An Air of Authority – is one of two tales in this volume with a fantasy setting. It also happens to be mine, so I won’t review or rate it. I will say that the setting itself distracts from the flow of the rest of the stories since all but one of the others have contemporary, modern settings. (I will also hope that others aren’t as put off by this as it turns out I am.)

Down Home – takes a couple of different turns before it reaches its incredibly surprising and very sad conclusion. I really can’t think of much else to say here without spoiling the story. 3.5 stars.

The Marriage Counselor – has a seemingly effective way of solving relationship issues. In the end, the reader is left wondering how many others used a ruse to achieve their surprise final resolutions. 4 stars.

Blind Date – is actually a feel-good tale that ends up turning from the ending one generally expects for what initially appears to be a self-centered and shallow main character. Some may see the ending coming right from the start (and some may not) but that does not detract at all from this wonderful story. 4.5 stars.

The Chateau de Puyguilhem – is the other tale with a fantasy setting (although it does exist in the ‘real’ world). Aside from my already mentioned complaint about how the setting disrupts the flow of this volume, I’m sad to say that I had a hard time following this one, but that’s on me, I think. (Apologies to Andrew 😦 ) I think maybe it was a twist on the old ‘Beauty and the Beast’ theme, but I’m not 100% sure I got that right. 2.5 stars (mostly because it went way over my head).

River Road – takes readers in a surprising direction in the realm of the paranormal, though the revenge factor is pretty standard. No, the surprising twist in this tale is the way the MC and interacts with his sister, Callie. Overall a nice entry for this volume. 3.5 stars.

Aliens Among Us – takes the reader on a wildly paranoid ride through the mind of a high school junior just on the verge of maturing. While one might assume that the twist is Frank’s sudden and inexplicable assumption that his step-father is an alien, that isn’t where the real twist lies, but I’ll let future readers find that out for themselves. 4 stars.

Happily Ever After – is another feel good story, though anyone reading this is going to see a supernatural/paranormal horror story, at least at first. In fact, it actually is a horror story (a-la ‘The Amityville Horror’) right up until the excellently surprising ending that I’m not going to even hint at, much less reveal. You’ll just have to read it for yourselves. 5 stars.

The Wish – is a convoluted tale of the round-about travels of a possibly magic lamp. I rather like the concept in this one, but I don’t want to give away the twist in this particular tale. I will say that if you find an abandoned lamp on a lonely park bench, leave it alone—and definitely don’t make a wish on it. 4 stars.

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While this volume is significantly longer than SPP’s first ROTR release, ‘A Step Outside of Normal’, it can still be read in one sitting and offers enough variety of style to keep readers interested until the last page, and I’m not saying this just because one of the stories is mine.

As long as Snappy is happy, that’s what counts.”

Available at Amazon Books

4 stars overall.

RSL

The Ancient – An Anthology by The Seven

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Not all of the stories in this anthology involve actual lamps (Aladdin’s or otherwise) but all do involve wish-granting artifacts of one sort or another, and all of them have their points to make. The themes (and realms) range from sci-fi/fantasy to Lovecraft-esque type horror to everyday normagicity (<<<not a word) and everything in between.

Each in its own way, is also a thought provoking tale of danger-spiced adventure with dire consequences for those who make a wrong decision. And some of those decisions require desperate soul-searching before finally making them (Lily and the Lamp, for one) but who among us might not make the same decisions under the same circumstances?

Horror is not my cup of tea, so to speak, as far as favorite reading genres go, but The Golden Pen was surprisingly compelling given that I had no idea of the type of story that was coming.

All of the tales in this anthology have their recommendations going for them—and I now add mine to the list. You should too.

RSL

The Ancient is available in both e-publishing and paperback formats at Amazon –

Amazon Books

The Weatherman – Laurie Axinn Gienapp

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Intentional or not, this turns out to be a cautionary tale about how easily public opinion can be manipulated, an especially relevant message in these times. There is intrigue, suspense, danger, and maybe a little bit of fear at how this might become a real thing.

The characters are interesting and believable, as is the plot line and concept behind the tale. Weird as it sounds to say this, readers are taken on a fast and furious ride through the world of weather forecasting. Compelling enough that I read this in one sitting.

There needs to be a sequel. Soon.

RSL

ps: Not every story has to have raging hormones, ravening beasts, or overly heroic heroes. For certain Hollywood types who might be looking for something a little different, this could be it.

Available at these sites:

Google Books

Amazon

Barnes&Noble/Nook

Book Depository

A Step Outside of Normal

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A collection of seven short stories by five different authors, A Step Outside of Normal can easily be read during any cross country or other extended flight. I’m not going to write extended reviews of each story since, in some cases, such a review would challenge the story itself in length. Below are short blurbs about each story (except my own) that hopefully will make them sound interesting enough to check them out.

Hell of a Day by Laurie Axinn Gienapp: A very short tale – about four pages – that shows it’s sometimes a very bad idea to take your work home with you. Especially when your job is in Hell.

Sunnybrook Acres by Catherine Valenti: A ten page and rather fun tale about the antics of various aging and eccentric super heroes at a certain retirement home.

Pirates by Kathleen Terrell: This one is a cute little tale about a young girl who spends a lot of time daydreaming about all of the men (pirates) who try to date her mother and wishing the father who left when she was five would return.

Always by Theresa Thompson: A heartbroken woman contemplates the end while attending her cheating husband’s funeral. About ten pages.

The Book of Xyxyx by R.S. Leergaard: This one is mine so I’m not going to try to describe or review it. I’ll only say this is a weird idea that came to me during a midnight to eight am shift as a security guard. About nine pages.

The Double by Laurie Axinn Gienapp: A flower shop owner comes to believe she’s being stalked by her doppelganger double, who thinks she’s being stalked by her doppelganger double. Eight pages

Rage by Catherine Valenti: At seventeen pages, this is by far the longest story in the book. It’s a violent tale of anger, murder and betrayal. It only goes to show that sometimes a little vengeance is good for the soul.

All-in-all this is an interesting and unusual set of stories that should capture and hold the readers attention during an otherwise boring trip. Best of all, you should be able to finish it in that one sitting. 3.5 stars 🙂

RSL

 

 

New Realm Vol. 04 No. 08 – Various Authors

New Realm is one of several monthly magazines published by FictionMagazines.com, usually featuring five short fantasy stories from five different authors.

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Story #1 – The One by R. S. Leergaard

For fairly obvious reasons, at least to me, I won’t be reviewing/critiquing the first story because it is mine. I will say that the story called “The One’ was written in June of 2013 for a monthly challenge at a fantasy writers’ site. The challenge was as follows:

Your challenge is to write a story based on a cliché that’s in some way reversed. For instance, the the heroine rescuing a beautiful prince from an enchanted tower. It doesn’t have to be a gender issue, though, just a cliché turned on its head.

That’s what I did with ‘The One.’. More accurately, I took several fantasy clichés and exaggerated them to the point of cartoonish silliness, and maybe turned one or two of them a little sideways.

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Story #2 – Wurm by Jill Hand

Wurm is an ancient dragon who has survived to modern times and is being less than capably – and honestly – represented by his current servant, Dennis Twombey. And then the lawyers get involved and things go from bad to worse as Dennis has to juggle several problems – including his daughter, her mother and a RenFair owner (Sir Richard Blott) – at once while keeping Wurm happy.

A lot of little but interconnected things happen that lead up to a final confrontation between Wurm the dragon and Sir Blott. Although it’s not your typical happy ending, the story does end happily as Dennis learns a valuable lesson about honesty and fairness … and that, as far as I’m concerned, is a good thing.

Far too many stories, movies and tv shows these days seem to think that a story isn’t any good unless it contains blood, guts and “gritty realism” and that gets to be a little draining at times—at least to me. I can see that sort of thing any time by simply turning on the cable news channels or almost any drama series.

It’s kind of nice to read a feel-good story with a happy ending once in a while. 🙂

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Story #3 – A Trail of Breadcrumbs by Alice Loweecey

An interesting little tale that takes a bit of a turn when the bounty hunter, Jade, discovers the criminals she’s hunting are her own brothers. Also complicating matters is the constant danger of Alternate World collisions and changes those events sometimes cause. In the middle of the hunt for the rest of her brothers – she’s already captured one – another Alt-World collision occurs, sending Jade back in time five years where she learns of a different history where her brothers aren’t the criminals she believed them to be. Or maybe it’s not that simple.

This tale has several twists and turns in it, and it leaves everyone – including the reader – wondering which reality is actually real.

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Story #4 – Godswap Apocalypse by Terry Ibele

Who knew there was so much red tape involved in the transferring of God’s power? Certainly George didn’t. And what good is it when the only thing one has figured out how to do is end the world? These and others are questions George had never received an answer to until his latest universe scenario landed him in an office building where such things are decided.

This story is an often amusing account of how even the universe and the transfer of power from God to God is governed by certain bureaucratic rules and regulations.

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Story #5 – The Shadow Ward by Brian Barr

One of the nine necromancer flutes, the flute of Saturn and Mercury, has been stolen and the Shadow Ward, Ludwig has been sent to retrieve it. His search takes him from stable hand to pirate to the former slave and current possessor of the Babylonian flute, Mawuli, aka Sarah. She and her common-law husband, Patrick Goodfellow, almost destroy Ludwig before re-enforcements arrive to save him and return the flute.

There’s a lot of back story and other details told, of course, but in the end, the twist here is that the bad guy wins, though one is left to wonder if there is such a thing as a ‘good’ necromancer.

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The common theme for all five stories, as far as I can see that there is one, is that all of them have some sort of plot and/or character twist that turns the story away from the usual and expected conclusions. All-in-all this could be a fun and interesting addition to anyone’s collection of anthologies.

RSL

Burlap – Lucy Laird

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Kate ‘The Great’ Thornton, an aerial artiste of extraordinary skill at the Jensen Three Ring Circus, lives and breathes for the tightropes, trapezes and aerial hoops. In the air she’s a free spirit of boundless joy and adventure. But at night, when the crowds are gone and the glitz and glory is but a memory, her life on the ground is one of unspeakable brutality. After a one night dance with the devil, Kate finds herself in the Rosenton Home for the Criminally Insane, where her life becomes much worse.

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Lucy Laird has crafted a tale of horror and suspense that will keep you reading well into the wee hours of the morning . . . as long as the doors are locked and all the lights are on.

The author [Laird] has done a lot of research on both her characters and the setting (a 1950s era sanitarium). Drawing on the horror stories (both real and imagined) of early era treatment for mental conditions, she has created a believable setting for her heroine [Kate Thornton] and the rest of her Ward F mates and the doctor [Shilling] who is treating (mistreating) them.

She [Laird] takes us through the lives of each of Kate’s ward-mates and the surprising reasons for their being there (especially Kate’s). The characters are well-drawn and described in detail, as are the scenes that lead to progressively more horrible conditions and situations, culminating in a wild and slightly surprising end.

All-in-all, a satisfyingly horrible look at the bad old days of the treatment of mentally ill patients.

Sadly, this book has not yet found a publisher, but the story can be found here  on Wattpad.

 

RSL