The Nexus Nebula Saga
The Nexus Nebula Saga
Musings on books, writing, fatherhood, and other clichés.
Four out of five Charlies.
A Difficult But Worthwhile Read on Violence, Masculinity, and a Hundred Other Topics.
WARNING: There is no speed-reading here. This tome is not an entertaining weekend read. This is an undertaking. I had to put it down, sometimes for weeks at a time, to digest the volume of information and emotion before moving on. I read this book over a period of four months.
One cannot simply explain in a hundred words what SANCTION is “about.” I was given this recommendation by several different people and I read existing reviews on Amazon before deciding to read this book. As you can see there, it means something a little different to everyone, and your own experience will form part of the pastiche. Part of the value of being among McClay’s readership is that everyone you talk to can offer a differing perspective.
There is no linear plot so much as there is a concurrent series of events providing the backdrop for meditations on the human condition, specifically what it means to be a masculine man in an increasingly indifferent world. McClay offers eloquent reflections on dominance hierarchies, psychology, technology, nature, violence, anatomy and physiology, sexual morality, drug use, politics, and a whole mess of stuff that I probably forgot.
The plot, as revealed gradually through a non-chronological narrative, is about an intelligent and sensitive man named Lyndon McLeod. Fed up with the pettiness and slights and double-crosses of the people around him, Lyndon commits 46 murders.
As an inmate, Lyndon is then used as a basis for a cloning program by a corrupt scientist-turned-Governor, looking to seed his constituency with millions of people genetically inclined to vote in certain ways. Once this is done, the Governor’s biological supercomputers, MO and Isaiah, take the liberty of hijacking this project, using the clones as a vast network of soldiers and assassins.
Meanwhile, a set of elite clones named Blax and his four Jacks carry out missions at Isaiah’s command, stealing priceless historical artifacts and valuables. They seem to be saving these items from whatever is coming next.
The full picture is unclear and it is meant to be. McClay claims that this work has no answers, it only raises questions. That being said, this book is not without some issues. It is a first novel, and is often overwrought and impenetrable in its prose as a new author’s first work tends to be. The sheer size of the volume will be a barrier for some, and the disordered timeline will turn off casual readers. These attributes can be said to be part of the style and voice of the book, and it is clearly not intended for those casual readers. Even so, it could do with some formal editing, as it is often rife with formatting issues. There are grammatical errors, which are forgivable in a work of this size, but the most distracting error I found was that the spelling of one character’s name was not consistent.
Four stars for an excellent if somewhat ponderous first outing. I have already purchased the second volume and I am reading through it with even more zest. McClay shows rare skill and promise, and if you are prepared for the trek you will not be disappointed.
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Slaying Your Fear: A Guide for People who Grapple with Insecurity
Adam Lane Smith
Five out of five Charlies.
Not Your Average Self-Published Self-Help Book. Kill Your Anxiety For Good.
Self-help books are the internet money maker these days. If you’ve got an internet presence and a course on how to be confident / make money / get laid / grow your social media following, well, you’d better have a book. I’ve picked up a lot of these for cheap or free over the last couple of years. A lot of it is the same stuff, differently phrased.
“Slaying Your Fear” is a whole different beast.
Penned by a practicing psychotherapist with extensive experience dealing with anxiety, this book is full of relatable case studies covering a wide range of situations and maladaptive coping strategies. If you struggle with anxiety, you WILL hear a story in this book that applies to you.
But that’s just talking about the Fear. The value in this book is where Smith shows you how to Slay.
The true gem here is the actionable advice. No vague platitudes here like “just be yourself” or “think positive.” Smith includes actions that you can take, today, to form healthy habits and behaviors.
Recommended without reservations.
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Gideon Ira: Knight of the Blood Cross: Deus Vult Wastelanders Book 1
Adam Lane Smith
Five out of five Charlies.
The Book That Screams Out For a Video Game Adaptation.
When I heard “Ultra-violent pulp Christian fiction,” I knew I’d be reading this book. The cover art promises sword fights, gunplay, and hordes of dead demons.
And man does Smith deliver on that promise.
Gideon Ira is the prototypical pulp hero with a Christian twist. He slashes and shoots his way across a post-apocalyptic land in which the final war of our modern society tore open the barrier between Earth and Hell. He kills hundreds of demons while carrying hints of a dark past. What sets him apart from other pulp heroes is the strength of his moral conviction. No underhanded methods for him—he’s a golden boy, child of God, through and through.
Gideon’s greatest strength, ironically, leads to the book’s only weakness. As Gideon tolerates no moral grey areas, neither does the narrative. A few characters are introduced that offer interesting alternate perspectives and provide real opportunity for challenge and character growth, but these individuals tend not to survive very long in favor of showcasing Gideon’s strength of belief. As black-and-white morality is part of the premise of this story, this flaw is entirely forgivable.
The battles form the bulk of the story, but each action sequence is different enough to stay fresh while moving the plot forward. He makes use of his powered armor’s features to give him the edge, and Smith has a knack for peppering in those details in a way that blends into the action rather than bogging the narrative down with excessive descriptions.
This book is one that would translate extremely well into an interactive game. There are solo battles against hordes, multi-player co-op stealth missions, defensive positions against oncoming waves, and cinematic boss fights. Smith’s descriptions of the powered armor’s HUD, tagging features, time-constrained weapon power-ups, and limited buff items betray his love for strategy games.
In the midst of all that, despite the deep detail of Gideon’s loadout and personal mission, Smith manages to make his hero feel like a small part of a much larger war. Gideon’s contribution is vital to the effort, but all around him are threads of different stories with their very own heroes.
This is a satisfying tale that strikes the perfect balance of leaving the reader wanting more. Highly recommend this gripping book.
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Starting now, I'm going to be posting my books online to read for free, right here on the site. You will still have the option to purchase them on eBook or now as a PDF as well.
I am trying a model of offering the option to read my work for free, while coming across the occasional ad. We will see how it goes.
If you're interested, you can start reading Momma Grizzly right here. The first two chapters are live, with more to come every week.
We're headed to other worlds, folks.
Melanie A. Smith
A Romance With Plenty For A Non-Fan To Enjoy.
In many ways “Everybody Lies” is a classic genre romance tale. You’ve got your tough boss bitch, your alpha male who is dominant enough to intoxicate her, your hardworking devoted friend with a crush, and your parental friction.
But Mrs. Smith takes these elements and mixes them with the minor fantasy element of Frankie’s superpower, creating something new and enjoyable. Even a non-fan of the genre like myself can find a worthwhile read in these pages. As usual, Smith’s strength lies in her keen understanding of the instincts and grit required to run a business, and she injects these traits into her lead character to create another gripping tale of corporate intrigue. My favorite parts of the book were Frankie’s investigations into the shenanigans of her employees, which begin as college-kid drama but spiral into something more explosive.
Once again, I have to admit to speed-reading through the erotic scenes. I was here for the story, and there was plenty of it. I do wish the resolution had brought Frankie’s power more into play, but the ending brought in enough twists and revelations to make up for it. That’s my one minor nitpick and it’s mostly a product of me approaching this one for the fantasy element. I am not the target audience for this book and that is perfectly OK.
Even if you’re not much of a romance fan, like me, this one is well worth picking up. With well-rounded characters and some interesting explorations of the value of honesty versus ego investment, as well as a fairly action-packed story of crime and intrigue, there is a great story in these pages. And if you’re here for romance, of course, it’s got a heaping portion of that too.
The Call of the Wild
Jack London, 1903
Born of Jack London’s fascination with the rough life of the Gold Rush miners and the support network that sprang up around them, The Call of the Wild is a fantastical yet uncompromising look at an environment most of us will never experience. At the time of publication, London caught some flak for his anthropomorphized protagonist, Buck. But London was no revisionist, trying to paint the natural world as civilized and romantic. This story is more of a metaphor, with Buck at times representing man more than animal.
Buck lives an idyllic life of sporting and comfort on the California property of his master, a wealthy judge. Bred from a Saint Bernard father and a collie mother, Buck is a strong and athletic dog.
When word comes around that men in the distant north have struck gold, Buck is among the dogs kidnapped and sold into sled work. Enraged at his undignified treatment, Buck lashes out at his new handlers, only to be beaten into submission.
While it was Buck’s powerful body that made him fit to be a sled dog, he has another quality that makes him able to survive in that environment. He is observant and intuitive, and he quickly learns the new rules of this savage, hardscrabble life. There is no dignity or sense of fair play here, as there had been in the domain of the judge. Here, you steal food or get none. If you get in a fight, you had better stay on your feet. If you don’t, it’s over for you.
Buck is keen enough to learn some of these lessons vicariously, but he is forced to learn a few firsthand as the rough sled-dog life rips away every shred of his old life and self. Through a series of trials, masters, and antagonists, Buck gradually sheds his civility and steps more into the life of the animal. His struggle to survive and the transformation he undergoes reveal modern sensibilities as a fragile veneer. Strip it away, and all that’s left is the savage will of the predator. Embrace it, do what’s necessary to survive with no regard for fairness, and you may live. Try to hold on to modern conveniences and manners, and you will certainly perish.
This is my all-time favorite book. The strongest moments come when Buck is forced to witness some unfortunate soul learning these lessons with a horrible finality. Soon after being stolen, Buck watches another domestic dog trying to make friends and being killed. Later on, after Buck has risen through violence to the role of lead sled dog, he is sold to a family who is completely unprepared for the journey. Their bickering (and their sled overloaded with luggage and convenience items) leads to disaster for the team.
Towards the end, as Buck has only threads of his old self remaining, he is held to civility by his love for the man John Thornton. A couple of eye-rolling moments ensue as Buck pulls some overblown feats out of his great love for this man. But the message stays consistent underneath. I won’t spoil the climax, but it is thematically appropriate to solidify Buck’s complete transformation from civil to wild. A great little book and a great reminder to keep and embrace the animal inside us all, as the modern world is more fragile than we might want to admit.
They say everyone is only nine meals away from savagery, after all. Would you be willing to do what it takes to survive? Read this book for some thoughts by a man who lived the life.
I haven't posted anything about it online, but my son had a minor accident a couple of weeks ago and underwent an operation yesterday to get it fixed. All is well, but he has to have a pin in his finger for a few weeks. It could have been a lot worse, so I am very relieved and very grateful it turned out as well as it has.
Today is also his second birthday. Happy birthday, little buddy.
On the business side of things, the eBook cover of Momma Grizzly has been finalized and the paperback version is on its way. Since I am feeling so fortunate about things, I think I'll do another giveaway. Tomorrow In Sheep's Clothing Book 1: The Healer will be free, and Book 2: The Way of the Ram will go for a steep discount. I'm also slashing the price for paperbacks.
Take a look here.
Thank you for all your support, everyone.
Instagram influencer Bex has launched a new series of blog posts, "Social Media Tips For Authors, From Authors." The first post is an interview with YA Fantasy author Nadine Brandes and her experience with successfully using social media to promote her series. Check it out here:
I'll be implementing these tips, including building a relationship with social media influencers (self-evident) and we will see if it makes a difference when Momma Grizzly comes out this summer.
In order to improve my writing, I have decided to get back into reading. I've made a bad habit of reading the first chapter of a book, thinking "Hmm, that looks interesting," and then throwing it on the space of my shelf reserved for my reading list, never to be touched again.
That changes today.
I have 21 items on this list and have resolved to get it under 10 and then keep it there. Most of these are classics. A fair few more are military books handed off from my dad. Some are not first-time reads, being revisited for nostalgia or to sharpen my aging brain.
I'm placing independent authors on a higher priority than this list, however. I take requests for (honest) reviews. I’ll post those reviews here as well as on Amazon, Goodreads, wherever they need to go. Reviews are posted as entries on this blog and links to all reviews are listed under the "Reviews" tab on the home page.
1. Jack London The Call of the Wild (this is my favorite book)
2. Edith Hamilton Mythology
3. Homer The Odyssey
4. J.R.R. Tolkien The Legend of Sigurd & Gudrún
5. Richard Adams Watership Down
6. C.S. Lewis The Horse and His Boy
7. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle The Hound of the Baskervilles
8. Stephen King Wizard and Glass, The Dark Tower IV (I have read the first three)
9. T.N. Dupuy A Genius For War
10. Sun Tzu The Art of War
11. Lawrence Wright The Looming Tower: al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11
12. Mark Bowden Black Hawk Down
13. Barb Karg & John K. Young, Ph.D 101 Secrets of the Freemasons
14. Charles Dickens David Copperfield, with an Introduction by G.K. Chesterton (!!)
15. Larry Gonick The Cartoon History of the Universe
16. The Collected Tales and Poems of Edgar Allan Poe
17. A Robert Louis Stevenson collection including Treasure Island, Kidnapped, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, The Black Arrow, Weir of Hermiston, and The Master of Ballantrae
18. Sir John Glubb The Fate of Empires
19. Carl Jung Memories, Dreams, Reflections
20. T.R. Fehrenbach Fire and Blood: A History of Mexico
21. Lone Star: A History of Texas and the Texans
I have my work cut out for me.
Also, Momma Grizzly is about finished with the editing phase. I'm about a quarter finished with In Sheep's Clothing 3 and I still haven't thought of a good subtitle. Help.
It's too early in my indie author career to do a retrospective, so instead I'll talk briefly about the upcoming third entry in the Nexus Nebula Saga, Momma Grizzly.
The mama bear protective instinct is a common fictional trope and is often treated like a force of nature. It's also been a particular subject of interest for me, especially since my son was born.
I saw this Youtube video a couple of years ago and it made me decide I'd be writing a story in this vein. Becoming a parent myself helped me make sense of what it would be about. It'll run along the lines of Aliens, where the female protagonist experiences an awakening of her maternal instinct that makes her formidable enough to stand against the monster of the day.
The rough first draft is done along with a sort-of rewrite. Hopefully the editor will have good things to say and the whole development process will be a lot smoother than with In Sheep's Clothing.
Kevin C Hensley
Modernization brings increasing social control. Young men taking responsibility and having families are our best hope of pushing back against what is coming. I write fiction geared toward encouraging them to do so.