The Prince Games by Joshua Rouse  

“You have a good heart, Ronan.” …And it belongs to you Ronan answered in his mind.  —   The Prince Games by Joshua Rouse   1st Edition edition (September 16, 2016)

The Prince Games by [Rouse, Joshua]  One princess from the wealthiest kingdom in the land is locked away in a tower in the midst of a monster-infested, trap-laden island. Prince Ronan must brave the dangers, battle against competing princes, and be the first to rescue the princess, winning her hand in marriage and claiming honor and glory as victor of the perilous Prince Games…or die trying.

The author of this debut novel is young enough to be my son. In fact, he was a classmate of my own offspring, and I’ve seen him as a middle schooler in jazz combo, as a high schooler, as a college student, and now a college grad with a degree in English teaching, from the same college I attended last-century for the same degree. Only one of this young man’s professors was someone I too had studied under. Most of my teachers are now retired or (sob!) deceased.

When I first saw this manuscript in 2015, I told Mr. Rouse the things I love about it, but suggested he visit some How to Edit Your Own Fiction books and tackle some verbosity, and make sure punctuation in dialogue is consistently and correctly used (commas, not periods, e.g., in sentences like “I’ll be right there.” Julia said “I’m on my last ring…”).

In 2016, he published the novel. It is full of heart, full of magic, with swords and monsters, battles and villains, and surprise twists.

It is also full of the same syntax issues, and prose that could use more paring and polishing. “Less is more,” and modern readers have little patience for excess verbiage.

This author is young, as I mentioned, and talented, and ambitious. If he submits his prose to a writing workshop, or a seasoned editor, and hammers away at the excess verbiage, he is sure to win a loyal fan base.

I’m a fan of the theme of forgiveness and redemption, and for that alone I would recommend this novel to young readers. Fantasy is not my favorite genre, but dragons, towers, magical swords, and quests are staples of a classic kind of storyelling that never goes out of style.











Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

COMING JUNE 1, 2018….


…The trouble with K.C. Brown’s dream of playing alto sax with a local jazz band is that she’s a nineteen-year-old white girl, the band members are middle-aged black men, the year is 1948, and they all live in a racially divided town in Iowa.

Here, there be magic

Even though it’s historical fiction, with all the gritty, brutal real-life truth we expect from the genre, “In the Blood” is a 20th Century fairy tale.

And even though K.C. Brown is the youngest sibling of two sisters and a brother who died bravely in WWII, she finds her fairy godmother, so to speak, in the most unexpected form, a lonely jazz trombonist with mangled hands.

Twisted people, twisted history. Dave Hoing has a rare gift of making me wince and cringe and shield my eyes, but it’s too late, I’ve been pulled into the story, and this fictional world is so real, I can no more leave the story than I could end my own life.

Hoing and Hileman always deliver

lyrical prose, quotable quotes, and provocative insights.

Character development is spot-on, even in the most minor players.

I guarantee it. There is so much to say about every single minor character, especially members of this jazz band, I think I’ll just let the reader meet them all firsthand.

KC’s boyfriend, her boss at the grocery store, her groping co-worker, her sisters with their 1950s attitudes, her nosy landlady, the musicians with drug habits that keep them from performing, Freddy’s wife, a cat named Washington–even the cat his a distinct and memorable personality!–and the locals who resurface from previous Hoing and Hileman novels, all are so real, it’s hard to believe this is only fiction.

The ending is sad in so many ways, yet uplifting and gratifying.

Poignant, tragic, maddening,

horrifying events, usually taken straight from real life, make all their stories unforgettable.
Just try to forget what happened to Freddy’s fingers. And why he was unable to get proper medical care.
Or the workers who went on strike at the meat packing plant, and the shooting that happened in real life, though names were changed in the novel.

World War II is still a recent memory

when the novel opens in the same town we read about in “Hammon Falls,” with its haunting tale of a WWI soldier taken–you guessed it–straight from real life. Hoing and Hileman fictionalize the names of the towns, but local business and landmarks are recognizable to anyone who’s been there. Lost loved ones live on in fiction.

KC’s brother Kenny is forever a part of her,

gone but not forgotten

in that way so many of us know all too well. Whatever she does, wherever she goes, she carries part of her brother with her. Hard-hitting prose, lean, economical, lyrical, captures this in scene after scene. E.g.

Her brother didn’t miss the war. Kenny didn’t wait to be drafted, enlisting in ’41. He was brave. He was the best. He volunteered for every dangerous mission. He died. He never got to have a wife, or a house, or children, or a dog. Worse, all of his music died with him­–all, except what was left inside K.C.

KC may seem like an anachronism, the only free-thinking member of her family, resisting the limited expectations of a girl in a small Iowa town. Women, along with Blacks, were held back in a court of public opinion that punished those who stepped outside boundaries that society held dear. It was an era where racism was acceptable and allowing blacks to rent hotel rooms was not. Naturally, the white folk took pride in being tolerant of blacks living and working alongside them, but Hoing yanks the curtain back on their ignorance with snarky inner monologues that ring true, e.g.:

The white folks here didn’t like blacks any more than in Biloxi or Selma, but most were too stupid even to be good racists.


… one of those progressive white families that was on the side of the Negro. Made no difference what they said they believed: push come to shove, none of them wanted one of their own living black. Being fair-minded was fine, long as it involved someone else’s kid.

KC reminds me of my sister, who in 1975 insisted on thinking for herself (gasp! Everyone else in town hadn’t left the 1950s yet), and who would have done all the things KC does (on a guitar, not sax, and vocals, and fine, as a rock star, not a jazz musician, but let’s just say KC really captured so many things I’ve seen in real life. And as a result of her strong-minded, independent thinking, KC thinks of herself as a nice person but she doesn’t have many (any) friends.

** I will add more when the book is released!**

Thank you to Jessica Hughes for her mention of this book (and this review) at Islander Highlights – Week 9!

Message in a Bottle #30
Origin: Isle of Write
Sender: @jrhughes
Recipients: Steemit Creatives




Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Libby McGugan’s The Fifth Force (Quantum Ghosts Trilogy Book 2)

My Favorite Scotland Author is back,


with a sequel to The Eidolon:

THE FIFTH FORCE (Quantum Ghosts Trilogy Book 2) by Libby McGugan

Amazon USA – order here
Amazon UK – order here

Libby McGugan

was born 1972 in Airdrie, a small town east of Glasgow in Scotland, to a Catholic mother and a Protestant-turned-atheist father, who loved science. She enjoyed a mixed diet of quantum physics, spiritual instinct, George Lucas and Steven Spielberg. Her ambition was to grow up and join the Rebel alliance in a Galaxy Far, Far away. Instead she went to Glasgow University and studied medicine. As an emergency physician, she has worked in Scotland, in Australia with the Flying Doctors service, and in a field hospital in the desert. She loves travelling and the diversity that is the way different people see the world, and has been trekking in the Himalaya of Bhutan, backpacking in Chile, USA and Borneo and diving in Cairns. Her biggest influences are Joseph Campbell, Lao Tzu, David Bohm, Brian Greene, JK Rowling and Yoda. The Book Plank, Posted 13th November 2013 by Jasper de Joode

The Eidolon,

Book One, illuminates the divide between science and spirit. In The Fifth Force, Book Two, the divide leads to a fast and furious battle of good vs evil.

The Fifth Force

continues the story of Robert Strong, a physicist who ends up in an altered state in Book One. His efforts to hide it are eerie, fascinating, and sometimes comical. On a passenger train, e.g.,

…the substance of his left arm began fading and the fuzzy blue chequered pattern of the seat emerged where his forearm should have obscured it.

Robert has to think fast, and above all FOCUS, to keep from turning transparent or invisible. An interesting problem to have, but the upside is that Robert, like those Project Stargate researchers in The Men Who Stare At Goats, can walk through walls and enter buildings unseen.

Useful talent for the hero of a thriller!

Both novels are well crafted, tautly constructed, strong, and intelligent.

It’s not easy to define, but the more I read books lacking in brain power, the more I love it when I find it: a sense that the author is alert, thoughtful, highly educated, and engaged.

I’m partial to stories packed full of science and history, imagination, and ideas. My favorite stories, more and more, are written by scientists and doctors, and they are blessed with storytelling skills as well as the high IQ to pass college-level physics . E.E. Giorgi (Italian-born) and Guy T. Martland (UK) are two more of my favorite scientist-authors, and if you haven’t heard of these fantastic speculative-fiction writers, you probably hadn’t heard of me either until now. I mention them often on Twitter, Facebook, and at Steemit, e.g. Photos of my Favorite Scientist-Authors.

Anyone who loves physics (and even those who don’t) will find much to love in the Quantum Ghosts Trilogy.

Libby McGugan is a physician who embraces the Robert Lanza view of the universe, i.e., she believes in life after death to the point that the line between the two is not all that well-defined (I haven’t internalized it to the point that I can paraphrase accurately).

Trailer for The Fifth Force, sequel to The Eidolon and Book 2 in the Quantum Ghosts Trilogy

Fellow writers,

Before I talk about the book, let me share a quote from Qwillery’s Interview with Libby McGugan, author of The Eidolon:

I found this technique a couple of years ago, and it’s something I apply to pretty much everything now. The idea is that before you do anything, you spend some time thinking about how it will feel when it’s completed the way you would like it to be.

After I went to the Writers’ Festival in York a couple of years ago, and got some direct, painful but extremely valuable feedback from an agent and publisher there, I was faced with a major rewrite. So I tried this technique. Before I wrote anything I’d do something else – go for a run, tidy up, whatever, and spend time imagining how it would feel to have written that particular part and feel really satisfied with it. Scene by scene, chapter by chapter, it all came together. So a story that had taken me three years to write, I rewrote (changing the narrative stance, tense and eighty percent of the plot) in ten weeks. Works for me!

I also write to movie soundtracks.

I wrote The Eidolon to the soundtracks of Inception, The Dark Knight, Gladiator and The Island.

I need to sift through my Kindle notes,

make sure I spell all the names right, and come back to this. The poker-playing scene with Danny is hilarious. Strange things happen when a few troublemakers taunt Ben and one tosses his toy car into a fire. ” The mass panic when people around the world suddenly develop telepathy is also scary but funny. “I’m not leaving until someone tells me how my mother can hear my thoughts!” one man cries. “Do you have any idea how intrusive that is?”

Hey! I just discovered that I can link my Amazon book purchases to Goodreads, and

My Kindle Highlights get posted at Goodreads!

If you care to look, click on the link above, not this screen shot:

Finding my highlights at Twitter

is more hit and miss; Goodreads keeps them all in one handy place.

The Revenants.

Not gonna talk about ’em (Spoilers!), so you should just rush out and buy this novel.

“Like a haar that rolls in from the sea to the coast, it brought with it not just a change in the light, but a chill that clung to the particles of air itself. But it was more than that. It was the feeling that hangs on the air when it knows a thunderstorm is coming. It settled on the crowd, like an intangible shroud. The birds fell silent and the air grew tight. Waiting.”

One-star bandits, the book ends on a bit of a cliff-hanger, so hold your fire, please. Book Three will come – not soon enough for fans of the series, but as Libby says,

“Time’s a construct of the mind anyway!”

At the risk of fan-girling,

let me just say I love Libby’s outlook on life, her scientific knowledge, her insights, her wisdom (she’s ten year younger than me!), and her brilliance.

Did I mention I love Cora? In Book One, I found her annoying. This time around, she shines with insight, wisdom, and this accidental one-upmanship that endlessly endears her to me.

Libby’s practice as an Emergency physician has shifted to less conventional methods to heal our minds and bodies. See her Ted talks, e.g. Intentional medicine – shifting the focus of healthcare | Libby McGugan | TEDxGlasgow:

And read more about VR as a medical treatment here at

Our state of mind is our single biggest asset. Without understanding it, we’re barely scratching the surface of our potential… Using cutting edge VR technology, coupled with newly-proven Neuropsychological approaches, IO-Reality seek to revolutionize physical rehabilitation and skills development. We help people understand how state of mind works, to live their true potential in health, business and life.


Here is my review of Book One, The Eidolon:

MIXING SCIENCE, MURDER AND ESPIONAGE, Libby McGugan’s debut novel “The Eidolon” delivers two hooks I cannot resist: the atom smasher, and evidence of a human afterlife. Add strangelets, stigmery and WIMPS (Weakly Interacting Massive Particles), let the characters marvel at swarm intelligence in bees, and I can emphatically state that this is no run-of-the-mill thriller.

The opening scene is exquisitely cold, stark and beautiful. Snow swirls around two men as they near the top of Mt. Everest. The prose is riveting:

“I peer up at the faceless ascent and it stares back at me­, cold, unmerciful. The fear grips me for a moment. The kind of fear I’ve read about, when men who undertake this pilgrimage … realize that they’re nobody to the mountain; that it doesn’t care if they live or die … The wind is wailing like a tortured cat … There’s a point when pride needs to step aside for instinct, and it’s right here.”

Huddled in a hole in the snow, Robert takes the reader back in time. Through flashbacks we meet an earlier Robert on his way to work, where he’s about to verify his earth-shaking discoveries at the Dark Matter research lab. Like the storm that would keep him from the top of Mt. Everest, a shocking, sudden closing of the lab halts his life’s work. Dazed and demoralized, he comes home to find his live-in girlfriend talking to her sister’s ghost. Cora always was a New Age mystic sort of gal, but this is more juju than a recently fired physicist can take. Then again, his skepticism is more than a positive thinker like Cora can take, so she leaves him.

Still shivering in the snow, Robert suddenly senses the presence of another sentient being on the mountain. The scene is eerie and suspenseful, and plot spoilers keep me from saying more, but when Robert is safely home from Everest, the ghost of Cora’s sister starts appearing to him, too. He dismisses it as a stress-induced delusion and retreats to his childhood home in Scotland, but instead of shaking his gloom, he starts seeing more dead people.

Jobless and no longer sure of his sanity, Robert is ripe for the recruiting efforts of a scary-mysterious businessman who offers him one hundred thousand pounds for a week’s work. The catch? Victor Amos wants Robert to sabotage the famous, fabulous, hugely expensive and important Large Hadron Collider. Amos and his super-secret global guardians are on a mission to protect humanity from its own curiosity. They have compelling “evidence” that CERN’s next round of experiments could destroy the world, and only Robert can stop them. He remains skeptical until Amos pulls the last rabbit from his hat, a compelling surprise that induces Robert to accept the job.

I love Casimir, the bee-keeping, star-gazing neighbor who has a vast amount of knowledge about the cosmos in spite of no money for a university education. “The idea of finding dark matter always intrigued him. A hunch, he said, that it would change everything.” Every action and word from Casimir seems authentic. I want way more of him than the novel can give.

More intriguing than strangelets are the dead people Robert meets after infiltrates CERN. Yes, his social circle fills with dead people, or people who claim to be ghosts. They call themselves ‘eidolon’­-ancient Greek for apparition, a spirit-image of a living or dead person. Robert can shake hands with the eidolon and drink with them, while most people can’t see them at all. One is angry and in denial about being recently murdered; another is completely unaware of being dead. It’s the kind of New Age juju that divided Robert and Cora, but now our cynical physicist is joining the juju. I love the irony of that.

The most delightful irony is that Robert the skeptic, who scoffed at poor, bereft Cora and her sister’s ghost, ends up seeing far more of that sort of “impossible” stuff. Robert the cool, objective scientist, is one of earth’s most mystical of mystics, if he ever gets past his denial.

Every character is real and vivid. I love the hapless Danny, who plans the Everest trip, and Robert’s mother, and their head-shaking comments about Danny.

“Death is just a state of mind. Everything that can possibly happen is occurring at some point across multiverses, and this somehow means death cannot exist in any real sense, either.” Libby tells me that’s what she’s driving at with The Eidolon. Via email, Libby has corrected my misunderstanding that Robert gives credence to fears that the atom smasher may create black holes. His concern is the strangelets and the ‘Ice nine’-like reaction, which to this day is a concern for some scientists.

I’m eager to see Robert doing battle in a dark Edinburgh alley with a Revenant. What’s a Revenant? When Book Two comes out, you’ll know more than you ever wanted to about these spectral horrors.

Physicists confirm possible discovery of fifth force of nature

Aug 15, 2016 – Recent findings indicating the possible discovery of a previously unknown subatomic particle may be evidence of a fifth fundamental force of nature…

… this potential fifth force might be joined to the electromagnetic and strong and weak nuclear forces as “manifestations of one grander, more fundamental force.”

A separate dark sector with its own matter and forces

“It’s possible that these two sectors talk to each other and interact with one another through somewhat veiled but fundamental interactions…This dark sector force may manifest itself as this protophobic force we’re seeing as a result of the Hungarian experiment. In a broader sense, it fits in with our original research to understand the nature of dark matter.”

Physicists Are Probing The Centre of Our Galaxy to Find The Missing Fifth Force of Nature

“If true, it’s revolutionary.”

… Thanks to our inability to figure out what dark matter actually is, some physicists (very controversially) want to ditch gravity as a fundamental force altogether.
But instead of permanently dropping one of the fundamental forces of nature in the hopes that the Universe will make more sense without it, what if we added a fifth force that ties gravity to the others in ways we’ve never thought of before?


Libby McGugan

has had a lifelong fascination with the boundary between science and the human spirit. Working for 10 years as an emergency medicine consultant gave her a solid grounding in science; witnessing the strength of the human spirit in the face of seemingly insurmountable challenges made her question what else might be going on.
She was nominated Best Newcomer in the British Fantasy Awards for her first novel, The Eidolon, which came to her following the death of her father, Tom, in 2007.
Her short story, The Game Changer was published in Jonathan Oliver’s anthology, Dangerous Games. She is a student and teacher of understanding the inside-out nature of the human experience and is constantly surprised by how life seems to know what it’s doing. When she’s not writing or teaching, she can be usually be found playing her fiddle and enjoying the company of family and friends in her favourite city, Glasgow.

Buy it now

THE FIFTH FORCE (Quantum Ghosts Trilogy Book 2)

Amazon USA 
Amazon UK

Until next time,


because Kean sounds like Kane (not keen, hint, hint)

Find me at Twitter:
novelist, reviewer, editor, book critic
fan of indie authors & underdogs
Follow My Reviews at Goodreads and
Amazon Vine
Rants, Raves, Reviews, History, Current Events My WordPress Blog
Perihelion Science Fiction
Let’s Fry Chicken Little nominated for 2015 Pushcart Award

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

“Not the Usual Crazy” (First African in Space scam as Freewriting Prompt)

 I WAS A PRISONER in my father’s kitchen, all the walls and windows covered in tinfoil, table buried under antique ham radio equipment.

“Someone has to go check on Dad,” my brother had said. “He’s not answering his phone or email.”

“Someone” always meant me.

Dad’s usual conspiracy-theory-crazy had escalated. He refused to unlock the gate for me when I first drove up and buzzed, but I knew the code. Once I got in, he confiscated my keys and cell phone. I wouldn’t be getting out anytime soon.

“Super top secret,” he said, ears covered in headphones. He ushered me in with a bright-eyed smile, which made no sense after he’d just taken my keys hostage, and waved me into the Recliner of Doom. Whoever sank into that marvelous chair would be incapacitated by the ennui of pure comfort and lazy bliss. No sedatives necessary. Somehow we always forgot this, and Dad always had to pry us out with a crowbar whenever he was ready for us to leave.

“Ok Dad.” I managed, at least, to speak. “I won’t ask who you’re so excited about.”

“Think Arthur Collins.” Dad was still half-smiling. For him to be excited like this, historically, just…well, it never led to good things. “Art Collins and his home-built crystal radio.”

I thought.

At age fifteen, Collins accidentally or serendipitously made contact with Admiral Perry and the MacMillan expedition. Their German-built radios couldn’t get through to headquarters in DC, but this Iowa boy ended up sending and receiving messages in Morse code throughout the summer of 1925–even though his equipment consisted of a Quaker Oats box, glass towel racks, some wire and a Model T spark coil. In my dad’s eyes, Art Collins was as epic and legendary as a comic book superhero. All Dad’s vintage equipment came from Collins Radio Company.*

“I’m done thinking about Collins,”

I said. “Did you just contact some big, covert expedition, or something?”

“Only the first African in space.” Dad’s eyes shifted my way, then back to his dials and the bloopy, swoopy noises we had grown up with, Twilight Zone sound effects lulling us into nightmares of UFO sightings and aliens kidnapping our mother.

“Dad. That’s an old internet scam. Another variation on the Nigerian prince.” I managed to keep a sick feeling from rising into my throat.

“Not this one.” Dad tossed me another glance. “This one started before we even had an internet.” He pulled his headset away from one ear and looked me straight in the eye for, like, three seconds. “About the time your mother started whistleblowing, this guy–”

He launched a crazy tale of some rich guy in Africa going up in a space shuttle and never coming home again, because crazy foreign nationals killed his radio, stole his bank account, hijacked his business, and faked his death.

Just like someone had faked Mom’s.

All these years, he would never accept that she could be dead. “She’s alive,” he’d told us even after we saw her coffin lowered into the earth. “I don’t know who or what is in that grave, but it isn’t her.”

They never did allow us to see the body, because dental records identified her, and what was left of her wasn’t fit for anyone’s eyes.

Even if she was in Witness Protection, as Dad hoped, she was dead to us. We’d never see her or hear from her again.

“Dad.” I tried to get up, but the recliner held me in its divine grip. How could it make me feel so relaxed when our crazy dad was ready to open some new Pandora’s box of conspiracy theories and assassination attempts? This was not his usual crazy. This was a new and crazier than ever kind of crazy.

He didn’t even ask what I was about to say. That ticked me off. But not as much as the fact I couldn’t remember what I was going to say, anyway. Dad. Dad. Something he’d said made me think he believed Mom and the Afronaut, African astronaut, whatever, were somehow connected.

The noise of Dad’s radios became stranger than usual, and I remembered the sonic attack, or acoustic accident, that made those American ambassadors get really sick in Cuba. What if these crazy radio acoustics we’d heard for years were messing up Dad’s brain? My head felt weird with all the spacey sounds filling the room.

“The tin foil,” I said. “How does it let in shortwave radio but keep out whatever surveillance stuff you worry about?”

Delayed replies were dad’s usual m.o. but I just didn’t feel patient or indulgent with him now. Not if that Nigerian Prince scam had suckered him in.

He was listening to something in Morse Code. He could hear at a ridiculous speed, while I could only make out ten or twenty words per minute. The di-di-dah-dit sounds came faster than machine gun fire, in a high register that always sounded a little hysterical to me, even on a good day.

His body tensed like a dog who heard a stick break in the woods. “It’s almost here!”

Dad bolted, like that dog chasing the sound in the woods. I followed him out the door. He stood in the yard, looking past the antenna farm to the long, grassy strip he used as a runway for his home-built plane. Not much was visible in the moonless night, but a dark shape blocked the stars, and became larger, and larger. A whisper landed on the ground, sending tremendous vibrations to our feet. I felt sound waves rattling my teeth yet heard almost nothing.

A narrow strip of light widened into a doorway, with a human figure silhouetted in the electric-looking glow. Dad whooped like an Apache and went running.

Two silhouettes hugged and spun each other around, squealing. Another figure loomed in the lit-up doorway.

I took a deep, steadying breath and willed myself to wake up now from this weird dream, but I was more wide awake than ever before in my life. Then I remembered the spare phone I kept in my pocket, knowing Dad would always confiscate my real phone. My brother was on speed dial.

He wasn’t going to believe it any more than I did, but that silhouette was the exact size and shape of our mother.


* I first read about the Arthur Collins story in “The First 50 Years … A History of Collins Radio Company” by Ken C. Braband, ©1983, Communications Department, Avionics Group, Rockwell International, Cedar Rapids, Iowa. 

News Item on Havana: Computer scientists may have solved the mystery behind the ‘sonic attacks’ in Cuba

This story started in response to a prompt from @mariannewest
Day 140: 5 Minute Freewrite: Thursday – Prompt: First African in Space

Next day, she explained the prompt: Day 140: 5 Minute Freewrite: Friday – Prompt: grocery list 

Below, an excerpt from the news story the “First African in Space” prompt was based on:

Here’s the Best Nigerian Prince Email Scam in the Galaxy by Katharine Trendacosta

The Nigerian prince scam will never die….

… You know how these scams work by now: an email says that someone is in prison unjustly/kidnapped/exiled. They’re rich, but they can’t get to their money right now. If you help them out, they’ll reward you once they’re free…

… This email, which Anorak posted in full, is a true gem of the genre. The pathos! The storytelling! The use of a real government website! Here’s the setup:

REQUEST FOR ASSISTANCE-STRICTLY CONFIDENTIAL I am Dr. Bakare Tunde, the cousin of Nigerian Astronaut, Air Force Major Abacha Tunde. He was the first African in space when he made a secret flight to the Salyut 6 space station in 1979. He was on a later Soviet spaceflight, Soyuz T-16Z to the secret Soviet military space station Salyut 8T in 1989. He was stranded there in 1990 when the Soviet Union was dissolved. His other Soviet crew members returned to earth on the Soyuz T-16Z, but his place was taken up by return cargo. There have been occasional Progrez supply flights to keep him going since that time. He is in good humor, but wants to come home.

@Keangaroo had posted this to our discord home, The Isle of Write (@mariannewest writes),  and suggested that this would make a good prompt. Then, this happened:

Carol, to Marianne:
Coincidentally – 
Our son released an album today, March 7, and he composed the songs the way your Freewrites work. He started free-writing lyrics each day for 30 days. Then he’d work on the music. Eight songs made the final cut at the end of the month.

Miles_business_card_Aug 2012 Miles explains,

It was almost February and Layla Frankel asked Katie Bates and me if we wanted to write a song every day in Feb and send it to each other to critique them for each other. I had only ever written one song with lyrics up to that point and had never really been a singer before but I was down to try. By the end of the month I was surprised what happened and excited to share them so here are my some of favorites. Thanks to Layla and Katie for their feedback and encouragement.
released March 7, 2018 | all rights reserved

“First African in Space” – point of view of the stranded astronaut –
In 1979 I became the first African in space
On a secret flight to the salyut 6 space station
Something happened on my second flight
To another Soviet military space stationI was stranded there in 1990
when the Soviet Union dissolved
The rest of my crew returned to Earth
But my place was taken up by return cargoThere have been occasional supply flights
To keep me going
I am still in good humor
But I want to come home
Yeah I want to come home

lyrics, vocals, score, instrumentals, recording, by Miles, from the album My Name is Miles


How cool is that?   A freewrite song lyric initiative, which works in a way much like Marianne’s Daily Freewrite **Writing** prompt–and on the same day that Marianne posted the “African in Space” prompt, Miles Kean’s song, inspired by the same Nigerian scammer story, was released. I had no idea it was happening. It all just came together.


Another element that appears in all my writing is something I have in common with Jody Ewing–loss of a loved one to an unsolved murder case. Jody is a living legend when it comes to investigating Iowa Cold Cases and calling attention to them, in hopes that some reader, somewhere, will remember something, and supply a clue.

15977915_10210475366497053_496244755809085808_n[1] Jody (left), Julie |  below, top row, fifth from left398245_409431575746695_425942075_n[1]

Also, it’s a tribute to the lives cut short by murder, the families who mourn a lost loved one. Sometimes, it’s a plea to investigate the investigation. Crazy conspiracy theories arise from real-life corruption and conspiracies to cover up crime, especially when Law Enforcement at every level starts looking sketchy, from local LE to FBI agents.

Jody is also a first-rate writer and storyteller but she rarely finds time for her own writing. I like to remind her that the truth is best told in the guise of fiction, and she could disguise Cold Cases as a series of best-selling police procedurals and thrillers.

Marianne’s freewriting Prompt works like this:

Set your timer for 5 minutes
Start writing
Use the hashtag #freewrite
Publish your piece
Copy and paste your URL into the comment section of the prompt post. Or, if you don’t want to publish your freewrite, just copy and paste as a comment under the prompt post.

Thank you for the Freewrite prompts, Marianne!

Here’s how mine began. Five minutes isn’t long enough for me to write a whole page. I write for a few hours, then revise, and revise some more. You can see how the opening changed, if you can read my last-century cursive.

Photo credit: starry sky with antenna by


because Kean sounds like Kane (not keen, hint, hint)

@keangaroo at Discord
Find me at Twitter:
novelist, reviewer, editor, book critic Isle of Write~Steemit @PerihelionSF@NetGalley @AmazonVine
fan of indie authors & underdogs
Follow My Reviews at Goodreads
Find my Amazon Reviews
In-Depth Reviews, Author Highlights, History, Current Events, and more at My WordPress Blog
Perihelion Science Fiction

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Portraits of black women holding the severed heads of white women

Artist Kehinde Wiley is known for portraits of black women holding the severed heads of white women.

Screenshot of 2013 painting by Kehinde Wiley known as "Judith Beheading Holofernes" from the collection "A New Republic." “Judith Beheading Holofernes” screenshot of 2013 painting by Kehinde Wiley

Screenshot of 2012 painting by Kehinde Wiley known as "Judith and Holofernes" from the collection "An Economy of Grace."

You can call it art.
I can call it disturbing.


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Passport to Glory (a steemit story)


Passport to Glory by carolkean 54 in fiction

 Note: this story opens with a story prompt created by @Jeffways for @rhondak‘s Story Starter contest:

Holding my passport above the scanner, she looks at the screen and then at me. I try to appear calm as my heart pounds against my chest, expecting questions, but surprisingly—she stamps it.

“Enjoy your visit.”

Relief … freedom!

Suddenly, someone calls out my real name. I freeze.


Pretend you didn’t hear him, I remind myself. Not even an eye shift in his direction.


That voice. God help me. I shift my carry-on from left to right.

The furious waving of that masterful hand, stealing into my field of vision. Ignore. Ignore.

One foot in front of the other. Move. Move. Casually.

“Yuliana!” He comes close to crossing the barrier separating arrivals from those who would greet them with open arms. Or fists. Or death threats.


There’s no way he could have known I’d be here. I didn’t know I’d be on this flight, until yesterday’s passport swap with that German gal at the coffee shop therapy group. Both in recovery from rotten relationships, and looking like twins, or Doppelgangers, we knew what we had to do.

If we broke any laws while using each other’s passport, we agreed the punishment would be telling our exes where to find us. But I didn’t do anything wrong.

 Where do I turn? He can’t get in, but I have to get out. The longer I stay in sight of these agents, the more suspicious I’ll look. I’ve worked hard to lose the Russian accent, but the cheekbones draw stares from men who cannot be trusted. Make that men, who cannot be trusted. All but Nathan.

Nathan, the polar opposite of the man screaming at me now. Nathan, my safe port in a storm.

Nathan. Nobody else knew I’d booked passage to the States, much less that I changed my itinerary with a red-eye flight. I’d found a pay phone–I kid you not, a pay phone!–before getting into the queue an hour ago. Nathan said he’d be here before I got through Customs.

Nathan, where are you?

“YULIANA! God damn you, I know you can hear me!”

Others are staring at the gorgeous Latino in surgical scrubs, his favorite pajamas, wrinkled with sleep. I’ll look odd if I don’t look at him, too.

And now he locks my gaze in his.

Oh God.

His tousled hair, his morning stubble, his flashing dark eyes. The way he says my name now that he’s got me trapped in his melting gaze. My real name, Yuliana, so sexy on his Mexican tongue. My body shivers with memories too visceral to stuff down, down deep with the bad ones, the worst ones.

“Yuliana.” His bedroom voice. Flesh has a recall system of its own, responding to triggers only the head knows how to resist. My head is useless. Don’t lose your head again, Yuliana.

–No, no, Jessica. My name is Jessica, according to the passport.

Do not look at him,
do not look,
do, do, oh,
LOOK at him

That smile. Don’t fall for it again. He trots it out like an actor donning a mask.

My gaze darts, my senses shift into high gear, and I seek a way out. I can’t go back to him. Ever. Again.

But it’s like that thing Max Savage wrote in my high school yearbook. Story of my life:

Oh please do not do that
Oh please do not do
Oh please do
Oh please

An agent cocks an eyebrow at me, a burly young redhead, feet wide apart, arms crossed, at the exit.

“Help me.” Swallowing hard, I struggle to speak above a whisper. “That man. He’s crazy.”

People with children, people talking into phones with unseen mics, people clutching passports in the long line, no longer show any interest in some man shouting to some woman in an airport. No matter how gorgeous he is.

My eyes dart, but still no sign of Nathan.

The burly redhead is at my side. It occurs to me I should try to unthaw. Unfreeze? Thaw? My English goes to hell when I’m nervous.

“Yuliana,” comes the silky Latino voice from another kind of hell. “Come along now.”

I look from the guard to the man I love. Loved. My heart is pounding so hard, my body wound so tight, I can barely get words out of my throat.

“That man.” I point with my head, trying for subtle. “The one in scrubs. He’s been stalking me. I have no idea how he knew I’d be here.”

The guard aims an authoritative stare at Joe Hernandez, the raging Latino in scrubs, who obviously raced straight from his bed to the airport to apprehend me.

“Cut the sheet, Yuliana.” Joe’s accent used to be so adorable.

“He’s delusional.” I lean closer to the young guard, so Joe won’t hear. “Saw me on Instagram, thinks I’m his ex-girlfriend. Can’t get it through his head, I’m not this … this Yuliana person. How he found me here–how?–it scares me.” It does. My throat goes dry. “I wonder what mental ward is missing a patient.”

And in those wrinkled scrubs, he really does look like an escaped mental patient.

The guard keeps an eye on Joe while tilting my way. “He does look a little hostile.”

I’m inspired. Work with what ya got, honey, said the coffee shop therapist.

Joe goes off like a rocket when anyone calls him by his childhood nickname, Chico.

“Please.” I lower my chin, looking up at Burly with my baby-blues. Blink away a stray tear. “Please, go ask him for his ID. I don’t know his real name, but on Instagram he goes by Chico.”

My heart skips a beat. This has to work! At least until Nathan gets here.

Burly Redhead nods to another guard, and they approach Joe. I back away, watching.

“She’s getting away!” Joe yells. “YULIANA!”

“Calm down, Chico.”

Joe flinches, his gaze raking the redhead from head to toe. “Who you talkin’ to?”

“You, Chico. Show us your I.D.”

“Do not call me that!” he shouts.

There is a God! Joe is blowing up, acting like the loose cannon I am counting on him to be.

“Your I.D.” The guards are staring him down, which will make Joe twitchy.

Joe feels his pockets, swears in Spanish. “I left home in a hurry. She’s the loony tune. Stop her!”

“Yeah, you can tell us all about it. At the station. Chico.”

He swells into a purple fury. Profanity spews like steam and molten lava from his suddenly ugly face.

The guards trade glances. “Someone needs his meds. Better find out where he escaped from.”

“Es-cape-ed?” Joe rages. “What deed that lying beetch say about me?”

Run, my inner “beetch” says. Run. But I just keep backing away, eyes focused only on him.

“Hey, beetch!” Joe yells. “You know why Nathan ees the only man on earth who’d date you?”

He waits for my reaction. I start turning away.

“Because I paid him to!”


No, no, no.

Nathan. Joe knows Nathan. How did he play his part so well? How could I have been so deceiv-ed, as Joe would say? A hundred romantic moments flash before my eyes, then go down in flame.

Someone crashes into me from behind, and I’m down. I’m reeling through space, starry, head-spinning, stomach-churning outer space. I can’t even feel the floor beneath me but I do feel hands, pulling me up, then holding me steady.

Slowly, I turn to face a lady in a fake fur coat and an ill-fitting hat with a fluffy raccoon tail that looks a little too twitchy not to be real. Really real.

“You’ll be all right,” she drawls. Her voice is honey-sweet with the sound of the South. “I was once married to a man like that ass-hat. Chico? Gawd.”

I’m moving now, because she’s tall and sturdy and I’m five feet without these boot heels, but even if she were a child, I’d let her lead me like a scared stray from the dog catcher’s net.

Joe’s voice fades away.

The airport flows away beneath my feet as this human tugboat guides me to a subway train, then to a parking lot, where she unlocks a big white van with 501(c)3 Animal Rescue painted on it, and slides a door open.

“Animal” is what Joe is. I breathe again when I make out a happy dog face as part of the logo.

The woman faces me, hand out, so I take it. Hers is warm and dry; mine, cold and clammy.

“Rhonda,” she says. “I’m Rhonda. I run an animal rescue.”

A bizarre, high-pitched mumbling comes from the woman’s head, and I freeze all over again. God. Not another lunatic about to kidnap me. My body flunks the flight or fight thing. I just whimper.

“Glory. Don’t move.” The woman’s head chitters at same time words come out of her mouth. Her hat starts moving, and my stomach clenches. I’ve lost my mind. It’s gone for good this time.

“Pardon me.” Hands rising, she grasps the hat, and suddenly a real, live raccoon is in her grasp, its black bandit mask turning my way. Turning, she leans into the van, hisses a few profanities, and makes a series of scuffling noises that end in resounding click of victory and a sigh of satisfaction.

What in God’s name have I gotten myself into now?

“Coon head.” She runs her fingers through her hair. “Worse than hat head.”

Her laugh is crazy in a good way, a coffee shop therapist sort of way. She looks young and pretty without the weird hat. I’m starting to think. To feel.

“The airline wouldn’t take her, so I gave her some knock-out drops. Glory’s book tour in England is paying for the rescue. I don’t know you from Adam–or Eve–but my spidey senses are tingling. In a good way, for once.”

My Doppelganger’s coat isn’t warm enough, and I shiver.

“You have two choices: get in this van with Coon Head Rhonda, or take your chances with Chico.”

I laugh so hard my ribs hurt.

In a good way, this time.

# #

   Rhonda is the Executive Director of a 501c3 rescue that regularly transports unwanted dogs from areas of shelter overcrowding to regions of high demand, where No Kill methods are firmly established. It all began with Kobi, the dog shown in this photo.


I pledge to donate 100% of any SDB income from this post to @rhondak’s 501(c)3 rescue, or a 50/50 split with Rhonda’s OCD and Fiction Trail and Radio Hour and Minnow Support and SFT…. regardless, Rhonda gets the $ because she knows how to invest time, talent, and money to make things happen! Steemit is a better place because of Rhonda the Raccoon Whisperer ~

Earnings at steemit via upvotes: $22.04

Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

“Unheard Melodies” for a Steemit Fiction Competition, #1 Week 1

Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard are sweeter –

–“Ode on a Grecian Urn,” John Keats, 1819


This is my entry for the “Fiction Comp – All writers are welcome – #1 Week 1” fiction writing competition hosted by @kyrios.
Writing Prompt:
Having seen the fall and rise of empires…the death of his loved ones… an immortal tries
his best to not mingle with society by holing himself up in a cave far away from any civilization. During one stormy night… his home becomes the shelter for a stranger
who is the spitting image of his grandson.

Unheard Melodies

Alone in his mountain hideaway, the immortal heaved a godly sigh. The women he had loved! The demi-gods he had sired. Gone, all gone.

On a Grecian urn in a warm, dry part of the cave, fair maidens “forever panting, and forever young” danced under leafy boughs. Frozen in marble–ah! It seemed only yesterday he’d cavorted with them, not thousands of years.

Nor did it seem more than a century since John Keats gazed at those “marble men and maidens overwrought” in a British museum. Immortalized. Silly word. A graven image was no substitute for maidens who panted no more. All his statues, books, paintings, and music were also no surrogate for flesh and blood companions. They did remind him, though, why he had to distance himself from the mortals.

Thunder crashed, making the cave walls vibrate, but Weltschmerz didn’t worry about electronics or storms. He didn’t need human technology. With a swipe of a finger he called up songs from a life he’d led long, long ago.

Humans. So good at burning cities and libraries, spilling blood, and shutting out the voices of the gods. Then again, the gods had done their share of mischief.

But they’d done so much that was good, and beautiful, and true. Music, math, literature, science, history, art, and more, all existed in “the Cloud.” The nine Muses kept track of things that mortals kept forgetting, destroying, or failing to create in the first place. Euterpe had been saving music from ages past and ages yet to come. It took humans thousands of years of ignoring messages from the gods before they finally learned to capture sound on invisible radio waves. Soon, someone would wake from a dream, take silicon from sand, and build computer circuits. Knowledge would be backed up in an invisible realm so far known only to the gods.


That was what they called him now, the gods, who’d scattered. Did he really hear that name in his hidden cave? The immortal swiped a finger over a titanium tablet, silencing a damsel with a dulcimer in Xanadu. He listened.

Howling wind, that’s all he’d heard.


No mortal knew him by this new name, Welt (world) plus schmerz (pain). As if the world weariness of the gods were more his fault than anyone else’s.

Oh for one more night of nectar and ambrosia on Olympus, with all nine Muses at his table!

photo credit: Margit Wallner, pixabay)

He especially missed Euterpe, though he continued to see evidence of her across the ages. Mozart channeled her magic in his music, allowing mortals to hear the sublime sounds the gods had enjoyed long before. Euterpe also visited Coleridge in 1797, but the opium-addled poet awoke from a dream unable to remember the ending of “Kubla Khan.”

Weltschmerz remembered. If only the powers of the gods included calling up a panting maiden with a mere swipe of the finger.

“Weltschmerz! I know you’re in there. I’m coming in now, like it or not.”

How odd. Nobody else knew the path through the Black Forest to his mountain home. Weltschmerz blitzed to the cave entrance, a mere slit in the rocks, as a man squeezed through. How dare he?

The man straightened, coming eye to eye with Weltschmerz. They both blinked, leaned closer, and stared. Weltschmerz recognized the high cheekbones and chiseled jawline of his grandson, who’d been dead for–well, he’d lost track of time.

“Gott in Himmel,” the familiar stranger whispered. “You look exactly like the man in my dream.”

Weltschmerz caught a whiff of dog and sheep in the stranger’s wet wool jacket, warm blood, cold wet hair, and the stench of a battlefield.

“Well.” He remembered the hospitality of the ancients, Homer’s exulted Greeks and Germany’s less-celebrated Nibelungs. No greater shame was there than to neglect a visitor. Time to lavish this one with a warm bath, dry clothing, and a feast. “First things first.”

Weltschmerz whisked his visitor to the hot springs deeper inside the cave, saving questions for later. He was an immortal, after all. Biding his time wasn’t an inborn talent. He’d learned it with many a sob of remorse.

His human visitor finally took a place at table, gazing around in wonder, yet accepting the incredible with the assurance of a demi-god. Weltschmerz engaged only in small talk–more wine?–until they could retire to chairs by the hearth.

“A man who pays attention to dreams,” Weltschmerz began. “Silas, you are an anomaly.”

“Indeed.” Silas cast a furtive gaze at all the antiquities. “The dream did not, however, give me a sense that you are a Nazi. I wondered where they–where all the artwork was being hidden.”

“Relax. It was World War One that drove me into this cave, and the Nazis who kept me from venturing out again. The antiquities you see are my own personal collection, and most were new when I acquired them.”

“That’s a scary thought.”

“You have no idea.”

Silas stared into the fire. “I faced a firing squad today,” he said, “and I’m not entirely sure I’m still a real, live human. If my executioners had seen me get up from a shallow grave and walk away, their surprise would be no greater than my own.”

“Not bad, for a demi-god.” The old one steepled his hands. “Your crime?”

Judenliebe. I tried to save as many Jews as I could–until I got caught. I can’t save the world, but there is a way I could go back and save more people than I did. A way to do more good than harm.” He looked intently at his host. “If you’ll help me.”

“We can only do so much.” Weltschmerz felt the weight of the world on his shoulders. As usual. “Sometimes, we think we’re doing the right thing, only to find out later we are the ones who caused the strife we’re fighting so hard to stop.”

“You can help me. I couldn’t have dreamed you exist, much less have found you, if this were not so.”

“Ah, you Germans.” Weltschmerz sighed. “Just when I make good on my vow to stop meddling in mortal affairs, I see Nazi soldiers build nesting boxes and feeders for birds at the front. The Third Reich has a Department for Bird Protection. They protect the flora and fauna, yet they exterminate Jews. What would you have me do?”

“I was executed for treason, yet I didn’t die. I had a dream, and here we are. You can tell me why.”

“No. I’m done. If I had answers, would I be hiding out in a cave?”

Silas folded his arms, unmoved.

“Don’t give me that look, young man. My days as a god among mortals is over. Moses should have been the last straw, telling his so-called Chosen People to throw us away. Then that badass Paul came along. The minute he’d turn his back on his converts, they’d worship their own gods again.” Weltschmerz tapped his chest. “What am I, a wooden idol to smash and burn? To add insult to injury, Paul wrote long letters, full of chastisements, along with promises of an afterlife in some resurrected body, and do these epistles go up in flame like the lore of the Aztecs, or drown like the library of Alexandria? No. Two thousand years later, millions of people call his nastygrams the gospel truth.”

The god heaved a profound sigh. “Still. Whatever thoughts I had about Moses, I wouldn’t even dream of harming the people. Exile is bad enough. Genocide? Where is their God now?”

“The God of the Jews did not send angels to stay the hands of the executioners,” Silas said. ‘There’s a Spiel about free will going on there. But I’m not satisfied to watch innocents die and hope there’s a better life for them beyond this world. I want to do something here and now.”

Weltschmerz laughed, shaking his head pityingly. “Been there, done that, as people will be saying in the future. Just don’t complain to me when your efforts to undo any harm you’ve done lead to worse harm.”

“I want a time machine,” Silas said.

“So, go invent one. You Germans are good at that stuff. In fact, the Nazis already started work on one.”

“You can travel without machines. Help me.”

“I don’t care if you’re my grandson, or his Doppelganger, or a demi-god, or a lunatic. No.”

Silas rose to his feet, slammed a fist to his chest as Kubla Khan himself might have, and recited Coleridge:

I would build that dome in air,
That sunny dome! those caves of ice!
And all who heard should see them there,
And all should cry, Beware! Beware!
His flashing eyes, his floating hair

Weltschmerz laughed, without pity, this time.

The Muse had spoken. How could he refuse her?


All images courtesy of Pixabay

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment