The Other Amazon


Writers are obsessed with Amazon–sales, ranking, review policy, whatever. If only we had the same obsession for the Amazon that matters most.

You’ve probably heard of the other Amazon, the lungs of the world, over two million square miles of forest in South America, most of it in Brazil. Well, we’re losing 2,000 square miles of rain forest every year. The Brazilian government claims it has reduced deforestation, and on one hand that’s true. Trusting their information, deforestation is down over 80% from what it had been in 2004. That’s good news. But the problem is obvious. The pie is still getting smaller, and that will affect all of us. All of us.

To combat the effects of global warming and drought, deforestation needs to completely stop. Not only that, an area roughly the size of Texas needs to be reclaimed.

Those are the facts. Here’s where it gets complicated. It involves criminals, the poor and politicians.

Criminals are the illegal loggers who steal protected wood from the forest. The police are understaffed, underpaid, and unable to do much about it. Groups such as the rubber tappers have taken it into their hands to be the guardians of the forest. Rubber tappers are just that; they take the sap from rubber trees in order to scrape out a living. If there’s such a thing as honorable vigilantes, they’re it. Unfortunately it reminds me of the Finns throwing Molotov cocktails at Russian tanks in WWII, a losing cause.

By the way, according to the US Department of Agriculture, America imported $282 million of tropical hardwood last year, and about a third of it came from Brazil’s Amazon. There is a law against importing poached wood, but how can anyone really tell if it’s legal or not?

Now for the poor. Some of them are the ones who actually cut down the trees for the illegal loggers because they are literally starving. Others have been driven to remote areas of the forest because they have nothing, and they’re burning chunks of the forest down in order to clear land for raising cattle. Roughly two-thirds of Brazil’s deforested land is used for cattle ranching. So why burn the trees? The ash makes the land fertile again.

This brings us to the politicians. I’ll give you one example. There’s a Brazilian senator named Ivo Cassol. He sits on his senate’s environmental committee. Some have called him the founding father of deforestation. He reportedly made all his wealth from logging and cattle ranching. Where? In Rondonia, a state in Brazil, where there used to be, yep, a whole lot of rainforest.

Cassol said in a recent interview on National Public Radio, “Is it fair to ask Brazil to do all the conservation . . . are we to be the slave of other countries? The lungs of the United States? The lungs of other countries? Even though they send us a pittance to pay for conservation? I won’t accept it. No.” Food for thought or to choke on? Both. But it’s the reality of the situation, and as usual it comes down to money.

Geologist Ben van de Pluijm of the University of Michigan makes a good point when he says, “The earth is not in danger. It’s humanity that’s in danger.”

I suggest you check out NPR’s Lourdes Garcia-Navarro’s excellent series on the Amazon, where I drew much of my information.The link is posted above. Simply click on the image.



Beaumont and Blades

I don’t recall the year, but I do recall that I was late for lunch. Now I’m never late for anything. It goes against my grain. I’m the early bird, the creature of habit. But I was late and forced to go with the flow.

At the encouragement of some friends, I was attending my first writer’s conference. Of all places, it was in Beaumont, Texas. Not to slight Beaumont. I like the town. It has history. Think Spindletop. But I’d always figure when I went to a writer’s conference it’d be in New York, San Francisco, or maybe even Paris. After all, I was the product of a respected university writer’s program. Beaumont? Again, go with the flow.

I wandered into the banquet room that the Holiday Inn was using as a chow hall and found all the seats were taken and the staff was quickly setting up another table. Since I still worked for a high end caterer back then, I almost jumped in and helped them pop the legs of that folding round table into place, cover it with a white linen cloth, and slap down the appropriate flatware, plates, and glasses.

When I took my seat I found myself next to a dapper man, and we engaged in a delightful conversation. The details now escape me, but at one point he asked if I was a writer. I described a truly dreadful literary novel I was working on, though of course I didn’t believe it to be dreadful in my young innocence. I must have sold it well because he told me he was an editor at Ballantine and he would love to give it a read. His name was Joe Blades, and I would soon learn that he had a slew of writers at that division of Random House. Needless to say, I sent the manuscript and, bless his heart, he let me down gently in his rejection of it. However, he also told me to keep him in mind in the future.

Fast-forward a few years and my first Neil Marshall mystery fell into place. I took Joe at his word and sent him the manuscript. Then one Saturday morning while I was fixing a leaky faucet in the kitchen sink, the phone rang. It was Joe wondering if I would consider writing a prequel to the book I’d sent him and he’d make it a two-book deal.

I ended up publishing five mysteries in that series with Ballantine. Joe Blades and I worked closely together on each one of them. In Beaumont, Texas that sunny fall day it really was the beginning of a beautiful friendship. Wish it had lasted longer, but that’s another story. As I prepare the Neil Marshall mysteries for republication, I’ve been thinking a lot about Joe. Those books changed my life, and for that I’ll be forever grateful. Funny how things can happen when you least expect it, and in unlikely places.

Sadly, the Beaumont writer’s conference is gone. But there are still buckets full of them out there, and I’m not talking virtual ones on social media.

And you never know. You might just find a New York editor at one. My advice? Be late for lunch.



This is a wealth of information on Marketing. I especially enjoyed the Call To Arms — Book marketing Results post. Check it out. Great job, Nicholas and thanks for the easy to use information, especially the excel Spreadsheet.

Source: Marketing

Thoughts on Hollywood and the Film Industry


The Big Film ReviewRecently I was interviewed on The Big Film Review, a show hosted by Sudip Bhaduri on the BBC Lincolnshire. I met him through a mutual friend of ours, the talented author and ever-gracious Lynette Creswell. Sudip is articulate and intelligent, and our conversation felt as if we were having it at the local pub over a pint of stout rather than in front of a radio audience an ocean away. Unfortunately, my fifteen minutes of fame went faster than I thought they would and things were left unsaid. In particular, Sudip and I had earlier discussed the current state of Hollywood and the movie industry, so I thought I’d take the opportunity now to work these thoughts into this month’s blog.

No doubt movies like Mission Impossible 5 are gong to make a lot of money. However, I find it typical of Hollywood’s current mindset in that they are trying to cater to two audiences: baby boomers who grew up watching the old TV show, and young people with its fast action and blow-‘em-ups. Furthermore, they continue to underestimate (insult) the moviegoer’s attention span through the overuse of gadgets and special effects as well as the barrage of movies based on comic books.

Hollywood may well be in danger of marginalizing itself if they continue to stick to this formula. For quite some time now they’ve been willing to sacrifice characterization and well-developed plots for action-adventure and computer generated magic. So far audiences have been willing go to the big screen to see this, but as the cost of home entertainment centers comes down, staying in will certainly become more popular. Why go out if you can get the same effect at home? Add to it that tickets aren’t cheap and revenue is down, movie houses may go the way of drive-in theaters, which have all but vanished, especially since films already have to compete with HBO, Showtime and AMC on cable.

If Hollywood insists on continually remaking the old—Mission Impossible and Mad Max are good examples—instead of trying to innovate, we may well be watching the Hollywood Network on cable in the future.   And I wouldn’t be surprised to see it competing with the Indie Movie channel or maybe some independent movie/coffee houses showing films such as The Doo Dah Man that have more than half an hour’s worth of dialogue.

 1511113_822215001157629_3547037063279453604_nClick for Trailer

Do I think all is lost in Hollywood? No, but we need more films like Whiplash, Black Swan, Juno, and Nightcrawler. And I’m heartened to see that Colm Toibin’s novel Brooklyn has been made into a movie, due out in November.

mqdefault Click for Trailer

So Sudip, if you’re out there, here are some of my thoughts on Hollywood that you may have been looking for earlier. Best wishes from Texas and see you at the movies!

Climate Change on the Blue Planet

I have always been an environmentalist. When I was young I didn’t know what an environmentalist was, but I did know how much I loved being outdoors, whether on the baseball field, fishing in the lakes of New Hampshire, running or biking through the countryside. Change happens. I know that. But my concern for the way we are changing this wonderful earth began back in the 1970’s. As I said before, this is why I wrote The Wastelanders and in part why I write this blog. For this go round I wanted to hear from someone just as passionate about the earth’s welfare as me but with a little, okay a lot more scientific experience.

Big Blue marble(Credit: NASA)

Today’s post is by a special woman . . . J. S. Burke, a marine biologist and author of The Dragon Dreamer series and other books. Jenny worked as a Marine Research Scientist for the Florida Department of Natural Resources. She was manager of the stone crab fishery, responsible for original laboratory and field research and for monitoring the health of this important resource. She has published in multiple scientific journals.

Climate Change on the Blue Planet
J. S. Burke

JENNY SCUBA DIVER(credit: Jenny Burke)

Earth is in the sweet spot, in an orbit the right distance from a young star, with the water and carbon necessary for life. The climate has changed before; there have been ice ages and sweat houses in the past. But the current climate change is directly tied to us. The human population exploded after farming and then the industrial revolution, growing from millions to the current 7 billion people.

CO2 graph(credit:

The graph above shows carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide gas concentrations across time; these are “greenhouse” gases that trap heat and warm the planet. There is an amazing increase in these gases just when the human population exploded. The increase in average world temperatures corresponds beautifully with the increasing human population and our increasing use of fossil fuels.

sea_ice(Credit: ILTS Science – Earth and Space Science)

We live in interesting times. The photo above shows obvious shrinking of the ice caps. Glaciers and ice caps are melting even faster than predicted, which is raising the sea level. Florida has been underwater in the past, which is why you can find terrific fossil shark teeth far inland. China is negotiating for use of sea lanes in the Bering Sea, which are opening up as the arctic ice disappears. Increasing temperature provides greater energy for more powerful hurricanes and tornadoes. New areas will have drought and floods, like California and Texas. We’ll plant different food crops when the temperature and rainfall change; England has experimented with this for years, preparing for expected changes. Homes will become more energy efficient, with double-pane windows and better insulation. Wind and solar energy will help.

Solar-Panels-Via-MIT(Credit: MIT)

We can still make a difference and slow climate change to give us more time to adapt. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. We can reduce our carbon footprint by ride-sharing, keeping our homes warmer in the summer, using ceiling fans, bringing our own bags to stores, and buying less to reduce industrial waste. Call to stop receiving unwanted paper catalogs. Reduce the immense packaging waste of frozen meals by fixing food from scratch; these meals are often much healthier and cheaper. Freeze part for later meals. Buy locally whenever possible. Plant suitable trees or cacti, since roots help hold water and reduce erosion.

BANNER CORAL PHOTO Hawaii Coral 8-29-8 058(credit: Jenny Burke)

The heat pollution from global warming is a major stressor on coral reefs. When coral animals die, the rock-like coral reef wears away and a very important habitat is lost. Since heat is hard to stop, we must control other coral stressors such as chemical pollution (pesticides, fertilizers, oil spills, industrial waste) and silt (from logging). We might still save reefs. Watch the excellent documentary Food Inc. (in some libraries) to learn the many consequences of mass production of food, including mass pollution. Eating organic is a vote for our health and the health of our planet. Fracking involves the injection of undisclosed pollutants deep into the Earth to extract oil. This can permanently pollute an aquifer, making water resources toxic. We want oil, but we need water.

HAWAII TURTLE 3 8-29-8 025(credit: Jenny Burke)

Thank you for this opportunity to share!

Good books on global climate change include: The Thinking Person’s Guide to Climate Change by Robert Henson and Earth in the Balance by Al Gore. An Inconvenient Truth is Al Gore’s prize-winning documentary about global warming. The Wastelanders by Tim Hemlin is an excellent climate-fiction adventure set in the future, when the world is hotter and deserts have expanded.

JennybookcoverThe Dragon Dreamer by J. S. Burke is a science fantasy adventure with a strong ecology theme. Glide across coral reefs, visit the deep abyss, and toss colored lightning in the clouds. There are dragons, an undersea world, an improbable friendship, and a dangerous quest. It’s layered for ages 8 to 98. “Everything is truly connected. Change one thing and you change the world.” The Dragon Dreamer is in stores and on amazon as paperback and for kindle.  Jenny is half-way through writing Book 2, currently titled Black Lightning, and is working on Book 3 as well.


Find The Dragon Dreamer also on:

Amazon US

Amazon UK




Check out her website for a wide variety of science projects, her fun science activity books, and most of all lots of adventure ~

Jenny S. Burke

Find her on these other social media sites as well ~




An Interview with JMD Reid

JMDReidAuthorPicToday I’m doing something different, well…for me anyway. Instead of my usual blog entry, I am interviewing JMD Reid. I met James on Twitter last summer when I first ventured into the slippery world of social media. We’ve tagged each other in several blog hops, exchanged countless tweets, and he wrote an amazing review of my book. He has been supportive and encouraging for almost a year now and I wanted to get to know him better. Before we begin, I’d like to share a few things we have in common. Besides writing, his love of fantasy and my love of reading both began with The Hobbit. We both love listening to amazing music and find inspiration in the outdoors. James says the rainy atmosphere and majestic beauty of Mount Rainier looming over the vast evergreen forests provides “the perfect climate to brew creative and exciting stories.” He plays video games, especially war games and D&D, and so do my wife and son!

And now, with out further ado…

To break the ice James, I’ll ask a few questions. Answer in just a few words.

  • “Your best friend would tell me that you…”

…are a nitpicker. I’m very critical of entertainment. If I see flaws in story or plot, I’ll mention it. Annoys my roommate.

  • “The one thing I can’t do without is…”

YouTube. It’s my main form of entertainment.

  • “My biggest pet peeve is…”

Bad drivers. After driving for a living most of my adult life, I really cannot stand people that don’t know how to drive.

  • Cat or dog?

I don’t own any pets because I rent. If I could, I would love to have a black lab.

  • One and only one, now—what is your favorite book?

The Darkness that Comes Before by R. Scott Bakker

  • “Star Trek or Star Wars?”

Babylon 5, I went with option three, the best SciFi space series out there. Those 5 seasons are a novel in TV form.

Okay, James. Ice broken. Let’s get down to the nitty gritty ~

Tell us a little more about you as a person.

I’m kind of a boring person. I’m an introvert, so I like to stay home. Like I said, I play Warhammer 40k, a miniature war game, Dungeons and Dragons, and watch UTube. I was born overseas. Okinawa, Japan. My dad was in the air force and stationed there. My family moved back stateside when I was two. I have no memory of living there.

I dropped out of community college because I found it boring. I was annoyed by my classmates not getting what the professor said the first time and they kept asking all the same stupid questions. It was like high school except my classmates were mostly in their forties and fifties so I had better expectations of them than teenagers. I like to learn, but what I want to learn not what I’m required to.

What are three things you’ve told yourself that kept you going during your darkest hour?

There’s always tomorrow. It can’t get worse. Write your pain down.

Write your pain down—I like that.

What motivates or inspires you?

I have stories inside me. I want to tell them to people, share the worlds that have been born inside me. I’ve always wanted to be a writer. Ever since I was in Junior High. I read these amazing, creative books and knew that was what I wanted to do.

What interests you the most about the writing process, plot, character, world building, something else?

World building is definitely why I write Fantasy. I just love building a world, its history, people, all the background pieces, and then start making connections between what I’ve prepared and what I’m writing. It’s a fascinating process. In Above the Storm, I named Chaylene after a character from her world’s mythology Chaylene the Shieldmaiden. It was in my notes. I had thought nothing of this detail other than it was a fun bit of dressing for the character until I realized what how perfectly it fit her character arc in the novel.

I tend to do the same thing, James—only I begin with the characters and then let them show me the world.

How do you approach a story?

Organically. I do a rough outline, just putting down all the major plot points that I need to hit. With my Storm Below Series, I’m also thinking about the next novels and what I might need to seed earlier into the story. Then I just start writing and I see what happens. New ideas come to me. Particularly character interactions I like to not plot out and instead just throw them into conversations and see how they play off each other with a rough framework on how I want the scene to go.

I really like that technique, so what do you find the hardest thing to write about?

Blurbs. I wouldn’t say writing a novel is easy, and there are times where it can see slow, but having to condense your story into a few sentences that will hook a person and get them excited, knowing that this is your sales pitch, that everything is riding on these few sentences. I hate it.

You and me both, brother—

You’ve written some fascinating stories about time. Where do you get the ideas for these stories?

I love time travel movies. 12 Monkeys, Groundhogs Day, Safety Not Guaranteed, Millennium, Terminator, Back to the Future. It’s fun type of story telling. You can play with rules, mix things about, have some twists.

Tell us something about what made you want to start writing your novel, The Storm Below ~ AND ~ You’ve created a truly fascinating world in the skies above the storm…do, tell us more.

I was working on a completely different fantasy series I call The Shattered Lands. I didn’t feel I had the skill to capture what I wanted to write, so I decided to try a less ambitious story. I have always liked the idea of flying ships. I decided to try writing a novel with those elements. I did some world building, drew a map, and my simple story grew complicated. I thought it was cool to put an ever churning Storm below my skylands and then I wondered what was beneath those clouds. Next thing I knew, I had a world history steered me from the more fun, adventure, swashbuckling story I intended into a more epic fantasy plot.

That’s fascinating, James. I know you’re marketing this first novel as an epic fantasy series, but you also have two short stories and a novella published in kindle format. Tell us about them and why you decided to publish through Amazon?

Those short stories had all been rejected by various Fantasy and Sci-Fi literary magazines. I was feeling discouraged. I wanted to put my work out there and have people actually read it. I posted a few stories, connected to my novel Above the Storm on my blog, and the standalone stories on Amazon. I had hoped the Kindle Unlimited program would make it more encouraging for people to read my short stories since they could borrow it for free if they were subscribers.

You know, that’s why I put Black Silence out there on Amazon as well. Unless you are published by a big publisher, or have dozens of books out there, it’s very hard to break into the glossies.

Okay, tell us what else you’ve been up to writing wise.

Writing wise, I’m in the query process on my novel Above the Storm. I have a polished third draft that I’m rather proud of. While I’m querying literary agents, I’m working on the sequel to Above the Storm I am tentatively titling Reavers of the Tempest. Above the Storm is book one of a planned five book series. I also have entered my short story The Plight of the Arshion into a Fantasy Short competition.

That’s great, James. And listen y’all, I’ve posted the link at the end of the interview. When we’re finished, click on the link at the end, read his story and vote on it. James, you deserve the recognition. By the way, I love the title Reavers of the Tempest for your sequel.

I hear you recently spoke at an Author’s event.

I was part of a panel of indie authors speaking on the publishing industry—how to go about getting traditionally published and self-publishing–and why we chose to self-publish. Mark Shaw, Renee Metland, and I went to the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, WA. We spoke to a pair of writing classes and then to the school’s writer’s guild. The classes were fine. The first one was an intro to creative writing and there were a few students that weren’t engaged, but most were. The second was a more advanced class and they were a lot more engaged and interested in learning about what it takes to get published.

I’ve done some speaking at conferences, James, and it’s not easy…but I love this next part, you make an excellent point.

The real fun was the writers guild. There were only a few students, I think six, but they were all aspiring authors and eager to learn about the pitfalls and hurdles before them. Mark, Renee, and I all had a great time. But it was sad to learn that even in the advanced class or the writers guild that none of them had been taught what a query letter is let alone the publishing process. The teachers seemed focus on teaching the craft but without giving them the education on what to do once you’ve written it, how to go about getting published, etc.

My experience as well ~ the writing process is always taught, but marketing is usually left out.

Speaking of process—everyone has a writing process—is there something particular or different about yours you’d like to share?

I tend to think about what I’m going to be writing next, working through a few ways a scene might go. Then I just sit down and type it out. It’s never quite as good as a imagined it. I like to write with my old laptop on my lap, sitting on a comfy chair, but I can write anywhere. I do like to have music playing. It acts almost as white noise, drowning out maybe what’s going on outside.

Do you have any events or further appearances in the offing?

I don’t have any appearances planned, but Mark, Renee, myself and a few other local authors that couldn’t make this appearance are on the look out to speak at more college and high school classes.

Great idea. I’ll keep a look out online for you as well. It sounds like you have much to offer these new writers and some of us old ones.

Finally, what tips on the writing life would you share only with a close friend (and everyone reading this blog)?

You need to devote time to writing everyday. It really doesn’t matter what you write. Just sit down and write. Start with an hour a day. Get into the routine. Force yourself to do it. I had to. It took me a year and a half to get into the habit of writing regularly.

Sitting around with a drink in your hand while telling your friends about the amazing, groundbreaking, world-changing masterpiece novel you have tumbling around inside your head is not the same thing as sitting down and writing that story.

“You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.”–Jack London

 Love the quote! Thanks James, it’s been great talking to a kindred spirit. I wish you all the best in your literary endeavors. 

 Well, my appetite has definitely been whetted and you’ve given us an excerpt from your upcoming novel The Storm Below. Let’s read it now, but first a set up ~

This is an epic fantasy set in a sweeping world that exists as islands and continents floating above an ever-swirling storm. For one thousand years the Dawn Empire has known peace.


by J.M.D. Reid


Despite access to the greatest apothecaries, age had finally fallen upon Xaiutwoa III, Empress of the Dawn, and she gasped for breath as she leaned against the hulking form of her bodyguard. Every bone in her body ached, and she was glad for the solidly built Tezl, who towered a rope-and-a-half above her, his crimson scales almost blending into the red sandstone walls of the Tower of Morning.

“Thank you, Tezl,” Xaiutwoa murmured, looking up at the fierce form of her bodyguard for the last twenty or more years. He was a Gezitziz of the Ethinsk Tribe, and dwarfed even the tallest of the Luastria, and Xaiutwoa was hardly the tallest of her race.

“It is my honor, Your Radiance.” His voice was a deep, dry hiss. Every few heartbeats, his pink tongue flicked out, smelling the air.

She clucked her beak in amusement. “I’m hardly so radiant, anymore.” Her eyes glanced at the dull-brown plumage not covered by her robes, mottled with age. In her youth, her feathers had been brown and sleek, her scaled feet a fetching shade of purple-black, and her tail feathers had been straight and proud. Now brown discolored her feet and her tail plumage drooped.

“The setting sun is just as beautiful as the rising,” Tezl answered.

Her feathers ruffled in embarrassment. It was easy to think of the Gezitziz as unemotional with their dead, reptilian eyes. She let her distal feathers at the end of her wing stroke his strong forearm, then she made the last ascent alone. Letting Tezl assist her up the Tower had gone against tradition, and not even she could let him reach the top of the tower, no matter how much age had infirmed her. Not even the caretaker ever stood at the holy tower’s prominence.

Xaiutwoa’s breath wheezed as she struggled up the stairs, leaning against the rose-red walls, blushing like the rising sun. Her yellow robes, made of the lightest silks, seemed to weigh her down like they were soaked with water, and the golden crown, the largest, single collection of metal in the entire Empire, pressed heavily upon her brow.

Her strength failed, and she sucked air through her beak, her heart fluttering too fast. “Come on, you old hen,” Xaiutwoa chided herself. “The Rosy Prayer needs to be sung.”

She forced herself to keep climbing, ignoring her burdens. She wouldn’t have to bear them much longer. But would her daughter Niiwa have the strength to bear her burdens? Xaiutwoa remembered gentle Niiwa’s hard struggle to escape her shell at her hatching. And Yriitwao, her second daughter, had been so timid. When she had poked her head out of the shell, she seemed too frightened to escape. Both were so unlike her headstrong Opiixu, who seemed impatient to break free of his egg. Her heart fluttered at the pain of Opiixu’s memory. Her beautiful hatchling. He had been so sure he was ready to fly.

Gathering her emotions, Xaiutwoa wiped a tear away with a distal feather, and steeled herself for the last set of stairs. She was glad for the cool air atop the tower, a gentle breeze blowing from the southeast. A school of silvery, red-banded minnows, sleeping in the protection of the towers crenelations, scattered into the sky at her appearance, their small tails swishing. The Tower’s parapet was empty, save for a single plinth on which rested a crystal case. Within lay a slender book bound in faded, red leather.

On her coronation, the first time she had climbed the Tower of Morning, she had discovered the case. No one had told her of its existence. Curious, Xaiutwoa had opened the case. The words of Iiwroa’s book had shattered her soul with its weight. She feared that Niiwa, her gentle daughter, would be crushed beneath the book’s truth.

Xaiutwoa walked to the edge of the tower, ignoring the book, and surveyed the sky. The Tower of Morning was built on a small skyland barely large enough to hold the Tower and the dock where her royal barge lay moored. Her functionaries and hangers-on crowded the base of the tower like a colorful flock of birds. She glanced to the west where the largest skyland in the Empire, Swuopii, hung above the Storm Below. The larger of the two moons, Twiuasra, was fast setting behind Swuopii, framing the skyland with its soft, blue face.

If she had the sharp vision of her youth, Xaiutwoa could see her subjects crowding the eastern shore of Swuopii, awaiting the dawn of the summer solstice and for their Empress to sing the Rosy Prayer in thanks to Riasruo. More citizens were crowding boats hovering in the gulf between Jyou and Swuopii.

She turned to the west where only the Storm Below lay, spread out below like a mottled white-and-gray blanked, curving off the horizon in a fuzzy haze. Beneath those churning, imperturbable clouds lay the mythical ground. A thousand years ago, so the Talesingers proclaimed, her ancestors had dwelt on the ground, along with the ape-like Humans, the lizard-like Gezitziz, and the mole-like Zalg. Peace had reigned until Kaltein and his Wrackthar Humans made a pact with Theisseg, the dark Goddess of Storms and bitter rival to her sister Riasruo, Goddess of the Sun. When the Storm had blotted out the sun forever, the Goddess had shown mercy on her children and lifted the skylands above it.

The Storm was slowly turning lighter as the sun’s rise approached. Blushes of pink and red began to spread on the horizon while the stars above began to slowly fade. Xaiutwoa begin to breathe deeply, preparing herself to sing the Rosy Prayer—the most vital duty of the Dawn Empress, the book was quite clear on that—when she noticed a turbulence upon the Storm’s surface to the east.

Instead of the usual boil of clouds in a random, chaotic pattern, they instead were rotating slowly about a dark spot. She squinted her eyes, hating that age made her see only as well as a Human. No, it’s not a spot but a small hole in the Storm. But there were no skyrifts off Jyuou, and none would be so small anyways. Xaiutwoa studied the Storm Below with nervous curiosity. In all her long years, she had never seen a pattern form in the chaotic Storm. The pattern rotated faster, streaks of black and gray stretching about the hole in the Storm, reminding her of water swirling down a drain. She was so distracted by the Storm’s odd behavior, she nearly missed beginning her song as Riasruo’s first, golden rays fell upon her.

Xaiutwoa began the complex, wordless song of the Rosy Prayer, trying to pull her attention away from the strange pattern. Power hummed in the music, a lullaby to soothe Her pain.

She continued to study the Storm as she sang, the song so rooted in her memory she did not need to concentrate on its complex harmony. The rotation was moving faster now, the clouds streaking as they swirled about the hole. Thunder rumbled from below and a low, roaring sound filled the air. Xaiutwoa wracked her memory, straining to remember her lessons as a hatchling. Has the Storm ever behaved so strangely? Unease settled in her gizzard as louder peals of thunder rumbled again.

The Empress knew something was greatly wrong. Indecision filled her thoughts. Her gizzard warned her to assemble her scholars immediately to divine what strange madness swirled before them. But the Prayer was too important to stop—Iiwroa’s book was clear on that. What if this is just a rare behavior of the Storm? What if it is only some vagary of winds and currents, and I doom us all with my panic? She continued singing louder to drown out her unease.

The cyclonic pattern begin to rise out of the Storm, bulging like a bubble rising from a dark pool of water. Xaiutwoa chirped in surprise, the Rosy Prayer faltering as the cyclone rose higher and higher. A wall of swirling grays and blacks thrusting up, obscuring the rising sun.

Darkness fell as if the sun was setting.

Horror churned in her gizzard, and she instinctively backed away as the last rays of sun flickered out behind the Cyclone. What is happening? I sang the Prayer every solstice. I followed the book! Chirps of terror echoed from below as her functionaries, barely audible over the ever growing howl, realized something unprecedented was occurring.

Has She grown more powerful? Or more desperate?

Xaiutwoa was rooted to the spot, too stunned to do more than watch as the cyclone rushed forward, winds howling with rage. The wall of clouds filled the horizon, and inside the raging winds, she could make out shapes. Dark blotches moving through the maelstrom, seemingly unaffected by the fierce winds. Figures.

“They’re riding in the storm,” she whispered to herself. The riders seemed untouched by the cyclone as if they had the Blessing of Wind. Lightning flashed, and the figures glinted, reflecting the light. But what could make them…? Her gizzard churned in violent terror. “Goddess Above, they have metal.”

Lanii’s golden feathers! How have the Wrackthar survived a thousand years without the sun? It’s impossible.

Tears ran from her eyes, matting the downy feathers of her cheeks. She turned to the west, towards her Empire. The roaring of the Cyclone pressed like weights on her ears, so loud it was hard to think. The boats in the bay were turning, flying back towards the shelter of Swuopii’s docks.

A thousand years of peace, she realized. A thousand years of peace. We’ve forgotten how to fight. She turned to face the maelstrom, winds now ripping at her feathers, the wall of swirling clouds rushing towards her, a terrible blackness that would swallow her Empire. The riders in the storm had weapons raised, long and straight, and flashing deadly in the pulsing lightning.


Niiwa, her daughter, beckoned from the stairwell as Tezl rushed past her, racing across the parapet towards Xaiutwoa. He was a red hulk, fighting the screaming winds to reach her. A single thought crystallized in the Empress’s mind: Niiwa will need the book. Xaiutwoa turned to the plinth and opened the crystal case, her distal feathers gently scooping up Iiwroa’s Book into her wings. Tezl towered over her, trying to shield her from the wind.

Xaiutwoa thrust the book into his chest. “Tezl, protect this book. It cannot be lost! Niiwa will need it!”

“What?” Tezl asked as he grabbed the book.

“The Truth!” she shouted. “Niiwa will need it! You need to protect her now! She is the Empire’s future!” Xaiutwoa caught her daughter’s green eyes, seeing love and fear reflect there.

“I’ll protect you and the book,” Tezl’s said in his deep, rasping voice. His cold, scaled arm wrapped around her, and she leaned into his strong frame as he gently lifted her. She felt momentarily safe in his arms. Her loyal guard. He would protect Niiwa and the book. He was too loyal to fail. As Tezl turned, she saw the Cyclone was almost upon them. The riders had pale, Human faces, black hair streaming behind them.

We have forgotten how to fight.

The Cyclone crashed into the Tower.

 Here are the links and blurbs for JMD Reid’s books.

Time’s Prison

TimesPrison“I let him die for duty.”

Mokom and Alila are trapped in a prison of love and duty.

Alila, the first female Knight Defendant in centuries, stands at a cliff, despair filling in her heart. She is haunted by the strain of battle and the guilt of letting Mokom die.

Doomed to repeat her mistakes, Alila jumps to her death as she remembers her past and the young man that changed her life.

How will Mokom and Alila escape the chains of Love and Duty? How will they break free of the prison of Time that traps them? Alila escape the chains of Love and Duty? How will they break free of the prison of Time that traps them?

The Assassin’s Remorse


‘What had she tried to say to him at the end?”

Cerena’s face transformed in the last moment’s of her life, the fear fleeing, and a strange, calm serenity overtook her. Her lips moved, whispering three words.

The Assassin was forever changed.

A decade of blood stained his hands. None of his victims had ever weighed down his conscience. He was merely the tool, the living weapon wielded by his employers. His victims had begged for their lives, had cursed him with their dying breath, and stared in uncomprehending disbelief.

But none had ever been calm in their final moments. None had ever stared up at him with such serenity.

Cerena’s blue eyes and her final words haunted the Assassin. Three simple words plunged his soul into torment.

Reflections of Eternity

ReflectionsofEternityIn the depths of darkness, Xella reflects across eternity.

The dark god Zarketh stirs. Heljina’s lullaby has fallen silent. And all Rehman can do is drink as the world hurtles towards its end. But when Rehman draws the Bedko’s Blade, the foolish acolyte is tasked with saving the world.

Five hundred years earlier, the great warrior Zella marched down into Zarketh’s tomb to fight the god. She never returned.

Now Rehman must find the courage to walk the same, dark path as Zella. Across eternity, in the depths of the earth, the past reflects the present. To what end shall Rehman discover?

Reflections of Eternity is dark, exciting fantasy short story from the author of The Assassin’s Remorse.

Above the Storm~Book One of the Storm Below series

The skies above the Storm are a dangerous place. Agerzak pirates hunt for lone ships to plunder, the Empire of Vaarck is forever covetous of the rebellious skylands that have slipped out of its grasp, and the mysterious Stormriders summon massive Cyclones to rise out of the ever-churning Storm Below to attack the small, floating islands. For the Autonomy of Les-Vion, the Navy is their Stormwall, protecting its citizens from all threats above and below the Storm.

On the summer solstice, every citizen of the Autonomy that had turned seventeen are given the Blessing of Riasruo, the Goddess Above, and are entered into the yearly naval draft. All Ary wants is to marry his sweetheart Chaylene and start a life with her in their small, farming village. But life never goes the way anyone plans and the Autonomy needs fresh men and women to defend their skies.

Rushing into marriage to keep from being separated, Ary and Chaylene are taken from their homes to Camp Chubris where the Autonomy trains its new batch of Sailors, Marines, and Scouts. Dealing with the stress of training, their new marriage is strained by the guilt of Ary’s childhood and the temptations of their fellow recruits.

But Ary has a dangerous secret. As a boy, he had witnessed a Cyclone attack on his home skyland and was touched by the Dark Goddess Theisseg’s lightning. This taint poses a threat to the Church of Riasruo and their assassin plot his death for the greater good of the skies above the Storm!

Short stories set in the world of ~ The Storm Below 

The Last Flight of the Intrepid

When a Cyclone threatens Vesche, the Intrepid sallies forth to defend the skyland from the depredations of the Stormriders and Thojhen is going to find out what he truly is made of.

The Plight of the Arshion

After Agerzak pirates cripple Rhione’s ship, she has to work hard to keep the ship in the sky and protect her son.

Here is the link to the contest for “The Plight of the Arshion.”

Check it out!

And join James on:



and his website JMD

The Story Hop


I am the story teller.

Gather round all and listen to my tale.

 Football’s Defining Moment

August 1975. We were in the midst of two-a-days—practice early morning and practice late afternoon. I had grass stains underneath my eyelids and cleat marks on my heart, liver, and kidneys . . .

You see, I’d had the brilliant idea to join my high school football team, a tall but skinny sophomore not exactly fleet of foot who’d never played organized sports. I felt like a scarecrow in one of the cornfields Sherman burned on his infamous march to Atlanta.

At first my father joked about the smell of horse liniment as I rubbed Ben Gay on my sore muscles. Unfortunately I didn’t have any salve to sooth my bruised ego or an Ace bandage to wrap around my sprained confidence.

As much as I loved the sport, I was beginning to think football was dumb.

On most days my father swung by the high school and picked me up after practice. He knew I was struggling but he held his tongue. As usual. My father was so laconic he made Clint Eastwood look like a chatterbox.

Finally, after a particularly rough afternoon on the field, he told me, “It’s okay, Tim. You don’t have to do this if you don’t want to. I won’t think any less of you.” A long silence followed as he drove through town.

My father quit only two things in his life: smoking and the desk job he came to hate. Yet here he was giving me permission to toss in the towel.

I suppose some guys would’ve acted angry and defensive, and some would’ve jumped at the chance to throw their hands up right then and there and walk away. I felt a tremendous weight lift from my shoulders.

My father had given me permission to fail.

Strangely, that provided the spark I needed to hang tough. It wasn’t to prove him wrong. I didn’t need to prove to him that I could do it.

Knowing that he wouldn’t think any less of me if I couldn’t cut it on the football field allowed me to succeed. Well, succeed in this case meant survive, though I did get better, and confidence returned, and I played through my senior year.

My father died in the fall of 2000. Like everyone, I have regrets, and one is never telling him that twenty-five years earlier he’d provided me with a defining moment. As soon as his words settled in my mind, I knew I wouldn’t quit. My confidence and determination popped up from the field as if that linebacker’s hit hadn’t hurt at all. I brushed the grass from my eyes. I ignored the cleat marks. I knew I wouldn’t be run off.

My father had given me a game plan that carried me far from football. It was okay to try something new. And it was okay to be afraid because, of course, in the beginning that is what I was.

As I told my own teenage son when he was struggling, “It’s okay to fail. I won’t think any less of you.”


Return to the Story Hop

The Ten Favorite Screen Character Blog

For this quick, fun blog hop, you just name your 10 favorite characters from movies or TV then tag up to 10 friends to do the same!

JMDReid tagged me for this fun blog; check out his site for his ten interesting picks.

To be perfectly honest this was a hard one for me. I have so many, but for the purposes of this hop, I’m posting the first 10 favorites that come to mind. I wish I could mention the dozens that have come to me since then!

But off the top of my head, here are my 10 favorite screen characters:

  1. Rooster Cogburn—John Wayne. I’ve been a Duke fan all my life and I live in Texas. Enough said.

RppsterRick Blaine—Humphrey Bogart. Gritty, romantic, and Bogart at his best in Casablanca, one of my all time favorite movies.


  1. Holly Golightly—Audrey Hepburn. Okay, maybe I’m a bit of a romantic. Audrey Hepburn was one of the most elegant women in the world and her portrayal of Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany’s is priceless.


  1. Luke Skywalker—Mark Hamill. When the original Star Wars came out I was a restless high school senior who wanted to learn the ways of the Force. Still trying.


  1. Jeremiah Johnson—of all the roles Robert Redford played, this is my favorite. If I couldn’t learn the ways of the Force, I wanted to be a mountain man.


  1. John Dunbar—Kevin Costner. I love the outdoors and often feel as if I was born in the wrong century. Movies like Dances with Wolves strongly influenced my own writing, even though my approach is much different.


  1. Eleanor of Aquitaine—Katharine Hepburn. Instead of The Lion in Winter this movie should’ve been called The Lioness in Winter. I guess I have a thing for women named Hepburn and it’s a toss up as to which is my favorite actress of all time.


  1. Jeff Lebowski—Jeff Bridges. He won the Oscar for Crazy Heart and more than held his own as Rooster Cogburn, but Dude, The Big Lebowski is big time fun.


  1. Morpheus—Laurence Fishburne. I really love the first Matrix movie, and Fishburne stole the show.


  1. Inigo Montoya—Mandy Patinkin, The Princess Bride. “My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.”


And on that note, I end my Ten Favorite Character Blog. I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.

And here are the lucky friends I tag to continue with this fun hop:

J.V. Carr

Lee Monteford

Chess Desalls

J. S. Burke

J. D. Kaplan

E. M. Kaplan

L. A. Starkey

Markie Jordan-Madden

Ann Swann