Category Archives: Writing

2B Not to Be: a short story of writer’s angst by Robert J. Hardman

2B Not to Be

A favorite subject of writers is their inability to write. Flashes of inspiration that don’t inspire further development, and die unwritten. And in this loss there are classic tales of lost love and cataclysmic revenge … that remain forever hidden.

2B Not to Be is a tightly written story of what might have been, if one writer had only managed to … write.

Available at Amazon.

The God King c1

I seem to have have read an earlier version with a slightly different cover and opening chapter prose. The opening of the new version is better, and I’m sure readers will enjoy the book as much as I did.

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Shadows in the Sand by Michael Diack

Shadows in the Sand

I should start with a spoiler alert – ‘Shadows in the Sand’ ends at a perilous point, requiring the next book in the series. If you don’t want want to read a gripping novel that is the first of a series, then you shouldn’t start ‘Shadows in the Sand’.

While most fantasy novels are set in worlds resembling medieval Europe, Empyria is much more primitive. Humans only exist in very small clusters of hunter-gathers, with very limited technology. Almost everything they encounter thinks that men are nothing more than another food item. When an earthquake shuts off the communities water supply, everyone must begin a process of moving to a new refuge … that is far from safe.

The world Micheal Diack has created is continually fascinating. The environment is so threatening, and mankinds technology so limited that I continually asked myself – would anyone actually be able to survive this?

Well worth reading for an adventure in a world unlike any other.

Available at

Small-town Americans deal with a problem

Rednecks vs Zombies

‘Rednecks vs. Zombies’ by T.R.F. Sedgwick lives up to its title. Overnight, a bunch of small-town Americans find themselves in an unpleasant situation – almost everyone has caught a virus which turns them into flesh-eating zombies (‘mutants’ – as the more educated prefer to call them). Unlike those zombie movies where the characters respond by running around in their underwear screaming, the good people of Fredrick just get out their guns and their low-tech faithful trucks and deal with their unpleasant neighbors. The fact that everyone is a veteran of military service, and filled with good-old-boy common sense, means the zombies never really stand a chance.

Except for the second generation of zombies which will be coming in the next book.

This book falls into the category of ‘Walking Dead’ fan-fiction, so if you can’t get enough of the TV show you should read this book. The Kindle mobi version I read had some challenging formatting problems – headers and page numbers left floating in the text, and missing letters, but I’m sure that will be fixed in newer versions.

I’m not really a Zombie-book reader, so I’ll give the book a 3/5. If you’re into zombies, you’ll probably like it more.

Best of Both Worlds? By John R. Dizon

This review is from: The Binding Returned (Books of Time) (Kindle Edition)

Jeffrey Morrow Miller’s The Binding Returned provides an intriguing excursion into the world of fantasy, taking us into a magical realm reminiscent of George Martin and Tolkien himself. It follows the exploits of Hamish, a young man living in exile from his native realm of C’Holm. Working as a servant at the Beggin Inn, he makes the acquaintance of Navarra and Falkyr, and sets out on a voyage to Silver Lake. There they encounter the Lady of the Silver Lake, who is the object of Falkyr’s vision quest. Only it is Hamish who becomes the Lady’s Chosen One, and she delegates him to fulfill the covenant of the Binding Returned.

Miller’s thematic use of the reclaimed legacy resonates with classicist literature that is symbolic of the more noteworthy works within the genre. Although the so-called `young adult’ literature of the late 20th century focuses on swords and sorcery in conjuring up their own legacy, we find writers such as Tolkien borrowing from traditionalist concepts in establishing a common ground with a wider audience. In Binding, we find the disinherited protagonist having fallen from grace, yet being rediscovered by the Lady of the Silver Lake in reclaiming his rightful place from Falkyr. There is also a romantic interlude with Lady Megan, the adopted heiress of the Lady of the Silver Lake. It all works together as Hamish is able to transcend his lowly position at the tavern, reestablishing himself as the heir apparent. This reminds us of such Biblical themes as Joseph rising from slavery in Egypt to claim his birthright, giving the work a real-world essence as opposed to a Cinderellaesque scenario of having lucked out in finding his fortune.

The conflict approaches as the Lady redefines the vision quest, dispatching them to the City of the Immortals along the Highstone Road. They soon encounter the Path of Earth and the Path of Water, bringing the elemental themes into play as they continue on to Riverseaton and a fateful meeting with the High Mayor. Hamish realizes that his mission is fraught with supernatural perils, yet he knows he is the only one who can establish the juncture between the physical world and the mystical Underworld. Megan becomes Hamish’s inspiration as he enters a realm of sorcery threatening their very lives. Yet he realizes that unlocking its secrets in the key to fulfilling the Promise. The saga reaches its climax as the mysterious Elle confronts Hamish and Megan, revealing the secrets of the netherworld at long last.

This novel is the first installment of Miller’s The Books of Time series, and both its characters, atmosphere and storyline are intriguing enough to have its audience remain eager for more. For both fantasy readers and action/adventure fans alike, The Binding Returned is a worthy addition to their collection.

John R. Dizon is the author of ‘The Standard’ and other novels available at Amazon.

‘The Standard’ by John Reinhard Dizon: an old-school action-filled thriller

The Standard cover

William Shanahan has done his time in the field with the SAS and the SBS. He now dreams of nothing more than a desk job near the center of power on Downing Street, and a strategic marriage to a woman of means. One last job in the murky world of MI6 and then it’s all his, except …

Except his assignment is to babysit a convicted psychopath from the other side of the Northern Irish divide. And the target this loose canon has been pointed at is unclear, to put it mildly.

The Tea Party Republicans in the United States have decided to return the world to the gold standard in order to stabilize the current global depression. And in their wisdom they have pre-announced their move, giving literally every cashed up member of the underworld something to buy with their money.

Sidelining one Enrique Chupacabra of the Medellin Cartel is only the beginning. Somebody bigger is pulling his strings, and has a bigger plan. The united underworld can’t buy enough gold to make much of a difference … unless the gold reserves of a few key countries are destroyed. And this only needs a few North Korean/Iranian nuclear bombs in the hands of Al Qaida.

‘The Standard’ by John Reinhard Dizon is an old-school action-filled thriller. The good guys are one play-by-the-rules Catholic government agent paired with a break-all-the-rules Protestant Ulster Freedom Fighter. The bad guys are legion – every underworld kingpin has been brought together to cash in on America’s latest folly. The stakes are as high as is possible – nuclear weapons and global domination.

The events are very current, so don’t wait five years to read this book. If you don’t like the fast women, fast cars, and fast pace, you’ll at least enjoy the many gourmet meals and penthouse hotel suites. You might even learn something – such as the fact that tungsten and gold have almost identical densities.

Available at Amazon

A review of ‘The Binding Returned’ at

The following review appeared at

The Binding Returned is the first installment in Jeffrey Morrow Miller’s The Books of Time series, and begins with the kind of deeply philosophical question posed in bars during the long hours of the night:

Have you ever wondered what lies beyond?

With this question Miller sets the theme to explore the life of Hamish, a teenaged apprentice bar back and brewer who struggles to meet the needs of the thirsty clients at the Beggin Inn in Riversea. The guided chaos of crowded bars is deftly crafted as Hamish flies between customers and disparate conversations until ending at the table of three travelers, Captain Grey, Navarra, and Falkyr, who have come to remind Hamish of his larger responsibilities to his family. Hamish is a prince from the Highlands, and has spent many years ignoring his obligation to return and undergo a rite of passage known as The Testing. His failure to return has placed the continued existence of his family’s lineage at risk, so Hamish leaves Riversea accompanied by two fishermen and Navarra and Falkyr (both sons of high kings who govern different realms). The men follow the river inland to the waters of the Silver Lake, and when Hamish chooses to accompany one of the fishermen onto the lake he is nearly killed when the dinghy is caught in a whirlpool.

The next day Hamish receives an invitation for dinner from the lake’s guardian, the Lady of the Silver Lake, and during the meeting the Lady acknowledges ‘the need of young men to test the boundaries and bonds of society.’ This statement strikes at the heart of Hamish’s dilemma as he chafes against his unavoidable destiny of governance. This is a story about fates both seen and unseen, however, and a young man who learns his actions or inactions have consequences that stretch beyond their immediate and foreseeable result. After the dinner Hamish engages the Lady in a game of strategy, and discovers that he holds an ability to make Magic when the game boards explode after he performs an unconventional move in the game. The following day Hamish, Navarra and Falkyr receive a proposal from the Lady that they attempt to cross the Silver Lake to its forbidden side and make contact with anyone living in the City of the Immortals. Hamish and his party encounter magical barriers that assail his ability to endure their challenges, and he soon learns the Nietzschean adage that what does not destroy us, makes us stronger.

The Binding Returned carries the rich historical detail of Tolkien and sets the groundwork for a storyline that spans the here and the hereafter. It is a world where imaginative rumor and the discrete use of Magic coexist, and a young man comes to understand the importance of keeping your eyes open when running away.

Reviewed by J. D. O’Guinn author of A World That We Expect.

A gentle look at a complicated time: ‘The Lady of the Rivers’ by Philippa Gregory

The Lady of the Rivers

I found ‘The Lady of the Rivers’ disappointingly gentle, given the violent and precarious times. Jacquetta and her family never seem as endangered as I would have expected them to be. Historical events also tended to be summarized. I would have expected a person as close to them as Jacquetta would have been much more interested – allowing the author to really explore events, and the personal politics causing the events.

Kindle eBook

Can a single man change the course of history? A review of ‘A World That We Expect’ by JD O’Guinn for

A World That We Expect cover

‘A World That We Expect’ starts slowly, to allow the horror of the near-future to really unsettle the reader. But when Emmett Helaman returns to the hidden refuge where his people are supposedly safe, and learns they only have a few more years to survive, the novel becomes a real page-turner. The plot builds to a climax that only allows the briefest of epilogues.

That the only survivors 100 years into our future are members of America’s largest ‘doomsday-cult’ religion distinctly adds to the creepiness of the story. While the plot develops in a series of unexpected ways, the culture of those living in the barely surviving community of Asher is truly fascinating. I hope ‘A World That We Expect’ isn’t meant to be a ‘we told you so’ fantasy, because the clear links from the present to the projected future should serve as a strong warning to everyone. The blind trust in ‘God’s plan’, and the all encompassing need of all of the survivors in Asher to fulfill it, is not presented as a solution to our current global over-consumption. Our blind trust in the infinite resources of our planet is just one small human-caused mistake away from a world that we can expect.

The novel closely follows only one man, Emmett, who comes to understand that he must affect another, single man, in order to prevent his situation from reaching its inescapable end. As an emotionally crippled thinker, rather than a do-er, Emmett only acts when he literally has no other options. He has to lose everything, before he risks everything. The claustrophobic desperation of his situation makes for rather grim reading. Unfortunately, the presented future is so probable that the novel’s solution for its survival seems a bit of an far-fetched hope, rather than a potential plan that we will be able to actually use.

As one who is always reacting, rather than pro-acting, Emmett is pushed in ways the reader – and he, are not expecting. Everyone around him, and the reader, are quite sure that what he is attempting to do just won’t work. Once man just can’t change the course of history. But when the alternative is extinction …

The best of speculative fiction should serve harsh warnings about where our present world is headed, if we don’t do something about our current lifestyles. ‘A World That We Expect’ deserves a place among the great dystopian SF masterpieces. In the best of ‘science fiction’, the science and technology are critical to the story. This is not a ‘young-adult’ space-opera. The failures of science and its application that produce the post-apocalyptic world are clearly defined, and frightening plausible. The hard science solutions Emmett turns to are equally believable. But unlike many hard SF novels, which don’t go much beyond the authors technical wizardry, ‘A World That We Expect’ is mainly about the culture of those in America who are currently prepared for the end of the world for religious reasons. That gives the book a tinge of horror, and the mindless zombie.

Definitely worth reading.

Available in Paperback :

Kindle :

‘A Conversation Overheard’, Being the opening chapters of volume one of the first of The Five Books of Time, is AVAILABLE FREE in all eBook formats.

BoT 01 A_Conversation_Overheard_Cover_for_Kindle

There are some things that are known by everyone within The World, and many things which are unknown.

Everyone knows that one-thousand years ago there was The War That Broke Time. The Immortals tried to exterminate the mortals by releasing dragons into The World who only knew one thing – hunger.

The horror of their actions finally caused the Immortals to completely withdraw from The World into their Whitestone walled cities. The mortals found some – The Dragonslayers, who could heal themselves as fast as The Dragons could burn their bodies, who slowly saved The World. And the mortals then destroyed the one whom had started The War … The Goddess of Life.

For one-thousand years, seven of The Dragonslayers have kept the unchanging peace as The Nightlords of The Seven Kingdoms. Only the Nightlords know how to light the raw Globes which come from The Five Empires. It is only the heat and light of The Globes which allows men to survive the frozen darkness of winter.

Life in The World is hard, and men’s lives are short. But The Nightlord gave his Binding that those who obeyed his Code of The Covenant would bring forth one who would Reunite The World with all that is missing from it in The Underworld.

And in The Reuniting of The World and The Underworld, The Lord Binding will bring all that exists to the timeless, unitary perfection of The Union of All Things.

The existence of The World and The Underworld, and all that is within … will End.

‘A Conversation Overheard’is AVAILABLE FREE in all eBook formats.