Source: Kindle Book Sale
Reading Benedict Martin’s Planet Purgatory is, from the very beginning, a literary tsunami. The plot, the characters, and the execution of the story are striking. Martin builds an earth alternative this is unique and magical. However, this is not a fairy tale; the humans in this story are very human, flaws and all. Putting garden variety humans in a bizarre and monster-filled setting is simply fascinating.
David Eno is farmer on a planet where human life is constantly at risk. Along with humans, the planet is populated with variety of aliens and mythical creatures that exist on earth. Some of these non-humans are dangerous to humans, attacking them or removing their souls, leaving them as empty husks. David seems to occupy a special place in the small band of humans; he has been given a gun by SYS, the strange administrative body that seem to serve as a “government” on this strange planet; a privilege no other human has. David has also developed an almost mystical connection to the planet, being the best farmer and the best distiller of chikka, a beet based alcoholic beverage that is prized by the inhabitants of the planet and is somehow connected to the planet’s existence.
After an especially horrific alien attack David decides to find the SYS central office and ask for more guns to defend his small human settlement. His quest becomes a labyrinthine trek, full of odd creatures and danger and violence. Martin’s fertile imagination makes this quest an amazing ride. Though this book doesn’t fit perfectly into any niche market it stands as a page-turner on its own merits.
Adding to the appeal of this book is a spiritual element that is subtle yet pleasing; the use of the word “Purgatory” in the title is significant. Mr. Martin also manages to poke fun at bureaucracies in his handling of SYS. All in all this is one of the best books I have ever read. Though it leans toward the science-fiction fantasy category, it will be a good read for anyone due to its eclectic themes. I would recommend this book to anyone. I look forward to reading Benedict Martin’s next book.
Find “Planet Purgatory” here.
Book Review: Out of Darkness by Katheryn Caffee
I just finished Katheryn Caffee’s out of darkness. I will start my review with a disclaimer: I am going to compare her to another writer. While this may seem somewhat off the mark for a review, I will mitigate any doubts by telling you that the author I’ll compare her to is my favorite.
Many authors of fantasy and science fiction aspire to create a world that is created “from scratch”. The ability to do this is a rare talent. Like most difficult endeavors, most people do it well enough, but don’t quite ring the bell. Often the elements are there but they are disjointed and, at best, “interesting”. The sign of a true “world creator” is someone who’s grasp of details is so precise that the final world is difficult to see as fiction.
The writer I’ll compare Katheryn to is Jack Vance. It’s doubtful anyone has heard of him; he has a small but incredibly loyal following. His talent, much like Katheryn’s, is the creation of a world that is “reality ready”. For Vance, his writing has been emulated by the likes of Robert Silverberg and other early sci-fi luminaries.
I’ve always thought that “world creators” have a special level of concentration and focus denied to the ordinary writer. The result, as seen in Katheryn Caffee’s “Out of Darkness” are elements that fit seamlessly together. The book chronicles a character without a name, trained from childhood to be a fighter in a land where the social and financial life of towns are built around fighting arenas.
The story chronicles the life of a fighter who is born into the arena life. Being the property of his master, he does not even receive a name. Our nameless fighter is born under strange circumstances; there is something special about him that makes him different from other fighters. We experience his first few years in such great detail that the reader comes to know him as if we had met him. What is fascinating and disturbing is that the nameless fighter spends all his time either in a dirty cell or in a training center where he is trained under the harshest of conditions. When the child does not follow instructions to the letter he is whipped.
As time goes by the child begins to show a special aptitude for fighting. Even in his dingy, dirty cell, exhausted, he goes over what he’s learned that day and, eventually, he begins to add his own flourishes. There is something other worldly about this child which gives him the potential to become one of greatest fighter in any of the arena towns. The description of the process of the fighter’s training and eventual entry into the actual daily battles in the arena takes up the bulk of the story and is compelling, especially due to the level of thought and planning the author puts into it; this is a world that has never existed but is easy to accept as real.
As much as he excels at fighting, the nameless fighter, cruelly, is never socialized in any way and never leaves the arena. He is treated like a slave who must perform in the arena or die. His language skills never develop past the level of a young child and he develops his own strange mangled version of the main language spoken in the arena.
The town around the arena is a fascinating mix of cultures and clans. The clans are one of the most fascinating parts of the story. Their status depends on a number of factors, including their success in betting on winners in the arena gladiatorial games. A clan can lose everything in one unwise bet and they must fight their way back to their former status by any means possible.
All in all Katheryn Caffee has done an amazing job in creating a viable alternate world. While many fantasy writers use standard iconic elements for their story, wizards, dragons and the like, Caffee has created a world that is realistic and compelling using story elements of her own creation. I look forward to reading the sequel to this book, “Remember the Shadows”.
I just read an article in Psychology Today, enumerating the reasons that parents don’t discuss child abuse with their children. Not surprisingly, they are the same reasons that people, in general, don’t want to hear about child abuse. There have been more than enough studies showing it is an under reported crime and far more prevalent than anyone would like to admit.
Not too long ago I had lunch with someone I had worked with years before. When we got around to discussing what I had blogged and written about, the subject of child abuse came up. My lunch companion’s reaction was immediate and strangely fierce: “Oh, how uplifting!”. I was shocked, though this wasn’t the first time I’d experienced this level of anger and uncharacteristic annoyance at the mention of the subject. I stared at my friend for a good long time. What I wanted to say was, “I doubt the children who are abused are any happier about it than you are.” I said nothing because there wasn’t enough time, during a single lunch hour, to even begin to chip away at that type of denial.
Years ago, before I became concerned about child abuse and its effects, I can remember being “not aware” of child abuse. When I heard about it, my eyes would glaze over and I would “just not be present” in the moment. It was like the conversation was irrelevant and I was waiting for the rain to end so I could get back to my life.
At this point in my life I’ve realized that, for most people, child abuse is like an urban myth: disturbing and not entirely real. They hear about it in fleeting seconds in a report on the news. Or someone mentions it in hushed whispers, speaking about someone they know who has a child that was molested; when the conversation moves on, most people are more comfortable. I have had members of my own family tell me that “that doesn’t happen”. And, like an urban myth, the subject of child abuse is not seen as requiring anyone’s attention or action. People will become annoyed when it’s brought up or they will tell you that the child brought it on themselves, due to their own actions. Some will tell you that it only happens in certain low socio-economic groups. Denial is a powerful thing.
The reality is that child abuse is not an urban myth. Abuse is theft. And what it steals is one or more lives, often in a cycle that passes the curse of trauma from a parent to his or her own child. I will not quote statistics here because they have been put before the American public countless times by NEWS agencys and NGOs that fight child abuse; it is rare that anyone reacts. I will only say that the numbers are staggering. And it takes many forms. Children are literally lost in foster care. We have the relatively new scourge of Trafficking. There are many areas where it exists beyond the nuclear family.
The theft is egregious, its affects often spanning a lifetime. PTSD, depression, criminal behavior, recidivism are all part of its malign arsenal. Recent studies have shown a close correlation between child abuse and incarceration.
We are all given so many resources: so many years of life in an unknown quantity, so many opportunities to make our dreams a reality, so many chances to form relationships that are important in our lives. Child abuse, physical and sexual, steals these opportunities from victims. For victims of child abuse, the assumptions of trust that act as a foundation to being human are ripped away. The aftermath of child abuse can be even bleaker than the original theft of trust at the hands of abusers. The issue here is the slow, insidious way that the dysfunction of child abuse leeches the sense of purpose out of life. It separates us from our fellow men and shrinks our view of the world until we can only see a few feet in front of us. Every person I’ve known or people I’ve seen interviewed who were victims of abuse always talk about the parts of themselves they have lost. While some people have taken the awful lemons of abuse and made lemonade by helping other victims and telling their own stories, there are many more who suffer in silence, who may never learn to be dancers, musicians, teachers. Whatever dreams they might have normally pursued are barred to them in ways that even they can’t understand. This is theft in its most basic form; it’s a theft that is built into the fabric of someone’s life and it can make loss and failure seem inevitable. For many abuse victims, their problems become a moving target that often defies both understanding and healing.
Is it so hard to understand why some people are so zealous about removing the blight of child abuse from our society? All of us carry fears from our childhood that make us less than we could be. For a victim of child abuse those fears and constraints become constant companions limiting the scope of what they can do. Our prisons are filled with victims of child abuse and medicating the beasts that live within us has become a thriving industry in the form of big pharma.
What can be done? If you accept that something must be done and that you don’t want to live in a nation where this type of thing is a reality then there are two avenues for you. One is convincing the American public that child abuse is real and affects all of us, financially and morally. The other avenue is the entity that we are forced to use when things get out of control: the law.
As far as convincing Americans that child abuse must be stamped out, after all my experience talking to non-victims about it, I would say not to hold your breath waiting. If this were to be done it would take money and aggressive education campaigns nationwide to make people feel responsible. This is highly unlikely so, we are left with the law.
And here is what I’ve been leading up to. For the first time in history there is a lobbying organization called Protect.org that lobbies our law makers to strengthen child abuse laws. They have made enormous strides in putting teeth into laws that let pedophiles get off with a slap on the hand. Recently they put a program into effect that trains veterans to investigate the growing child pornography industry and bring purveyors of this kind of poison to justice.
Protect.org is the beginning of a long overdue overhaul of our legal system to end a scourge that is the polar opposite of what the United States stands for. Our weakest citizens need your help. Please go to the Protect.org site and donate. Get on their email list and find opportunities to help them in their fight by contacting legislators who need to hear the truth about child abuse.
Author Name: Jean Gill
Book Title: Plaint for Provence
Genre and Sub-Genre: Historical Fiction / Romantic thriller
Book Content Rating: PG13
Jean Gill is a Welsh writer and photographer living in the south of France with a big white dog, a scruffy black dog, a Nikon D750 and a man. For many years, she taught English in Wales and was the first woman to be a secondary headteacher in Carmarthenshire. She is also mother or stepmother to five children so life was hectic.
Publications are varied, including prize-winning poetry and novels, military history, translated books on dog training (from French), and a cookery book on goat cheese.
Plaint for Provence
1152 : Les-Baux-de-Provence
From the winner of the Global Ebook Award for Best Historical Fiction
Summoned to the court of Les Baux, Estela and her lover, Dragonetz, are embroiled in two rival claims for power as their feuding liege lords gather in Provence. Although Estela is reluctant to leave her idyll with her young child Musca, and her pursuit of Arabic medicine, she welcomes the chance to show her musical skills and to support Dragonetz, who must use his swordsmanship to play peacemaker.
The visit of the Comte du Barcelone to Les Baux sparks bitter memories of the recent civil war and Lady Etiennette des Baux has no intention of ceding to her overlord. Nor does she plan to remain a widow. With good friends on both sides, Dragonetz weaves a precarious path through the rival factions at court where an uneasy truce prevails behind the chivalry of hunt and tournament.
Meanwhile, Estela faces her own demons. Confronted with her childhood abusers, threatened and attacked, she confides in her friends. Unfortunately, one of those friends is Dragonetz’ worst enemy and Estela has no idea of what he is capable.
In this third volume of the Troubadours Quartet, Jean Gill, the ‘master of historical intrigue’, continues to weave the gripping adventures of Dragonetz and Estela seamlessly into real historical events. Medieval France comes alive in all its facets, from healing with leeches to training a goshawk.
‘A stunning masterpiece of tangled alliances, conflicting loyalties and tested love.’ Kristin Gleeson, the Celtic Knot series
‘Historical Fiction at its best.’ Karen Charlton, the Detective Lavender Mysteries
The Troubadours Quartet
Plaint for Provence
Song at Dawn
Thank you for having me on your blog.I’d like to offer a free ebook copy of ‘Plaint for Provence’ to one of your readers. To enter, all they have to do is write a comment here on the blog.
In celebration of the new Troubadours book, Book 1 ‘Song at Dawn’ is free at the moment and there’s also a free ebook copy of my collection ‘One Sixth of a Gill’, which was shortlisted for the Wishing Shelf Award’, for every new subscriber to my newsletter.
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“If not now, when?” These words were uttered by Hillel, a Rabbi and teacher who lived at the time of Christ. Though he was not from Jerusalem, an obstacle for moving up the ranks in the temple hierarchy, he assumed a leadership role as a teacher and a religious leader.
He was famous for cutting through all of the various excuses and getting to the moral point in an argument. “If not now when” carries a clear message and has resounded down through the centuries: if there is a problem, an evil, a plague that shouts for attention and action, we have no excuse to hesitate because there will be no relief from an evil until we focus our attention and will on eradicating it.
Children are the point here. There are some who will say they have always been the point, but that view is held be a disturbingly small minority. Throughout the centuries, before there were the simplest of universal laws to protect children, these weakest and defenseless of human beings got the worst of the abuse the world seems happy to dish out. Around the time the Civil War ended an awareness of the plight of children developed in our country due to the swelling numbers of orphans. I’ve read that the first legal maneuvering in defense of children in our country was through laws that were designed to prevent animal cruelty. There were no laws to protect children at the time
In more recent times child abuse has followed it dark path, with thousands of children unknown victims in the shadows. So many things in our society are like that; if it happens behind closed doors, what business is it of ours? Children died or disappeared in droves, both in biological homes and foster homes. At some point in the last few decades, a new awareness of child abuse brought about changes in the law. Child abuse became a crime and professionals like teachers and doctors became mandated reporters: not reporting child abuse became a crime.
The courts began to take on criminal and civil charges of child abuse. Unprepared for this formerly distasteful subject, our legal system limped through it first few decades of child protection, sometimes getting it right, often missing the point and returning children to their abusers or giving custody to pedophiles who just happened to be the child’s parent.
On the other side of the ugly coin witch hunts began to spring up in which parents and people who worked with children were falsely accused of Satanist tinged ritualistic child abuse and murder.
All this time, the law scrambled to keep pace. Only the laws developed for child abuse were limited in scope and not designed to strategically attack child abuse. And then something amazing happened. In the first decade of the twenty-first century a man who had the read the books of Andrew Vachss decided that something needed to be done. Vachss had heard the words of Hillel years ago and had spent decades helping children, most recently as a lawyer representing children exclusively.
What Andrew Vacchss has done would take a book to explain. For our purposes we can call him the hero that inspired one of the founders of Protect.org. The reality is that, were it not for Andrew Vachss and his dedication to this cause, it could have been years before this miracle occurred. The past does not paint an optimistic picture for a future without Protect.org. After thousands of years of child abuse I think we can call the formation and expansion of Protect.org a minor miracle.
What Protect.org began as is a strange animal for those involved in the law and politics. Its founder was involved in politics, a man who organized political campaigns. Inspired by the dark world in Andrew Vachss’s books he dreamed of a lobby to work on strengthening child abuse laws in the U.S. Most lobbies serve far less philanthropic industries and organizations. The liquor industry has a lobby. And so does the NRA, a very effective one. The point is that a lobbies do not have the best reputations and Protect is an amazing evolution of a tool used only by special interest groups into a use that fits our constitution and the humanitarianism that the various government bodies in the U.S. claim as their fundamental principle.
Since its founding Protect has expanded and spun off a sister organization called The National Association to Protect Children which works to fight child abuse across the board and doesn’t limit itself to lobbying. In addition Protect has demonstrated its serious intent and its inventiveness by starting the H.E.R.O Child Rescue Corps. These are military veterans who are being trained to fight the exploding network of producers of child pornography. Joining in this fight is the Oak Ridge National Laboratory who is using its super-computers to analyze files on various servers to find pockets of child pornography.
In the long run, the only way to effectively fight child abuse is to make the laws harsh enough to take pedophiles off the street, to break the back of trafficking and a growing child pornography industry. What Protect.org is doing is allowing children to live the American dream, providing that opportunity to thousands of children who, without help, will live lives of depression and, possibly, criminal behavior. What is most frightening is the real possibility that these damaged children may become abusers themselves.
Go to Protect.Org. Donate what you can. And get involved. For one child out there, alone, your contribution will be immense.