Lola, by Melissa Scrivner Love

The Crenshaw Six are a small but up-and-coming gang in South Central LA who have recently been drawn into an escalating war between rival drug cartels. To outsiders, the Crenshaw Six appear to be led by a man named Garcia . . . but what no one has figured out is that the gang’s real leader (and secret weapon) is Garcia’s girlfriend, a brilliant young woman named Lola. Lola has mastered playing the role of submissive girlfriend, and in the man’s world she inhabits she is consistently underestimated. But in truth she is much, much smarter–and in many ways tougher and more ruthless–than any of the men around her, and as the gang is increasingly sucked into a world of high-stakes betrayal and brutal violence, her skills and leadership become their only hope of survival.

When I saw the crime novel, Lola, on blogging for books, I knew I had to get a copy. It seems that when the main protagonist of a story is a female, her compassion is seen as a weakness. Often, female protagonists are portrayed as overly masculine, i.e., “one of the boys,” or they are hyper-sexualized. It’s nice to read a realistic female protagonist that is neither of these. Yes, she’s a hot chica, and yes, she’s the ruthless leader of the Crenshaw Six, but her compassion offers nuance that’s often missing from fiction. I think one of the biggest things in the plus column for Lola, is that she feels like a real person.

From a human behavior analysis, the trials and tribulations of Lola’s childhood are perfectly followed through by the author. If Lola were a real person, and sought clinical help, I could easily see the causality of her past. And like a real person, she is who she is because of those experiences, and also in spite of those experiences. I’m not sure if the author did a lot of research, or if she draws from her own experiences or those of someone close to her. The accurate portrayal of human behavior is refreshing, because so often it’s exaggerated for effect.

There are underlying themes of prejudice and gender roles. Lola couldn’t possibly be the leader of the Crenshaw Six. That’s what everybody thinks, until it’s too late. A trail of clues is sprinkled through out the story that reveals what the reader knows, to the rest of the characters: Lola is a badass, and you better not [mess] with her or those that she cares about. Lola is cunning. She’s ruthless. Adversity is the brush she and her brother are painted with. She won’t back down, and she certainly won’t quit. These actions are Lola’s strength. A strength that serves her until the end of the story.

If I had a single complaint about Lola, it’s that the cartel characters are portrayed like they are in most books and movies: cruel, sadistic, and marginally competent. They are clichés of every villain I’ve ever read. Still, as a complaint, “the villains were too villainy,” is not the worst criticism. Fans of Breaking Bad, or Greg Dragon’s The Factory will enjoy Lola. I award it five stars, and look forward to reading more by Melissa Scrivner Love.

MELISSA SCRIVNER LOVE was born to a police officer father and a court stenographer mother. After earning a master’s degree in English Literature from New York University, Melissa moved to Los Angeles, where she has lived for over a decade. During that time, she has written for several television shows, among them Life, CSI: Miami, and Person of Interest. She and her husband, a comedy writer and Los Angeles native, welcomed their daughter in 2014. Lola is her first novel.

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13 Week Streak: 05

I miss writing weekly flash fiction. I’m glad that Thain in Vain and Dusty Devil brought back a weekly event like the #13WeekStreak. I enjoy stretching my interpretation of the prompts. I enjoy keeping my story limited to 500 words:

* * *

The operator of the Mansion of Horror wasn’t always the carnie with the sad smile he was famous for. Before Playland, before death, before ruin, and most definitely before the incident, he was a wealthy man. He had power. He had money. He had a beautiful wife who adored him. He was the envy of his peers. He was the American dream.

Not the real American dream, mind you. You know, the one where anything’s possible. When America was a place that you could go to escape tyranny and persecution. No, he subscribed to the dream of a house in the suburbs. A white picket fence and a pair of sporty cars in the 2.5-car garage. Dinner was always on the table when he came home from drinking with the boys.

It was the summer of ’66, after all. The terrors of the 50s were behind America. The national flag featured fifty stars for quite a few years back then. Jorge was a man about town, and they all loved him for it. Women wanted to be with him. Men wanted to be him. He was always faithful to Lucille, and she doted on him. The summer of ‘66 was looking up for Jorge. His life wouldn’t run afoul the fates for another eighteen months.

The summer of ’66 was three years before he found communion with the dregs of society. They had ruled Lucille’s death self-inflicted, but Jorge knew that that was not the case. He knew the combination of his brief infidelity and the policies of the Catholic Church were the culmination of his greatest loss.

It wasn’t a loss that would balance another exurbanite purchase. The taxman wouldn’t weigh this loss against gains made on the market, and decide that as a contributing member of society that, “boys will be boys.”

Jorge stood tall, as a man should, when the police arrived at his office. His stoic demeanor betrayed no hint of underlying turmoil. He thanked the officers, offered a firm handshake, and returned to his desk. He motioned for the door to remain open as they departed. He would grieve for Lucille in private, as all good Americans should.

His decline wasn’t rapid by any stretch of the imagination. It did take him a year to be exonerated in his wife’s death. Another six months for his friends and colleges to shun him. Even the target of his unfortunate ardor ignored his cries for help.

It was eighteen months later, when Jorge, easily confused for a vagabond, retrieved a crumpled up newspaper in the gutter. Like the paper, he could never be new again, but a help wanted ad in the summer of ’69 promised a new life. His old life of privilege and moneyed wants would be forgotten. Cast aside.

Today, we commit Jorge to the ground after forty-five glorious years with Playland. We’ve returned here to pay our respects and bury him next to his wife. Rest in peace Jorge, you’ll be missed.


Days Until Home releases 07/04/2017!

Hey, everyone! Less than twelve hours until the official release of Days Until Home. I co-wrote it as a web serial with David Kristoph and Greg Dragon last year. Please let your peeps know that it’s available on social media, and all that jazz. It’s available as an ebook, 5×8 paperback, and 6×9 hardcover.

On a routine mining mission in the asteroid belt, the crew of the Kerwood is mired in their personal concerns: finishing quickly, getting home, and earning a fair share of the profits. That is, until the ship experiences catastrophic failure on the return journey.

Now they must put aside their petty worries if they’re to have any hope of getting home alive. Will the crew find a way to set a course for Earth with their payload, or will they discover the disaster was orchestrated by someone who doesn’t want them to return home at all?

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13 Week Streak: 04

[500 words]I skipped last week because I had a deadline to take care of for War of the Worlds: Firestorm. I’m back this week with a little taste of the Sixteen Sunsets Saga before the first book. Enjoy!

* * *

“Hurry up, man, someone’s gonna bust us!”

Joaquin ignored Tyrone, and focused on working the slim jim. “Chill,” he replied.

“You said you did this before,” Tyrone wheezed. His wheeze subsumed to a wet cough.

Joaquin paused and met Tyrone’s eyes. “You need a hit?”

“Bitch, you ain’t my momma.”

Joaquin focused on Tyrone’s bulging eyes and pale lips. “Look like youse dyin’, man.”

Tyrone gave him the finger, and reached into his jacket, and pulled out his inhaler. He breathed out twice in rapid succession and depressed the cylinder.

Joaquin returned to jimmying the lock on the Plymouth Duster. He couldn’t quite work the thin metal correctly. The only other tool they had was a flat-head screwdriver for the ignition. Be easier if we just smash the window, he thought, ain’t nobody gonna send a couple fourteen-year-olds to jail. Especially since… It was easy for him to justify stealing Tyrone’s mother’s white boyfriend’s car. Poor white families had been moving into his neighborhood for years. They thought they could get cheap property and fix it up. The racial divide in Seattle wasn’t as bad as LA, but you still had to watch yourself.

Joaquin felt his arm jostled. “Check out this bitch,” he whispered.

Joaquin turned from the Duster and saw a white kid, about he same age as them walking down the sidewalk brandishing a wooden sword. Every few steps, he would swing or stab at imaginary foes.

Joaquin grinned, elbowing Tyrone. “Probably fightin’ ninjas an’ shit.”

The white kid slowed his roll and watched them. He sidled up to them. “Yo, Dawg, you need help?”

Joaquin closed his eyes. “Whaddaya know ‘bout jackin a car, uh dude?”

The white kid smiled. “Andy, Andy Kitz.” He ran his fingers along the slim jim and it swayed back and forth. “You can learn all kinds of stuff on Youtube.”

Tyrone smirked, but Joaquin stepped away and motioned for Andy to prove it.

Andy dug his fingers into the seam where the door met the frame. He pried the door away, and shoved his wooden sword into the gap. He pushed on the sword until the gap was big enough to get his small hand and arm in. Andy grunted as his fingers brushed against the door lock. Finally, he gripped the cylinder between his knuckles and the door popped. “Where you guys headin’?” he asked.

Tyrone gave Andy a shove. “Nunya business, homey,” he replied at the same time Joaquin announced, “The beach.”

Andy frowned.

Joaquin sighed. “Fine, we headin’ to Whidbey Island.”

Andy nodded, shrugged his shoulders, and turned to walk down the street.

Joaquin grabbed him by his skinny arm. “You know what happens to snitches, right?”

Andy shook his arm free. “You don’t have to worry ‘bout me,” he declared, “They’re always watching.”

The Duster purred to life. “Move over, bitch,” Joaquin barked at Tyrone, “We got places to be.”

They drove past Andy and his wooden sword and made their way to Whidbey Island.


My Soul to Give, by Magali Frechette

When Celina Leviet escapes the brutal home invasion that kills her husband, she’s left with a bullet in her gut and vengeance in her heart. An alluring demon, Mekaisto, offers an irresistible deal—in exchange for her soul, he’ll let her live long enough to get her revenge, but she must hunt and kill the murderers herself. After sealing the contract, Celina digs into her husband’s past for clues about his murder, and what she uncovers makes her question everything she thought she knew about him. His company never existed. His family history was a lie. And he was involved with The Lumen, a shadowy religious order whose members know too much about demons. As the life she thought she knew crumbles around her, Mekaisto’s charms become harder to resist. Forced to face a horrible truth, Celina struggles against her late husband’s betrayal and the dark seduction of the devil she knows.

I’m passionate about writing, reading, photo manipulation artwork, animals, anime/manga, video games, the fandom world of TV shows and movies, and stuff like that. I’m a proud Ravenclaw: I’ve always been sorted into this house, but the recent Pottermore sorting placed me in Gryffindor―I don’t care since the Sorting Hat couldn’t consider my choice, so I identify with Ravenclaw, and that’s where I’ll remain! I have two main hobbies: writing and creating book covers. I’m also a gamer (Diablo, Zelda, Final Fantasy), enjoy listening to music (and always singing along to Disney), have a passion for Japanese culture, and adore reading. I love anime/manga, Japanese Dramas and consider myself a proud fan of many different TV shows including Buffy, Supernatural, Doctor Who, Sherlock, Merlin, Game of Thrones, Outlander, etc. I wrote my first story when I was 12 years old (and we’ll never talk about that story), but started writing three years later. Since then, I always write, and this particular novel is my 19th story. It’s always been a dream to be a published author, and I can happily say I’ve reached that goal―I plan on continuing writing and publishing for the rest of my days.

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Killshot, by Felix R. Savage

When the Spirit of Destiny crashed on the moon, Earth’s last hope of escaping alien conquest was lost. Pilot Jack Kildare and the battle-hardened crew of the SoD survived, but they are trapped in Earth’s ramshackle little moon colony, exposed to the constant threat of alien attack. On Earth, the alien behemoth Lightbringer lies in the African jungle, grounded but no less deadly. Its crew spread destruction across a planet racked by conflict. Former astronaut Hannah Ginsburg inherits a dangerous role as go-between for the aliens and humankind. As much as she struggles to rein in the spreading chaos, her complicity in the alien conquest grows, pushing her nearer to the breaking point. Meanwhile, on the moon, Jack is desperate to get back to Earth and rejoin the fight. But the moon colonists side with the aliens, forcing him to lie and steal just to survive. His chance for redemption comes unexpectedly, when shipmate Skyler Taft detects a horrific new threat to our solar system. Humanity and aliens, locked in a bitter war for our planet, will all perish together … unless Jack can achieve the impossible, and work together with his worst enemy to save Earth.

Killshot is an excellent conclusion to the “Earth’s Last Gambit” series. With any story by Felix R. Savage, I didn’t know what to expect – only that it would be good. I’m glad that the over-sexualized encounters between Hannah and her alien master were toned down in this book.

A few highlights in Killshot: The theme of alien invaders affecting global religion was present through out the series, but Killshot really drove it home. I don’t know if the author intended it, but it reminded me of the extremist religions through out the world. The theme of subservience and slavery was also front and center in Killshot. With slavery and human trafficking so prevalent today, it’s nice to see it tackled in a modern novel.

All in all, Killshot ramps up the tension between the various survivors of the first three books, and introduce a new threat. The book returns to the pace and action from books 1 & 2. The ending is satisfying, and leaves the possibility of another quartet or trilogy in the future. I would eagerly read another series in this universe.

Killshot is a five-star read. Be sure to read the entire series.

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You might say Felix R. Savage has a long history associated with rebellion. He was born in the 1970s, a decade of American youth rebelling against the safe culture of their parents. He is married to a wonderful woman and they have a beautiful daughter. Together the three of them live in Tokyo serving their cat overlord and benevolent protector. Felix writes Science Fiction and Fantasy while not translating, delighting in his family, or catering to the whims of the family’s cat. He never stops watching out for any sign the lizard people have found him.

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13 Week Streak: 02

[500 Words]Thain in Vain teamed up with Drafty Devil to bring us the 13-Week Streak flash fiction challenge. Here’s the next challenge:

* * *

Timelines are just what you’d think they are: Destinies realized when our path diverges. The illusion of that choice has confounded philosophers through the centuries. How can I choose one path over another? What happens to the timeline in the discarded choice? Timelines collapse when I take the right fork over the left. There are those that believe that the unchosen path continues in an alternate universe. But, if these choices are realized in alternate versions of ourselves and timelines, then is choice even relevant? Still, some believe that destiny is self-correcting. If I choose left over right, and right was my destined fork, will fate conspire to bring me back to the right path?

It would be easy to make a decision if there were a map that indicated all the important decisions to be made in life. But even if there were such a map, would this decision even be on it? I think that in the grand scheme of destiny that this decision is inconsequential. Perhaps it is but whimsy of a fickle deity in an uncaring universe. After all, if this forked path is unimportant enough to be marked on a map, what value does it truly have on my reality?

But what is destiny? Is it the culmination of endless minor decisions? A lifetime of unmarked and unimportant forked paths is no life that I care to live. What would that mean to my life thus far? But then again, what about the multitudinal universe? What of all those unrealized decisions littered along the path I’ve trodden? If each path has been conquered, then all decisions are worthless.

Maybe I was a hero along a different forked path. But, if that’s true, then so should the opposite be true: I could’ve been a villain. But how do these unrealized realities affect this reality? If I could break through from one reality to another, what would I learn about myself? Would these new versions of myself even be me?

It’s easy to say that I’d still be me in the scope of a short path. Here, an hour from camp can only have a finite number of divergent paths. I think that those iterations of myself are me. But what about a forked path two hours ago? Two weeks ago? The exponential diversification of reality can’t be properly understood by a mere mortal. Would something I did a lifetime ago result in a different person?

“This is not one of those times,” an exasperated voice intones. I turn to see my companions waiting patiently for my decision.

I see her face beaming and shyly peeking over the wickered basket clutched to her breast. A basket patiently awaiting the fruits of our journey. Waiting for my decision. For her, I make these decisions without regret.

“I think the orchard is this way,” I declare with false confidence. We follow the right path, but a part of me begs to question what reality lurks down the unchosen path.