One Way, by S.J. Morden

ONE WAY opens at the dawn of a new era – one in which we’re ready to colonize Mars. But the contract to build the first ever Martian base has been won by the lowest bidder, so they need to cut a lot of corners. The first thing to go is the automatic construction… the next thing they’ll have to deal with is the eight astronauts they’ll sent up to build it, when there aren’t supposed to be any at all. Frank – father, architect, murderer – is recruited for the mission with the promise of a better life, along with seven of his most notorious fellow inmates. As his crew sets to work, the accidents mount up, and Frank begins to suspect they might not be accidents at all. As the list of suspects grows shorter, it’s up to Frank to uncover the terrible truth before it’s too late.

A murder mystery set on Mars? Yeah, I’m in. NetGalley has been pretty bad lately, so it was nice to see a book in my wheelhouse. The science was hard enough to interest sci-fi nerds, but not so technical that it was like reading a service manual. It’s pretty easy for the reader to figure out “whodunit,” but watching the characters figure it out was fun to read. Maybe I’m just a pessimist, but I pretty much knew whom the murderer was when the crew wakes up on Mars. The writer tries to deflect, but I held on tight to my suspicions. There are these “classified documents” that adorn each chapter, and while they do dump information, I felt that methodology of info dumping and foreshadowing to be distracting and unnecessary.

The book is compared to Andy Weir’s The Martian, and although One Way happens on Mars and stuff goes sideways, they are very different stories. Publishers like to compare their new acquisition to a genre standard, but the fans know the difference between a murder mystery and a survival story. Publishers also like to tout things like the author was “trained as a rocket scientist” to lend credibility. Often, this is to get around some flaw in the writing or story. I live in a community that has an Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, where they literally train rocket scientists, and they’re about the dumbest bunch of entitled hacks I’ve ever met. This doesn’t seem to be the case for One Way, but since we’re comparing it to Andy Weir’s The Martian, Weir never worked as a rocket scientist, and had to do extensive research to get the science right – and for the most part, Weir’s writing was accurate.

But I digress. I enjoyed One Way. I knocked it out in two days, which is a testament to how much I enjoyed it. The ending isn’t wrapped up in a pretty bow, but it is satisfying. I look forward to reading No Way. Four stars, and recommended to science fiction and/or murder mystery fans.

Dr. Simon Morden is a bona fide rocket scientist, having degrees in geology and planetary geophysics. Unfortunately, that sort of thing doesn’t exactly prepare a person for the big wide world of work: he’s been a school caretaker, admin assistant, and PA to a financial advisor. He’s now employed as a part-time teaching assistant at a Gateshead primary school, which he combines with his duties as a househusband, attempting to keep a crumbling pile of Edwardian masonry upright, wrangling his two children and providing warm places to sleep for the family cats. As well as a writer, he’s been the editor of the British Science Fiction Association’s writers’ magazine Focus, a judge for the Arthur C Clarke awards, and is a regular speaker at the Greenbelt Arts Festival on matters of faith and fiction. In 2009, he was in the winning team for the Rolls Royce Science Prize.


Updates Galore!

Hello everyone! I’ve been absent the last few weeks. Hardly noticed, eh? *raspberries*

Score of Anyway, I’ve been super busy assisting Amber Cove Publishing with getting Score of Silence ready to launch on Tuesday the 27th. There’s an early launch party on Saturday the 24th at the Verde Valley Comic Expo. I’ll have collector’s editions of Score of Silence that are numbered and stuff. I even have a handful of unedited versions that I had printed when I was shopping the manuscript. (The same one that was on Kindle Scout.) The audiobook will soon follow, and I’ll likely do a Kickstarter to get the funds to do a hard cover edition. I’ve started negotiating the non-English translations, so keep an eye out for those.

Silence wasn’t the only reason I’ve been absent. I’ve had a pretty nasty bug. Erika had it too, and we’re just lucky the kids didn’t get it. Erika went to the nurse practitioner that our insurance covers, and he thinks that it’s viral gastroenteritis. In a word, yuck! I think Erika is almost back to baseline, and I’m not too far behind her. I expect that I’ll be close to 100% by Saturday for VVCE2018.

I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned it already, and quite frankly, I’m too lazy to scroll through my own blog to check, but here is my updated 2018 itinerary:

  • Verde Valley Comic Expo – March 24th
  • Phoenix Comic Fest – May 25th – 28th
  • Payson Book Festival – July 21st
  • Fandomania – July 28th
  • Prescott Comic Convention – September/October
  • Prescott Comic Convention was a lot of fun last year, and I’ve been invited back for 2018. Details are forthcoming. PCF is a soft commitment. After being uninvited by the new talent coordinator for PCF, I was invited by Bard’s Tower to be in their booth, but that’s second quarter, and they’re still hopping with their first quarter events, so hopefully, the dialog will start once Q1 is over in a few weeks. I’ve got a request in for a press pass, but the procedure has changed, and I’m just not sure if/when I’ll know if it’s approved.

    I really want to go to Tampa Bay Con August 3rd – 5th, but wrangling an invite is difficult. I’m hoping that Bard’s Tower will be so happy with my presence at their booth at PCF, that they’ll invite me to TBC. After all, Greg Dragon, L. Fergus, and Bree Salyer all live in the area, so it would be the bomb to meet up with them, plus a bunch of Florida authors I’ve met through various writing forums.

    Anyway, I hope to return to my regular blogging schedule once VVCE2018 and my stomach flu are over.

    Wish Man – an interview with Frank Shankwitz

    So, Frank, you just finished a movie.
    Yeah, we completed filming “Wish Man” in October of last year. [It was] quite the production. We started the whole thing in 2014 and it took that long. It’s a feature motion picture, and the average movie is seven years from inception to release. We’re doing it a little earlier just because of the cooperation with the community and other people.

    Let’s back up a bit. Some people may not know who you are. Frank, you started Make-A-Wish.
    I was the creator and co-founder of the Make-A-Wish Foundation. My wife and I started that back in 1980. Through the grace of God and modern medicine, and so many volunteers and people, it has grown from 1980, now to 63 chapters in the United States, 36 international chapters on five continents, and we’ve granted now, over 415,000 wishes worldwide.

    And that started with you and one little boy?
    Exactly, a little boy. Some [people] may remember “CHiPs,” the television show. I was introduced [to a] little boy, seven years old. Unfortunately, he had terminal leukemia. His mother told us that his heroes were Ponch and Jon from the TV show, “ChiPs,” and when he grew up; he wished he could be a highway patrol motorcycle officer. So, the family contacted our department. The [Arizona] Highway Patrol did everything they could for this little boy. [They] made him the first and only honorary highway patrol officer in the history of the [Arizona] Highway Patrol. The biggest thing was to make him a motorcycle officer- which I did. Unfortunately, he died a couple days later. He’s buried in a little town called Kewanee, Illinois, and my commanders asked if I would go back with another motorcycle officer to give him a full police funeral- which we did. We were joined by Illinois state police, city police, county police. [It was] just this most amazing thing to bury this little boy. He was buried in uniform. He has a grave marker that reads, “Chris Greicius – Arizona Trooper.” Coming home, I just started thinking about how this little boy had a wish, and we made it happen. Why can’t we do that for other children? That’s when the idea was born.

    So, a couple of books are out. In fact, last time I had you on, you brought a book that’s called, “Once Upon a Wish.” It was written by Rachelle Sparks.
    She was a local newspaper reporter up here for the [Daily] Courier. [She] contacted me one day, and we did an interview. She said, “Let’s write a book about this. About the Wish children and some of their wishes.” So we did that. [We] called it, “Once Upon a Wish.” A few years ago, I released my own book called, “Wish Man.”

    And it was “Wish Man” that they contacted you and said, “Let’s do a movie.”?
    Yeah. Again, it was in 2014. The publisher had given a rough draft [to] 333 Studios out of San Diego. [They’re] an independent film company, and they had read [Wish Man] and said, “We’re gonna fly over to San Diego.” I said, “Okay, who doesn’t like San Diego?” That went through the owner and also a director and screen writer. They said, “We want to do a movie about your life.”

    It’s a period [piece,] from age ten, to when I started the Make-A-Wish Foundation in 1980. I thought they were talking a documentary, and I said, “Well, that’s okay,” and they said, “No, a full feature motion picture.” I [was] just kind of hesitant on that, but they talked me into it.
    Continue reading

    Six Random Questions With Arwen Paris

    I know it’s been a while since I’ve interviewed anyone, and I sometimes wonder if I’ve forgotten how to do it :) Since I reviewed Arwen Paris’ Fate of the Stars last week, and I may have been a little overly-critical about her novel, I asked Arwen a few random questions about her debut novel, and what ever else I thought of to ask her. So read this, go buy her story so that she can keep writing more stories.

    What has been the most challenging part of publishing your book?
    You know how most authors have that first book they wrote, the really ugly one they lock away someplace dark? Yeah, I just couldn’t bear to do that. What’s worse, is that I actually finished book two for NaNoWriMo before I finished the first book! Getting Fate of the Stars written, rewritten several more times, edited and rewritten again has been a grueling and educational process. Let’s just say, I can’t wait to write a fresh book.

    What are you working on now?
    Right now I’m getting book two in the Fate of the Stars series, Rival, ready for the first round of edits.

    What other books have you written and/or are working on for the future?
    Oh my gosh, I have an excel spreadsheet I keep of all the series I want to write. After I finish up the Fate of the Stars series I’m really excited to work on my next project – a YA Fantasy!

    What’s your favorite supernatural creature?
    I know what you’re thinking. She should choose Elves, her name’s Elvish for the love god! But I have to admit that I’m a dragon lover. That’s probably why I’m switching to fantasy for a bit after this series.

    What advice do you have for aspiring authors?
    Writing is art, and it grows and matures the more you practice. So never stop writing, and never stop learning to write better.

    What’s your favorite quote?
    I loved Dune by Frank Herbert when I was a kid. I could read that whole book in less than eight hours. But this quote really struck me to the core: “I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.” It’s a good mantra for writers too.


    I didn’t do a flash last week, since I was pushing Score of Silence out the door. So, I’m back this week with a double feature. At 2020 words, I’m kind of using Bree Salyer’s prompt from last week, but continuing Mental State with the voice instead of photographic evidence. It’s not exactly what Bree prompted, but whatever. I had started this tidbit last week, but time was not on my side. I also worked in prompts from The Writing Reader, #SoCS, and Write On Wednesday.

    Steven hadn’t killed Lindsay.

    Ruby grabbed her backpack and ran out of the room. Her last glimpse of Steven was of him at his desk in front of his computer with his face in his hands, crying uncontrollably. Ruby didn’t stop running until she was at the bus station. She boarded the bus, dropped into an open seat, and tried to rub the tears from her puffy, red eyes.

    She was no longer crying because she was scared. She wasn’t crying because she was upset at Steven yelling, nor was she crying because she regretted speaking to him. She was now crying because she knew the truth, he truth no one else realized or bothered to take the time to find out. The truth that made her ashamed of her past actions and thoughts. The absolute and undeniable truth hit her hard and with a massive finality.

    * * *

    The next day, Ruby’s head was still spinning. She struggled to concentrate on her computer screen. Thoughts stacked inside her head like hundreds of cars caught in the most disorganized intersection ever built.

    The thought that Steven was innocent had seemed crazy days ago, but once she had heard the truth of what really happened, Ruby knew Steven had nothing to do with Ruby’s death. He was innocent.

    A larger problem loomed. How was she going to tell everyone else? Even looking around the classroom now, she could tell it was going to be difficult. Everyone still threw shade at Steven from time to time, and she could tell that many wanted to do more.

    Ruby watched Robert. Although he didn’t look at Steven, his silence since the brown-haired boy’s arrival confirmed Ruby’s suspicions. Even he would be exceedingly difficult to convince, maybe the hardest of them all. She wondered how he had become so adamant in Steven’s guilt when the two of them had been friends until the days after Lindsay’s death. He told her that he saw the truth, that his friends helped him see Steven for what he was, but it sounded a lot like an excuse made by a boy who was easily led. She should know; he had been easy enough for her to play dress-up with.

    Ruby glanced at Steven typing away at his computer. The only other person who seemed to have taken an interest in Steven’s actions was the teacher, who seemed happier since Steven started doing his school work again. But did the woman really believe in Steven’s innocence, or was she simply content to have a violence-free classroom again? It was a sad reality that an orderly classroom was all that the teacher really wanted. Was it any wonder that the class reacted to Steven the way that they did?

    Ruby sighed heavily and turned back to her computer screen. She knew what she had to do, and it would be difficult, but she had to try. It was the right thing to do. In a world of selfishness, being selfless became a call to arms.
    Continue reading

    Fate of the Stars, by Arwen Paris

    When the fate of the world rests upon you… Allison Delaney wants to spend her senior year healing from the loss of her father, to leave the shadows of his death and her junior year break-down behind. A Labor Day beach party seems like a good place to start…but there’s more danger lurking than anyone could imagine. Death is coming to Earth if the pods of infectious creatures aren’t stopped. But only one human can help… To live or die is no longer a choice. Eenoki is a protector of life but must have a sentient host to fight the invasion. A teenage girl would not be the best choice, but out of desperation Eenoki invades Allison’s mind and body, granting her unnatural abilities and strengths – and helping her escape certain death when the first wave of pods land. As destruction rains down on Earth’s population, Allison realizes to save everyone, she must make the ultimate choice: Reject her human side and bond with Eenoki to become the Earth’s Priestess – or be killed along with the rest of humanity.

    Sigh. ALIENS INVADE EARTH! If only there were a human that a helpful alien entity could occupy and be the savior of mankind. What’s this? A 17-year old girl who just suffered a tragedy and is wise beyond her years because of it. She’s an outcast because of something she did? No worries, the smoldering hot guy is secretly in love with her and will abandon all reason to help her on her quest to get rid of the aliens.

    Don’t worry, another alien race comes along and wants to not only rid the Earth of the alien invasion, but DESTROY HUMANITY to save the galaxy. The melding or possession or whatever won’t quite work, so the 17-year old girl will only have some of the powers required to defeat both alien interlopers. She’ll have just enough power to be a threat to other humans, but not accepted by the aliens, even though this sort of thing is how their religion works.

    Like young adult readers see things, everything in Fate of the Stars is in black and white. Good and evil. Popular and outcast. The writing is at times concise, but other times, it’s rather purple. While I could understand why young adult readers might relate to this, the fact that the story happened to Allison, instead of her driving the story was a disappointment. The story was campy, but in a good way.

    Allison was understandable in the beginning, but became more and more angsty and annoying as the story progressed. The rest of the humans are cardboard cutouts, including the best friend and smoldering hunk. There was just so much waffling in this story. The story sets up a bunch of great ideas, and then pitches those ideas out the window in favor of YA cliché.

    I think that the series has some great potential. Fate of the Stars is Arwen Paris’ debut novel, and that shows. It’s not a dig on the author, and I suspect that more novels in the series will only get better as the author figures out what she wants to write. I dissed the story in the first two paragraphs, but that’s because I’ve read this exact same story by other authors, and they did a better job. I’m confident that with a few more books to her credit, Arwen Paris will be an excellent author. I’d totally read the next book in the series, and look forward to what this author has in store for the future. Three and a half stars.

    Arwen Paris is the author of young adult fiction. Her debut YA Sci-fi Urban Fantasy novel FATE OF THE STARS released September 1, 2017. The second book in the Fate of the Stars series RIVAL is coming in 2018. The actions packed pages of her novels are filled with characters that are forced to face fears they never expected. When she’s not writing, you can see posts of her (too many) vacations that keep her sane. Arwen lives in Washington, has a big crazy family & after the day job, she writes Fiction For the Fearless – #F3Fanatic


    The Way We Fall, by Megan Crewe

    It starts with an itch you just can’t shake. Then comes a fever and a tickle in your throat. A few days later, you’ll be blabbing your secrets and chatting with strangers like they’re old friends. Three more, and the paranoid hallucinations kick in. And then you’re dead. When sixteen-year-old Kaelyn lets her best friend leave for school without saying goodbye, she never dreams that she might not see him again. Then a strange virus begins to sweep through her small island community, infecting young and old alike. As the dead pile up, the government quarantines the island: no one can leave, and no one can come back. Cut off from the world, the remaining islanders must fend for themselves. Supplies are dwindling, fatalities rising, and panic is turning into violence. With no cure in sight, Kaelyn knows their only hope of survival is to band together. Desperate to save her home, she joins forces with a former rival and opens her heart to a boy she once feared. But as the virus robs her of friends and family, Kaelyn realizes her efforts may be in vain. How can she fight an enemy that’s too small to see?

    After reading the Earth & Sky series, I had an idea what to expect from The Way We Fall. Crewe writes teen characters that seem realistic in the way that teens see themselves. In YA, a common trope is that the teens are as smart as the adults, if only they’d get a chance to shine. The teen (or teens) get the chance to “show up” the adults with their unique way of looking at things. I really enjoyed that after all the effort and angst that Kaelyn put into finding the link, her dad is like, “Yeah, we figured that out weeks ago.”

    It’s not that I don’t find smart teens to be unrealistic- my own teen confounds me with some bit of logic from time to time. But teens are just too inexperienced to really shine in the way they they think they should. Which is fine, people need time to make mistakes and learn and grow. YA novels attempt to force the protagonist to grow up by inserting tragedy – often by the loss of a parent. I saw in the reviews that someone complained about one of the teens being a budding expert in botany. I do not find this aspect to be unbelievable at all – teens are definitely driven, with a single-mindedness that often confounds. With my own teen enrolled in an agribusiness and equine high school, with dual enrollment in a community college, I’ve seen teens that know a heck of a lot more than I do in those fields.

    The setting and premise of The Way We Fall is an interesting one: An unknown virus affects the inhabitants of an isolated community, and everything goes sideways, including those responsible for keeping everyone safe. Nothing new there – people have been writing about that forever. The story ends without much resolved – a pet peeve of mine. But, it’s a common trope, so I grumble and move on.

    Megan Crewe writes well, and the re-release doesn’t have any of the typos I’ve come to expect from Disney-Hyperion. Like most YA, the language and vocabulary is simple. Also like most YA, there is quite a bit of teenage angst. As often with series books picked up by a large publisher, the first is a true glimpse to what the writer intended, and later books seem to have the spark revised out. I’m definitely curious how subsequent books in the series fare. I’d rate The Way We Fall 3.75 stars, and I’ll read the next book in the series as soon as I can get ahold of it. With the entire series being available own Kindle Unlimited, that should be pretty soon.


    Like many authors, Megan Crewe finds writing about herself much more difficult than making things up. A few definite facts: she lives in Toronto, Canada with her husband and son (and does on occasion say “eh”), she tutors children and teens with special needs, and she’s spent the last six years studying kung fu, so you should probably be nice to her. She has been making up stories about magic and spirits and other what ifs since before she knew how to write words on paper. These days the stories are just a lot longer.