Book Review – Dark Places by Gillian Flynn

Book Review

Dark Places by Gillian Flynn

Another suspenseful thriller by the author of Gone Girl. Dark Places is the story of Libby Day who confronts her traumatic childhood memories of the murder of her mother and two sisters.  Libby begins her own investigation into the murders, and into the possibility that her brother is innocent of the crime.

Flynn is a great storyteller. She creates interesting and flawed characters that the reader can really connect with. I would recommend, both, Dark Places and Gone Girl.  

“I have a meanness inside me, real as an organ. Slit me at my belly and it might slide out, meaty and dark, drop on the floor so you could stomp on it.”
― Gillian FlynnDark Places

“I was not a lovable child, and I’d grown into a deeply unlovable adult. Draw a picture of my soul, and it’d be a scribble with fangs.”
― Gillian FlynnDark Places

“But I was born bent out of shape. I could picture myself coming out of the womb crooked and wrong. It never takes much for me to lose patience. The phrase fuck you may not rest on the tip of my tongue, but it’s near. Midtongue.”
― Gillian FlynnDark Places

 

BRAKE ASSIST

Story Time – Old God New by M.D. Parker

It was a soft chime that signaled the readiness of the mixture. She considered it for a moment; a soft chime. There should be bells and celebratory horns of cheer, she thought. If only this machine knew what it had just done.

She gripped the cylinder with all four gloved digits wrapped tight. A thought launched from her lower brain, traveled down the cable into the robotic arm of the lab’s chair and swung her around. She came face to face with the tube. The side was open and waiting, like the arms of a mother. Gently, she laid the canister in and locked it into place. The tube’s walls closed in checkerboard materialization until the sidewall was whole and solid. The chair brought her to the communications terminal of the laboratory. She pressed one button and a familiar, yet unfriendly, face greeted her on the screen.

“It is ready,” she said. The face did not answer. His elongated head and prominent brow ridge just nodded, and cut the visual connection.

On one end of the lab was the quarantine chamber. The large transparent wall allowed for ease in observing whatever subject may have to reside in there. But it was the window at the opposing end of the laboratory that held the subject she was interested in. Out there, beyond the transparent screen, floated a young orb surrounded by the coldness of space.

The chair’s multi-jointed arm lifted and realigned itself, positioning her one-quarter of a meter from the windowed wall. The tilt of the ship allowed her to look downward and stare at the blue-green ball that had so recently coalesced into its planetary shape. From this view she could not see the volcanoes that were bursting across the surface, nor the geologic plates that wrestled each other in a struggle to find position. This world had just been born and was still in the throes of infancy. It was beautiful.

She knew the window’s screen would allow for magnification. She could look down on the primordial soup of the seas that covered so much of the surface, but she did not. She loved the view from up high; to be able to take in the whole of this world at once.

“Doctor, the Admiral has requested that you accompany him on the bridge’s observation deck while the capsule is implanted.”

She had not heard them enter. She turned in her chair and watched as they escorted the tube out the laboratory. It’s silvery-white housing hovering its way through the door guided by the device held in the speaking one’s hand.

“Yes, of course,” she said.

She dismounted her chair and followed them out. Her stark, white body wrap stood in metaphoric contrast to their industrial graphite colored ones. A junction in the hallway separated them from her. They continued down the hall, while she found her way to a lift platform that took her to the Admiral’s observation level.

Many others were there and had been awaiting her arrival. She tried to divert her eyes from them as they spoke her name and gave praise and appreciation for her accomplishments. Some of them truly meant it, she realized. Some cared little for the science and only what they could make of her design. Their adulation was false, and the words which they spoke held a stink that she swore would blacken her mind if she spent more time among them.

“Doctor, thank you for joining us,” The admiral nodded again. His brow lifted and his arms extended as he turned to face the others once she had taken her position within the room.

“My fellows,” he continued. “Today we have embarked on a great experiment. On behalf of the council, I thank each of you for your individual part. Now, I will turn us over to the doctor as she guides us through the final implementation of the project. Doctor… the short version, if you will.”

“Yes, of course,” she said.

She gestured them to the window screen where she began explaining how the project had come from dream to idea to fruition. She quickly took them through each of the steps that had brought them all to why they stood before her.

“… and finally we see the capsule being launched. The mixture of amino acid compounds that define our structural genetic coding is making its way to the chosen planet. This planet. The third from its sun in this isolated arm of its galaxy. From here we will learn if we will become gods.”

M.D. Parker on Facebook and Twitter

 

Story Time – The Genesis Echo (An Excerpt) by M.D. Parker

M.D. Parker, the husband half of Write on the Road, has launched a Kindle Scout Campaign. Please take a minute and go nominate his novel for publication! It is FREE! All you need is an Amazon or Kindle login. If his book is chosen to be published, you will receive a FREE copy of the novel just for nominating it! Thank you so much for your support! Please go HERE to nominate! You can read the excerpt below.


The Genesis Echo (An Excerpt)

She stopped spinning the metallic cup and watched as the liquid continued to swirl inside. She lifted her vision without lifting her head to the edges of the room. The barman stood in front of a mirrored glass serving wall, which she used to further scan the depth of the room. Lyn brushed back the single lock of blonde-streaked hair that hung in front of her face. Might be time to change it now that the job is over. Maybe red this time. It’ll match, she thought as she noted the drops of dried blood on her coat sleeve. Yes, the job was done. Each job came with its own highs and lows. This time had been especially low, but a job is a job… until the next one comes. At least she got herself a little personal bonus on the side. She wiped at the stain on her sleeve.

There were other patrons off to her right seated at the polished wood-trimmed metal bar. She wondered where the barman could have acquired so much glass and wood in this forsaken little system. Her mind took a brief stroll trying to estimate the sheer cost of it all. She knew her estimates were coming up short. Why would someone have put so much into a nameless hellhole like this? I guess it’s not nameless, she thought, remembering the image of the glowing sign above the door that read simply: Bar-04. She took a long swallow from her cup. She snickered out loud; both at the wasted extravagance, and the man moving toward her from her left side.  

Lyn had already taken notice of him. His stance and coy attempts at stalking her without being seen had given her all the information she needed. She wondered why he couldn’t do the same? He only saw what he wanted, and paid no mind that she was clearly not there to talk to anyone – especially him. Well, might be fun to shatter a man-child’s dreams today.

He moved, oblivious to her subtle shift in posture. Lyn studied his reflection through the mirrored wall at the edge of her vision. He was coming in from her left, and it was obvious he failed to note that she was armed. A smart man would have looked her over completely. A smart man would have seen the sidearm on her lower hip, and the utilitarian way her hair was tied back. Most importantly, he would have noticed she had not spoken to a single other soul since she entered the backwater hole tucked into the space left between two backwater colony outbuildings.

She was the antithesis. For Lyn had already looked him over. The pilot’s jumpsuit with the top unzipped and tied about his waist revealing what he hoped was a desireable chest covered in an undershirt at least a size too small. She watched his stance, the way his eyes wandered the room without taking in its depth. She saw the smoothness of his hands, the cleanness of his hair, and the lack of wear on the jumpsuit. All betrayed the lie he was trying to sell of a well-worked and rugged male specimen. He was not that smart. Maybe, this would be entertaining. Her forehead lowered her eyebrows as her eyes narrowed. She smelled the residue of his perfumed soap. He was almost to her.

Lyn spun herself around, dropping off her stool with her feet slightly apart. She did not allow the startled reaction of her sudden movement to wane. She moved with rehearsed speed. Her left hand clutched the front of his undershirt, snapping his head backward as she jerked him forward into her. Her face moved alongside his. Cheek to cheek their skin almost touched.

“Hush. Say nothing,” She felt a smile grow on her lips. “Say nothing at all. I wanna make sure you hear every word.” She waited for him to nod before going on and saw the light of perverse hope in his eyes. “Go away from me. Do so quietly and I won’t embarrass you in front of all these nice people.”  

He drew in a breath and she continued before his mouth could betray his body, “I’m not looking. I am not interested. You can’t handle me. So we share a mind – I would rather have a romp with a Clicker than even think about how you’re going to end up diddling yourself alone tonight. Hush.”  She put a single finger up to his lips, and then patted his cheek as she pushed back. “Now, be a good boy and try to remember, I don’t know what patience is.”

Lyn began to turn as he stepped into her, his fingers curling around her wrist.

“Feisty one, aren’t ya?”

I told him, she thought. He’s just not a smart one. She rolled her arm up and around locking the same arm that he just attempted to control her with. She brought her other hand up, hard into the underside of his jaw. She heard the teeth slam together in his head and wondered how big the piece of tongue was that just detached from the rest. Her foot came down along the back of his knee and she made no effort to control his descent. His forehead struck the bar on the way to floor.  She let him go.

“See? No patience.”  

Lyn pantomimed brushing her hands off on her rust-colored dungarees and straightening the tan waistcoat she was wearing. A few people stopped with their eyes locked on her little scene. She picked up her drink, moved one stool over, sat back down, and took in one large gulp.

She began cataloging the two men at the end of the bar. They seemed most interested in what just happened – their eyes reviewing her.  The shorter one was more stout with a scarred forehead and a militant haircut of flaming red hair. The other was taller, thin, and dark skinned like the blackness of the Void itself. His hair had begun to lose color, showing a paleness at the edges that was neither gray nor white exactly. His eyes showed a slight unevenness. The left one with a laziness that was almost unperceivable, as if he was trying to self-cure his amblyopia. They both still held the same drinks in their hands that they ordered when they entered.   

She set herself against the leering gaze and locked eyes with them, one at a time, in turn. Lyn gave Stumpy the once over first, realizing that he was sitting straight up, not slumped over or leaning into the bar, making him shorter than her, but he would still be the bigger problem if it came to that. Darkey on the other hand was leaning, and was still taller. Something in their eyes; they were sizing her up. Neither seemed to be interested in duplicating the man-child’s mistake, nor did they want to take on something of a more sporting nature, they were mentally recording all of her. They were… assessing her. She saw then that Stumpy was no longer watching her, but seeing something behind her, something her attention had been diverted from.  

She became so transfixed with what Stumpy and Darkey were doing that she ignored the rest of Bar-04. That was until she noticed Stumpy’s single nod to her. The subtle indicator that maybe she should turn around. And turn she did, but a nanosecond too late. Lyn didn’t see Mister I-lie-to-get-laid stand up. She did see the front of his closed fist as her face turned. She did hear some curse about her lineage and her ignorance as the knuckles made contact with her upper lip and nose. As she slid off her barstool, she gathered her feet as best she could, and he laughed.  

Lyn didn’t hit the floor fully. She managed to get both feet under her, and raised her head to see him set himself for her counterstrike. He could fight, she saw, but he wasn’t practiced. She let him move in. She closed the distance as he started to change his weight. She allowed it to last long enough for him to get three swings, only one of which connected, albeit just a grazing blow. She merely gained a hold, introduced his abdomen to her knee and stood him back up with a second knee to his face. He grasped for her throat, and ended up with a thin lock of hair as he landed face up on the nearest table. In his rearward flail, he sent a hot drink flying into the lap of the blue-gray tinted skin of a Roliquin.  Bar-04 erupted.

“Fuck.” Was all she said before she started laughing her way through the next thirty seconds.  She backed against the bar to prevent someone circling. Lyn saw an incoming stool that missed its intended target, which she believed was the Roliquin, and was able to sidestep enough that its metal leg barely brushed by her hip. She spun and threw out a front kick into the gut of the first one coming at her. The man-child was back on his feet, and coming in for her. Behind him, four other patrons of Bar-04 were now involved in their own individual wars. The place descended into chaos. She smiled. She let him come. Lyn heard the crack of bone as she dropped him to the ground for the third time. Before he could make any attempt to regain his feet, she dropped on him wrapping herself around him. It’s what he had wanted all along, she considered as all of her teeth could be counted through her grin. His head lulled back onto her shoulder as his consciousness drifted away.

She began to release her grip. His eyes popped open. His hand, broken just above the wrist, clutched at her, “You’re going to have to kill us all,” he said.

She stopped.

His voice came out guttural and cracked. His eyes blank. On her knee, she still had a half hold on him as the words dripped out one by one. They were not his eyes. Not the eyes of the man-child she denied. Even the color in them had changed. The sounds of the ensuing bar brawl failed to reach her ears.

“You’re going to have to kill us all, before the morning comes, if you want to save yourself – if you want to save him,” said the sluggish voice from elsewhere.

She started to stand, to match the hair on the back of her neck and arms. She felt a hand reach and grab hold of her shoulder. The sounds of the bar returned. She dropped her shoulder, slacked her knees and spun, dropping low, to sweep out the legs of the new attacker. She missed as he was pulled back from behind. It was Stumpy, the redhead, being pulled back by Darkey.  

“Whoa!” Stumpy’s hands went up into a ‘not me’ gesture.  

“Quick! Follow us, and we can all get out of here.” Darkey nodded toward the front of the bar. The large round entrance, with a rolling pneumatic-powered door, sat open along its track with the final few inches protruding from the receiving recess in the wall.

There were seventeen others in the bar. Only two were not actively fighting or attempting to flee. Both were hiding under their tables, and by the end of the night, they would be the only ones to leave feeling they met someone new, someone special, in their life. Though they would never return to that particular watering hole, they would spend a great deal of time in them together. And when they did find themselves out, they would always sit near an exit.

The melee forced the three of them to fight their way out. Stumpy led and Darkey followed her. She saw Stumpy shove one off-balance man in greasy overalls out of their way as they went. Lyn put down two other patrons of the once quiet bar. One was just knocked back out of the way, but the other was sent to the stars and was not going to appreciate the first couple of hours after he woke up. She did not bother to turn and see how the dark one was doing.

Out the entrance and across the gap between buildings – down an open air corridor created by two buildings, set at a diagonal, to form an angled street – they went. Once on the main street, Lyn spat blood from her mouth and wiped at the trail coming from her nose. The streak of blood it left on her sleeve ran alongside the drops that had dried there before. The street was nearly deserted. A single shop, of what purpose she was clueless, stood open. A tracked people-hauler was parked across from them.

“I guess I should be thanking you for the assist.” Lyn nodded at Stumpy as she spoke.

“Evelyn Ab…” The dark one started, but was cut short.

“Lyn. Just Lyn,” she corrected him. Lyn instantly felt the rush of calculations going on in her head.  How did he know who she was, especially her whole name? Her innards twisted; nothing good was to come of this, she thought.

“Fine. Lyn. I would like to introdu…”

“Want to tell me how you know my name?” Her question shot across his words as a demand. She postured for the attack, wanting to keep him backpedaling. Who were these two?

“I was tryin’ to do just that.” His deep baritone voice carried a practiced authority. Nothing in his voice said he was pretending to be tough. It was the voice of someone sure of himself, in the I-have-been-in-charge-for-a-long-while kind of way.

“Well, then get to it.” She wasn’t about to let up. Her eyes darted back and forth between the two of them, watching their hands and stance. She searched for any sign of their next move.

“Lyn,” Darkey nodded toward her, still authoritarian, but with am allowed hint of submission, “this is Slone.” He motioned to Stumpy. “I’m Khenu, Captain of the Genesis.”

“So?”

“So, I’m here to offer you a job.” Khenu’s eyebrow lifted as the one he called Slone offered a medwipe to her. Lyn took it, and pinched her nose off to stem the bleeding.

“You didn’t tell me how you know my name.”

“No. I didn’t.” Khenu did not flinch; his jaw set. He stared straight at her. Lyn kept her shoulders squared off. The two spent a lifetime sizing each other up, from his blackened irises to her green ones and back. She’d been offered jobs under more questionable circumstances, and a job is a job. These two helped her when they had no cause to. Besides, she thought, maybe this time the job will have a better ending.

And twenty seconds into that lifetime Lyn relaxed her shoulders, straightened her tan waistcoat once more, lifted an eyebrow of her own, and spoke.

“What’s the job?”


You can also check this out!

The Ghosts Between by M.D. Parker. Available on Kindle for $0.99 or Free with Kindle Unlimited!

Preservation at Keys Ranch

Preservation at Keys Ranch
Guest Blogger, M.D. Parker  (my additional comments are in parenthesis and bold…and of course, the amazing photo captions)

Things decay slower in the desert, but they still decay. Cars will rust, wood will rot, and things will slowly dissolve into nothingness; only a whisper of a memory. (If this isn’t a happy-go, lucky way to start a blog, then I just don’t know what is….). Keys Ranch is no different. Time instructs nature to take it back, every car body, wagon shell, and plank of wood. As such, preservation work becomes an ongoing affair at the ranch, and we have been lucky enough to witness some of the work in action.

The staff at Joshua Tree National Park are attempting to maintain Keys Ranch in – one ranger coined it as – “an arrested state of decay.” They are not trying to ‘restore’ it, nor are they ‘reconstructing’ it. The goal is to preserve the ranch as close as possible to what it was at the end of the 1960’s/beginning of the 1970’s, after Bill Keys passed away and the ranch came into the National Parks’s possession – This is where Cornerstones Community Partnerships steps in.

This non-profit organization works with several national parks in an attempt to help preserve our historic landmarks. Cornerstones Community Partnerships runs internships, paid and unpaid, to run projects to save our historical landmarks while provided training to underprivileged and disadvantaged persons.

During their one week trip to Keys Ranch, the Cornerstones work group, led by Jean Fulton, took on a list of tasks, including a couple they weren’t even aware of until they arrived (a severe wind storm had added some damage two days before their arrival – which at the time made us wonder if you still land in Oz, even if you don’t depart from Kansas…).

In the case of Keys Ranch, Cornerstones did everything they could to use materials that were already there in order to preserve history, before they added any new materials. If new materials needed to be used, they made every attempt to put everything back together in the same fashion as was done at the ranch up to a hundred years ago.

Bill Key’s work shed had a door falling in and was in danger of losing its roof – the metal plates clapping in rhythm with the wind.

Bill’s Workshop
M.D. Parker helped put together the scaffolding, and therefore, felt super important. 🙂

The chicken coop’s fence was about to become one with the sand, and a Joshua tree was offering its final bow.

The chicken coop before…
Before…
Cleaned up a bit. The canvass will be replaced on the coop soon.
This Joshua Tree had to be removed to make sure it was not going to fall and take out the chicken coop fence with it.

Preservation work to the rabbit cages should keep those pesky coyotes out.

Rabbit cage
New fencing to keep the ghosts of rabbit past inside, and the coyotes hunting them on the outside…

The guest cabin received new window glazing and its door frame secured to prevent the collapse of the front end.

Work on the guest cabin
Working on the window glazing…or the best cocaine party ever.

The schoolteacher’s cabin facade had been damaged, not from the elements, but from a recent case of vandalism. But the front slats, door frame and door were repaired and a new latch installed.

You can see the damage under the window from vandalism. Vandals go to that special hell – reserved for child molesters and people who talk in the theater – Shepard Book, Firefly
Cornerstones Community Partnerships workers reserving their place in that special heaven.

The one-stamp ore mill had gone through 5 rounds with the heavyweight wind, and loss by TKO. The copper plates were put back together and rail systems secured, and we got to help!

M.D. Parker did some stuff to this stamp mill…not sure what…although he told me, I didn’t really listen – I guess it fits into the same category as football.

The tack house door, one of Bill Key’s less than impressive works of art, was rotting and the first of two stages of preservation was done.

This is the tack house…which was originally a cyanide tank. Upcycle friggin’ everything, apparently!
The path to heaven is paved with remnants of cyanide? Who knew?

The main house suffered sudden damage as well during the recent winds, which the Cornerstones group wrangled together an emergency stabilization effort to keep the door and windows from breaking away forever – full preservation repairs will be done on their next trip.

Work on the main house while a tour was in progress.

All of these things, and a few other tidbits of preservation work, were performed. There was also much discussion for future projects and what would need to be done in the years to come to keep the Keys Ranch around, so that many generations can step back in time and learn what it was like out here at the turn of the last century.

One final personal note: I can’t rave enough about the Cornerstones group! They were eager and dedicated to the job. Their organization is offering wonderful opportunities to train people that would not have had the chance without them. Go check out their webpage here and you can find them on Facebook too!

Book Review – NOS4A2 by Joe Hill

NOS4A2


“What a blessed if painful thing, this business of being alive.”
― Joe Hill, NOS4A2


Written by Joe Hill, my new author obsession. He is an amazing storyteller, with a great (creepy) imagination.

NOS4A2 is the story of The Brat, Victoria McQueen, a young girl that has a special talent for being able to find anything that she needs to find – which is all fine and dandy until you find a serial kidnapper that thoroughly believes he is doing good things. After all, the road to hell is paved with good intentions – and so is the road to Christmasland.


“I felt like it needed some color down there, so I painted the walls with the motherfucker.”
― Joe Hill, NOS4A2


Charlie Manx has his own special talent – he is the only person who knows the way to Christmasland, and he loves to take kids there so they can find eternal happiness with presents, carnival rides, and games like Scissors for the Drifter. So much fun to be had!

Hill did an amazing job with the writing, superb dialogue, the strongest of characters, and a fantastic story. It creeps you out in all the right ways! Hill throws us some treats by giving nods to his father’s novels, such as It and Doctor Sleep – it’s always nice to come across old acquaintances in new ways.

I recommend this novel to anyone that enjoys King, Koontz, and Gaiman. I loved it even more than I did Heart-Shaped Box – the first of his that I read. I have already finished reading a third novel by Joe Hill – The Fireman, which I will be reviewing next.