So you can read my books

Monday, July 31, 2023



Richard Blaine finds himself alone, paralyzed, blind, and naked. What else could go wrong he asks.

He should have known better.


“You cannot connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards.”

- Sentient


My panic went into overdrive as my body was sucked like a strand of spaghetti through the lips of some unseen giant.

Ears popping painfully, I sailed through really foul-smelling air to tumble roughly across a painfully hard metal floor.

‘Up! Hold those hard-won hands up! Do not let them hit the floor even slightly, or you will lose them!’

I held them up.

Though I couldn’t feel my numb hands, I certainly could feel my throbbing wrists, so I held those up.

I had a thousand questions for Sentient. I didn’t get a chance to ask even one.

Rough, calloused hands jerked me to my feet. I wobbled and weaved, but I managed to stand on my own. I almost cried from the relief of having control of my body once more.

Wiry fingers poked and prodded me. I winced as it felt like needles were attached to those fingers. I jerked as a dozen stabs plunged into my flesh all along my body.

A stench of burnt fabric filled my head. The heavy fabric fell from my eyes.

I immediately wanted it back.

One wizened, stunted creature stonily eyed me with no comprehension at all in its solid black eyes.

Angular, covered with fur, it was the strangest creature I had ever seen. Short but amazingly strong to have lifted me so easily. It stood rock-still, but it seemed to vibrate in place.

‘It is … the closest phrase for it is a “Medical Savant.” No intelligence per se, but a phenomenal skill in healing … all instinctive.’

I opened my mouth to mutter thanks, but Sentient stopped me.

‘Even if it had ears, it would not understand you. You are 413 years from where you once were. The language spoken here … let us call it … Englysch. Though those who survived the Attrition Wars with enough intellect to cogitate and speak do not think broadly enough to conceptualize in such a manner.’


‘To think I missed conversing with your limited intellect.’

‘I missed you, too.’

The galling part of that sentence was that I meant it.

‘People who spoke Old English did not call it that. They called it Ænglisc. Chaucer and his peers did not call the language they spoke "Middle English", they called it Inglissh.’

‘If it is so primitive here, why bring me to this time?’

‘Because this edifice still contained the advanced technology of the Attrition Wars without the wholesale slaughter and butchery of that conflict exploding all around it.’

‘You mean you saved my hands?’

‘That was beyond me. Your hands and the fingers attached to them still remained clenched around the trigger handles when I took you here.’

‘Then, what is attached to my throbbing wrists?’

I looked down at my heavy bandages in the shape of hands. Strange looking wrappings though.

‘The latest and last advancement in Intelligent Prosthesis. An amazing prototype actually.’

‘Super. The last prototype cost me my hands.’

‘Your perverse, stubborn stupidity cost you your hands!’

The Savant shrugged absently and shambled through the wall.

‘And you are welcome, by the way.’

‘I didn’t thank you.’

‘You never do.’

The wall directly in front of me started to glow a strange sort of blue.

 ‘Ah, it can’t get back in?’

‘It does not want to. In fact, it is scurrying far, far away. No, the lone remaining Harvester wants in. Wants in very badly.’

I asked though I had a sinking feeling just what crop it wanted to harvest.

“Harvest what?’

‘Your over-sized thymus … at least for these times … and your distinctive medulla oblongata … though none now live who could benefit from their transplanting.’

‘How did that … Harvester even know I was here?’

‘As soon as you emerged from … oh, talking to your limited awareness is so inconvenient … let us just call it an advancement in Hyperbaric Chambers … it was notified of your body’s ripe condition for harvesting.’

The wall had gone to dull red and now was rapidly becoming cherry red. I could feel the heat of it a dozen feet away.

‘Ah, “away” would be a good place to be, don’t you think?’

‘Say “please.”’


‘I did not like your tone. Politeness is to an intelligent nature what warmth is to wax.’

I clenched my new fingers and immediately regretted it. I found out I could feel pain in my artificial hands. Good news: at least, I could move them.

‘Please. Pretty please … with both my burned off hands on top.’

‘Must you always be a smart-ass?’

‘No. Sometimes I sleep.’

And with that, we were gone … elsewhere.


Sunday, July 30, 2023



Choosing to risk his own life rather than order one of his Spartans to almost certainly lose their hands, if not their own life,

Richard Blaine fires a prototype Laser Cannon from the future to save his men and the wounded soldiers from Operation Tiger.

As the ghost of Mark Twain could have told him: no good deed goes unpunished. Blaine collapses from the pain.


“No one is so brave that he is not disturbed by something unexpected.”

– Julius Caesar


That I woke up not dead was the first surprise.

The second surprise followed close on the heels of the first: I was blind.

A heartbeat stab of cold panic. Then, I felt the heavy, strange fabric covering my eyes.

I heaved a sigh of relief. If my eyes were covered, it hinted that there was a chance I would be able to see again.

My eyes were covered for a reason.

I reflected on the purity of all human motivations, and the panic was back.

Eyesight is not just about seeing.

It's about truly experiencing the world around us.

Our eyesight is a gift that allows us to see the beauty and wonder of life, to navigate around the bumps and potholes of life.

To have good eyesight is to have a window into the soul of the world, into the souls of those around us revealed in their eyes.

The truth of eyes lies not only in their color and shape, but also in the stories they tell or don’t tell.

Without my sight, I was naked against the night, against those who dwelled in the night of the soul whether it was day or dark.

That thought led to the third surprise: I was naked.

It’s said clothes make the man. I suppose so. As Mark Twain wrote: Naked men have little to no influence on society.

In a strange way clothes are on us to expose us -- to advertise why we wear them to conceal. Take a raven tying peacock feathers to his wings.

That would tell you much about that particular raven.

We put clothes on to propagate the lies of our lives and back them up.

The lack of clothes led me to the fourth surprise: I was floating.

Like Dorothy before me, I realized I was no longer in Kansas. In the America of the 1940’s, floating patients was reserved for Magic Acts.

Cold air currents flowed over me making my body one big goose bump.


Well, that ruled out Hell … unless I was on the lowest level. But then, what had Dante known?

And the smell of those air currents was all off. It smelled stale but neutral. No stench of burnt flesh from my charred palms.

 I was getting creeped out by all these surprises.

Nothing is more memorable than a smell. One scent can be unexpected, momentary and fleeting, yet conjure up a childhood summer beside a lake in the mountains.

Sometimes life takes you on unexpected paths. But this was ridiculous. I understood that those paths aren't always in the same direction.

Still, I hate it when life decides to tug me in opposing directions to see if it can break me.

The fifth surprise was that I couldn’t feet my hands, but my wrists hurt like hell.

Was I in Hell?

If so, then the custodians had taken my clothes. Out of meanness, out of a lousy sense of humor?

Enough was enough.

Apparently, not. My nose started to itch. I tried to scratch it with my right throbbing wrist.

I couldn’t move.

Now, I was beginning to panic.

At St. Marok’s I had seen new arrivals at the orphanage panic. It always ended badly for them.

Panic implies that there is no rational solution to the pressing problem.

But with a working mind … and my mind was one of the few things I had that was still working … you could always find some remedy to the situation.

Not a perfect remedy, mind you, but then this is an imperfect world.

You worked with what you had.

I had a mind, so I would use that.

A single event can awaken within us a stranger totally unknown to us. To live is to be slowly born. I certainly felt as ignorant and helpless as a new-born.

So, what did a new-born baby do when it was scared?

It cried.

‘All right, Sentient. Where am I? Where are you?’

No answer. Long, long minutes of no answer.

All right. Maybe now was the time to panic.

A little.

Saturday, July 29, 2023



One lone futuristic Higgins boat finds itself the sole protection for the trapped convoy of WWII's Operation Tiger.

A major with no knowledge of how to lead finds himself the unwilling host to an ancient entity, Sentient.

He must find it within himself to be more than what he believes he can be or soldiers who trust in him will pay a terrible price.


“We're born alone, we live alone, we die alone. Only through our love and friendship can we create the illusion for the moment that we're not alone.”

- Orson Welles


I fixed my face into stone. I would do what I could until I figured the rest out.

St. Marok's taught me:

Real life is nasty. It's cruel. It doesn't fight fair.

It doesn't care about heroes and happy endings and the way things ought to be. In real life, bad things happen. People die. Fights are lost. Evil often wins.

But until it did, you kept swinging with all you had.

And sometimes, miracles happened. Not very damn often … but enough times to keep you trying.

“We’ll slip in between those two new E-Boats. Each team has one last Stinger. When we fire, we’ll hurl the Argon batteries into them as we pass. Then, we head to those drowning soldiers and pick them up.”

“Just how the hell do we do that?” barked Reese. “Throw a fishing line over those damn high bulkheads?”

In desperation, I hurled my thoughts at Sentient. ‘What he said.’

‘I do not have the time to explain, nor you the mental capacity to understand the permeable dialectic structure of reality. Just tell that pest “A futuristic form of Osmosis.”’

So, I did.

Reese snorted, “That don’t make no sense.”

Sgt. Savalas snapped, “Shoot now. Bitch later. Much later!”

I took a deep breath, “This is where we hold them! This is where we fight! This is where they die! Remember this day, for it will be yours for all time.”

We sailed between the strange looking E-Boats. We fired. We might as well have launched fireworks at them. The Argon batteries did a bit better, starting fires and killing a few Nazis on the decks.

Cloverfield swung his Sig Spear over his shoulder, took aim, and killed a few more. Reese and Wilson did the same. Sgt. Savalas followed a heartbeat later.

Then, we were past them, quickly turning towards the floundering soldiers. The salty sea spray burned my eyes as we moved at a fantastic speed.

Some of those soldiers sank even as we neared them. The Rocinante rocked violently as a torpedo from one of the new E-Boats scored a direct hit.

“Hey!” yelped Porkins. “I thought we was protected from their torpedoes.”

“I-I have an enemy in New Orleans. And he is more intelligent than humanly possible. He sent these ships to kill me.”

Reese twisted about in his seat to glare at me. “So, we die because you made a bad enemy? They ain’t dying like you just claimed they would. But because of you, we will!”

The Rabbi met him glare for glare. “Remind us again how Rick saved you in Calcutta.”

Reese’s hot eyes never left mine. “That was then. This is now.”

The Rocinante rocked violently again from another direct hit.

“H-How many hits like that can we take, Major?” quavered Porkins.

Reese answered for me. “Not too damn many more and that’s for sure, Franklin.”

A huge hatch beneath Theo and me opened, and a familiar voice called out, “Well, you guys sure know how to show a girl a good time.”

Sgt. Savalas added his glare to Reese’s. “Damn you, Rick, you brought Rachel out here?”

I was about to tell my friend that I had no memory of bringing the nurse here, but he angrily snapped. “Save it, Blaine! I don’t believe in that Dark Passenger of yours anymore. Not if it puts Rachel in jeopardy!”

Blaine, was it? I sighed. I had lost another friend to Sentient.

As the rest of my Spartans rushed out of the enormous hatch, Rachel grabbed Theo by both arms. “Oh, don’t be that way! I made him promise to keep mum.”

“Doc” Tennyson walked hurriedly to me as I slid from my seat. “My God, Major! The medicines, splints, and other aides in that chamber. And all of them with simple self-explanatory directions. We could deal with a full-fledged disaster.”

Rachel was literally dancing around my former friend. “We will be able to save ever so many of even the worst of the wounded. Oooh!”

A wave of frigid water washed over our ankles as three dozen wounded soldiers tumbled through the bulkheads at our feet.

Theo glared at me and said low, “I hate you for putting Rachel at risk like this.”

She grabbed a tiny fistful of his jacket.

“Stow that kind of talk, Mister! I huddled scared out of my wits all during the Blitz, praying for a chance to get back at those bloody Nazis. And this, Sgt. Savalas, is the answer to that prayer!”

The Rocinante lurched terribly as two torpedoes hit us at once.

‘That Reese is correct. We shall sink if hit with too many more torpedoes. But if Morton cheats, then so will I.’

A sibilant jinking of metal joints drew my eyes to the bow of Rocinante. A strange jutting cannon rose gleaming and deadly in the full moonlight. It was as if that Martian Death Ray from H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds had been given life … or should I say Death.

Stairs formed beneath it to take someone to fire it.

‘Have that malcontent Reese shoot it. He owes you for Calcutta.’

I didn’t like the tone to Sentient’s words. ‘Why?’

‘It is a prototype from 310 years from now. To shoot it for long will cost the person his hands. But the gloves I have tucked in his belt will help somewhat with the pain.’

‘What? No! I am not a general that I will order someone to maim themselves doing a job that I can.’

‘You will not!”

The stairs melted back into the bulkhead.

Watch me.’

I raced to Reese and snatched the gloves from under his belt as Rachel watched with a frown. “I’ll take these.”

“Hey! I didn’t even know I had those.”

“Then, you won’t miss them, will you?”

Running up to the Martian Death Ray, I grabbed Cloverfield by the left upper arm. “James, I need a boost.”

His brows furrowed at my use of his first name. “Why?”

“Because Theo is too mad to do it right now. And we have no time for him to cool off. I don’t act now; you all will die.”

His eyes narrowed even more. “Why don’t I go up there instead of you?”

Rachel was suddenly at my side as I said, “Whoever shoots that gun will lose his hands.”

“No!” they both yelled.

“James, I am not a general to order someone to maim themselves. The rank is mine. So, is this task.”

Rocinante rocked from another torpedo hit. “James!”

“You’re a wanker for making me do this!”

He made a stirrup of his fingers and boosted me up to leap to the malevolent weapon. Oh, merde, I was such an idiot.

‘Yes, you are. I will not minimize the pain.’

‘I’m not asking you to.’

‘The way to fire is self-evident. Even a simpleton like you can do it.’

‘I’ll miss you, too.’

Theo was frowning as if suspecting something was up. I called down to him and the Rabbi.

“Amos, Theo, the Spartans are yours now! I’ve done what I can. Be good shepherds.”

‘You do not have to do this!”

‘Sure, I do. Now, charge those two tin cans!”

The wind of Rocinante’s charge almost blew off my Spartan Helmet. I clung to the Death Ray while I pulled on Reese’s stiff gloves.

I blew out a breath. Sooner or later, everyone sits down to a banquet of consequences ...and the indigestion from this one was going to kill me.

What would be my last thought? Would I even finish it?

Mr. Morton’s two E-Boats seemed to be rushing up to me when I knew it was quite the opposite. This was not going to be “that good night” nor was I going to go gently into it.

I frowned. That poem had not been written yet. How did I know that?

‘You are about to die and yet, you still can drive me to distraction!  I … I will miss you.’

‘Now, you tell me.’

I grabbed the dual grips and pulled the triggers as I aimed at the Nazi boats.

Screaming wetly, I wrenched my smoking palms from the grips.

I expected pain but not like that.

I flexed my steaming, gloved fingers. All right. I had been hurt before. I could do this.

I could.

I drew in a frigid lungful of air, willing myself to grip those trigger handles. I squirmed in agony.

I pried open tearing eyes to target those sons of bitches sent from Morton.

Maybe I was a lousy soldier, a lousy leader, a worse teacher.

But I could spare those who trusted me to watch out for them.

I could.

I just couldn’t hold back the screams anymore. I just could not.

 But there was one thing I could do. I could hold on.

I had held on all my life, never giving the bullies in my life the satisfaction of crying “Uncle.”

And I wouldn’t cry it now.

I screamed but I held on.

I held on, shooting dazzling acid beams of light into one E-Boat and then the second.

Then, a grenade tossed from the nearest E-Boat hit the outer edge of the Death Ray’s housing. An invisible force came between me and the explosion.

Still, flames enveloped the rounded outside of the turret. Dozens of jets of cold sea water doused the sizzling funeral pyre in front of me, enveloping me in reams of steam.

To my friends on the deck, it must appear as if I were being consumed in my own Viking funeral.

My head was so light. My hands were flaming comets. I fought back bile. Everything was going dark.

Over the stench of my burning flesh, I smelled the apricot perfume of … Helen Mayfair?

That could not be.

But it was.

I heard her voice. She was reading a favorite poem of hers to me in that mysterious, deadly library at St. Marok’s. I remembered that particular evening so clearly.

And for a heartbeat, the terrible agony eased just a bit. Just a bit. But still, that “bit” was wonderful.

“To every man upon this earth

Death cometh soon or late.

And how can man die better

Than facing fearful odds,

For the ashes of his fathers,

And the temples of his gods?”

The deck seemed to evaporate, and I fell to it as if into clouds.

I smiled, thinking, ‘I held on.’

Friday, July 28, 2023



Due to a cascade of accidents, inept leadership from the Brass, and cross-communications between American and British forces,

German E-Boats have evaded British patrols, been spotted, but neither American nor British are on the same radio frequency

so the convoy of Exercise Tiger is about to be massacred without warning.

It is up to the crew of the lone Higgins craft, Rocinante, to do what they can.


“It is better to stand and fight. If you run, you will only die tired.”

– George Armstrong Custer


Fear iced my blood. ‘Who is going to steer Rocinante?’

‘I am, of course. Do you have sufficient mastery of  differential and integral calculus to calculate where this craft must go to direct the repelled torpedoes into the E-Boats surrounding us?’

In my mind, Sentient’s voice was a living sneer. ‘I have observed Man from his very beginnings, and I have never seen a worse leader of men.’

‘You put me in this spot in the first place.’

‘“Bah! If you had but seen what I have seen, walked the paths of nightmare that I have, and endured the lonely ages as civilizations rose only to crumble, you might have some small understanding of me.’

I felt unseen fingers squeeze my nose. ‘Just because you picked your teams in your head, your men are not mind-readers to divine your choices.’


‘Fortunately, I imitated your voice within their helmets and notified each individual. Also, I have initiated a fuller instruction of how to use the Stinger missiles.’

My nose was squeezed again. Harder. ‘You failed to mention the BCU coolant unit of Argon gas which only lasts 45 seconds, then must be changed, turning it counter-clockwise.”


‘Yes, feces is what your training was worth. You are also quite possibly the worst instructor of men I have ever observed. Oh, and on board a sea vessel, it is hatch not door!’

‘I am a librarian not a war hero.’

‘Hero? You are a barely adequate soldier. You must become more than what you perceive yourself to be. Bah! I cannot believe I am directly entangled with any of this.’

‘Welcome to the club.’

‘The direct use of force is such a poor solution to any problem that it is generally employed only by small children and large nations.’

I started to yell for my eight to climb into their lowered chairs, when Sentient chided me. ‘Just speak normally. The sensors in your helmet will speak directly to theirs.’

‘But mine ….’

‘Looks outwardly like a traditional Spartan helmet, but it is much like theirs inwardly.’

“Into your seats, Spartans!” I snapped, angry at Sentient. Again.

I jerked as a tall standard shot up from the middle of the deck. I frowned. It was topped by a strange American flag. The rows of stars were off somehow. Then, I realized why. There were 51 stars.

‘I was feeling nostalgic for the future.’

I sighed. Another incomprehensible statement from Sentient.

I climbed into the shooter’s seat as the Stinger swung up from its housing and onto my right shoulder.

I frowned. These bulkheads were higher than any other Higgins I had ever seen.

‘Rocinante is not a Higgins obviously.’

Theo clambered into the seat next to mine. I spoke again. Milder.

It was not their fault that I had a Dark Passenger.

“Remember, Gentlemen, there is already a missile in the pipe, and the E-Boat must be at least nine feet away when you fire.”

To my right, Cloverfield protested as Lt. Stein got into the shooter’s seat. “Hey! When did I get to be the spear carrier?”

“When you told me about Auschwitz, James.”

On the opposite bulkhead, Reese, Porkins, Dee, and Sam had already decided who would be the shooter.

The hinged seat rose swiftly. My stomach decided to stay on deck. Salty spray from the ocean parting easily at our passage wet my face, stinging my eyes.

That would teach me to go all dramatic with an exposed face.

Suddenly, Rocinante lurched violently going starboard at a rate a Higgins boat couldn’t possibly attain. But then, Rocinante wasn’t in any way what she appeared from the outside.

Were any of us?

Explosions all around us. Screams. All from the E-Boats scattering as their own torpedoes detonated into one another.

Though I didn’t utter a word, I heard my voice in my helmet speakers. “Now! All of you. Fire on the E-Boat to your port side at twenty degrees. NOW!”

I’ll give my Spartans this: each of them, even the hardly battle-hardened Rabbi fired immediately. I followed a heartbeat later.

There were more explosions, more screams, more blood in the water. More recriminations from Sentient.

‘You were slow. Fortunately, I expected that and shifted Rocinante accordingly.’

‘How can I ever thank you?’ I mind-spoke sarcastically,

‘By being better.’

I ignored her and said, “Eject those Argon batteries.”

Sentient snapped in my voice through my speakers and theirs. “Catch them as they eject and throw them with all your strength at the craft to your starboard.”

I was so stunned that I failed to follow those orders. Sentient ripped control of my body from me and followed her own orders. The E-Boat She/I hit with my BCU coolant unit bellowed with the impact of what looked like a dozen sticks of dynamite.

Clouds of shrapnel swirled towards us, then veered away to hit one unlucky attack craft. More screams. One from Porkins.

Reese yelled so loud that I squirmed at the pain of his bellow in my ears.

“Franklin! You all right? Answer me, man!”

Porkins groaned in my speakers. “Just got my head rung good by that big piece of metal. I thought the hull was supposed to repel stuff like that.”

Reese’s relieved voice came through my speakers. “The hull, Numb Nuts! The hull. The air above it apparently is not so protected. Everyone! Keep your heads down as much as you can.”

‘Porkins is right. He should not have been hit. I sense Mr. Morten in this.’

‘But he is all the way back in New Orleans!’

‘His reach is long … as you should remember … which is why I have … Sister Ameal protecting your Helen.’


‘Hush! Focus on the moment.’

‘What moment?’

‘The two additional E-Boats charging us. Courtesy of Mr. Morten I would wager.’

“Damn!” snapped Cloverfield in my helmet’s speakers. “The convoy has caught up to us. Those ricocheting torpedoes might hit one of them!”

And of course, as soon as he said it, one torpedo veering off from us did just that.

Soldiers from the stricken ship tumbled overboard into freezing waters …

and because of the late, unlamented Captain Sturges, those doomed men were uselessly wearing their life vests around their waists.

How were we going to rescue those men with these high bulkheads … with two E-Boats shooting at us?


“The Spartans do not ask how many are the enemy but where are they.” – Plutarch

Thursday, July 27, 2023



“At the end of the day, let there be 
no excuses,
 no explanations, 
no regrets.”
― Steve Maraboli


The joy of being able to breathe deeply and often most of us take for granted.  Not so much anymore, right?

I had double pneumonia 3 times as a child in Detroit.  Moving with my parents to Louisiana probably saved my life.

Take in a deep breath now and let it out slowly.  The new/not so new MERS-CoV may take that away from you.

Enjoy the ability while you can.


"There are people in the world so hungry, that God cannot appear to them except in the form of bread.” 
- Mark Twain

If the full page ad Tyson ran in THE NEW YORK TIMES Sunday is any indication, Americans may become like those people.

As famines of "biblical proportions" loom, the UN Security Council urged its members to "act fast."

I hope you have prepared your pantry for hard times.


"Being taken for granted is an unpleasant but sincere form of praise, don't you know? 

Ironically, the more reliable you are, and the less you complain, the more likely you are to be taken for granted." 
 - Mark Twain

How many good friends have you allowed life to tug from your everyday thoughts?

How hard would it hit you if you heard they were dying in a hospital with MER-COV and you could not even visit them for a last goodbye due to regulations?


 “There’s power in the touch of another person’s hand. We acknowledge it in little ways, all the time. 

There’s a reason human beings shake hands, hold hands, slap hands, bump hands. 

 It comes from our very earliest memories, when we all come into the world blinded by light and color. 

And what changes that first horror, that original state of terror? 

 The touch of another person’s hands. 

Hands that wrap us in warmth, that hold us close. 

Hands that guide us to shelter, to comfort, to food. 

Hands that hold and touch and reassure us through our very first crisis, and guide us into our very first shelter from pain. 

The first thing we ever learn is that the touch of someone else’s hand can ease pain and make things better." 
- Jim Butcher

Covid-19 took that balm of touch from everyday life.

Recently, it was restored to us. 

But what if this administration takes this MER-COV as an excuse to institute a new lock-down with increased mail-in ballots to stack the deck?  

I keep Survivor Duck on my mantel to remind me that laughter and life can survive even the strongest storms ... 

like this little rubber duck who survived Katrina and waited for me to come back to the rear door of our battered blood center.

Appreciate the little things you have before they become large by their absence.

Stay Well, my friends ... Roland