Rights of Use by Shannon Eichorn, a review.

BLUF: A fast-paced and entertaining sci-fi read.

This past weekend, I met an intelligent and articulate author, Shannon Eichorn, at the Confluence convention in Pittsburgh, PA. She had released a debut novel “Rights of Use,” which involved alien abductions, a secret and underfunded Air Force unit, and alien/human symbiotic relationships. I’ll say right up front that the alien abduction sub-genre usually isn’t my thing, but something about her premise intrigued me. 

My reading preferences are eclectic, and it’s difficult to say which books I’ll select for my library. I chose this author’s book for a reason I can’t put a finger on. Maybe it was the whole underfunded Air Force unit thing; I can easily picture the scenario she described. One scene early on in the novel sold me on her work and kept me flipping pages.

I don’t think I’m putting any spoilers out there by describing the atmosphere at the remote Air Force base where a distraught father and politician landed to be read-in to the project. 

The oh-so-secret base was in the middle of nowhere, as one would expect, but it was a picture of disrepair and neglect. It was a dead-end for careers, complete with a seedy dayroom filled with taped-together furniture, cheesy decorations, and Hollywood posters depicting aliens. 

Anyone who has worked for Uncle Sam would recognize such a space. Lack of funding, penny-pinching, and careless use by government employees permeated her description. I thought it was authentic to a tee, and curiously enough, the dayroom setting in this “secret and powerful” base shot me ahead into the narrative.

The only things missing in her description were the scent of Pine-Sol, a bored enlisted trooper watching some crappy movie on an old TV, and a pot of vile coffee brewing in a stinky corner.

I thought this scene was wonderful. 

It took me a little while to get into her world-building; at first, there was some confusion. It was OK, though, because she resolved my questions as I plowed through the narrative. This is as it should be.

Something I noticed as I read was that I kept skipping over words to SEE WHAT HAPPENS NEXT. This is always a good sign for me; the author has engaged me in the given work.

Another thing I’d like to point out.

Ms. Eichorn’s debut novel is a far better effort than my own. Why do I say this?

Well, I regard “In the Valley” as a flawed work in a few regards. One of its problems is a simple lack of planning, and “Rights of Use” does not suffer from this. There is a clear structure, character development, midpoint, and acceleration to the finish. “In the Valley,” as many of you are aware, lacked some of these critical story beats. 

My first book was a study in “hold onto my beer and watch this,” it was written on a whim while I proceeded through the US Army Medical Board. Later books in the series had an outline and a structure, but the damage was done with Number One. Readers who made it through “In the Valley” to continue to the rest of the series have my appreciation and respect. Debut novels are NOT easy.

This author’s book shows the signs of careful planning and execution, which I appreciate. 

I have some minor quibbles, but they are just that, minor. At first, her “alien” words took some getting used to, but this is a standard tactic in sci-fi novels, and she didn’t overdo it. Some of the military bits weren’t entirely as I would have written them, but hey, my background and hers are wildly different. Also, a few sections required a bit of suspension of disbelief, but this is also standard sci-fi. If everything has to be hyper-realistic, I suggest you read a different book.

Me? I was content to sit back and enjoy an entertaining yarn, well-told.

Also, it turned out that some of the too-lucky escapes and surprising discoveries were… by design. I will say nothing further, as I don’t do spoilers.

If you are interested in Shannon Eichorn’s debut novel, I’d say it’s definitely worth a read. This goes doubly so with a first book and series kick-off. Very impressive.

I give it a solid four and a half stars.

Recommend. 

A decent deal

A detail from the header on my Patreon page over at patreon.com/jasonlambright. The artwork is by my daughter, a graphic arts major at the university.

Alright, I thought to re-visit a theme. I choose to do so because of some correspondence I’ve had of late with a few peeps; I have the idea that I haven’t made it exactly clear what’s hanging out over behind my paywall site.

In short, a ton of my content is posted over there.

For those who would like a free sample, I have included this link to the “FREE STUFF” tab, which I believe is insufficiently visible at the top of my page. It’s there, but I’m not happy with the Patreon format for accessing it.

Here’s what’s available to whoever would like to hang out and be one of my super-betas.

For three bucks a month, you get the free ARC of “The Storyteller’s Heaven,” which I made available to my guys shortly before the official launch. In addition, two complete rough draft manuscripts are posted, STORY1 and RIFLES1, which is the as-yet unpublished alternate history due out in November. The official title is “The King’s Ohio Rifles,” and I’ll let you guess its premise.

There’s more, of course. I am busy with the weekly serial release of chapters of the bridge novel in the Promised Land trilogy, “The Storyteller’s World.” About half of it has been posted to date. Also, about half of book two of the Ohio Rifles trilogy has been posted, “The Hidden Sun.” So, that’s two rough draft novels in progress to read as well.

If that’s not enough, the three-dollar tier also has access to my RANTS, stuff involving the writing process, and my life that I only post behind the paywall. I like the crowd on interstellar, don’t get me wrong, but I put out the nitty-gritty in a non-public forum to my dedicated peeps.

Finally, at the three-dollar level, you can chime in on all of the posts- your words impact the developing works. I said super-beta reader, and I meant it. My books are a team effort, and I’d like to have you aboard.

I must mention the five-dollar level, which has all the benefits of the three-dollar level, plus you get analysis pieces covering most chapters. This is where I explain my method as I write. I let you see the machinery behind the books; I explain my thought processes. For new or fellow authors, hang out here. Interact, and bounce ideas around. It’s great fun.

Finally, a few ten-dollar slots are still available to those who want skin in the game. You become part of my books at this level. What am I talking about? Well, you can choose naming rights on a character. I’ll put you into a book series of your choice. You can also knock up some fan-fic, and I’ll slide it into an ongoing project.

I believe in teamwork and getting my fans into the game. You may want to consider my site for those who want to take things to the next level. Also, all tiers get to communicate with me through IM; I check and answer these at least daily.

There are no caveats. No gimmicks. No infomercials. No timeshares in Florida. Just raw access to my work and a seat at the table.

It would be super cool to have you aboard!

J

The Storyteller’s Heaven

Hey, everybody.

Today is kind of a big day. It is the launch of my first published work since 2017, The Storyteller’s Heaven. It’s about a future where we start exploring interstellar space, where we push the boundaries between life, love, and death.

I am pleased to say that the book is available on Amazon right now.

I am even more pleased to say that I have set up a promotion for the launch; the book is set to zero dollars for this weekend only. This means that all of you can cruise over and pick up a copy for absolutely nothing.

This has been timed to coincide with a convention I’m attending this weekend, my first since the rotten plague descended upon us.

Guys, this was a real hump to climb this past year. No, years. I lost my publisher, wrote a ton with no idea how to set it free, endured the plague, witnessed the undoing of my work in Afghanistan, and descended into madness in Ukraine.

Somehow I managed, with a big assist from John Birmingham, to produce this book.

Now it’s out there, waiting for a good home. The five-year drought has ended. I have the tools in the box to produce more novels; at least five unpublished bits are waiting for release. Of course, my Patreon crowd has the first crack, but I haven’t forgotten my crew of lurkers over here, either.

So here you go. The Storyteller’s Heaven; available right now. It is set to free until Sunday, the last day of the ‘con.

As always, I welcome your feedback here and at other sites. If you like the book, it would also be cool to leave a review on Amazon.

Thanks for tuning in. This should be a pretty productive year!

21st Century Internet (finally)

So, I have a visitor from overseas named Dirk. He’s a bit of an IT guy. Well, he pushed me over the edge to do a few upgrades around here.

It started with a lamp. I have this annoying light in my living room with a broken switch. You can only turn it on and off by unplugging/plugging it in. A problem. Well, Dirk talked me into buying a smart plug for the crazy thing and hooking it into Google Home. It was an easy job. Now, if I want the lights on, I simply say “Hey Google, lights on” to the Google Home Mini that he brought as a housewarming present.

Pretty cool. Plus I can ask Google all kinds of other stuff.

But that was just the start, even though I thought it was pretty cool.

Turns out he had been researching my internet situation, too. In short, I was being ripped off by my old provider with seriously inferior DSL internet.

The best solution was T-Mobile wireless internet. He did his homework; in theory, I could pick up the cool black internet modem shown above to replace the old, crappy internet at considerable monthly savings. Plus there was supposed to be a performance upgrade, as well.

With some trepidation, we went to the T-Mobile store. I picked up the modem and signed on for an internet plan. We got it home, followed the instructions, and fired it up.

Holy cow, what a difference! On average, the wireless internet was SIX times faster than my old DSL, for less money and hassle!

However, we soon found out that my old router was weak and would need to be replaced.

Enter the Google Nest Wifi mesh network, available on Amazon for less than two hundred bucks. For complete WiFi coverage of the entire house, it was a must. Within two days, the hockey-puck-looking things showed up in the mail, and we wasted no time setting the network up.

It was easier than it sounded. First, the master router had to be plugged into the T-Mobile modem via an ethernet cable and electricity. Not a problem. Each mesh component had to be carefully placed and then entered into Google Home in turn and each had to be registered to the new house network.

After a few minor hiccups and three-quarters of an hour, the household mesh was up and running.

Each mini modem covers about 1500 square feet, and we had three. This was more than adequate coverage for my house. However, you can add up to twelve mini modems for truly large applications.

Three will do most houses just fine.

To summarize, this old house now has a pretty darn good internet system for a minimum output in money and time. T-Mobile and Google Home components come together to make for a pretty user-friendly and modern experience.

You should try it yourself, especially if your current provider thinks they own the market and can charge you exorbitant prices for inferior service. You should convince them otherwise.

So far, recommend.

A tough past week

Hey, everyone.

This past week has been the pits. A busy period while I was sick with stupid COVID again. I must say I’ve become a connoisseur of strains of the disease, Omicron wasn’t as bad as Delta. But it still sucked.

In between bouts of fever and coughing fits I managed to do the final edit of my latest manuscript, The Storyteller’s Heaven. The book is a space opera with a twist, set in the late twenty-first century. It was a lot of fun to write, and I look forward to the official launch fairly soon. Of course, any of you can read the serialized rough draft version over on my other website, patreon.com/jasonlambright.

It must be said that if you are so kind as to drop three bucks a month, you will also get another book in serial form and the opening chapters of two more novels. That’s a fair bit for three bucks. There are tiers for five and ten dollars as well, with increasing levels of rewards.

OK, enough with the sales pitch.

In addition to the edits, I was finally strong enough yesterday to mow the grass. Yes, the disease laid me that low. Weak to the point that riding around on a lawn mower seemed too much to ask. It was a terrible week for physical fitness activities; my pedometer app on my phone had been nothing but solid red bars for a while. Red is bad.

Today I get to play catch-up. Clean the house some, recover. It’s been a rough patch; I felt like Mr. Moore’s sculpture, see above. Heavy as a darn rock and sprawled out on the couch.

Time to play catch-up.

Since when is this American?

Something has been bothering me as of late. It seems that many people can no longer associate or speak to those with whom they are not in complete political or religious agreement. This is America, a land built upon a culture of disparate opinions and beliefs. This system is enshrined in the US Constitution, the founding document that some of the most intolerant claims to hold as holy writ.

You cannot pick and choose amongst the twenty-seven ratified Amendments to the US Constitution. Each one is the law of the land. If people have heartburn with a given Amendment, a mechanism exists to change the Constitution via democracy. It is the Constitutional Convention, whereby the states come together and make or undo existing law.

An excellent example is the Eighteenth Amendment, which was undone by the Twenty-First. These Amendments concerned the manufacture and sale of alcohol. Prohibition, as it was known, was an experiment that took a disastrous turn. The failed Eighteenth Amendment was recognized as such, and via democracy, it was repealed by the Twenty-First Amendment.

This is how the American system works. If enough voters decide they need or don’t need a right, they put pressure on their local politicians via legal means. This can be escalated in time to the stage of the Constitutional Convention, where elected representatives can vote on a proposed Amendment.

For a further understanding of the US Constitution, look here.

This is how women gained the right to vote. This is how slavery was abolished. This is how we got term limits on the Presidency.

This is America, and this is how democracy is supposed to work.

Not with high explosives and violence.

To see where this leads, look below.

This was once where an ancient statue of Buddha stood in Bamian, Afghanistan. An intolerant regime decided there could be no symbols of opposing beliefs or cultures. Therefore, they blew it up with lots of TNT.

Do you want to see this in America? Are you cool with book burning and freezing out friends and family you don’t agree with? Can you find no middle ground where you can respectfully agree to disagree? Do you cheer when objects you find disagreeable are destroyed? Can you not leave people alone, to believe as they see fit?

I try to practice what I preach. My friends and family hold a wide range of views, some of which I strongly disagree with. However, I see them for what they and I are. Fallible humans. Imperfect. At times rambunctious or contrary, but still worth viewing as people. I try to extend this courtesy to everyone I know, and if they say something that I find unacceptable or disagreeable, I let them know.

There is a line, of course. It is when others try to force you to agree with some belief or opinion that is contrary to one’s firmly held beliefs. This is at best discourteous. At worst, it is rude and disrespectful. In some egregious cases, I can only conclude that their Mama didn’t raise them right, and maybe I should look elsewhere for companionship.

I don’t know who blew up the Georgia Guidestones or what their motivations were.

What I do know is that in America we are supposed to respect each other’s differences and resolve issues at the ballot box.

We don’t resolve problems with bombs in the middle of the night.

This is deeply contrary to the spirit of the US Constitution. There was NOTHING that prohibited the bombers from erecting their own monument close by, enshrining their opposing beliefs, whatever those may have been.

No, they chose TNT or C-4.

Therefore, they have deservedly opened themselves to prosecution and sanction under the law.

I hope these felons and anti-patriots fry.

Grammarly

The fellow seen above, an editor, will have his or her work simplified the next time I submit a manuscript to them because of a software program called Grammarly.

Grammarly seems to be a powerful tool to clean up an author’s writing; or anyone’s. As I type, the program is editing my scratches in real-time.

Let me tell you, this is amazing to me. You download the software, and suddenly a little bubble next to your text appears. When you offend your new referee, the drop changes colors, and a little number appears, telling you all the offenses against the English language you just committed. It works on Word docs, webpages, and email. Everywhere.

This is the best thing since sliced bread, let me tell you. Grammarly takes the rough edges off of any document you write, and it is best when you click the corrections bubble it suggests; it doesn’t dictate changes. Sometimes this is handy for stylistic reasons. An example: two characters in a novel are having a conversation. Of course, it doesn’t happen in the King’s English; their conversations are full of flaws. If you mean to keep it this way, Grammarly allows you to save the conversation as is. However, your narration will be flawless. Simply amazing.

Now that I’ve used the program a little, I wonder where it’s been all my life. How it would have made a significant difference in my many manuscripts and web posts. This thing is awesome! No more combing through my posts, and when I publish them, I STILL see mistakes that I have to go back and correct! Frustrating and time-consuming, to say the least.

Grammarly saves you from that.

This software has the potential to speed up my work and deliver an almost clean copy to any editor that I hire in the future. Once again, simply amazing!

Grammarly. Highly recommend.

The Two Mavericks

On a bright and sunny day, an old friend decided to take a road trip with his family and drop in on us here in hilly Appalachia.

He was the satisfied new owner of a Ford Maverick, and the long drive was a test run to check the suitability of his new 2022 Ford Maverick for road trips with his fam. This article is therefore a sort of follow-up on my earlier Maverick review, which you can find by clicking on the link or scrolling down through my older posts.

First, a compare and contrast. Both of our trucks are base model XL’s, which are easily distinguished by the painted steel rims. They are obviously different colors, selected from Ford’s basic palette. The bodies are identical, because all Maverick bodies are the same, regardless of trim level selected.

However, there are important differences between the two. Mine is a gasoline EcoBoost because I wanted AWD. Unfortunately, Ford does not offer AWD in a hybrid. His is a true hybrid with FWD. So, even though the trucks look the same their drivetrains are entirely different. Also, we selected different build options.

Both of us got a tow hitch. At one hundred dollars, you would be crazy not to select the hitch. Then we diverged, as we have different needs for a truck. He selected a snazzy tonneau cover, which in retrospect I wish I would have done; very handy when the snow falls. Me? I went for the HD stuff, the 4k tow package, bed liner, 110v inverter, etc.

They are the same truck, but then again, they are not.

I’ve written at length about my own truck, so I won’t rehash old stuff. I want to talk about his, which really is a different experience.

Second, let’s talk efficiency. My truck is great, at 31.5 mpg averaged across almost nine thousand miles. If you have any experience with small trucks, you know that this is phenomenal. My truck easily beats the rated EPA mileage, and I am very satisfied.

However, my friend’s truck blows my 31.5 mpg average out of the water. On the entire return trip from his home (he lives on the other side of Ohio) he averaged 43(!) mpg in honest mileage with two passengers and their stuff, his average speed was between 70-75 mph.

Holy cow. The hybrid is supposed to get LESS mileage on the highway, because of how it works (mostly electric propulsion in town, gas engine on freeway). So, in a low efficiency setting his truck blew my mileage away by a full twelve mpg. This is astounding.

He has reported trip mileage in the fifties in city driving, and I believe it.

The hybrid Maverick is a clear winner in terms of gasoline usage.

Third, let’s talk capability and utility. We have both used our Mavericks for a whole range of activities. His are more urban, while my usages are generally rural. I’ve talked at length about what my truck has done in my other article, I’d like to talk a little about his.

First, let me point out once more that his truck and mine have different drive trains and tow ratings. His is a 2.5L hybrid with a CVT transmission rated at 2k tow. Mine is a 2.1L turbo with and 8spd tranny and 4k tow. Both have identical cargo capacities at about 1500 lbs.

However, we have both done the thing with these vehicles, and they are more than capable.

I’ll cite kayaks as an example. We have both hauled kayaks in the back of our trucks, but my friend decided his stuck out too far in the bed (his are longer than mine), so he bought a nice little trailer from Harbor Freight.

Observe.

A very nice set-up, wouldn’t you agree? This falls well within his tow rating, and it emphasizes the point that you really want to get a hitch for this vehicle, even if you think you’ll never use it. Because you will. A 2k tow rating doesn’t seem like much, but you’d be surprised with what this little beast can haul. Log splitters, lawn mowers, a four-wheeler, a big couch, you name it.

Finally, I’d like to speak to overall comfort and value. In this regard, both trucks are identical. Yes, at need you can fit five adults in these vehicles. I have personally rode in the middle seat in the back with my adult kids, and it was tolerable. With three adult passengers? No problems at all, with plenty of space for peoples…stuff.

It seems that my friend and I are still discovering capabilities with these trucks, even after months of ownership. They are engineered that well. Seriously. So many thoughtful nooks and crannies, even the oddly shaped cubby by the multimedia screen has a legit use- I’ve filled it with travel sized Kleenex. It is perfectly shaped for them.

We both love the Apple CarPlay interface, it is seamless and extremely useful.

For an economy truck, Ford has blown up the field. Absolutely destroyed it. No other manufacturer has anything that compares! Not even close.

The 2022 Ford Maverick. After six months and 9000 miles, still thrilled.

The order books for the 2023 models opens August 15th. I’d suggest you go to your local Ford dealer and order one then, because that is your only chance to get one of these fuel-efficient and eminently practical vehicles at MSRP.

You will wait. I waited nearly seven months, and my friend waited ten.

We will both tell you that it’s worth it, and there is close to zero chance that you will find one on the lot.

The Ford Maverick. An awesome little truck! Between my friend and I we have owned a dozen at least, probably more, and we agree hands down the little Mav smokes all of them. In fact, he will tell you that the Mav is the best VEHICLE he has ever owned!

August fifteenth, 2022. Keep that date in mind. Something tells me the 23s will sell out fast- the word of mouth has been strong. Have you seen a single Maverick ad or commercial? I know I haven’t. There has been no need.

I recommend that you act and place an order. Five flippin’ stars.

The Mountain Fiddle

Well friends, I am pleased to report that the surgery upon the old mountain fiddle I bought for forty dollars has been successful.
“Good Old Mountain Dew,” as played by my instructor, Ryan.

Now, I can play this version of the tune as well, but Ryan is the better man on the fiddle. So, I gladly recorded him as he played the old girl. Personally, I thought the mystery Civil War era fiddle turned out great. It’s sound reminds me of one’s grandma singing an old sweet tune out on the porch, with a voice that was once beautiful.

For the full background, see the post about a month back called “The Coffin Case.”

I must say I have eagerly awaited this moment, and I did have some level of fear the old violin would simply fly apart when tuned.

Nope. It acted as it should have, albeit with a few grumpy creaks as the strings went tight.

He’s keeping it for another week for fine tuning, but at this point I am well satisfied.

This relic of our agrarian past will play again.

A lot.

Comfortable work environment

Friends, it is difficult to stress enough how important a comfortable work environment is.

The above chair simply doesn’t fit that description. After last night, I’m putting that POS on the curb.

So, there I was…

You know, the line that clues you in that you are about to hear bullshit. Except this is not bullshit. It is a tale of woe and pain.

So, there I was, trying to make things happen in my latest novel. I chose the room in my house where I can close the doors and get some stuff done without a million and six distractions. It’s pretty good. Well lit, a good desk, pleasing mellow colors, etc. There is one problem, however, and last night was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

The desk chair is atrocious. I’m pretty sure it’s a thirty dollar special purchased from a large retailer. It looks OK. Trust me, it is not. My back still aches this morning, in fact.

As I typed away last night, an awful pain started to build between my shoulder blades and it began to move downwards, eventually claiming my entire spine. My hands began to tingle, and I had to force the words onto the page. My goal was eight hundred, and the conclusion of the chapter I was working on.

I felt like a marathon runner when I slammed the last words onto the page. My back was screaming at me; it was all I could do to finish up my admin work and wrap up my writing.

A few minutes later I lay in bed, it took a good hour to stretch out and find some level of comfort.

This morning, I sat in our comfy IKEA chairs in the living room and typed out this web post without a problem. The thought dawned on me; perhaps the issue was that cheap chair. Yes, to a certain extent my back always hurts, and my left hand suffers some degree of numbness. This is nothing new; it’s the result of combat operations a long time ago.

However, the cheap chair in the study takes the pain to a whole new level.

Friends, that chair is going on the trash pile.

It shouldn’t feel like you just shoveled up a whole heap of manure while writing. As of this moment, I’m switching work locations and that chair simply must GO.

Comfortable work environment= a must.