Friday Review: Caterpillar by Ashlyn Forge

CaterpillarCaterpillar by Ashlyn Forge

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Caterpillar is a short science fiction story set on a desolate planet with two suns. It was invaded by Earth and the native society was torn apart in the aftermath. All of the natives go through several stages of development, and can only mate and reproduce in one of them. The remaining king of the Levelers is traveling to the caves where this mating takes place. His caravan is attacked, and he is the only survivor. He is rescued by a reclusive member of the Summoners. The days they spend together cause both to re-think many of their former notions about themselves, their world, and society, and the invading Eathers.

The most intriguing thing about this story is the characters. The focus is completely on Lyndel, the Leveler, and Aton, the Summoner. They are well-drawn and complex. The character growth is subtle and unfolds slowly, something not easy to do in a short work. Neither is completely likable, nor completely unlikable. The world is developed well, and the desolation and barren feel is quite real. The development takes place well withing the context of the story, without resorting to long passages of information that could detract from a short work.

This is a good short read. It will make you think about a lot of things, including how we see others and ourselves. I do feel that I have to give a warning about male-male adult content, for those that may want to avoid it, but the story is far more than the brief instance included. It is worth a read.

View all my reviews

Monday Musings: Us or Them? Is That the Only Way?

There has been a lot of attention lately around the issues of traditional versus independent publishing. Between the Amazon-Hachette battle, and now Amazon’s announcement of their Unlimited service, which is essentially a subscription-based lending library for Amazon titles, the argument of which is the best way to go has been a hot topic on several writing sites I look at.

Traditional publishing, where an author (or more usually, the author’s agent) shops a book to mainstream publishing houses, trying to get them to pick up the title and publish it, has been around for a long time. And that is what some people consider the problem: the model is outdated, slow, and nearly impossible for a new author to crack. All of those are true, to some extent. A publishing house invests money in a book. From the advance to the author, the editing process, cover design, production, and marketing, the publisher has a real monetary investment in that one volume. I won’t get into the argument of how much (or little, depending on your point of view) the amount of money and time invested is these days. That’s a different topic. Whatever the amount, it is an investment, and, honestly, if they are a bit leary of putting that into someone with no audience and an unsure sales record, can you really blame them? These are for-profit companies, after all. They are in the business to make money.

Independent publishing, on first glance, seems a pretty good deal. Write the book, put it out there on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Apple’s iBooks, and any number of other e-book retailers, and sit back and wait for the money to start coming in. But, wait. There are other things to consider. Remember, that book still has to be edited, and edited by more than your work processor’s spell and grammar check. Content editing needs done, as well, and that needs more than your Mom and best friend telling you your story is the greatest thing they have ever read. Cover design? Unless you are or know a graphic artist willing to work for free, that’s another thing to consider. Formatting an e-book so that it looks good, and reads well on any number of different devices is not easy. It can be learned, but it still takes time to do it right. Marketing? Publicity? Say what you will about the major houses not doing the type of publicity they used to, they still know all the right channels and all the tricks, so they are going to do it right. If you independently publish, all of the above, and more, are dropped right on your doorstep. It is not a quick and dirty way to make money on your book. Not if you want to do it right.

So, which is the best way to go? Well, that depends. There isn’t a right answer that fits everyone. If you are up to the challenges, independent publishing can work quite well, especially if you are patient. It takes time and planned effort to build an audience. If you would rather concentrate on writing more, and not have to deal with a lot of the details (you will need to do some), then perhaps a traditional route is the way to go. Again, you will need patience. First, you will have to query and find an agent willing to work with you. Is an agent necessary? No, there are publishers who will accept unagented manuscripts, but they are usually relegated to a slush pile, and may not get read for a long time. You will get rejections. You will get discouraged. But it can, and does work.

Can you do both? Well, yes and no. If you independently publish, popular thought is that a mainstream publisher won’t even consider you unless you can demonstrate significant sales of your works. If you work with a mainstream publisher, that same thought is that they will look unkindly on anything you want to publish on your own, even if it is something they would not consider.

My feeling is that all of us, sold or not, published in any form or not, need to keep our options open. Don’t, as the old saying goes, put all of your eggs in one basket. You’ll hear that there aren’t all that many options for new authors. There are as many options for us as there are for anyone else. Decide what you want, and the best way to get to that goal. Stay flexible. Take the opportunities that come your way. As Jon Bon Jovi said, “Map out your future – but do it in pencil.”

Wednesday Wanderings: Things Learned Growing Up With Books, Scenic PA, Awesome Lightning Photos, and Steampunk Girl Video

All of these are (or were at one time) me. All of them:

And a plug for the pretty that exists in my home state:

If you like lightning, you will like these photos:

And, finally, for your amusement- a really nicely done video for the song “Steampunk Girl” by John Anealio: Steampunk Girl video

Monday Musings: Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary

How does my garden grow? This year, not too badly. I tilled in a load of composted chicken manure and shavings from the coop in the Spring, and it sure has helped! The plants, for the most part, are big, green, and leafy. Of course, the manure is high nitrogen, which promotes leaf growth, so flower and fruit set was slow. I picked up some blooming plant fertilizer, which is lower in nitrogen and higher in phosphorous, because that will help with blossoming. I’m starting to get more flowers now. I’ve harvested a whole bunch of radishes, and the first of the pickling cucumbers. It could have grown a bit longer, but I was impatient! Have many more pickles, and a few salad cucumbers growing well now. The tomatoes have lots of blooms, and there are some nice looking green tomatoes out there now. Both winter squashes and zucchini are setting blossoms, so they should be fruiting, as well. The carrots are starting to come up, and I see a good deal of new growth on the asparagus. That last gives me hope for next year, since we haven’t been able to harvest a lot of asparagus so far. I did lose a few of those plants over the winter, so I think I am going to just turn that whole section of the beds over to asparagus next year. That way, I can replace the ones that died, and add more. Unfortunately, peas and beans were a bust this year. Something kept eating them. I suspect some sort of insect, as I have not seen any sign of the groundhog so far. I may try more beans when I plant the next round of carrots and radishes, and peas again when the weather cools.

I am getting a new computer tomorrow. Yay! This laptop, while it has been a good little machine for a while now, has some issues. For one, it is getting quite sluggish, and that is just annoying. The other big thing for me is that it does not like having an external monitor attached. It is supposed to be able to deal with that, but we have tried several different ones, and it just doesn’t want to deal well. So I am getting a desktop, which I know will take two monitors. I like the two monitor set-up. I admit, I was skeptical at first, but I quickly grew to like working that way. I got the laptop originally for the convenience when traveling, but now we have the netbook which is an even bettr traveler, so this one can retire. We put the two monitor stand on the desk over the weekend, and the smaller monitor is on it already. The bigger one I had seems to have some sort of problem and doesn’t like to stay powered on. That could be a problem, I think. The BaldMan will pick up the new one we ordered tonight. The computer itself and various miscellaneous bits (an underdesk stand and USB hub) are scheduled to arrive tomorrow. And, then, of course, the real fun begins! Getting it set up and figuring out all the “stuff” I have and need to add to the new one. The nice thing is that I am not working with a dead computer, so I have the old one as a reference. It will still be tedious, I am sure. Ah, technology! The good, the bad, and the ugly, at times.

It will be a busy few days here, but things will return to whatever passes as normal shortly. Meanwhile, enjoy your summer. Spend time with family and friends, relax a bit, and give those grills a good workout!

Wednesday Wanderings: Real Life Moby Dick, MCU Timeline, and Surreal Natural Beauty,

Nature’s own Moby Dick, photographed off the Australian coast:


For fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, here is a quite detailed timeline of all the significant developments, and comic tie-ins where appropriate. I found it fascinating:!date=2362 BC-09-11_14:44:00!


These naturally occurring phenomena are beautiful, even if they look like they couldn’t possibly be real:



Six of One

Six of One: A Collection of Short Fantasy by M.A. Kropp is a set of short fantasy stories. Meet wizards, imps, gangster angels, and frogs in this group of varied tales of magic and mischief. Escape from the everyday into worlds of fantasy with Six of One: A Collection of Short Fantasy.

Download a free sample or purchase in your favorite ebook format at:

Also available at:


 Apple iTunes Bookstore

 Barnes and Noble:


Monday Musings: The Long and Short of It

I have had The Novelette out to readers for the past couple weeks. Feedback has been positive for the most part, and I have gotten some good suggestions for improvements. One thing mentioned by several was that it could (should?) be longer. It is sitting at just around 16K words right now. The suggestions have been to bring it up to novel length. It is a bit of a weird thought to me, because I have always thought of this as a shorter length story. It has been around for a long time. I found, in cleaning out some old files in my desk drawer, a hard copy of it dated from 1998. Now, I have not been working on it steadily since then. I hit a block and didn’t really know where I was going with it, and put it aside for a while. “A while” in this case meaning years. I started thinking about it again last year sometime, but then I was busy getting the short story collection pulled together and published. I just recently began to look at it seriously again, and I discovered I now knew where it was going. But I still thought of it as a shorter work. Now, I am thinking in a different direction.

I think what I will first do is pull out my very old copy of an article by Orson Scott Card titled To Make a Short Story Long…, which he was kind enough to send me many years ago. I don’t remember all of it, hence the re-read, but I do remember there being some very good tips in there. That will, I hope, get my brain out of “short” mode.

And then, I will need to pull together an outline of the three chapters I have. Yes, I am an outliner. I never could do very well with discovery writing. I normally don’t do a formal outline like you and I were taught (at least I hope you were!) in school. In this case, I think I may need to at least start there, so I can see all the big and small parts, and perhaps where to start expanding. This with the help of the suggestions I am getting from my readers.

After that, I guess it’s start adding the new pieces in there, and see where it goes. I was going to end this by saying I haven’t completely made up my mind to try this yet, but reading what I just wrote, I guess I have made a plan, haven’t I? And I think it is worth a try. After all, if it doesn’t work, I have a nice novelette I can go back to, right?

Wednesday Wanderings: Americans Label Map of Canada, Demon Kitty, and Simon’s Cat

We’ve seen what happens when Canadians try to label a map of the US. Now, let’s return the favor:

Okay, so he didn’t actually break Japan’s internet, but this is one demonic looking kitty:

If you are a cat lover, and do not know about Simon’s Cat, you can thank me later:

Monday Musings: In the Good Old Summertime

It’s going to be a hot week here. High temperatures, possible thunderstorms, all that stuff we get in the summer. Still, I’d rather be hot than frozen! And it is Fourth of July week, so lots of vacationers, parties, and fireworks. It will be interesting to see how (or if) Lambeua reacts to those. Had one go off the other evening when I had him out, and he startled a bit, and looked in the direction of the noise, but he seemed to recover immediately. Then, there were a few bangs later on, but he was busy with a bully stick and didn’t notice at all. Of course, those were isolated, and not what will be coming later in the week. If we get the thunderstorms, this will be his first experience with those, too. Murphy never liked thunder. I’m hoping Lambeau will be one of the dogs that is not greatly affected.

I started working on the pond yesterday. Hot, sweaty work, but it was in bad shape. I didn’t get the heater into it quickly enough last year, so it (I think) froze all the way to the bottom. That, plus the couple visits we had from the heron, put an end to the fish that were in there. And it is just full of algae and leaves. I drained it as much as I could yesterday, and pulled the pots of reeds out. Thinned and trimmed the roots of the big pot, and separated the smaller one into a couple plants. I have those and the floating pot with the pickerel rush in a large plastic tub for now. Just need to get all the gunk out of it, and have the remaining water evaporate, then I can clean it really well and refill, get the filter going again, and maybe get a couple fish in there. I have some ideas for landscaping around it, also.

We have a bit of a break from chili cook-offs for a few weeks. The next one that is being held will be Vermont State later in July, but we are not going to be there. My niece is getting married that weekend, so we will be at the wedding. When we start again, it will be hectic. with three in August, two in September, and then the World Championship and one other in October. It will be a busy summer!

I hope you all have a fun-filled holiday weekend!

Wanted: Alpha Readers

I have finished the first revisions on the draft of a novelette. What’s a novelette, you ask? It is longer than a short story, but shorter than a novella.  In this case, it sits at just under 16,000 words. What I am going to do is put it up for reading in chapters. There are three of those. Read and comment on the first one, then I’ll put up the second for reading. I may do some revising of the first and/or second while the next is up, and ask for feedback on the revisions. Or I may not.

I am asking for alpha readers this time around. What I want is your impression of the story itself. What did you like? What didn’t you like? What was good? What was confusing? Are the characters well made? Believable? Cardboard cut-outs? Too stereotype? Not stereotype enough? No mechanical stuff- spelling, punctuation, grammar, etc. I don’t care about that stuff right now. This is a draft, after all.  We’ll get to that stuff later.

The story? I guess it would be classed as science fiction, although there is a fair bit of ritual magic in there, also. Here is the blurb I wrote for it:

Kaili left her home years ago to participate in research into telepathic communication in space. The colonists on her home planet developed psi abilities generations ago, and the “magic” is an integral part of their lives. Now, with the death of her grandmother, Kaili, with her partner, Captain Jefferson McKenzie, returns home for her sister’s investiture as head of the family business and planetary council. When an old rivalry threatens the ceremony, Kaili and Jeff must work their own kind of magic to protect Kaili’s family.

Interested? Okay. here are the rules: (Yes, there are rules. I need to keep things organized and together so I can best take advantage of all your wisdom.)

1) If you would like to be an alpha reader on this novelette, please send me an email at: makropp at gmail dot com (You know what to do to make that a real email address, don’t you? ;) ) No Facebook, Twitter, G+ messages. No personal email messages. Please, just email at the above address.

2) You will receive the link to Chapter 1, and the password. Go. Read.

3) Tell me what you think IN THE COMMENTS ON THE CHAPTER PAGE. Again, not email, not FB, tweet, Google. I don’t want documents with changes marked. I just want basic impressions, as outlined above. And please leave them as a comment on the page, so I will have them all together when I work on the story after.

4) No mechanical errors- spelling, grammar, punctuation, etc. Right now, I don’t care if that should be period instead of a comma, or if I spelled mlikshake wrong.  I only care about the basics of the story. The rest we will get to when it goes to beta.

5) While I am looking for multiple readers, if I get a lot of response, I will cut it off at some point. If you don’t get to read this one, please understand. Next time, okay?

6) Please do not share the link and password with anyone. Probably doesn’t need to be said (I hope), but just as a polite reminder.

Oh, and when you’ve finished, if you have a suggestion for a title, let me know. I have a working title, but I’m not fond of it. If I use your suggestion, you’ll get credit.

Thanks for reading this far, even if you decide not to participate. If you do want to read, I am more than grateful. These early reads do help.

Wednesday Wanderings: Epic Fail Translations, NASA’s Concept for Interplanetary Ship, Dragon Animations, and 10 Ideas Scientists Wish We Would Stop Misusing

Epic fails in translating food descriptions. I think I’ll pass, thank you:

NASA’s concept for an interplanetary spaceship has a familiar look to it:

These dragon animations are pretty cool (click on the picture to start the animation) And some of the other art on the site is pretty awesome, too:

10 scientific ideas that scientists wish we would stop misusing:

Six of One

Six of One: A Collection of Short Fantasy by M.A. Kropp is a set of short fantasy stories. Meet wizards, imps, gangster angels, and frogs in this group of varied tales of magic and mischief. Escape from the everyday into worlds of fantasy with Six of One: A Collection of Short Fantasy.

Download a free sample or purchase in your favorite ebook format at:

Also available at:


 Apple iTunes Bookstore

 Barnes and Noble:



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