Book Review: Wild Things Will Roam

Wild Things Will Roam, the debut novel by K.M. West, is a post-apocalyptic gore fest with a soul. The surprises don’t stop there.

The concept that the things that go bump in the night are still with us is reframed. The beasties are wearing new fangs in the wilds left behind by the destruction of our familiar order. The idea is handled so skillfully that the reader is left wondering what might already be staring back from the dark.

The story is written with a crystal clear prose that doesn’t hamper the reader’s experience. The style allows the characters to shine and the story to move forward unimpeded. In short, it was a pleasure to read. A genuine surprise is waiting in West’s fluid and graceful prose even while walking the reader through the horrors of Hell.

The horrors of Hell, it is. The landscape drawn by West is far from benign. Readers who have a history of trauma might want to bear this in mind. The story is a frightening look into what lies under the thin veneer of civilization. It explores not only the world post disaster but also the consequences when that protection from the wild within our own nature is broken.

Cover of the novel Wild Things Will Roam
To Purchase a copy from Amazon

Within this brutal landscape the story follows the struggles of a small group of people thrown together by happenstance – or is it fate?

That is the question that challenges one of the characters, Liv, throughout the story. How much of our action is self-determined versus what our circumstances lead us toward?

While Liv struggles with the concepts of something beyond the seen, others in the group offer varying levels of acceptance with the unknown. Liv’s guardian, Carian starts the novel as aware of the unseen. Lash, a protector and guardian, takes the presence of an infinite plan for granted – perhaps he even sees it as his due. Ander, the younger brother to Lash, is so steeped in the ideas of some overarching other that he is often lost beyond the borders of reality. This causes him to act as something of a lightning rod between what is and what will.

But the question remains at the end, as we see everyone’s sense of the world has changed, is Ander led or deluded? What of his vision is true and what of it fantasy? It looks like we will have to wait for the next book in the series to find the answer.

I would consider buying the hardcover to have it on my library shelves. In a day of electronic consumption this says more of how I feel about this work than all the analysis I can offer.

My Voices

My voices
Speak to me
Inside my head.
They travel in a troop
Like a cloud
Of babble.
One is shame,
mud soaked,
discarded, and yet
loudest of them all,
One cries ‘look at me’,
she wears a red dress
and high, high heels.
One slips by invisible, almost.
made of cellophane.
One clings.
Wanting to be held.
One rages.
My angry girl,
so brave,
so vibrant.
Behind them
Walks a silent old woman
Dressed in dark oil skin.
Always prepared for disaster
She follows them
in silent solitude.
Slung across her back
In a rucksack twice her size
The colossal collection of
My lost memories.

Two Roads – ala Robert Frost

I stood upon a road facing a divide,
I trembled knowing that on one path
Without premonition, sign or guide
Both branches were equally eyed.
Filled with doubt I must choose to pass.

On both roads stood dread unknown
Faceless fears and boogie men
Childhood monsters though I’m grown
Follow me far from home
And try to draw me back again.

I was caged safe and sound
My hands could span from wall to wall
In silence I sat making myself small
Blinded to the bars that did surround
For if I did not rise then I could not fall.

When I saw the cage I had designed
Silver bars and barbed wire fence
About myself for fear I did wind
I was prisoner in my own mind
And that has made all the difference.

Off the rails

Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is a bitch.
I was trying for something more academic sounding, but let’s face it, I’m not on that plane today. Nope, today is one of those days where I’m just trying to figure out where I put my sh*t. Or, more accurately, where I lost it.

I know when. That much I am certain of. But, where all my bits scattered to after that I have no bloody idea. I’m off the rails, ground to a halt and trying to find a way to right myself and start moving again.

I hate this.

And yet, I know this process very well. This is a cornerstone of my CPTSD. This cycle repeats itself ad nauseum. Every time through this process these days I’m better at being able to identify which part of the cycle I am in. That, although it sounds trivial is a huge step.

It used to be that I didn’t know what was happening. My CPTSD manifests in many ways. The aspect being activated here is my emotional dysregulation. The cycle goes something like this.

Phase 1:
Calm, cool, collected. Moving forward with life tasks and goals.
Small emotional moments are managed by either listening to the emotion or ignoring.
The sum of the emotion is no change in my equilibrium.

Phase 2:
An event of intense emotion.
The event can be almost anything and can trigger almost any emotion possible. The track-record is more to the negative, but positive emotional events have also kicked the cycle into motion.
In the event there is a sharp dichotomy about expressing or not expressing what I am feeling. More often than not I fall to the side of repression. Which, as loved ones have told me, can feel deceptively normal – or intensely dangerous. I’ll admit, from the inside I can’t tell the difference.
On the upside, I am at least getting better at acknowledging that I am feeling ‘something’. Even if I cannot always identify the emotion, these days I am at least aware that I am feeling. It may sound inconsequential, but for someone who has lived with emotional paralysis for 40+ years, this is a huge step.

Phase 3:
Working my way out of ‘the moment.’ Because of the confusion surrounding my emotions, their muted state and sometimes just the delay in determining what is happening, the ‘moment’ of emotion can last. It is like sitting down and teasing apart lines of rope that have been coated in tar. Laboriously I peel apart the strands of what I am thinking from what I am feeling. At the end of the process I need to sit with that feeling and try to not only understand it in a rational manner, but to also process it at an emotional level. That processing is another intense period of labor as the creaking and stunted machinery of my inner emotional self is prodded into motion.
Previous patterns of attempting to ignore or stuff the feelings away results in anger, depression and intense self-loathing. Enough of that and I will begin to start longing for ‘out’.
So, these days I work through it. Believe me when I call it work. It is.

Phase 4:
The aftermath of one of these events is all encompassing. Every system of myself suffers under the impact of such an event. Physically there might be muscle spasms, stomach upset, migraines, exhaustion. Emotionally the rawness caused by this unprepared for intensity leaves me in one of two states; hyper-aroused or depressed. Periods of hyper-arousal are followed by emotional numbness.
There is another feature in all this backwash. The question inevitably comes up of “Why am I doing this again?” Why am I spending time and effort and money on trying to connect with these emotions when I was doing well-enough as an automaton?
All those storylines where an android wants to ‘become a real boy’ – wow, I’m pretty sure I could talk them out of it. Because, seriously – why am I doing this?

Phase 5:
Recovering my balance.
Much as I wish that recovery from such an event was as simple as recognizing that I am in the midst of one, it isn’t. Recovery takes time. Time to process the emotions. Time to process the event that caused it. Time to herd the physical and mental processes back on-line. Time to pour it all out onto a page in an effort to move past the wreckage. Time to reflect, but not to fall into an old pattern of over analysis.

That is where I am, right now.

I’m trying to feel my jaw unknot. I’m coaxing my shoulders to relax. Telling my stomach that this too shall pass and to try to stop cannibalizing itself. Above all reminding myself to breathe.

I will end with a couple of quotes from Winston Churchill:
First “When going through Hell, keep walking,” and the second – “Success is never permanent, and failure is not fatal.”

So – here’s me, walking.

Book Review: The Sons of Mil

The Sons of Mil
L.M. Riviere

If you are a fan of epics, Celtic myth, or simply good storytelling, The Sons of Mil, L.M. Riviere’s debut novel is a welcome outing. From a diverse group of characters, the author weaves a tale of complex politics, the brutal conditions in fictional Innisfail, treachery, and a quest for redemption. The story opens with an act of opportunism and pride that heralds disaster. The killing of a white stag, an animal sacred to the Sidhe, establishes the theme of bearing the consequences of actions driven by pride. The opening also establishes the tension between the Sidhe and the human, Milesian, population.

From there we follow Ben Maeden, one of the hunters on the ill-fated trespass, as he is forced to abandon his home for his failures to protect another hunter. With a series of encounters, we learn more and more of Ben’s history as the layers of his disguise are literally and figuratively stripped away.

Ben’s central relationship forms with a young woman, Una. Una is a pawn who is both powerful and powerless. She makes for an interesting counterpoint to Ben’s discoveries about himself as she joins him on his journey.

Innisfail is fleshed out from the bones of Celtic mythology. If the reader is enchanted by the stories of the Sidhe, the Ard Ri, and Tara, they won’t be disappointed with a stroll through this detailed and complex world.

The storytelling is fast-paced and moves along well. The only place I found myself wanting faster development was in the characters themselves. But, there is a delicate ballet of revealing and concealing at play between the two main actors which would be spoiled by rushing it.

Only one point feels misplaced in the story. There are repeated references to ‘the Transition.’ Those references hint at a time before Innisfail. The setup makes me wonder if we are somehow sitting in a fantasy story set on top of a dystopian future base. If this is the case, it would make the scientific terms that arise in the prose and the conversation easier to accept. This one piece of the story is like a pulled stitch on a sweater. It needs to be smoothed into place.

Like many first novels in a series, and there is more I hear, The Sons of Mil is overfilled with leads to develop. They are tempting, but at the same time, it leaves the story with a somewhat unresolved feeling to the ending. Lots of little ‘what ifs’ are left lurking in the reader’s mind. But, there is a wee point of great satisfaction as we see how Ben Maeden has broken free of his past.

I look forward to reading more of this author’s work.

L.M. Riviere

For my brother

Duane Robert Stewart
October 16, 1964 – January 18, 2021

My brother died today and I wept for him, for us.
For all the warm words we never exchanged,
For all the jealousy we held for each other,
For all the times pain was our only contact,
For the words of hurt,
For the thefts,
For the bruises,
For the silence,
And for the little boy
At the bottom of the stairs
Who screamed in panic
As I fled upward
And father raged below.
You deserved better,
And so did I.

An Installment of Haiku

I have been participating in the Poetry Battle Friday over on Twitter sponsored by JD Greyson (@JDGreysonwrites). I’ll admit, I always say I’m not a poet at heart, but I’m really enjoying this weekly exercise.
So – I’m going to pass along some of the results. I hope you enjoy.

You can find the new page HERE!

Touching base

Well, January 2021 certainly led off with a bang. I still see things on the horizon of concern. I’m trying very hard NOT to focus on those.

Instead, I am head-down in editing my second novel while waiting somewhat patiently for my first novel to have a pre-order date. I’m also trying to remind myself that even though things seem overwhelming at the moment there is the slow, steady process of just taking one breath after another.

One thing I did learn from CPTSD is that some days just getting to the end of the day was enough. Those days, sometimes, are the hardest. Remember, it can be done.

There are some behind the scenes ‘shenanigans’ going on which I am not yet in a position to relate. I hope it will be a funny story with a good ending – but, until then, everyone buckle up.

With any luck, I will be able to write next week about a very boring and uneventful Inauguration. Let’s keep hoping for that.

Peace, ya’ll.

Picking up Clues: January 6, 2021

Holiday break is over. That means I am back at the keys.
You can’t see me but I’m over here shaking my head because of the events in the US in the past 24 hours.

I’m reading all my various news feeds and still head shaking. It’s mystifying – why are all these people acting surprised? I’ve said it repeatedly since December 2015 that Trump was going to be a disaster. I even broke Godwin’s Law at the time and compared him to Hitler. Readers may still think that comparison is extreme. I don’t.

Where did people think the erosion of the truth, the persistent lying, and the scapegoating was going to lead? Where? These actions are drawn whole-cloth from the 1933 Nazi party.

I could go on with comparisons, but I’ve already written that essay over here:
Echoes of 1933. There is no need to retread that ground.

What disappoints me is that there are so many people who find the events of yesterday surprising. All the information was there folks. This shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone. Moreover – the political atmosphere should not have been allowed to become poisoned to this extent.

Someone on Twitter asked: What one word do you think future historians will use to describe the Trump administration?

Among all the things you might expect to see I added one that might seem out of place – ‘pivotal’. I believe that is the most accurate way to describe the erosion that this administration has brought our nation and our government.

This administration and the general ineffectual leadership of our elected officials, all of them, has brought us to a point where nearly half of the people in the US think that this administration has been good for them. Half? I find that number both depressing and sickening.

And the political talking heads of the media have bewailed all the impropriety, while at the same time providing a platform willing or not for the public poisoning of our government and our nation.

Pivotal. I chose that word because here we, everyone, needs to start valuing truth again. We need to see if we can resuscitate our national decency. This frothing of the mob was predictable every step along the arc of the last four years.

Sometimes I feel very much like Cassandra. Usually it doesn’t bother me. There are moments like this, however, that frustrate me because what seems so obvious to me has been ignored or downplayed.

It’s a simple thing to see. So, if you’re surprised, you haven’t been paying attention.