Author Archives: S.E. Hood

Book Review: The Eighth Day by Joseph John

Author’s note: A new experiment for the new year… book reviews! The following may contain mild spoilers.

The Eighth Day by Joseph John is a futuristic thriller with an intriguing theme. After receiving a cryptic warning from a stranger, Shawn Jaffe begins to realize that nothing is as it seems. Haunted by divergent memories and hunted wherever he goes, he finds himself drawn into a desperate race to separate the truth from the lies of his own life.

What I liked:

  • The protagonist, Shawn, is a likeable character especially in the second half of the book. I was surprised to find myself genuinely pulling for him despite some rather shocking moments in his character arc… moments that left me wondering if there was any hope for him as a person. But hope is a surprising element in this story. Shawn is considerate, proactive, selfless… and ultimately, these are the traits that define his true character.
  • The story is set in the U.S. in 2041 and 2044… in other words, 20-25 years in the future. I was impressed with how science and technological advances were portrayed… self-driving cars, everything digital, etc. As I was reading, I kept thinking that it all seemed slightly far out, yet strikingly believable.
  • I didn’t expect this story to have a happy ending… but the final chapter was more satisfying than I ever thought it could be.
  • “You have a soul. A good soul. Don’t ever forget that.” To me, this is the theme summed up in a single line of dialogue. Human cloning is a major plot device/ scifi element in this story, but the author deals with it in a way that feels refreshing. It raises the question, What defines a human identity? Is it something physical, mental, emotional? All of those combined? Or something more entirely?

What I didn’t like:

  • Language and violence. Not exactly unexpected in a thriller, but there were a LOT of four-letter words, crude expressions, and other profanities throughout the novel. Violence as well… I didn’t care for how it was repeatedly spelled out in such thorough and graphic detail.
  • Most of the secondary characters seemed a bit two-dimensional. Some could have been fleshed out more than they were, while others seemed entirely unnecessary.
  • Structurally, the novel was divided into several long chapters and each chapter into smaller sections. I think it would have been a quicker, more suspenseful read had it been divided into a bunch of short, punchy chapters. But perhaps that’s just a personal preference.

Overall, I enjoyed the story. It grabbed my attention early and didn’t let go, though at times it was difficult to get through due to the profanity, violence, and long, lumbering chapters. Despite these things, I felt the overall story and especially the ending made it a worthwhile read. I would recommend The Eighth Day for adult readers who won’t be offended by the language and violence and who enjoy a good scifi/suspense story.

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Every Day’s a New Year

I’m no good at New Year’s resolutions.

Oh, I always start out with the best of intentions. Like everyone else, I make a list of all the ways I’m going to Live Fuller, Eat Healthier, and Be A Better Person this year. And, like most people, I’ve already given up by the end of the first week.

Why do I do this to myself?

Resolutions give me an excuse to Not Care during the holiday season . . . “I’ll fix my diet once all the Christmas cookies are gone,” or, “I’ll get back to writing once I’m done with all the shopping and caroling and family-get-togethering.”

In other words, I trick myself into procrastinating because I think it will be easier to start a new habit at the start of a new year. Thing is, it’s never easy to break the habit of procrastination. Especially when I make matters worse by setting unrealistic goals that are oh so tempting to put off Until Next Year.

But I had a thought yesterday . . .

What if I treated every day like January 1st?

Because each day I have to make a choice . . . to face my goals or to keep procrastinating them. January 1st is the day my resolve is strongest, the day I’m most committed to do the work. The day I’m most likely to make the choice that isn’t easy, but that will be most satisfying in the long run.

Is there some way I can convince myself that each day is a new year?

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Running Out of Time

Quick, quick, think of something
Anything is fine
Gotta think of words to write
Before my laptop dies.

Battery is running down
A warning light is on
I should get my charge cord now
Before the battery’s gone.

Daily poem still awaits my
Finding in the ether
Gotta find it quickly ‘fore
The battery takes a breather.

Hurry, hurry, no time left
The warning light is back
As the battery all runs out
My screen fades out to bl………….

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Resolutions and My Sweet Kitty

Okay. Resolutions. Let’s start the New Year a month early.

Right now I’m sitting on my bed with my old kitty curled up in my lap. Typical crazy-cat-lady moment, no?

Poor baby has a tumor in her mouth. It can’t be removed without cutting away a large chunk of the jaw. So the vet told me to keep feeding her, keep taking care of her the best I can . . . then bring her back when she can’t eat anymore.

I’ve always known I couldn’t keep her forever, but forever used to seem so much farther away.

Focus. Got to focus. Writing goals. I want to get back to posting on this blog. Regularly. Two or three times a week. I want to read more and write book reviews. Edit a bunch of poems I wrote in October and November and self-publish them as a collection. Maybe even work on some of my novel ideas now and then.

I want to be a real writer . . . in theory. In practice, I lack discipline. I make excuses. I procrastinate. I find other things to do.

In some ways it sounds silly, and maybe I’m just making more excuses, but I think anyone who’s ever loved a pet would understand. It’s been so hard to write the past couple weeks.

I set a goal to write one humorous poem a day for the entire month of November. Actually stuck with it pretty well for the first twenty days. Then my old girl went to the vet, and suddenly, nothing seemed funny anymore, and either I couldn’t find the words, or I couldn’t will myself to try. I ended up with 22 poems for the month. Most of them weren’t even that good.

By now, it’s late Saturday night, December 2nd. This morning, as she snored contentedly in my lap, I wanted to freeze the moment. Keep her there with me in some happy, comfortable place where pain and sadness don’t exist.

But time tumbles on, and Saturdays never last long enough, and besides . . . after an hour or so, my legs were going to fall off if I didn’t move them.

It’s funny though. The same old cat who’s made it so hard to write lately is the one who inspired this post . . . and the one who sat on my lap long enough to make me start writing it.

And even now, Sunday morning, December 3rd, she’s back in my lap again . . . making me finish it.

So what are my resolutions? To survive the holiday season while still finding a way to write. To discipline myself no matter what life throws at me. To write more blog posts, even if there’s no kitty to sit on my lap and make me write them.

And to find a way to appreciate every moment of every day . . . whether happy or painful, boring or frustrating. Because each moment dissolves quickly into the next, and no matter how many times I fail at being a real writer, I can keep trying because time doesn’t stop with my failures. Each new moment is a new opportunity.

And, though I can’t freeze this moment with my sweet kitty, I can appreciate every moment I have left with her. And then, I can lock them away in my memory . . . the one place where, God willing, I can truly keep her with me.




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Author’s note: Yes, I know… a lot of people in the world get up long before 6AM. And some even like it. Me, it feels like the biggest battle I’ll ever fight in my life. The struggle is real, friends! 

There is nothing like the pain of being jarred from sleep by your alarm clock. When the sun hasn’t come up yet, and all the rest of the house is quiet, and, for good measure, it’s raining outside, the gentle showers playing a lullaby on the roof and windows. And in that moment of waking up, you’ve never felt more exhausted.

It doesn’t matter how early you went to bed the night before. Each new morning is World War III. You pray for the strength of will to haul your lazy bones out from beneath the nice, warm covers and begin your day. You’ve argued with yourself many times on this: you know you must get up this early if you hope to get any writing done because you simply Do Not Have Time once the day has begun.

But sometimes, at 6AM, you have no strength of will.

On those days, you go through the rest of the day regretting your choice to hit snooze and roll over, and you tell yourself that tomorrow, you’ll do better. But each new tomorrow becomes a bigger fight, and by Friday you no longer care because the weekend’s almost here and the weekend’s your chance to finally sleep in and not feel guilty.

That first minute after your alarm goes off is always the hardest. It’s in that first minute that you must choose . . . before you’re fully awake, before you’re really thinking clearly: Are you going to win this battle today? Are you even going to fight it in the first place?

Because if you can’t learn to will yourself in this one small thing, how will you ever find the will to accomplish bigger things?

As soon as you’ve cleared the hurdle, pulled yourself from the warm, safe, comfortable covers and opened your laptop, you feel good . . . like you’ve taken your first small step toward success. And as you sit there writing, with your cat curled up in your lap, and listen to the rain playing its melody, you can’t help but wonder . . .

Why do you fight this every morning?

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If I Could Step Into A Painting

There’s a painting on the eighth floor of an old apartment highrise,
Some mountains and a mountain stream amid a grove of pine trees.
I like to look when I am there, to picture my escape,
To feel and taste and see and hear the world beyond the paint.
If I could step into that world, I’d take you along,
We’d pitch our tents beside the stream and listen to its song.
We’d watch a golden sunset wash the mountain peaks with color
We’d listen to the silvery notes the flocking birds would utter.
I like to think of sitting there, within that pristine haven,
To smell the air and feel the breeze up there where earth meets heaven.
I wonder, do the building tenants wander there as well?
Do their own imaginations soar beyond their frail shells?
Would they come and meet us there, upon that spot of shore?
Or do they walk right past it without seeing anymore?

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Where to begin? he wondered. Palm trees lay like fallen giants across the road, broken twisted things mixed with beach wood carried inland by the storm surge, and puddles of brown water still pocked the yards. The street in front of his house was a river of trash and mud. His house, built to withstand these storms, had still lost half a roof, most of a front porch, and all of the windows. His neighbors had fared no better.

Now, the sun shone as if nothing had ever happened, yet a dark cloud settled ever deeper upon him. He picked his way through the ruin, boots sinking in the oversaturated earth. Too much. This town, this state . . . how could life return to normal in the aftermath? He picked up a small stick stripped of bark and hurled it as far as he could.

A dog appeared from behind some rubble. A golden retriever, his coat matted and dirty. He ran and leaped over piles of debris like they were hurdles in an obstacle course, disappearing behind a fallen tree, then reappearing, running straight toward the man with the stick in his mouth. The dog dropped the stick at his feet then looked up, expectation in his eyes and a smile on his face.

The man shook his head but picked up the stick. “Go fetch!” The dog took off at a sprint, returning moments later and dropping the stick at his feet.

Finding another one, he lobbed it into the street. The dog trotted off and quickly returned, gripping it in his mouth like some prized chunk of meat.

Twenty minutes later, every dog-sized branch and piece of beach wood in his front yard lay in a pile. The dog grinned up at him, panting as if to say, “What’s next?”

The man smiled in spite of himself, eyeing the fallen palm trees in the road and a handful of people standing around them. “What do you say, dog?” he asked. “Think we could tackle some trees now?”

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In This Storm

In this storm
I pray that you would show your strength,
Turn back waves,
Spare the lives who cannot leave.
Give them courage, give them hope,
Give them deliverance.

In this storm
I pray that you would reach down through the clouds,
Through beating rains,
And hold them.
Show them mercy, show them life,
Show them peace.

In this storm
I pray that you would speak through wildest winds
Help them hear you, help them find you,
Help them know you.

In this storm
I pray that all our hearts would meet,
Oh Lord.
Teach us contrition, oneness, truth,
And bind us in your love.

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Cleaning House

Wow, seriously, I have way too many clothes.

Hey! There’s that old sock I blamed the dryer for eating!

Man, where’d all this dust come from?

It can’t have been that long since I vacuumed . . . can it?

What’s that growing in the toilet bowl?

I used to love this wallet. Hey look, an old gift card! Wonder what the balance is . . . oh . . . that’s it? Bummer.

Oh cool, my college ID . . . huh, I actually look good in this picture!

Wow, there’s a lot of dead spiders. . . .

Yikes, they’re not all dead! Smash! Now they are.

You’d think I’d have noticed these cobwebs long before now!

How did I accumulate so many notebooks?

Sheet sets?

Empty gift boxes?

Old calendars?

Partially-filled albums and scrapbooks?

Wow, seriously, I have way too much stuff in general.

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Fractured Crystals

His car was a wreck: blanket flung over the steering wheel, pages of an old atlas scattered, doors ajar. And glass. Everywhere. Jammed into the crevices of the front seats, littering the floors, hiding under the floor mats, in belt buckles, in the open glove box, jamming the shift indicator. The projectile of choice, a large rock, lay where it had landed in the passenger seat.

With a sigh, the young man took another look through what used to be the driver’s side window. Then, opening the door, he knelt in the driveway and began to sweep some glass off the seat into a dust pan.

Too many thoughts chattered at him as the sun rose higher and it seemed that, no matter how thoroughly he swept, no matter how many dustpans he emptied into the dumpster, the glass kept reappearing. I didn’t need this today. Stupid idiots . . . don’t people have anything better to do? Wish I’d bought that car vac. Wonder if any of the car washes around here do interior detailing. Wonder what a new window will cost. . . .

Around noon, another dustpan full of glass was on its way to the dumpster when the light caught it just so, and the man stopped short. He dumped a few of the blunt pieces into his hand. They glinted aquamarine, and he squinted at them as though he’d never seen them before.

A few days later, when most of the glass had been swept and the rest vacuumed and a new window installed, he drove across town to a park on the shores of Lake Erie. There, taking a container filled with the fractured crystals, he walked down to the water’s edge and dumped them in.


The little girl splashed through gentle waves lapping at her feet. She had just arrived for her first summer camp at Erie Beach, Ontario, and she had been nervous about being away from home for a whole week. But now that she was here, it felt like the water was washing all the nervousness away.

She looked down at the smooth pebbles squishing between her toes, searching for beach glass. A bright sparkle caught her attention, and she plucked it from the grasp of the next wave rolling in. She gasped. It was tiny, no bigger than a pea; but it was a polished ball-shaped rock, the color of her birthstone, aquamarine.

She knew enough about beach glass to know that most of it was green or clear, like the broken bottles it came from. Sometimes she also found brown or dark blue pieces; but she’d never seen one the color of water, and as she looked at it, she thought it held more value than a whole jewelry box full of diamonds.

Clutching it tightly in her fist, she ran toward a nearby picnic table where a man sat watching her. “Daddy, look what I found!”

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