Thursday, December 20, 2007

13 Best Albums of 2007

Okay, so this doesn't have a whole lot to do with writing, but I listen to music constantly while I am writing. I am a metal fan, so there! Here's the music released in '07 (or late '06) that rocked me through Nanowrimo and WoW and life.

Killswitch Engage - As Daylight Dies
Kittie - Funeral for Yesterday
Evanescence - The Open Door
My Chemical Romance - The Black Parade
Apocalyptica - Worlds Collide
Type O Negative - Dead Again
Bad Religion - New Maps of Hell
300 Original Motion Picture Soundtrack - Tyler Bates
Static X - Cannibal
Ozzy Osbourne - Black Rain
Dream Theatre - Systematic Chaos
Black Label Society - Shot to Hell
Trivium - The Crusade

Friday, December 14, 2007

Throne of Jade: Temeraire Book 2

This week I finished listening to Throne of Jade, the second in Naomi Novik's series about the dragon Temeraire and his companion, Captain Lawrence. A man and his dragon.

I just love these books. I've admitted before to being jealous of Ms. Noviks' rapid success, but that fell away after the first chapters of the first book. The story and characters are simply awesome, fluidly capturing the language and feel of the Napoleonic era, yet deeply exploring the speculative element: dragons as engines of war.

One cool development is that instead of it being just one rider per dragon, the dragons in this series (and there are many different breeds) are gigantic, supporting a whole crew of men from riflemen to bombardiers. Captain Lawrence is the central human character and he manages to combine nobility, human foibles and great courage. THe series has the best elements of the animal companion books (girl and wolf, boy and dog, etc.) with the gravity of the wartime setting.

In addition to the pure adventure, Novik gives us an incredible character in Temeraire, who questions the treatment of dragons and even other people in a way that opens Lawrence's eyes to a larger moral world, without getting preachy. The world is complex, and the choices are not always bright for our heroes. The cast of supporting characters is just as intriguing. There are side characters, like little Emily Roland, that I really care about and hope to see more of.

Seriously, if you love dragons, military fiction, maritime adventure, or just excellent, fast paced fantasy, you should get these books.

Escape Pod 136: Bright Red Star

EP136: Bright Red Star by Bud Sparhawk.

Today's Escape Pod story was some hard core military science fiction. While the background premise, humanity at war with an implacable, uncompromising alien foe, is a bit tired, the details of this story were fresh and realistic. The technological elements were handled well, with enough detail that you could picture and understand the gear. But there was enough emotion, enough humanity, to make the story compelling even as the horrible understanding grows in the listener.

Though the story isn't one of my favorites--it's a bit bleak, lol-- the writing here is superior, giving us vivid characters and a fully realized milieu in just a few thousand words.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Seventh Son: The trilogy concludes

Tuesday morning, I listened to the final chapter of JC Hutchins amazing podcast trilogy, Seventh Son.

I started listening to Seventh Son after hearing the promos in Scott Sigler's podcast novels, coming in toward the end of book one, Descent. What a great ride it's been. Congratulations to JC for writing such an awesome story. I wish him all the luck in the world with his career. I will certainly buy anything he gets published.

For the uninitiated, Seventh Son begins with the president of the US being assassinated by a three year old boy. How is this possible? That would be telling...

Soon after we meet seven men, clones, who are genetically identical, but have led very different lives. They are brought together by an ultra-secret government project, to try and stop the man they were cloned from, John Smith, also called John Alpha. I can't even begin to pass on the excitement and intensity of the story that follows. It is the equal to anything I've read by Crichton or King. It's a modern thriller with a big dose of science fiction. The characters are vivid and memorable and the action sequences are brilliant.

I will miss the excitement of having a new episode show up on my iPod. This was one of the casts I always listened to right away.

Bravo, Hutch. Thanks for the thrill-ride.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Escape Pod 135

EP135: Stu by Bruce McAllister
This was a very tightly written science fiction story about a youngster, who grows up during the tale, and his father's friend, a scientist working for the US Navy. Great dialog and use of themes from cancer, mirroring the Navies ownership of all the scientist's innovations, to the misuses of technology for warfare. There was a lot of complex emotion in this story, without getting maudlin.

I could have listened for another hour and it would have been interesting to have the tale unfold, but I understand that the point was really the relationship of these two men, as unlikely as it would seem and how we can create miracles if we work at it and remain unafraid to dream. Whether a scientist or a writer, we can change things for the better and bring wonder to the lives of our fellow humans.

A great, understated story and another fine episode of Escape Pod. Steve's reading was excellent as well.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Swimming in a Sea of Words

I've had this feeling lately. It's a good feeling, but tinged with a bit of awe, like looking out at the ocean or the sky and feeling dwarfed by it. But the ocean I've been gazing at is made of words.

With no less than four serialzed audiobooks going on my commutes, and one for the days when those have no updates, Escape Pod, a print novel, random stories I feel the need to read, news, blogs and then of course, writing, I sometimes feel adrift in story. It never quite gets to being overwhelming except when I start thinking about all the other things I want to read, too.

It's easy enough to turn away from the words and play WoW or watch a movie, but lately I have been enjoying the drift. The last two nights I worked on edits for my tale Blood, Roots, Thorns that might make it into Flashing Swords, because I wanted to. It was a good feeling.

The whole thing, from the vast number of books I want to read just in my own genres, to taking a list of editorial advice and chewing through them, is a tremendous challenge, one that I really want to undertake. Criticism can be hard to deal with, but now I want to make the story so much better, because the editors have given me a path to do that. The community of writers, especially the forums for SF Reader and ISBW, inspire me to become more well read so I can participate more, to write more so I have more news to share and more experience with which to help others.

I am sure there are rough seas in the future and that sometimes it will get overwhelming, but right now I am in love with the vast ocean of words before me, with the process, and with my fellow writers.


Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Your Fantasy is in my Horror!

The continued discussion on the SF Reader site is very interesting. The outcome so far has supported my general sentiment that horror and fantasy can work very well together. The upshot is that the characters need to be rooted enough in everyday human concerns that the reader will care about and identify with them. Seems like a no brainer, but it helps alot in facing the issue of non-contemporary horror. This will help with both Cauldron of Shadows, set in a medieval Italianate realm and ON the Black Wings of Night, set in a post-apocalyptic California.

Why not just write contemporary horror? I love Swords and Sorcery, that's why. I like China Mieville's statement:
I'm a genre writer and deeply proud of that. I love the tradition. And I can't sustain interest in writing unless it has a fantastic element.

And, while a professional attitude toward the market is important, I also feel kinship with this statement from Jim Melvin:
I've always been of the mindset -- for better or worse -- that you have to write from the heart and then let the chips fall where they may.

Some further recommendations from Peadar:

The Throne of Bones by Brian McNaughton.

Also, since you have William Hope Hodgeson on your list, you should definitely read this amazing, amazing online novella set in his world, "The Night Land". No previous experience necessary!

Other writers to add to the reading list:
Steven Savile
Douglass Klegg?
Jim Melvin - The Death Wizard
Janrae Frank

Monday, December 03, 2007

Escape Pod 134 and Other Notes

EP134: Me and My Shadow by Mike Resnick

I really enjoy Mike Resnick's stories and novels. Santiago is one of my SF faves. This story was quite interesting. He has a very quirky, natural voice with the first person and it included what I think of as a Resnick trademark, a conversation with a computer. His novel The Dark Lady had many such information searches. I think the computer here must be an early model of the Snark 3000. =) About half way through I got really into the story and forgot it was Resnick. That's a good thing. THere were a couple of things that nagged at me, though. First, he dropped his wallet but never picked it up. Wouldn't the cops come looking for a guy who's wallet is found next to a brutalized mugger? Second, the idea that he could call the doctor from his home and not worry about being traced seems a little quaint. This felt more like an idea story and though the character reacts and changes, I did not care a whole lot about him. Still a fun listening experience.

Secondly.... the new agenda. I wasn't supposed to have an agenda for December, but Lo and Behold, I still feel like working on fiction. Cauldron of Shadows is still haunting me and I think I will edit it soon. First I want to finish THE SCAR by China Mieville. I am also working through two writing books, ON WRITING HORROR by the Horror Writers of America and SELF-EDITING FOR FICTION WRITERS by Renni Browne and Dave King. I'm taking notes, not just reading them for fun. Still I am mostly taking it easy, playing WoW and relaxing.

Bottom Line: I am NOT just going to let these buggers (my novels) sit and collect dust. If they suck, they will be un-sucked, if they get rejected I will keep trying until they find a home.

Friday, November 30, 2007


Last night at around 9:30, I finished Cauldron of Shadows. It is a very very very rough draft, or as I like to say, Draft Zero. PoV jumps around from character to character. Many of the events are out of order, and I have a vague perception that the continuity is ... not very continuous. At least I started a new paragraph when I jumped into another character's head, though most of the time I actually did a section break.

However, I feel that this one is better than the last one, as far as Zero Drafts go. I really want to get to the editing of my two nanonovels before next year, with the goal of understanding how I write and how I can improve my initial drafts. As I mentioned previously, the zero drafts are mainly narration in need of expanded description and detail. If I can produce a more polished, full manuscript, I can sort of reverse engineer it to get a better idea of how many phases I need and focus on better writing rather than just hitting the word count.

In the meantime.... Yay! I finished. Now I can totally goof off for the month of December. *happy dance*

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Fantasy and Horror

I stepped out of lurking on the SFReader and nanowrimo blogs to ask around about fantasy stories with strong horror elements. So far these are the results of my inquiries.

The main person who gets mentioned most is Michael Moorcock. I will admit that I had a hard time with the Elric stories when I was younger because basically I was too immature to understand the point of Tragedy. I did enjoy the Corum books. I think that is the right name. It's the one with the necromantic hand and eye. As a teenager I wanted everything to have a happy ending. Now that I am much older, the happy ending is still good, but I realize there is much more to life than happy endings, and sometimes Tragedy is Truth.

So, I need to check out Elric again.

Other authors mentioned:
China Mieville - I picked up The Scar and I'm enjoying it already. Need more.
Steven Erikson - I bought Gardens of the Moon and I am looking forward to it. Bauchelain and Korbal Broach books were also mentioned, about some Necromancers.
Tim Lebbon's novels Dusk and Dawn sound like they are exactly what I am looking for, but I have to order them.
Tanith Lee and her books on Paradys?
James Barclay' Raven novels
David Gemmel, of course
Christopher Golden
R. Scott Bakker
Heroes Die, by Matthew Woodring Stover
THE NIGHT LAND by William Hope Hodgson

Someday that list will include Cauldron of Shadows by Bryan Lee Hitchcock!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Escape Pod

Okay, I have been really lax on my Escape Pod reports, even though I listen to them as soon as possible. So here are my November Escape Pod overviews.

EP130: What We Learned From This Morning’s Newspaper by Robert Silverberg
The Silverberg stories seem dated to me. This was an interesting tale with a twist at the end that did not quite satisfy. It was more ennui than conclusion, though in a fun way. Rather than just slap a moral on the end, Silverberg gives us something more disturbing. Mash up challenge: Follow "What We Learned...." with The Mist by Stephen King. heh

EP131: Hesperia and Glory by Ann Leckie
I enjoyed this story. It had a very 'John Carter of Mars' feel to it as well as the victorian aesthetic which I have found very appealing in such novels as The Prestige. I need to come back to this when I next try to revise my story The Zombie King and Mr. Cooke, which also takes the form of a letter. I learned a great word from the Escape Pod forums: Epistolary is a story in letter or diary format. Cool.

EP132: Sparks in a Cold War by Kristine Kathryn Rusch
An interesting story that brought up a number of questions. It felt almost incomplete, though it did have an ending. I just wanted to know more about the setting, especially the technology. It was interesting that the story just went BAM here we are in the middle of the story, and there was some background, but I feel like just a paragraph or two more of explanation would have been nice. How did the self folding, self transporting stuff work? What was with the cut-grass? I did not get right away that the environment was so harsh. Also, it kind of bothered me that the three trouble-makers were women and then they all had to be killed. It's a woman author, but the story still feels mysoginistic to me. If the story had been written by a man, I think he would have to take the hit on that one. Wierd. I liked the ending.

EP133: Other People’s Money by Cory Doctorow
A little tough to understand the reader, but she had a nice voice. Personally I enjoy the challenge and the exposure to non-American accented English. The story was okay. Not really my bag. Interesting ideas, as many people mentioned on the EP forums, without much action or growth. I think the latter point is the key. It would be okay to have a piece that was mainly dialog, but I want the characters to go somewhere, learn something new... change.

I am an Escape Pod supporter, giving $5 a month. I urge all of my 0 readers to do the same. =)

Final Battle

Last night I wrote the final battle sequence of Cauldron of Shadows. Surprisingly, I was kind of nervous about it. I had a good idea what would happen, but putting it down on paper is a different thing than just thinking about it. IN the end, I kind of jumped around a lot, rather than sticking with one point of view. We'll see how it works. The whole novel kind of spirals in from big sections about specific characters to the end where it is bouncing back and forth with the action.

However, there is a final battle in real life as well. The last 5000 words. Basically I want to write the wrap up, where at least one more character will be killed and then I need to write a few fill-in scenes I thought up after their point in the novel had already passed. No problemo? Yeah, that's what I said at 40k. I just want to be done at this point. That's not to say I won't enjoy writing the last few thousand words, just that the end is so near I can taste it!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The Buildup

Last night I completed a penultimate action sequence with zombies and sorcery. It was quite fun and ended with frustration for both the heroes and villains. Bernardo the paladin of Pyrothion is turning out to be the big hero, though Lorallee the witch is also doing good things. My villains are truly vile and disgusting. Writing them has been a lot of fun.

I basically ended as the ragtag group of survivors gathered together to go out and confront the hags and their "son" the gray knave. After two nights of attacks and torment, it is clear to them that they have to strike before they lose even more of their numbers. So tonight and probably tomorrow night, I will be working on the final battle scene, killing almost everyone off and having a blast at it.

Thursday will be for Denoument and having a little party with Mechelle when I finish, if she is still awake. It will be cool to finish a day early this year.

I have a lot of reading lined up and it definitely feels like a heavy reading December coming on. I have books by China Mieville, Steven Erikson and Guy Kay. What a list! I am sure I will learn some things and have a great time reading these books.

Monday, November 26, 2007

The End Game

Yesterday was Sunday and the last day of the Thanksgiving break. I wrote 4k on Friday and 5k yesterday to reach 40,000 words. There were some moments last week when I wondered if I had what it takes to finish, but now that the end is near I am excited to finish. I need to write 2250 words each day this week in order to finish by Friday and celebrate with a night of WoW. No problemo.

Things are really coming together now. I pretty much know the fates of all the characters and it is just a matter of telling the rest of the story as outlined.

So far, I have learned the following things in this Nanowrimo:

Heroes who are just decent, stand up, neighborly folks... are boring to write about. It wasn't until I started to flesh out the villains and give them things to do that the writing really took off and I felt like i finally had a novel's worth of ideas.

My rough drafts tend to be mostly narrative. This is something I will have to work on. For Nanowrimo, I suppose it is okay, because I can't really market a 50k novel anyway. What I have is a narrative framework and in the rewrite, I will have to take certain parts and make actual scenes instead of just explaining what happens. I think I will shoot for 80k on the rewrite, unless I get some brilliant idea to take it to 100k. Something to watch out for when it comes time to write on the Neverwoods again.

Also, I find myself consciously padding the language, using the most wordy possible phrases in order to meet the writing deadline. I hope more practice will help curb this. Next year, I will have a better idea of how many phases or scenes I need to flesh out 50k words. This year it was just over 60. I should look at 2006's nanonovel outline to see how many I ended up with. If I can start November with a solid outline at about the right length, then maybe at 10%, I may have enough subject matter that I don't have to pad everything so much.

Perhaps next year I will give myself a gnarlier goal and go for 80k. I hope to learn a lot in the year of editing coming up, so we'll see.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Six-thousand words

Yesterday, I had a great writing day. There was little to do outside of preparing meals for my family and some minor chores so I got in three writing sessions, broken up by the aforementioned meals and some trips to the battlegrounds of WoW.

I was running behind, but by 9pm I had written 6000 words and put myself back on track to finish. Right now I need to write 2200 words a day, not counting two days off for WoW nights with my family. Not bad. If I have another day like yesterday during the coming Turkey Day weekend, I may even finish early.

The biggest issue right now, is that I really don't have any idea how to make the ending exciting. There were going to be some murders, but I like my angsty couple too much to get them killed. I know who all the players are and now it is pretty much down to the final battle, rescuing the unicorn and the village children. Who will live and who will die?

Time for a bloodbath.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Throne of Jade

I am stoked today because I picked up the second novel in Naomi Novik's fantasy series. I get them from The reader is excellent and just listening to the first chapter reminded me of all the reasons I love the first book, His Majesty's Dragon. The depth of feeling between Lawrence and Temeraire is just amazing. It's like a wish fulfillment for a perfect friend and companion. Just love it.

I am hooked on Fortress Draconis now, too, though, so I think I will alternate during my commute, until I catch up with Stackpole and have to start waiting a week between each installment of FD.

My short fiction mags are stacking way up, but I can't let it get to me. THere are so many good novels to read. I also just started Guy Gavriel Kay's A Song for Arbonne and I want to get some reading on that done this weekend. I love his books, though they are quite intimidating as a writer.


Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Reading and Writing Update

I ran a D&D game based on the characters and setting for my nano novel this last weekend. It was a blast, though it ended up running slightly too long. But it gave me some good ideas for things to have the characters do in the novel.

The writing is a bit behind right now. I guess you could say I am in the week 2 blues, but its really more about my own state of mind than any problem coming up with ideas or anything.

Also, I started listening to another podcast novel, Michael A Stackpole's Fortress Draconis. It is quite enjoyable.

I get the feeling that Seventh Son is almost done. New episode today that just rocked, though I am always sad when one of the clones dies. Let's hope it was just a cliff-hanger.

Now.... where did I leave my muse?

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Ironhand's Daughter by David Gemmell

So, my friend Charles has been suggesting David Gemmell to me for years now. I am a very fickle reader. I love books, but I have to be in just the right frame of mind to start a novel and I rarely leave one unfinished. It's strange that I want to write fantasy novels, but I am reluctant to read many of them.

Anyway, I finally picked up Ironhand's Daughter. This one intrigued me because I like female heroes and I wanted to see how an accomplished writer handled such a story. This book KICKED MY ASS! It was so good. It took me two chapters to get into it, but then I could hardly stand to put it down. Far from the big fat fantasy books where every detail is described, Gemmell hits all the important parts and leaves the fluff on the editing room floor, so to speak. I laughed, I cried, I cheered. Ironhand's Daughter had lots of things I love in a fantasy novel and left me wishing for more. Fortunately there is a sequel and Mr. Gemmell wrote dozens of other books before he passed away last year, including novels about Troy and Alexander the Great. Those are going on my Yule gift list this year.

If my Neverwoods novel comes out a tenth as good as this book, I will be a very happy writer.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Works in Progress

Looking at my work in progress bars on the right always makes me feel like a quitter, but they are not entirely accurate.

On the Black Wings of Night is a completed novel set in a post environmental apocalypse town in northern California. I wrote it for Nanowrimo last year and I want to add another plot and make it 80k, a more marketable length.

Demons of the Neverwoods really IS an unfinished novel. I have the complete outline and I plan to work on it in the first quarter of next year to finish the rough draft.

Couldron of Shadows is my current nanowrimo novel and it is coming along nicely. Hit 10k last night. The only problem is that I am about half way through the story, so I need to take a bit more time describing things, I think.

So, that's the deal. Update complete.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Escape Pod 128, 129, and More

Well, the last couple of Escape Pods have not been my favorites, but I learn something from every show.

Escape Pod 128: Union Dues - Send in the Clowns by Jefferey R Derego. I appreciate the Union Dues stories. Really. They just get me down. Well written. Wonderful ideas. They kick ass, really. But they're such a bummer.

Escape Pod 129: Immortal Sin by Jennifer Pelland. This was a weird story about a brilliant man who is tortured by his own faith and psychosis. He kills a woman, gets away with it and then creates his own sort of hell as he tries to avoid damnation through everlasting life. It put me in mind of a Bad Religion song "Prove It": There's no such thing as hell, but you can make it if you try.

Other Podcasts and reading: Right now I am reading Ironhand's Daughter by David Gemmel, and enjoying three podcast novels: The final installment of JC Hutchins' great Seventh Son trilogy, Scott Sigler's new one Nocturnal and Mur Lafferty's Playing for Keeps. Really enjoying them all.

Nanowrimo is going well. I was a little behind, but I had a great day yesterday and put in 3k words to bring me up to my goal of 8k. Two thousand more tonight!

Thursday, November 01, 2007


WTF is NaNoWriMo you ask?

Well, I'll tell ya. That's short for National Novel Writing Month. I won last year and I am excited to try again.

This year's novel is called Couldron of Shadows. It is a fantasy/horror story about a group of war scarred veterans returning home in a rustic Italian fantasy setting. Unfortunately their lovely home has acquired some...pests.

yahoo! yippeee kaiay

Friday, October 26, 2007

The Game Plan

This is just a statement of goals and purpose for this blog and my reading/writing agenda.

The biggest thing looming is National Novel Writing Month in November. I have a plan for an as yet untitled fantasy/horror novel, so I am going with that.

I want to continue reading, with a focus on fantasy. The Thomas Covenant books are a high priority. It is way past time, and it seems like they are going to be essential reading if I want the Neverwoods novel to be all it can be. That means posts here may be more infrequent, as my reading slows a bit. However, I plan to blog my writing progress for nanowrimo, so we'll see.

December is dedicated to playing games with Mechelle, reading and hopefully a music project with my buddy Sean.

After the holidays, I want to finish Demons of the Neverwoods by my birthday in March. Then I would like to spend several months editing the three novels I will have completed by then and get them ready for an agent hunt before nanowrimo 08. I figure 2 months each to edit, at least for a decent draft I can let others read.

Sounds like a plan.

His Majesty's Dragon

I was thrilled recently when Audible got the unabridged versions of Naomi Novik's Temeraire novels. I eagerly picked up the first book, His Majesty's Dragon, having heard an interview with the author on the Dragon Page Podcast. At first I was very jealous of how "easily" she has achieved success, but the books sounded so intriguing. I am a big fan of the Sharpe books by Bernard Cornwell, and the addition of dragons to the Napoleonic wars had me hooked.

This book was everything I hoped it would be and more. It just kicked ass. OMG, I can't even express how much. I loved it. I haven't been able to start anything new and I am sorely tempted to get the second book even before my Audible subscription rolls over in November.

If you like Dragons and a bit of history and don't have anything against military fiction, this book will rock you. The dragons are so cool and detailed. The hero is complex, honorable and flawed without being an anti-hero.

Loved it. Highly recommended.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Universe: The Rest of Your Life in a Day

A few days ago, I read The Rest of Your Life in a Day by Elizabeth Bear.

This was a really interesting story about magic and the fae in the modern world. I haven't checked the word count, but this story had the depth and density of a novel. The relationship between the brothers was believable. I did wonder what the point was a few times before the final conflict developed, but the details of the characters' lives and the ceremony kept my interest.

Thursday, October 18, 2007


Though I have not yet mentioned Pseudopod here before, it is one of my favorite podcasts. It is the sister podcast to Escape Pod, but for horror stories. For some reason, I do not listen to PD as regularly as EP, though I truly enjoy horror. I think it is because horror requires a certain frame of mind. I am glad Psudopod is there when I am ready for it.

Recently I listened to a few Pseudopod stories. I'm going to log them here and try to catch up with the podcast soon.

Psuedopod 046: The Hanging at Christmas Bridge by David E. Hilton
An interesting story of a haunted bridge, a man, and his car. The characterization here was very good. Also, I liked the way the author feinted and kept the reader in suspense about who exactly would end up hanging from the bridge. Suprise twist at the end. An enjoyable listen.

Pseudopod 047: Akropolis by Matt Wallace
This story kicked ass. It has this Lovecraftian aura of sublime and evil power from beyond, as well as a gigantic scope and a twist at the end. Awesome.

Pseudopod 048: The Disciple by David Barr Kirtley
This guy is becoming one of my favorite short story writers, though this one is not my favorite of his. It is still a good spooky story about a man who is driven by his own losses and sense of mediocrity to pursue powers that "man was not meant to meddle in." Great twist at the end. Excellent buildup and homage to Lovecraft.

Pseudopod 049: Big Boy by Ron McGillvray
This is an interesting take on a zombie story, from the point of view of a nine year old boy. Very well done from that point of view. Chilling and tense. There's a lot of horror here, though I think the author pulled back a bit. Zombie children anyone? But not here, though the adult things going on in the background were nicely handled, as well as the friendship between the little boy and one of his friends.

Pseudopod 053: The Apple Tree Man by Joel Arnold
This story throws a feint at being a supernatural horror story, but the real horror is all real. It is a very interesting technique. The narrator is haunted by guilt in the form of hallucinatory encounters with apples. Tales of the "Apple Tree Man" give a creepy feeling to the setting, mostly an apple orchard. But the violence is all about keeping a secret.

Escape Pod 127: Results

I'm running a bit behind on blog entries.

Last week's Escape Pod was the story "Results" by Kristine Kathryn Rusch.

It is a very interesting story of a kind I find is growing on my as a reader. I am all for fantastic scifi with technology that defies our current understanding of physical laws. However, I think it is really important to look at how current technology will evolve and effect our lives. Cyberpunk, as a genre, does this; eschewing space opera for an examination of the near future.

In results, the protagonist is nervously awaiting the results of a genetic compatibility analysis of her and her boyfriend. The results give percentage chances of the baby's hair color, creative ability and IQ. In a way, it is finding out the baby's sex taken to the extreme. The story creates a dichotomy between the "natural" or old way of having babies and the new test compatibility method, and between just having a baby and loving it no matter what and the idea that children are something to be proud of and invest our genetic material in. It's a very interesting situation and realistic in light of the growing powers of genetic research.

As a naturalist, this is an interesting question. If we are going to pass on our genes, don't we want to give that child the best chance? On the other hand, should we base our relationships and hinge our love on the chance of having a baby who isn't brilliant? Lots to think about here.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Magic with Thirteen-Year-Old Boys

This is a story by Robert Reed from the March 2007 issue of F&SF.

GVG's intro to this story was intruguing. Pretty much anything with a "not for kids" warning catches my interest. Perhaps that will change if I ever get a little one.

In any case, this story fits into a subgenre of fantasy stories similar to many I read in Realms of Fantasy. It is a contemporary setting with magic that is not really ever explained. There was one about long distance runners in F&SF not long ago. In today's story, a group of young boy's find a photo album containing very explicit photos of different women having sex with the same man. The catch is that all the photos span decades but the man never seems to age.

The characterization was clear, if a little trite. There's an adventurous, knowledgeable friend, a "by the book" sheltered friend, and the narrator who is right in the middle. However, I enjoyed the way the story unfolded, including a "meta-story" of the narrator telling the tale as an adult. Also, the frank way the story deals with masturbation, boys and the novelty of learning about sex was refreshing.

Personally, I like to learn a little more about how the magic works, though.

Escape Pod 126

This week's Escape Pod was the story The Sweet, Sad Love Song of Fred and Wilma by Nick Dichario and Mike Resnick.

Mike Resnick is one of my favorites, going back to his novel Santiago. Apparently these guys have an anthology of all the stories they've written together. I will have to look into that.

This story was an enjoyable tale of a pretty plain, boring guy who develops a romance with a "mech" robot "girl." There was a lot going on here, almost a reverse Pygmilion, as their relationship and her level 4 intellect help transform him into a shiny new guy. The sex was well handled and I appreciate the commitment to mature subject matter at Escape Pod.

My basic question though is why guy's always have to cheat? Each individual instance seems to have explanations, but it is getting a little boring to me to have every man in every relationship (at least it seems to me) be unfaithful. Sure it seems like male nature, but as a story-telling device... *yawn*

Nevertheless this was a fun science fiction story with an adult twist.

Friday, September 28, 2007

The Second Rat

So through Escape Pod, I checked out the site for author David Barr Kirtley and found a link to another free audio show, MechMuse, and his story The Second Rat.


My favorite short stories are ones with a different twist to them that somehow make the reader appreciate life in a new and profound way. This was a story like that.

I don't want to give much away, but the basic idea is about a guy who can 'rewind' time and live parts of his life over again, and again, and again, if he wishes. This story blew my mind. So far, Kirtley is 3 for 3 with me. He writes stories that matter in the way I want my stories to matter. Much work to do.

Speaking of which, I am still struggling with The Zombie King and Mr. Cook. Looking at a complete revision. But at least I spent some time on it and rearranged things. I really want to get it in shape so I can focus on NaNoWriMo and the Neverwoods.

Escape Pod 125

This weeks Escape Pod was End Game by Nancy Kress. It's one of the first EP's in a long time that left me a bit cold. It was clever and well written, but I just didn't really care for any of the characters.

It started out with an off note, from my point of view, by describing human experience as static. I understand what the character was getting at, but I think the metaphor is shallow and inaccurate when it comes down to it. Consciousness only ever holds one thing before its "eye" at a time. Sure there may be a gazillion things going off and tangents and lines everywhere, but only one thing is ever the focus at any one instant. And I'm not talking about people who can do many things at once by reflex and training. The character clearly talks about the jumble of things in his mind and makes it sound as if it is so abundant that it becomes static. Again, I understand the experience, I just dont agree with how it is represented.

Anyway, I have enjoyed Ms. Kress's previous stories and I have one of her books on writing that is very helpful. This one just ain't my fave.

Monday, September 24, 2007


I recently completed the Audiobook version of Stardust by Neil Gaiman.

It was very enjoyable, especially the loving narration by Mr. Gaiman himself. I saw the film version several weeks ago and I think the story has been improved for the film, though the differences and slight twists in the novel kept me interested and had a charm all their own.

Gaiman's stories are sometimes a bit tedious to me. In American Gods, I kept hoping for some action. But the ideas, characters and language are always interesting. Stardust was a richer fantasy experience. At 6+hours, it is a fairly brief audiobook and well worth a listen at

Escape Pod 124

Friday's Escape Pod was "Save Me Plz" by David Barr Kirtley.

Kirtley's wrote one of my favorite Realms of Fantasy stories, "Blood of Virgins" and I was thrilled when that one was picked up by Escape Pod.

"Save Me Plz" is a riff on life with a video game addict. There was a lot here that rang true, since me and my whole family basically are WoW players, though I have managed to limit my addiction to Friday nights.... mostly.

The thing I enjoyed most about this story was the way it kept unfolding and revealing layers of meaning and turns in the plot. Sure there are always going to be questions and places where the explanations run thin in a story that starts so small and becomes so epic. But, for the most part, the gaming issues rang true and the relationship was realistic. Mur's reading was excellent. I think her gaming background helped her make some really good choices for emphasis and emotion.

I really enjoyed this story. A+

Friday, September 14, 2007

Escape Pod 123

Today's Escape Pod story was "Niels Bohr and the Sleeping Dane" by Jonathan Sullivan.

It was a great story with both science and fantasy, brains and heart. The research and diction were spot on, turning a compelling story into a vivid, engrossing one.

I could have gone either way on this story, but when the bullets started flying, I realized just how much I cared about the characters and their relationships. The golem at the end was a little predictable, given the setup, but the action and resolution were satisfying.

Great story, Mr. Sullivan.

Escape Pod is easily my favorite podcast, and is one of a small group that I listen to right away when they come out. I am a financial supporter of the podcast and I urge anyone who reads this (lol) to check it out at

Wednesday, September 12, 2007


So, yesterday I finished Conscience by John Skipp. This is the novella included with The Long Last Call, and I actually enjoyed it more than the headliner. I think that mainly is a factor of anticipation and predictability.

I had no idea what to expect from Conscience and that made it a real surprise.

***Spoiler Alert***
1. I saw this book in my local supermarket, so there is no excuse not to get it.
2. Read it. Fun reading. Quick reading. No excuse.
3. Come back and chat.
***Spoiler Alert***

Conscience opens with an excellent memory of the narrator's childhood that really sets everything up great. The thing I like most about this story is the way it unfolds from being a gritty hitman story into this personal tale of transformation and realization, in the midst of a worldwide shift. Things that seem like background information or setting become important details.

The way Skipp handles the internal dialog was excellent. Even though this narrator is a tough as nails killing machine, his epiphanies are realistic and well done. Human.

I 'm going to have to read this again. It's one of those stories that changes after you finish it.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Brain Raid

Today I did a double dip, listening to Escape Pod -and- reading a story: Brain Raid by Alexander Jablokov from the Feb issue of F&SF. Still behind, but I only have one piece left in that issue.

Brain Raid was an intriguing story about a guy who works for a firm that hunts down rogue AI's. In this future, there are even grades of AI. The biggest firms hunt the A and B rank AI's while lesser firms handle the weaker ones. The methods of designating AI's was pretty cute and the dynamics between the characters were interesting. I think I could read a novel set in this world.

Jablokov did a good job of sweeping us right into his world of professional jargon and near-future tech. Lots of conflict and a caper-ish plot kept my interest throughout.

Escape Pod 122

This weeks Escape Pod story was Transcendence Express by Jetse de Vries. This story had some interesting ideas and a hot, brilliant leading woman. Maybe a little too hot. She reminded me of a Heinlein hero-ess. The BIKO computers were interesting, but I kept wondering where the interfaces would come from. The idea of a computer made out of everyday chemicals is cool, but the details were fuzzy. Way fuzzy.

In terms of the story, I enjoyed it, but it was very light on conflict. Neat people, thought provoking ideas, but it felt more like a vignette than a story, mainly due to this lack of adversaries or complications.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

The Long Last Call

So, yesterday I read The Long Last Call by John Skipp. I have been eagerly awaiting the Leisure Books paperback edition of this one, since I started reading Skipp and Spector books on the recommendation of Pod of Horror reviewer Scott Bradley.

This was a fun book to read and a textbook in lightning characterization. In brief, The Long Last Call is an encounter between a dark stranger and a group of strip club employees and patrons, just before closing time. The dark stranger is charismatic, handsome and rich enough to drive the greedy souls into fits. He's also some kind of satanic entity. He wants a private show and is willing to pay big money for it. Unfortunately, just touching his slimy green cash is enough to bring out your dark side... your REALLY dark side. Hilarity ensues. lol

The setup was great. Superb writing, cinematic feel (no surprise since it started life as a screenplay) and an interesting cast of characters. Worth a read for any horror fan.


If you want to read THE LONG LAST CALL, stop reading now. I am just jotting down my impressions and would love to discuss the book with others. So buy it. Read it. And then come talk to me. =)

However, towards the end, it did get a bit cartoonish for my tastes. The eyes popping out, the EYES GONE BLACK (complete with caps), and the ease with which people rip each other up went just a bit too far. I re-read the last two dozen pages, and maybe I am being too critical. I enjoyed the read, but I felt like it lost some gravitas once the blood started to flow.

Maybe it is because I just read The Clean-Up, but as soon as the business with Mom as angel started, I had a good idea where this story would go. Skipp delivers excellent twists and diversions, sending her out of the bar into the hands of the murderous chauffeur. I thought for sure she was toast, but once she made it back in, I was pretty sure that good would triumph over evil. In some ways TLLC is a religious thriller, rather than a horror novel. Sure there is some gross shit and some evil stuff, but (Like the Clean-Up) there is a strong morality play element.

My last criticism involves the character Daisy. I feel like Skipp flinched when it came to dealing with her and the bouncer. Given everything else that goes on in this book, I don't think it would have been over the top. Glossing over it robbed the book of some horror, just as other action was getting a little cartoon-ish.

The Long Last Call was a good, quick read, but I think I am ready for something meaner.

Friday, August 31, 2007


Today's story was Fool by John Morressy from the February issue of F&SF and it totally kicked ass. Great narrative voice, interesting story, wicked ending.

In fact, wicked is a good description of this story. It reminded me a bit of Hopfrog by Poe, but the deformed narrator of Fool is more calculating than crazy. The structure was a little odd, beginning with the fool entering a crowded banquet hall to much applause and then launching into the story, much of which was "backstory" but it was interesting and different enough to overcome the loss of momentum from such flashbacks.

Rules were made to be broken, but you have to do it with so much style that the reader forgets the rules.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Catching Up

Okay, I want to follow up on the old posts and document how some of those projects and readings have gone.

First off, my story Cold Snap did sell, but then Pitch-Black Books folded. Luckily the project was picked up by Carnifex Press. The artwork is done. Major revisions are done and I am just praying that Armand at Carnifex will still publish the story. He was extremely critical and unsympathetic to the character.

The revision process was very illuminating. Most of the edits were very good and I realized that I had started the story in the wrong place, since so much of it was a flashback. So I restructured the whole thing. It still feels a bit choppy, like a middle draft again, but at some point you just have to shrug and send it. A deadline is a deadline.

I have not returned to On the Black Wings of Night yet. The redline is still sitting there. I know I want to expand it to 80k words and at least submit it to Leisure books. That is my October project. Of course, August is almost over and The Zombie King story is not edited....

Demons of the Neverwoods, my long dreamt of fantasy novel is languishing at 30k. I plan to resume work on it in the new year with the goal of 100k by my birthday in March.

Here is the writing plan for the foreseeable future:
August - finish The Zombie King and Mr. Cook
September - edit my star-crossed horror novel On the Black Wings of Night
October - continue editing and prepare for Nanowrimo. My anniversary is on Halloween =)
November - National Novel Writing Month. This will be my second year. I have no idea what the new novel will be but, I am looking forward to it.
December - pretty much do what I want, including finishing the Hobbit game on the PS2, lots of WoW and good holiday cheer.
2008 - the year of the Neverwoods.

Escape Pod 121

Today's reading (listening) was an Escape Pod story, The Snow Woman's Daughter by Eugie Foster. It was a good story, but nothing really exciting. The tone and diction reminded me of Tales of the Otori by Lian Hearn, one of my recent favorites. The story was beautifully written and the narration was pitch-perfect, but the story did not really offer any surprises.

Steve announced the new Escape Artists podcast, the fantasy themed Podcastle. Great title. I can't wait for this one.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Seventh Son

This is my one-person-who-nobody-reads online standing ovation for Father Thomas, a character in JC Hutchins awesome podiobook Seventh Son.

Today's episode was fan-freaking-tastic. I won't post a spoiler here, but if you're a Seventh Son listener, you know what I am talking about. Great writing takes something that is inevitable and makes the reader feel it anyway. Today was one of those days.

So, cheers to an awesome heroic character.

That Kilroy guy though. I've known for a while that he is up to no good. The end is near, so I guess we will see what his deal is soon enough.


Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Reading Challenge

Okay, so no posts in a while, but I have been writing and reading... a lot.

I have this challenge for myself, to read or listen to a short story every day. I try to do this even if I am also enjoying a novel, but if 45 minutes or a chapter is all I can do, I count that as a victory.

Today I read the story Red Card by SL Gilbow from the February F&SF. Just a little behind... It was an interesting read, though I wish there was just a bit more background about why the Red Card program was started and what the purpose was, really. But the story was well written with little details that forshadowed later details. Love that stuff.

Yesterday's story was The Sundial Brigade on Escape Pod ( That was an excellent story with a very anti-authoritarian theme. Not a happy story, but an interesting one nonetheless. I seem to like things with Italian settings and language, maybe I should learn Italian. Every week, Escape Pod provides an audio version of a short story and I almost always enjoy them, especially when they are challenging to the status quo, though I fear sometimes that Steve will drive away listeners. It keeps me coming back, though.

Anyway, I want to keep this blog up to date now and make an entry for the stories I read. My current subscriptions are F&SF, Realms of Fantasy and Baen's Universe.


Saturday, February 03, 2007


So far February is a big zippo for word count. Hoping to write a bit this weekend.

I am finally reading I Am Legend by Richard Matheson. I loved the movies made from this story. I just started it and it is great.

Back to reading....

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Good News and Bad News

Well, as they say, there's good news and there's bad news.

The good news is that I have written 20,001 words of my fantasy novel Demons of the Neverwoods. Not quite my 1k per day goal, but I am satisfied for now. Also, I've written at least a chapter for each of the main characters. It was like starting the book four times in a way. The goal is to create a fantasy thriller which introduces some seemingly untrelated characters and brings them together in a storm of conflict and danger.

And the bad news. Pich-Black Books has folded. They were to publish my first pro sale, the super hero story Cold Snap, in their anthology Lords of Justice. But alas, it is not to be. Now to figure out what to do with a kick ass super hero story that's 17k words long.... They wanted novelettes for the anthology. No one else really does.

Thems the breaks. =(