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.