Ray Bradbury — How do I begin?

Photo of Ray Bradbury.

Photo of Ray Bradbury. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I don’t have a real post today. Nor do I have time to write one. But I saw in the news that Ray Bradbury has died and had to say something.

How do I begin? I could get lost talking how The Small Assassin put me off of having children for at least an extra year or two. Or how Something Wicked This Way Comes opened my younger self to a whole new vision of what fiction could and should be. How I read Halloween Tree to my children at Halloween. How Dandelion Wine gave me a sense of the innocence of childhood and the weight of adulthood when I stood on the boundary between.

Somehow these thoughts don’t seem adequate.

Ray Bradbury wrote about Martians and dystopian societies and grandmas and tattoo artists and circuses and friendship and death. But no matter what he wrote about, no matter what you felt about his writing style or his subject matter, one thing is undeniable:

Ray Bradbury wrote from the heart. And what a big heart he had.

Thank you, Ray Bradbury, for sharing that heart with the rest of us.

Posted in Authors, Books | Tagged , , , , , | 6 Comments

Books I Want to be Buried With

A while back, I ranted about the digitization of literature. Soon we won’t even keep our electronic files in our homes, anymore. Everything will be stored in “the cloud,” an undefined somewhere else.

Don’t get me wrong—I’m not against e-books. Guilt rides me every time I buy a print book, so these days I try to restrict paper purchases to novels I want to keep forever (and books that aren’t available as e-books or cost more as e-books than print). But even as I transition into a completely digital existence, I have this niggling concern that the great works of modern literature will be lost when civilization crumbles and the cloud evaporates into oblivion.

Therefore I feel it’s imperative to select some favorite novels to be buried with. That way, books found when I am exhumed by future archeologists need not be lost forever.

I figure Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter will be covered by other rabid fans, so I’m focusing on books that might be more likely to be omitted from other people’s coffins. Here’s my list, so far.

Holes
Louis Sachar

I have fond memories of reading Holes to my kids during a family road trip. I didn’t quite finish it during the drive. To my surprise, my husband asked to borrow it so he could read the ending. This was the first fiction he’d read since we were married. He borrowed more novels after that, so I figure Holes elevated him to the rank of “casual reader.” Therefore, I’d like to be buried with Holes somewhere near my heart.

Readers of the future dark ages might relate to this book on another level. Without modern plumbing or backhoes, I imagine they’ll be digging a lot of holes by hand.

The Stars My Destination
Alfred Bester 

This classic science fiction novel is a miracle of tight plotting, a masterpiece of pace and characterization. Written back in 1956, aspects may or may not seem quaint to you, but you would not regret the two or three hours it takes you to read it.

I don’t know what the archaeologists of the future will make of this book, but I guess that won’t be my problem.

The Stand
Stephen King

I’m not a Stephen King fan. By that, I mean that I don’t love every book he writes. For example, I only got through two chapters of Tommy Knockers before hurling it against the wall. That was back in the days when I had to skip a meal to buy a book, so it’s saying something if I didn’t finish it.

But when King hits the mark, he hits it well and thoroughly. And my favorite is The Stand.

Not only is The Stand a riveting read, it is a workshop on how to bring character and emotion into my scenes. Particularly the darker variety.

It’s possible that readers of the future dark age might relate to it a little too well.

The Complete Calvin and Hobbes
Bill Waterson

Comics may seem like a frivolous use of coffin space. But how can I let this slice of cynical innocence evaporate into the atmosphere?

True, I do worry that the humor and poignancy of these frames will be lost on the culture of the future. Will they know what kind of creature Hobbes is? Or will they say, “What is that orange and black stripy thing, Mommy? It’s too fuzzy to be a monster.”

Will children understand the concept of sledding if global warming has its way and there is no more snow? Maybe not, but Calvin will seem all the more reckless and daring if kids think he sends his sled barreling down a hillside covered in sand and dirt.

And what of the evil genius of Calvin’s snowmen? I can just picture it—

“What is he making those funny-looking men out of, Mommy?”

“I dunno.”

“Is it dirt, Mommy? How does he make it stick together like that? And what is that pointy orange thingy sticking out of the dirtman’s face where his nose should go?”

“I said I dunno. Now shuddup and eat your algae loaf.”

Fahrenheit 451
Ray Bradbury

This is not my favorite Ray Bradbury book. That would be Something Wicked This Way Comes or Dandelion Wine, depending on season and mood. But it seems oddly appropriate to rescue Fahrenheit 451 from the great book shredding that is the digitization of us all. Maybe the lesson lost on past generations will reach a generation of the future.

As Granger said in the final pages of Fahrenheit 451, “Now, let’s get on upstream….And hold onto one thought: You’re not important. You’re not anything. Someday the load we’re carrying with us may help someone. But even when we had the books on hand, a long time ago, we didn’t use what we got out of them.”

Posted in Authors, Books, Life | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 27 Comments

Ruminations on Aniko Carmean’s Stolen Climates (Or “I’ll take a little myth in my horror, thank you.”)

After spending so much time thinking about the horror genre over the last couple of weeks (here, here, and here), this seems like a good time to talk about some actual horror by Aniko Carmean. At least, in my opinion, her Stolen Climates falls within the horror genre. (Maybe urban fantasy horror. Or mythic horror. Something.)

Carmean’s book holds a special appeal to me because I love the use of mythology in fiction. I read my first urban fantasy novel—Moonheart, by Charles de Lint—about sixty million years ago, back when they still shelved all science fiction and fantasy together in a dark corner of the bookstore. Moonheart nearly exploded my brain. The idea of fairies living among us (and we’re not talking about Tinkerbell, here) captivated me like nothing I’d read before.

You have to understand—I searched for leprechauns in the clover every St. Patrick’s Day clear through high school. Even now, I walk a wide circle to avoid crossing a fairy ring. (When I was young, I stood in the middle and waited for something to happen.) As I got older, the work of Charles de Lint gave me a way to see magic amid the exhaust and noise of modern life.

But everything has its dark side, including myth and magic. In Stolen Climates, Aniko Carmean draws from the nature religions of Central and South America, where Mother Nature can be very dark, indeed. Though I read all sorts of mythology as a child, I always steered clear of the Aztecs and Mayans. Just too scary for young me. Stolen Climates gives a glimpse into those ancient stories, making me wonder what I’ve been missing. I asked Aniko to share a little of the background to the story, and here is what she said.

In mythology, twins represent the duality of the universe by showing the two faces of one reality. Twins in Mesoamerican creation myth are portrayed as possessing god-like abilities to slay monsters. The Popol Vuh, a written account of Mayan mythology, tells the story of the Hero Twins, Hunahpu and Xbalanque. The Hero Twins were tricksters who outwitted the lords of the underworld into offering themselves as sacrifices to the Gods. What fascinated me, though, was not the twin myth on its own, but the myth in combination with the fact that in ancient Mesoamerica, twins were regarded as negative portents. Twins were considered so dangerous that the Aztec killed one of each pair born.

All of these ideas got caught in my mental filter, where they fermented, transmuted, sublimed. In the end, I decanted what was left of that heady combination of myth and fact. Therein lay my inspiration for los gemelos, the Cayalanzuvan twins in Stolen Climates. Los gemelos are La Zalia’s unnamed enforcers, the ones who bring punishment to those who trespass against the Goddess. Only one of the twins speaks, but the other carries a ball of string to play cat’s cradle. The string symbolizes the interconnectedness of all in Nature, and the twins are incarnate guarantors of the natural order. In Stolen Climates, I use twin mythology to give a sense of apprehension around the power associated with Nature’s often-horrific will.

I am not sure where I first read the Hero Twin myth, but a good deal of information can be found in the book Aztec and Maya Myths, by Karl Taube.  I’m sure there’s a bit of Joseph Campbell’s work on mythology informing this as well. 

See what I mean? Mesoamerican flavored mythology makes great food for a horror novel. Carmean brings it to life in the modern world, a time when Mother Nature should be very angry indeed. If you take your fiction dark with no sugar, I highly recommend Aniko Carmean’s Stolen Climates.

***

  • You can find a description and book trailer for Stolen Climates at Aniko’s blog.
  • Find an enlightening interview with Aniko at YouTube.
  • See my review of Stolen Climates at Goodreads.
  • Buy the book at Amazon or other online retailers.
Posted in Authors, Books, Myth in fiction, Ruminations | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Horror – the Ultimate Definition (Yeah, right.)

Over the past week, the members of TESSpecFic* have posted their various opinions on the question: “What is horror.” And the opinions have been various, indeed! After six thoughtful, intelligent discussions, I’m still no closer to being able to make a definitive statement about what horror is. My apologies, if you were hoping for that.

But I have developed a clearer idea of what defines horror fiction for me, which is possibly more important (in an egocentric sort of way).

I’m still pretty happy with my original list of essential elements in horror, especially since similar ideas showed up in my friends’ discussions. Here it is, again.

1)  Creepy atmosphere. I should clarify—even the most cheerful atmosphere can be creepy if it’s written that way. That’s one of the things I love about horror.
2)  Suspenseful. Without this element, horror is boring. Horror should not be boring.
3)  Victims experience psychological trauma and high levels of fear/dread. If the focus is completely on the physical aspect, with no psychological element, then horror becomes nothing more than a big gross-out session. Again, boring.
4)  Inspires fear and/or dread in reader/viewer. What’s the point of horror if your palms don’t sweat a little when you’re reading it?

However, as I noted in my original post, this list is incomplete. With the help of my friends, I would like to expand it a little.

In her post, Aniko Carmean said, “…horror has the intent of making the reader feel the inevitable approach of death.” I like this definition a lot. Fear of unavoidable death is certainly a major element in much of horror fiction and movies. There’s a whole vein of horror that deals with attempts to stave off the inevitable approach of death. However, this definition excludes stories like Harlan Ellison’s “I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream,” which I feel is pretty horrific. After some discussion with Aniko, I’ve decided to add her amended definition to my list:

5) A sense of inescapable powerlessness.

My list improves, but is still not complete. Jaye Manus came up with the element that finally defines (in my mind) the difference between fantasy and horror.  Using Stephen King’s The Shining as an example, she says, “What happened at the Overlook is going to happen again, and again, and again. It will never be over. My God, how does anyone live with that?”

Wow, that sentiment fits an awful lot of what I consider to be horror.  In some stories, the protagonist will never escape. In others, the horror is over for the (surviving) protagonists, but the implications are that the evil still exists and will strike again. The reader walks away with that lingering feeling that it’s not really over. So I will add the following to my list.

6) Leaves the reader with the feeling that the evil is only temporarily vanquished. It will be back.

This completes the list of elements that define horror in Marie’s world. I maintain the right to modify as more data comes in.

Reading the posts from TESSpecFic members and comments from our readers, it’s become clear that defining horror is not the only problem. Accepting the label for your own work is a bigger issue for some. Paul Dail likes the label “supernatural thriller” for his novel, The Imaginings. I’ve read (and enjoyed) his book and would categorize it as horror, but Paul worries that he might lose potential readers because they associate horror with Freddy Krueger and the like.

Kim Koning’s experience pitching a horror novel (as yet unpublished, I believe) to a potential agent supports Paul’s fear. The agent suggested “Paranormal Historical” might be a “more marketable” choice of genre for her book.

Further confirmation of the horror stigma comes from commenter (and reader) RobynC. She says, “I would Personally avoid a book labeled as “Horror” the same way I avoid haunted houses at Halloween…”

Yet I’d bet that I could hand RobynC a horror novel that she would enjoy. I just have to avoid the slasher vein (heh) of the genre. And not tell her it’s a horror novel.

An interesting article at The Horror Writers Association website highlights the problems with modern perception of horror and how it’s been distorted by commercialization. The article suggests that perhaps horror-that-is-not-Stephen-King-or-Freddy-Krueger is best off hidden within other genres.

“As the horror boom of the eighties turned into the drought of the nineties, horror went underground. In order to save itself, it became a chameleon, masquerading as other genres, hiding itself in other styles. And therein lay its salvation.”

This is not an unreasonable solution. Horror is, after all, an emotion. Novels of any genre tend to be full of that kind of thing.

*

Posted in Books, Writing | Tagged , , , , , | 13 Comments

Genre Confusion: Just what the heck is “Horror,” anyway, and how is it different from Dark Fantasy?

There is a ridiculous array of subgenre choices and mash-ups to choose from when trying to describe a work of fantasy fiction. Those of you who follow my blog know that I have done some heavy thinking about genres, the outcome of which was a special fantasy chart I made all by myself. Based on this useful chart, I might describe my novel Valknut: The Binding as a dark urban fantasy thriller.

Unfortunately, that category doesn’t seem to exist at Amazon. In fact, the only category available at Amazon that uses more than one of these descriptive words is “fiction > fantasy > urban life.”

What the heck is “urban life”? Do they mean, “urban fantasy”? If so, why didn’t Amazon just call it that? The term has been around since before Amazon was born. I hovered over “urban life” for a long time before selecting it, terrified that I might waste one of my precious choices (Amazon only allows the author two) on a totally inappropriate category. For all I knew, “fantasy > urban life” refers to stories like Sex in the City, and that’s not at all what I’ve written!

My genre confusion goes further than that. I still had to choose that second category. “Urban fantasy” doesn’t quite cover the darker aspects of my novel, nor does it hint at the fear I hope the reader feels on behalf on my protagonist. I looked for an Amazon fantasy category that might imply darker content. The only choice was “paranormal.”

Quick, ask the next ten people you meet what they think paranormal fantasy is all about.

Right.

I decided to look for a category outside of the fantasy genre altogether.  Maybe it was time to admit the Stephen King influences. Could I get away with labeling Valknut: The Binding as horror?

This possibility led to the question, “Just what is horror, anyway?”

In answer, I came up with this checklist of elements that I’ve found in my favorite horror and assessed whether I at least attempted to include them in my book. (The degree of my success is left to the reader to decide.)

1)   Creepy atmosphere. (Check)
2)   Suspenseful. (Check)
3)   Victims experience psychological trauma (i.e. they are aware and helpless). (Check)
4)   Inspires fear and/or dread in reader. (Check, check)

(Notice that violence and gore are not essential elements for me, though they are sometimes present in my favorite works of horror and are included in a couple of scenes of my book.)

By my own standards, Valknut: The Binding should qualify as horror. Yet I ultimately chose “fantasy > contemporary” as my second category.

Why did I do that? Because despite the dark nature of the book’s plot, it didn’t feel like horror to me. I can’t be more specific than that. All I know is that clicking on that horror category would feel like sneaking into a pub when you’re still a year shy of legal drinking age. It might make you feel all grown up (and you might get to buy a beer or two), but at some point you’re going to get busted.

I feel the same way about many of Stephen King’s books—they are works of dark fantasy, not horror. Of course, no one has busted him yet.

So where is the line drawn? I have no idea.

Since I am not even close to being an expert on horror, I asked my friends from TESSpecFic* to chime in with their views. Their responses to the question “What is Horror Fiction?” will be posted at their blogs over the next few days. I invite you to follow the discussion and join in through comments. If you wish to answer the question on your own blog, feel free. You can include the link to your article in the comments of any post in our discussion.

Here is the schedule:

Jaye Manus – Thursday, May 10
Paul Dail – Friday, May 11
Kim Koning – Saturday, May 12
Aniko Carmean – Sunday, May 13
Jonathan Allen – Monday, May 14
Penelope Crowe –Tuesday, May 15

I will be following their remarks with great interest. I hope you join me!

* The Emissaries of Strange: A Speculative Fiction Writer’s Collective is a group of writers whose fiction fits under the speculative fiction umbrella. Several of the members have a particular interest in horror, so I’m especially interested in their input.

Posted in Urban Fantasy, Writing | Tagged , , , , , | 32 Comments

Ruminations on “Cabin in the Woods” and Chocolate

I had a big day, yesterday. I went out for a movie and then went to a fabulous chocolate buffet. Yes, this is my idea of a big day. Before you get around to deciding whether to envy the excitement of my existence or feel sorry for me, I should explain.

The movie was Cabin in the Woods.

I admit, when I first saw the commercials for this film, I thought, “Oh, brother. Another cheesy slasher movie. Yawn.”

But then I noticed Chris Hemsworth is in it. “What the heck is he doing in a slasher movie?” I wondered.

I decided they must have filmed Cabin in the Woods before Thor came along.  Once Hemsworth became all famous and popular, they decided to drag this movie out of some bottom drawer to exploit his fame. Hmph. Not even Chris Hemsworth is enough to get me to pay actual money to see a slasher movie. I didn’t give Cabin in the Woods another thought.

Then I found out Joss Whedon was one of the writers. Next chance I got, I plunked down $25 for popcorn, Coke, and a movie ticket.

Though I can’t say much about Cabin in the Woods without spoilers, I can say that this movie explains a lot. (Those who have seen it will know what I mean.) I can also say that it is indeed a cheesy slasher movie. But it is also a clever and dark bit of fun, and you should go see it. That is, if your mom says you’re old enough.

As for the chocolate buffet, I will summarize: chocolate crepes, chocolate mousse, chocolate fountain and fruit, chocolate bread pudding (with crescents instead of bread), triple chocolate layer cake, French silk pie, chocolate éclairs, and chocolate cashew fudge bar thingies.

Is that enough for you? No? Well, those are just some of the things I ate.  There was a lot more to choose from than that.

Yes, you may envy me for my big day.

Posted in Ruminations | Tagged , , , , | 12 Comments

A #luckyseven peek at my fiction

Here’s a new thing for me: Jonathan Allen, friend and fellow member of The Emissaries of Strange, recently tagged* me to participate in #luckyseven. Since this is a nice opportunity for readers to sample my novel and stories, I thought I’d give it a try. The rules for #luckyseven are:

  • Go to page 7 or 77 in your current manuscript
  • Go to line 7
  • Post on your blog the next 7 lines or sentences – as they are!!
  • Tag 7 other people to do the same

The interesting thing about this game is that you are at the mercy of a moment in your manuscript that is not necessarily intended to hook your reader. But the reality is that some sort of interesting tension should be present at every point in your manuscript. My subconscious knew this even when I was a child. When deciding what to check out of the library, I would pull books from the shelf and read the first page. Then I’d open the book to a random page in the middle and read a paragraph or two. I guess I’d been disappointed too often by books with tasty hooks and shaving cream middles.

So here are 7 lines starting at line 7 from page 77 of my manuscript for Valknut: The Binding. Railroad detective Harcourt Briggeman (Briggs) is speaking to his boss.

“Yeah, but they can’t inspect every train car that passes through every yard. Even if they could, the killer can get on and off a train without ever going through a yard. He can kill and be hundreds of miles away before we ever find the body. What we really need is people on the inside.”

“On the inside,” said Willowbe.

“Yes, sir. Decoys—lots of ’em.”

With a pang, Briggs thought of Douglas Harding…

I decided not to include 7 lines from my fairy tale, Rose in Winter. It’s just too darned romantic and I’m not really a romance writer.

On the other hand, I do like that story…

Oh, what the heck. Here are 7 lines from Rose in Winter, starting from the 7th line of page 7—about a third of the way through the story.

Spindleshanks knelt before Rosabel. He took her hand, and fire ignited her blood where his skin touched hers. It burned through her veins until she was nearly overcome by its smoldering heat. For a moment, she was transported to a different place, where flowers bloomed in winter and the sky matched the emerald shade of her dress.

Then, in a rasping whisper that somehow resounded the length of the great hall, Spindleshanks said, “I would crown you my bride, if you will it.”

His soul reached through his eyes, asking, begging. That same look had lived in her father’s eyes when he gazed at her mother, eyes that had gone empty with her mother’s death.

Wow. Well, it’s a love story, after all.

Finally, here are 7 lines from page 7 of my humor story, Hell Hole, which was included in Anthology from Hell. (It’s a golf story.) I’ll be releasing this as a single, soon.

Peter’s eyes widened as the ball began to plummet.

“Incoming!” he yelled, backing towards the clubhouse, shielding his head. The ball streaked downward and planted itself squarely in the middle of the tee box. It didn’t bounce. It didn’t roll. It didn’t even wobble.

The bushes rustled as the foursome emerged.  They joined Dent and Peter, staring in awe at the miracle ball, which rested innocently in the short grass as if it had never moved.

Hell Hole most definitely is not a romance.

You can go check out Jonathan Allen’s and Aniko Carmean’s #luckyseven here and here. I’ll be tagging the following seven authors to share sections of their books, so keep an eye on their blogs and watch for the #luckyseven hashtag at Twitter.

Shannon Mayer   @TheShannonMayer
Catherine Green @SpookyMrsGreen
Charlene Newcomb   @charnewcomb
Jami Gray @JamiGrayAuthor
Stacy S. Eaton @StacySEaton
David J. Pedersen  @got_angst
S.B. Stewart-Laing @sbstewartlaing

* For those who don’t know, “tagged” means that you were called to action or attention via social media avenues such as Twitter or Facebook.

Posted in Marie's Fiction, Urban Fantasy, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Puppy, day 2: The nervous breakdown

Here is my new puppy. Don’t be fooled by his adorableness. He is a vibrating, finger-biting, cat-harassing, carpet-pooping little monster. That charming curlicue tail is fuzz-covered worm set on a barbed hook. Those soulful little eyes issue commands like a drill sergeant from hell. “Toy!” they say. “Toy now! Throw!”

So I hoist my carcass off the couch, pick up the puppy-slobbered stuffy and toss it across the room.

I get a 0.03 second reprieve and he is back, wriggling at my feet, giving the stuffy a severe case of whiplash. One eye rolls back at me. “Tug. Tug now. I dare you.”

“Drop,” I say, firmly. Experts say tug encourages finger biting.

I am ignored. A game ensues. It is called Dare to grab the toy in the split second after I drop it, before I clomp down on it (or your finger) again.

I often win. Sometimes. I sometimes win.

Play continues until dog collapses in exhaustion. Isn’t he cute.

I rush to the computer to get 15 solid minutes of work done.

Rinse. Wash. Repeat.

To add variety, we go outside for a walk. Pee happens there. Not poo, though. Poo is saved for carpets.

Here he comes now—the evil puppy. Yeah, perk those ears a bit higher. You’re not fooling anyone. Those soulful brown eyes are a façade, hiding the soulless monster within. That sweet little whine is merely an echo of the bwahahaha in your cold, cold heart. Forget it, you’re not getting in my lap.

Uh uh.

Oh, no you don’t.

Not in this lifetime—or any other.

<*sigh*>

Oh, all right. Come up here. Dork.

The puppy passes out. This time, I pass out, too.

Posted in humor, Life, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 10 Comments

Ruminations on Night Circus and Angelfall (plus a bonus)

As I said in my last post, it’s been a busy year for me so far. I’ve not had time to read much, but these three stories were noteworthy enough to review.

Night Circus 
by
Erin Morgenstern
Available in hard cover and digital

Earlier in the year, I listened to Erin Morgenstern’s Night Circus on audible books. Yes, I know I swore off audible books, but I’ve decided they have their place. With my current schedule, I have little time for reading. My teaching commute is 45 minutes each way when traffic is good (if any traffic can be called good). Wasted time, right? And I have to get my fiction fix somehow.

I can keep it under control. I know I can.

Here is my Goodreads review of Erin Morgenstern’s book: Night Circus is a novel of quiet intensity. The plot evolves slowly and intricately, like a tapestry laced with beautiful imagery. Bit by bit, the author creates a fanciful world within a circus, the form (and survival) of which hinges on the actions of two young lovers. I highly recommend it.

I should emphasize that the circus itself is more than just a setting. It becomes a character via Morgenstern’s beautiful description. I have a high tolerance for well-written description, especially of the whimsical sort, but not everyone likes that.

Also, it’s possible that the seamless narrating talents of Jim Dale (narrator of the Harry Potter series) may be coloring my assessment of Night Circus. I wonder if I would have been so engaged if I were reading it with my own eyes. I like to think I would still like this book very much, but it’s something to consider.

Angelfall
By Susan Ee
Available in paperback and digital

I just finished Angelfall, by Susan Ee. I will preface my review by saying that I like urban fantasy (obviously), but am not a romance* reader. Nor am I usually drawn to angels-with-wings books. Angelfall most likely would not have caught my eye, except it’s self-published and has received hundreds of reviews with an average over 4 stars. I wanted to see what the fuss was about.

The author paints a real-seeming post-apocalyptic world fairly quickly and convincingly in the first chapter. It’s a world ruled by genocidal Angels, where normal people fight for survival against both angelic death squads and more traditional roving human gangs. In this setting, protagonist Penryn struggles to keep her insane mother and wheelchair-bound sister alive. Then Penryn’s sister is taken by the Angels and Penryn must join forces with a fallen enemy to find her.

The story begins with good action. Penryn’s grit is appealing. Her stubborn determination to take care of her mother and sister at the risk of her own life quickly won my sympathy. I love that Ee has saddled Penryn with such high maintenance dependents to care for in this supremely awful world.

But my interest flagged in the middle of the book. Although the middle section had some great plot points, it sometimes felt like thinly clad set-up for later books in the series. Also, I liked the characters, but never became emotionally connected with the protagonist and never quite believed the burgeoning love interest. Possibly, the use of first person viewpoint contributes to this problem. With first person, I expect to be privy to a steady jumble of confused emotions and reactions, but only got bursts that occasionally didn’t fit the circumstances.

These problems largely work themselves out by the last third of the book, leading to an exciting ending. The kind of ending that invites you to buy the next book. Believe me, this author is not afraid to be terrible to her characters, which makes for good reading. Although Angelfall may not get top marks from me, I believe the author has many 4 and 5 star books in her future.

* Clarification:  Angelfall does not follow the industry standard formula for romances, but the book has moments with a paranormal romance feel.

Touched
By JW Manus
Available in digital

Finally, I’d like to give mention to the short story Touched, by JW Manus.  This is the story of a lawyer who has noticed a pattern in violent mass killings. Her investigation leads her to a New Mexico pub, where she confronts the man who understands the connection between these killings. But, as the lawyer discovers, even knowing a hint of that connection is dangerous.

This is a chilling little story, worth the 99-cent price tag. But I think it would be even better as a first chapter. I’m hoping JW Manus obliges.

These reviews are purely my opinion. If you’ve read any of these stories and wish to provide a different point of view, feel free to comment.

Posted in Books, Myth in fiction, Ruminations | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

A word about John Carter and some news

My apologies for my irregular posting. Trust me, that’s not the only thing that I’ve been irregular at, lately. (Hey, what – no. That’s not what I mean, guys.)

I do have an excuse. In addition to my usual paying jobs, I am teaching an all-consuming technical writing class this term. I have so many balls in the air that I can’t see the sky. I’ve already blown Goal #5 for 2012 (“Write one blog post a week. That’s 52 posts, minimum”). Two and a half months into 2012 and I’m six posts behind.

At least I’ve managed to stick with Resolution #3 for 2012 (“Don’t let blog lapse”). I can only hope that I can fulfill Goal #1 for 2012 (“Survive teaching technical writing class without requiring counseling, therapeutic massage, or stitches”). It will be a close call.

Despite all of this busy-ness, I made time to see John Carter last night. I had to. I have a special fondness for Edgar Rice Burroughs. His work may not directly influence my current writing, but it definitely contributed to the corruption of my literary imagination during my early teenage years. When I found out Disney had made a Barsoom movie, I had to see it. In the theater. In all of its 3D glory.

And I wasn’t disappointed.

If you’re at all interested in this movie, you’ve probably noticed the mixed reviews. It’s all a matter of expectation. If you expect the story to adhere to the laws of physics, you’ll be disappointed. If you’re expecting depth of character and dialogue, you’ll be dismayed. But if you take the movie for what it is meant to be—a nostalgic, action-packed science fantasy—you will have a great time.

And if John Carter echoes Star Wars and Avatar in some ways, perhaps that is because Star Wars and Avatar resound with influences from the 1917 novel on which John Carter is based, A Princess of Mars.

Cover of Big Little Book John Carter of Mars (...

Image via Wikipedia

(FYI – much of Edgar Rice Burrough’s work is available for free via the Kindle Book Store at Amazon.com. Do yourself a favor!)

I almost forgot. I do have one bit of news to share. My story Hell Hole is now appearing in the humor collection Anthology from Hell, edited by Julia S. Mandala. Anthology from Hell has been available for a few weeks now. It’s stuffed with stories from some pretty good writers, including Esthner Friesner, Spider Robinson, and Lawrence Watt-Evans.

I’m told the anthology is selling well at the Yard Dog tables at science fiction conventions. In fact, it’s been selling so well that the first run sold out. I would like to give you a review of the other stories in the anthology, but I haven’t had a chance to read them yet. Yard Dog sold my author’s copy.

Happily, the great thing about small press operations is that they have no qualms about printing more copies of a book that’s selling well. You can order a print copy of the anthology directly from Yard Dog Press. Who knows, maybe you’ll get to read it before I do.

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