temporus: (time)
( Jul. 31st, 2008 11:07 pm)
Wow.  I been kinda busy, and haven't gotten to too many of these recently, have I?

Work has been busy the past two months, but we're just about back up to full staff, which is a tremendous relief.  Not exactly out of the woods, but definitely out of the thicket, and the trees hereabouts are starting to get spaced out a bit further, with occasional bits of actual daylight sneaking through the small interstices of the canopy.   (Wow, I can really beat on a metaphor until it bleeds.)   We're in full summer swing now, and it's been hot.  And rainy.  My son is learning words left and right.  Kind of freaky how I can come home from work, and he'll have a new word to show off.  But really, it's fantastic. 

Writing:  A story scrawled halfway, sorta-kinda.  Not exactly the worst, roughest draft of anything I've ever done.  But, you know, kinda close.  One story revised.  So many stories currently banging on the inside of my brain-pan right now, that I need to start letting them out before they do some permanent damage.  I know I need to wrap up some of these other revisions too, but I have to get a few more of the new ideas out onto paper, before they storm off in a huff.

Oh yeah, last month, my story "Sucker Kiss" came out in the GSHW AnthologyDark Territories.

Submissions:  One story out the door this month. 

Conventions: (New category) Went to my first SF convention in....16 years?   Readercon.  Still jazzed up from it.  Quite a good time there, and I intend to go back, as often as I can manage/afford.   Met cool people.  Had cool conversations.  Heard lots of interesting panels.  Laughed hysterically at the bad prose contest.

Editing:  No editorial duties this month.

Reading:  One book read this month.

Dust, by Elizabeth Bear: This is the first SF novel of hers that I've read.  Quite a far future SF novel, where the technology extrapolation borders on the magical.  I think when you get out that far from modern day technology, its nigh impossible to not approach that limit.  I'm not certain if I'd classify this as a Space Opera, though it contains many of the tropes: swords, armor, "princesses" knights.  Even angels, and basilisks.  Yet the author has managed to give us these tropes, much more in the fantasy vein than stock science fiction, in a way that you feel you can understand.  Over time, the generation ship, that has had some kind of catastrophe, and is now stranded in space, is no longer fully functional.  And the society, which it seems was never meant to be a full fledged permanent society, has also degraded with the environment, even as it has continued to evolve forward.  Which was something quite interesting, to see a society simultaneously falling back to older social forms, and drifting forward into new evolutions of structure, of society, of gender, even physical form.  In fact, one of the main characters is a woman who was an angel, with engineered wings.  Beyond all the trappings, the neat tech, the interesting situation, the multi-leveled intrigue between factions of both people, and beings that are beyond human, what holds the story together is the characters.  Rein and Perceval.  These are people who are each in their way broken at the start of the novel, and frankly, I'm not sure their lot improves over its length, except perhaps for finding each other.  But somehow, that struggle feels right, all the more interesting because its both personal, and by the end of the novel, a struggle for society itself.  Some bits left me a bit disappointed: I wasn't particularly fond of the unblades, and I couldn't quite understand why Perceval seemed to be the only knight errant character, and more to the point, the only such character with wings.  This seemed to get muddied further with the whole Angel/system concept, and never really came around for me.  But these were, in the end, rather minor problems in an otherwise enjoyable book.
temporus: (time)
( Jul. 31st, 2008 11:07 pm)
Wow.  I been kinda busy, and haven't gotten to too many of these recently, have I?

Work has been busy the past two months, but we're just about back up to full staff, which is a tremendous relief.  Not exactly out of the woods, but definitely out of the thicket, and the trees hereabouts are starting to get spaced out a bit further, with occasional bits of actual daylight sneaking through the small interstices of the canopy.   (Wow, I can really beat on a metaphor until it bleeds.)   We're in full summer swing now, and it's been hot.  And rainy.  My son is learning words left and right.  Kind of freaky how I can come home from work, and he'll have a new word to show off.  But really, it's fantastic. 

Writing:  A story scrawled halfway, sorta-kinda.  Not exactly the worst, roughest draft of anything I've ever done.  But, you know, kinda close.  One story revised.  So many stories currently banging on the inside of my brain-pan right now, that I need to start letting them out before they do some permanent damage.  I know I need to wrap up some of these other revisions too, but I have to get a few more of the new ideas out onto paper, before they storm off in a huff.

Oh yeah, last month, my story "Sucker Kiss" came out in the GSHW AnthologyDark Territories.

Submissions:  One story out the door this month. 

Conventions: (New category) Went to my first SF convention in....16 years?   Readercon.  Still jazzed up from it.  Quite a good time there, and I intend to go back, as often as I can manage/afford.   Met cool people.  Had cool conversations.  Heard lots of interesting panels.  Laughed hysterically at the bad prose contest.

Editing:  No editorial duties this month.

Reading:  One book read this month.

Dust, by Elizabeth Bear: This is the first SF novel of hers that I've read.  Quite a far future SF novel, where the technology extrapolation borders on the magical.  I think when you get out that far from modern day technology, its nigh impossible to not approach that limit.  I'm not certain if I'd classify this as a Space Opera, though it contains many of the tropes: swords, armor, "princesses" knights.  Even angels, and basilisks.  Yet the author has managed to give us these tropes, much more in the fantasy vein than stock science fiction, in a way that you feel you can understand.  Over time, the generation ship, that has had some kind of catastrophe, and is now stranded in space, is no longer fully functional.  And the society, which it seems was never meant to be a full fledged permanent society, has also degraded with the environment, even as it has continued to evolve forward.  Which was something quite interesting, to see a society simultaneously falling back to older social forms, and drifting forward into new evolutions of structure, of society, of gender, even physical form.  In fact, one of the main characters is a woman who was an angel, with engineered wings.  Beyond all the trappings, the neat tech, the interesting situation, the multi-leveled intrigue between factions of both people, and beings that are beyond human, what holds the story together is the characters.  Rein and Perceval.  These are people who are each in their way broken at the start of the novel, and frankly, I'm not sure their lot improves over its length, except perhaps for finding each other.  But somehow, that struggle feels right, all the more interesting because its both personal, and by the end of the novel, a struggle for society itself.  Some bits left me a bit disappointed: I wasn't particularly fond of the unblades, and I couldn't quite understand why Perceval seemed to be the only knight errant character, and more to the point, the only such character with wings.  This seemed to get muddied further with the whole Angel/system concept, and never really came around for me.  But these were, in the end, rather minor problems in an otherwise enjoyable book.
May is over. I'm happy about that. Not that May is, in general a bad month, it's actually a part of the year I love: spring and fall are among my favorite seasons for the weather here in New Jersey, just so much more enjoyable than mid summer like July and August, where it can be too hot, or winter like January or February where it's just cold and miserable. But I digress. It has been great weather, and so I have gotten some outdoors time. Including all sorts of planting, and lawn moving, and gardening, and weeding, and watering, and weeding, and gardening. To some of you, that might sound like an enjoyable pastime. I could really live without it. I'm not all that good at gardening, to be honest. Further, I hate mowing lawns. I do it, because someone's got to, and my wife's grass allergies make it a bad idea to stick her behind the mulching mower while it turns blades of grass into a fine mist. To be inhaled. Then produce asthma. So I figure, I've got a dozen or so more years of lawn maintenance ahead of me before the Little Man gets to the age where I will feel safe/comfortable with him doing the work. Hopefully he'll be able to pick up some of the weeding and watering duties before that. The day job is frantic, but I've mentioned that before. I expect it to continue to be frantic for at least one more month. Two tops. If it goes longer than that...I'm not even going to contemplate it as an option.

I got to feel just a bit older this month, as my eldest Nephew had his High School graduation this past week, and we went out for a party in PA yesterday. (Some of you might recall him as the chef-in-training that you helped earn a scholarship by voting for his video) I had a good time seeing my family, though it was a long day. Looking forward to the family reunion in August back in my home town.

Writing: I've been revising stuff lately.  Not enough forward momentum for me to be thrilled, but even if I haven't had as much focused time as I want, I'm putting some time in the trenches in the scraps of moments I can find.  I've got a story that's been knocking at the inside of my frontal lobes, trying to find a way to get out of my head and onto the page. I'm rather glad that I didn't run right out and start writing it though, because on the long trip out and back from my brother's yesterday, I came up with a few ways I could turn the straightforward idea onto a different path.  I still have to make some notes, and do a little research, but I hope to get a first draft going soon.

Editing: No new tasks in this department.

Reading:  One book.  I kept pulling out other stuff to read after I finished that novel, but by the end of an evening, I'm so exhausted, that I'm feeling under motivated to read.  I think I need to change gears and do some non-fic for a stint, see how that works.

Mainspring, by Jay Lake:  The world that clockmaker's apprentice, Hethor Jacques, lives on is literally a part in the machine of the universe, as is evident by the giant brass gears upon which the world spins its way throughout the heavens.  The nature of the gears that circumscribe the globe along what we could think of as its equator, divides the planet into two distinct halves, literally, culturally, biologically, and perhaps even spiritually as well.  The story starts in the North, in a small New England town, in a setting that seems familiar enough, if some signals show it is distinct from our own history.  In this version, America is still a part of the English Empire, at least this far into Queen Victoria's reign.  Technology has advanced differently than in our own world as well: there are flying ships of the Royal Navy--zeppelin like structures that are now a hallmark of the "steam punk" movement.  The opening sets things on end for Hethor, as he is confronted with the Archangel Gabriel, who sends him on a quest to find the Key Perilous, and wind up the titular Mainspring that.  His journey starts locally, but soon spans much further.  As the journey progresses, we move further, and further from anything even remotely resembling our own world, until we reach the Wall, that portion of the Earth that connects it to the clockwork of the Heavens.  Beyond which, things look far less like our world, except perhaps in general geography.  It is populated with vastly different peoples, cultures; a place where sorcery reigns, as opposed to the technological based North.   While there were some moments where I felt the story lagged slightly, and a few story threads that seemed, in the end, to go nowhere--or at least have much less significance than I originally anticipated--overall the novel was quite an enjoyable adventure.  I look forward to the Lake's next novel The Escapement in this same setting.
May is over. I'm happy about that. Not that May is, in general a bad month, it's actually a part of the year I love: spring and fall are among my favorite seasons for the weather here in New Jersey, just so much more enjoyable than mid summer like July and August, where it can be too hot, or winter like January or February where it's just cold and miserable. But I digress. It has been great weather, and so I have gotten some outdoors time. Including all sorts of planting, and lawn moving, and gardening, and weeding, and watering, and weeding, and gardening. To some of you, that might sound like an enjoyable pastime. I could really live without it. I'm not all that good at gardening, to be honest. Further, I hate mowing lawns. I do it, because someone's got to, and my wife's grass allergies make it a bad idea to stick her behind the mulching mower while it turns blades of grass into a fine mist. To be inhaled. Then produce asthma. So I figure, I've got a dozen or so more years of lawn maintenance ahead of me before the Little Man gets to the age where I will feel safe/comfortable with him doing the work. Hopefully he'll be able to pick up some of the weeding and watering duties before that. The day job is frantic, but I've mentioned that before. I expect it to continue to be frantic for at least one more month. Two tops. If it goes longer than that...I'm not even going to contemplate it as an option.

I got to feel just a bit older this month, as my eldest Nephew had his High School graduation this past week, and we went out for a party in PA yesterday. (Some of you might recall him as the chef-in-training that you helped earn a scholarship by voting for his video) I had a good time seeing my family, though it was a long day. Looking forward to the family reunion in August back in my home town.

Writing: I've been revising stuff lately.  Not enough forward momentum for me to be thrilled, but even if I haven't had as much focused time as I want, I'm putting some time in the trenches in the scraps of moments I can find.  I've got a story that's been knocking at the inside of my frontal lobes, trying to find a way to get out of my head and onto the page. I'm rather glad that I didn't run right out and start writing it though, because on the long trip out and back from my brother's yesterday, I came up with a few ways I could turn the straightforward idea onto a different path.  I still have to make some notes, and do a little research, but I hope to get a first draft going soon.

Editing: No new tasks in this department.

Reading:  One book.  I kept pulling out other stuff to read after I finished that novel, but by the end of an evening, I'm so exhausted, that I'm feeling under motivated to read.  I think I need to change gears and do some non-fic for a stint, see how that works.

Mainspring, by Jay Lake:  The world that clockmaker's apprentice, Hethor Jacques, lives on is literally a part in the machine of the universe, as is evident by the giant brass gears upon which the world spins its way throughout the heavens.  The nature of the gears that circumscribe the globe along what we could think of as its equator, divides the planet into two distinct halves, literally, culturally, biologically, and perhaps even spiritually as well.  The story starts in the North, in a small New England town, in a setting that seems familiar enough, if some signals show it is distinct from our own history.  In this version, America is still a part of the English Empire, at least this far into Queen Victoria's reign.  Technology has advanced differently than in our own world as well: there are flying ships of the Royal Navy--zeppelin like structures that are now a hallmark of the "steam punk" movement.  The opening sets things on end for Hethor, as he is confronted with the Archangel Gabriel, who sends him on a quest to find the Key Perilous, and wind up the titular Mainspring that.  His journey starts locally, but soon spans much further.  As the journey progresses, we move further, and further from anything even remotely resembling our own world, until we reach the Wall, that portion of the Earth that connects it to the clockwork of the Heavens.  Beyond which, things look far less like our world, except perhaps in general geography.  It is populated with vastly different peoples, cultures; a place where sorcery reigns, as opposed to the technological based North.   While there were some moments where I felt the story lagged slightly, and a few story threads that seemed, in the end, to go nowhere--or at least have much less significance than I originally anticipated--overall the novel was quite an enjoyable adventure.  I look forward to the Lake's next novel The Escapement in this same setting.
April was a less than fun month. The Little Man got sick.  And in turn I got sick.  That hosed the beginning of the month for me to a large degree.   Then work became intense.  Halfway through the month, someone I've been working with for the past eleven years, gave his notice.  He found a new job (good for him, it was a great opportunity) and that meant having to start learning everything I could from him before he left.  Which, uh, well you try learning everything someone's been doing for eleven years in two weeks and see how easy that is.  Yeah.  There's no question that he was a critical member of my team, and that he'll be missed.   To be frank, I've started to have some crazy dreams; just shy of nightmares, and I'm positive it has to do with the fact that my team, running lean as it was, is now a major contributer down.   The night before his last day, I woke up from a dream where I was with a group of people out in the woods, and the woods had caught fire, and we were slowly being surrounded.  And couldn't put out the flames.  Then I woke up.   That was tamer version of the kinds of dreams I'm talking about, but there's no question in my mind what that was all about.

But other than that, I've been fine. ;)

Writing:  One new draft.  Not happy with this draft, it's more  a sketch really.  I've got to go back and rethink it, make it an actual story instead of just a snippet of a moment.  I've got a novel idea that's been badgering me to work on.  I pushed back to place it on hold.  (Sometimes the stories don't want to listen.)   It might be worth doing the world building in the background, so that if I feel up for NaNo I can jump in with this idea.   Or not.  I've been nicking away at some revisions but they aren't as cooperative as I'd like, and I just need to get them done, and out the door. 

Editing: No official duties this month.  Did a little copy editing for a project that isn't mine, which was the first time I tried my hand at something more than just critiquing someone else's work.  Interesting experience. 

Reading: One book.

Small Favor  by Jim Butcher: I bought this one on the Kindle.  In fact, I found out that it was available on Jim's agent's blog, and within a minute of reading that had my Kindle out and this book purchased.  One minute later, the book was downloaded, and I could start reading.   Wow.  I think that's exactly what Amazon envisioned.  Anyway, onto the book itself.  The series gets better with each novel.  I'm not sure if this one will replace Dead Beat as my favorite, but it was close.  The plot was action packed, with enough good twists, including at least one moment where I got to say "finally! I've only been waiting for that moment for about five books now.  One of the things I'm more and more impressed with as the series grows, is that things evolve and change.  Harry has an impact on his environment, and his environment (namely being the target of so much chaos and mayhem) has a lasting effect on Harry.  Not just that he's had to change up his tricks, and get tough, but even in his attitude and relationships.  When things change, they stay changed.  As an example, whereas in the past, Charity Carpenter barely put up with Harry's presence around the house, in the opening scene during the snowball fight, she's right there having a good time with Harry and the kids.  A little less noir than the previous novel, this one is a bit more about the action, and the effects of previous novels coming home to roost in rather interesting and odd combinations.  There's plenty of Dresden wit, which is to say both the moments when he's actually funny, and those in which he just thinks he's funny.  The magic, swords, and guns all fly fast and often this adventure around, and I get the sense that things are wearing Harry thin.  This is also the second story where Butcher has tapped into Billy Goats Gruff.  (His short story Restoration of Faith has a bit about a troll and a bridge.)  That particular motif exemplifies just how the author managed such a complex weaving of plot lines throughout the book, such that almost every moment, you aren't sure what's next to be thrown at Harry.  The cast of characters in this book is long, damn near every friend and foe, and all those who dance between in Harry's life seem to show up at one point or another.  Which is probably why there's so much more action here, than old fashioned mystery.  But if you've gone this far into the series, I think this one will be sure to please.

That's a wrap.
April was a less than fun month. The Little Man got sick.  And in turn I got sick.  That hosed the beginning of the month for me to a large degree.   Then work became intense.  Halfway through the month, someone I've been working with for the past eleven years, gave his notice.  He found a new job (good for him, it was a great opportunity) and that meant having to start learning everything I could from him before he left.  Which, uh, well you try learning everything someone's been doing for eleven years in two weeks and see how easy that is.  Yeah.  There's no question that he was a critical member of my team, and that he'll be missed.   To be frank, I've started to have some crazy dreams; just shy of nightmares, and I'm positive it has to do with the fact that my team, running lean as it was, is now a major contributer down.   The night before his last day, I woke up from a dream where I was with a group of people out in the woods, and the woods had caught fire, and we were slowly being surrounded.  And couldn't put out the flames.  Then I woke up.   That was tamer version of the kinds of dreams I'm talking about, but there's no question in my mind what that was all about.

But other than that, I've been fine. ;)

Writing:  One new draft.  Not happy with this draft, it's more  a sketch really.  I've got to go back and rethink it, make it an actual story instead of just a snippet of a moment.  I've got a novel idea that's been badgering me to work on.  I pushed back to place it on hold.  (Sometimes the stories don't want to listen.)   It might be worth doing the world building in the background, so that if I feel up for NaNo I can jump in with this idea.   Or not.  I've been nicking away at some revisions but they aren't as cooperative as I'd like, and I just need to get them done, and out the door. 

Editing: No official duties this month.  Did a little copy editing for a project that isn't mine, which was the first time I tried my hand at something more than just critiquing someone else's work.  Interesting experience. 

Reading: One book.

Small Favor  by Jim Butcher: I bought this one on the Kindle.  In fact, I found out that it was available on Jim's agent's blog, and within a minute of reading that had my Kindle out and this book purchased.  One minute later, the book was downloaded, and I could start reading.   Wow.  I think that's exactly what Amazon envisioned.  Anyway, onto the book itself.  The series gets better with each novel.  I'm not sure if this one will replace Dead Beat as my favorite, but it was close.  The plot was action packed, with enough good twists, including at least one moment where I got to say "finally! I've only been waiting for that moment for about five books now.  One of the things I'm more and more impressed with as the series grows, is that things evolve and change.  Harry has an impact on his environment, and his environment (namely being the target of so much chaos and mayhem) has a lasting effect on Harry.  Not just that he's had to change up his tricks, and get tough, but even in his attitude and relationships.  When things change, they stay changed.  As an example, whereas in the past, Charity Carpenter barely put up with Harry's presence around the house, in the opening scene during the snowball fight, she's right there having a good time with Harry and the kids.  A little less noir than the previous novel, this one is a bit more about the action, and the effects of previous novels coming home to roost in rather interesting and odd combinations.  There's plenty of Dresden wit, which is to say both the moments when he's actually funny, and those in which he just thinks he's funny.  The magic, swords, and guns all fly fast and often this adventure around, and I get the sense that things are wearing Harry thin.  This is also the second story where Butcher has tapped into Billy Goats Gruff.  (His short story Restoration of Faith has a bit about a troll and a bridge.)  That particular motif exemplifies just how the author managed such a complex weaving of plot lines throughout the book, such that almost every moment, you aren't sure what's next to be thrown at Harry.  The cast of characters in this book is long, damn near every friend and foe, and all those who dance between in Harry's life seem to show up at one point or another.  Which is probably why there's so much more action here, than old fashioned mystery.  But if you've gone this far into the series, I think this one will be sure to please.

That's a wrap.
temporus: (time)
( Feb. 29th, 2008 08:05 pm)
February.   A whirlwind of a month.  Lots of travel, both for vacation and for work.  The whole family managed to catch some kind of stomach bug that's been going all around.   My new toy arrived.  Snow.  Some more snow.   Just all kinds of all over the place.

Writing:  One new short story first draft completed.   Written out longhand.  Then entered it to the computer and did a slight edit on the way there.   I like it, but I think I need at least one more pass of editing before I can hand off to some early readers for comments.  Unfortunately with all the chaotic last minute travel and then being sick, I just haven't had the chance to crack open this story for that edit pass.  Perhaps that's a good thing as it will allow me enough distance to turn a more critical eye that way.

Editing:  Cleared out my slush pile.    Yay.   When the magazine opens up for submissions again, I'll be sure to let folks know.  

Reading:  Due to nice trip up to Vermont, wherein I got to sit most of two 6+ hour car rides as a passenger, I got a heck of a lot of reading done.  All of it.  Yes all of it, done on my spanky new Amazon Kindle.  Two simple reasons for this.  One: it really is a great to have a ton of books for travel and be able to chose at whim what you want to read without any forethought, without carrying a ton of extra books.  Two: I wanted to put this through its paces to see what kind of sterner stuff its got to it, so that I can post up a review.  That'll come soon in its own post.   Most of the below are via Public Domain/Project Gutenberg.   One is an actual purchase of a current novel.

The Prisoner of Zenda, by Anthony Hope.  Adventure.  Romance.  Duels.  No pirates or giants though.   Some wonderful fun characters.  It reminds me of what I want in an adventure story where there can be intrigue and romance, and camaraderie.  It was an absolute blast, and of course, how can you not just kick back and have fun with a novel with an antagonist known as "Black Michael"?  Of course the story is a bit dated, but then I grew up on Errol Flynn movies, so dated movies about dashing heroes saving beautiful women will never go out of style with me.

The Man Who Would be King, by Rudyard Kipling.  Also quite the adventure, though a rather different type of adventure.  I found though, that the language of this one struck me as more vernacular, and it actually kind of got on my nerves a bit.  The bulk of the story is one person telling what happened to another, and you get a kind of broken English effect.  It pulled it off enough, but it knocked me out of the story a lot more than usual.  I think this might be an issue with being rather used to the modern styles which shy away from these attempts to stick in such vernaculars.  It's also a fairly short tale, I think more in the Novelette range.

The Scarlet Pimpernel, by Emmuska Orczy.  Again with the political adventure.  Yes, I'm straying a tad from my SF&F roots, and yet...this is a kind of seminal work that does have influence over the genre in many surprising ways.   It is a sort of precursor to the masked avenger archetype, that will eventually come into a fore in the comic book superhero about forty years later.   This one is a great adventure as the others, but a bit more intellectual rather than just bold derring do.   Which is of course, what really makes it fun.  I'm not sure if I knew somehow before I read this the Pimpernel's true identity, guessed it early on, or its a case that you're supposed to know/figure it out before the characters in the book do.  I'm pretty certain it's the latter.  In any case, what's masterful is watching the clever manipulations of the hero to outwit the villains.  I also loved to read a story where the woman character has some agency.  Sure she ends up causing much of the trouble, but she also strives to right that error.  And watching the beautiful woman rush to rescue the hero is cool by my book too.  Even if, during the course of her rescue, she ends up somewhat falling victim and needing subsequent rescue herself, I felt that she did use wit just as much as she was rescued. 

Soon I Will Be Invincible, by Austin Grossman.  I'm an old school comic book kid.  I grew up with comics in the house, and just always loved superheroes.   I mean who didn't want to be Batman, or Spiderman, or Supes?  Heck, spent a good decade role-playing superheroes, both as a player and GM.  What a blast.  Anyway, I'd seen this book out there (and this is the only current book that I read this month) and right away this caught my eye.  A novel about the evil genius.  Personally, I'm on his side.  Oh yeah, there's also all this stuff about the heroes.  You know, the big hero group that saves the day.  That's nice too, with a bit of realism thrown in to make it not so squeaky clean like saturday morning Superfriends from the 70s.   But...that side of things didn't quite catch me the way the evil genius did.  It wasn't bad, I think I just have seen enough from the side of heroes that showing the dirty underclothes of the heroes (not literally) just isn't as exciting.  Now, the villain...man, he's just fun to hang around inside his head.  Watching him reveal his descent into world domineering arch-nemesis of this world's unstoppable hero is gripping and engaging in a way that the alternating chapters from the hero side never quite manages.  I really was rooting for him by the end of the book.  Overall, I had a blast, perhaps I'll get to see more of Doctor Impossible someday.  Hmm....I wonder....Dr. Impossible in '08?

A Study in Scarlet, by Arthur Conan Doyle:  Yes Sherlock Holmes. I've never read Sherlock Holmes, and just on a whim decided to grab this stuff and read.   I can see why its held up over the years.  Holmes is engaging to read about.  You want to get inside that head, and see where he's going, and you can't fathom how the heck he could possibly know what he claims to know.  Now, I'm the type of person who watches shows like Monk, etc, and I can usually determine the whodunnit by the first commercial break.  I've got probably somewhere well over a 75% hit rate.  I'm usually pretty good at figuring out things in books too.  (Say, the Harry Dresden novels....where I rarely get thrown off the case.)  But in this one, I had no freaking idea how Holmes knew and I didn't.  A touch infuriating, but in a good way.  About the only really strange thing to me, was how halfway through the book, its suddenly a western novel set in Utah.  It was so abrupt and bizarre to me, that I actually began to wonder if somehow, the book hadn't been compromised.  (It was a free download and all that.)  That is until I saw the name of one of the victims pop up, then I realized just what was going on was a flashback.  Wow.  That part, felt a little too much like one of the sidetrack stories in Les Miserables, which dearly as I love that story, was rife with tangentals that added far less proportionally than their length.  Once the action returns to London, the tale got me back, and held on to the finish.  

Note: for this month, I linked to the Kindle editions, just because I've got the new toy.  But most of this months stuff you could borrow from your local library. 
temporus: (time)
( Feb. 29th, 2008 08:05 pm)
February.   A whirlwind of a month.  Lots of travel, both for vacation and for work.  The whole family managed to catch some kind of stomach bug that's been going all around.   My new toy arrived.  Snow.  Some more snow.   Just all kinds of all over the place.

Writing:  One new short story first draft completed.   Written out longhand.  Then entered it to the computer and did a slight edit on the way there.   I like it, but I think I need at least one more pass of editing before I can hand off to some early readers for comments.  Unfortunately with all the chaotic last minute travel and then being sick, I just haven't had the chance to crack open this story for that edit pass.  Perhaps that's a good thing as it will allow me enough distance to turn a more critical eye that way.

Editing:  Cleared out my slush pile.    Yay.   When the magazine opens up for submissions again, I'll be sure to let folks know.  

Reading:  Due to nice trip up to Vermont, wherein I got to sit most of two 6+ hour car rides as a passenger, I got a heck of a lot of reading done.  All of it.  Yes all of it, done on my spanky new Amazon Kindle.  Two simple reasons for this.  One: it really is a great to have a ton of books for travel and be able to chose at whim what you want to read without any forethought, without carrying a ton of extra books.  Two: I wanted to put this through its paces to see what kind of sterner stuff its got to it, so that I can post up a review.  That'll come soon in its own post.   Most of the below are via Public Domain/Project Gutenberg.   One is an actual purchase of a current novel.

The Prisoner of Zenda, by Anthony Hope.  Adventure.  Romance.  Duels.  No pirates or giants though.   Some wonderful fun characters.  It reminds me of what I want in an adventure story where there can be intrigue and romance, and camaraderie.  It was an absolute blast, and of course, how can you not just kick back and have fun with a novel with an antagonist known as "Black Michael"?  Of course the story is a bit dated, but then I grew up on Errol Flynn movies, so dated movies about dashing heroes saving beautiful women will never go out of style with me.

The Man Who Would be King, by Rudyard Kipling.  Also quite the adventure, though a rather different type of adventure.  I found though, that the language of this one struck me as more vernacular, and it actually kind of got on my nerves a bit.  The bulk of the story is one person telling what happened to another, and you get a kind of broken English effect.  It pulled it off enough, but it knocked me out of the story a lot more than usual.  I think this might be an issue with being rather used to the modern styles which shy away from these attempts to stick in such vernaculars.  It's also a fairly short tale, I think more in the Novelette range.

The Scarlet Pimpernel, by Emmuska Orczy.  Again with the political adventure.  Yes, I'm straying a tad from my SF&F roots, and yet...this is a kind of seminal work that does have influence over the genre in many surprising ways.   It is a sort of precursor to the masked avenger archetype, that will eventually come into a fore in the comic book superhero about forty years later.   This one is a great adventure as the others, but a bit more intellectual rather than just bold derring do.   Which is of course, what really makes it fun.  I'm not sure if I knew somehow before I read this the Pimpernel's true identity, guessed it early on, or its a case that you're supposed to know/figure it out before the characters in the book do.  I'm pretty certain it's the latter.  In any case, what's masterful is watching the clever manipulations of the hero to outwit the villains.  I also loved to read a story where the woman character has some agency.  Sure she ends up causing much of the trouble, but she also strives to right that error.  And watching the beautiful woman rush to rescue the hero is cool by my book too.  Even if, during the course of her rescue, she ends up somewhat falling victim and needing subsequent rescue herself, I felt that she did use wit just as much as she was rescued. 

Soon I Will Be Invincible, by Austin Grossman.  I'm an old school comic book kid.  I grew up with comics in the house, and just always loved superheroes.   I mean who didn't want to be Batman, or Spiderman, or Supes?  Heck, spent a good decade role-playing superheroes, both as a player and GM.  What a blast.  Anyway, I'd seen this book out there (and this is the only current book that I read this month) and right away this caught my eye.  A novel about the evil genius.  Personally, I'm on his side.  Oh yeah, there's also all this stuff about the heroes.  You know, the big hero group that saves the day.  That's nice too, with a bit of realism thrown in to make it not so squeaky clean like saturday morning Superfriends from the 70s.   But...that side of things didn't quite catch me the way the evil genius did.  It wasn't bad, I think I just have seen enough from the side of heroes that showing the dirty underclothes of the heroes (not literally) just isn't as exciting.  Now, the villain...man, he's just fun to hang around inside his head.  Watching him reveal his descent into world domineering arch-nemesis of this world's unstoppable hero is gripping and engaging in a way that the alternating chapters from the hero side never quite manages.  I really was rooting for him by the end of the book.  Overall, I had a blast, perhaps I'll get to see more of Doctor Impossible someday.  Hmm....I wonder....Dr. Impossible in '08?

A Study in Scarlet, by Arthur Conan Doyle:  Yes Sherlock Holmes. I've never read Sherlock Holmes, and just on a whim decided to grab this stuff and read.   I can see why its held up over the years.  Holmes is engaging to read about.  You want to get inside that head, and see where he's going, and you can't fathom how the heck he could possibly know what he claims to know.  Now, I'm the type of person who watches shows like Monk, etc, and I can usually determine the whodunnit by the first commercial break.  I've got probably somewhere well over a 75% hit rate.  I'm usually pretty good at figuring out things in books too.  (Say, the Harry Dresden novels....where I rarely get thrown off the case.)  But in this one, I had no freaking idea how Holmes knew and I didn't.  A touch infuriating, but in a good way.  About the only really strange thing to me, was how halfway through the book, its suddenly a western novel set in Utah.  It was so abrupt and bizarre to me, that I actually began to wonder if somehow, the book hadn't been compromised.  (It was a free download and all that.)  That is until I saw the name of one of the victims pop up, then I realized just what was going on was a flashback.  Wow.  That part, felt a little too much like one of the sidetrack stories in Les Miserables, which dearly as I love that story, was rife with tangentals that added far less proportionally than their length.  Once the action returns to London, the tale got me back, and held on to the finish.  

Note: for this month, I linked to the Kindle editions, just because I've got the new toy.  But most of this months stuff you could borrow from your local library. 
This roundup is late.  It's late at least because I just kind of wasn't excited by the idea of reporting a pretty dismal month.   The month itself wasn't dismal.  Just my progress as far as any kind of writing.   Work is crazy busy, and well we've got stuff going on at home, including some remodeling to add some comforts.  (IE a new bathroom, and some re-arranged space to make living more enjoyable down there.   It's pretty disruptive in physical terms, but in the long run there's no question that this is a worthwhile endeavor.

Writing:  If I managed 1,000 words on several non-starts I'll be shocked.  I had ideas a bursting, but come time to put butt in chair and type, I managed to miraculously find all sorts of ways to distract myself.   Even editing really got away.  I'm going to start instituting some new measures to work on that.  

Submissions:  A "long lost" submission returned.  It's a second re-write request for the same story.  The editor gave concrete clear advice as to what she would like to see in order to make the grade.  I'm forcing myself not to rush in, as I'm pretty sure it'll either be third time's the charm, or three strikes your out. 

Slush:  Wrapping up the last bits of slush for Space and Time for this reading period.  At least, I think it's the end of the pile   (And even as I type this, I'm imagining a horde of stories storming my inbox.)  It was an interesting experience, and I hope that it works out so that I can keep on with them.  

Reading:  ~4 books.  I say approximately, because I read all but like one short story in a collection.

The Secret History of Moscow,  by Ekaterina Sedia.  I don't recall exactly when I first saw a promo blurb about this book, but ever since I did, I've been looking forward to it.  That of course could be a dangerous thing, like looking forward to a movie, you impart more emotional investment into something unknown and that gives, I believe, much more room for disappointment.  However, in this instance I think the novel delivered and then some.  The story grabbed me from page one, and  held on such that every spare moment I had, I read, until finished.  (Including staying up a good hour and a half past my normal bedtime two nights in a row!)  A masterful handling of layered stories, made up of the very personal tales of unique individuals whose stories defined and contrasted the breadth of the city that is the center of the story.  Not unlike Victor Hugo, these stories coalesced into a deeper more complex tale that combined a marvelous stroke of the fantastic that took this somewhere into the realm between magical realism and urban fantasy.   If I hadn't been hooked by her short stories, this novel would have made a dedicated fan of me by its conclusion.


The Bad Beginning, by Lemony Snickett.  I'd seen the movie, which from what I gather encompassed the first three novels.  My wife has read and enjoyed the whole series, and I decided to pick one up and give it a whirl.  There were some things about the book that impressed me.  A strong consistent voice, and a well defined tone.  Something that, to be honest you don't always see in adult literature, with the prevailing modern sensibility of just existing as more like a camera in a movie watching the story unfold.  Here we have a narrator, and that narrator is a character in the story.  Enjoyable, but I fear it may have been a bit spoiled by having seen the movie first.  As time permits, I will probably make my way through them all.

Driven to Distraction, by Edward M. Hallowell, MD and John J. Ratey, MD.  If you want to understand AD(H)D, this is a good book to start.    The authors themselves have this condition, and so they speak not only as Psychiatrists, but as people who inherently understand the issues and effects of the condition.  I'd heard Dr. Hallowell speak on NPR's the Parent's Journal and the way he discussed the topic made me want to read the book.  It's a subject you hear a lot about these days, and I think there's a lot of either disinformation or misinformation floating around.  It's good to get a point of view that covers it both from a clinical side, as well as a personal one, often relayed through the stories of many of Dr. Hallowell's patients.

The Metamorphoses and other Stories, by Franz Kafka.  Does it make me Emo if I like Kafka?  Does it help if I mention I was an English major?  Okay, fine.  I just like a good freaky story.  And Kafka does that, rather well.  From The Metamorphoses, to The Hunger Artist, to an array of other shorts.  A bit more than half I'd read before.  But the stories were entrancing anyway.  And in a way, this was the kick start that got my brain thinking in terms of short stories again.  Something I needed.  So thanks Franz.

That's a wrap on January.  Here's hoping February fares better.
 
This roundup is late.  It's late at least because I just kind of wasn't excited by the idea of reporting a pretty dismal month.   The month itself wasn't dismal.  Just my progress as far as any kind of writing.   Work is crazy busy, and well we've got stuff going on at home, including some remodeling to add some comforts.  (IE a new bathroom, and some re-arranged space to make living more enjoyable down there.   It's pretty disruptive in physical terms, but in the long run there's no question that this is a worthwhile endeavor.

Writing:  If I managed 1,000 words on several non-starts I'll be shocked.  I had ideas a bursting, but come time to put butt in chair and type, I managed to miraculously find all sorts of ways to distract myself.   Even editing really got away.  I'm going to start instituting some new measures to work on that.  

Submissions:  A "long lost" submission returned.  It's a second re-write request for the same story.  The editor gave concrete clear advice as to what she would like to see in order to make the grade.  I'm forcing myself not to rush in, as I'm pretty sure it'll either be third time's the charm, or three strikes your out. 

Slush:  Wrapping up the last bits of slush for Space and Time for this reading period.  At least, I think it's the end of the pile   (And even as I type this, I'm imagining a horde of stories storming my inbox.)  It was an interesting experience, and I hope that it works out so that I can keep on with them.  

Reading:  ~4 books.  I say approximately, because I read all but like one short story in a collection.

The Secret History of Moscow,  by Ekaterina Sedia.  I don't recall exactly when I first saw a promo blurb about this book, but ever since I did, I've been looking forward to it.  That of course could be a dangerous thing, like looking forward to a movie, you impart more emotional investment into something unknown and that gives, I believe, much more room for disappointment.  However, in this instance I think the novel delivered and then some.  The story grabbed me from page one, and  held on such that every spare moment I had, I read, until finished.  (Including staying up a good hour and a half past my normal bedtime two nights in a row!)  A masterful handling of layered stories, made up of the very personal tales of unique individuals whose stories defined and contrasted the breadth of the city that is the center of the story.  Not unlike Victor Hugo, these stories coalesced into a deeper more complex tale that combined a marvelous stroke of the fantastic that took this somewhere into the realm between magical realism and urban fantasy.   If I hadn't been hooked by her short stories, this novel would have made a dedicated fan of me by its conclusion.


The Bad Beginning, by Lemony Snickett.  I'd seen the movie, which from what I gather encompassed the first three novels.  My wife has read and enjoyed the whole series, and I decided to pick one up and give it a whirl.  There were some things about the book that impressed me.  A strong consistent voice, and a well defined tone.  Something that, to be honest you don't always see in adult literature, with the prevailing modern sensibility of just existing as more like a camera in a movie watching the story unfold.  Here we have a narrator, and that narrator is a character in the story.  Enjoyable, but I fear it may have been a bit spoiled by having seen the movie first.  As time permits, I will probably make my way through them all.

Driven to Distraction, by Edward M. Hallowell, MD and John J. Ratey, MD.  If you want to understand AD(H)D, this is a good book to start.    The authors themselves have this condition, and so they speak not only as Psychiatrists, but as people who inherently understand the issues and effects of the condition.  I'd heard Dr. Hallowell speak on NPR's the Parent's Journal and the way he discussed the topic made me want to read the book.  It's a subject you hear a lot about these days, and I think there's a lot of either disinformation or misinformation floating around.  It's good to get a point of view that covers it both from a clinical side, as well as a personal one, often relayed through the stories of many of Dr. Hallowell's patients.

The Metamorphoses and other Stories, by Franz Kafka.  Does it make me Emo if I like Kafka?  Does it help if I mention I was an English major?  Okay, fine.  I just like a good freaky story.  And Kafka does that, rather well.  From The Metamorphoses, to The Hunger Artist, to an array of other shorts.  A bit more than half I'd read before.  But the stories were entrancing anyway.  And in a way, this was the kick start that got my brain thinking in terms of short stories again.  Something I needed.  So thanks Franz.

That's a wrap on January.  Here's hoping February fares better.
 
temporus: (time)
( Dec. 31st, 2007 06:39 pm)
December has been a whirlwind month.  With holidays, and first birthdays, and parties.  It is also the month where I traditionally veg out after taking on NaNoWriMo in November.  Instead, I tried to knock out a few short stories for some deadlines that came up this month.  Note to self: you are not quite ready to take on a short deadline for multiple projects with numerous other things whirling around your life at the same time.  Next time pick one project, and target it, don't try to take them all on at once.  Not to mention a large end of year crunch at the day job...the one that actually pays bills and therefore comes first.

As you might gather from the above, writing for this month was for all intents and purposes a failure.  I got some words on the page, but none of the stories headed in the directions I wanted, and I may have hit upon a case where research killed a story idea.  Spent too much effort researching because I wanted the story to be "right" and started to decide that the premise wasn't working.  And I got too wrapped up in the research itself so that I didn't step back and see the story.  Time to go back to basics.  I intend to finish the stories anyway.  Nothing says that they might not end up selling elsewhere.

Submissions: Waiting on one submission.  Lack of focus means I didn't get a new story out.  

Reading:  One book.

Agincourt: Henry V and the Battle That Made England, by Juliet Barker.  A thorough and engaging look at the buildup to, and the prosecution of, the Agincourt campaign by Henry V.  If all you knew about the battle, or even Henry V comes from Shakespeare, this book gives a distinct and different view.  That's not to say Shakespeare got it wrong, but that you can see where he took some artistic license with his history play.  What is even more compelling, was to come to understand what chivalry meant in the beginning of the fifteenth century.  Imagine wars where when a person was captured, you took his word that he would show up at a prearranged location so that  he might submit himself to be your prisoner.  Knowing full well that he might be your prisoner for years.  And they did.  Even in the middle of a war, people pledged that they would not aid their own countrymen but would instead report to your castle.  Fascinating.  Much goodness to throw into the brain's compost pile.  Hopefully it will produce some wonderful soil for stories, even beyond the one that sent me researching the topic to begin with.  (Not that it took much to get me interested in Medieval history of any kind.)

Looking forward to getting myself back on track and making some new headway with the new year.
 
temporus: (time)
( Dec. 31st, 2007 06:39 pm)
December has been a whirlwind month.  With holidays, and first birthdays, and parties.  It is also the month where I traditionally veg out after taking on NaNoWriMo in November.  Instead, I tried to knock out a few short stories for some deadlines that came up this month.  Note to self: you are not quite ready to take on a short deadline for multiple projects with numerous other things whirling around your life at the same time.  Next time pick one project, and target it, don't try to take them all on at once.  Not to mention a large end of year crunch at the day job...the one that actually pays bills and therefore comes first.

As you might gather from the above, writing for this month was for all intents and purposes a failure.  I got some words on the page, but none of the stories headed in the directions I wanted, and I may have hit upon a case where research killed a story idea.  Spent too much effort researching because I wanted the story to be "right" and started to decide that the premise wasn't working.  And I got too wrapped up in the research itself so that I didn't step back and see the story.  Time to go back to basics.  I intend to finish the stories anyway.  Nothing says that they might not end up selling elsewhere.

Submissions: Waiting on one submission.  Lack of focus means I didn't get a new story out.  

Reading:  One book.

Agincourt: Henry V and the Battle That Made England, by Juliet Barker.  A thorough and engaging look at the buildup to, and the prosecution of, the Agincourt campaign by Henry V.  If all you knew about the battle, or even Henry V comes from Shakespeare, this book gives a distinct and different view.  That's not to say Shakespeare got it wrong, but that you can see where he took some artistic license with his history play.  What is even more compelling, was to come to understand what chivalry meant in the beginning of the fifteenth century.  Imagine wars where when a person was captured, you took his word that he would show up at a prearranged location so that  he might submit himself to be your prisoner.  Knowing full well that he might be your prisoner for years.  And they did.  Even in the middle of a war, people pledged that they would not aid their own countrymen but would instead report to your castle.  Fascinating.  Much goodness to throw into the brain's compost pile.  Hopefully it will produce some wonderful soil for stories, even beyond the one that sent me researching the topic to begin with.  (Not that it took much to get me interested in Medieval history of any kind.)

Looking forward to getting myself back on track and making some new headway with the new year.
 
temporus: (time)
( Nov. 30th, 2007 06:00 pm)
Wow.  It's November, come and gone.   One of those blurry fast months where you look up and say: where did my month go?   Had an enjoyable Thanksgiving weekend, even if our phone company kept giving us a large run around.  I'm not concerned, we're dumping them.  Going to IP phone.  The year is winding down, and I'm getting pretty close to hitting many if not all, of my goals.  

Writing:  NaNoWriMo sucked the marrow from my bones.   This year was more challenging than past years.  The Little Man adds more responsibilities, and I try not to let NaNo estrange me completely from the family and friends.  I managed to hit the 50K mark on the 27th.  Then I promptly keeled over and died.  I hope that during the process, I was able to remain rationally social.   Mostly, I tried to give up TV time for writing.  Which I'm not in the long run unhappy about.  My 50K words is not a novel.  It's somewhere between one third and one half done.  I am making some notes, and shelving the project so that I can come back later. 

Just a brief pause to say Congrats to all those who participated in NaNoWriMo this year.  I know many of my friends made it (way to go!) and for others, well, life happened.   I hope that the challenge was fun, and you had a blast.

Submissions:  One outstanding submission.  No new ones.   I got a few stories just about ready for the critique gang, and then I'll see what I can get out the door.  I have a few submission deadlines come up that I want to hit.

Reading:  Virtually none.  Almost everything I read was to feed the story.  I'm log-jammed with reading, and I don't foresee much reading for myself happening until...January?  Possibly even February.  

I'm looking forward to December.   My son's first birthday.  The holidays.  Using up some vacation time that I've socked away.   Family and friends all that great stuff.   It's going to be a mad dash through the end of the year.  Lots of stuff, writingwise, personalwise, and workwise.  (No, those aren't the names of the three wise men.)  Now, its time to get back to the grind.
temporus: (time)
( Nov. 30th, 2007 06:00 pm)
Wow.  It's November, come and gone.   One of those blurry fast months where you look up and say: where did my month go?   Had an enjoyable Thanksgiving weekend, even if our phone company kept giving us a large run around.  I'm not concerned, we're dumping them.  Going to IP phone.  The year is winding down, and I'm getting pretty close to hitting many if not all, of my goals.  

Writing:  NaNoWriMo sucked the marrow from my bones.   This year was more challenging than past years.  The Little Man adds more responsibilities, and I try not to let NaNo estrange me completely from the family and friends.  I managed to hit the 50K mark on the 27th.  Then I promptly keeled over and died.  I hope that during the process, I was able to remain rationally social.   Mostly, I tried to give up TV time for writing.  Which I'm not in the long run unhappy about.  My 50K words is not a novel.  It's somewhere between one third and one half done.  I am making some notes, and shelving the project so that I can come back later. 

Just a brief pause to say Congrats to all those who participated in NaNoWriMo this year.  I know many of my friends made it (way to go!) and for others, well, life happened.   I hope that the challenge was fun, and you had a blast.

Submissions:  One outstanding submission.  No new ones.   I got a few stories just about ready for the critique gang, and then I'll see what I can get out the door.  I have a few submission deadlines come up that I want to hit.

Reading:  Virtually none.  Almost everything I read was to feed the story.  I'm log-jammed with reading, and I don't foresee much reading for myself happening until...January?  Possibly even February.  

I'm looking forward to December.   My son's first birthday.  The holidays.  Using up some vacation time that I've socked away.   Family and friends all that great stuff.   It's going to be a mad dash through the end of the year.  Lots of stuff, writingwise, personalwise, and workwise.  (No, those aren't the names of the three wise men.)  Now, its time to get back to the grind.
temporus: (time)
( Oct. 31st, 2007 11:00 pm)
A hectic month.  I'm not even sure why, but so much was going on, that I blinked, and the month is over.  Rather little to report I'm afraid.   Mostly a month where I just had to keep on keeping on.  Thankfully, I got to have nice month's end with Halloween, a fun day again when you've got a little one.

Writing: Two first drafts.   A few more ideas, and a couple of scribbles.    Revised one very short piece into a Drabble.   You can read it on my profile if you're curious.

One submission, still outstanding.  I'm log jamming myself, and not getting more new work out the door.  Have to break through.  Some fine tuning of the process.  Can't be published if you don't submit.

Reading: No books.  Yeah, it's been that kind of a month.  Also, truth be told, I've been sneaking a bit more TV than I should.  Will perform appropriate ablutions.  Or something.

I'm looking forward to November, which also looks to be a rather hectic month for some of the same, and some new reasons altogether.  In the end, we'll see how it pans out.
temporus: (time)
( Oct. 31st, 2007 11:00 pm)
A hectic month.  I'm not even sure why, but so much was going on, that I blinked, and the month is over.  Rather little to report I'm afraid.   Mostly a month where I just had to keep on keeping on.  Thankfully, I got to have nice month's end with Halloween, a fun day again when you've got a little one.

Writing: Two first drafts.   A few more ideas, and a couple of scribbles.    Revised one very short piece into a Drabble.   You can read it on my profile if you're curious.

One submission, still outstanding.  I'm log jamming myself, and not getting more new work out the door.  Have to break through.  Some fine tuning of the process.  Can't be published if you don't submit.

Reading: No books.  Yeah, it's been that kind of a month.  Also, truth be told, I've been sneaking a bit more TV than I should.  Will perform appropriate ablutions.  Or something.

I'm looking forward to November, which also looks to be a rather hectic month for some of the same, and some new reasons altogether.  In the end, we'll see how it pans out.
temporus: (time)
( Sep. 30th, 2007 09:57 pm)

Ah September, one of my favorite months.  Sure, my birthday is in September, but its not the only reason I love the month.  To me, September is about beginnings.  School begins in September (in New Jersey anyways, which is all I've ever known.) After a good twenty years or so in school, you get a pattern in your head, and sometimes it just sticks.  Often, you'll find the Jewish New Year as well during this month, so in some ways I don't feel alone in thinking of it as a season of fresh starts.

Writing:  In keeping with the season, I managed to get a bit more done on the writing front.  One new first draft. (Is that redundant to say something is both new and first?) One story revised, and awaiting feedback from some beta readers to see if this revision works better than prior version.  A number of new ideas mugged me this month, and I dutifully jotted down enough, so that hopefully, I can go back and get those written once I have the time.  Ideas are way outstripping speed and time to write the stories that go with.  Shocker.

One story still out on submission.  Hopefully I can get at least one more out into rotation before the end of October.

Reading:  With a week's vacation early in the month, I made good headway on reading.  Four novels, as well as a smattering of short stories.  I won't detail all the shorts I read, but I did manage an issue or so of Interzone, Realms of Fantasy, and Paradox.  I still have way too many issues of magazines backed up, and it's never easy for me to dig out of that pile as the subscriptions come in.

Orphans of Chaos, by John C. Wright: The immediate thing I noticed about this novel, was a distinct sense of style.  That's not to say other books I've been reading lack style, they don't.  I just think that much of what I have read recently has a sense of style that goes along with third person point of views, a kind of cinematic approach to the story telling.  I'm not sure I can pin down what it is that makes the style of this novel for me, it is linked to the first person point of view, but it's not merely someone telling me what's going on all around them.  Perhaps its a sensation of time simultaneously passing and standing still, which I think is rather appropriate to the novel considering the nature of the Orphans of the title.  Time is something that was very hard to pin down in the novel.  I would say that the events are somewhat contemporary, but I would find it impossible to pin down an exact date the book is meant to take place in.  Yet it also feels, perhaps due to the nature of this little British boarding school, to also feel somewhat Edwardian.  Of course, perception of time for the main characters is one of the plot points, so I don't think it surprising at all that time's passage is not easy to pin down.  I'm amazed at the number of fantasy books these days that have real world mythological characters showing up in the modern era.  I think I'm starting to get a touch tired of that, but that's probably luck of the draw, not anything I can lay at the feet of any particular author.  At the least, the mythological figures used are handled with new twists, and many appear to be thankfully more obscure characters.  Which I happened to enjoy.  Not the same old figures from central casting.  

I think what I liked best about this book, was how each of the five main characters had a different perception of reality.  And as an example of what I meant by style, you really understand this within the first few pages as he introduces each of the orphans, and gives you a sense of who they are and how the world works for them, all the while still through the lens of the first person narrator, Amelia.  Quite an interesting feat.  If the book can be said to have a flaw, however, it is the fact that it is quite clearly the first of several books.  The novel cannot be considered complete and stand alone by any measure, and for some people that can be quite the turn off.  If you got drawn in as I did, you might think it a good thing that there are two more books to read.


Old Man's War, by John Scalzi: Such a fascinating concept, to send not our young, but our old off to war.  (I shouldn't be surprised if there are people out there wondering if we couldn't adopt that policy now, starting with those very folks who voted for our current entanglement.)  There's a long tradition of military fiction within SF.  Probably almost as far back as we imagined taking to the stars, have we wondered what warfare might be like when we got there.  Perhaps because looking back at history, we see all the warfare and strife of our past, that we can only assume such will continue well into the future.  It could be that reading about humans defeating aliens gives us an ability to cheer for the victors without feeling as if we should also sympathize with the losers.  Scalzi portrays a remarkable breadth within that simple niche of the genre.  Providing not merely warfare among the stars, but intriguing and innovative technologies that arise with it.  (I wonder what he thinks, now that some mathematicians have shown it mathematically possible that there are parallel universes much as the way described in this novel.)  Definitely an engaging novel, that sucks you right in and through the gimmick of following a recruit into the space military, you get to learn about the way of the universe outside Earth as he does.  Action in plenty, as you might expect from a war novel, but beyond that, you see a lot diversity in the types and nature of aliens, the tactics of space warfare, and I dare say even some questioning about the whole nature of war, and these wars in particular.  No surprise that this book was nominated for a Hugo.  I look forward to the followup novel: The Ghost Brigades.

The Hollower, by Mary SanGiovanni: The story of a creature that slowly torments, and destroys people in small town New Jersey.  This supernatural being, a creepy monster with a human-like appearance, stalks its victims, gets inside their heads, and uses their own fears, doubts, and inner weaknesses against them.  A seemingly random group of victims of this unearthly horror, are brought to the edge of despair.  Yet through what at first seems like failure of one of the victims of this monster, the Hollower, it is perhaps a sacrifice that instead provides some other victims with knowledge of what it is they face.  The characters converge into a group that decides to take back their lives, or die trying.   The book read like a movie, that is to say, I could see it almost as if on a screen as I went through the novel.   The heroes are a diverse group of souls, people who each have their own crises they have had to deal with.  The implication is this is why each were chosen, what made them vulnerable to the Hollower.  But when you consider it, haven't we all had those moments?  Maybe not drugs, or alcohol, or death of a parent at a young age, as some of the characters in the novel.  But even those of us, with generally normal lives, can't even we find something that might torment our souls if someone could get within our minds and bend our memories against us?  Things we might be glad to have put behind us?  Things that we think we've forgotten but perhaps lay just beyond the edge of conscious memory.  I think that's what links the reader to the heroes of the novel, what makes us root for their success, because if they can manage to overcome this horror, perhaps then we wouldn't have to be its next victims.

Can Animals and Machines Be Persons?, by Justin Leiber:  This work is thought experiment.  It was assigned reading many years ago for a Science Fiction course I took, but managed to only really skim through it at the time.  I'm a terribly slow reader, and as an English Major, History Minor, my reading load was such that I often had to choose to skim works, or skip some readings altogether.  (Some day, I'll actually sit and read Hamlet.)   It's a very short work, written in the early-mid 1980's.  It's a dialogue, a court proceeding where a UN group is trying to determine the fate of the continued existence of two entities.  A computer system known as AL (Model Turing 346).  Heh.  Al Turing.  Get it?  Yeah, you probably got, but just in case you don't Alan Turing, and his thought experiments (and counter proofs, etc) are all brought up throughout the course of the dialogue.  That really shouldn't be surprising when talking about "thinking machines."  The famous "Turing Test" is used, as well as the "Chinese Box" and one I was somewhat less familiar with, the "Cast of Millions."  Also discussed were Thomas Paine, Mary Shelley, and her mother, Mary Wollstonecraft.  It presents some interesting arguments.  Looking back on it, some thirty years later, you can see how the questions asked within, are ones that humanity has still not answered.  Interesting from a science fictional point of view, in regards to what makes something a person.  Though by design, no real conclusion is reached, and presumably, you are expected to go forth and make your own conclusions from the arguments presented. 

temporus: (time)
( Sep. 30th, 2007 09:57 pm)

Ah September, one of my favorite months.  Sure, my birthday is in September, but its not the only reason I love the month.  To me, September is about beginnings.  School begins in September (in New Jersey anyways, which is all I've ever known.) After a good twenty years or so in school, you get a pattern in your head, and sometimes it just sticks.  Often, you'll find the Jewish New Year as well during this month, so in some ways I don't feel alone in thinking of it as a season of fresh starts.

Writing:  In keeping with the season, I managed to get a bit more done on the writing front.  One new first draft. (Is that redundant to say something is both new and first?) One story revised, and awaiting feedback from some beta readers to see if this revision works better than prior version.  A number of new ideas mugged me this month, and I dutifully jotted down enough, so that hopefully, I can go back and get those written once I have the time.  Ideas are way outstripping speed and time to write the stories that go with.  Shocker.

One story still out on submission.  Hopefully I can get at least one more out into rotation before the end of October.

Reading:  With a week's vacation early in the month, I made good headway on reading.  Four novels, as well as a smattering of short stories.  I won't detail all the shorts I read, but I did manage an issue or so of Interzone, Realms of Fantasy, and Paradox.  I still have way too many issues of magazines backed up, and it's never easy for me to dig out of that pile as the subscriptions come in.

Orphans of Chaos, by John C. Wright: The immediate thing I noticed about this novel, was a distinct sense of style.  That's not to say other books I've been reading lack style, they don't.  I just think that much of what I have read recently has a sense of style that goes along with third person point of views, a kind of cinematic approach to the story telling.  I'm not sure I can pin down what it is that makes the style of this novel for me, it is linked to the first person point of view, but it's not merely someone telling me what's going on all around them.  Perhaps its a sensation of time simultaneously passing and standing still, which I think is rather appropriate to the novel considering the nature of the Orphans of the title.  Time is something that was very hard to pin down in the novel.  I would say that the events are somewhat contemporary, but I would find it impossible to pin down an exact date the book is meant to take place in.  Yet it also feels, perhaps due to the nature of this little British boarding school, to also feel somewhat Edwardian.  Of course, perception of time for the main characters is one of the plot points, so I don't think it surprising at all that time's passage is not easy to pin down.  I'm amazed at the number of fantasy books these days that have real world mythological characters showing up in the modern era.  I think I'm starting to get a touch tired of that, but that's probably luck of the draw, not anything I can lay at the feet of any particular author.  At the least, the mythological figures used are handled with new twists, and many appear to be thankfully more obscure characters.  Which I happened to enjoy.  Not the same old figures from central casting.  

I think what I liked best about this book, was how each of the five main characters had a different perception of reality.  And as an example of what I meant by style, you really understand this within the first few pages as he introduces each of the orphans, and gives you a sense of who they are and how the world works for them, all the while still through the lens of the first person narrator, Amelia.  Quite an interesting feat.  If the book can be said to have a flaw, however, it is the fact that it is quite clearly the first of several books.  The novel cannot be considered complete and stand alone by any measure, and for some people that can be quite the turn off.  If you got drawn in as I did, you might think it a good thing that there are two more books to read.


Old Man's War, by John Scalzi: Such a fascinating concept, to send not our young, but our old off to war.  (I shouldn't be surprised if there are people out there wondering if we couldn't adopt that policy now, starting with those very folks who voted for our current entanglement.)  There's a long tradition of military fiction within SF.  Probably almost as far back as we imagined taking to the stars, have we wondered what warfare might be like when we got there.  Perhaps because looking back at history, we see all the warfare and strife of our past, that we can only assume such will continue well into the future.  It could be that reading about humans defeating aliens gives us an ability to cheer for the victors without feeling as if we should also sympathize with the losers.  Scalzi portrays a remarkable breadth within that simple niche of the genre.  Providing not merely warfare among the stars, but intriguing and innovative technologies that arise with it.  (I wonder what he thinks, now that some mathematicians have shown it mathematically possible that there are parallel universes much as the way described in this novel.)  Definitely an engaging novel, that sucks you right in and through the gimmick of following a recruit into the space military, you get to learn about the way of the universe outside Earth as he does.  Action in plenty, as you might expect from a war novel, but beyond that, you see a lot diversity in the types and nature of aliens, the tactics of space warfare, and I dare say even some questioning about the whole nature of war, and these wars in particular.  No surprise that this book was nominated for a Hugo.  I look forward to the followup novel: The Ghost Brigades.

The Hollower, by Mary SanGiovanni: The story of a creature that slowly torments, and destroys people in small town New Jersey.  This supernatural being, a creepy monster with a human-like appearance, stalks its victims, gets inside their heads, and uses their own fears, doubts, and inner weaknesses against them.  A seemingly random group of victims of this unearthly horror, are brought to the edge of despair.  Yet through what at first seems like failure of one of the victims of this monster, the Hollower, it is perhaps a sacrifice that instead provides some other victims with knowledge of what it is they face.  The characters converge into a group that decides to take back their lives, or die trying.   The book read like a movie, that is to say, I could see it almost as if on a screen as I went through the novel.   The heroes are a diverse group of souls, people who each have their own crises they have had to deal with.  The implication is this is why each were chosen, what made them vulnerable to the Hollower.  But when you consider it, haven't we all had those moments?  Maybe not drugs, or alcohol, or death of a parent at a young age, as some of the characters in the novel.  But even those of us, with generally normal lives, can't even we find something that might torment our souls if someone could get within our minds and bend our memories against us?  Things we might be glad to have put behind us?  Things that we think we've forgotten but perhaps lay just beyond the edge of conscious memory.  I think that's what links the reader to the heroes of the novel, what makes us root for their success, because if they can manage to overcome this horror, perhaps then we wouldn't have to be its next victims.

Can Animals and Machines Be Persons?, by Justin Leiber:  This work is thought experiment.  It was assigned reading many years ago for a Science Fiction course I took, but managed to only really skim through it at the time.  I'm a terribly slow reader, and as an English Major, History Minor, my reading load was such that I often had to choose to skim works, or skip some readings altogether.  (Some day, I'll actually sit and read Hamlet.)   It's a very short work, written in the early-mid 1980's.  It's a dialogue, a court proceeding where a UN group is trying to determine the fate of the continued existence of two entities.  A computer system known as AL (Model Turing 346).  Heh.  Al Turing.  Get it?  Yeah, you probably got, but just in case you don't Alan Turing, and his thought experiments (and counter proofs, etc) are all brought up throughout the course of the dialogue.  That really shouldn't be surprising when talking about "thinking machines."  The famous "Turing Test" is used, as well as the "Chinese Box" and one I was somewhat less familiar with, the "Cast of Millions."  Also discussed were Thomas Paine, Mary Shelley, and her mother, Mary Wollstonecraft.  It presents some interesting arguments.  Looking back on it, some thirty years later, you can see how the questions asked within, are ones that humanity has still not answered.  Interesting from a science fictional point of view, in regards to what makes something a person.  Though by design, no real conclusion is reached, and presumably, you are expected to go forth and make your own conclusions from the arguments presented. 

temporus: (time)
( Aug. 31st, 2007 10:00 pm)

Summer is winding down, only three more weeks, and fall will be upon us.  I guess things are moving in that lazy summer's pace.  That includes my writing.  I hope that I can pick up momentum as we slide into fall.

Writing front:  One revision, though I'm not happy with it, and will need to do another pass.  I did wrest the word count under control, and I think I helped the pacing but I need to let it sit longer before I can really clean it up and make it presentable.  Started on a new story, but I've determined that I've got the wrong character as the main character, and I'm going to have to start it over.  I just really need to concentrate and let the character inform me what's most important.

One story, still out on submission.

Reading:  In a continuation of my summer "burst" I managed to get another three books read this month.

Lion's Blood, by Steven Barnes:  This was a difficult read.  Difficult in the way, I think, the author wants it to be difficult.  It's a convincing alternate history where Africans, not Europeans end up the conquering force of the world.  Whites are the slaves, and Blacks are the masters.  What makes it so convincing is that it eschews the fantastic, or sci-fi aspects of alternate history, and hinges merely on  a few key points different in the past.  History is rife with moments where things turned on such small happenstances, and Barnes seems to find just enough of them to shift the globe into a realistic alternative.  On a more personal level, one of the main characters, captured as a child and bound into slavery is a young lad from Ireland, land of my own ancestors.  It made following his horrors all the more poignant.  Though mere words can only convey the barest whispers of what that life might have been like for real slaves, even still there were moments I had to take a short break from the story.  Dense, luscious language, believable characters, and tense action, I look forward to the next novel in this setting, Zulu Heart.

Stardust, by Neil Gaiman: I purchased this novel some months ago, before I even realized it was being made into a movie.  However, in an earlier spate of book acquisitions, this one kind of got tucked into the middle of the pile, and somewhat overlooked.  Once the movie came out, I didn't have the time to read it before seeing it.  I had a good time with the movie.  Then I made a point to dig out the book and read it.  What a different work.  I don't consider that a bad thing, mind, because a book is not a movie, and a movie can never be a book.  So that there were differences, even rather substantive differences isn't a problem to me.  The book, however, feels simultaneously more adult than the movie was, and at the same time more of a fairy tale.  There's also something a bit more English about the novel than the movie.  If you are a fan of the movie, or of Gaiman, it's worth the read. 

Crystal Rain, by Tobias S. Buckell: I've been on a massive fantasy bender recently.  It was about time that I took on a little something different, and I'd heard enough good things about this book to give it a whirl.  What a nice jump back into science fiction.  A very interesting world, with a back story that hits you at just the right pace--no long boring info-dumps, yet always enough information so that  the story and action are credible.  It bookended the month interestingly, where both this novel, and Lion's Blood, had "Aztecs" as the opposing force.  As well, the heroes are of African descent in both works.  That is about where the similarities end. Nanagada feels like an island itself, a world stranded among the stars.  Though there has been a regression of technology, a sort of post cataclysmic (not apocalyptic) world, we see the mostly Caribbean descended culture in a phase of rebirth, when the feared enemy the Azteca are thrust upon the scene and life is no longer idyllic.  I enjoyed seeing the layers involved in the war, and characters who are not easily broken down into white hats and black hats.  Sure, there's no question in the end for whom a reader should be rooting, but there are no perfectly clean hands here.  The war takes its toll, and the resolution felt all the more real for it.

temporus: (time)
( Aug. 31st, 2007 10:00 pm)

Summer is winding down, only three more weeks, and fall will be upon us.  I guess things are moving in that lazy summer's pace.  That includes my writing.  I hope that I can pick up momentum as we slide into fall.

Writing front:  One revision, though I'm not happy with it, and will need to do another pass.  I did wrest the word count under control, and I think I helped the pacing but I need to let it sit longer before I can really clean it up and make it presentable.  Started on a new story, but I've determined that I've got the wrong character as the main character, and I'm going to have to start it over.  I just really need to concentrate and let the character inform me what's most important.

One story, still out on submission.

Reading:  In a continuation of my summer "burst" I managed to get another three books read this month.

Lion's Blood, by Steven Barnes:  This was a difficult read.  Difficult in the way, I think, the author wants it to be difficult.  It's a convincing alternate history where Africans, not Europeans end up the conquering force of the world.  Whites are the slaves, and Blacks are the masters.  What makes it so convincing is that it eschews the fantastic, or sci-fi aspects of alternate history, and hinges merely on  a few key points different in the past.  History is rife with moments where things turned on such small happenstances, and Barnes seems to find just enough of them to shift the globe into a realistic alternative.  On a more personal level, one of the main characters, captured as a child and bound into slavery is a young lad from Ireland, land of my own ancestors.  It made following his horrors all the more poignant.  Though mere words can only convey the barest whispers of what that life might have been like for real slaves, even still there were moments I had to take a short break from the story.  Dense, luscious language, believable characters, and tense action, I look forward to the next novel in this setting, Zulu Heart.

Stardust, by Neil Gaiman: I purchased this novel some months ago, before I even realized it was being made into a movie.  However, in an earlier spate of book acquisitions, this one kind of got tucked into the middle of the pile, and somewhat overlooked.  Once the movie came out, I didn't have the time to read it before seeing it.  I had a good time with the movie.  Then I made a point to dig out the book and read it.  What a different work.  I don't consider that a bad thing, mind, because a book is not a movie, and a movie can never be a book.  So that there were differences, even rather substantive differences isn't a problem to me.  The book, however, feels simultaneously more adult than the movie was, and at the same time more of a fairy tale.  There's also something a bit more English about the novel than the movie.  If you are a fan of the movie, or of Gaiman, it's worth the read. 

Crystal Rain, by Tobias S. Buckell: I've been on a massive fantasy bender recently.  It was about time that I took on a little something different, and I'd heard enough good things about this book to give it a whirl.  What a nice jump back into science fiction.  A very interesting world, with a back story that hits you at just the right pace--no long boring info-dumps, yet always enough information so that  the story and action are credible.  It bookended the month interestingly, where both this novel, and Lion's Blood, had "Aztecs" as the opposing force.  As well, the heroes are of African descent in both works.  That is about where the similarities end. Nanagada feels like an island itself, a world stranded among the stars.  Though there has been a regression of technology, a sort of post cataclysmic (not apocalyptic) world, we see the mostly Caribbean descended culture in a phase of rebirth, when the feared enemy the Azteca are thrust upon the scene and life is no longer idyllic.  I enjoyed seeing the layers involved in the war, and characters who are not easily broken down into white hats and black hats.  Sure, there's no question in the end for whom a reader should be rooting, but there are no perfectly clean hands here.  The war takes its toll, and the resolution felt all the more real for it.

.

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