Tuesday, August 28, 2012

More Orcs From Tom Doolan

"The Orc Way"
Tom Doolan
Kindle ebook $0.99

Tom Doolan returns with another short story about Orcs.  (His previous work is reviewed here, here, and here.)  This story is a sequel to "Pekra".  It's a worthy addition to the series.

The setup is basically simple, although the resolution turns out not to be.  Gortek, Pekra's mate, is part of a group of Orcs dispatched to kidnap a Dwarf.  The problem is that Kagan is in charge rather than Gortek, and Kagan is just stupid enough to be dangerous.  And that can get them killed. 

Things don't go according to plan.  This is both bad and good and sets up a number of potential storylines for future installments in the series.  This is a short story, so I don't want to give too many details away.

One of the things I liked best about this tale is that Doolan didn't confine himself to a single viewpoint.  Instead we see things from multiple viewpoints, including some of the Dwarves.  This added a layer of depth to the story because it gave us a glimpse of Dwarven society.  There are some intriguing thins going on there.

As I've come to expect from one of Doolan's stories, there is plenty of well choreographed action, the pacing is good, and the characters are more than cardboard cutouts.  With this installment, Doolan appears to be laying the groundwork for a strong and interesting series.  Check it out.

Paying for Reviews

Apparently you can get as many positive reviews for your books as you want.  Provided you're prepared to buy them in lots, of course. At least according to this story in the New York Times.  I consider services like this to be about on the same level as those that sell term papers.  And since I commit dayjobbery in academia, you can probably guess where that level is.  Somewhere beneath pond scum.

I want to state for the record that I have never accepted payment for any review.  I have received free books for review, but that's an accepted practice.  Most of the reviews I post here are positive.  That's because I have a good idea of what I like and tend to pick books that I'm predisposed to enjoy.  Some bloggers seem to take great pride in tearing a book apart.  That's not my intention.  Usually if I can't find some positive things to say about a book or story, I probably won't review it.  That's a personal choice I make.

Which is not to say I won't write a negative review.  I've written a few, but they tend to be the exception rather than the rule.  As I said, I have a good idea what I like and tend to choose things for review I think I'll enjoy.

The difference between anonymous product reviews and reviews on blogs such as this one is that with a blog, the readers can comment, take part in discussions, and develop relationships with the reviewer.  This allows a degree of trust to form over time.  Even when the reader doesn't agree with the reviewer, the relationship can be beneficial.  There are certain reviewers who help me select reading material by the fact that we are so opposite.  If they love a book, I know it's one I probably want to avoid, and vice-versa.  Hopefully, the reviews I post here will be helpful, whether to point you to books/stories/films you might like or to warn you away.

From what I can tell, there's been an increased interest in reviewing on the internet over the last month or so, an increase that just spiked with the Times story.  I wanted to toss my two cents in.  I may visit this topic again when my schedule settles down and the semester is fully underway.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

A Review of Starvation Lake by Bryan Gruley

Starvation Lake
Bryan Gruley
Simon and Schuster
TPB, 370 p., $15.00
ebook $11.99 Kindle, Nook

Yes, I know this book is a mystery, and this blog is devoted to heroic fantasy and historical adventure.  But this is what I've been reading this week, and I wanted to discuss it here.  I'd spent the two previous weeks trying to read a science fiction novel (which I'll review at the other blog in a day or two) and wanted something different to read.  It won't be the first mystery I've reviewed here.

I'll be looking at short fantasy fiction the rest of the week.

Anyway, the basic set up is this.  One winter night ten years ago a popular youth hockey coach was out snowmobiling with a friend on Starvation Lake when his snowmobile  went through a thin spot in the ice, killing him.  Neither the body nor the snowmobile were ever recovered.  Now the snowmobile has washed up on the beach.  There are just two problems.  The first is that there's a bullet hole in it.  The second is that it's on the beach of an entirely different lake.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

8 Award Winning Ebooks

Keith here:  What follows is an announcement about 8 ebooks that were selected as best in their respective categories at the 2012 eFestival of Words.  Moses Siregar III was kind enough to pass this along.  His novel The Black God's War won in the fantasy category and has been sitting in my electronic TBR stack for a while.  I'm hoping to make some progress on that this fall after I clear some comiitments, so keep your eye out for a review of that title sometime around October.  Anyway, I'm passing this along in case some of you are looking for something to read.

Readers! Eight award winners in the 2012 eFestival of Words "Best of the Independent eBook Awards" have grouped together to offer you an amazing opportunity. They've reduced the prices of their award-winning novels to 99 cents for August 27 and 28th!

Whether you like to read mysteries, romance, horror, young adult, women's fiction, or fantasy, this group has it. Are you a writer yourself? Do you want to learn all about digitally publishing your next masterpiece? They've got you covered there too.

Get all eight award-winning ebooks for the price of one single paperback!

Award Winners

Best Mystery/Suspense: Dead is the New Black by Christine DeMaio-Rice

Best Non-Fiction: DIY/Self-Help: Let's Get Digital by David Gaughran

Best Horror: 61 A.D. by David McAfee

Best Romance: Deadly Obsession by Kristine Cayne

Best Young Adult: The Book of Lost Souls by Michelle Muto

Best Fantasy/Urban Fantasy and Best NovelThe Black God's War by Moses Siregar III

Best Chick Lit/Women's LitCarpe Bead'em by Tonya Kappes

Award for Best Twist ("I've Been Shyamalaned"): The Survival of Thomas Ford by John A.A. Logan

Here's a one-stop shopping link for your convenience: http://amzn.to/MO7qBY

Book Blurbs

Dead is the New Black by Christine DeMaio-Rice

Laura Carnegie gave up on the man of her dreams a long time ago. He's fashion designer Jeremy St. James, and not only is he her boss, everyone knows he's gay.

When the woman who holds the company purse strings is found dead in the office, and Jeremy's arrested for the murder, everything changes. If Laura can just solve this crime, keep the cops off her tail, break up a counterfeiting ring, and get the show on the runway by Friday, she might stop being Seventh Avenue's perpetual loser.

If you love Project Runway, or enjoyed The Devil Wears Prada, try Dead Is the New Black.

Let's Get Digital by David Gaughran

This guide contains over 60,000 words of essays, articles, and how-to guides, as well as contributions from 33 bestselling indie authors including J Carson Black, Bob Mayer, Victorine Lieske, Mark Edwards, and many more.

It covers everything from how the disruptive power of the internet has changed the publishing business forever to the opportunities this has created for writers. It gives you practical advice on editing, cover design, formatting, and pricing. And it reveals marketing tips from blogging and social networking right through to competitions, discounts, reviews, and giveaways.

If you are considering self-publishing, if you need to breathe life into your flagging sales, or if you want to understand why it's a great time to be a writer, Let's Get Digital: How To Self-Publish, And Why You Should will explain it all.

61 A.D. by David McAfee

61 A.D. For ten years, Taras has lived in the young city of Londinium, feeding off the city’s underbelly. But now Theron, his old enemy, has come looking for revenge, and Taras’ nights of living in relative peace are about to end.

Yet not even Theron can slip into town unnoticed, and the Council of Thirteen sends Ramah to deal with the two renegades once and for all. But unknown to the Council, a much older enemy is also in Londinium, and this time even the great Ramah might not be safe.

Set against the backdrop of the Iceni uprising in Roman-era Britannia, 61 A.D. continues the story of Taras, Theron, and Ramah, as they fight their way through history.

Deadly Obsession by Kristine Cayne

Nic Lamoureux's perfect movie star life is shattered by a stalker who threatens any woman close to him. When he meets photographer Lauren James, the attraction is instant--and mutual. She's exactly the sort of woman he craves, but the stalker makes deadly clear Lauren is the competition.

And the competition must be eliminated.

"Stock up on ice cubes because this is definitely one sizzling debut. Readers will be hooked from the first sentence- on the book and on Nic! As rich as a white chocolate cheesecake, Cayne's entrance into the suspense genre is invigorating, explosive and simply intoxicating." ~ RT Book Reviews Top Pick

The Book of Lost Souls by Michelle Muto

When teen witch Ivy MacTavish changes a lizard into her date for a Halloween dance, everything turns to chaos. And when no one is powerful enough to transform him back except Ivy, it sparks the rumor: Like father, like daughter. Worse, someone has used an evil spell book to bring back two of history's most nefarious killers.

Ivy's got a simple plan to set things right: find the real dark spell caster, steal the book, and reverse the spell. No problem! But first, she’ll have to deal with something more dangerous than murderous spirits: the school’s hotter-than-brimstone demon bad boy, Nick Marcelli. Demons are about as hard to handle as black magic, and Ivy soon discovers it’s going to take more than a lot of luck and a little charm if she wants to clear her status as a dark witch, get a warm-blooded boyfriend, and have her former date back to eating meal worms before the week’s end

The Black God's War by Moses Siregar III

Against the backdrop of epic warfare and the powers of ten mysterious gods, Lucia struggles to understand The Black One.

Her father-king wants war.

Her messianic brother wants peace.

The black god wants his due.

She suffers all the consequences.

"Moses is a fine writer deserving of success, and I think that it will follow ... I really enjoyed Moses's work." - David Farland, NYT Bestselling Author of The Runelords

Carpe Bead'em by Tonya Kappes

Hallie Mediate was raised by her (slightly) crazy Great Aunt Grace on the wrong side of the tracks in Cincinnati. Hallie escapes her hometown and never looks back.

That is, until she’s transferred back to the hometown. Not wanting her past to cross paths with her future, Hallie puts her life on hold.

Aunt Grace is still up to her old tricks, but Hallie finds some sanity at a local jewelry-making class where she uncovers a hidden talent for beading.

Will she keep searching for the happiness she may already have found?

The Survival of Thomas Ford by John A.A. Logan

Thomas Ford is the only survivor of the car crash which killed his wife. He is also the only witness who would be willing to identify the young, reckless driver who caused the crash. But the driver would sooner see Thomas Ford dead than ever let that happen.

Happy Reading!

RIP, Neil Armstrong

This obituary would probably be more appropriate at Futures Past and Present, but this blog currently gets way more traffic.  Neil Armstrong, the first human to set foot on the Moon, has passed away due to complications from recent bypass surgery.  The news broke only minutes ago as I write this, so I don't have any links with more detail.

Armstrong was a true hero, not just to Americans, but people worldwide.  I don't remember the Apollo 11 landing, although I remember the followup missions in the early 70s.  They cemented in my mind the idea that space travel was part of the way things are.  Unfortunately, things have changed.

To many of my generation Armstrong embodied the values that took us into space:  courage, investigation, imagination, exploration.  Values that built this country.  While we as a society don't seem to place as much importance on these characteristics as we once did, I maintain that they are essential to our future and the survival of our culture and civilization.  I hope that as we mourn the passing of a true pioneer, we remember these things.  It's only by embracing these traits, traits that Neil Armstrong embodied, that we can build a better world.

Rest in peace, Neil.

Friday, August 24, 2012

RIP, Josepha Sherman

Locus Online is reporting that fantasy author Josepha Sherman passed away yesterday.  She was born in New York on December 12, 1946.  Ms. Sherman was the author of original eight novels as well as media tie-ins and franchise novels in addition to numerous short stories.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Still On the Move

Things have progressed a bit more slowly than I anticipated.  Book cases are mostly emptied and ready to be moved, which should happen tomorrow evening if we don't get thunderstorms.  I've got a few bookcases moved and just finished putting the pulps in their new homes.  I was hoping to move some of the small press books tonight but time got away from me.  It always does that when I'm tired. 

Classes don't start until next week, but I have a meeting to try to organize the TAs tomorrow morning followed by more meetings.  Maybe I can get some things posted over the weekend.  Anyway, that's how things stand now.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Back in the Land of the Cyber-Living

Well, sort of.  I'm at the office this morning, trying to get caught up on some reference letters I need to write for students and make preparations for the TA meeting later in the week. 

Anyway, everything except the books shelves and books have been moved which will happen piecemeal throughout the week.  (There's also a 29 gallon aquarium; it will go when we've decided on the final placement of some items.) 

I don't have the computer set up yet.  There are a couple of electric outlets foiling my sinister plans for office arrangement.  I'm having to rethink where some things like filing cabinets and shelves are going to go.  Once I get that worked out, I'll be back online at home.  With that in mind, I finally finished the science fiction novel I've been reading trying to read for at least two weeks.  I hope to get the review up at Futures Past and Present in a day or so.  I'm not sure what I'll read and review next.  I'm too tired to think about it at the moment.  Hopefully by the end of the week things will be back to as c lose to normal as they usually get for me.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

RIP, Harry Harrison

I've just learned that Harry Harrison passed away.  Here is the announcement on his website and here is an i09 news release.  Harrison was named a Grand Master by SFWA.  He was a versatile writer, equally adept at humor or serious works.  His retrospective 50 in 50 was one of the books I took with me to Kazakhstan when we adopted our son.  While I didn't always agree with him philosophically, he always provided a great read.  I never had the pleasure of meeting him; he'd moved to England a number of years ago, and I can't recall him ever attending a convention within traveling distance.  With everything going on with closing on the house today and moving, getting one of his books out of a box isn't going to happen.  I'll have to download something by him on my ereader and try to read it later this evening.  Rest in Peace, Harry.

Monday, August 13, 2012

This Week

Just a quick update to bring those of you who care up to speed.  In less than 24 hours, my wife and I will sign closing papers on a house.  We're planning on getting a few items in the house worked on and start moving in on Friday and Saturday, at least to the point we can occupy the dwelling.  We'll move dishes, towels, the contents of closets, etc. starting Wednesday afternoon.  That will also be the day I probably won't have any internet access for a day or two other than what I can get through my phone.  If plans hold, I'm going to go to San Angelo Thursday to get some items out of storage that my in-laws are keeping for us like the woodworking equipment and some larger pieces of furniture.  I'll come back Friday afternoon with these items.  Friday evening and Saturday all the furniture except bookcases, filing cabinet and maybe desk will be moved.  The bookcases will be next, followed by the books.

I doubt I'll post much for the next week, although one or two things might show up.  I'm waiting on an author to approve an interview.  Since that will mostly be cut and paste, once I get his final approval, that will go up along with a review of one of his books.  I might blog about short fiction or something if I have a chance, but don't hold your breath.waiting for a lot of new content.  The series on The Warlord is on hold until the move is finished.  Several novels and short fiction reviews as well.

Anyway, it's going to be hectic for a bit, but I hope to be back up to speed within the next two weeks.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

World Fantasy Award Nominees Announced

The Nominees for this year's World Fantasy Award were announced yesterday.  The Lifetimes Achievement winners were announced earlier this year and are Alan Garner and George R. R. Martin.  I have to admit I've not anything on the list other that "A Small Price to Pay for Birdsong" by K. J. Parker, although I've got copies of a few others.  One or two are on my wishlist as well. 

Since I seem to be more deficient than usual in my reading of what got nominated, I'll not comment except to say that there doesn't appear to be much, if any, sword and sorcery.  No great surprise, I suppose.

So does anybody have any favorites?

World Fantasy Award Ballot
  Those Across the River, Christopher Buehlman (Ace)
  11/22/63, Stephen King (Scribner; Hodder & Stoughton as 11.22.63)
  A Dance with Dragons, George R.R. Martin (Bantam; Harper Voyager UK)
  Osama, Lavie Tidhar (PS Publishing)
  Among Others, Jo Walton (Tor)

  "Near Zennor", Elizabeth Hand (A Book of Horrors)
  "A Small Price to Pay for Birdsong", K.J. Parker (Subterranean Winter 2011)
  "Alice Through the Plastic Sheet", Robert Shearman (A Book of Horrors)
  "Rose Street Attractors", Lucius Shepard (Ghosts by Gaslight)
  Silently and Very Fast, Catherynne M. Valente (WSFA Press; Clarkesworld)

Short Fiction
  "X for Demetrious", Steve Duffy (Blood and Other Cravings)
  "Younger Women", Karen Joy Fowler (Subterranean Summer 2011)
  "The Paper Menagerie", Ken Liu (F&SF 3-4/11)
  "A Journey of Only Two Paces", Tim Powers (The Bible Repairman and Other Stories)
  "The Cartographer Wasps and the Anarchist Bees", E. Lily Yu (Clarkesworld 4/11)

  Blood and Other Cravings, Ellen Datlow, ed. (Tor)
  A Book of Horrors, Stephen Jones, ed. (Jo Fletcher Books)
  The Thackery T. Lambshead Cabinet of Curiosities, Ann & Jeff VanderMeer, eds. (Harper Voyager US)
  The Weird, Ann & Jeff VanderMeer, eds. (Corvus; Tor, published May 2012)
  Gutshot, Conrad Williams, ed. (PS Publishing)

  Bluegrass Symphony, Lisa L. Hannett (Ticonderoga)
  Two Worlds and In Between, CaitlĂ­n R. Kiernan (Subterranean Press)
  After the Apocalypse, Maureen F. McHugh (Small Beer)
  Mrs Midnight and Other Stories, Reggie Oliver (Tartarus)
  The Bible Repairman and Other Stories, Tim Powers (Tachyon)

  John Coulthart
  Julie Dillon
  Jon Foster
  Kathleen Jennings
  John Picacio

Special Award Professional
  John Joseph Adams, for editing - anthology and magazine
  Jo Fletcher, for editing - Jo Fletcher Books
  Eric Lane, for publishing in translation - Dedalus books
  Brett Alexander Savory & Sandra Kasturi, for ChiZine Publications
  Jeff VanderMeer & S.J. Chambers, for The Steampunk Bible
Special Award Non-Professional
  Kate Baker, Neil Clarke, Cheryl Morgan & Sean Wallace, for Clarkesworld
  Cat Rambo, for Fantasy
  Raymond Russell & Rosalie Parker, for Tartarus Press
  Charles Tan, for Bibliophile Stalker blog
  Mark Valentine, for Wormwood

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Sword and Sorcery: Short or Long?

The recent post on naked slave girls has generated a small but steady stream of traffic.  Some of Al Harron's comments have got me to thinking about some things that I'll probably address in a follow-up post.  In the meantime, I thought I'd ask a different question at the end of this post.

Much of the classic sword and sorcery, the stuff written by the likes of Leiber,  Howard, Moorcock, and to a lesser degree Kuttner, Wellman, Anderson, Saunders,Wagner, etc. was in the form of short fiction: short stories, novellettes, and some novellas.  Novels were rare in the early days.  By the 1980s, though, when I began reading S&S, it was the other way around.

I realize that was in large part driven by the market.  When pulps were the primary, if not only, source for S&S, then short fiction was what was written.  As the market changed over time, and paperback novels replaced pulps and digests, of course writers would switch to novels.  Some of the authors listed in the previous paragraph wrote equally well at all lengths.

What I'm interested in is the question of which fans of S&S prefer.  It should come as no surprise that Robert E. Howard is my go-to guy for S&S.  He was the first author I read who wrote the stuff.  I'd been reading science fiction for a number of years before I read Howard and was familiar with Kuttner, but his S&S wasn't available at the time.   At least not to a teenager in semi-rural Texas.  (I started reading Anderson about the same time.)  With the exception of The Hour of the Dragon, Howard's S&S was of the short variety.  As a result, I tend to prefer S&S novelettes and novellas to novels. 

There are a couple of other reasons as well.  One, I can read a story in one sitting, two at the most if it's a novella.  This means if I have a block of time free, I can often read more than one.  Novelettes and novellas are, in my not so humble opinion, the ideal form for fiction in general.  They allow for character development, multiple plots, and detail in world building without much of the padding that often accompanies novels.  Given my time constraints these days, there's another reason I like shorter works.  When it takes me a while to finish something, I tend to get frustrated with it, especially if the delay is due to interruptions or an uncooperative schedule.  That rarely happens with novellas and novelettes.

So, just to satisfy my own curiosity, and to hopefully gather some very unscientific data for a future post, do most of you prefer S&S at the shorter lengths or novels?  Or do you even care? 

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

On the Home Front

Well, if you felt the earth tremble last Saturday, it was because my wife and I looked at a house and both thought it was perfect.  She's come into a bit of a small inheritance, and it's allowed us to look for bigger lodging a few years sooner than I thought we would be able.  Ever since moving to West Texas we've been living in a small house, and by small I mean almost half the size of the house we lived in previously.  We're only moving three streets over, but there's a major through-street directly behind us, so it's a much nicer and quieter neighborhood.

We made an offer yesterday and received word a few hours ago that our offer had been accepted with some nice additions thrown in.  Like the workbenches in the shop building and a freezer, something we weren't expecting.  Since we offered less than they were asking, we were a little surprised they took the first offer.  Not that we're complaining.

I mention this here because the closing date in the contract is on or before the 15th.  There may will be some days during the move when I'll be offline.    Short moves are sometimes the most hectic, since we're going to try to do this in an organized manner rather than throw everything in a van and unload it as quickly as possible when we get there.  That means I'll be able to set up the library in an organized manner with everything exactly where I want it.  (I promise to post pictures.)

But if I seem to drop off the earth for a bit, there's a good reason.  Emphasis on good.