Sunday, January 30, 2011

Reading List

The latest two books I've finished-

Crystal Rain by Tobias H. Buckell
Living peacefully on Nanaganda, John deBrun is basically content with his life. He has a wife and teenage son, and makes a decent living from fishing the local waters. The only unsettling part is that he cannot remember anything before he washed up on the shore of his village, with one hand replaced by a metal hook. He has come to terms with his amnesia and is content with life until the Azteca invade from across the nearby mountain range and overrun his village. John escapes and as he struggles to find his wife and son, he finds out that he is the key to unlocking the secrets of the Ma Wi Jung, a technologically advanced artifact left behind by the old-fathers who colonized the planet long ago.

This was a pretty good read. There was a bit of adjustment to the dialect used by the mongoose men (a Caribbean based language variant). But once beyond that, the story moves along well, with plenty of action and twists. There is a fair amount of violence, as the Azteca, as their name implies, are modeled after the Aztec and Mayan races, and have preserved the human sacrifice aspect of those races.

Characters are interesting and well-drawn. Even John's son, Jerome, is pretty realistic as a young teenager, alternately stubborn and sullen, then emotional and involved. There are military men, politicians, interfering aliens looked on as "gods", bush fighter mercenaries, and more. All in all, I did like this one.

Nightlife by Rob Thurman
When I finished this one, and typed the ISBN into the book swap site I use, it came up as "Cal Leandros, Book 1". I have to admit that my gut reaction to that was: There are more??

The plot centers on Cal Leandros, who is half-human and half-elf, here called Auphe. These are not your typical elves. These guys revel in torture and grisly killing. Cal and his older brother, Niko, have been running from Cal's fathers' people for four years, and they end up in New York city. There are supernatural beings everywhere in the city- a boggle in Central Park, a rich vampire in a swank apartment, a troll under the Brooklyn Bridge, and werewolves everywhere. Most humans are completely unaware of all of them. Cal knows because of his non-human side. His father and his people have been waiting for Cal (whose birth was engineered for just this purpose) to mature, so they can use him and the demon they have hired to possess him, to open a gate to a past world before humanity became the overwhelming majority and pushed the supernatural beings nearly to extinction.

It wasn't the worst book I've read, but it certainly wasn't the best. The plot is an old one. Which is not to say it can't be done well. The ending was not what I expected, I will admit, and that was a nice surprise. Where it fails for me is the characters. The book is first person, told from Cal's perspective, and he is incessanlty whiny. "Poor me, look at me, I'm half a demon, my life sucks." Over and over. Even when the demon has control, he does nothing but complain. Granted, in a more murderous and evil manner, but still it's complaining. Niko is the stony, strong, silent type taken to the extreme. The sarcastic back and forth between the brothers is amusing at times, but a bit stilted and cliched at others. The redeeming character for me is Robin Goodfellow. Yep, the puck also lives in the Big Apple, as a used car salesman, no less. But he's clever and the stereotype car salesman fits him perfectly. And he turns out to be one of the good guys. There's a minor character of a Healer, who has cousin who is apparently a werewolf, but not. Well, he is a wolf, but neither Cal nor Robin can "smell" the supernatural about him. And that's the end of that story, which was a little disconcerting, unless that's the opening left for a future story. It left me feeling a bit left out.

The action is plenty, there is some violence, and lots of angst. This one didn't up my opinion of the urban fantasy genre much.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Well, That Didn't Work

My plan to get the draft of the WIP out to readers last week. I started gathering it together to send, and discovered on reading parts that there is a lot I have to fill in before it would make sense to read. And if it doesn't make sense, then I doubt anyone can crit it well. *sigh*

And the ending that I know needs re-writing? Might be a good idea if I actually wrote it first. It's partly written, but not at all finished. *double sigh*

I guess I shouldn't be surprised. This thing was started 2 years ago, and there has been a long break of not really working on it since, so forgetting a lot of details is to be expected. Just frustrating.

On the up side, I did get a lot of good work done on it last week and over the weekend, so I believe I will be able to send off the first 5 chapters. That's a start. So, back to work.

Write. Now.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Time On My Hands

I had knee surgery last Friday. Nothing major, just cleaning up a torn meniscus and a few other things. It went well, according to the doctor. All was done arthroscpically, so it's supposed to heal up pretty fast. But I do have to take it a little easy on it and keep it elevated and all that. I'm down to using just one crutch and can put some weight on it. And am mostly off the pain meds, except at night, so I can sleep.

What does all this have to do with writing? Well, one would think, with all this time sitting on the sofa with the leg propped up, I could get a whole lot done, yes? One would be wrong. Oh, I did get some done. I pretty much finished up that last scene in the Novel-In-Progress (hereafter known as the NIP), which has been a goal for a while now. I've been hesitating on reading it back now. Why? Because once I can say to myself that it's done (not complete, but we'll get to that), I have to move on to the next step: readers. And that is always the hardest part for me.

I'm not even asking them to make complete critiques right now. All I have "finished" is the main plot- no sub-plots, side story or back story. And all I really want to know is if it hangs together as the basic story. There are problems, I know that. The ending needs a huge rewrite, but it gives the gist of it and that's what I need right now. So why the hesitation?

Hey, this is my baby! I've been working on this thing, off and on, for two years. I think it's a pretty decent story that could make a nice read. But, deep down, I still have that fear of failure. I chose the people I would like to read it for me now because I think they will be honest. I'm sure they will point out the flaws, some of which I am aware of. Some, I'm sure, will be new to me. I need that, of course. I have to know what's wrong before I can fix it. What I fear most is that they will say it just plain stinks, start to finish. Then what? I keep telling myself that won't happen. But the nagging doubt remains.

Goal for this week? Get the manuscript out there. Ignore the doubting voice, because if no one ever reads it, it doesn't matter how bad or good it is, right?

The hardest thing in the world is to finally hit that SEND key.

Write. Now.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Review: Marco and the Red Granny

Since they say a writer should read as well as write, I thought maybe I'd drop the occasional review of what I've been reading here. So here's one-

Marco and the Red Granny by podcaster and writer Mur Lafferty ( and the excellent I Should Be Writing podcast), was serialized on the Hub, a weekly(ish) sci-fi broadcast. It’s also short, and easily read in a day or so. None of that is to say it’s a bad story. Far from it.

The Marco in the title is a down on his luck graphic artist and writer. Much of the artistic content being produced is under the control of aliens based on the Moon. They have developed a way of integrating art and sensory experience. So it is possible to now have a dress that makes you taste apple pie, or a sculpture that encompasses the plot of a story. The aliens have resurrected the practice of artistic patronage, bringing various artists from Earth to the Ride Lunar Base to help them create. Marco’s ex-girlfriend accepted one such patronage and left him for it. One morning, Marco gets the call that he, too, has been chosen for a patronage. He sets off for the Moon, and on the way meets the Red Granny, an older woman who is the reigning star of a bloody, to the death reality fight show. Once he arrives on the Moon, Marco soon discovers that the coveted artistic patronages are not what they might seem, and that everyone, the Red Granny included, has secrets.

The story is interesting, with a neat take on alien invasion. If you’re looking for space battles and laser cannons, you won’t find it here. But the danger is no less threatening. There is some violence, though it is fairly minor. The characters are well-drawn, especially the Red Granny, who, although not the main character, is probably the most interesting. The aliens are alien, and enigmatic, and dangerous, a good combination in aliens. The plot kept my interest, with enough twists and a surprise or two to keep it moving along.

This was the first thing I purchased for my new Kindle, and it was a good choice.