Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Lost Genre Guild - Day 3



All right. I've done it. I'm dipping my hermit-y toes into new waters. I've submitted a request for membership in Lost Genre Guild.

Fellow writers of speculative fiction might want to check out LGG's Recommended Resources page to find sites, publishers, and newsletters dedicated to Biblical speculative fiction.

To join or to just get more information, head over the About the Lost Genre Guild; scroll down the page to find the Membership Enquiries link, or to click on "What is Biblical Spec-Fic?" for a definition of the term.

Other blogs on the Christian Science Fiction & Fantasy Blog Tour have had a lot of positive things to say about LGG. You can check out those posts by visiting thewriters listed in the left sidebar of my blog, under CSFF Blog Tour Participants.

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By the way, Episode 4 of Thieves' Honor (The Game: Opening Moves) is now up at Ray Gun Revival. Once again, the cover art is awesome, and the stories are entertaining, and the reviews are informative. All sorts of science fiction goodness on tap at Ray Gun!

Episode 5--"The Game: Shooter"--was the least fun to write, and still feels awkward, but I had to stop worrying the words on the page and just let the story go.

Episode 6 would probably already be written, if not for all the extra time spent with family during Christmas week and this week. I hope to have the episode finished and polished by the first week of January, but that's cutting it kinda close for the deadline.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Lost Genre Guild - Day 2


Light at the Edge of Darkness (read more here) is an anthology of short speculative fiction, including work by members of the Lost Genre Guild, written from a Biblical worldview.

Because others have already presented several excellent reviews, I've snagged a few comments from the anthology's page on Amazon.com, and included them below:

Many of the tales were horrific, sad, dark, and oppressive, but one thing remained the same throughout: there was always a ray of Light at the edge of the Darkness. Sometimes the heroes were saved from physical death, sometimes they weren't, but always they knew they would be saved to eternal life. The truth of the gospel, of Jesus' redemption, was ever present. This is the core that holds everything together. One of the strong points overall is the way the authors weave the Biblical truths, particularly of Jesus' sacrifice, love, and redemption.
- Catharine Hassan

This book is a very enjoyable read. It runs the gambit of fantasy and science-fiction
to suspense and even westerns. Best of all, the stories within will make you stop and think long after you have finished reading.
- Timothy A. Hicks

Beware, though, as you read through these stories many may be disturbing because they cause you to see the world differently. You will meet greedy aliens, doubting martyrs, and a righteous man rewarded for his righteousness ... well, I don't want to give that one away, but it may mess up your theology when you read it.
- Terri Main

For readers who like hors d'oeuvres before the main meal, here's the opening paragraph of a longer work included in the anthology, Undeniable by A.P. Fuchs:

DUNCAN JAMES TOUCHED THE tender, bumpy flesh around his eyes. Carefully, he trailed his index finger from the outer rim of his left eye socket to the middle here his eyeball once sat. A razor-sharp sting of hot pain pierced the fragile area the second his finger made contact. He sharply tugged his finger away. The pricks of tears instinctively formed at the corners of his eyes but he wasn’t sure if they’d even leak out. The openings of the tear ducts were no doubt seared shut. And he was right. No tears came, but he’d give anything for even a few drops, anything to let him know he was still human.

For folks who can sit on the couch and eat dinner while watching Doc Robbins perform an autopsy on CSI, that's pretty darn intriguing. Let the feast begin.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Lost Genre Guild - Day 1


This month's Christian Science Fiction & Fantasy Blog Tour spotlights the Lost Genre Guild, dedicated to the promotion of--drum roll, please--Christian science fiction and fantasy. Well, to be more specific by using a broader term, Biblical speculative fiction.

Lest that multi-syllabic term make readers cross-eyed, here's a brief definition provided on LGG's website:
Biblical Spec-Fic then can be
defined as speculative fiction that is
written from a Christian world view:

entertainment
+
scriptural framework.
But what in the world is speculative fiction? Again, borrowing from the LGG website, it is

"an inclusive term that encompasses fiction genres like science fiction, fantasy, horror."


There have been a few writers who have become well-known for their work in these genres, and have written from a Biblical worldview, but the Lost Genre Guild seeks to expand the allotted shelf space for this kind of fiction by exploring beyond the safe boundaries of what is currently called "Christian fiction": romances, historicals, chick lit, modern teen life, children's books, occasional adventure tales.

For the interested reader, The Guild Review offers reviews of current titles, as well as thumbnail images showing details from the book covers. I am familiar with a couple of books on that list, but have only encountered Wind Follower on the shelves of local bookstores.

And that leads us back to the point of LGG: providing more Biblical speculative fiction to the reading public.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

After Christmas Update

Still hobblin' around, but I'm mobile. Feet hurt, but I'm grateful I have them.

The Boys & Girls Club was dead Friday--aside from a few high school and college-age basketball players who spent their time in the gym, we had only one Club member show up, and she was there just the last two hours.

A fellow staff person suggested I wheel around in my office chair, but I was tired of all the sitting I've been forced into the past few days, so I did a few little chores--sometimes on crutches, sometimes without--and eventually used some of the down time to type a scene for a science fiction piece. Right now, I'm regretting all the time on my feet.

My younger brother and his family will arrive late Saturday from Ohio for their Christmas visit. That means I have to be domestic, and clean the house.

On Christmas Day, my dad and I learned we could actually concoct an almost-traditional dinner between the two of us, and it tasted pretty good, too.

I've been having doubts about the big fantasy novel I've been working on for a few years. Seems like I may have spent those years merely in practice on a manuscript that will very likely never be read by anyone but my family and closest friends. But practice is practice, and honing one's craft is never time spent in vain.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Unto Us

Isaiah 9:6
For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.


Luke 2:34-35
Then Simeon blessed them, and said to Mary His mother, "Behold, this Child is destined for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign which will be spoken against (yes, a sword will pierce through your own soul also), that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.


John 14:15-18
If you love Me, keep My commandments. And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever--the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you. I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.

Acts 17:24-28
God, who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands. Nor is He worshiped with men's hands, as though He needed anything, since He gives to all life, breath, and all things. And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth...He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and have our being....
Hark! The Herald Angels Sing Amazing Grace.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The Further Misadventures of a Clumsy Writer

Shortly before 5:00 p.m. on Monday, I parked the Boys & Girls Club van in its spot after taking a group of kids to the cinema to see The Tale of Despereaux, and gathered my belongings, including a heavy black bag that I haul nearly everywhere--my current writing projects.

The plan was to transfer my stuff to my truck, parked just beside the van, and then take the van key inside the Club. And the plan was to do it quickly, considering the frigid temperature.

Well, as long-time readers of this blog may know, I'm not the tallest person. I have to adjust the van seat every time, because the customary driver is around six feet. Getting into and out of a 12-passenger van would be difficult without the handy step on the driver's side. I opened the door, hauled my belongings from the passenger's seat over to the driver's side, put my left foot on the step, and prepared to disembark.

As soon as I put weight on that foot, it slid right out from under me. I heard a pop. I landed hard on my left side, stuff scattered around me, right shoe landing between the noses of the two vehicles, and I just sat on the freezing pavement. "Oh God, Oh God, Oh God. It hurts. It hurts. Oh God." (You get the picture.)

After a while, I got the ankle to move, and stood, gathered my stuff one more time, and put it all inside the truck, wondering 1) how I was going to make the trip to the building and back, and 2) how I was going to drive home, since the left foot was required to operate the clutch.

There was an adult and two boys who were sitting in a black pickup when the accident happened, but I don't know if they witnessed it. However, when I was upright finally, they got out of the truck, and I called to the dad to take the van key to the front desk for me. He offered to help me walk inside, but I said I was going straight home.

I did make it through city traffic, then took a back road home so I could drive slowly--not over 35 miles an hour, the posted speed limit--and thus not use the clutch very often. In fact, I managed to travel that entire road, from where I turned off at the highway until the city limits of the little town where I live, several miles later, without using the clutch once. When I did use it, I'll admit that my imagination saw the bones of my foot grinding against one another. Yes, I am a dramatic wimp.

My dad called shortly after I arrived home, and he came over to finish doctoring my injuries. I managed the elastic bandage myself--I have a lot of experience, and at least three elastic bandages from prior trips to the clinic--but he cleaned the two deep cuts on the back of my right foot. Don't know how they happened, or why the right show flew off, but maybe the foot was cut on the underside of the step.

If I hadn't done myself similar injury many times in the past, I wouldn't have a handy pair of crutches. This morning, I felt the pulled muscles and bruised hip and butt and calf, but I can walk without the crutches, if I keep my foot flat and don't try to bend it in a natural stride.

Here's the crazy thing: There's pavement "burn" (or "rash", whichever one wishes to call it) on one knee, but my pants are entirely uninjured. How does that happen?

I intended to go to work today, but swollen foot wrapped in elastic bandage would not insert itself into shoe. I could have wrapped it in a Wal-Mart sack, I suppose, but that wouldn't have helped my ability to operate the clutch.

Anyway, before Dad left last night, I told him I felt twelve years old again, getting first aid after wrecking my bicycle for the unknown time. We laughed, and he assured me that if I wanted the attention, I coulda just called. I didn't have to thrown myself out of a van.

But where's the story in that?

Thursday, December 18, 2008

I wonder what makes some folks so quick to believe in evolution or the Big Bang or global warming, none of which are provable, and yet reluctant to or nervous about believing in God?

Seems to me, humans will always find a god to worship, whether science or themselves or some other idol or philosophy.

And yet those same individuals will sneer at people who believe in an actual God, as if believers are uninformed, uneducated yokels easily led about by superstition.

What makes the unbelievers so much more educated and superior than the believers? Why are unbelievers afraid of God? What makes them angry about Him? Why are they willing to believe anything BUT Him?

Science alone may not be able to prove God, but it can't disprove Him, either.

Neither evolution nor the Big Bang can be studied by scientific method or proved by empirical evidence. There are no witnesses to such events. Radiation is too evenly dispersed to support the Big Bang Theory. Though there have been "missing links" put forth, none have held up to scrutiny. Life cannot spring from nonliving matter.

The word "evolution" implies progress forward, not regression or cessation. What about the law of entropy: Everything decays? And why do babies and young life forms die? They're new, not decayed.

What is life? Why can't we always resuscitate a dead body? All the elements of physical life are present, but the heart and the brain will not always restart.

Why is physical procreation still necessary? Still the need for two genders? Why do animals and humans still give birth? Cloning is imperfect, the products often diseased or short-lived.

Why doesn't "the ooze" still produce life? Where are those magical chemicals today, and why aren't we able to get the same results?

Where are all the mid-evolution products? We can find dinosaurs, but where are all the things that are still evolving into us?

Sunday, December 14, 2008

An Untitled Christmas Poem

I wrote this poem on the fly last year, just before heading to the December meeting of my writers group, and remembered it today, just before heading to this year's December meeting this afternoon.

In Christmas past, I used to wait
wide-eyed in the dark,
willing daylight to arrive--
or the first chimes of midnight--
but always, always, I fell asleep,
and did not hear the whispered consult
or see the huddled adults
conjure piles of wrapped treasure
beneath a tinseled tree.

Then came the years the gifts were few--
maybe only one--
but popcorn, cocoa, carols,
reading in the Book of Luke,
warmed the coldest winter holiday,
reminding us by frail candlelight
that even the brightest star
blooms suspended in chill space,
unseen without the dark.

c. 2007, Keanan Brand

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Ah, Those Goofy Chihuahuas

This was sent me in an e-mail from a friend, and since I'm a sucker for wordplay and terrible puns, I thought I'd share it with the world:



It's a romantic full moon, when Pedro says, "Hey, mamacita, let's do Weeweechu."

"Oh no, not now, let's look at the moon!" says Rosita.

"Oh, c'mon baby, let's you and I do Weeweechu. I love you, and it's the perfect time," Pedro begs.

"But I wanna just hold your hand and watch the moon," replies Rosita.

"Please, corazoncita, just once, do Weeweechu with me."

Rosita looks at Pedro and says, "OK, one time, we'll do Weeweechu."

Pedro grabs his guitar and they both sing, "Weeweechu a Merry Christmas, Weeweechu a Merry Christmas, Weeweechu a Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year"

MERRY CHRISTMAS EVERYONE !!!!!!!!


(And thanks, Mindy, for sharing the silliness.)

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

A Sneak Peek

Here's a scene--possibly the opening scene--for Episode 6 of Thieves' Honor. This episode won't see the light of day for a few months, around February or March, but it never hurts to issue a trailer. Hey, they do it at the movies!

“Looks official to me.” Zoltana rubbed her thumb over the harbormaster’s seal in the lower corner of the shipping manifest. “The seal’s authentic. The Martina Vega put in at Gildertown about a month ago. I don’t see anything wrong here, Commander Wilkes.”

“There isn’t.” Wilkes folded his hands on the gleaming black basalt table in the center of the round, arch-ceilinged court chamber in the heart of the admiralty. Surrounded by the soft, indirect light from the high windows, he and Zoltana were alone at the table, their security details standing guard at the entrances. “The ink, the paper, the signature—all authentic, as far as we can tell. However, is not one of the crew an accused embezzler and a skilled forger?”

“Virgil Harbinger Wyatt.”

“And have you not boarded and searched the freighter Martina Vega on several occasions?”

“Eight.”

“Eight. More than enough to find incriminating evidence of theft, smuggling, or illegal salvage.” Commander Wilkes slid a small screen across the table. “And yet none of your personal or ship logs contain such evidence.”

Zoltana glanced at the device but didn’t pick it up. The Orpheus log files—labeled by ship’s date, and cross-referenced by planetary name and date or by astral coordinates—marched in neat columns down the screen. “You will have noted my suspicions, which are well documented, as well as the Vega crew’s behavior and my recent attempt to gain information first-hand.”

Wilkes’ smile was tight, humorless. “A spy aboard a pirate ship. The operation was a failure.”

A clumsy and abysmal failure. Zoltana leaned back in her chair and opened her hands in a relaxed gesture. “Didn’t an old Earth scientist once say that all his failures simply taught him how not to do something?”

“Edison. But there is also the matter of an hour’s gap in your ship’s record, and the unauthorized access to classified frequencies.”

“Maintenance explains the gap, and the frequencies—” Zoltana shrugged, just enough to disturb the fabric of her uniform. “We encounter an unidentified disruption whenever we are near the Martina Vega, but we do know it isn’t coming from their analog radios. Perhaps, among his other alleged crimes, Captain Kristoff has acquired blackmarket government technology.”

Commander Wilkes tapped thick, scarred fingers on the glossy tabletop. “Crimes that you neither confirm nor condemn.”

“Where is your evidence, commander?” Zoltana touched the cargo manifest. “All you have is all I have: suspicion and circumstances.”

Wilkes’ smile broadened into genuine amusement. “And an eyewitness.”

c. 2008, Keanan Brand

Friday, December 5, 2008

A Hermit's View of Christmas Decorations

For about two months now, I've been battling a lingering and nasty crud--very likely "walking pneumonia"--that hasn't responded to the prescribed medication I've thrown at it. However, the Dollar General version of a name brand OTC medication has demonstrated a small influence. I need to stock up.

I went to work today, despite really wanting to stay in bed and sleep my life away. Since tomorrow marks the first day of basketball games for the 2008-09 season at the Boys & Girls Club, I'll have to go to work on Saturday, too. Yippee.

On the flip side, the Christmas tree is set up. I may be a hermit, but I keep a fairly clean house, and it's decorated once a year. The tree is small, just large enough to boast one string of clear miniature lights which stay on it all year round (it's stored in large trash bags eleven months out of twelve), and it fits nicely on the dining room table. As the days pass, I'll set up a couple of Nativity scenes under the branches, maybe put an angel on the treetop, but that'll be the extent of the external signs of Christmas spirit. Music can go a long way to filling in any sensory gaps.

Mom is a decorator--all the ornaments on the tree, the mantel festooned, the dining table set a variety of centerpieces. The cheer of the season is evident. And my neighbors across the street annually turn their tiny house into a blazing nightlight. This year, they've added a blow-up lighted musical ensemble that includes a penguin, a snowman, and a Santa, among other entities. For the entire month of December, I won't need to turn on my porch light.

Knowing my distaste for gaudy displays or plastic figures, my family thinks it's funny to tell me about "amazing deals" or "low, low clearance sales" on such subtle yard ornaments as giant plastic manger scenes or Santa-and-sleigh sets that can be fastened to the peak of one's roof. I've always liked Snoopy, but Snoopy as Santa? Not so much. For some reason, my quelling stare doesn't seem to keep the family from laughing.

Thursday, November 27, 2008


The latest issue of Ray Gun Revival is up, and it contains the third episode of Thieves' Honor. When I read some of the other fiction included in the magazine, I am grateful mine gets to be included.

While you're over there, check out Johne Cook's review of the new James Bond flick, Quantum of Solace, or read it at his blog. Excellent.

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Here's a little science fiction gratitude on Thanksgiving:

"There are things in the Universe billions of years older than either of our races. They are vast, timeless, and if they are aware of us at all, it is as little more than ants, and we have as much chance of communicating with them as an ant has with us. We know. We've tried, and we've learned that we can either stay out from underfoot or be stepped on...They are a mystery, and I am both terrified and reassured to know that there are still wonders in the Universe. That we have not yet explained everything. Whatever they are, Miss Sakai, they walk near Sigma 957 and they must walk there .. alone."

-- G'Kar to Sakai in "Mind War" (season one, episode 6 of Babylon 5) (1993)

A Quiet but Thought-Filled Thanksgiving.

November 27, 2008, is Thanksgiving Day in the United States, and though there is debate in a few groups whether or not such a day should be celebrated--some Native Americans want the holiday eliminated because they say the original "thanksgiving" concerned the pilgrims annihilating Indians then returning to the settlements to thank God for successful massacres--I am glad that such an increasingly secular country sets aside a day to be grateful.

And, in a society that more and more thinks of itself as entitled or victimized, and looks to government to solve its problems, it is good to cultivate the virtue of gratitude. Once, hard work, gratitude, and personal responsibility were core values. Now, not so much.

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My family is scattered this holiday: brother and family in Ohio, mom in Oklahoma, dad in Mississippi, me in Arkansas.

Dad called me this afternoon, and our conversation was lagging, and then he read a poem photocopied from an old textbook (his wife is a retired teacher), and that kick-started a whole new conversation.

Chess

Because we were friends and sometimes loved each other,
perhaps to add one more tie
to the many that already bound us,
we decided to play games of the mind.

We set up a board between us:
equally divided into pieces, values,
and possible moves.
We learned the rules, we swore to respect them,
and the match began.

We've been sitting here for centuries, meditating
ferociously
how to deal the one last blow that will finally
annihilate the other one forever.


Rosario Castellanos (25 May 1925 – 7 August 1974) Mexican poet and author

Wow.

We talked about competition, friendship, government, war, politics. If his mother-in-law hadn't called for him from somewhere in the house, we'd probably be on the phone still.

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I'm thankful for employment. Come January 1, there will be no annual rise in salary, and there may even be a cut a little further into the year, but there will--I pray--still be an income. Working in the nonprofit sector can be tough on the budget, and not so good for peace of mind when the economy weakens, but I know Who holds tomorrow, and am confident He is able to take care of any troubles that come my way.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Some Snarky Commentary, Some Whinging, and Even a Little Celebration

Aside from the CSFF Blog Tour and occasional bits of fiction, I haven't had much to say lately. The usual suspects have waylaid me: work, writing, life. And maybe a lack of want-to.

I started blogging as a writing discipline--a way to make myself write on a regular basis, even if the end result was crap--and for a long while, it worked.

However, though I passed along "tags" to a few other bloggers after I was tagged, all the tagging and memes left the taste of spam in my mouth. (pun intended) And after seeing the proliferation of invented blogging awards and reading obviously self-conscious essays meant to showcase a blogger's way with words--and I've written my share of "Oh, look at me! I'm a great writer!" posts--I'm just not as enamored of the blogging process as I once was.

Oh, I'll stick around--I have a piece of fiction to finish and post, just in case anyone's still reading--but the mode of writing discipline has changed. A few posts back, I mentioned trying to finish the next episode in a series. Serial fiction and a deadline, one either self-imposed or set by an editor, are excellent motivators.

That episode is finally finished, in the sense that it has a beginning, a middle, and an end. It was written in fits and starts, and scenes were added then deleted then added again, rearranged, shortened, extended, turned on their heads. But the episode is done. Now it's being edited and tweaked, and should be ready to submit in a couple of days. Whoo Hoo!

------------------------------

Sometimes, even though a writer has written inside a particular form on many occasions, he needs to go back and relearn how to do it. Ever look at "dog" or "small", or even "the", and wonder if you spelled it right? Well, that's a bit like what this episode has been for me.

I had to go back and relearn how to structure a story, how to cut from scene to scene, how to cut between the story's present and a flashback/memory. In order to help me get into that mode, I've been watching television serials on DVD. At the moment, a rented copy of Battlestar Gallactica, third season, is in the player.

The episode is still missing a necessary spark, but perhaps I can find it in the editing process.

Meantime, here's a scene that was added late on Saturday:

Curses and threats following her down the corridor, Captain Iona Zoltana scanned her dogtags across the security scan, the brig doors slid open, and she and her crew stepped into the holding zone between the cells and the entry. The doors closed with a hiss as the air pressure changed. Prisoners were given less oxygen—just under normal levels—than free citizens. Marty and his pirates could whinge at the top of their lungs all the planetary day long, but they’d just wear themselves down.

“Don’t they ever shut up?” Ensign Gaines scowled back down the corridor.

“A sleepy prisoner is a happy prisoner.”

“Ma’am?”

Zoltana smiled slightly—“Mind the gap”—and gripped the handrail.

The holding zone shot sideways, and Gaines tottered into the wall and dropped his rifle. It skittered across the floor. The rest of the escort squad grinned or chuckled as Gaines righted himself, red-faced and scowling, and grabbed the rail.

At the guard station, a man in a standard dark blue uniform saluted. The gold wings of the government fleet marked his right sleeve. “Captain Zoltana.”

She returned the salute.

“I’m Liaison Officer Krieger. I’ve been sent to escort you to the admiralty, captain. Your detail is free to accompany us.”

“Officer Krieger.” Zoltana shook his hand then strode toward the exit. “Anything you can tell me on the way?”

“I don’t have the details, captain.”

“Then give me the scuttlebutt.”

Krieger waved his ID at the scanner, and the exterior door opened. “There’s been some chatter about Governor Bat’Alon’s daughter being aboard the freighter Martina Vega. Possible kidnapping.”

He looked puzzled when Zoltana laughed.

c. 2008, Keanan Brand

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Shade - Day 3

This is the third and final day of the Christian Science Fiction & Fantasy Blog Tour for November. This month's featured book is Shade by John B. Olson.

Today, I'll include some of the positives (in my opinion) of the story.

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First, however, here's an overview of the characters:

1) Secondary character Athena was my favorite of all the characters: sharp-tongued, sharp-witted, dark-humored, tough-as-three-layers-of-fake-nails kind of street girl who sees through the lies and wants something better for herself than the false lives her "friends" pursue.

2) Malchi is simple, in that he was raised with a simple purpose and was kept outside the mainstream by his teacher, who may or may not have done him any favors by doing so. This mysterious mentor certainly did not pass along the entire truth of Scripture or of God, despite the underlying truth he did impart to Malchi: Mankind must stand against evil if it doesn't want to be consumed by it.

3) Hailey, well, hmmm. I knew I was supposed to like her--she's the heroine--but I just couldn't connect.

4) Boggs, Mark, Tiffany, while likeable, were essentially utilitarian.

5) Detective Smiley--Good guy? Bad guy? I liked that he was so ambivalent. The reader might even feel a little sympathy for him at one point in the story.

And, speaking of ambivalence, about three-quarters of the way through the book, the hero Malchi is presented as a possible villain himself. Hailey isn't sure of him: Is he her protector, or does he really want to kill her?

6) Sabazios is presented as a classic vampiric type, all suave and handsome and smoothly persuasive. He's scary, yes, but his minions seemed scarier.

-------------------------

Now, a few things I liked about this book:

1) Athena's storyline -- She starts her fictional life as a supporting actor; by the end, she's center stage. Her actions are crucial to the climax of the story. And there's just something about the way she's written that makes me believe her.

She loaded a plate with a huge mound of food and started eating in earnest. A couple of women glanced her way and broke out in tittering laughter. Fine, let them laugh. She wasn't hiding anything. Turtleneck had looked her in the eye and walked on by. They could laugh all day for all she cared. She was starving.

Setting her plate down on the table, she filled a plastic cup with blood-read punch. The sweet liquid burned as it went down, warming her from inside out. She added another ladle full. Another. The best way to hide was to fit right in. She laughed out loud and stuffed a huge California roll in her mouth. Hiding in plain view. Hiding in style.

2) Though this is not a laugh-out-loud book, there is still humor that might make a person chuckle. In this example from Chapter 22, Hailey is doubting Malchi:

It was like he had a Hailey allergy. He was afraid to touch her, talk to her, even be in the same room with her. Why couldn't she just accept it? He was a raving, out-to-lunch, pass-the-drool-rag lunatic.

...That little ball of string he'd tried to hide in his pocket wasn't going to hold his weight. And the pieces of wood--was she crazy or were they sharpened stakes, like in the old Dracula movies? What kind of cuckoo's nest had she flown over? The guy lived in a tree, for crying out loud. He was in love with Eve and ran around like some kind of interdimensional Dr. Who with a sonic screw loose.

And a plastic squirt bottle.

3) There are some unexpected twists and details that make this story a fresh take on vampire mythology. I like it when a writer can take a familiar story and turn it around, turn it sideways, make it dance on its head, and yet retain a core that is true to the source material.

(I include no sample passages from the book here, because I don't want to give away details that are best discovered on one's own. Read the book!)

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Shade - Day 2

This month's Christian Science Fiction & Fantasy Blog Tour spotlight is on Shade by John B. Olson. (Spotlight on shade? No pun intended. Honest.)

We'll start with the negatives today, then the positives tomorrow. Always end with the good stuff, I say.

Though I am an advocate for putting the reader into the middle of the action, the style of storytelling in Shade sometimes makes the reader feel as schizophrenic as the characters seem to be.

In the opening paragraphs of Chapter 3, the male protagonist--Melchi, a homeless man who does chores for the Booklady as thanks for her kindness--is cleaning out a mop in the bookstore restroom:

...(A) burning sensation tickled at the back of his mind. He leaped across the room and swatted at the light switch, plunging the room in darkness. Clenching his eyes shut, he backed against the bathroom wall as the crushing weight of darkness pressed in on him from all sides.

A silent scream quivered up his spine. He held his hands over his years, but he couldn't shut it out. Rage washed through him like water through a saturated sponge. Not tonight. Please, not tonight. Holy One, help me. Please don't let it hunt tonight.

A tremor snapped his head back, bashing it into the hard edge of the cast-iron sink. Another silent scream.

I like the imagery--"water through a saturated sponge"--and I can see Malchi trying to ward off the evil, but the rage? Whose is it: Malchi's or his enemy's?

I don't like being talked down to as a reader, but neither do I like being kept in a contrived confusion. The above example is mild, and is only one of several instances where the mix of emotions and/or thoughts is sometimes not untangled--or, at least, not easily untangled. Anything that causes the reader to stop and say "Huh?" begs a closer edit. In this case, something as simple as "His enemy's rage washed through him like water through a sponge" might clear up any unnecessary confusion and still keep the reader in the dark. (After all, unanswered questions are what keep readers turning pages to find out what happens next.)

In another sample from Chapter 16, Hailey--the female protagonist--is running from a couple of the lesser villains but is captured nonetheless:

His grip crushed down on her like a vise, pinning her arms to her sides. He drug her out of the elevator and swung her around.

Waves of exultation tumbled across Hailey's senses. The garage lights melted into rings of rainbowed light. The garage was turning, spinning.

Since the reader is, by now, accustomed to the main characters sensing and being affected by one another's thoughts and feelings, as well as those of the ancient enemy and his minions, this wave of exultation--where's it's source? From her captor, triumphant because he caught her? From his master, pleased that he has done so well?

** spoiler in this paragraph** The reader learns later that the ancient enemy is not averse to using drugs to accomplish his purpose. Therefore, this exultation is a result of an aspirated hallucinogen. The exultation is Hailey's as she gets high on the drug.

A simple fix to keep the reader clear (without giving away too much too soon) might be letting the reader know the sense of exultation came from inside Hailey herself. Again, this keeps the information clear without giving away any secrets.

This is an exaggeration of simplicity, but an outline of the story's action might look like this: Running, running, running, rescuing, running, running, running, hiding, running, running, running, getting caught, someone else running, running, running, escaping, running, running, running, a little more explanation about the monster(s), running, running, running.

You get the picture.

But no one can honestly say that the story doesn't move. (Okay. That pun was intended.)

Maybe I'm picking at minor issues. Maybe someone will venture past this blog and wonder why I'm whinging. "What's this guy's problem?"

Well, I'll admit that--as negatives go--the above examples are small. Still, they drew me out of the story and activated the editor in me.

When I open a book, I want to be informed (if it's nonfiction) or entertained (if it's fiction), and preferably both. If the editor is wakened, I cannot enjoy the book. Instead of being immersed in the words, I am pulled outside of them to an objective and workmanlike point of view. I don't know of any fiction writer who wants his story to be work for his audience. Those kinds of books get assigned in high school literature courses, and are usually accompanied by Cliffs Notes.

Shade is published by B & H Publishing Group; visit their website for other entertaining reads.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Shade - Day 1

Supernatural thriller Shade by John Olson is a quick read: The story doesn't linger in one place for long.

I was intrigued by Shade's premise (the following paragraph is lifted from the book's page on Amazon.com, with my apologies for not finding my own words):

A monstrous waking nightmare is pursuing graduate student Hailey Maniates across San Francisco to Golden Gate Park where she is rescued by a towering homeless man. She seems able to read her rescuer’s mind, but is it just a delusion? Doctors diagnose her as a paranoid schizophrenic and attempt to prescribe away her alleged hallucinations. But too many questions remain around Hailey and the man who saved her. He appears to suffer from her same mental condition and is convinced that some type of Gypsy vampire is trying to kill them both.

Against reason, Hailey finds herself more and more attracted to this strange man. But what if he is a fantasy? What if he is the monster?

I picked up the book from the post office on my way to work one day, and was happy for new reading material. So, when I arrived home later that night, I made some supper and immediately settled down with the book.

It opened well, and I stayed with it for several chapters until I couldn't stay awake any longer. I finished the book a couple nights later--darn that work schedule, always interfering with my entertainment agenda--and was left with the residual spinning sensation of having just survived a literary whirlwind.

Over the next couple of days, I'll discuss the book further for potential readers. Meantime, check out other bloggers who are also discussing the book; just click on their links listed in the sidebar under the CSFF Blog Tour logo.

John Olson's website has information about his previous books, or you can read the first chapters of Shade, and decide for yourself.

Hey, if you like it or you hate it, it'll be because you read it! And that's that point, right?

Saturday, November 15, 2008

A Literary Mind Cleanse

I own more books than I have actually counted. The last time I attempted a number, I stopped after reaching 400. Some books are shelved in double rows--one row of books behind the other--and I still wander from bookshelf to bookshelf, muttering, "There's nothing to read."

The same goes for the movies I own; I suffer from an overabundance of entertainment choices.

The literary side recently received an infusion: Scarlet by Stephen Lawhead, and The Automatic Detective by A. Lee Martinez. Both books have been languishing on the dining room table (which serves more as a book and manuscript repository than an actual dining location) for a while, though The Automatic Detective has been sampled on several occasions, usually days apart, until Friday night, when I consumed its remains in one long feast.

Nope, this isn't a book review (though Martinez does serve up one tasty treat in the detecting adventures of Mack Megaton). It is, however, a reminder of how cleansing a book can be when one's mental house needs swept for cobwebs and dust bunnies.

Yeah, I'm mixing metaphors--food and housekeeping--but both are good descriptors for the experience of reading a good book. Another excellent descriptor: a drink of cold, clean water. Or this one: a long, true rest after a hard day's work. I actually feel energized. Crazy, huh?

A desirable reading side-effect for writers is renewed creativity, a juicing of the battery cells, and that's precisely what's keeping me up at 2:00 a.m. on a Saturday after a tiring Friday. Some nagging problems with a for-publication piece of writing are starting to work themselves out, and I'm actually getting excited about a story that has been more difficult than it should be.

Just needed a little literary mind cleanse.

-------------------------

For the science fiction junkies, here are a couple quotes from different Farscape episodes:

"No, Pilot, I'm here to tell you that the Nebari are a bunch of geeks!And that the damn mind-cleansing doesn't work on Mama Crichton's baby boy."

“Yeah, yeah, yeah. Nebari mental cleansing doesn't get the tough stains out.”

Saturday, November 8, 2008

The Legend of the Seeker

For those who read and view fantasy, The Legend of the Seeker is now in its second week of episodes. It's based on The Sword of Truth series by Terry Goodkind.

It's filmed in New Zealand, and--from the images on the website--it has a great look. Since it plays on an obscure channel in my area, I would have to listen more than watch; the picture is intermittent between the grey lines of fuzz.

I read the first few books in the series--three or four--but each book was not as intriguing to me as the first, Wizard's First Rule, upon which these early episodes are based. Catch a sample of the book here or buy it here.

There are interesting episodes in the subsequent books, but I felt the story was dragging on too long and tangling and tripping over itself, and I so I never finished reading the series. There is plenty of material for several seasons of a television show, that's for certain.

FYI: Craig Parker (Haldir, The Lord of the Rings) plays the baddie, Darken Rahl. I'd like to see that.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Goodbye, Mr. Crichton

Verbatim, from MichaelCrichton.net website:

In Memoriam

Michael Crichton

1942 - 2008

Best-selling author Michael Crichton died unexpectedly in Los Angeles Tuesday, November 4, 2008 after a courageous and private battle against cancer.

While the world knew him as a great story teller that challenged
our preconceived notions about the world around us -- and
entertained us all while doing so -- his wife Sherri, daughter Taylor, family and friends knew Michael Crichton as a devoted husband, loving father and generous friend who inspired each of us to strive to see the wonders of our world through new eyes. He did this with a wry sense of humor that those who were privileged to know him personally will never forget.

Through his books, Michael Crichton served as an inspiration to students of all ages, challenged scientists in many fields, and illuminated the mysteries of the world in a way we could all understand.

He will be profoundly missed by those whose lives he touched, but he leaves behind the greatest gifts of a thirst for knowledge, the desire to understand, and the wisdom to use our minds to better our world.

Michael's family respectfully asks for privacy during this difficult time.

A private funeral service is expected, but no further details will be released to the public.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Minor Update

I'm trying to ward off pneumonia (been there, done that, don't ever want to do it again) with some medication to loosen up the crud in my lungs, and the coughing keeps me awake. On the other hand, the stuff meant to cure any infection makes me sleepy.

Good thing this computer is on a bookshelf, forcing me to stand, and therefore keeping me awake.

I came home early from work last evening because I was so short of breath. Simple tasks make me tired. I'm sick and tired of being sick and tired.

What makes me feel better almost any time? Writing.

This being National Novel Writing Month, I am plugging away at a story for my oldest niece. I don't have a title for it yet, and the summary posted on my NaNo page is kinda bland, but the point of NaNoWriMo is to push on through 50,000 words without stopping to edit oneself, not to pause and make everything pretty.

6,800 words down; 43,200 to go.

Friday, October 31, 2008

The Anachronist - Episode 7

The "space station murder mystery" continues.

This marks the end of the extant portion of the story. From here on out, I have to start writing new material. Dang it!

If you'd like to catch up on prior episodes, click on the links in the sidebar. Enjoy!

Harris, a young man of average height with wild hair and the habit of muttering to himself, examines crate number one. With a glass that resembles a jeweler’s loupe, he studies the locks and seals then he illumines the entire box, but no fingerprints or stains glow under the light. He pays no attention to the Fraenorsh on the tag, just to the way the tag is attached to the crate.

It’s just as well. What I’ve managed to translate so far has nothing to do with an inventory list. I signal Zane and tilt the slate in his direction.

“Huh,” he says, and glances at the crate. “Curiouser and curioser.”

“Ha!” Harris straightens. “This tag does not belong to this box.”

Effects Warden Durward frowns. “But it was stored as one of Advocate Edo’s crates.”

Harris lets the loupe fall, and it dangles from the lanyard around his neck. “Even so, this tag was switched. This box may or may not belong to the grouping.” He gestures with both hands, palms held about two inches apart like, making chopping motions downward as he speaks. “The switched tag may be nothing more than a replacement for a damaged tag. The box may have been accidentally stored with this group, and the Edo box may be stored in its place, wherever its group is in the vault. Or both tag and box were switched, and the crate you need could be anywhere.”

Zane crosses his arms. “Somebody switched crates then tags, and made off with the original box?”

“It’s a possibility.”

“Why go through all that trouble?”

Harris shrugged. “To keep you occupied?” He peels off his gloves. “Any clue what was in the original crate? Anything anyone might be interested in stealing?”

Zane just looks at him.

Harris lifts his hands. “Yeah. That’s not my business.” He closes his kit and locks it. “By the way, there’s no one I know who speaks Fraenorsh on Wyoming Colony. It’s gotta be a clue, though.”

I decline to speak up about my tenuous grasp of the new language.

Harris turns toward me and sticks out a hand. “Miles Harris. Or, as Zane likes to call me, geek law.”

“Forensic Officer Harris, it’s good to meet you.” I set the slate and stylus in a seat under the table then stand to shake his hand. “I’m Advocate Temm. You can drop the advocate, though.”

“Just Temm, it is.” He grins. “Welcome aboard. Call me Harris.”

“Will do.”

Zane inserts a shoulder between us. “If you’re done bonding, maybe we can get back to our original business?”

“Sure. Sure,” but Harris still looks at me a second or two longer than necessary.

I turn, take a step toward Durward as if to discuss something. Reflected on a screen, Harris stares at my back.

Zane takes him by the shoulder and walks with him to the door, speaking in a low tone. Harris leaves the vault.

c. 2008, Keanan Brand

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Beyond the Reflection's Edge

Beyond the Reflection's Edge by Bryan Davis is the kind of book I read as a kid.

I was always fascinated by time travel tales, interesting gadgets, and the grand "What If?" of alternate universes. In the first book of his Echoes from the Edge series, Davis introduces readers to three possible Earths, each with a timeline of its own.

But there is more to the story than that. Nathan Shepherd (seen here in a drawing by a young artist named Meghan, who submitted this piece on the fan art page of Davis's site) is the teenage protagonist we follow through the action. He's a likable character with an interesting background (his dad is a spy--ahem, investigator--his mom is a concert violinist, and even his tutor is a spy, uh, investigator) and collection of action-packed memories from his life so far.

The cool stuff: violins and classical music; cameras and photography; time travel (of a sort); a kid trying to rescue / find his parents, who may or may not be dead.

Nathan and Kelly (his co-protagonist) take pictures of reflections that may show themselves in this dimension, or may show themselves or other characters in another dimension. They travel by looking into a special mirror, playing music from a violin, and employing a flash from some sort of available light source (flashlight, lightning, et cetera).

Despite its real-life impossibility, I'm always up for stories about time travel. After all, skipping through time is always something I wanted to do--as a kid--and may have been why I found history an interesting subject in school. It's what I, as an adult, liked about Timeline by Michael Crichton (the book, not so much the movie), the beginning of which includes an interesting scientific description of the possibility of time travel.

Returning to Beyond the Reflection's Edge: It has received many positive reviews from YA readers, as evidenced by the first couple of pages of the paperback. However, younger children might be confused by the various timelines, dimensions, parallel events, and parallel characters.

Which brings me to a confession: I skimmed. A lot. Due to those parallels just mentioned, there's a certain amount of repetition and multiples of the same characters, all necessary to the story. After a time, however, it simply becomes wearying. Or it did for me. Other readers might be hanging on every word. It is pretty intense in places.

What I didn't believe: the times Nathan or a cohort would say something incredible to a supporting character, and it was just accepted. Though Davis addresses this briefly in a short dialogue between Nathan and Gunther (an adult to whom he previously made an outrageous but true statement), it doesn’t assuage my incredulity. There are some pretty amazing things said and done at which other characters just shrug and accept--responses that would not happen in reality, and that pulled me out of this already unreal story.

Other negatives: The supporting characters—Clara, Daryl, Tony—were thin and weak, merely tools and not necessarily interesting in their own right, though there did seem to be an attempt to give them some depth by providing background (Clara was once a professor before becoming Nathan's tutor, Daryl is a computer whiz, Tony is a womanizer and a clod).

Though Clara starts out as a primary character, she is soon relegated to the role of secondary, yet she (and the other versions of her) continue to perform essential tasks that further the story.

Someone who quickly becomes a primary is Kelly, who gains importance because she can hear what Nathan cannot always hear: voices and music from the other dimensions. There is some weirdness, though, as she goes from “foster sister” to potential girlfriend. However, the ending was handled pretty well, I thought, between Kelly, Nathan, and Tony (Kelly's dad).

Bryan Davis is the author of other young adult novels--the Oracles of Fire series, and the Dragons in Our Midst series--as well as a couple of other books, nonfiction for grownups, that are available on his website.

(Check out other perspectives by visiting the blogs listed under the CSFF Blog Tour logo in the sidebar.)

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Crazy-Early on a Sunday Morning

For days, I've been trying to write scenes that I know must be included in Episode 5 of the science fiction serial I am writing, but the words and the images are far away.

Saturday, I never ventured out of my house, and did a lot of sleeping due to headache and nausea, ailments that have plagued me on-and-off since last weekend. Perhaps all that stillness was a boon. About an hour ago, like timid deer, images approached and let me transcribe them, but only for a little while before they bounded into the undergrowth once more.

Episode 4 has been captured and tamed and will soon be sent into the civilized world of pre-publication proofing. (How's that for alliteration?)

As a slush reader for an online magazine, much of my otherwise creative time has been spent reading submissions and proofing accepted manuscripts. I have one more proof to go this weekend--an accepted entry written by a friend, Jade Smith--and a couple more submissions: one a cold submittal, and the other a resubmittal after requested revisions were made. (Would you look at that. More alliteration!)

In September and these first several days of October, the submissions came in a rather large spate and, after a while, I had to stop reading. Some of them were abysmal. Some were darkly comic. Some of them glowed with quality writing.

I wonder how many of the authors of the rejected pieces sat at their computers and wondered why their "precious" (a fantasy reference) did not meet with open arms. After all, Fear and Trembling is a small magazine, relying on volunteers behind the scenes in order to maintain its presence on the web. But size doesn't matter when it comes to the quality of the stories. How else can a magazine expect to grow if it does not provide readers with a well-written array of reading material?

A writer must give his best effort, regardless of the venue. He never knows who's reading.

He never knows who'll pass along the word to others.

I'm sure he hopes it's a good word.

In that spirit, I'm up at a heathen hour, trusty pen in hand, hunting the timid word-deer, hoping to bag a few more before nausea nabs me again.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Fantasy on the Road

This week, the Motiv8 Fantasy Fiction Tour is on the road. This is a cool concept, and it's been drumming up enthusiasm for Christian fiction.

Check out the work of some of the writers in the tour:

Wayne Thomas Batson
Bryan Davis
Sharon Hinck
Christopher Hopper
L.B. Graham
Donita Paul
Eric Reinhold
Jonathan Rogers

The Miller Brothers are also participating.

NOTE: In the weekly Story Time at the Boys & Girls Club, I am reading aloud one of Jonathan Rogers' books, The Bark of the Bog Owl, the first in his The Wilderking Trilogy. One girl who came to the session for the first time last week was enthusiastic--"Great story!"--even though she's jumping into the middle of the action.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Small Updates

1) As of this past Wednesday, my brother is a second lieutenant in the Air Force. Whoo Hoo! He's hunting a house while his family returns home to finish packing for the move.

2) At the Club, I'm preparing the kids for a mock election. It's amazing how opinionated 10-year-olds can be about the next president. There's one boy who snagged a form letter his father received from the McCain campaign, read it through, then proceeded to tell his dad all sorts of facts about McCain that were not already in the letter.

3) Football and soccer season are in full swing, so work's busier. I manage the soccer concession. In a few minutes, I'm heading to Sam's Club to pick up more supplies. Thank God for trucks.

4) I've finally finished the first draft of Episode 4 of Thieves' Honor. This one is the first in a possible three-episode arc concerning Finney, pilot of the Martina Vega, and there are a lot of characters and events to track throughout the story, so I anticipate at least three or four edits before sending it in to the magazine. You can catch the first episode at the September issue of Ray Gun Revival; the October issue is due later this week. This is some of the funnest hard work I've ever done in the writing realm.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Marcher Lord Press, Day Three: Summa Elvetica

My concluding entry in this month's Christian Science Fiction & Fantasy Blog Tour concerns the Summa Elvetica by Theodore Beale, coming soon from Marcher Lord Press.

Summa Elvetica might almost be called historical fantasy. Beale sets his story in an alternate version of republican Rome--or, to be more specific, Rome after the rise of the Catholic Church--and sends his protagonist, Marcus Valerius, on a mission: to Elebrion, by order of the Sanctiff, to determine whether or not elves have souls.

Does an elf have a soul? No, that was taking it too far at the start. In the beginning was God, who made Man in His image. God also made the animals, albeit not in His image. God also made the elves, but were they then more properly akin to Man or to the animals? [Marcus] already inclined toward the former, but upon reflection, there were significant points to be made on either side.

When we first encounter elves--two of them, standing near the Sanctiff himself--their fair appearance and strange tattoos bring to mind Celts and Saxons and other northern peoples conquered by Rome whose tales included accounts of human-like but otherworldly beings. These two elves are also going to accompany Marcus to Elebrion.

I like the idea of dwarves being gladiators. (Very cool--unexpected, and yet totally logical, given the accepted physical characteristics and temperaments of dwarves in literature.) Marcus and his cousin hire an injured gladiator named Lodi to be a bodyguard on the journey.

"You don't think the elves will object?"

"About what?"

"Why, about your dwarf, of course." Zephanus flushed as the sorcerer-elf, seemingly far enough ahead of them in the train to be out of earshot, suddenly turned around and glanced at him. Then the sorcerer shrugged and turned back to his conversation with his elven companion.

"Apparently not,"Marcus said, stifling a smile. Marcipor was riding ahead, engaged in an animated conversation with three of the Michaelines and gesturing in a lordly manner.

"Well, what do you know?" Zephanus said. "Those long ears really do serve a purpose after all!"

"All things serve a purpose, brother," Marcus said. "Our inability to discern that purpose does not indicate its absence, only our shortcomings."

The soldier-priests, Michaelines, are another cool inclusion in the story, and attend the journey as scouts and warriors.

It arrived later than the other manuscripts, so I was unable to finish reading Summa Elvetica before this month's blog tour began, but I fully intend finishing it and then checking out more of Beale's work. A list of his novels, short stories, and other writing can be found here.

Check out the opening chapter of Summa Elvetica here, or the awesome cover art here. (It's hard for me to decide which of MLP's initial three books has the best cover art; it's all different, and it's all excellent. And who's to say I have to pick a favorite? I'm an equal-opportunity admirer.)

I've enjoyed my glimpse of what's to come from Marcher Lord Press, and believe Jeff Gerke has years of success ahead of him as he continues to provide a conduit for excellent fiction for an eager and intelligent audience.

Brandon Barr
Justin Boyer
Keanan Brand
Kathy Brasby
Jackie Castle
Valerie Comer
Karri Compton
Courtney
CSFF Blog Tour
Stacey Dale
D. G. D. Davidson
Janey DeMeo
Jeff Draper
April Erwin
Karina Fabian
Kameron M. Franklin
Beth Goddard
Andrea Graham
Todd Michael Greene
Katie Hart
Timothy Hicks
Joleen Howell
Jason Joyner
Kait
Tina Kulesa
Mike Lynch
Terri Main
Margaret
Shannon McNear
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Nissa
John W. Otte
Steve Rice
Ashley Rutherford
Hanna Sandvig
Mirtika or Mir's Here
Greg Slade
James Somers
Steve Trower
Speculative Faith
Jason Waguespac
Laura Williams
Timothy Wise

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Marcher Lord Press, Day Two: Hero, Second Class

Another book on offer from new publisher, Marcher Lord Press, is Hero, Second Class, and the title alone lets you know what's coming next: a fun, intelligent send-up of the fantasy genre. Anything that opens like this is not going to take itself seriously:

Dawn poked her rosy fingers across the sky.

And promptly tore two small holes in it.

Vertis the Sky God repaired the holes and scolded Dawn, sending her off to get a manicure.

There are Guilds for Heroes or Villains--thus the title of the book--and there are, of course, guild rules.

..."Sir Ogleby, is aught amiss?"

"No, your Majesty, it's probably nothing. After all, Sir Grant is more than competent." Reginald settled back in his chair and looked unhappy.

"'Tis a shame your Guild dictates noninvolvement in our mundane affairs unless Villains are involved," the King said....

The merchant Goldwater turned to Reginald, a quizzical expression on his pale face. "The Guild of Heroes won't let you protect the King?....

"What do you think the Palace Guard and the King's Own are for?" Reginald replied, leaning back uneasily. "If a Hero came by and did their job for them every time someone attacked the castle, what do you think that would do to their morale?"

Indeed. Not to mention the need to give the Minions something to do.

And the "war stories":

The Villain drew the dire claymore and brought it to bear on the Hero. "I received this wound during my slaughter of half the graduating class at the Hero Academy ten years ago."

"Ten years ago?" Reginald stared into the Villain's eyes, then laughed. "You lie. I can see it in your eyes. Besides, my previous apprentice graduated from the Academy ten years ago--there was no such incident!"

Sawface shrugged. "No, but it makes for a better story. Have at you!"

"The Hero leapt forward, landing a crushing blow on the Villain's shoulder-plate!" Reginald bellowed, leaping forward and landing a crushing blow on the Villain's shoulder-plate. "Are you getting this, lad?"

Cyrus started. "Getting what now?"

"My narration!"

Apparently, no self-respecting Hero conducts battle or other heroic deeds without a good running commentary, even if he must supply it himself.

For a more entertaining summary than I can give the book, read the interview with author Mitchell Bonds, and that will give you a definite flavor of the rest of the story.

To graduate from mere flavor to a heaping tablespoon full, click here to read the first chapter. Guaranteed to make you laugh out loud at least once--or at least make you giggle.

For those readers who like to check out the title page, there isn't one, but here's a sampling of the chapter titles, along with their attendant subtitles--entertaining in their own right, even if you haven't yet read the rest of the story:

Chapter 1 The Time Which Once Was Upon, In which the Reader first Meets the Protagonist, and he Passes a Test

Chapter 2 Of Villains and Vocabulary, In which the Apprentice Hero Learns some of the Many Failing of Heroes and Villains And also learns to Take Notes

Chapter 3 Five Years Later, In which Five Years have passed between This Chapter and Chapter Two, and the Villains begin to Plot

Chapter 5 Another Twist in the Tale, In which the Reader learns Geography, Cyrus Discusses Political Economics, and the Villains Set Their Plans in Motion

Chapter 8 Evil Takes No Naps, In which some Bad Things happen, and a Conflict is Resolved

and two of my favorite titles,

Chapter 9 Revenge Served Cold, In which the Party Encounters a Foe and soundly Kicks his Hindmost Part

Chapter 14 All Good Things Must Come to an End, In which there is a Lecture, Diabolical Plotting, and Unkindness to a Dragon

As with The Personifid Invasion, the cover art on Hero, Second Class is excellent. Check it out here.

I'm looking forward to more insanity from young Mr. Bonds.

Tomorrow: Summa Elvetica by Theodore Beale.

Brandon Barr
Justin Boyer
Keanan Brand
Kathy Brasby
Jackie Castle
Valerie Comer
Karri Compton
Courtney
CSFF Blog Tour
Stacey Dale
D. G. D. Davidson
Janey DeMeo
Jeff Draper
April Erwin
Karina Fabian
Kameron M. Franklin
Beth Goddard
Andrea Graham
Todd Michael Greene
Katie Hart
Timothy Hicks
Joleen Howell
Jason Joyner
Kait
Mike Lynch
Terri Main
Margaret
Shannon McNear
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Nissa
John W. Otte
Steve Rice
Ashley Rutherford
Hanna Sandvig
Mirtika or Mir's Here
Greg Slade
James Somers
Steve Trower
Speculative Faith
Laura Williams
Timothy Wise
Tina Kulesa
Jason Waguespac

Monday, September 22, 2008

Marcher Lord Press, Day One: The Personifid Invasion

September's Christian Science Fiction & Fantasy Blog Tour features a new print-media publisher, Marcher Lord Press, which specializes in Christian speculative fiction.

The official launch is October 1, but I and others in the tour have been reading some of the work soon to be offered to the reading public, and it's pretty darn good stuff. The quality and variety of the writing is excellent, the cover art is awesome, and I'm already a fan.

You can visit the website for information about which kinds of books MLP is interested in producing, the first three authors to be published by MLP, or about the founder, Jeff Gerke, so I won't discuss that here. (rubbing my palms in anticipation) I'd rather talk about the books.

The first: The Personifid Invasion by R.E. Bartlett.

Honestly, the title doesn't intrigue me. It suggests aliens or something akin to Imposter (I'm not all that interested in alien-related tales, but I enjoyed the movie based on a Philip K. Dick short story). And The Personifid Invasion is the second book in a series, and I prefer to start at the beginning.

I gave it the length of a chapter in which to grab my attention. I read two or three chapters before I realized I was well past the goal line, and sprinting ahead.

It has an interesting premise: In the future, human beings can trade in their bodies for all sorts of other types of structures to house their consciousness, from perfect human-like bodies to robotic forms to even animal shapes. There is a price to be paid, however, a trading of one's soul in a search for a contentment that cannot be found by inhabiting a beautiful shell.

God (the Tri-une Soul) is spoken about or addressed by characters, and Biblical themes are present throughout the story, but there are no "Gospel bludgeons" to beat the reader over the head. Yes, there are characters who are missionaries of sorts, seeking out personifids and other lost souls, but I who detest saccharine or sermonizing was not put off by the blatant Christian underpinnings of the novel. Rather, I admire Ms. Bartlett's skill in weaving the truth of Gospel into a page-turning science fiction tale that I believe Christians and non-Christians alike may enjoy.

The thumbnail picture above is just a detail from the cover illustration. Check out the full artwork.

Also, for my fellow geeks, click here to check out the animation segment and the art in MLP's gallery.

Tomorrow: Hero, Second Class.

Meantime, check out these other blogs on the tour:

Brandon Barr
Justin Boyer
Keanan Brand
Kathy Brasby
Jackie Castle
Valerie Comer
Karri Compton
Courtney
CSFF Blog Tour
Stacey Dale
D. G. D. Davidson
Janey DeMeo
Jeff Draper
April Erwin
Karina Fabian
Kameron M. Franklin
Andrea Graham
Todd Michael Greene
Katie Hart
Timothy Hicks
Joleen Howell
Jason Joyner
Kait
Mike Lynch
Terri Main
Margaret
Shannon McNear
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Nissa
John W. Otte
Steve Rice
Ashley Rutherford
Hanna Sandvig
Mirtika or Mir's Here
Greg Slade
James Somers
Steve Trower
Speculative Faith
Laura Williams
Timothy Wise
Tina Kulesa
Jason Waguespac