Friday, May 30, 2008

Overlooked Books Friday

Overlooked books? I’ve thought this was a very cool meme/endeavor since I first saw it, and today I was reminded of it by Lisa over at Eudomania.. It apparently started, however, with Patti Abbott, and she posted more information about it today on her blog.

The idea seems to be to find a book that the writer personally enjoys or loves, but which is largely forgotten, and bring it back into the awareness of today’s readers. Since I read a lot of older books, and have a great fondness for the books I read when I was younger, this is the perfect meme for me. So, without further ado, I present my first “forgotten book.”

Desert Dog by Jim Kjelgaard, which was originally published in 1956. This is a young-adult book but I have reread it as an adult and still find it very enjoyable. It’s the story of Tawny, a racing greyhound who ends up abandoned in the desert and must learn to survive on his own against coyotes, snakes and a pack of wild dogs who hunts him. Kjelgaard had the ability to put you inside the dog’s consciousness and experience without making the dog seem like just another human in a fur coat. The book was also a great influence on me as a young man. It taught me about honor and love and sacrifice, even if as an adult I’ve not always practiced those things. I believe the youth of today, boys and girls, could love this book.

I might also add that Kjelgaard is himself a forgotten writer, in that I hardly ever hear anyone mention him these days. I think that’s a shame. Kjelgaard wrote many great stories, especially dog stories, and I’ve read almost all of them. Some other very good ones were Big Red, his most famous book, and Snow Dog. He also wrote a wonderful story about a polar bear, Kalak of the Ice, which I have been looking for for a long time, and some wonderful historical stories about early humankind in Fire Hunter and Boomerang Hunter.

There is a website for Kjelgaard here. He died in 1959, less than a year after I was born, but his books had a big effect on me as a youngster and I will always remember his stories fondly. Thanks Jim!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Pocketbook Writer

I’m being a bit lazy on the blogging front today. I worked well yesterday and made good progress on the new Taleran book. I’m really starting to enjoy working on fiction again. The flow of ideas is coming back to me, and I spent a fair amount of time going through and updating my “Taleran Encyclopedia,” which lists all the characters, and various points about language, and calendars, and religions, and all the other exciting elements involved in creating a world like Talera. I have already added a substantial amount to that work and also needed to familiarize myself again with all the elements since it’s been a few years since I worked on Witch of Talera.

In being lazy this morning, I spent a fair amount of time on my deck reading a book by a friend of mine, Charles Nuetzel, who is a somewhat retired author of numerous books. The current book is Pocketbook Writer: Confessions of a Commercial Hack. It’s from Borgo Press, and published by Wildside, just like my Taleran books.

I met Charles many years ago via email and did a length interview with him, which is reprinted in the book. It’s certainly an interesting look at a bygone era in publishing. Charles lived through and worked in the early period of the explosion in paperback book titles. He wrote in all kinds of genres and under many pseudonyms, although I first came in contact with his work in SF and Fantasy. He was very much influenced in those areas by Edgar Rice Burroughs and the first books I found by him were Sword and Planet tales, Warriors of Noomas and Raiders of Noomas. These have been re-released by Borgo in a single volume under the title Torlo Hannis of Noomas, which Charles was kind enough to dedicate partially to me. He’s also written a new edition to the series, with a collaborator (Heidi Garrett), called Slavegirl of Noomas, and I believe there are plans for a further book as well.

I’ll make my blogging rounds later this evening. In the meantime, don’t forget that Ello is hosting Dr. Gigi Durham today for a discussion on the issue of the sexualization of young girls and the problems it is creating, for women, men, and society. I’m heading over there now.

Monday, May 26, 2008

The Closing of a Chapter

Well, I found out on Sphinx Ink’s blog that Robert Asprin died on Thursday, May 22 at his home in the French Quarter here in New Orleans. He was only 61. There’s a much longer piece on him here. I was sorry to hear this, as I am whenever a writer I know of passes. I never met him, and I don’t think he often attended local SF cons, but from all I hear he was a nice fellow with a great sense of humor. I never read the humorous fantasy for which he is best known, the “myth” adventures, but I will always remember him as one of the architects of the “Thieves’ World” series of shared adventures, which I loved and consider to have been the kind of breakthrough idea that really does advance a genre. Apparently he died reading. There was a book in his hand, a humorous fantasy by Terry Pratchett. That’s probably fitting. I hope he had a smile in his heart.

Rest in peace, Robert Asprin.

Also, don't forget this Wednesday that Ello is hosting the author of The Lolita Effect on her blog. It should be worthwhile to stop in.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Year's Best Fantasy. Not!

I’ve been reading (slowly) a collection called The Year’s Best Fantasy Stories: 9, edited by Arthur W. Saha. This was published in 1983 by Daw Books and I have to say that I’m disappointed with nearly every story in the anthology. In the first place, none of them seem to have much fantasy in them, at least not the kind I like to read. There’s a story about a guy who wakes up “in” the book Moby Dick (which won a Nebula, btw), a deal with the devil tale, and a tale about a modern guy who inherits a castle in Ireland and has to use voodoo to keep it.

That last story is “Square and Above Board,” by R. A. Lafferty and the editor introduces it with “…depend on the unique and puckish talent of R. A. Lafferty, himself of the Irish, to spin a tale that is anything but ominous.” That says it all, if you read “ominous” like I do to be “spirited,” “energetic,” “powerful.”

The problem with these stories has nothing to do with the writing, which is uniformly polished and professional. It has to do with subject matter. The writers here are, it seems to me, desperately striving for either literary merit or to provide a lighthearted distraction that doesn’t trouble anyone too much, that is for a feeling that is “anything but ominous.”

But I don’t read fantasy to avoid being “troubled.” I don’t read it simply for a light chuckle with my after dinner sherry. I read it for power, for emotion, for something damn well ominous.

In writing news, I’ve sold a zombie western tale to the Bits of the Dead anthology, and my silly fantasy tale, “Mirthgar,” was published in Strange Worlds of Lunacy, which is out now, in print, and also as a much cheaper download. I just got my contributor copies and haven’t had time to read the other tales yet. Looks pretty good, though. Another of my humorous fantasy stories has just been published in Flashing Swords: Special Edition Summer 2008, but I don’t think it’s available for general purchase yet. The story is “Worms in the Earth: Barbarian’s Bane.” I’ve posted about both these tales before so forgive me if this sounds redundant.

I’d also like to call everyone’s attention to Ello’s blog post on The Lolita Effect. This is an important work on how the media, and our entire culture, sexualizes girls at younger and younger ages. Ello will have the author, Dr. Gigi Durham, as a guest on her blog on Wednesday and she’ll be answering questions. Although I didn’t have a daughter, I see the kind of harm this pervasive influence is having on young women and I hope you’ll stop by for a moment to lend Ello and Dr. Durham your support.


Thursday, May 22, 2008

One Good Book

I just finished reading John Lennon and the Mercy St. CafĂ© by the blogosphere’s own William Hammett, who is better known here as Billy. Although I was never a huge Beatles fan, this is an incredibly fun book. If you are a Beatles fan you’ll likely enjoy it even more. John Lennon comes back from the dead and at first only a woman named Amy can see him. From the moment she does a wild surreal ride begins involving time travel, the Great Depression, Woody Guthrie, a road trip from New York City to California and back, folk and blues music, and lots of inside information about Lennon and his times. Highly recommended.

Here’s a few more thoughts about the need for characters to show consistency in mood and behavior over time. These developed from the comments section on my last post. First, it appears that characters in fiction actually need to show greater consistency than in real life. A real human can go from depression to laughter and we have to deal with it, but when a fictional character does this it “feels” unreal. It’s like with dialogue, where showing actual dialogue on the page reads awkwardly and what you have to do instead is create the illusion of reality.

Another thing is that it’s virtually impossible for an author to remain completely consistent in mood and tone across any work that is written in segments, as all novels must be. The cure for that is in the rewriting/revision process, when you can consider the work in much larger segments and polish any of the rough welds where the material was put together.


Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Characters: Consistency over Time

A combination of my writing group’s meeting last night and the book I’m currently reading got me started thinking about how writers convey consistency, or inconsistency, in their characters across the time period of their stories. I’m particularly irritated by the inconsistency in characters’ emotional states in the book I’m reading now, which title and author I’m not revealing to protect the guilty.

There are several places in this book where a character is in deep despair on one page and is laughing and joking on the next. And there is no indication of any serious passing of time. In another scene, a main character loses a wife, who he didn’t love but who he did respect. After his wife’s burial the guy goes from anger at himself for not being able to feel more emotions about her passing to a giddy, laugh filled, guiltless sexual act with a woman who he has always loved on the same damn page. Since this character seemed to be presented as a very duty-bound individual (that’s why the marriage to the woman he didn’t love), it just seemed so inconsistent for him to at least not experience some feelings of guilt. And the guy was presented as a hero but lost his credibility as such for me with this one scene.

The whole book has some serious problems, though, and after another irritating scene I’m just scanning the remainder of the book. In the scene in question, the villain has a huge army, far in excess of the army of the good guys. She also has a tremendously powerful bomb, which the hero manages to deactivate. The villain’s army immediately breaks and runs. Say what? That just makes no sense whatsoever. According to the build up of the book the villain’s army has conquered almost the entire land and has executed almost everyone who opposes them other than the small group they now face. They did this all without the bomb. So now that the bomb is gone they all turn to cowards? The villain is still alive, still has all her powers, and her army just melts away?

This relates to my writing group because last night we were talking about how it can be difficult to have a break between days of writing and then try to get back into a work in progress. I mentioned that, for me, the hardest part was not picking up the plot or action, but picking up the “mood” of the characters and the scenes. This is how the poor book I’m reading now reads, as if the author wrote one scene in one mood and another in a different mood and just didn’t bother to try and make the work read consistently.

The most frustrating part of this for me? The weak book I’m reading is part of a trilogy, from a genre not unlike those of my Taleran books, but this was published by a major press and has also been picked up by a book club. I hope you'll excuse my whine but I happen to think my books are a lot better.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

What the Characters are Saying

I'm spending most of the day helping Lana with an art show today so here's a quick post. I should get back to some writing stuff early next week.

What the Characters in Gramlich’s books are saying about him and his work.

Cold in the Light:

“A wild, rollicking ride. I’m still not sure I got out alive.” --Truman Maclang, Deerhaven Deputy Sheriff.

“A celebration of terror. Much enjoyed.” --Kargen, Villain.

“I thought my part could have been bigger.” -- Tip Baldridge, teenager.

Swords of Talera

“Ruenn Maclang is not bad. For a human. But that Gramlich guy who is claiming he wrote a book about Talera is an absolute kook.” --Jask, High-council of the Klar.

“Gramlich, I’ve seen Ruenn Maclang. I know Ruenn Maclang. Believe me, Gramlich, you’re no Ruenn Maclang.” – Rannon, love interest and swordswoman.

Wings Over Talera

“No comment!” –Vohanna, evil incarnate

“I tell you I’m in there. I’m in there.” --Chalathar, once and future god.

Witch of Talera

“Gramlich is misunderstood. He tried to publish this series as a memoir but the publisher wanted him to call it fiction and he accidentally listened. He never imagined so many twos of people would read it and by that time it was too late to let everyone know that it was really true.” --Ahrethane, Gramlich’s secret admirer.

“I told you no *&$#@#%* comment.” Vohanna, still evil.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Why I won’t be reading James Frey’s Latest

Many of you know that James Frey, the fellow who parlayed a fake memoir into fame and wealth, has a new book out. It's ranked at 33 on Amazon as of this morning, but I won’t be buying or reading it, even though Frey admits up front this time that it’s fiction. (Of course, once he gained fame under false pretenses he didn’t need to lie to sell another book.)

I won’t be buying this new one, or his older ones, or any that he might write in the future. And I’ll tell you why. It’s not because I know him to be a bad writer, although the sample of his new book that I found on Amazon was written, deliberately perhaps, in an illiterate style. (Here’s a sample sentence: “As he grew up he didn’t fit in with any of the other Cuban boys in his neighborhood they idolized boxers and baseball players he couldn’t have cared less”). It’s not that I feel any personal animosity against the fellow. No, the reason is because I have a limited book buying budget, and I’m just not going to put a penny in the pocket of someone who—-in my opinion—-has shown a lack of respect for readers and other writers across the board. This would be true even if his story was magnificent, which, from the sample, it certainly is not.

There are too many other talented writers with great stories who have labored long and honorably in the world of publishing only to receive pittances for their efforts, or even to be passed over time and time again for the celebrity author or the latest big thing (scandal). And there are plenty of already famous writers who have earned every accolade they’ve garnered. These are writers who have always told us the truth, who have never deliberately compromised their morals. Every nickel that I spend on books will go to such writers. Every penny.

Honor and integrity are not dead words, not outmoded concepts. I will support those who understand this.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Cowboy and Lady

Seems like quite a few folks have been posting plays lately so here is my entry. I call it: How a Cowboy Picks up a Lady: A Play.

Cowboy: *Strides up to a lovely gal a sittin’ at the bar sipping a Michelob. He hesitates when he sees the fancy beer she is drinking but finds her just too beayootiful in her white and black cowgirl skirt and her red satiny shirt with the shiny diamond shaped mother-of-pearl buttons. He decides to try his best line:*

“Why yo is jes as hot as a ten dollar pistol sittin’ there, Baby. What say we blow this gin joint and do us a little moonlit two steppin?”

Lady: *Is taken aback at his manly appearance and the very large hat he wears, but is impressed with his courtly manners. And with the spurs a jingling on his bootheels.*

“I would love to, “ she coos, eyelashes all a twitter.

Cowboy: *Sweeps her off her white booted feet, and carries her out to his ‘pick up,’ tucking her into the passenger seat where the smell of cedar from his tree odor thingie is brisk and cool as a mint julep in July. Climbs up the steps into the other side and starts the truck up with a roar.*

"LET'S TAKE A RIDE OUT TO WHERE THEY WATCH THE SUBMARINE RACES," he shouts over the booming growl of the big diesel engine on his Dodge RAM pickemup.

Lady: “Cedar. Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm.” *Smiles purdy*

Cowboy: *Kicks the big V-16 in low gear and goes a squalling out of the parking lot on to the black top, crushing discarded beer cans and furrin imports alike. Hits cruising speed about 85 and sets back against the cushioned captain's seat, dropping a big hairy hand to the lady’s dainty lil knee under her cowgirl skirt.*

Lady: *Drops her own dainty lil hand to just above his knee, then scootches closer, purring.*

Cowboy: *Swallows his chaw. gulps, recovers.*

"Why lordy be, missy, I sure am a glad you ain't skittish as some of these here city gals one meets at them there disco places. Last lil gal I gave a ride too done plastered my poor achin head with wimin's libber rights nonsense." *Peers at her.* "You ain't no wimin's libber is ya?"

Lady: *Peers back.* "Not at the moment, no."

Cowboy: *Licks his lips, quickly pushes in a tape that plays Hank Williams cause he knows how sexy wimin gets to feelin’ alistenin to old Hank sing. He slides his arm across the back of the seat and lets his hand touch the length of her big hairdo, lightly tangling his fingers through her hair-sprayed, steel-link tresses.*

“Now you jes lean on back against the naughahyde seats, lil lady and let ole Charlie Bob do the drivin’”

Lady: “Yo’re the man, Lover.”

Cowboy: *He listens to purring, both of the engine and the lady, and he knows he has done it just right.*

“Gonna get lucky tonight, ole cuss,” he murmurs softly to himself. “Gonna get lucky tonight.”

NOTE: No cowboys or ladies were harmed in the making of this play.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

In the Courts of the Crimson Kings

I just finished a very good book by S. M. Stirling called In the Courts of the Crimson Kings. This is actually a newly released Sword and Planet book which basically reprises ERB's A Princess of Mars, although greatly updated for modern audiences. I really liked this a lot. The characters were very well developed and the Martian civilization was brought to life in great detail, all the way down to a consistent presentation of the Martian language. I was quite sad to see this one end, and that doesn't happen these days too much.

In writing news, here's the "What Has Gone Before" section of my new Taleran book. So far I'm only about 2,000 words into the work but I'm beginning to feel it again. And that is fun. However, if you haven't read the previous books and plan to you should not read the section below. So therefore:



Ruenn Maclang was born and grew to manhood on Earth. On the planet of Talera, he was reborn a swordsman, and a leader of warriors. Through three volumes, Ruenn fought his way, Swords of Talera, Wings Over Talera, and Witch of Talera. He began as a man lost and alone on an alien world of death and beauty, but he found his path. He found friends who fought with him, and for him, and he found a woman to love. That woman was Rannon, a Princess who became a Queen of the island kingdom of Nyshphal after her father was murdered.

Ruenn and Rannon married in a bloody throne room after a desperate battle and narrow victory against the sorceress Vohanna and her allies, allies that included both Rannon’s brother, and Ruenn’s. But though the Witch herself was defeated, the Witch’s war is not yet over. Rannon’s air-fleet lies devastated; her army is nearly bled white. Nyshphal’s remaining enemies are gathered in fire and steel. Amid the chaos appears a new threat, an apparition from the past that warns of the future—honor and love can be corrupted by hate.

And now, Ghosts of Talera.

Friday, May 09, 2008


I’ve been tagged for the Six Quirks about me meme by Lisa over at Eudaemonia. I’ve given away quite a few of my weirdities before, including my lack of a sense of smell, but let’s see if I can find a few more to post.

First the Rules:
Link the person who tagged you.
Mention the rules in your blog.
Tell about 6 unspectacular quirks of yours.
Tag 6 bloggers by linking them.
Leave a comment on each of the tagged blogger's blogs letting them know they've been tagged.

So here are mine, all related to music.

1. There are literally some songs that I dislike so much that I can’t stand listening to them and will instantly punch the button on the radio to change to anything else, including a commercial or white noise. These include “Rock the Casbah,” “Take a Walk on the Wild Side,” and anything by the Police or Sting.

2. Lana teases me a lot for liking “one” song by Michael Jackson, and that song is “Dirty Diana.” I’m sorry, but it rocks. And I’m going to go listen to it now.

3. Most of the time I actually pay no attention to lyrics in music. Lyrics can ruin a song for me but can never save a song that doesn’t have good music. For example, I like the music to “Tube Steak Boogie” by Z. Z. Top but won’t listen to it because the lyrics irritate me so much. I’m the same way with “The Boys are Back in Town.” There is no song that I’ll listen to just for the lyrics. But there are some good tunes that actually seem to be enhanced by good lyrics, such as “Ava Adore” by the Smashing Pumpkins.

4. Related to number 3 above, I buy a fair amount of music by bands that don’t sing in English. These included Warlock and Loudness in the old days, and Rammstein today. I especially like the lyrics better when they’re in German. German is the right language for heavy metal.

5. The right music will literally cause horripilation across my scalp and down my neck. The first song to ever do this to me was “Crimson and Clover” by Tommy James and The Shondells, when I was about 13. One that still does is “Stairway to Heaven” by Led Zepplin. “Simple Man” and “Saturday Night Special” by Lynyrd Skynyrd also do it.

6. Black Sabbath is the father/founder band of heavy metal because they were the first band to be all metal all the time. There is no arguing this point, and the original Sabbath lineup is still the greatest rock band of all time.

7. Bonus: The song that best combines incredible music and incredible lyrics is “Bullet the Blue Sky” by U2. The lyrics make up the best poem in rock music. (However, I sure do like the Sepultura version.)

I’m breaking the rules by not tagging anyone.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Ghosts of Talera?

Now that grades are in my mind has finally been able to turn toward writing, but I’m largely in the pre-writing phase at the moment. I’ve pretty much committed myself to writing a new Taleran book and so for the last couple of days I’ve been running over scenarios and plans and titles in my mind. Thinking back to the original trilogy of books there is one obvious setup for a second trilogy. I won’t give it away here, though. And there are a few items from the first trilogy left over that have to be dealt with. I have the opening for the new book laid out and already know the basics of what I want to work toward. But, for me, titles are important and I’ve been mulling this one over a lot. I don’t know if I’ll actually write a second trilogy, and any book I do will be a complete story in and of itself, but I would like to have the basic titles for a possible trilogy laid out now because the titles help me organize my plotting.

I had originally thought that I’d call book four Warlord of Talera but thinking about the possible sequence of stories I might tell I’ve decided that would be appropriate for a possible end book in a trilogy. Right now I’m thinking, Ghosts of Talera, Gods of Talera and Warlord of Talera . I’m thinking “Ghosts” because there will be an apparent one, if not a real one, in the new book. Another name I’d considered for this book is Assassin of Talera because it will involve one of those as well. For some reason, though, “Assassin” doesn’t light my fire and “Ghosts” seems more evocative. Mostly I’m thinking aloud here, but, as always, feel free to share your opinions.

In other news, we were at our local Flatwoods preserve today and the Pitcher Plants are out in full force. We also saw a Barred Owl, which was a wonderful experience. I’m sure Lana will post a pic of it on her blog soon.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Comic Books

I was in the comic book store the other day, my first time in probably twelve years, to order Femme Noir by Christopher Mills. While there I checked out some of the other offerings and bought a few. I was never a big comic book fan. As a teenager I read some, but probably never had more than 100 or so, and these were mostly Fantastic Four, Spiderman, and one or two war comics like Sgt. Rock and Ghost Tank. I also had a horror western one called Jonah Hex.

Later, when I first joined the Robert E. Howard group, REHupa, I bought a number of the Howard related comics like Conan and Kull. That was in the early 90s but that phase didn’t last long. Having been weaned on books, I always found reading comics rather irritating, frankly. You’d settle down for a read, and be done almost instantly. Five minutes tops for most comics. I quickly found the only way to enjoy them was to collect 5 to 10 issues and then read them all at one sitting.

This time I bought a few of the new Dark Horse Conan comics, and read them back to back, and a couple of “graphic novels,” which are essentially longer comics that give you a bit more of a satisfying read. For one of the very few times in my life I bought something primarily for its cover. It seems that there are a variety of Frank Frazetta comics coming out and I’ve always enjoyed Frazetta’s art work, particularly the stuff he did for the Karl Edward Wagner Kane paperbacks and the Death Dealer paperbacks. I picked up a comic with one of his “Kane” covers called Dark Kingdom, part 1. The story did not involve Kane, however, but a character named Red Morden. The tale itself was very typical but the art was nice.

I did, however, find a nice surprise in the store, a Jonah Hex: Origins graphic novel. This really took me back and I enjoyed it quite a bit since there was a meaty story to the work. How about you? Any comic book dinks out there? Have comics been at all an influence on your writing? I would generally say that they haven’t influenced my own work at all, most likely because of my limited exposure to them during my formative years.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Hangin' with Chris

Just a reminder that I'll be hanging out mostly on Christine Eldin's blog today. She's having her Author's Week this week and I'm first writer up. You can win a copy of Swords of Talera with no strings attached. I'll even remove the tracking device.

I do give my last final today and will also have plenty of grading to do so I won't be making it around to many other blogs for a visit today, but tomorrow I should be able to get myself onto my regular summer schedule.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Sunday Updates, and a book I Gave Up On

I gave another final yesterday. Yes, on Saturday, and got those grades turned in last night. One more test to go, on Monday, and I'll be done. I did get a nice thank you card from a student for a letter of recommendation I did for her, so certainly not all students are rude and inconsiderate.

I finished the book Bloodstone by David Gemmell and found it just as good as the others in the "Stones of Power" series. However, I gave up on a book I'd started, and that is a rare event. The book was The 101 Most Influential People Who Never Lived and I was actually looking forward to it with some relish. It was subtitled "How Characters of Fiction, Myth, Legends, Television, and Movies have shaped our Society, Changed our Behavior, and Set the Course of History. It featured such characters as Icarus, Santa Claus, Dick Tracy, Peter Pan, Kirk and Spock, Tarzan etc.

The book was well written and others might enjoy it so don't let my stopping overly influence you, but here is where my problem came in. Typically, the authors would start to discuss a character, Hercules for example, and would give some accurate background on where the character originated and some of the legends surrounding the character. Then they would try to funny the entry up with some modern jokes, generally political ones. First, I didn't find any of the jokes funny. I mean every joke about Bush that can be made has pretty much been made, and who wants these jokes in a book that will surely last longer than Bush's time in office. I won't want to be reminded of Bush in years to come.

Second, in some cases they apparently extended the joke into making up some fiction of their own, and at times I actually had difficulty telling where the "true" story of the character left off and the modern authors' "made-up" stuff began. For me, this destroyed the usefulness of the book as a reference source. And so I put it down.

I "treated" myself to a movie last night after finishing my latest exam. My choice was "30 Days of Night," a vampire flick. I was very disappointed. The idea was great, a city in far north Alaska which experiences a month without the sun is isolated and attacked by vampires. The ending also had the germs of a very good idea in it, but the delivery on both ideas was very weak and completely unconvincing, particularly the ending.

Well, now I'm off to make my blogging rounds. See ya soon.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Good Recent Reads

Despite my last post about learning from bad books, I’ve been reading good books lately. I just finished two worth mentioning. The first is Texas Wind by James Reasoner. This book was originally published by Manor Books in 1980 but that tiny publisher faded rapidly into obscurity. It was reissued in 2004 by PointBlank, an imprint of Wildside. I picked this up because I know the author personally, but when I started it I could hardly put it down. It’s short, 142 pages, and a wonderful read with a very modern series of twists and turns. It’s definitely from the hard-boiled genre, but the hero detective, Cody, is no stereotype. He doesn’t booze it up and he collects books and western art of the likes of Frederic Remington. He’s a bit softer edged than the average hard-boiled detective but he’s one tough fellow and I’d love to see him in more adventures. Only the fact that it was published by such a small press originally must have kept this from becoming a series.

A while back I read Dust Devils, also by James Reasoner. It’s a similar noir thriller with even more twists that was written in 2007 and also published by PointBlank. It’s also very good and I highly recommend it, but I think I liked Texas Wind a bit better. And in an odd bit of synchronicity, Travis Erwin posted about the real Texas “wind” on the same day as I finished the book.

The second good book I read recently, finishing it on Wednesday, was The Last Guardian by David Gemmell. This is fourth in a series called “The Stones of Power,” and so you might want to start with the first one, which is called Ghost King. This is actually a pretty far ranging series, though, so you could easily start with book 3, Wolf in Shadow, which is the first to feature the character of Jon Shannow, a kind of futuristic gunfighter who reminds me a fair amount of Robert E. Howard’s Solomon Kane. Shannow is a tormented character, a man of God and of violence who fights to rid evil from the land after the “Fall,” an event that destroyed Earth’s current civilization. I like the Shannow character quite a bit and am currently reading the fifth book in the series, Bloodstone, which also features Shannow.

One point of interest, in these books the “Stones of Power” are stones called Sipstrassi and they are in some ways similar to the Milkstones from my Taleran series. They are also capable of opening gates between worlds, for example, and of working magic. They are generally much more powerful than my milkstones, however. Although the Taleran series was published in book form well after the first “Stones of Power” book came out, Swords of Talera was written quite a bit earlier and the milkstones are a completely independent construction, not related at all to or influenced by the Sipstrassi stones. I didn’t discover or read the first “Stones of Power” book until the late 1990s while “Swords” was written in 1986. It’s weird, though, that two independent constructions could show such interesting similarities.

In wild, student-request news, I received an email from a student who missed the first week and a half of class, then missed two of three in-class chances to get extra credit, and missed close to half the total classes in a course where class participation is counted, telling me how surprised she was that she got a “B” when she was expecting an “A.” Since she blew off the first week and a half she missed a test and I had to literally force her to write me an explanation as to why she missed before I’d give her a make-up. She finally admitted in writing that she had no reason. She just hadn’t come. But she’s surprised she didn’t get an “A.” Sadly enough, I’m not surprised by her surprise.