Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Tempest Rising scores a thumbs up

Tempest Rising
by Nicole Peeler
Orbit 2009

Review by Deirdre Murphy

In Tempest Rising, the first book in an ongoing series by Nicole Peeler, Jane True is something of a pariah in her small Maine town. Her mother arrived in Rockabill during a winter storm, walking down the road stark naked. She disappeared when Jane was six. Jane's dark history, which takes her a while to fully reveal, is already known to the town folk. In addition, she’s not quite normal:

It was all I could do to get through the meal without banging down my fork and running off into the night like some maenad. I was still so angry from my biweekly run-in with Linda that I was short-tempered with my father. Which made me feel guilty, which made me feel frustrated, which made me feel even more angry…

When I got like that, only a swim helped.

And if any old swim was therapeutic, a swim during a storm was better than Prozac.

Jane goes off to swim naked after dinner on a stormy November night (remember, this is Maine), near the very strong whirlpool called “The Sow.” The Sow’s deadly currents and the “piglets”, smaller, spin-off whirlpools created by The Sow, are Rockabill’s main claim to tourist fame. While swimming, Jane finds a body of a man who is, like herself, half-human (though she doesn’t know that yet). She learns this part of her heritage for the first time the next day, when strange beings tell her that her mother (whereabouts unknown) is a selkie, and she should expect a supernatural investigator to show up asking questions

The man who shows up the next day glamours her big-city boss, Grizelda, at the bookstore into believing he’s a friend of Jane’s from college. He doesn’t magically befuddle Jane’s brain like he did to Grizelda, but Jane notices (aloud, to her dismay) that he’s hot—really hot—er, really good looking. He also has sharp, sexy teeth. He insists on questioning her over dinner, in Rockabill’s one year-round restaurant, The Trough. (All of Rockabill’s potential tourist attractions are named with a pig theme, thanks to the afore-mentioned whirlpool.)

There’s plenty of both action and romance, all in Jane’s own words. I enjoyed Jane’s sense of humor throughout, despite the fact that a lot of humor falls flat for me. Overall, I very much enjoyed the book, although the first chapter is slow enough that I told the author (aloud, knowing she couldn’t possibly hear me from the “throne room” in my house), “I get that Jane doesn’t fit in small town Rockabill, get on with it!” But once the story got going, it kept on strong, alternately making me laugh and hold my breath, wondering how Jane was going to survive.

I won Tempest Rising in a random online contest for which I picked out books by five authors who are new to me. So far, the books I’ve received from that contest, sponsored by urban fantasy authors, are urban fantasy/romance crossovers, and of the three that have arrived so far, Tempest Rising is the best.

There is a teaser from Tracking the Tempest in the back of the book, and two more titles, Tempest’s Legacy and Eye of the Tempest, are listed in the front. For more information you can visit Peeler's website.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Minister of Chance giveaway! Three people will win!

Merry Christmas to those who celebrate. I have some presents for you. Call them Christmas presents, Hanukah presents, Solstice goodies, whatever you want, but have at them and enjoy a beautiful weekend!

First, to get you in the mood, is the Hobbit trailer, in case you haven't seen it yet.

Let's have a couple more, shall we?

The Dark Knight Rises - Official Trailer [VO-HD] by Eklecty-City

And Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol is playing this weekend!

My fabulously talented friend, Camille Picott, is giving away here short story "Warming Demon". Her Raggedy Chan was reviewed here by Lyda Morehouse. Camille's writing is an exquisite blend of fantasy and fairy tale that puts a face on cultural persecution for young readers. Keep checking back for a review of her next novel: Nine-tail Fox right here.

I'm bloody balmy about the The Minister of Chance. Check out my full review of episode one. Episode two is every bit as awesome.

Listen to the prologue of The Minister of Chance below and leave a comment describing the princess' first observation of the Ambassador. What did she expect him to have? The first person to do so wins the first two episodes.

The first person (and this has to be someone other than the first and third winner) to tell me the ambassador's name will also win the first two episodes.

Finally, name the actor who plays the king (and be someone other than the first two winners) to win the first two episodes as well.

Come on people. I want episode three, so listen, like them on facebook, tweet them and tell all your friends. They make great Christmas presents for those who have waited too long to mail something in time. You just send them the code in an email. How easy is that?

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Wednesday geeky this and that

This is how you know you've arrived as a writer. When you're the geek behind the scantily-clad lead singer and the crowd goes wild when you play your three notes on the toy piano. Neil Gaimon upstages his wife from behind.

This song is a classic. It just occurs to me that it's filk. Right? I think it fits the Wikipedia definition: Filk has been defined as folk music, usually with a science fiction or fantasy theme, but this definition is not exact. ... In addition, while the majority of filk songs are in the folk style, other styles such as blues, calypso, and even rock periodically appear.

Here's the new movie poster for The Hunger Games. The publicist told me to let her know if I want to collaborate on the film. I don't think she means what we think it means.

Planning a trip for 2012? Here's some geeky ideas.
12 Sci-fi Film Locations You Can Actually Visit

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Earthbound - a post-apocalyptic tale

A Marsbound Novel
by Joe Haldeman

Reviewed by Ann Wilkes

Earthbound is a post-apocalyptic tale with enigmatic, all-powerful aliens holding the earth's fate in their . . . well, gaseous something or others. Carmen Dula, who made first contact with the Martians by falling through the roof of their underground home and breaking her ankle, her space pilot significant other, Paul, the three spies they shared their trip to the Others with, her brother Card and Snowbird (a Martian) are back on earth after the Others have pulverized the moon.

When Earth tried to fly a ship through the thick debris field that surrounds the planet, the Others shut off the earth's "free" power. They're determined to keep humans earthbound.

In Earthbound, the group fight to survive and preserve as much of the humanity around them as they can. The perils are non-stop. Carmen must even lose her own brother while still coming to terms with missing out on seeing her children grow up. There are ambushes, deprivations, battles won, lives lost and hopes dashed.

The twelve passenger seats unfolded into lumpy beds, angled like chevrons. Some of us rested or napped. Paul took a pill. The plane was on autopilot, but if the Others turned off the power we'd be on a glider looking for a flat place to land.

We were over Hudson Bay, after about six hours, when we made contact with the president's people. I couldn't hear what was going on, but I presumed they were livid. They gave us a plane and we hijacked it to Russia. Paul was grinning broadly as he gave them monosyllabic replies.

The avatar of the Others pops in and out, sometimes rescuing them, but mostly just apathetically observing, adding just the right touch of creepy.

The storyline, as I said in my Starbound review, is a truly original first contact scenario. The Others play the long con or take their time with new relationships. These novels only show us a glimpse at the first tentative steps - at least from the humans' perspective. Who knows what they decide in a thousand years?

The plot moved along at a fast clip with lots of action. However, I wanted more character development and richer descriptions. I did like the ending, though.

If you've read the other books, you'll definitely want to read this concluding volume. If you haven't, you could download all three on your Kindle or other e-reader and read them in a weekend. Aside from dialogs that need more tags, Earthbound is a very easy read. I hope we hear from the Others again, perhaps with an all-new cast in our distant future.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

SFOO interviews sci-fi author David Boop

Interview by Ann Wilkes

AW: What do you read besides science fiction for story ideas?

DB: I don’t have to read much for story ideas, as I have more ideas right now than I’ll ever probably write, however, I have three main places I generate ideas: dreams, conversations and research. I joke, when people ask me where I get my ideas, that I don’t sleep at night. This isn’t totally untrue. I wake with concepts and try to jot them down immediately. This is where “She Murdered Me with Science” came from. I also find myself in discussions with my son, friends, and peers and hit upon a lot of ideas that way. I’m co-writing stories with a few authors now that came from intense discussions. Finally, while doing research on one novel or story, I sometimes hit upon a fact that spins an entirely different story out of it.

AW: What first sparked your interest in writing? In science fiction?

DB: I blame it on Star Wars action figures. I didn’t just play with them. I built stories, with full three act structures to them. They had character development, epic battles and comedy. I had friends (Well, two to be exact. I was a nerd in WI, after all) that would come over to watch them play out. However, I had a hard time getting them down on paper. This was the era of the typewriter still, and I found revision due to mistakes almost physically painful. It wasn’t until many years later I was diagnosed with ADD. The advent of the word processor allowed me to finally overcome the majority of that condition and viola! A writer is reborn!

AW: Do you find it easier to write in short bursts, turning out short stories and comics, rather than novels?

DB: Short stories are the palette cleansers between novels. I used to get deeper into the writer’s trance, allowing myself anywhere from five to six hours of writing time. I can’t do that, as I get older, due to a combination of life responsibilities and just aching body. I’ll finish an act of the novel, and then slide out to catch up on short story deadlines. I come back to the novel fresh and ready to tackle the next section. Certainly, one doesn’t have to go as deep into the trance for a short story as a novel, so it’s easier from an investment POV, though some stories are just as demanding from a craft POV.

AW: I noticed from your website that you are a two-time winner of a community college literary contest. What are your thoughts on contests in general and the benefit of paying to enter them?

DB: To be fair, technically, I won one essay writing contest, and was accepted into the college’s literary magazine, which they ran as a contest. So, that’s how I got two. I’ve rarely paid for contests. When I do, it’s usually a low ante. The only ones I do these days are writing challenges, where you have to write to a prompt and with a time limit, such as the 48hr Film Festival. Everything you do as a writer is a contest, when you break it down to the brass tacks. Magazines, anthologies, e-zines. You’re entering a competition to get included in an issue or a book, earn money and get recognition. Some contests are better than others, such as “first chapter” ones, where you can earn yourself a publishing contract or agent. The competition is rough in them, maybe rougher than other arenas. Research the group running it, the judges judging it, the winner’s from previous years. Don’t drop money on anything you can’t validate. Remember, money should flow TO the writer, not away.

AW: Can you share your thoughts about web comics and the future of printed comics with everyone so often plugged into an e-reader or an iPhone?

DB: I recently downloaded the Marvel Comics app and read a few of their free comics. I had to keep turning my phone depending on the panel. I found this annoying. Four panel comics, such as “Control-Alt-Delete” I find work better than full page comics, but I may just be old. LOL! I think single comics will go away, replaced by daily pages from sources like the Marvel app, but these will be collected quarterly into trade paperbacks for the people who want something tactile. I could read “Dreamland Chronicles” or “Looking for Group” online, and have, but I still buy the graphic novels and find I’ve missed something every time.

AW: If you could spend a month anywhere and anywhen on Earth, where/when would it be and why?

DB: Previous to becoming an author, I’d romanticize the past, but as I research various eras for stories, there is always a dark side. Unless you’re one of the rich, things don’t work out to well for the commoner in most places in history. I’d love to spend a month somewhere, sometime in the future, maybe a colony world. Hopefully, unlike the past, it won’t smell nearly as bad.

AW: What are you working on now?

DB: Looking at the WIP board behind me, I have a novel to finish. The follow-up to SMMS called “Murdered in a Mechanical World (and I’m a Mechanical Girl!)” I have two novellas and four short stories I’d like to finish in the first quarter. I’d also like to try my hand at editing an anthology next year. Additionally on my plate are two other novels, a comic, a short film and a TV pilot. It’s going to take the Mayan apocalypse to slow me down in 2012. And chances are… I’ll still be trying to make a deadline even then.

Read more about David Boop at davidboop.com.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Geeky and literary booty and writers' dens

GeekChicDaily is hosting a geeky swag contest that includes lots of Dr. Who stuff and is valued at $1,000. See their contest page for the details. And if you win, and don't want the Dr. Who Series Six DVD, remember who sent you. :)

The Department of Rare Books and Special Collections at Northern Illinois University now has the first installment of author Fred Saberhagen's papers. Saberhagen, best known for his Berserker novels, died in 2007 in New Mexico, but was born in Chicago. View the press release on the NIU Today website.

Canadian author Terence Green’s “Blue Limbo” is Phoenix Pick’s free ebook for December.

The coupon code for December is 9991437 and will be good from December 2
through December 31. Download available at www.PPickings.com

Mitch Helwig is a cop on the edge, “a man who’s gone through the valley of the shadow and hasn’t quite made it out the other side” (Toronto Globe & Mail). Vengeance and heroism, the subtleties of family woven into the metaphysics of life and death, all come together here in a page-turner, “a near-future tech-noir thriller” (SF Site) that moves at breakneck speed.

"A chilling picture of Toronto in the not too distant future."—The Toronto Star

I had such a fabulous time at OryCon that I wanted the party to continue. Toward that end, I searched for a local writer's hangout. Santa Rosa doesn't have one, so I'm trying to create one. I got a lot of great response from folks, but most wanted to hear about it after it formed, rather than help form it. The hardest thing of all is that people are so accustomed to set dates and times for meetings and structured settings, that the whole concept seems quite foreign to them. Maybe I'm just dreaming.

What I have in mind is a place - it can be a pub, a café, a corner of a book store, a restaurant - where writes and readers hang out for literary discussion, or just to chew the fat with other folks seeking intelligent conversation. I named it (Santa Rosa Writer's Den), started a yahoo group and gave it one rule: no promotion. I'm sick to death of writers marketing to other writers. I'm sick to death of hearing about promotion. I want to talk about writing and books I've read. If you just had a book published, fantastic, just don't try to sell it to me at my hangout where I'm coming to escape all that commercialism. It's scary how much writers have to focus on promotion these days. But, above all, we're writers. My aim is to create a refuge where we can hang out and not be bothered by the dark side of the biz.

We're still building critical mass and then will have to pick a spot or try several until we find the right one. I'll set it up to meet on maybe two specific nights (with a wide window of time to just drop in) and one or two days per week until it gets more established.

If only I had a time machine, I'd go hang out with the Inklings (whose members included CS Lewis and JRR Tolkien). They surely would turn me out because of my gender and dislike of pipe smoke. But they had the right idea. C.S. Lewis' older brother, Warren, who was also a member, wrote, "Properly speaking, the Inklings was neither a club nor a literary society, though it partook of the nature of both. There were no rules, officers, agendas, or formal elections." Of course, there's was more of a critique group and they did meet once a week.

I'd be interested to hear how many of my readers have found such a place where they live. Is there such a thing as a "Cheers" for writers and readers? Would it be too boring? Should we invite bull-fighters and race-car drivers to liven things up? Am I missing something here?

Monday, December 5, 2011

BBC interviews of 10 SF Authors now on CD

Science Fiction Writers
British Library Board 2011
Interviews date from 1977 through 2001.

Distributed by the University of Chicago Press

Reviewed by Ann Wilkes

I completely enjoyed listening to the interviews on this CD. The majority of the interviews were conducted in such a way as to bring out interesting anecdotes and facts of which I was formerly unaware. The authors interviewed are as follows:

Douglas Adams
Isaac Asimov
J G Ballard
Ray Bradbury
Arthur C Clarke
Ursula K Le Guin
Michael Moorcock
Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

Also included is what seems to be a joint panel discussion or lecture led by Brian Aldiss and Doris Lessing as there is not interviewer on that recording. These are ALL previously unreleased recordings.

The gems you'll hear on this crisply mastered CD include an interview with Isaac Asimov on his 70th birthday in which he states that the kinetic theory of gases is what sparked his idea of psycho-history that is the "science" running through his Foundation series. Brian Aldiss tips his hat to Mary Shelley for writing what he thinks is the first truly science fiction novel.

Doris Lessing said she was struck by the defensiveness of pulp sci-fi authors in the States. She also said that though she thoroughly enjoyed Asimov's Foundation series, it's not really sci-fi, because there's no science. She goes on to say the Foundation series contains "brilliant sociology." Since when are robots, space travel and sociology not science?

Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. explains why he chops up his books in short bursts. He also addresses his use of social commentary and satire, pointing out the reason why the defenders of the Alamo were really fighting in his novel, Hocus Pocus: for their right to own slaves.

Did you know that Ray Bradbury had a hand in the archetectural designs of Epcott Center, Disneyworld and World Fairs? A builder in Glendale (CA) even made a mall based on an article of his about a city of the future. He talks of his dream of globalism and a united space exploration instead of men of the same planet fighting one another. "Men want to be destroyed. But they should be destroyed for a good cause and the good cause is space."

The woman who interviewed Ursula K. LeGuin basically asks her if she would fancy being a father and a mother like the characters in The Left Hand of Darkness. And asked her if she thought of herself as an anarchist because she wrote about anarchists. Why is it that the one woman actually interviewed was interviewed by someone who obviously doesn't understand science fiction? LeGuin, however, handles the situation with aplomb and grace with wonderful tidbits like, "You can have books and babies. They are not mutually hostile occupations."

I highly recommend this CD for any sci-fi fan or writer. For more information or to buy your copy for $15, visit the University of Chicago Press.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Approaching Omega - familiar plot surprises in the end

Approaching Omega
Eric Brown
e-book, Infinity Plus (September 2011)
Novella, originally published in 2005 by Telos Publishing

Review by Lyda Morehouse

This novella length e-book by award-winning novelist Eric Brown tells the story of Ted Latimer, team leader of the maintenance crew of the Dauntless – a ship filled with thousands of cryogenically frozen colonists, headed to the first suitable Earth-like planet. Their mission: save humanity.

I could have saved Latimer some heartache. After all, cryogenic deep-freeze space travel rarely goes well in these sorts of stories, does it? No one ever wakes up, thousands of years later, arriving in paradise where everything is hunky-dory. Thus, rather predictably, Latimer and his crew are awoken early. First to a possible collision that’s left the ship massively damaged. After they set the autobots to fix things, they go back to sleep.

The second time they wake up, everything has gone from bad to worse – much, much worse.

The plot that follows reminded me a lot of the movie “Pandorum,” including the strangely up-beat ending. If you haven’t seen “Pandorum” (which many people likely haven’t), suffice to say that the autobots fixed a number of things that weren’t broken, including some of the colonists.

I’m a fan of science fiction horror, and Brown is certainly a skilled writer. Yet, for some reason, I never quite connected enough with the main character to get truly emotionally invested in his survival. Perhaps it was Brown’s stylistic choice to refer to the hero by his surname throughout the narrative that kept me at a distance. Or, maybe it was the sheer gruesomeness of the situation they woke up to the second time that left me certain that everyone left alive was utterly doomed that made it hard to connect. Strangely, I think it would have made a better movie in that way. The action was very gripping and well-rendered, but I tend to want something a touch meatier in my fiction.

None of that stopped me from reading all the way to the last page, however. The ending surprised me by pulling back from a full-on horror conclusion to something much more science fictional. Was it more satisfying? I found myself unsure. In some ways, a bleak ending is its own kind of satisfaction. On the flip-side, if you’ve been rooting for these people the whole time…

For the price (Kindle is offering it for $2.99), it may well be worth reading and deciding for yourself.