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Something Like a Review – The Chosen by John G. Hartness

August 28, 2016 Leave a comment

Disclosure: I know the author personally. I purchased this book with my own Audible credit because I wanted to read it. This post is simply a reflection of my desire to share a piece of fiction I enjoyed from an author I choose to support.

John is one of the best marketers I’ve ever seen in action. If you’ve seen him at a con, you know what I mean. No panel is complete without his signature “buy our shit” proclamation, and if you’ve never witnessed his epic readings replete with Sasquatch dick jokes, you’re missing out. So when he promoted “The Chosen” as “the book that got me fired from one of my jobs for blasphemy,” I knew I had to read it.

In true John style, “The Chosen” is an irreverent and humorous poke at things people take “super cereal.” He introduces us to an Adam and Eve (yes, THAT Adam and Eve) that will send the devout for their rosaries, an angel that will make you question both your definition and affiliation with good/evil and an unforgettable motley crew as they set off on a road trip to save the world.

One of the things I loved most about this book, and I did love it, was the knowledgeable and respectful ways religious belief was handled. And warped. I listened to this as an audiobook, but I’ll be getting my hands on a copy of “The Chosen” to see how the hell he managed to have his characters refute the creation story in a way that 1.) makes sense, 2.) was amusing, and 3.) respected the essence of the story. While I’m not religious, I could tell that Hartness is knowledgeable about the material, respects those who believe it, and yet finds ways of cutting through the poetic language and creating a plausible story.

So, if he’s so respectful, why might he have been fired for blasphemy? Well, let’s just say that after millennia of walking the Earth after their expulsion from the garden, Adam and Eve aren’t exactly what the faithful may expect. But after all they’ve witnessed, I can’t say that I blame them for the way they change. Character development, yo. Even though it’s not what many would approve of, the changes to their characters feels genuine, as if they really are people who’ve lived tens of thousands of years, witnessed some of the greatest tragedies of history, experienced their own personal tragedies and yet, still manage to function in our crazy world. Theirs is a creation story I want to believe, and the choices at the end are believable and fulfilling.

And what are those choices? Well, that’s what you’ll need to find out. Suffice to say that there’s a Pandora’s box feeling to the tone at the end (and if you know your mythology, you’ll know what I mean). I read this and was able to put all the recent tragedies and horrific occurrences aside for a little while.

Pick up this book – however you choose to ingest it, and read it. If you’re super sensitive about religion, this isn’t the book for you, but if you’re willing to have an open mind and enjoy a well-written piece of fiction with a religious (though not proselytizing) bent to it, this is the one I’d recommend.

Medium: Audiobook from Audible.com

Other: Available in various formats from Amazon.com

Overall rating: 5 stars

Potential re-read: Definitely, especially to figure out how the hell did did what he did.

Dead-tree worthy?: Yes. You’ll find your own reasons, I’m sure, but from this writer, my purchase is motivated by the need to figure out how the hell did did what he did.

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How Summer Vacation Kicked My Ass

September 5, 2013 Leave a comment

This could also be subtitled “Conning the Summer Away,” or “Working Hard and Playing Harder…,” but as school starts up again, I’m starting tired as hell. This is less a complaint and more a statement of fact. I’ve done some great things this summer, I’ve learned a lot and now that school is starting, I’m finding that I’m finally getting to that mental space where creativity is not only possible, it’s inevitable.

I started in June with a trip to ConCarolinas, my local sci-fi/fantasy/writing/gaming convention. This is a great (little) convention held in North Charlotte and it’s become something of a personal tradition. I started going more for the gaming, but the last few years, I’ve been more focused on the writing track. That’s not a slight against the gaming in any respect; I’ve had the opportunity to play all kinds of things I’d never have gotten a chance to play otherwise (including Little Fears, which is probably one of my favorite RPG’s to date), but more a shift in focus. ConCarolinas allows for smaller crowds and attendees have a great opportunity to interact with writers, panelists and avoids the crazy lines that come with those “can’t miss” events. Granted, in 2014, George RR Martin will be a headliner, so this is likely to change, but the fact remains that it’s the crowd from Magical Words that has drawn my attention over and over. They are an inspirational, quirky, engaging, funny, intelligent, and experienced crowd and they freely share their knowledge with n00bs like me, something that is invaluable. I always walk away with pages of notes and tons of inspiration.

This June, I also had the good fortune to attend the World Horror Convention and the Bram Stoker Awards dinner in New Orleans. It was a huge perspective shift and an unmatched opportunity to meet, greet and talk with people like Jonathan Maberry, John Joseph Adams, Caitlin Kiernan, Mort Castle, Tom Monteleone, F. Paul Wilson, and a lot more. I got a lot of swag, a lot of signatures, a lot of ideas and useful information, and a connection that resulted in acceptance to the Borderlands Press BootCamp in January. I’m so freaking excited about this, I can’t begin to express it without a lot of girly squealing and butt-wiggling dancing.

Through both of these, I was still cramming in school, but that finally relented in July. Since then, I’ve attended and helped throw an epic birthday party, spent time with my BFF, crammed in more work than any one person should do, and at then, I tackled Dragon*Con for the first time. That was…an experience. I’ve seen pictures and I had an expectation of what it would be like, and I wasn’t far from what I thought, but there’s a big difference between what one imagines they will see, and actually seeing Sauron shake his groove thing to Timberlake’s Sexyback. Or to walk through a crowded hotel lobby as a crowd of attendees are singing about sweet transvestites. Or what it’s like to sit in front of a panel that includes authors of mythic fame that it’s hard not to be starstruck even if you’re not a huge fan.

As crazy as all of this was, what I realized that this was a way of refreshing and re-energizing after a tough semester. Throughout the break, I’ve been writing in drips and drabs, and while it’s been decent, it’s not been spectacular or impassioned in any real way. I did this for a reason. Instead of trying to force myself to produce writing (including blog posts, reading and reviews), I decided to give myself a break. Instead of pushing myself, I played around with words like Legos, snapping them together, messing around with odd shapes, pulling them apart, but nothing serious. Instead, I let ideas simmer for some projects I’ve been mulling over and I practiced with perspective, character development and other things, but none of it amounted to a story. Until tonight. One of the ideas I’ve been toying with finally came together when the men in the basement moved the right boxes around and it all fell into place. It was so beautiful how it clicked – and the passion of the moment was there. I had to pull over and jot it down to not lose it, and I filled a half a page with a synopsis in about 3 minutes.

The timing could not be worse.

My classes start tonight and I’m behind on finishing up the month at work because I took time off to enjoy the madness of Dragon*Con.

Shit.

Now, I have a story that is urgent and pressing against the inside of my skull and I’m juggling the blinding desire to write along with the ethical need to complete the month in fairness to my agents at work, and the need to do homework to not fall behind. Inspiration, sweet, divine Inspiration, you are a cruel, unyielding, untimely, and sadistic bitch, and I love you so…

This is going to be a really tough month. This story will be written. There is no other option.

Repeating, Reposting, Reblogging…in other words, cheating

March 22, 2013 2 comments

 

I’m not going to be original tonight, because I’ve tapped that vein for the day and am a mere husk of myself dying to go crawl into bed and get a few hours of oblivion before I have to get up and repeat the cycle. I’ve only got a few more weeks of crazy homework, and then it peters off a bit so I can catch my breath. Work isn’t going to get easier any time soon, so I’m just going to give up chasing my tail on that charge and do what I can as I can and hope that it will all work out somehow.

Instead of being original, I’m going to re-blog (what fucked up words we invent when we get new toys…) someone else’s ideas. I figure since he said it so well, that giving my own version of a similar swan song would be redundant. John Hartness and I do not have the same issues, per se, but we can all relate, and we can all probably relate to the article from The Onion that he references. So without further adieu, check out his post on Magical Words and revel in the truthiness….

On not writing, and poorly quoting, and onions. That last should really be singular. But anyway . . .

And seriously, if you get the chance to catch him, or any of the Magical Words gang at the various conventions, signings, etc, I highly recommend attending the panel/chatting them up at their tables/saying hey,  buying a book and getting it author-graphed. They’re a wise bunch of people, and the core philosophy of BICHOK is something we should all tattooed across the tops of our fingers. Hell, James R. Tuck could even do it…

 

Something Like a Review – Jane Yellowrock Series by Faith Hunter

January 27, 2013 Leave a comment

Ok, so I’m totally cheating, but it’s not the first time, and it won’t be the last, either. Every so often, I consume a series of books so fast that they all run together a little bit for me. Instead of trying to go back and figure out where the edges sharpen (especially since I listened to all of these as audiobooks, which would make it a little more difficult), I’m compiling Something Like a Review about the whole series. For those who are looking for a good series, this may be a more helpful approach rather than the piecemeal book-by-book evaluation.

I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Faith Hunter and listening to her speak on many panels at my local sci-fi/gaming convention, ConCarolinas. She’s a wonderful, funny and insightful lady and has a devilish sense of humor. She is one of the people I look for when scanning the panel participants because I’ve learned a lot from what she’s had to say over the past few years, and I look forward to her posts on Magical Words as well. And how, you may ask, does she become such a resource? A deceptively simple answer – she writes good stories.

Jane Yellowrock is a strong female character with all the hallmarks of being a badass without being a male masquerading in a female body. She’s not all girly, but she’s capable of the tenderness and vulnerability that said masquerading males seem to lack. There have been characters that were supposed to be female in stories that I didn’t believe were female; Jane is not one of those characters. She has depth and layers from her unwillingness to curse in most scenarios (damned woman has me saying “crap,” as my go-to mutter of frustration and annoyance), to her reaction to several scenarios that I will not spoil here. Not only does Jane have depth, her inner Beast has depth, and there’s comedy, affection and intimacy in the dance between them. Their partnership inside her is another layer to the depth that makes Jane such an intriguing character.

What I’ve enjoyed most about the series is seeing her growth, her change and even the areas where her denial stagnates her. Probably especially the latter. The way she struggles against herself, against her denial and against the things that she probably “knows better” just makes her more human, more credible and more vital in a world slightly different than the one we expect.

The cast of characters that swirls around her highlights her strengths and are as layered as herself – Leo Pellisier, Ricky Bo’, and Bruiser, just to name a few. Hunter does a great job developing not only the characters but the complexity of the story and world over the series. There are a couple of little things that bugged me were intrinsic parts of reading a series; the little repetitions of information I’ve read before, and the brief rehashings of previous events. They weren’t obtrusive and if I wasn’t reading them all back to back, they’d probably be helpful.

Overall, this is an enjoyable series, and I’m looking forward to the next one in the series, Blood Trade, which is due out in April.

Medium: Audiobooks from Audible.com

Other: Multiple versions also available from Amazon.com

Overall rating: 4 stars

Potential re-read: Not sure, but only because the TBR pile is extensive. I wouldn’t object to it, but I can’t see squeezing in a growing series every time I need a fix.

Dead-tree worthy?: Not for me. Shelf space is at a premium, and while I enjoyed them, I don’t have the room to dedicate to them.

Once Upon a Con…

I spent last weekend at the 2011 ConCarolinas and I had a blast! A few years ago, when I attended my first one, I went because I was interested in the gaming. I wanted to spend a whole weekend immersed in gaming of many flavors – RPG’s, board games, CCG’s, etc. I knew there were panels and writers and artists there, but honestly, I didn’t pay them much attention; the gaming was too shiny and new, and I was still (more or less) on writing hiatus. Last year, I had just started writing seriously again, and during a break between games, a couple of panels caught my eye and I made a point of attending. Suffice to say, I was hooked. There’s a certain amount of validation in attending the panels. I didn’t feel so crazy for wanting to immerse myself in this challenge to get my words out there, and there was a hefty dose of reality that drove the point home – this really is work, but it’s totally worth doing.

When I was getting ready for the con this year, the first thing I looked at was the panel schedule. I circled every one I wanted to attend and I scheduled my gaming around those events. I did miss a couple of games that piqued my curiosity, but what I took away was more than worth the price of admission for the weekend and I think it was the best decision. Not only did I learn a lot, I had the pleasure of hearing from some truly insightful people, specifically, the minds behind www.magicalwords.net.

I’d been introduced to the Magical Words blog quite some time ago, but I have an affliction lovingly dubbed “internet ADD.” It never fails that when I log on to my computer, the bright, shiny, even somewhat seductive Firefox logo lures me into the wicked web and I end up losing hours falling in wiki-holes or circling the Facebook time suck. I never accomplish anything of real merit when my iADD kicks in (with the exception of soaking up some little factoid or bizarre thread that later becomes fiction fodder) but I can’t seem to resist its siren song. I’ve looked at programs to restrict my internet access, or gizmos to completely lock me out for a specific period of time, but right now, I’m too rebellious to actually install it. When the iADD kicks in, even though I sit down with the intent to ONLY visit specific writing-related sites before getting back to the business of putting words on the page, I always seems to forget that intention and hours pass before I realize my hands are covered in the blood of wasted time.

I am much better at reading when it’s unplugged, or at least closely mimics being unplugged, so I picked up How to Write Magical Words a few months ago and added it to my imposing to-be-read pile. Looking over the program, I recognized some of the names on many of the panels, and I remembered my initial impression of perusing the site and flipping through the book – “these are sensible people who seem to know what they’re talking about.” I started circling the panels I wanted to attend choosing those I had interest in, and others that featured familiar names. This method of choosing where I was going to be seemed to be one of the smartest moves I made all weekend (right up there with bringing snacks to keep in the room and picking up the bottle of Three Olives cherry vodka I almost decided against). Two of the panels I chose this way left a significant impression and granted me the opportunity to familiarize myself with some of the members of the Magical Words crew. First was “The Future of the Printed Word” with Nathan P. Butler, Faith Hunter, Stuart Jaffe, David B. Coe, Nicole Givens Kurtz and Rob R. Shelsky. Just listening made me realize that I wanted to know more about what they thought, to hear what they had to say because what they were sharing in a small space of time made SENSE. It sounded SANE, and damnit, they had a following and a stack of books to validate their experiences. While I realize that this is not always a mark of quality, it’s certainly something that should make you take notice and dig a little deeper. So I did. Wandering through the halls and perusing the writer’s tables, I chatted up Edmund R. Schubert, who invited me to lunch with them the next day. Being somewhat shy, I wasn’t sure I’d have the guts to go, but I said I’d try to attend.

The next panel that struck me was the “Learning to Write” panel with Theresa Bane, A.J. Hartley, Faith Hunter, David B. Coe, Harry Turtledove and Wendy S. Delmater. The only reason I chose a panel at 9am on a Saturday morning was because of those familiar names, and I’m so glad I hauled my butt out of bed and made it downstairs on time. I learned a lot, and while much of what they had to say was common sense, or things you’d figure out on your own with a little practice, it never hurts to hear it from the voices of authority…the ones sitting in front of you with a wall or stack of their own words in print to drive those points home. From that point on, I was ready to hear more. And I was ready to write more. In fact, I left that panel, went upstairs and wrote for 45 minutes, until my next activity – a writing workshop with Allan Wold focused on plotting and developing your story before you start writing. I think it was kismet, because this is something I know I need. Here, however, my genre preference and my twisted little mind felt a little out of place. The other attendees were coming up with wild SF/F plot lines and characters and I was digging around in my dark little brain brewing up a horror story a la the Little Fears RPG. I persevered though. I’ll probably still write the story I outlined once I finish the one I’m working on now. When I finished with the writing workshop, I knew I had to conquer the squirmy feeling in my gut and just go to the luncheon.

And what an awesome time I had there.

I got to talk to writers about writing, and about books and about beta-readers and audience and to hear from them what it’s really like to hang your whole life on the hook of a dream and live it out…even the ugly parts. Our table stretched halfway across the restaurant and there were so many people, they handed out numbered coasters just to keep track of everyone. I’d heard Kalayna Price speak the year before, and earlier in the day, but I really enjoyed talking to her (not to mention envying her corset), Stuart Jaffe and everyone else over lunch.

I’m not entirely ashamed to admit that I stalked them all across the panels for the remainder of the con and even managed to get them all to sign my brand-spankin’-new copy of their book. (SQUEE!)

How to Write Magical Words - Signed

After listening to them all morning and after lunch, I collected author and editor signatures....and then went and listened to them for another day and a half!

Since I got home, I’ve also gotten my new Magical Words username and password set up because my intent (*ahem* notice I said “intent” there…) is to be a more regular visitor, commenter and participator. I’m going to make yet another stab at conquering my iADD. I’m looking forward to reading more of what they have to say, and as soon as I get to their books in my TBR pile, I’ll try to get up a Something Like a Review along the way.

I’m glad I went. I’m already looking forward to next year, and hoping they’ll be there again…and maybe I’ll even have something of my own to share by then too. 🙂

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