Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Write Story, Place in Drawer (#IWSG June 2018)

I wrote a short story last month. It wasn't very good and it will probably never see the light of day, but it was the first one I've written in a long time (seven or eight months, for sure), so it was nice to finally get back into it.

Life has started to settle back into a routine. There's still plenty of bad stuff happening but we're learning to deal with it.

Oh and hey, in case you missed it, there was not one but TWO anthologies released in May featuring yours truly. I'm sure you've heard ad naseum about Tick Tock: A Stitch in Crime from our very own IWSG, but I'm contractually obligated to mention it in every blog post or conversation I have for the next six months. :-P What you might have missed though is STRANGELY FUNNY V, a new collection of comic supernatural tales from Mystery & Horror. It was released quietly a couple of weeks ago, and while the paperback is still forthcoming you can get the Kindle version from Amazon RIGHT NOW. I haven't read through all of this year's edition yet, but last year's was delightfully bonkers, which prompted even my usually stoic father to ask: "What the f*ck is this?"

It's funny, that's what it is.

Oh, and in case you want to read even more of my weird ramblings, last week I posted an interview on the official Tick Tock: A Stitch in Crime blog. It's the interview that was BANNED from a book review site earlier this year, so if you want to see for yourself what the fuss is about, be sure to check it out.

June 6 IWSG Question
What's harder for you to come up with, book titles or character names?

Book names, without a doubt. I actually mentioned in the interview from last week that I put about as much thought into character names as I do into what socks I should wear. Since I own fifty pairs of identical black socks, that amount of thought it exactly zero. It's how I end up with characters with names like Fistpunch, Thumb and Rat Bastard.

Book titles (and short story titles) on the other hand, provide me with no end of headaches. It took me weeks to come up with "Hell Comes to Hogtown," which in the end is joke that I find funny but probably only six people will get the references it comes from. Originally the title was supposed to be something along the line of "Come Into My Parlour" or "Spake the Spider to the Fly," but there are literally hundreds of other books out there with those titles, so I rightly chose to avoid it. I have a short story I've been shopping around for over a year and I think part of the problem is the name of it is stupid, but I can't think of anything better to call it.

To be fair, it's not THIS bad.

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The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Writers post their thoughts on their blogs, talking about their doubts and the fears they have conquered. It's a chance for writers to commiserate and offer a word of encouragement to each other. Check out the group at http://www.insecurewriterssupportgroup.com/.


Friday, May 25, 2018

Book Release: SOME VERY MESSY MEDIEVAL MAGIC by C. Lee McKenzie

Fellow Tick Tock: A Stitch in Crime contributor C. Lee McKenzie has a new book available that I think everyone should check out. If you love intricately-plotted fantasy with a bend toward younger readers, then this is definitely for you.

THE BOOK!



Pete’s stuck in medieval England!

Pete and his friend Weasel thought they’d closed the Time Lock. But a young page from medieval times, Peter of Bramwell, goes missing. His absence during a critical moment will forever alter history unless he’s found.

There’s only one solution - fledgling wizard Pete must take the page’s place. Accompanied by Weasel and Fanon, Pete’s alligator familiar, they travel to 1173 England.

But what if the page remains lost - will Pete know what to do when the critical moment arrives? Toss in a grumpy Fanon, the duke’s curious niece, a talking horse, and the Circle of Stones and Pete realizes he’s in over his young wizard head yet again...


Release date – May 15, 2018
Juvenile Fiction - Fantasy & Magic/Boys & Men
$13.95 Print ISBN 9781939844460
$3.99 EBook ISBN 9781939844477

THE AUTHOR!



C. Lee McKenzie has a background in Linguistics and Inter-Cultural Communication, but these days her greatest passion is writing for young readers. When she’s not writing she’s hiking or traveling or practicing yoga or asking a lot questions about things she still doesn’t understand. http://cleemckenziebooks.com

THE LINKS! 



Wednesday, May 23, 2018

STRANGELY FUNNY V NOW AVAILABLE!

Tick Tock: A Stitch in Crime is still chugging along strong, but I was surprised last night to discover that the other anthology featuring one of my stories, STRANGELY FUNNY V, is now available at Amazon!


I knew the publisher, Mystery & Horror, wanted to get it out before the end of May, but since I only saw the galleys last week I didn't think it was going to happen. But here they giving the people what they want and have clamoured for: More side-splitting stories of horror and weirdness!

The blurb: 

The sixth book in the Strangely Funny series. You have all heard tales of the phantom hitchhiker, but what about her parents? How do they feel after a few decades of boys showing up on their doorstep looking for their jackets? Take this journey with us and find out what club the Devil use for a short putt. Discover where werewolves retire when their muzzles turn gray.

Open the pages of Strangely Funny V and join authors Eldon Litchfield, Dan Foley, Juliet Boyd, and many more, as they explore the strange happenings that could be in your neighborhood.

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My contribution to the anthology is "The New Job," a story about an under-funded and under-staffed city department responsible for the extermination of "exotic supernatural pests." And by pests we of course mean ghosts. Hilarity and gore ensues.

Currently only the Kindle version is up on Amazon but the paperback should follow soon. Keep your eyes peeled!


Wednesday, May 9, 2018

STRANGELY FUNNY V COVER REVEAL!

I said I would have a story appearing in another anthology later this month, but I can't remember if I mentioned the name of it. Well, here I am now to reveal not only the title but also the cover of said anthology, and it's STRANGELY FUNNY V!


Strangely Funny is an annual anthology of comic supernatural and horror short stories published by Mystery and Horror, LLC. I actually had a story appear in last year's edition as well, and those who know my writing know it's a perfect fit - weird, creepy and funny fits my style exactly. 

Anyone who wants to check out last year's Volume 4, including my story, "Save or Die," about a fantasy adventure that goes terribly, terribly awry, can pick it up here.

I don't have a lot of details for Volume 5 except the cover and that it will be released in late May or early June. And it will be full of weird, funny stories! Previous volumes have included contributors such as Kevin J. Wetmore, DJ Tyrer, Edward Ahern and Jonathan Shipley. 

Not only do I have a story in this one, but you can also of course check me out in this one, too.

Friday, May 4, 2018

May the 4th Be With You (And Roll to Dodge)

NERD ALERT: This post is mostly about role-playing and table-top games, and features lots of stories of me playing with my friends when we were teenagers. Your interest in the topic may vary tremendously.

For those who don't care about RPG's, I throw in a few funny behind the scenes pictures from Star Wars. Those are always good for a laugh.


I wrote a long post last year on the 40th Anniversary of Star Wars so I won't bombard you with that again, nor will I get into a debate about whether The Last Jedi was good or not (I quite enjoyed it, and it's FAR from the worst Star Wars movie). I did want to at least recognize the passing of this most holy day on the Jedi calendar in some way, though.

Last year I mentioned that in my early teens my friends and I played a Star Wars role-playing game (think Dungeons & Dragons but with lasers and spaceships instead of swords and monsters) obsessively for about a year and a half. We were always playing something, but Star Wars was probably our favourite. We played at least 2 or 3 times a week after school, and any time I wasn't playing I was thinking of ideas for our next session. We played so hard I actually wore-out the hardcover rule book. I still have it, with a broken spine and a ripped cover and half the pages dog-eared and falling out.

This guy. Except my copy looks like something that was pulled out of a 1000-year-old urn at from the bottom of the Dead Sea.

There was a number of guys that cycled in an out of our group, and some memorable characters cycled in-and-out. The core gang was myself as game master and four players, who I think I mentioned in my last post. They started out as a gang of rough, travelling hobos and stoners who grew up to be famous heroes that changed the fate of the galaxy. The original characters were actually based on characters from The Stoned Age, a coming-of-age movie set in the 70s.

Our de-facto leader was Wookie Nookie, a 7-foot tall human who looked like Jim Morrison crossed with Jerry Garcia. He was a "Quixotic" Jedi, an old stoner who claimed he had learned the ways of the Force from Yoda back in the day but had been in hiding since the rise of the Empire. No one really believed him, but of course it turned out he actually was a Jedi and eventually became Luke Skywalker's right-hand-man in a new Jedi Academy decades later. Yes, he had a terrible name but remember, these characters all started out as stoner jokes.

This picture creeps me out for some reason.

His side-kick was a Jedi Apprentice named Kan Saga, who had learned a bit about the Force before losing his original teacher and being forced to follow Wookie's teaching. He was the young naive guy who was corrupted by Wookie in both the ways of the Force and lifestyle, but eventually both became powerful and respected Jedi Knights. But Kan was always itching to defeat a Dark Jedi in single combat, which leads us too...

Chris Bahn was our cocky but straight-laced pilot, a Rebel fighter ace who had such a broad story I don't even remember all the details. After helping the Rebellion win the war against the Empire he got married, had kids, ran a successful galaxy-wide shipping business and even found time to start training as a Jedi, too. He was never as powerful as Kan or Nookie, though, which ultimately led to him accidentally turning to the Dark Side. I say "accidentally" because it happened on a random, really unlucky roll (remember, this was actually a game with rules and dice). It could have been fixed but Kan Saga saw his chance to fight a Dark Jedi and immediately said "You're evil. I have to kill you!" and he did. It was an epic and heart-breaking conclusion to our years-long story arc and we pretty much stopped playing after that. I think Kan was actually probably the evil one in that situation, and perhaps the story warranted a sequel where Chris' daughter came looking for revenge, but we such resolution was never meant to be.

Little-known fact: Obi-Wan Kenobi was actually Luke Skywalker's babushka.

They flew around in Wookie's starship, The Blue Torpedo, which was a beat-up old shuttle that was only intended for one person, yet they regularly carried 4-8 people in it. It had a Blue Oyster Cult logo painted on the roof. They had a droid, a giant, obsolete repair droid they called Snot Rag that was completely useless and spoke in a Robbie-the-Robot voice. They gave it a blaster but it was so terrible with it there was a better chance of it shooting one of its allies than any stormtroopers. The players of course thought this was hilarious.

A few other players came and went through our adventures, including another Rebel pilot who kept a sex bot with him for those long, lonely, interstellar flights. Then there was an actual wookiee, who had an awesome and surprisingly mature story arc for a 15-year old where he disgraced himself in combat in order to save his friends and then had to go on a trial and a suicide quest on the wookiee homeworld to redeem himself. Of course he survived and everything was happy in the end, which was a hell of a lot better than Chris Bahn's fate. He recited the lyrics to Gowan's "A Criminal Mind" during the trial.

George Lucas is so pleased with himself.
She's not one of your special effect props, George!

We tried to go back and play Star Wars again last year, but it wasn't the same, even with a couple of the original players joining on Skype. Part of it is that the rules of the game felt clunky and weird (RPGs have evolved a lot in 25 years), but I could have adapted that, tweaking and fixing them over time. The bigger problem though was that we're not 14 anymore, and we don't have to play 10 or more hours a week, and live and dwell in our characters and stories all the time. We only played a handful of times, and the sessions were weeks or even months apart. And we were always distracted by other things. I really envy people who can still find time to have regular gaming sessions into their late 30s and beyond, because so far it hasn't worked for me.

Recently I started playing a very low-key "roleplaying game" with my 6 year old son. We use his LEGO Star Wars figures and roll dice to decide who wins fights. I even give him simple choices to let him decide how the story will go, or to make strategic choices about how his characters should handle problems. It's pretty primitive right now, but I hope as he gets a little older we can go even bigger. HE LOVES the idea of it, and has a fabulous imagination for making up characters and stories. He's been asking if his best friend from school can come over and play with us. One of his cousins is a little older and is way into fantasy and games, so I think we could recruit her as well. Maybe in the near future my gaming group will consist of me and a bunch of pre-teens. Is that weird?

They do not look impressed with the chaperons for their high school dance.

That post turned out to be way longer than I expected, and I don't even remember what my original point was. Something about Star Wars, and how it influenced my gaming (and story-telling) preferences, and continues to colour my life until this game.

Man, I put a lot of stock into that friggin' movie.

How would the story have been different if Luke accidentally hit the wrong button right here?

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Like A Screaming Hippo in a Bobsled (#IWSG May)

Every month I talk about (or at least hint about) all the shitty stuff going on in my life. Today I'm not going to do that. I'm going to be positive for once, and celebrate the release of TICK TOCK: A STITCH IN CRIME.

If you're reading this you're probably members of the IWSG, so I won't go into detail on the backstory of the anthology. Instead I'll just add that I'm proud of the story I contributed and have received great feedback on it so far. I'm also proud to be included with so many talented writers, and I want to say thank you to the judges, the folks at Dancing Lemur Press, and to Alex for making it all possible.

And here's something I don't usually do: share an excerpt from the story. If you like what you read, check it out and pick up your own copy. There are ten more great stories in the book even better than this one:



GUSSY SAINT AND THE CASE OF THE MISSING COED
by C.D. Gallant-King


As I awaited the inevitable impact, my mind wandered back to the day this investigation went downhill like a screaming hippo in a bobsled. The moment when I seriously started reconsidering my decision to be a private dick.

Rain fell in Mount Vernon. It always rained in Mount Vernon. The rest of the country was suffering through sub-arctic temperatures and enough snow to make an Inuit pack up his dogsled and move south for the winter, but if you looked out the window in Mount Vernon you'd swear Noah was going to buzz by on a jet ski any moment.

The rain was cold and chewed down deep into your bones like a junkie trying to bite through a baggie of heroin. I hated a rain like that. It always portended something terrible on the horizon, like spilling a baggie of heroin all over the toilet of a bus station restroom.

It was a place I’d found myself more than once that I hoped not to visit again.

I was a long way from that bus station restroom and the lifestyle that had driven me to the stoniest of rock bottoms. In many ways,  you can’t get away from that place—not completely—but I made improvements. I had steered clear of hard drugs and bus stations for nearly six years, though I replaced that addiction with liquor, gambling, and women.

I was sitting in my office, which was only slightly less filthy than the aforementioned restroom, with my shiny wing tips up on the desk and my chair tilted back to the point of toppling, lost in my thoughts around the biggest case of my life. I heard my new secretary's heels clicking across the tile in the outer office and it snapped me back to reality so fast I nearly ended up on the floor. That woman was probably the biggest score of my life, and I hadn't even slept with her yet.

I found her in a club downtown, drunk out of her mind and looking for a fight and a lay, and not necessarily in that order. Usually that's just the way I like my lady friends, but before I could move in another broad knocked over her drink and sparked off the most beautiful cat fight I'd ever seen. I’ll dream about those two gorgeous women rolling around on the floor, tearing at each other,  until the day I die.

It had taken all my pull and connections down at the precinct to get her off. By that I mean I had to get the police captain off—twice—which was a moderate challenge but not really much of a hardship. The girl was so happy not be going to jail or deported that she threw herself at my offer of a job. And of course, by that I mean I had to beg and plead with her to work for me and had to offer way more money than I can afford. It was worth it, though. It's  It was a little piece of heaven to have a nice pair of legs around the office, and the new bird had legs to die for.

She called herself George. I had no idea if that was her real name, and frankly I didn't give a damn. With legs like that she could call herself whatever she wanted...

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TICK TOCK: A STITCH IN CRIME is available in paperback or eBook format at any of the fine retailers below. We're currently working on converting it to smoke signals, stay tuned.



iTUNES

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The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Writers post their thoughts on their blogs, talking about their doubts and the fears they have conquered. It's a chance for writers to commiserate and offer a word of encouragement to each other. Check out the group at http://www.insecurewriterssupportgroup.com/.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Book Release: TICK TOCK: A STITCH IN CRIME!

It seems like it's been forever (actually it's only been about 4 months, which is pretty quick in the publishing world), but the TICK TOCK anthology is officially available today!

Observe.

In case you've been living under a rock these last four months (technically six months, since the submission deadline closed), Tick Tock: A Stitch in Time is a collection of eleven crime and mystery short stories all centered around the theme of time and clocks. Submissions came from the Insecure Writers Support Group, and the final stories were chosen by panel of authors, editors and agents from the mystery industry. The book is published by Dancing Lemur Press.

You'll see when reading the stories that "mystery" is a pretty broad category, and the individual tales venture into horror, cozy, supernatural, comedy and more, so there should be something for everyone in there. If you don't believe me, here's a picture of some random dude enjoying his copy:

Who the f*** does this guy think he is?

You can get your copy in paperback or eBook format at any of the fine retailers below:




And if you want to find out more about the stories and the writers involved, be sure to check out the Tick Tock Anthology website and blog.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

April Fools (#IWSG April)


Life sucks right now. Just setback after setback. I'll spare you the specific details, and try to find solace in a few positive writing-related events that are happening.

So not only is Tick Tock: A Stitch in Crime less than a month from release (pre-order it right here!), I just signed the contract for another anthology that will be released in a couple of months. That's pretty exciting, and I'll have the full news of the release as soon as I'm allowed to share it.

Other big news? Remember the #IWSGPit Twitter Pitch party back in January? Not only did someone request sample chapters for my book, but they just followed up and asked for the complete manuscript. Obviously that doesn't mean anything yet, but just the fact that someone enjoyed it enough to request the full manuscript is pretty amazing, and gives me hope that I'm not completely wasting my time.

I'll be honest, I've been too busy and tired to really appreciate it, but someone requested the complete manuscript.

Holy shit.

It's weird. As crummy and difficult life has been lately, there are odd little glimmers of light in writing.

Don't Forget to check out the Tick Tock: A Stitch in Crime blog!

And make to sure like the Tick Tock Facebook page to get all the latest updates!


April 4 Question
When your writing life is a bit cloudy or filled with rain, what do you do to dig down and keep on writing?

This is a tough question, because I haven't done any writing in quite awhile. Life has just been too hard and there hasn't been time. In the past, I've sometimes forced myself to go on because writing fulfills a part of brain that just makes me feel terrible if I don't exercise it. Lately I've been thinking I need to write something, anything, even if it's just a paragraph here and there, in order to keep my sanity.



The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Writers post their thoughts on their blogs, talking about their doubts and the fears they have conquered. It's a chance for writers to commiserate and offer a word of encouragement to each other. Check out the group at http://www.insecurewriterssupportgroup.com/.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

BOOK RELEASE: Death by Adverb by Rebecca Douglass

Today is the official release for the latest entry in the Pismawallops Mystery series, "DEATH BY ADVERB" by Rebecca M. Douglass. I love the title, and the book looks fabulous. In honour of this momentous occasion, I turn my blog over to Rebecca to give you all the details of this latest thrilling caper, so that you can do yourself a favour and grab your very own copy of DEATH BY ADVERB. Take it away, Rebecca!
THE BOOK!
Title: Death By Adverb (Pismawallops PTA Mysteries #3)
Author: Rebecca M. Douglass
Genre: Cozy mystery
Ebook: 85,000 words
Paperback:   approx. 285 pages
Death By Adverb (Pismawallops PTA #3)


JJ MacGregor’s having a rotten summer. Her arm’s in a cast, her jeans are too tight, and her son is spending his vacation with his dad. To make matters worse, her relationship with Police Chief Ron Karlson is up in the air and they haven’t spoken since June. Maybe the only good thing is that she’s got a writing job at last. Wilmont Charleston-Rutherford want her to help him with his memoirs, and JJ doesn’t care if he’s making it all up. All she has to do to make some much-needed money is keep her mouth shut and fix some of the worst prose she’s ever seen.

Of course, keeping her mouth shut isn’t JJ’s strong point. When she loses her temper so does her boss, and she’s back to job-hunting. That’s bad enough, but when Wilmont Charleston-Rutherford turns up dead, everyone remembers JJ fought with him. About the time the police are wondering if JJ might have tried to avenge the English language, her sewer backs up, and the dead man’s missing daughter shows up on her doorstep—only to disappear again before morning. JJ has her work cut out for to find the girl, the killer, and a new septic tank before anyone else dies—but at least the murder has her talking to Ron again.


THE AUTHOR!

Rebecca Douglass was raised on an Island in Puget Sound only a little bigger than Pismawallops, and remembers well the special aspects of island life.  She now lives and writes in the San Francisco Bay Area, and can be found on-line at www.ninjalibrarian.com and on Facebook as The Ninja Librarian.  In addition to the Pismawallops PTA Mysteries (Death By Ice Cream and Death By Trombone), her books include three Ninja Librarian book, tall tales for all ages, and the humorous middle-grade fantasy Halitor the Hero.  Rebecca is a long-time volunteer and servant of her local schools, now due to retire (and seek now opportunities to serve).  She spends her free time bicycling, gardening, reading, and supporting her grown sons. For a vacation she likes nothing better than hiking, camping and backpacking.

THE LINKS!

THE EXCERPT!
  
“What the—hey, watch that thing!” I yelled as the man in white brought his saw toward my immobilized arm.

Nurse Chu patted my shoulder comfortingly, but she didn’t loosen her grip on the casted limb she held against the table.

“Don’t worry, Ms. MacGregor,” she said, “The doctor hardly ever slips and cuts off anyone’s arm.”

I swallowed hard, reminding myself that these were medical professionals. Despite appearances, they weren’t planning to torture me, cut off my arm, or damage me in any way. I was in the Pismawallops Clinic getting the cast off my broken arm at last, a happy event.

I cringed anyway as the saw started to cut the plaster. “Easy there,” I said, trying to sound like I was joking. “My insurance runs out in a couple of months, and I need to be healthy when that happens!” In fact, I was doing plenty of worrying about insurance. Once my coverage under my ex-husband’s policy ran out, I was going to be scrambling to make payments on even the cheapest insurance. It was worth it, to be free of the man I thought of as pond scum, but I still worried. I fixed my gaze on the educational poster on the wall in front of me, and resolutely ignored the whining saw.

Dr. Salisbury finished cutting the cast loose and peeled the remains away. I stopped staring at the poster enjoining me to wash my hands and avoid the flu, and looked at the thing lying on the table.

The exposed arm looked white and dead, and I wasn’t sure it was attached to me.

THE SALE!

For those of you who need to catch up on the Pismawallops Mystery series, the first two books are on sale at Amazon for JUST 99 CENTS! Seriously, you cannot let a deal like this pass you buy, so go check it out.

Have I mentioned that I love this cover? Because I love this cover.



The sale is on until the end of April. DON'T MISS IT!

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Ups and Downs (#IWSG March 2018)



March IWSG Question 
How do you celebrate when you achieve a writing goal/ finish a story?

This is going to sound super dumb, but I celebrate by starting the next one.

I have so many ideas for stories in my head and I just want to get to all of them. After I've been working on something for a long time my mind starts to wander to the next project, and the revising and editing on the current WIP just becomes a drag. So finally finishing a project (as finished as it can ever be) and moving onto something new and fresh is very exciting and invigorating. Starting a new story is my favourite part of writing - everything is so full of promise and possibility, a long way off from the miserable pile of dreck it's going to become.

#

So I haven't done much writing or blogging so far in 2018, which I knew was going to happen. I make a point of hammering out the IWSG posts though, just so I don't lose my cherry spot on the sign-up list (currently at #93!).

I do however have a couple of bits of writing-related news. First the good - remember that story I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, that I found out was short-listed in a new anthology back in December? Well, they officially accepted it earlier this week! That will be my second acceptance this year, so I'm on a bit of a roll.

Since I don't have time to write any new stories, my roll will probably end right there, but hey, 2 for 2 ain't bad.

I'll have more details when I get them, and when I know I'm allowed to share.

As for the second bit of news...

From the highest high to the lowest low...

I was asked to submit one of those author interviews to a review blog as we all have done from time to time, only for them to reject it when they realized that I tend to write stories with vulgar language and mature content. I was mildly annoyed because I had stayed up late and rushed to get the interview in on time (as I mentioned, my writing time is nil), but mostly I just have to laugh. For those keeping score, this is the second time the content of my writing has gotten me kicked out of something. Remember last year when I was the first book eliminated from the Self-Published Fantasy Blog Off because of a crass joke? I guess I'm developing a bit of a reputation. If only I could harness it for publicity.

I think I'm probably travelling in the wrong circles. I know my audience is out there somewhere, I just need to find it find the time to find it.

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The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Writers post their thoughts on their blogs, talking about their doubts and the fears they have conquered. It's a chance for writers to commiserate and offer a word of encouragement to each other. Check out the group at http://www.insecurewriterssupportgroup.com/.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

January/February Audiobook Reviews

Between my messed up work schedule and new job, I haven't had nearly as much time to listen to audiobooks lately. I have racked up a few over the last two months or so, so I thought I'd share my thoughts now.

Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome, read by Hugh Laurie

This book came out nearly 130 years ago, and the jokes still work. It's incredible. Sure it's a certain style of British humour that may not be to everyone's taste, but it fits mine precisely. This was obviously an influence on P.G. Wodehouse, and on later modern British authors like Terry Pratchett and Douglas Adams (see below). Originally intended as a serious travel book, the story of three young gentlemen (to say nothing of the dog) getting away from the city for a few days quickly devolves into pure comedy. Some of the passages, like the three men trying to open a tin of pineapples without an opener, or the recommendation of cheese as a travelling companion, had me in stitches. You can still see the origins of the book, though, and there are some beautiful, poetic passages about the English countryside as well as accurate descriptions of places the group visits during their holiday. Many of the locations you can still visit - in fact all of the inns and pubs mentioned in the book are still open today. England loves their old drinking holes, it would seem.

Perhaps the only drawback is that Hugh Laurie (of House, MD fame) is, surprisingly, not a great narrator. He talks very fast and his breathing is very distracting. He rattles off several lines of text in a heartbeat and then takes in huge gulps of air. I know that's his comedy style but it's annoying in an audiobook. He should take lessons from his old buddy, Stephen Fry (also see below).

Inferno by Dan Brown, read by Paul Michael
I have a strange relationship with Dan Brown. When The DaVinci Code hit big years ago I railed against it - how could such a poorly-written, formulaic book based on decades-old knowledge for its "shocking revelations" become such a huge success? I even wrote a play about how terrible it was (I was a weird theatre kid).

As time went on, though, I softened on Brown and The DaVinci Code significantly. The book is not that bad, it's perfectly fine and has a great pace. I can't fault an author for his success. If I wrote anything even a fraction as popular and competently written, I would milk it for all it's worth, too. It helped that I went back and read Angels & Demons, which I actually really enjoyed. But then The Lost Symbol came out, which was terrible, so I kinda forgot about Brown and the adventures of Doctor Robert Langdon.

It took me awhile to get to Inferno, and now that I have... eh, all I can say is that it's not as bad as The Lost Symbol, which is barely a compliment. It follows exactly the same formula as the other books: great, page-turning pace; ridiculous, barely-plausible technology; a trusted ally who betrays the hero; "shocking" revelations that really aren't that shocking if you've read a book in the last 30 years; a mad villain who isn't really "wrong," and I'm totally confused if we're supposed to side with him or not.

The villain in Inferno, in particular, was absolutely fucking right, and I think all the other characters realized that at the end because the big revelation of his evil plan was handled with kind of a "meh, whatever." Like, when everyone was trying to figure out how to deal with the execution of his master plan, no one really seemed to care or question what it all meant.

Part of the problem might be that this was an abridged version of the story, so maybe there was some necessary philosophical debate that was left on the cutting room floor. I know the editing also caused other issues as some characters and plotlines disappeared from the story with no explanation.

The narrator was fine. He tried to be really fancy with foreign accents, but my only comment of note is that he's terrible at female voices. He seemed unable to emote when using a female voice, so all the female characters came off bland and emotionless.

Huh, I guess finding stuff to pick apart in a book gives you lots more to write about. But beside all that, my overall review is that the book is "fine," except for one particular line which made me guffaw out loud. At one point, when discussing the female lead's backstory, she said that while in college she took a "part-time acting job to earn extra money." Coming from a theatre background, that's the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard. Unless the job was acting in porn, that should have been the clue to tip the hero off that she was a bold-faced liar (sorry, spoiler).

Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams, read by Stephen Fry
The Restaurant at the End of the Universe / Life, The Universe, and Everything read by Martin Freeman

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is one of my favourite books. Its absurd, ridiculous British humour is exactly my cup of tea. If you're not familiar with it, go read it/listen to it immediately. If you don't like it, well, then we can't be friends.

Upon listening to the first three parts (of this five-part trilogy), I've come to several conclusions:
1. Stephen Fry is a much better narrator than Hugh Laurie. I compare them because they're of course former partners in the comedy duo Fry & Laurie, but really, it's not fair to compare anyone to Stephen Fry in the narration department.
2. While Martin Freeman is not as good a narrator as Fry, he IS Arthur Dent. And I'm not just saying that because he played Arthur Dent in the film version of the book; he was obviously cast as Arthur because he embodies the hapless, naive-yet-snarky, everyman quality of Arthur perfectly (it's also why he's great in roles such as Bilbo Baggins in The Hobbit and John Watson in Sherlock).
3. The audio quality of Freeman's books is not great. The gain is too low, it's distorted (because I have to turn it up so loud to hear it) and you can even hear him turning the pages of his script at times. Most of the books I've listened to have had perfect audio, I don't know why this one was so iffy.
4. I think Restaurant at the End of the Universe is my favourite book in the series. Adams really hits his stride here. I won't spoil it, and it takes a bit to set up, but the whole joke about sending all the useless people (including advertising executives, human resources managers and telephone cleaners) into space had me laughing so hard I nearly drove off the road. The best line in the series, however, comes in Life, The Universe, and Everything:

"There is an art to flying, or rather a knack. The knack lies in learning how to throw yourself at the ground, and miss.” 

Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James, read by Becca Battoe

I couldn't do it. I listened for about 2 hours and nothing sexy happened. All I got was terrible, juvenile, awkward prose. I cannot waste 20 hours of my life listening to this.

Is E.L. James 13 years old? Because she writes like she's 13 years old, and the narrator reads her like she's 13 years old. It's maddening. It's like listening to a teenager on the telephone telling her friend about the cute boy she met. Maybe if I was reading it and I could just skim to the sexy parts, it wouldn't be so bad. Except now I'm going to picture the lead as a 13-year old and it will just be creepy and weird. I give up.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

It Was A Month (#IWSG February 2018)

My wife's surgery went well. Actual recovery is a long and hard process. Life is hectic. It's a struggle to balance everything, and in case it wasn't hectic enough I also took a promotion at work. I'm actually kinda torn about it because it's a lot more work and part of me feels I need to move on to something different, but the money is just too much to pass up right now.

There is not enough hours in the day for everything and I'm just waiting for something to fall apart.

Writing of course has been non-existent. The folks from the Stitch in Crime anthology have been hard at work planning promotion for the book, preparing blogs and Facebook pages and interviews and all that jazz, and I've barely had time follow the messages, let alone help out with anything. I'm really crossing my fingers that in a month or two things will settle down into a more regular routine and life can get back into some semblance of order. Of course, I've been saying that for the last six months, but eventually it has to be true, right?

While I'm thinking about it, though, you have all checked out the Stitch in Crime blog, right?

And what about the Facebook page?

And of course, while the book comes out May 1st, you know you pre-order it RIGHT NOW, right?
Available May 1st!

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February Question:
What do you love about the genre you in most often?

I think I've said this before, but I write fantasy mostly because I can just make everything up. It's not even that I don't like doing research - I quite like it, actually - but I hate writing something that someone will inevitably say "That's not how it works!" Well, if everything happens in a made-up world that I created, then PFFFT, too bad, it works exactly the way I say it does.

Of course, my story in Stitch in Crime is actually set in the real world, without any fantasy elements at all. It's a gritty noir thriller, or as gritty as I ever get, anyway. Also, unlike most of my stories, it's not set in Canada, but in the exotic and seedy urban metropolis of Mount Vernon, Washington. I actually had to do a tiny bit of research to look up some street and business names in Mount Vernon, but I'm sure someone is going to point out inaccuracies. I assume there are tens of thousands of people from Mount Vernon who read this blog.

A wretched hive of scum and villainy.

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The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Writers post their thoughts on their blogs, talking about their doubts and the fears they have conquered. It's a chance for writers to commiserate and offer a word of encouragement to each other. Check out the group at http://www.insecurewriterssupportgroup.com/.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

2018 Starts Off On A High Note (#IWSG January 2018)

Holy crap, it's 2018.

For those paying attention, my story "Gussy Saint and the Case of the Missing Coed" was selected as a winner in the IWSG 2017 Anthology Contest! I was definitely not expecting that. The official announcement was just this morning, but I found out about two weeks ago, and along with finding out on Christmas Day that another of my stories had been shortlisted for another anthology, it was a couple of nice little surprises to end an otherwise very shitty year.


I would like to thank the IWSG Admin staff, the folks at Dancing Lemur Press and the panel of judges for choosing my story. It's a great honour, as I'm sure there were tons of other great works to pick from. I don't have a lot of details on the book yet other than it's being published in the Spring, so if you want to get all the news straight from the horse's mouth, as well as the full list of contributing authors, make sure to check out the IWSG Blog.

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On a personal note, for those wondering my wife is going in for surgery on Friday, and my father-in-law starts his chemo today. Wish us luck.

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JANUARY IWSG QUESTION: What steps have you taken or plan to take to put a schedule in place for your writing and publishing?

Currently my writing schedule is "whenever I can," which usually amounts to my lunch breaks at work, at 11:00pm after everyone else goes to bed, and sometimes at 6:00am on Saturday morning. I don't recommend it.

So far, my publishing schedule has been equally erratic (mostly because of my terrible writing schedule). I don't put out books & stories regularly, nor do I even write in consistent series or even genres. So yeah, I don't recommend that, either.

In fact, don't do anything I do. Except submit stories to the IWSG Anthology contests. That's obviously a good idea.

The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Writers post their thoughts on their blogs, talking about their doubts and the fears they have conquered. It's a chance for writers to commiserate and offer a word of encouragement to each other. Check out the group at http://www.insecurewriterssupportgroup.com/.

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