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MANY TORTURES on #sffwrtcht!

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Tomorrow night (Weds, July 30th), I’ll be the featured guest on the Science Fiction Writer’s Chat (#sffwrtcht) on Twitter, to talk about the motivation behind THE MANY TORTURES OF ANTHONY CARDNO, approaching the authors about donating the stories, editing my heroes (Jay Lake), and walking that fine line between “vanity project” and “charity project.”

The chat starts at 9pm Eastern / 8pm Central / 6pm Eastern. If you have a Twitter account, log in, search for hashtag #sffwrtcht, and follow along.  If you don’t have a Twitter account … well, isn’t this a great reason to create one (however temporarily) and ask me some questions?

In fact, here’s the link to the #sffwrtcht Twitter feed, to make it even easier for you.

And if you don’t already have a print or Kindle copy of the book, here’s the pesky link again to buy it!

catching up

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In the craziness of releasing and promoting the charity anthology, I haven't posted much here -- no book reviews, no personal updates. So let's catch up a bit, shall we?

I was supposed to go to Readercon last weekend. I had the membership purchased, had the hotel room booked, and was planning on officially releasing THE MANY TORTURES OF ANTHONY CARDNO by selling print copies at the Crossed Genres and Lethe Press tables (and much thanks to Bart Leib, Kay Holt, and Steve Berman for graciously offering me table space). In the few days leading up to the convention, though, my depression took hold in a serious way.  I was still intending to bull through it in order to be able to promote/sell the book ... until I learned my print copies wouldn't arrive in time (because I'd misread the estimated arrival date when I placed the order) and knew that we wouldn't have the ebook editions ready to go in time (because Bear does have a real life outside of helping me get this book into the world, and he's donated all of his time and effort). That spiked the depression big time. And then the car started making noises that made me think perhaps driving to Boston and back was not a good choice for it. So I decided to stay home. I was able to cancel the hotel reservation without losing money, so all I really lost was the con registration fee, which wasn't all that high.

The books I'd ordered did arrive on Friday, but are misprinted (which I knew was a possibility because I ordered them before we'd had a chance to review the proof copy). Those misprints are going to the contributors as "thank yous" for donating their words and work. I've ordered a properly-printed batch to take to PulpFest the first weekend in August in Columbus, OH.

So I stayed home from Readercon, and I slept most of Thursday and Friday. I'd been putting way too much pressure on myself, and something clearly needed to give. I have learned not to feel guilty about these sleeping jags. They happen because they need to, and guilt defeats the purpose. Saturday, I visited my sister and the kids and we met my cousin and her kids and parents and my friend Michelle at the fire department fair in Mahopac, my home town. That was fun, and much needed family time.

The "I'm home for most of July" thing didn't last, either. I'm in Hartford CT today and tomorrow (drove here last night after being down with a headache all day) for work. I'm home over the weekend and Mon-Tues, then I'm gone for work for a week and a half. Three days in Tulsa, followed by a full week in Dallas. At least I will get to see my Crazy Writer Ladies of DFW over the course of the week.

A lot of folks have been signal-boosting for the charity anthology (which you can purchase in print HERE for the time being), so I'd like to return the favor:

Barry Mangione, lead singer for The Dalliance and creator of the audience-interactive performance The Graft, has relaunched his Kickstarter to publish his book No Easy Answers. No Easy Answers is not a traditional self-help book, nor it is a traditional memoir of addiction; it's somewhere between the two and something more. This book deserves a larger audience, and a successful Kickstarter will help create that audience. Check out the project and back it if you can.

My friends Reverse Order have a new dance single out, "Set Me On Fire," which you can hear on ReverbNation and buy on itunes.

Many Tortures has gone live!

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Well, folks, the charity anthology has gone live and is available for purchase!

Right now, it's only up on Amazon in print form; before the week is out (and possibly before the weekend is over), we'll have the Kindle edition up, as well as print available through Barnes & Noble and other outlets.

Remember: ALL proceeds from this (in other words, every cent above the printing cost through CreateSpace) goes to the American Cancer Society. All 22 authors, the cover and interior artists, the proofreaders ... everyone donated their words and work so that every cent possible will go to ACS through the Relay For Life I'm a part of.  If you can afford to purchase, please do. Even if you can't, please boost the signal as far and wide as you can.

Here's the link for purchasing from Amazon.

I'll come back and add other links as they become available.

TMToAC-Front

rejections

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Is it bad that short story rejection letters from publishers no longer surprise me? My reaction is more of a “yep, saw that coming” even when I know the story fit the magazine’s or anthology’s open call guidelines. Not that the rejections don’t add to already existing depression, which has been heavy the past week. But the rejections aren’t a trigger anymore.


goddammit

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Man, do I go through life with blinders on. It’s one of the reasons my finances have always been a mess – I don’t think about long-term ramifications.

I just realized, after reading the same email from CreateSpace a dozen times since I placed my order on Sunday night mind you, that the delivery was estimated as being Wednesday July 16th, NOT July 9th. So that’s next week, AFTER Readercon, not tomorrow, BEFORE Readercon. So the purchase of expedited shipping was a waste, because I didn't read carefully.

That sucks.

My car also needs to go into the shop and really should not be making a long distance trip to Boston. Another thing I’ve been ignoring.

The good news just piles up.

Yes, compared to homelessness/illness/joblessness, these are minor First World problems. But my brain chemistry works the way it works, and right now all I want to do is shut out the world and go back to sleep. I’m at work, so I can’t/won’t. But I’d really like to.

what's going on

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I could blame lack of productivity on anything else on the charity anthology, but the fact is it's a combo of that and waves of just utter disinterest in doing anything productive. It happens. I've come to accept those "sleep a whole day away" or "just stare at Facebook playing Scrabble" times as my own body/brain telling me I'm putting too much pressure on myself. Which I do.

Had a fun 4th of July weekend with friends. Fireworks on the day, natch. Sunday was a Game of Thrones season three marathon with other friends.

Theoretically, I'll have copies of the charity anthology at Readercon this weekend, but I grow skeptical. Shipment supposed to arrive tomorrow but CreateSpace hasn't shipped yet as far as I can tell.

2014 Book 48: Tales of Jack the Ripper

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Book 48: Tales of Jack the Ripper edited by Ross E. Lockhart,  isbn: 9781939905000, Word Horde, 245 pages, $15.99

The Premise: (from Goodreads page) 1888: A killer stalks the streets of London’s Whitechapel district, brutally—some would say ritualistically—murdering women. With each slaying, the killer grows bolder, his crimes more extreme. So far, there have been five victims (that we know of): Mary Ann Nichols, Annie Chapman, Elizabeth Stride, Catherine Eddowes, and Mary Jane Kelly. The story of Jack the Ripper captured lurid headlines and the public’s imagination, and the first fictionalization of the Ripper killings, John Francis Brewer’s The Curse Upon Mitre Square appeared in October of 1888, mere weeks after the discovery of Jack’s first victim. Since then, hundreds of stories have been written about Bloody Jack, his victims, and his legacy. Authors ranging from Marie Belloc Lowndes to Robert Bloch; from Harlan Ellison to Maureen Johnson; from Roger Zelazny to Alan Moore have added their own tales to the Ripper myth. Now, as we arrive at the quasquicentennial of the murders, we bring you a few tales more. From the editor who brought you The Book of Cthulhu comes Tales of Jack the Ripper, featuring new fiction by many of today’s darkest dreamers, including Laird Barron, Walter Greatshell, Silvia Moreno-Garcia, Ed Kurtz, Joseph S. Pulver Sr., Stanley C. Sargent, E. Catherine Tobler, and many more.


My Rating: Four stars out of five


My Thoughts: Is there anyone who reads genre fiction who isn't in some way interested in, if not obsessed with, Jack the Ripper? Jack, or versions of him, has appeared in mystery fiction, science fiction, fantasy and of course horror ... and I wouldn't be surprised to learn he's appeared in western stories too. Lockhart's volume contains only five reprinted stories; the remainder are new additions to the lore of Bloody Jack. Some are about Jack himself, some about his legacy. Some are stronger than others. But I suspect any Ripperologist (to steal the title of Orrin Grey's story) will find multiple reasons to enjoy this anthology. The book begins and ends with poems by Ann K. Schwader. The volume's prose starts with one of many stories that reveals Jack as a real, flawed, human ("A Host of Shadows" by Alan M. Clark and Gary A. Braunbeck), followed by one of the many that paints Jack as a malevolent spirit infecting individuals ("Jack's Little Friend" by Ramsey Campbell). These two stories set the tone of the book: dark and with a bit of a split personality, just like the legend that inspired it.  The reason most of these tales are so effective is that any one of them could be true. Again, as Orrin Grey has a character say in his tale, "No theory, no proof, will ever quench men's thirst for the Ripper legend, because the Ripper can never be contained by any one suspect, or conspiracy, or narrative."

Since I post individual story reviews on my livejournal short story community (http://365shortstories.livejournal.com/), I won't go into details here, but I will list the stories that most stuck with me weeks after reading them. Clearly, Orrin Grey's "Ripperology," as I've referenced it so many times, is a favorite. I also have to call out the original stories Silvia Moreno-Garcia's "Abandon All Flesh," Ennis Drake's "The Butcher, The Baker, the Candlestick-Maker," E. Catherine Tobler's "Once November," Laird Barron's "Termination Dust" and Ed Kurtz's "Hell Broke Loose" as particularly effective each in its own way, as well as the reprints of Joe R. Lansdale's "The God of the Razor."  And I know my fellow fans of Philip Jose Farmer's Wold Newton concept will particularly enjoy Pete Rawlik's "Villains, be Necessity," which plays the crossover game so very well but feels like only half of a story.

2014 Book 47: Young Avengers Volume 3

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Book 47: Young Avengers Volume 3: Mic-Drop at the Edge of Time and Space by Kieron Gillen and Jamie McElvie (with others),  isbn: 9780785185307, Marvel Comics, 256 pages, $15.99

The Premise: (from the Goodreads page): They say you can never go home. For the Young Avengers, that's not true. They can go home — it's just that if they do, the universe may end. The team takes on the gig to save reality, but is Kate Bishop an enemy in waiting? Will Noh-Varr get an arrow through the head? And is this the end of the loveable/strangle-able Kid Loki? As the Young Avengers take on "the Young Avengers," Loki's scheme reaches its final twist — and the Young Avengers' jaws hit the floor. Then, the team gathers in a nightclub for a string of connected and overlapping stories illustrated by an all-star cast of people we really like. And as the New Year looms, the Young Avengers get a resolution — and so do you. Plus: Kissing! Drama! Conflict! Kissing! (Collecting YOUNG AVENGERS (2013) #11-15.)


My Rating: Four stars out of five


My Thoughts: It's always nice when the creators of a monthly comic series have enough warning to wrap up their lead plot and all of their subplots in what feels like an organic manner. This final volume of the trilogy wraps all of Gillen's storylines up nicely, and at least implies that Gillen & McElvie knew all along that 15 issues was all they were getting.  Everything comes together in the effort to finally stop Mother from destroying the team and the Earth. The journey to this point, told in the previous volumes, may have felt both rushed and convoluted at points, but the climax of the story is solidly paced with plenty of character growth, including a great pair of end scenes (one with the team, one with Loki) that made me chuckle and say "awwww, how sweet" while at the same time realizing just how far comics have come that a book can have a cast composed mostly of non-straight characters and still be widely praised. Not for that reason alone is this one of my favorite rosters for the YA since the original roster (although I do still miss Cassie Lang, Patriot and Teen Vision).

Throughout the issues collected here, McElvie's art continues to push the standard comic book borders in concert with Gillen's script calling for sections of the story to be told in text, tweet or Tumblr post format rather than the comics standard. In retrospect, writer and artist really made for a solid team on this book, and one wishes they could have kept at it for a while longer. (I'm guessing the end-date was mandated by Marvel to fit with their plans for the no-longer-Kid Loki's solo book, as well as in preparation/response to whatever Crossover Event was happening at the time.) McElvie's work here makes you pay attention. Not every current comics artist achieves that, regardless of the level of detail in their art.

2014 Book 46: Borderline

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Book 46: Borderline  by Lawrence Block,  isbn: 9781781167779, Hard Case Crime, 256 pages, $9.95

The Premise: (from the Goodreads page): THE SCORCHING PULP NOVEL BY LAWRENCE BLOCK, AVAILABLE FOR THE FIRST TIME IN 50 YEARS! On the border between El Paso, Texas, and Juarez, Mexico, five lives are about to collide - with fatal results. You'll meet  MARTY - the professional gambler who rolls the dice on a night with...  MEG - the bored divorcee who seeks excitement and finds...  LILY - the beautiful hitchhiker lured into a live sex show by... CASSIE - the redhead with her own private agenda...
and WEAVER - the madman, the killer with a straight razor in his pocket, on the run from the police and determined to go down swinging! This is MWA Grand Master Lawrence Block at his rawest and most visceral, a bloody, bawdy, brutal story of passion and punishment--and of lines that were never meant to be crossed.

My Rating: Four stars

My Thoughts: Lawrence Block is now so well-known as the creator of series characters Matthew Scudder, Bernie Rhodenbarr and Evan Tanner that people forget his early years as an author were spent writing material that sat firmly in the soft-core porn realm. Unlike a lot of authors who would prefer those early, pseudonymous, works remain lost, Block has been gleefully bringing everything he’s ever written back in print, from stamp-collecting columns to sex advice manuals to pulp/porn like this book. Some of it Block has self-pubbed in ebook format, and some he’s allowed Charles Ardai and the other good folks at Hard Case Crime to bring back in print. This edition includes the short novel described above (originally published in paperback as Border Lust 50 years ago) and three other short stories from the same period.

Borderline itself is exactly what it purports to be: an ensemble piece that hinges on the sexual appetites of the characters. As such, it moves fast and doesn’t delve too deep. The five main characters are well-drawn and distinct enough that they feel like real people instead of just porn archetypes. I might not particularly have liked Marty, Lily, or Meg (I don’t think Block intends you to like them, honestly), but at least I wasn’t bored by them; Block’s penchant for making even unlikeable characters interesting is what set his books in this realm apart from most of what was published (and subsequently lost) in the genre at the time. The newly-minted serial killer Weaver is the darkest aspect of the novel, and in Weaver’s scenes Block pulls no punches – the violence is raw and brutally described and little is left to the imagination; my stomach lurched in one particular scene. Only Cassie, the redhead, feels like a one-note character present mostly to move the plot along – and that could be because of the five main characters, Cassie is the only one not given her own POV scenes; all we know about her we learn through Lily’s eyes.

The back half of the book contains three short stories of the period. One is about a pyromaniac, one is about a meet-cute in a roadside bar, and one is a straight-up private detective story. The first two have sexual components to them (one emotional, one overt) that link them at least thematically with the main novel. The third,”The Stag Girl,” does a nice job of teasing the reader with ‘will they or won’t they’ at least in terms of one particular couple, but otherwise the mystery is the main point of the story. Slightly more detailed reviews of the three stories can be found here.

2014 Book 45: Hammered

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Book 45: Hammered (Iron Druid Chronicles, Book 3)  by Kevin Hearne,  isbn: 9780345522481, Del Ray, 336 pages, $7.99

The Premise: (from the Amazon description): Thor, the Norse god of thunder, is worse than a blowhard and a bully—he’s ruined countless lives and killed scores of innocents. After centuries, Viking vampire Leif Helgarson is ready to get his vengeance, and he’s asked his friend Atticus O’Sullivan, the last of the Druids, to help take down this Norse nightmare. One survival strategy has worked for Atticus for more than two thousand years: stay away from the guy with the lightning bolts. But things are heating up in Atticus’s home base of Tempe, Arizona. There’s a vampire turf war brewing, and Russian demon hunters who call themselves the Hammers of God are running rampant. Despite multiple warnings and portents of dire consequences, Atticus and Leif journey to the Norse plain of Asgard, where they team up with a werewolf, a sorcerer, and an army of frost giants for an epic showdown against vicious Valkyries, angry gods, and the hammer-wielding Thunder Thug himself.

My Rating: Four stars out of five (Really 3.5 out of 5, but Goodreads doesn’t allow half-stars and I’m trying to keep blog and GR entries consistent)

My Thoughts: A third installment that feels like a final installment. One gets the impression reading Hammered that Kevin Hearne wasn’t really sure Del Ray would publish more than three books, so he ties up a number of characterizational and plot threads from Hounded and Hexed in this book, Atticus’ debts to Leif Helgarson and to the witch Laksha being the biggest and most tied to the main action of the book. There is some lip-service mid-book and again at the end towards setting up where Atticus would go from here should the series continue (which it did, with book 7 just recently coming out in hardcover). In the first half of the book, Atticus ties up a lot of his personal loose ends just in case he’s not going to survive the trip to Asgard, and he’s visited by a number of well-meaning supernatural friends who try to warn him off of the course of action he’s undertaking (at least one cameo made me chuckle out loud, and I don’t want to ruin that appearance for anyone).

Atticus’ devotion to being honorable, to keeping his word, gets him into a load of trouble throughout the book and at least once puts him in an untenable situation that doesn’t necessarily resolve satisfactorily for the reader (involving the fate of one of the Norse goddesses); I’ve seen a number of reviews that concur with me on this point but again, giving details would count as a spoiler. I’m hoping this decision of Atticus’ is revisited later in the series, that he realizes just how bad of a call it was (even if it might have turned out okay in the end) even under the guise of “do anything to keep my word.”

In fact, in comparison to the fairly light-hearted, often outright humorous, tone of the first two books, Hammered is almost completely dark. The few funny moments are, as I mentioned, chuckle-out-loud funny, but they are very few. From the start, author and Atticus alike know this is a bad path to walk down: bad choices bring Atticus to even worse choices. Knowing the series has continued, I can only assume the repercussions of this are felt. In my review of Hexed, I complained that unlike Harry Dresden in his first few books, Atticus O’Sullivan is perhaps just too all-powerful. In Hammered, we see that Atticus’ power-level and experience are just as much of a problem as Harry’s early low power and lack of experience, and perhaps even moreso as Atticus is able to do things (like kill gods,plural) that invite much worse things to follow.

If the novel stumbles anywhere, it’s in the third quarter: when the vampire, the werewolf, the forgotten god, the sorcerer and the Asian mystic each recount why they want to kill Thor, the novel plods almost to a halt. I’m not sure there was any better way to info-dump the characters’ motivations, and Hearne at least attempts to couch the storytelling as a necessity for Atticus’ binding spell to move them all to the Asgardian plane, but this reader grew very impatient reading through them.


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