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Painting of fox
Prints of this painting by Sharman, and others, are available at Sahara Cool under Animals and Birds.

8 May 2018

yup, the mixture as before, and as good as ever. Karl the dinosaur sheriff is back with his column, (discussing the origin of cooking in his time) and the cover is – by the ever reliable Laura Givens – striking and original. Layout and presentation are excellent, and the stories carefully chosen. My particular favourites were
Six Guns of the Sierra Nevada (Cynthia Ward. A very neat tale of the biter – well bitten. A long Way from Name Pending, (Henry Ram. In which is confirmed that too many people wanting the same thing tend to destroy the prize. A Better Place to Die (Sam Knight,) A story which reads somthing like the tale of John Henry, only with a much better ending, and Moon of the Iron Eagle, (Sam S. Kepfield.) Another biter well bitten, and something that amused me solidly both in the reading and at the ending. Nothing wrong with the others, I just felt a stronger connection to these tales. David has a knack of picking good stories, and I have never failed to enjoy any magazine or anthology he’s put together.

23 February 2018

I received this as an offer from Brett, I took it up as this was described as a techno-thriller, and I like a good thriller (McClean, Jenkins, Higgins, Bagley, all great.) I admit to being dubious since the techno part of that made me think twice, I’m not exactly a technophobe, more of a techno-illiterate, but I got the book anyway and settled in with it. I found it a little slow to start, hampered by my ignorance of a LOT of the technical references, but once I was 50 pages or so in the characters were starting to grab me.
That aspect caught me up. I liked the people, the setting, and the plot, and when I finally put the book down about 5 hours later I’d had an excellent read. Yes, I skipped over most of what to me was technobabble, but the useful thing about this book is that a reader can come at it from either level. I’m sure someone who really knows their scientific onions would love every minute of it, they’d get caught up in the technical aspects and understand that stuff, finding them cutting edge. On the other hand, someone like me, who knows absolutely nothing about any of it, and happily skips most of that, still enjoys as I said, the characters, the plot, and the background.
This is what I would describe as a ‘very today novel.’ And yet, the motivation behind most of the events is as old as anything human and completely believable, as are those involved in the events. I’d say, that if you like thrillers, give this techno-thriller a try, if you’ve been hesitant to try one before, this could give you a very pleasant surprise.

24 December 2017

This came, to my pleasure, as an unexpected Christmas present from an author/editor to whom I’ve sold quite a number of stories over past years. And as I always enjoy his work I leaped upon it and read the whole thing in one gulp. I giggled and groaned as I read, and finally put it down with that best of feelings for a writer, that I would have liked more of it.
The chapbook contains five short stories, all of them with a wicked edge. And yes, a couple at least certainly are for ‘older kids,’ There’s a while new angle on Santa and a girl who stays up late, then there’s a country that doesn’t like him at all and takes very decisive steps about it, there’s the modernized sleigh and what arises over that, and there’s a Oriental slant on Christmas via one of David’s regular Chinese characters, and finally, the tales return to the characters in the first story with a risque tale of Christmas, Santa, and various comings and goings.
David says, that the tales are darker and more cynical than the usual Christmas stories, but some of us enjoy that, and he notes that the stories have not been commercially published – my suggestion is that they are. Because if other reader’s reactions to them are similar to mine, then they should do quite well I note too that the cover is amusing, that the presentation as usual is excellent, and that the chapbook has gone into my permanent library. All of which is a recommendation for those who would enjoy a more sardonic view of the holiday season and some of its characters.

7 November 2017

This came in for review the other day and I was delighted. I’ve seen both authors’ work a number of times over the year and always enjoy it, and this duo is I fully expected to provide me with an excellent weekend’s reading – and it did.
The Venerable Travels of Ling Fung walks a clever line between the Occident and the Orient in the old west, beginning with Ling Fung deploring the modern manners of his niece before discovering that she had put out flyers all over the area describing him as an assassin and offering his talents. Things go on from there to become still more interesting, and I thoroughly enjoyed all the stories of Ling Fung, and the peculiar events with which he became entangled. David does a very nice weird western at any time, and these are some of the best I’ve read.
Followed by Chin Song Ping and the Long Long Night by Laura Givens, whose stories I am also familiar with, and equally always enjoy.To my initial surprise this began in France in 1945, but I was reassured to find a page or so later than I was back in Wild Western territory and off on a wild ride into demons, dangerous mechanical creatures, mayhem, mystery and murder.
And to cap it all off, the presentation is excellent, the cover (By Laura Giverns too) both cleverly done and attractive, the layout good, and the print a decent size, neither over-large nor too small. The Editor, David Lee Summers has done his usual excellent job, and all in all, this is a nice piece of work. I’d recommend it to any reader who likes Weird Westerns – and to anyone who hasn’t met them yet, this is a great place to start.

8 September 2017

I felt free to review this myself, since I don’t have work in it and can say what I like. So – well, it’s good. A nice mix of long and short items, humour, and the scarier stuff. In fact in this issue it was the shorter writing I really enjoyed, Karl’s Corner, A Dog’s Eye on Ghosts, and Red and the Big Bad Wolf:Monster Hunters. Of the longer stories I liked Belfrey’s in Your Bats, and chortled at the title. The editor, David Riley, picks some good stories, and I was very happy to see SF TRAILS back again after a hiatus. The cover too is excellent and striking, as I expected, with Laura Givens as the artist. I hope this does well for the publisher, and that the publication continues because the art is always good, and the selection of work solid.

4 August 2017

A week or so ago I trotted off to the annual bookarama at our nearest town. Amid the other forty or so books that I bought was a Penguin Classics copy of Jack London’s assorted tales, including White Fang, and The Call Of The Wild. I happily read my way through them, and then turned idly to the ‘introduction by James Dickey,’ to be startled, surprised, and then annoyed, by the pontificating of a man who seemed intent on pulling down the author. Hmmm. Who is this guy? I looked him up on Wiki, and wasn’t that impressed. He seemed to me to be decrying London’s poverty-stricken background – from his own of middle-class privilege, to comment on London’s lack of education – from his own extensive one (clearly affordable, as London’s wasn’t.) And to comment unfavourably on London’s knowledge of animals.
In connection with that I noted in particular his denial that a fighting dog is capable of learning its trade. What? He suggests that he knows fighting dogs, that he had seen dogs fight often, and I suggest that ‘the heck he had.’ Animals that fight do learn ‘tricks of their trade.’ Why else do the bull-fighting organizations refuse to allow a bull to return again and again to the arena? Because a bull learns, with each fight it knows more, is more dangerous, and after several fights, it has learned enough to, more often than not, kill the matador. I’ve seen dogs fight, and I’ve observed that they do learn from each fight. I had a small Doberman in the 1970s, Cassie was a fighter when she felt it was necessary, fast, deadly, and more so with every time she fought, so that she could take on a considerably larger dog, and have it pinned by the throat in two passes. She most certainly did learn, and I wonder why James Dickey was so adamant dogs don’t.
Dickey complained that London anthropomorphized animals, that’s true, but he found it a grave and huge fault. What part of metaphor/lyricism, didn’t he get? London is saying that if a dog or wolf could think as a human does, this is what he would think. That an animal may be driven by instincts, but then so are people. We merely verbalize ours, as animals cannot. And which of us who are long-time owners of animals genuinely believe that animals do not feel emotions. Even sheep can grieve, remember, and build on instincts to achieve the occasional action that is something like intelligence.I’ve been a farmer for almost 30 years now and I can cite instances of that.
Of course, it may be that Dickey was only saying what he honestly believed, however his introduction reads like a condemnation of London’s impoverished background, his lack of education, and even his ability to write 50 readable books over his 20 productive years. (Dickey produced fewer than a dozen over a long lifetime.) In my opinion there are two things wrong with this introduction, one is that reading it before the book is likely to put off whose who would have normally gone on to read London’s work. The other is my own impression that here you have a man who could afford everything Jack London could not, who could do little if anything that Jack London did, and who produced little that has even already lasted as long as London’s finest works, who chose to use his position to tear down the greater man. He may not have intended to do so, but that is the impression I had, and in the end, the reader’s impression is what counts.

time and time again, I input a new item on my blog, and all too often it is then announced that there has been a server error and I should tell someone. It does this now and again when I access and delete spam, when I check on others of my posts, and then I want to look at settings. It seems to have a ‘thing’ about it, and I’m getting irked. Frankly, I don’t care if the site has a hangup on server errors, I just wish it would stop telling me or having them on my site!!!

10 August 2016

I am sorry for everyone that can’t follow older comments, you aren’t alone. Some time ago I found that Word Press won’t allow me to look at my own blog from the outside either. Now it won’t allow me to add my own comments in response to yours. Contact the webmater? Oh, yes, well, tried that and all I get is a blank green page. Did manage at some early stage to get to their FAQs, (something I can’t do now) and that was so long and complicated I could never find an appropriate section to check. I tend to the technoilliterate, and frankly I don’t know what to do, or how to do it. And I’m busy writing books, novellas, and short stories, I don’t have time to spend days trying to thread my way through endless stuff that takes me around in circles. So, I’m really really sorry, and at least I can keep posting – when the site isn’t bleating about internal server errors – and if anyone knows how to presuade Word Press to be helpful, that would improve my life, your lives, and contribute to the dialogue.

11 May 2016

Quick review of this book from Steve Johnson- wow. nudity, tits, a lizard king, and some very strange events. Read this, and if you’re my age, it’s all gonna remind you in a very weird way of Jim Morrison. And that can’t be bad!

And (with a broad grin after posting that from a friend who reviews for this site now and again ) What he says, plus – I like Sarah, it’s really really nice to see an agent that’s female, conpetant, and likeable, also wish we had ‘a bright orange door’ (with all those services behind it) around here.
I set out to read this a few pages at a time over a couple of weeks. (I prefer print books and ended up with this on my computer) Somehow that didn’t work, I kept finding I’d read well into the time i was planning to do something else – a good recommendation. I laughed aloud at the episode of King Karl and the reclamation of his scepter – and world. And then I moved the PDF to a flash drive so I can read it again, and maybe again, and … Yup, I liked it. Buy the book.

7 February 2016

E-book, 12 stories.
Wow, that’s all I can say. Wow. I’m a sentimentalist for media. I cry in sad movies and reading sad books and stories. And the first one of these got me right where I live. (I have Grown Old In Service To My Country by Cary G. Osborne.) For two reasons. One was that a couple of years ago I volunteered to go to Mars. Yes, a five year round trip, but on my own and I would have gone if selected too. But the project folded. Reading this story I’m not sure if I should be happy or sad about that. But the story itself has real power, and the ending rang like a bell. Doc and the Crash Landing by J. A. Campbell is a great tale, aliens looking for auto parts, and a guy and his dog. A dog that hunts vampires and werewolves and chats to squirrels, with a horde of squirrels that, after consultation, save the day. Yes! David Lee Summers’ Arachne’s Stepchildren was a carry-me-along story, the end is open but that way is right this time. There are so many possibilities inherent in the plot that to have shut the story down using only one wouldn’t have worked. And I can’t help wondering, what could he do with this as a book?
Then there is Kanti’s BlacK Box by Nicole Givens Kurtz, a story that reminds readers that under an alien skin there may still beat a heart-analogue that has similar emotions to ours.., and Red Ashes by Sam Knight had a surprising finale to an absorbing story. Altogether this was a solid, well’chosen anthology. While I liked the stories I have mentioned better than others, there was no story I disliked. And there aren’t many anthologies about which I can say that. It’s excellent that this is the second of the editor’s anthologies I or a reader friend could say this about and I look forward to more. Recommended.

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