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28 April 2012

Two sheep, Jethro and Elly Mae, spotted, one girl, one boy, delivered and not sure they wanted to be here, but they are. Yes. the expected duo turned up last weekend and have settled in quite well. Originally they were in with the other sheep but my friend’s ram (Basil) took exception to Jethro, and rather than have strife – because Basil won’t be here forever – I moved the incomers to a different paddock, where they currently wander in sheep-knee-high grass. Once Basil goes they can join the main flock. They’re a very friendly pair who like the hen house(in that paddock) in which to siesta now and again – something that doesn’t appear to worry the hens, fortunately. So flock numbers have gone up by two, which may also mean that in spring the numbers will take a real upward leap in the natural course of events as well. Nothing like a paddock full of spotted lambs bouncing in the sunshine…

Certain events suggested that it was time I should double check the original catalogue of my short work, and then bring the three sections (stories, articles, and poems) up to date. A friend and I began a couple of weeks ago with updating short story sales to anthologies and I got that posted. I now have almost all of the poems sorted to one side and listed, but somewhere in the stack of magazines I’m fairly certain that there’s at least two more poems as yet unlisted so I’m holding off on posting that list until I have this last couple found and added.

The short work has been sorted by category – articles, stories. And we are now sorting the stories by year. Once that’s done we’ll compare them year by year to the list I already have, adding missing publications in where required. In many ways it’s an interesting exercise. I keep seeing magazines I sold to for one issue and on up to five or even ten years but which then folded and I wonder what happened to their editors? Many were fun magazines with good editors. In the in-it-for-love Small Press area, there usually comes a time when the owner/editor has no more time or money, and that’s it. But I remember them fondly and wish some of them were still around. Plot Magazine, Freezer Burn, The Iguana Informer, Fagan, Masque Noir, Prohibited Matter, Scherazhade, and the Artemis Press anthologies, thank you for the opportunities you offered. You’re remembered.

I came back from a bookarama the other week with 41 books for $37.50, including a cartoon book on Old Age. It had a section that suggested ways in which you could die more dramatically, interestingly or irritatingly (to annoy the kids.) One method was to line your do-it-yourself coffin with explosive and demand cremation. Which reminded me of the growing number of news stories I seem to have been seeing of late in which someone finds that the baby, grandma, or dear friend, hasn’t been quite dead when listed as such. The most recent I remember being one in which a premature baby was said to be dead, taken from the mother before she got any kind of a look, dumped in the morgue fridge at the hospital, the baby, many hours later was found to be still alive, by her parents who’d demanded the right to say a proper good-bye to her,

I’m booked for cremation myself, but after all these stories I worry. I don’t want to do a “Fall of the House of Usher” in a cemetery, and, almost as bad, nor do I want to be cremated before I’m definitely dead. It occurs to me that having an explosive-lined coffin would make certain that if there’s been an error at some stage, once I’m slid into the crematorium, and the explosive touches off, one way or another there’ll be no doubt that I’ve died – hopefully before the fire gets past the explosive to me. Wonder where I can get a do-it-yourself coffin?

 

24 April 2012

softcover, published by Science Fiction Trails, April 2012.

Reviewed by Steve Johnson.

This was an excellent compilation, there was only one story that I thought wasn’t  a reasonable  read, and all were definitely weird. Don D’Ammassa’s Drawn Out was, I thought, the best in the anthology. It produced an aspect of ‘weirdness’ that I haven’t seen before. (Yes, there may be other writers doing the ‘drawing shows the inner person’ aspect, but I haven’t read them and I liked (a lot) what he did with the story and characters.) With Lyn’s story I’d have preferred the torture to be a bit less graphic but it was a good tale and covered possible aspects of time travel outcomes very neatly. Feeding Pluto was a fine example of the ‘killer cannibals run residential accommodation’ sub-genre, as was Hell Home on the Range. Each came at their story from a different angle, and both stories were fun to read. And finally I enjoyed Art Lessons; short, clever, and interesting, and A Walk in the Woods: dog saves the day.

On the other stories I would note that I found A Quarter Past Death and Trail of the Brujo both well-written but just a little generic. The Judiciales was a good story and I was enjoying it right up to the final words, which left me sitting there saying “What?” I may have missed something, but they explained nothing to me, left me hanging, and that isn’t a good ending. I mentioned this to Lyn and she said that she’d had that complaint a few times with her submissions, thatwhen that happened it usually came from the writer knowing what was going on, and now and again forgetting to make it plain for the reader. Her take on the story was that the main character was being tried in limbo on his way to Hell. I thought that was possible although not certain, but I still didn’t like the vague ending. Considering the anthology itself, this had an excellent cover with good suitable artwork and graphics. It was a nicely presented book and well put-together. A handful of typos/errors, bought instead of ‘bout for example, but even the big publishers don’t entirely eliminate those. And as always I liked seeing short bios for those involved. A good anthology.

13 April 2012

published ACE, November 2007, paperback. Reviewed by Lyn McConchie.

I picked up the second and fourth books in this series on a recommendation. I liked them so much that I left a comment on the author’s site and with great generosity, he sent me the first and third in the series. I’m told that the series, if not definitely dropped, is certainly on hiatus and I’m sorry about that. It’s excellent work, I’ve really enoyed the books to date and I’d planned to keep buying them. It makes me sad to think that after only four books, the series may have ended.

The characters are interesting. There’s Mason, magic-user, musician, previously an enforcer making those who misuse their talents change their minds about doing that, and currently mostly broke. Like all good magic practitioners Mason has a sidekick, in this case something that looks like a Black and Tan Manchester (Terrior) but isn’t. Louie is an Ifrit and has abilities – some of which are not always apparent. There’s Victor, originally Mason’s employer and determined to police those who prefer the dark side, and Eli, older,  Mason’s mentor, and rather a nice guy. Musicians, other magic-users, and many people that are neither wander in and out – and most survive.

One thing becomes clear quite early on in the book. Mason’s ability to improvise musically, matches his ability to do that magically. I found the tie between music and magic attractive and believable as well. (No, I have NO musical talent,  but I love many forms of music and regret my lack of ability.) I also liked that the author didn’t feel the need to go into massive info. dumps of how all  that worked, he trusted me to pick it up from hints and clues as I read, and to take some on faith. (If I’m reading a book with a Christian background, I don’t need another book’s worth of information on the Christian religion crammed in, in terminally boring ten-page-at-a-time expositions and I can’t see why some readers seem to want that.)

Attacks on him begin as Mason finds that someone seems intent on either seeing how good his magical abilities are or just plain getting him out of the way.  A man needs friends at his back, so Mason takes his troubles to Eli, and Victor, (well, not exactly a friend in Victor’s case,) and things escalate as Mason discovers that he isn’t the only one who is being attacked. So far there’s been one death, but there’s nothing to say events will stop with one. Mason, Eli and Victor need to unravel the growing danger that looks likely to affect the entire magical community if it’s left to continue,  since another magic-user is stealing power from those who have it, and they seem to have decided that Mason may be a bump in their road to that. If he can’t work out who’s responsible fairly quickly, friends may die.

I found Dog Days a read that grabbed me, hauled me in, and kept me glued to the pages until I’d finished. In fact the first book that I read from this series had me up until very late one night since I wasn’t prepared to quit until I’d finished reading. The characters are good, you recognize them as people, in fact minus the magic I could name a couple of people I know who are very like Eli and Victor…and Mason, come to think of it. The background is fully realized and with just sufficient odd corners to it that the potential of both the mundane world and the magic overlap are fun, often unexpected, and now and then scary. I understand that the author is working on a YA book that may have Mason and Louie as secondary characters and that’ll be better than nothing so I’m watching out for it. Sigh. I just wish that there’s been more than the four books in this series before it broke off. And that maybe, one day soon, it’ll resume too and I can get more of Mason and Louie to read at the times when I’m not writing. because they’re a very good read.

 

 

11 April 2012

Born in Chicago in 1946, Phyllis Eisenstein has lived there for most of her life and is an author of SF/F short stories and novels. She attended the University of Chicago during the 1960s, then returned to study and achieved a degree in anthropology from the University of Illinios in 1981. For those who may be further interested she is on Facebook. Mrs. Eisenstein has had a long career, her first SF/F work appeared in the 1970s and her last work, a novella, appeared in 2007. Over the years I have read most of the lady’s work, and liked everything I read as a ‘read once’ .But only one book has remained firmly in my permanent library to be read and re-read over and over again. This is Sorcerer’s Son, which I purchased at the time the book appeared in 1979. The work is a simple quest story on the face of it but it moves into something more, a consideration of slavery, the need to find family roots, and the inevitable loss parents suffer when a child grows up and leaves home. In one way or another the book spoke to many readers and reading it again, I do not see that it’s lost any of its appeal since publication over thirty years ago.

Sorcerer’s Son begins with the rejection of the sorcerer Smada Rezhyk the Demonmaste’s proposal of marriage, by Delivev Ormoru, sorceress of Castle Spinweb. Rezhyk is a rampant paranoid, he immediately assumes that if the lady doesn’t want to marry him it’s because she secretly hates him and is plotting his destruction. There’s no logical basis for his assumption, but Eisenstein makes his ranting and suspicion very believable. Rezhyk summons his favorite demon, Gildrum, who reminds him that a sorceress who is pregnant is diminished in power, giving Rezhyk time to take precautions against any attack she might make. Gildrum, bearing Rezhyk’s seed and in the guise of a handsome wounded young knight (Mellor) seduces Delivev, impregnates her and departs with an acceptable excuse. Rezhyk has assumed that Delivev will rid herself of the child once she realizes, but instead and unbeknown to Master and enslaved demon, she raises, and loves her son deeply and it is not until Cray is around fourteen that they discover the boy’s existence.

Rezhyk promptly becomes far more paranoid, assuming again that this is some deeply laid plot to destroy him using his son and ignoring the fact that Delivev has no knowledge that Rezhyk is the actual father rather than the young knight she loved.

Meanwhile Cray has determined to become a knight like his father and sest out on a quest to discover what happened to the man and why he never returned as he promised. Along the way he makes a good friend, and the demon Gildrum, having become very humanized over the years, and having genuinely loved Delivev, and come to love Cray as his son, watches over Cray’s journeying. Each discovery Cray makes leads him to worse conclusions about his father until he finds he is up against a brick wall and that only becoming a demonmaster and forcing a powerful demon to tell him the truth will answer his question. So he goes to the only demonmaster he knows, Rezhyk, and asks to be an apprentice. Naturally Rezhyk leaps to the conclusion that this is just the final step in a long plan by Delivev to destroy him. Where the story goes from there is logical and emotionally believable and wound the book up in a satisfying conclusion. I recommend the work to lovers of good fantasy and to adoptees with whom it will resonate.

Published works

Series –

Tales of Alaric the Minstrel

1. Born to Exile (1977)

2. In the Red Lord’s Reach (1989)

Series Novels (The Book of Elementals)

1. Sorcerer’s Son (1979) (free download if you look for it)

2. The Crystal Palace (1988)

The Book of Elementals (omnibus) (2002)

3. The City in Stone (2004)

Stand-Alone Novels

Shadow of Earth (1979)

In the Hands of Glory (1981)

Novella

Walker Between the Worlds (2007)

Collections

Night Lives: Nine Stories of the Dark Fantastic (2003) (with Alex Eisenstein)

Anthologies containing stories by Phyllis Eisenstein

The Year’s Best Fantasy Stories 4 (1978)

Best Science Fiction Stories of the Year 1978 (1979)

Shadows 5 (1982)

New Eves: Science Fiction About the Extraordinary Women of Today and Tomorrow (1994)

Short stories

“Attachment” (1975) Nebula (nominee)

“The Land of Sorrow” (1977)

“Lost and Found” (1978)

“In the Western Tradition” (1981) Nebula (nominee) Hugo (nominee)

“Dark Wings” (1982)

“Nightlife” (1982) Hugo (nominee)

“Subworld” (1983)

“Sense of Duty” (1985)

“The Island in the Lake” (1999) Nebula (nominee)

10 April 2012

Moan! In some ways,  finally getting all my professional writing sorted into categories – Books, Stories, Articles and Poems-  listed chronologically on files and uploaded to my website is going to be a horrendous amount of work. I’ll be doing some of it but the majority, about three-quarters, will be done by a friend. (Thank heaven for friends…) But a start has been made which (if I manage it) will be uploaded next. This portion adds stories that have appeared in anthologies since 2009 and up to date. It doesn’t include stories that have appeared in magazines or elsewhere. I have ‘author copies’ of anthologies shelved seperately so we were able to do those quickly and easily last week.

The next step – sorting out other stories since 2009, putting them in chronological order, and then typing them into the file – is going to take far far longer, because those ones are mixed in with all the other things that contain articles and poems. And, while I rarely sold anything to plain websites that produce nothing in hard copy, I have here and there, and now must double check my own scattered records to make sure that those writings too are included so far as possible. It occurred to me again yesterday as I typed the stories from anthologies up to date, that over the next few months I am going to spend a lot of time wishing I’d done it as I went along. Sigh. Be warned, if you’re a writer – keep your records up to date. The cost of not doing that is steep, in time, money – and irritated regrets.

 

 

 

well, if nothing goes wrong, no one changes their mind, and things occur when they’re supposed to. But a while back I had a phone call. A local couple were going to live in Australia for some years and wanted a good home for their two spotted sheep. I have spotted sheep, and mine, as most of the area knows, tend to live here until they die of old age, which makes my place a suitable home for a couple of much-loved pets. I agreed. The sheep, if all goes well, arrive next weekend. My nine will undoubtedly be fascinated by the new arrivals, and the duo will have new friends. I’ve seen photos and they’re a very attractive pair. I’m looking forward to their arrival.

Recently I got the guidelines for the special issue of a regular magazine. David, the editor, is someone with whom I work well, and I always like the anthologies he produces besides the magazine. But I didn’t think I had any bright ideas for this one special magazine issue – Martians and Earthlings.  Yes, David edits the sub-genre known as ‘Weird Westerns’, which can be a lot of fun, and I’ve done a number of stories for his anthologies in the past – and this special issue sounded interesting. Anyhow I re-read the GL quite late on Sunday, wandered off to bed after I shut down the computer, and at 3am – sat up, got a very firm grip on the dream I’d just had before it vanished, grabbed for pen and paper and wrote out a synopsis. Then I went back to sleep.

Next afternoon I sat down with my notes and started writing. Once done I sat back, re-read the story and blinked. David’s later email descriped it as “an odd, quirky little story.” In fact it’s downright peculiar. Heaven only knows what my subconscious was thinking when it produced this, but it fitted the guidelines and then some. The story had earthlings, Martians, two famous very early SF writers, a Mexican bandit, a bookshop owner who knew more than he was saying, various desperados, and a cleanup unit. I emailed the story to David, noting that it was a seriously weird little tale, and he might not like it but that, as he knows, it’d be okay if he didn’t… He did. I logged on next morning to find that he’d accepted it. I’m very happy about that, You can’t get a much better – or faster – result than to write a story one day and sell it the next. And I hadn’t even had to think it up, I merely slept, dreamed, and wrote out the dream.

Of course now I’m wondering, did another me in an alternate universe actually think up the story and I merely acquired the end results of all her hard work? And if so have I inadvertently committed alternate universe plagiarism? The trials of a writer…

 

 

6 April 2012

Published paperback H&S 2011.

This one was a book for my birthday. The giver knows that I’ve always loved the work by Dorothy Sayers, and that I now enjoy the continuance of the Lord Peter Wimsey books by Jill Paton Walsh, hence the arrival of this one. And again it’s a very good book.

Walsh wrote four excellent mystery novels before she started sitting down about every five years to add another to the Wimsey saga, and my deepest regret is that she doesn’t write a bit faster. This one appeared in hardcover in 2010, which means that I still have three years to wait for the next supposing she does write one. I am compensated by this book being around 120,000 by my calculations so that it’s a solid read and not something that’s over in a couple of hours.

It’s a solid read from another perspective as well. It’s really a double mystery, plus a look at serious and major social changes over the period covered by the book. So the mysteries. They start with Peter telling Harriet all about the original disappearance of the Attenbury Emeralds in 1921. Peter solved that, returned the gems, and discovers that, thirty years later, there may have been some dubious and continuing – events around the original theft that he didn’t know about at the time.

Now the son of the then Lord Attenbury arrives to beg Peter’s help because while he has the main emerald safely in a bank vault, someone has appeared who is claiming that the main emerald is theirs and that they can prove it. The bank is refusing to allow the emerald to be removed by the Attenbury’s, who need to sell it to pay death duties, and the family is panic-stricken, fearing that they may have to sell their home and all their land to satisfy legal demands.

Peter now starts to investigate and finds that there also seems to have been an odd series of lethal events occurring around the main emerald at certain intervals. Are they coincidence or something more sinister? The two mysteries are very well written, interesting and perfectly placed, each within their social setting.

But even more fascinating is the slow creep of social change as typified within the Wimsey family and others around them. We find that the ebullient and charming young man of several of the earlier books set prior to WWII, and who was the Wimsey heir, has died in the Battle of Britain. This is perfectly in character as he was written by Dorothy Sayers. But it means that Peter is now the heir, and his sons after him, something he and Harriet had never wanted. (Nor I may add, had his sister-in-law, who makes it abundantly clear in several scathing episodes that she believes Harriet totally unsuitable for the position and too middle-class to be able to cope if or when it becomes hers.)

The three Wimsey sons having grown up with Bunter’s son (PB) who is of similar age, consider him a friend and equal, while Bunter continues as Peter’s manservant. That relationship having all the warmth and comfort of an old and favourite overcoat and suiting them both while being misunderstood by Peter’s sons. One of the major preoccupations throughout the book is that of death duties and I can well understand it. The British system bankrupts families that are in possession of lands and very large old houses and I am at a loss to see why they feel this is fair or equitable.

In Emeralds, both the Attenbury family, desperate to clear title to their emerald so they can sell that and don’t have to lose their home and estate, and the Wimseys, who although they don’t know it for much of the book, are going to have similar trouble. They make decisions that are opposite to each other, and they too mirror the ongoing social changes of the times. Peter’s investigation’s of the issues surrounding the main emerald from 1921 to 1951 cast considerable light onto a few of the war years’ events, and how they affected some of the aristocracy involved. Lady Diana’s story of the bombing of the nightclub in which she and a number of her friends were partying is chilling.

The relationships and occurrences of this book flow seamlessly on from Dorothy Sayers own works. We get another look at Peter’s brother Gerald, and his marriage to Helen, and when that ends as it does, it is a natural conclusion, both in his death and her attitude of resentment and outrage. We see Peter and Harriet settled into a happy middle-age, her writing has continued (and continued to sell well.) Their affection is obvious, and their literate banter is as warm and witty as ever. Bunter is married to his photographer, Hope, they have a son, whom they want to give a strong start in life hence the boy’s attendance at the same school as Peter’s sons and the Bunters too are in a settled and fulfilled marriage.

Times are changing all around them, and what shows clearly throughout the course of the book, is that those whose anchors are based in friendship and family affection or love will weather that storm. Those who rely on title and money alone, will come to grief and not always by the hand of strangers. The book is far more than a mystery, it shows the times, how they are and how they will effect those who live in them, and once I finished the book and placed it on the Sayers section of my permanent library, I could only hope that the author keeps writing because I am eage r- very eager – to find out what will happen next to Peter, Harriet, Bunter and all of their respective families and friends.