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25 November 2013

yes, as it closes in on Christmas more and more editors close out anthologies and transmit the decisions so they’ll be able to have a break over Xmas/New year. Contract signed for“EndlessFreedom.Com,” which is to appear in the anthology Strength From Within: Stories of Recovery.

Paperback published ACE December 2009. (Not crazy about the quality of the actual book. The paper of the spine started peeling back right after I received it and before I’d even started to read the book. That really isn’t good…)

But the book is great, another of McKinley’s wonderful fantasies. I find that I either love her work, or really dislike it, and worked out that this is no problem of hers but of mine. I like a happy ending. I don’t mind all sorts of bad stuff and angst during the story, but it should end as moderately upbeat. The works of hers that I really dislike are those where the ending leaves me depressed and unhappy for the characters. So these days where possible, I pick up her books, check the ending, and buy only those where it seems that all has ended well. This one qualified nicely. (I also love her ‘one-liners.’ Currently re-reading her collection Fire, in which (in The Hellhound story) there is the throwaway information about a keeper in a dog-pound…”Ronnie had six dogs of his own, all from the pound. He tended to specialize in the hard-to-place ones, so he had three-legged dogs, blind dogs, old dogs, and hyperactive incontinent dogs. He also had a very patient wife.” That cracks me up every time I re-read the book. I can just see both Ronnie and his wife and each time I think that Ronnie’s wife has to be a dog-lover too, or even the most patient woman would start putting her foot down.)

But in Chalice – Marisol is a woodright, caring for her own section of land, and also caring for her beehives and their occupants. But on her demesne all is not well. The previous Master of the land and his Chalice died, his brother has been recalled from being a Priest of Fire and Marisol has been chosen as the new Chalice. So while she struggles to cope with her new powers and position never having been apprenticed as should have happened, and being untrained with little idea of what her job entails, the new Master must come home and struggle even harder since his training has moved him away from being human. Together Master and Chalice find that they don’t only face the difficulties inherent in this, they also have an Overlord who’d much prefer another Master and is actively working to replace the man who has given up what he was to become Willowlands’ Master. This is a story about people doing the right thing for the right reasons, but who are opposed by those who don’t understand, some who don’t believe it, and others who merely want power and position and don’t care what they have to do to obtain them. And it has a kick-ass ending. I loved it. Recommended.

 

For a number of woolly reasons – as in, on Friday the sheep were shorn and are currently infesting my lawn, eating that down before we all vanish in the spring growth. And most surprisingly the gaggle are sharing their territory without much fuss. I put that down to my having waited until the gosling was a reasonable size so that they don’t feel quite so protective. I hope the sheep eat quickly however, as one of the girls is sitting again and if those eggs hatch I’ll have to move the woolly crew smartly before war does break out.

17 November 2013

Of recent weeks there’s been a howling fuss about a group of silly little boys who went onto their website to describe activities that were – at the least – immoral if not illegal. (And IMHO they were also illegal) but the interesting thing to me was that they generated huge notice because they could be easily found and their own posted descriptions read. I then had my own example of this. A lady to whom I was known when I was a child and she was a teenager, wrote me. We’d lost touch for fifty-eight years, and recently there had been a series of flukes. She’d wondered of recent years what had happened to me but a marriage had meant my name wasn’t the one she’d known me by. I’d also wondered about her. But I couldn’t recall her married name – reasonably common anyway  – and on googling her brother’s name, I found nothing. However – she was holidaying in Melbourne, and while in conversation the name of a relative of mine who lives there was mentioned. He wasn’t available just then, but eventually she did manage to speak to him and he was able to tell her both my current name, and that I was a book author. Ah Ha! she thought. Authors have websites. She looked me up, blinked at my credit list, discovered from a combination of that and the telephone book what my address was, and wrote – to my delight. So, thanks to social media we’re back in contact after 58 years. In fact if she’d googled Google Earth she’d even be able to see a view of my farm from the road that runs along the front of my property. I’ve never been quite so conscious before that we really are all members of the ‘Public. ‘

Something to which I can testify. After that dratted gosling squirmed under the front gate and was discovered wandering on the other side of the road – hastily retrieved – I put up a gosling stop. This has the same purpose as a cattle stop, i.e. to prevent cattle wandering, or as in this case, to prevent an idiot gosling becoming totally flat after a truck has run it over. I use a 8-9 foot length of narrow plank, one end fixed into a gap between gate post and fence post, thus keeping it upright. It fills the gap between ground and the bottom of the gate and prevents foolish goslings wandering onto the road. Unfortunately early in the morning when I go out to feed the poultry, and put out the mail, I tend to be present of body but absent of mind, and it was so the morning after I erected the gosling stop. I opened the gate, strode through, and, oblivious of impediments, caught my foot on the plank and fell flat. I said this and that – about goslings, gates, and… I picked myself up, put out the mail, and returned to the house making a mental note to remember that gosling stops won’t only stop goslings. So far that’s worked.

Quite by accident a couple of weeks ago I discovered that a story of mine had appeared. This was a horror/mystery story, See You On The Other Side in the Dark Bard anthology out from Indigo Mosaic Press.The anthology was apparently published in late July, however I wasn’t told and had no idea that it had been in publication several months already. 

Baen softcover, published September 2013.

I pounced on this as soon as it arrived. I’ve always loved the Vorkosigan books and didn’t expect this to be any exception. The books and short stories cover a very wide range of plot. Some have been extremely dark with ethical dilemmas involved, others have been light and frothy with a Regency feel to them. But in all of this series the characters are so well-drawn and so interesting, that they stand up to read after read after read. So that adding a new book from this series to my shelves doesn’t just mean one book, in effect it means a number of them since I’ll probably read it half a dozen times more before I die – at least I hope to live long enough to do so.

Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance is one of the lighter variety in theVorkosigan series but satisfying for all of that. Ivan (known for much of his early life to his wider family as ‘that idiot Ivan) is currently working for Imperial Security when another agent asks for his help. Ivan helps – to find himself stunned, trussed, and left in a chair all night until kidnappers after the two women who did this to him arrive through a window. Ivan warns the women who then stun the intruders and, Ivan, gathering the women up with him flees into the night heading for his own flat where the immigration service promptly arrives to charge the women with illegal entry, sided by the police who wish to charge Ivan with kidnapping . In something of a panic and to protect the women if not himself, Ivan promptly enacts a Barrayaran marriage with Tej, one of the two women, and claims her companion, Rish, as his new wife’s maid/companion. At which point events become still more confused and life for Ivan far more hectic and I spent a fair amount of my reading time with this book wearing a wide smile. I have enjoyed every single book in this series and hope that it continues. Some of the books are longer than others but even those in the Vorkosigan saga that are longer hold up solidly, unlike some other books at the 160-200,000 word level that feel padded and tend to sag in places. I strongly recommend this series, they mix military with regency, with a romance here and there (never standard) with mystery, family conflict, affairs on the stages of a number of worlds, and characters that you know if you met them would swing between engaging you and utterly infuriating you. I look forward to the next installment!

9 November 2013

appapprently taking my comments in September on the futility of receiving (much too much) spam in French to mean that I may speak other languages, I opened my blog this morning to discover I am now being fervently addressed in a spate of German. Dear Spammers. I don’t read German either, nor Chinese, Japanese, SerboCroatian, Russian, or…get the picture. I speak and read about 60 words of basic Spanish, and read some Latin. Anything else is futile, and even if you do go to the trouble of transcribing your message into Latin, while it may amuse me, I still won’t be buying anything. The definition of futility = spam. (In my case anyhow.)

Softcover (I think, larger than usual pb, smaller than ususal SC.) Roc. Sept.2013.

The whole tone of The Dresden Files books changed around three books back in the series. Harry found a daughter he didn’t know existed, was murdered, came back as Winter’s Knight, and found that he now faced an enemy that was greater than he’d ever known about. This is the one where he confronts them, half-loses someone he really cares about, starts off on a different tack, and finds that a lot of the assumptions he’s made for the past couple of years were wrong…or right, depending. The tone has changed in another way too. Before Changes (12th in the series) the books could be easily read as standalones, that isn’t so effective any more. Now they’re a part of a continuing story and really, you need to go back three or four books to get the complete story line and understand everything that’s going on.

In Cold Days Harry’s been commanded by Mab, to whom he is now Winter Knight, to kill Meave, the Winter Lady. Problem is that Harry is told by someone he trusts that Mab has been contaminated by outside influences and is mad. Outsiders are trying to break into the world, and the world right now is in an incredible mess due to Harry’s extermination of a whole section of a vampire group worldwide. Every power-merchant or criminal gang has rushed to fill the power vacumn and are locked in combat over territory. Chicago isn’t as bad as some areas, but it’s heading that way and Harry needs allies fast. He also needs Mab off his back, to know if she really has gone mad and what do to about the outsiders attempts to break into the world in which Harry lives. It’s an incredible mess and Harry is, as usual, right in the middle of it and apparently responsible for some of it and responsible for clearing up the rest of it. Cold Days is a good book, well-written, very engaging, but I’d recommend it only if you’ve already read the previous couple. If not, start at the beginning and read the series but don’t read this one until you’re clued in on earlier events..

6 November 2013

This author hasn’t written a huge list of books. What she has written, which is why she is on my ‘Overlooked’ list, is a terrific trilogy; The Compass Rose in 2005, The Barbed Rose in 2006, and The Eternal Rose in 2007. These are often classified as romance, but I find them much more inclined to the fantasy side, (take the fantasy out, and no book, take the romance out, and you still have a good book) and certainly very readable by someone like me who dislikes the usual slush and gush of a standard romance. Most of her other published books are genuine romances, but this trio was excellent in the creation of the world of the One Rose books and they are now sitting on my ‘permanent’ shelves as I expect to re-read them a number of times before I die – unless that’s sooner than I expect….

Listen, this trilogy is seriously good. I bought the first as ‘light-damaged’ and half-price, liked the characters so much that I went out and bought the other two full-price and find that I’m not the only one who thought they were very well written. Book two won the 2007 Prism Award for Best Fantasy, then The Eternal Rose won the same award the year after. That says something. There’s almost no personal information about the author to be found except on her One Rose trilogy where she notes that she’s recently moved to Galveston and says that she began writing early in her life. Never mind, read the books and that’ll tell you most of what you want to know – that she writes a darn good fantasy. I note that she is now a couple of books into a new trilogy/series described as steampunk fantasy for all you steampunk enthusiasts out there and that should be worth a second look. I’m not a huge steampunk fan although now and again I have written steampunk stories for fun, (one is in Steampunk Trails 1, September 2013) but if the new books are as good as the One Rose trilogy, then just as soon as I can afford them I’ll be buying.

Note on that last: the author tells me that “The steampunk books are more romance than the others…I think there would still be a story without the romance, but a lot of the magic rests on that foundation…” so they still sound interesting to me.

 

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