Wednesday, February 29, 2012

"Waiting On" Wednesday: Witch House by Edward Lee

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill over at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

This week's pre-publication "can't-wait-to-read" selection is:

Witch House by Edward Lee:

Many witches were burnt, hanged and tortured in seventeenth-century New England, including notorious coven-leader Evanore Wraxall and her incestuous father. Not all of them died. Now, on a trip to Wraxall House in Haver-Towne, NH, Stewart Fanshawe, cable television finance pundit, is about to meet them. [May 1]

Yeah, the release is a bit light on details, but Edward Lee, Richard Laymon, and Bentley Little are my unholy trinity, always good for an over-the-top, B-grade dose of horror and gore.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

EXPLORATION: Schoellkopf Power Station (Part 2 - The Payoff)

For the first part of the exploration, showing how we got down to the plant (and what we found along the way), please check out Part 1 - The Approach.

As I said then, I'll let the photos speak for themselves . . .

The roar was awesome. It looked as if the whole gorge wall had opened up like the side of a skyscraper down it came. Rocks and masonry burst into the air splitting into thousands of pieces and pelted the river like shrapnel. And a few fell on the Canadian side. A jet stream of water was unleashed. Three violent blasts followed. The river turned a sickly brown. White smoke poured upward from the gaping gorge mouth and the resounding echo died
[Thanks to Thunder Alley for compiling the news reports of the day, nearly 60 years ago]

Monday, February 27, 2012

eBook ARC Review: Carpathia by Matt Forbeck

THE FACTS: The Titanic struck an iceberg late on the night of April 14, 1912. The unsinkable ship actually sank rather quickly, taking only about 3 hours to send more than 1,500 passengers and crew to a cold, watery grave. While the Carpathia did come to its rescue, picking up over 700 survivors from the lifeboats, they didn't arrive until almost 2 hours after the Titanic slipped beneath the waves.

THE FICTION: No significant departure from the facts, except for the fact that Carpathia does receive the distress call directly from Titanic, rather than the much later relay message from Newfoundland, and  are able to arrive a bit more quickly. Oh, yeah, and there are vampires on board. Kind of important, that little detail.

Matt Forbeck's Carpathia wasn't quite what I was expecting, which is both good and bad. On the positive side, he wastes no time in getting to the iceberg, and does an amazing job detailing the actual sinking of Titanic. Some readers may feel the sinking is drawn out a bit too long, but I thought the pacing was perfect, really allowing him to create some tension and establish the all-too-real horrors the survivors were forced to endure. Having the characters spend so much time in the water also allows for the supernatural horror to make an early appearance, with a small group of vampires slipping out of Carpathia's hold to menace the survivors, a la Peter Benchley's Jaws. In reality, I doubt the survivors would have really been worried about sharks in the frigid waters of the North Atlantic, but it's a fun scene that works well, so I'm willing to ignore the discrepancy.

It's once we get on board Carpathia that the story crashed headlong into my expectations, the pace slowed, and things began to flounder a bit. Instead of capitalizing on the claustrophobic confines of a ship and the sense of isolation at sea, allowing the overpowering scent of blood and death in the air to inflame the hunger and lust of the stowaways, Forbeck seems content to fill space with a little mystery and romance. That's not to say the mystery angle doesn't work - it does, and quite well - but I really wanted to see some carnage, with battles and bodies strewn throughout the ship. As for the romance, I had a harder time swallowing it than I did anything supernatural, but as awkward as the love triangle is, it does set up a rather satisfying conclusion a lot further on.

There is, of course, a somewhat forced connection to the Dracula mythos here, and I'm not entirely sure how I feel about it. Forbeck drops some rather suggestive names on us early on in Quin Harker, Abe Holmword and Lucy Seward, but takes far too long to clarify their connection to the Harker, Holmwood, and Seward we know so well, confusing rather than intriguing the reader. He eventually does make the connection, alluding to the fact that Bram's novel was more fact than fiction, but he fails to establish any sort of link between the vampires of Dracula and those of Carpathia. While I'm glad he didn't use the tired old son/daughter/sire of Dracula angle that has been used in so many pseudo-sequels, you can't just make the connection and then let it hang there, with no resolution.

The last part of the story certainly offers up some surprises, especially following the discovery of the vampires' lair deep within the cargo hold, and Forbeck finally offers us some of the carnage we were waiting for. After such a long lull, a lot of significant activity happens very quickly, and there's a 'twist' to the love triangle that I definitely saw coming for a while, but it all makes for a satisfying conclusion. One final note, I have to give him full credit for sticking so well to the conventions, language, and dialogue of the Victorian era - it really does feel like and 'old' story, and there are no jarring incongruities to remind you that it's not.

Monday Morning Musings - Genre News Wrap-up

I tend to read a lot of genre sites over breakfast (Coke Zero & Pop Tarts again this morning), so I thought I'd get in the habit of sharing the more interesting tidbits once a week.Rather slow on the news front this morning, but here are a few highlights:

That's it for this morning . . . happy reading!

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Freedom to Read Week

For an astounding 28 years now, the Book and Periodical Council and its Freedom of Expression Committee have organized Freedom to Read Week (FTRW), a national event that reminds Canadians to remain vigilant in protecting our right to free expression. Even in the 21st century, schools and libraries are still asked to remove books and magazines from their shelves, while other books are regularly banned at our borders.

This year, Freedom to Read Week (FTRW) runs from February 26th to March 3rd.

Freedom to Read Week 2011

Challenged genre books over the years in Canada have included Neil Gaiman's American Gods, Anne Rice's Beauty's Punishment, JK Rowling's Harry Potter series, Charlaine Harris' Sookie Stackhouse Mysteries, Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale, Philip Pullman's The Golden Compass, Anthony Burgess' A Clockwork Orange, Stephen King's Different Seasons, and Daniel Keyes' Flowers for Algernon.

This year, the Council has partnered with BookCrossing.com to help readers across Canada Free a Challenged Book and spread the love of reading . . . so, get reading, start sharing, and keep books free to read for all..

Thursday, February 23, 2012

TGIF - Feature & Follow Friday

Feature & Follow Friday is a blog hop that is designed to provide some much-appreciated exposure to the bloggers participating, and to expand their following. Hosted by Parajunkee and Alison Can Read, each of whom feature a chosen blog for the week, it's an interesting way to get to know one another.

Question of the Week: Activity!!! Take a picture or describe where you love to read the most...

Right here - down by the water (beneath the Whirlpool Aero Car, along the Niagara River), without another soul in sight.

Parajunkee also hosts a Social Hop for Facebook and Twitter, which I've taken part in the past two weeks. So, if you're one of those people who aren't on Blogger, or who just don't like Google Friend Connect, it's a great way to keep in touch and follow one another.


TGIF is another blog hop designed to provide much-appreciated exposure to the bloggers participating, and to expand their following. Hosted by GReads, it's an interesting way to recap the week, pose a question, and find some exposure with a different audience.

Question of the Week: Required Reading: Which book from your school days  do you remember reading & enjoying? Is there a book published now  that you'd like to see in today's curriculum for kids?

To be honest, I don't remember too many 'required' reads from my school days that I enjoyed, but I would advise my children to take a chance, think for themselves, and pick something off the ALA list of banned/challenged books - maybe Harry Potter, The Golden CompassThe Handmaid’s Tale, or Fahrenheit 451.

eBook Review: Heaven's Shadow by David S. Goyer

In my mind, there are generally 3 ways to approach the good ol' first contact story:

1. Make it about the mystery, embrace the unknown, and keep the aliens under wraps and off the page. Tease us, but save the aliens for the big reveal (or don't show them at all).
2. Go all-out with the monster angle, use the readers' fears against them, and exploit the very nature of being alien. Tease the readers for a bit, then allow the monsters to explode from the page.
3. Make it about the integration of two different worlds, and explore the society angle. Drop the aliens on the reader right away, integrate them into the world, and explore what happens.

The problem with Heaven's Shadow is that, for a long time, it doesn't seem to know which approach it wants to take, resulting in a novel that samples them all, and providing us with a story where the whole doesn't live up to sum of its parts. The best parts of the story are in the first third, where the astronauts begin to realize that their rogue asteroid isn't wholly natural, and may in fact be home to the remnants of an alien civilization.

The struggle between the duty of exploration, the joy of discovery, and the fear of the unknown is handled very well, with the astronauts coming across as both human and professional. The second third has its moments, particularly in the first reveal of the sentinels and the remnants, but the story just can't sustain matters. As for the final third, it just becomes a jumbled mess that fumbles nearly all of the many of the balls it was juggling. The sheer lack of professionalism at NASA is ludicrous, the almost complete lack-of-reaction to the impact of alien probes is ridiculous, and the blink-and-you'll-miss-it Rapture would be comical, if it wasn't so strained and out-of-place.

It also needs to be said that the portrayal of women in this book is atrocious, and that's not an issue I generally take notice of. They're all weepy, emotional, fragile wrecks who are defined as much by their relationships as their reactions . . . and who, it is suggested, are possibly not fit to be astronauts in the first place. It didn't really strike me until near the end, but if it wasn't for their crying, bleeding, and overreacting, first contact could have gone much better. At almost every stage, it's the mistake or overreaction of one of the women astronauts that acts as a catalyst for disaster. Once you realize it, it makes for a very uncomfortable read.

All-in-all, a novel that begins well, stumbles in trying to find a direction, and ultimately falls face-first in choosing the wrong direction. There's a sequel to come, but no interest here.

Due to publisher restrictions Promo codes are not allowed for this product

I was working on a review when I realized the post was becoming more about pricing and publishing than the book itself, so I decided to separate the rant from the review.

Simple question - why is it publishers are allowed to dictate how I spend my money online?

Really, if I can use a 30% off coupon to buy the hardcover edition of a book in-store, why the hell can't I do the same with the electronic version online? It's the same book, from the same publisher, and it's the same money, from the same wallet. I've never once walked into a Home Depot or a Future Shop and been told I can't use my coupon on that brand of hammer or that brand of computer. For that matter, even back in the days when you had to spend a certain amount to be eligible, I never had Amazon tell me I couldn't get free shipping on books from that publisher..

Yes, I've read all the explanations, and I realize that many publishers are still trying to figure out this whole eBook thing, but the reality of the matter is that such a strategy does nothing but hurt the authorsUnless we're talking one of my select few must-read-right-now authors, the reality is that when I get the "Due to publisher restrictions Promo codes are not allowed for this product" error, I just move on another book, from another author, from another publisher.

So, instead of extorting full-price for what was (in this case) an overpriced eBook, the publisher urged me instead to shop from the competition, which is sad. I may not be a financial guru or a marketing wizard, but even I know that $10.49 in the publisher's pocket is better than ZERO, even if that isn't as good for them as $14.99. From an author's standpoint, where the difference in commission/royalties on those two price points is even smaller, the idea that potential readers are being pushed away from your book must be terrifying.

Here's hoping this mess gets straightened out sooner, rather than later, and that some sanity is brought to the issue of eBook pricing. Until then, I'll just have grit my teeth at the errors, take a deep breath, search for something else . . . and spend my money elsewhere.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

eBook Review: Seventh Star Singles by Michael West

Last month I was fortunate enough to win a giveaway over at Book Den (a belated thanks to Jen for the contest!), picking up all eight Seventh Star Singles, courtesy of Seventh Star Press. Never having read anything from the publisher, I quite liked the idea of getting a chance to sample their authors in short-story format, but the first two stories randomly picked from the bunch just didn't grab me.

Fortunately, I didn't give up on the publisher, because the next two stories - For the River is Wide and the Gods are HungryGoodnight, both by Michael West - turned out to be great reads.

For the River is Wide and the Gods are Hungry is a very short story (just 16 pages), but it works very well. It has that campfire ghost-story feel to it, and reminds me in some ways of an old Richard Matheson short. It's creepy, suggestive, and frightening in its efficiency of words, but never tips its hand by actually showing you the monster. Skeptics are free to walk away and scoff at coincidence, claiming the power of suggestion, but horror aficionados know damn well to stay the hell out of the water.

Goodnight is an emotionally powerful tale that grabbed me right from the mention of Spider-Man bed sheets. More sad than scary, the horror here comes not from the creepy rows of corn out in the field, but the carelessly placed pitchfork beneath the hay. The depiction of the Grim Reaper is one of the best I've read in a long time, equal parts Stephen King and Tim Burton, and his confrontation with a young boy is chilling. If the final twist isn't quite the surprise some readers might like it to be, that's perfectly okay, because the story is all about fulfilling that eerie promise.

Like I said, short stories are a great way to sample an author's work, and I can honestly say that these two shorts have me eager to read one of West's full-length works.

So, watch out, Cinema of Shadows, 'cause I've got my eye on you . . . although you may have a fight on your hands if I can get my hands on an early copy of Poseidon's Children!

"Waiting On" Wednesday: The Wind Through the Keyhole by Stephen King

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill over at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

This week's pre-publication "can't-wait-to-read" selection is:

The Wind Through the Keyhole by Stephen King:

For those discovering the epic bestselling Dark Tower series for the first time—and for its legions of dedicated fans—an immensely satisfying stand-alone novel and perfect introduction to the series.Beginning in 1974, gaining momentum in the 1980s and coming to a thrilling conclusion when the last three novels were published in 2003-2004, the Dark Tower epic fantasy saga stands as Stephen King’s most beguiling achievement. It has been the basis for a long-running Marvel comic series.

Now, with The Wind Through the Keyhole, King has returned to the rich landscape of Mid-World. This story within a story within a story finds Roland Deschain, Mid-World’s last gunslinger, in his early days during the guilt-ridden year following his mother’s death. Sent by his father to investigate evidence of a murderous shape-shifter, a “skin-man,” Roland takes charge of Bill Streeter, a brave but terrified boy who is the sole surviving witness to the beast’s most recent slaughter. Roland, himself only a teenager, calms the boy by reciting a story from the Book of Eld that his mother used to read to him at bedtime. “A person’s never too old for stories,” he says to Bill. “Man and boy, girl and woman, we live for them.” 

Sure to captivate the avid fans of the Dark Tower epic, this is an enchanting introduction to Roland’s world and the power of Stephen King’s storytelling magic. [April 24]

With just 1 month left to go, the countdown has officially begun . . . NEW DARK TOWER!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

eBook Review: The Crown Conspiracy by Michael J. Sullivan

Michael J. Sullivan's The Crown Conspiracy (available as part of the first Riyria Revelations omnibus, Theft of Swords) is a welcome throw-back to the heyday of quest-driven adventure fantasy. I thoroughly enjoyed it, so much so that I have already started in on Avempartha, despite my usual habit of allowing a little distance between books in a series.

It's a story that reminds me, at different times and in different ways, of Fritz Leiber's Lankhmar books, Glen Cook's Black Company series, and Fred Saberhagen's Book of Swords, with hints of something grander to come, akin to Raymond Feist's Riftwar Saga or Terry Brooks' first Sword of Shannara trilogy. It's fun, well-paced, wryly humorous, and altogether exciting, with a determined focus on the heroes. Unlike so much epic fantasy of the past decade, this is neither a sprawling soap opera with swords, nor a massive multi-national, multi-generational epic with lists of characters longer than most short stories.

This is fantasy. This is adventure. This is the genre stripped down and taken back to its roots.

Royce and Hadrian are likable protagonists from page one, and by the time they've double-crossed their client by re-stealing from him what they stole for him, you know you're in for a wild ride. These are adventure loving, risk taking men who are so good at what they do, they're allowed to exist outside the more generic thieves' guild. More than that, these are thieves with a conscience, a history, and a secret we're only allowed to flirt with . . . men who can't resist the chance to do a good deed, even if it nearly kills them.

While the plot is largely straightforward, there are enough twists and turns to keep you on your toes, although Sullivan keeps them simple and neat. The dialogue is crisp, with equal parts witty banter and honest debate, and the narrative is just as clean, more flowing alongside the reader than seeming to carry you along. As for the action, it's clever and well-orchestrated, without being overdone - it's a story that firmly remembers it's a simple fantasy adventure, not a big-budget action flick with wires, pulleys, and CGI trickery.

I have to admit, for a series I'd read so many good things about, I was prepared to be disappointed. I went into this first book almost looking for an excuse not to like it, not to hop on the bandwagon, but I've come out of it more than eager to jump on and enjoy the ride!

Monday, February 20, 2012

VBT Review: inSyte by Greg Kiser

Greg Kiser`s inSyte is an engaging novel with an intriguing premise that stumbles a bit in its narrative execution, but which still provides for an entertaining read.

The story starts out as a straightforward military thriller, with a pair of Navy SEALS pinned down by enemy fire, outnumbered, and cut off from any hope of rescue. After a brief lull, the story takes an interesting twist into the paranormal, with one of those SEALS discovering the secret of mentally tapping into the limitless knowledge of the internet. It`s through that forbidden knowledge that Mitch discovers a “divine” plan that will result in the deaths of millions . . . a plan that he can prevent, but only if he kills the father of the woman he loves.

Mitch is a solid, if unremarkable hero, who is strong enough to engage the reader, but lacks that something extra that would allow him to carry the novel singlehandedly. Fortunately, we have a suave, sophisticated, amoral villain in Cheslov, the hitman turned serial killer. He`s entirely calm and accepting of his profession, with no moral or intellectual qualms, but also none of the maniacal insanity we`ve come to expect in these characters. These two play well off another, leading to a finale that`s as exciting as it is satisfying, and even if the final scene was something I completely anticipated, it still worked.

Like I said, the novel does stumble a bit in its narration, with a detached third-person narrator who exposes us to the characters` thoughts, often in a disjointed, almost random, stream-of-consciousness manner. It catapulted me out of the story a few times, leaving me confused as to who was doing or thinking what, but I did find you eventually make an uneasy peace with the style.

Otherwise, it is an fast-paced, exciting read, one that`s full of big ideas and which provides a tantalizing glimpse into the future. There`s an interesting world here, full of possibilities, and since there does seem to be a door left open for a sequel, I really hope Greg allows us to explore more of that world.


Greg Kiser is happily married to a wonderful and inspirational wife, Serena, and has two beautiful children – Miller and Grace.

Greg graduated from Southern Polytechnic University in Atlanta with a BS in Electrical Engineering. Greg also earned his MBA from the University of South Florida. He is currently a Director at Cisco, a high tech fortune 50 multinational corporation.

Greg has written extensively for fortune 50 high tech firms in describing next generation networks and painting pictures of the true evolution of technology for the consumer.

(this book was provided free of charge, via the Virtual Book Tour Cafe, in exchange for a fair and honest review)

Thursday, February 16, 2012

TGIF - Feature & Follow Friday

Feature & Follow Friday is a blog hop that is designed to provide some much-appreciated exposure to the bloggers participating, and to expand their following. Hosted by Parajunkee and Alison Can Read, each of whom feature a chosen blog for the week, it's an interesting way to get to know one another.

Question of the Week: I like unique names for characters and am looking forward to coming up with some when I start writing. What’s the most unique character name you’ve come across?

I hate it when authors try to get *too* clever with their names, especially in a contemporary setting where they stick out like a sore thumb. It's different with speculative fiction, where you *expect* odd names. With that in mind, I have to go with Tasslehoff Burrfoot (from Weis & Hickman's Dragonlance Saga) and Rakoth Maugrim (from Guy Gavriel Kay's Fionavar Tapestry) as long-time favourites, but I also have to give credit to Clive Barker for some truly memorable ones like Immacolata (Weaveworld) and Pie 'oh' pah (Imajica).

Parajunkee also hosts a Social Hop for Facebook and Twitter, which I've taken part in the past two weeks. So, if you're one of those people who aren't on Blogger, or who just don't like Google Friend Connect, it's a great way to keep in touch and follow one another.


TGIF is another blog hop designed to provide much-appreciated exposure to the bloggers participating, and to expand their following. Hosted by GReads, it's an interesting way to recap the week, pose a question, and find some exposure with a different audience.

Question of the Week: What do you take pride in when it comes to blogging?

Having worked with some friends to help maintain and promote their blogs over the last couple of years, and having seen how easily blogging can either become a chore, or descend into little more than a meme-popularity contest, I guess what I take the most pride in is the honesty, the passion, and the sincerity behind my blog. It represents what I read, what I write, and what I take an interest in every day of my life - I enjoy it, and I get excited when I have something to share.

Don't get me wrong, I'm also intensely proud of the friendships and connections I've made through the blog, and I'm grateful for each and every comment. That interaction is what makes it truly worthwhile, and discovering a new book for the TBR shelf is one of the highlights of my day. At the end of the day, though, I would have to honestly say I will always take more pride in being passionate than in merely being popular.

Release Date for A Memory of Light Revealed!

Tor has revealed the release date for A Memory of Light, the final instalment of Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time Saga . . . and it's much further off than Brandon Sanderson's updates had led us to hope:

January 8, 2013

For those of you keeping track, that's almost 23 years to the day from the original release of The Eye of the World on January 15, 1990.

Personally, I had been hoping for an October 2012 release, since most of the books have been released during the Autumn months, with Brandon Sanderson's first two co-written instalments coming on October 27 (The Gathering Storm) and November 2 (Towers of Midnight) respectively.

The full release is below:

The first novel in Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time®, The Eye of the World, was released on January 15, 1990. Now more than twenty years later, Tor Books is thrilled to announce the official publication date for the final novel in the series.

A Memory of Light will release on January 8, 2013, in the final month of the Year of the Dragon.

A Memory of Light is one of the most important titles that Tor will ever publish. Many of the principal players have been involved with the series since its inception, including Publisher Tom Doherty and Editor Harriet McDougal, who worked with Robert Jordan on all of his books, and who is working with Brandon Sanderson, the writer finishing the series from Robert Jordan’s outline and his notes. This is a landmark publication not just for Tor but for millions of fans of the late Robert Jordan, who eagerly await the conclusion to his epic tale. Everyone involved with the project is committed to making this an ending to remember.

Over the next few seasons, Tor will continue to release new Wheel of Time material, including trade paperback editions of the early novels with new art, new graphic novel editions of the The Eye of the World comics, and other material related to A Memory of Light as we get closer to publication date. 

It's going to be a very long year . . .

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

"Waiting On" Wednesday: Triggers by Robert J. Sawyer

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill over at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

This week's pre-publication "can't-wait-to-read" selection is:

Triggers by Robert J. Sawyer:

On the eve of a secret military operation, an assassin's bullet strikes President Seth Jerrison. He is rushed to the hospital, where surgeons struggle to save his life.

At the same hospital, researcher Dr. Ranjip Singh is experimenting with a device that can erase traumatic memories.

Then a terrorist bomb detonates. In the operating room, the president suffers cardiac arrest. He has a near-death experience-but the memories that flash through Jerrison's mind are not his memories.

It quickly becomes clear that the electromagnetic pulse generated by the bomb amplified and scrambled Dr. Singh's equipment, allowing a random group of people to access one another's minds.

And now one of those people has access to the president's memories- including classified information regarding the upcoming military mission, which, if revealed, could cost countless lives. But the task of determining who has switched memories with whom is a daunting one- particularly when some of the people involved have reason to lie... [April 3]

Okay, I'll admit it, I have yet to read Robert J. Sawyer, despite the fact that he's a fellow Canadian, and despite the fact that books like Illegal Alien and Flashforward have been sitting on my shelves for far too long/

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

EXPLORATION: Schoellkopf Power Station (Part 1 - The Approach)

The Schoellkopf Power Station is one of those almost mythical locations that have obsessed me since my early childhood days. Every time we drove\along the Niagara Parkway or took the Rainbow Bridge over to Niagara Falls NY, it called to me. I could see the ruined architecture clinging tenuously to the wall of the escarpment, the darkened tunnels leading to hidden wonders I could only dream of . . . and the sheer, seemingly unclimbable wall that not even my father (who got me hooked in hiking and exploring) knew how to traverse.

I was determined that, someday, I would find a way down there to explore the ruins. That day came this summer, and it all started with a sign - a closed sign, yes, but a sign that we were on the right path.

The hike down was an interesting one, beginning with a peek into some nearby ruins of the water treatment plant.

Further down the trail we found the usual assortment of junked cars, along with some  wheels that I suspect are remnants of the old railway that used to run along the river.

Our first glimpse of the ruins themselves was far overhead, nearly hidden within the trees, but it stopped us dead in our tracks. After an hour of hiking, we knew we were close.

When we turned the next corner, and saw the gaping mouths stretched along the river, we knew we had made it.

From there . . . well, I'll let the photos speak for themselves.

. . . to be continued.

Monday, February 13, 2012

ORIGINS blogfest

Okay, this is a really cool idea. Co-hosted by DL Hammons (Cruising Altitude 2.0), Katie Mills (Creepy Query Girl), Alex J. Cavanaugh, and Matthew MacNish (Quintessentially Questionable Query Experiment), the idea is to post your own origin story:

Tell us all where your writing dreams began.  It could be anything from how you started making up stories as a child, or writing for the school newspaper, or even what prompted you to start a blog.  How about stories about the first time somebody took an interest in your writing, or the teacher/mentor that helped nudge you along and mold your passion, or maybe the singular moment when you first started calling yourself a writer.  It all started somewhere and we want you to tell us your own, unique, beginnings. 

For my origin story, I'd have to look back to my last year of high school. A voracious reader and definite sci-fi/fantasy/horror geek, I was nevertheless headed down a science-oriented career path. The dreamer in me wanted to be either an archaeologist or paleontologist, digging up the secrets of yesterday and discovering the lost treasures of history/pre-history. The realist in me, however, was resigned to being stuck in a lab somewhere, most likely as a chemist or physicist.

As much as I had always thought it would be cool to be a best selling novelist someday, I hadn't really thought  of it as something that was ever likely to happen. Fortunately, I had an amazing History / Political Science teacher who really leaned on me to improve my essay writing skills, and who pushed me to interject more creativity into things. He kept lamenting the fact that I wanted to waste my time with math and science, when he could see I had a writer within in me. It's odd, but 2 years of History and Political Science with him probably taught me more about writing than a lifetime of English classes.

Anyway, enter my high school English teacher. It was a Friday, the final day of submissions for the high-school writing competition, and he asked me if I intended to enter anything. I honestly hadn't given it any thought, and I told him as much. He refused to take 'no' for an answer and urged me to come up with something over the weekend. Once again I got the "don't waste your talent" speech. If I could get something into him before first period Monday morning, he'd take it as a late entry. I had no idea where to even begin, but I took the challenge and spent the weekend writing.

What I came up with was a comic/satiric piece of medieval fantasy. Much to my surprise, it took first place in the contest, and gave me a much-needed boost of confidence . . . plus a small cash prize. I took what I learned from that experience, revised and polished the story, and submitted it to a few literary contests over the summer. While I didn't win, I was named as a semi-finalist in one, and that was pretty much the final nail in the science-as-a-career-path coffin.

It would be five more years before my first professional sale to Parsec magazine, but for the first time time I really knew what I wanted to do with my life . . .

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? is a great way to plan out your reading week and see what others are currently reading as well. Hosted by Sheila over at Book Journeyit's a weekly meme with the added incentive of contest for those who visit 10 or more of the participants and leave a comment telling her how many you visited.

The idea of the meme is to first post the book(s) you read last week, and then the book(s) currently being read and books you plan on finishing this week.

Last Week I Read . . .

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
(check out my review here)

This Week I'm Reading . . . 

Heaven's Shadow by David S. Goyer & Michael Cassutt

Theft of Swords by Michael J. Sullivan

inSyte by Greg Kiser