Friday, March 27, 2015

Celebrate The Small Things - 27 March #CTST

It's Friday and time to Celebrate The Small Things (or big things) that happened this week.

Spring is coming, I think. We drove through some flurries last night coming home from the book store, but nothing stuck.

A friend introduced me to OverDrive a couple weeks ago. OverDrive is an app available for various devices that manages checking out ebooks and audiobooks from your library. I finally have a use for my smart phone, a reason to keep it charged.

Keep writing and keep hoping. What are you celebrating this week?

Want to join in the fun that is Celebrate The Small Things, sign up here. Thanks to the very talented Lexa Cain for hosting this hop.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Good Books to Read

The BackworldsRead anything notable lately? I finished a few titles this month that might interest space opera and ghost story readers. The Backworlds by M. Pax is a fast-paced, short novel that introduces this space opera series. Betrayed by his father, his girlfriend, and community, Craze is cast into exile, forced to make his fortune on his own. His father has taught him a few skills, but Craze never intended to set up a business on another planet and he's going to have to earn a lot more chips before he can hope to buy what he needs to start his own tavern. A few chance encounters and a back alley deal with stolen goods seems to put the fortune he needs within reach. Well, maybe and maybe he'll be lucky to get out alive.

From the Amazon page:
In the far future, humanity settles the stars, bioengineering its descendants to survive in a harsh universe. This is the first book in the science fiction series, The Backworlds. Try it for free. A galactic adventure.

After the war with the Foreworlders, Backworlders scatter across the remaining planets. Competition is fierce, and pickings are scant. Scant enough that Craze’s father decides to improve his fortunes by destroying his son. He tells his only boy their moon isn’t big enough for them both and gives Craze a ticket for the next transport leaving the space dock.

Treated worse than a stranger, like the scuzzbag of the galaxy, Craze is forced to flee his home. Cut off from everyone he knows with little money and no knowledge of the worlds beyond his, he must find a way to forge a new life and make sure his father regrets this day.
I don't read much space opera so I can't compare it against other books in the genre but I enjoyed it and I suspect any lover of adventure tales will find something to like. The characters are varied and well-drawn, the planetary settings fascinating. The story of friendship and shady business dealings in some rather unsavory places drew me in and held my interest. The ending of course is a set up for the next adventure, but I'm looking forward to another ride with Craze and his new friends. He can probably trust them.

Broken VoicesAndrew Taylor's Broken Voices is ghost story of the slow-paced, pleasantly creepy variety. Set on the eve of World War I at a cathedral school during the Christmas holiday, it follows two boys who are forced to remain at the school during the break. Neither wants to be there and one of them may be facing expulsion, which leads him to follow a desperate and ill-fated attempt at redemption. The story moves slowly as it builds up the setting. If you like historical fiction about boarding schools in the early twentieth century, there's a lot for you to delve into here.

From the Amazon page:
Broken Voices is a 23,000-word novella, written especially for Kindle Singles. A chilling ghost story, it is set a hundred years ago in an East Anglian cathedral city. Two lonely schoolboys at the end of childhood are forced into an unwanted companionship. One of them is terrified of what the future holds.

Does music have its ghosts? Its victims? Something is stirring in the cathedral that both echoes an ancient tragedy and seems to offer a chance of future happiness. One thing is certain. Broken voices make false promises. And their lies may prove fatal.
Taylor does some great work at characterization with the two boys and the retired teacher living on the school grounds with whom the boys are staying. Even the teacher's cat has a distinct and prickly personality. The ghostly bits don't come to the fore until well-after the middle of the story. If you're looking for a quick scare, this isn't the story for you. What's interesting about this tale is the nature of the haunting. It's a piece of music that haunts the cathedral. People hear a measure or two but nothing more. It was composed centuries earlier to celebrate a new set of bells for the cathedral, but the new bells were never hung and the music never performed. There's a tragedy at the center of the music's story and tragedies sometimes repeat themselves.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Celebrate The Small Things - 13 March #CTST

It's Friday and time to Celebrate The Small Things (or big things) that happened this week.

Some of the snow is melting. It's still cold here but at least the marrow in your bones doesn't freeze when you step outside.

Tonight is the JOT Writers Conference, which is becoming a biannual event. A time to connect with other writer friends in person and hear some great speakers. And it's all free. Well, you have to pay for refreshments, but the discussions and parking are free.

A couple weeks ago I started listening to the Rocking Self-Publishing Podcast. Lots of great interviews with writers and suggestions on tools and techniques. I learned about the Asana project management tool from RSP.

Keep writing and keep hoping. What are you celebrating this week?

Want to join in the fun that is Celebrate The Small Things, sign up here. Thanks to the very talented Lexa Cain for hosting this hop.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Word of the Week: Welsh Rabbit

Buck Rarebit (Welsh Rarebit with an egg).
Ever eaten Welsh rabbit or Welsh rarebit? Being an ignorant Yank, I assumed it's rabbit prepared in some distinctly Welsh way, likely with lots of consonants. Then I came across the alternate spelling Welsh rarebit, consulted a dictionary, and discovered there's no rabbit in Welsh rabbit. Bunnies have nothing to fear. In its simplest form, Welsh rabbit is melted cheese—typically Cheddar—over toast. Ale, milk, or other spices are often mixed with the cheese. There are several variations with colorful names. When topped with a fried egg, the dish is called buck rabbit. Add turkey and bacon to the recipe to create a Kentucky hot brown. Combine tomato soup into the mix to get a blushing bunny.

The first recorded reference to Welsh rabbit is from 1725. It's origin is unknown. Welsh rarebit is a corruption that first appeared in 1785. The term Welsh derives from Old English Wielisc—meaning foreign, not Anglo-Saxon, not free—which comes from the Germanic words Wealh and Walh—meaning non-Germanic foreigner, including Celts, Britons, and Latin speakers. Rabbit came into usage in the late fourteenth century to designate the young of the coney. Rabbit derives from Middle English rabet, which likely comes from Old North French Walloon robett, a diminutive of Middle Dutch robbe. Beyond that, rabbit's origin is unknown.

Some legends have developed to explain the origins of Welsh rabbit. One posits that toasted cheese is an irresistible dish to Welshmen. A C Merie Talys, a book of jokes printed in 1526, tells that God became weary of the Welshmen in heaven and asked St. Peter to do something about it. St. Peter announced outside the gates that toasted cheese was available. All the Welshmen ran outside. St. Peter then locked them out. Another unsubstantiated legend claims that Welsh peasants, not allowed to eat rabbits caught on the estates of the nobility, substituted cheese for rabbit meat.

Feeling hungry? Toast some bread and melt some Cheddar. Invite a bunny to join you.

Photo Attribution: “Welsh rarebit with an egg,” by Jiel Beaumadier (Own work) [GFDL or CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Insecure Writer’s Support Group: Post #10

It's the first Wednesday of the month again. Time for another IWSG post.

It's March. You wouldn't know it from peering out my window. Looks like more like February. A thick layer of snow covers the frozen ground and a stiff, cold wind is rattling the window. Even the ghosts are hunkered down before their imaginary fires. But my computer's calendar says it's the first Wednesday in March and computers don't lie.

I've been doing some free promotions lately in the hope of increasing my newsletter subscriptions. Well, the number has increased just not the avalanche that I was hoping (praying?) for. I know, these things take time, so I'll try to be patient. I'm also several chapters into a contemporary horror novel. I have the major plot points outlined, so it should be all systems go. So why do I feel more like a hobbit picking my way through Mirkwood, hoping I don't get stuck somewhere when I venture a bit off the path? Nothing to do but continue running/walking/crawling ahead and enjoying the journey no matter how insecure you may feel at the moment.

Until next month, keep writing.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Celebrate The Small Things - 27 February #CTST

It's Friday and time to Celebrate The Small Things (or big things) that happened this week.

I've been running some free promotions, hoping to boost my visibility and get some more list subscribers. A couple of my titles have moved up the results lists for my keywords. That's something to celebrate, and I have some new list subscribers for which I am elated and very thankful. But progress is slow.

Received some positive reviews and ratings this week, always a cause for celebration.

I'm always looking for something to listen to while chopping vegetables or loading the dishwasher. (I'm easily bored.) If you like creepy radio plays, go to Youtube and search for “cbs radio mystery theater”. Hours of listening entertainment.

Keep writing and keep hoping. What are you celebrating this week?

Want to join in the fun that is Celebrate The Small Things, sign up here. Thanks to the very talented Lexa Cain for hosting this hop.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Good Books to Read

The Savage Tales of Solomon KaneRead anything notable lately? I finished a couple titles this week that might interest fantasy and ghost story readers.

The Savage Tales of Solomon Kane, by Robert E. Howard (of Conan fame), collects all the tales, poems, and fragments relating to the Puritan adventurer. If you've never encountered Solomon Kane, he's a landless wanderer who travels Europe and Africa, destroying evil wherever he finds it. His favorite weapons are a sword and a pair of pistols combined with incredible strength and quickness. He battles both human and supernatural foes.

From the Amazon page:
Collected in this volume, lavishly illustrated by award-winning artist Gary Gianni, are all of the stories and poems that make up the thrilling saga of the dour and deadly Puritan, Solomon Kane. Together they constitute a sprawling epic of weird fantasy adventure that stretches from sixteenth-century England to remote African jungles where no white man has set foot. Here are shudder-inducing tales of vengeful ghosts and bloodthirsty demons, of dark sorceries wielded by evil men and women, all opposed by a grim avenger armed with a fanatic’s faith and a warrior’s savage heart.

This edition also features exclusive story fragments, a biography of Howard by scholar Rusty Burke, and “In Memoriam,” H. P. Lovecraft’s moving tribute to his friend and fellow literary genius.
I very much enjoyed these stories. Kane is not as well developed as Conan. Whereas Conan had a clear purpose behind his actions, Kane happens on his adventures at random most of the time. He appears to believe he is carrying out God's will to stamp out evil wherever he finds it. In the last few stories, he's journeying across Africa because he feels some vague compulsion to do so. In "The Footfalls Within," for example, he comes across a dead girl from a slave caravan. Kane is opposed to slavery of any kind. He tracks down the especially cruel slavers and attacks them.

If you're familiar with the Conan cannon, you may find the Kane stories, especially the short tales, a bit slight and disappointing, but keep reading. The longer stories are the best ones and Kane improves with familiarity. My favorites are "The Moon of Skulls," in which Kane journeys deep into Africa to rescue a girl kidnapped from England, "The Blue Flame of Vengeance," in which Kane battles some pirates, "The Hills of the Dead," in which Kane fights an army of vampires, and "Wings in the Night," in which Kane confronts a flock of vicious harpies.

As with much literature from this period, there's an undercurrent of racism, especially against black Africans. Howard portrays them as less technologically developed but no less brave and worthy of fair treatment. For instance, whenever Kane comes across a city or monument in Africa, he always assumes some other race built it. However, Kane will risk his life to free a slave or avenge cruel treatment of any race.

Printer's Devil CourtPrinter's Devil Court is a short tale from Susan Hill (of The Woman in Black fame) and part of the Kindle Singles collection. Some medical students in London are attempting to capture the "spark of life" and use it to reanimate a corpse. In this case, they take the spark from an old man and introduce it into a young woman. As you might expect, the results are not quite what the students expected. The story is as much about the students as the ghost of the reanimated young woman.

From the Amazon page:
A mysterious manuscript lands on the desk of the step-son of the late Dr Hugh Meredith, a country doctor with a prosperous and peaceful practice in a small English town. From the written account he has left behind, however, we learn that Meredith was haunted by events that took place years before, during his training as a junior doctor near London’s Fleet Street, in a neighbourhood virtually unchanged since Dickens’s times.

Living then in rented digs, Meredith gets to know two other young medics, who have been carrying out audacious and terrifying research and experiments. Now they need the help of another who must be a doctor capable of total discretion and strong nerves.

‘Remember that what you know you can never un-know. If you are afraid, then...’

A gripping and suspenseful mystery by one of the masters of the genre…
Printer's Devil Court has much in common with Frankenstein but lacks the horror of that tale, nor is it as frightening as Hill's The Woman in Black or The Small Hand. Printer's Devil Court is pleasingly creepy rather than terrifying. If you like Hill's writing and story-telling style, you will likely get some warm fuzzies from Printer's Devil Court.