Come See Me at Hal-Con!

October 24, 2018 at 9:36 pm (Links, writing) (, , , , , , , , )

Although I won’t be attending the full weekend at Hal-Con, I will be making a couple of appearances on Sunday,  I will be offering up a solo presentation on alternate histories Sunday morning, and participating in the world-building panel put together by the Genre Writers of Atlantic Canada group Sunday afternoon.   Here is a schedule of Jules Verne Phantastical Society-themed and -sponsored presentations and workshops at Hal-Con:

Friday 26 Oct

1:00 p.m. room 501
Flash Fiction Workshop with Genre Writers of Atlantic Canada

2:00 p.m. room 103
Practical costuming with NERO

3:30 p.m. room 501
Tying History to your novel with Grossman and Wendig

[4:00 p.m. room 502
Librarians: the myth, the mystery]

6:00 p.m. room 106
Representation in SF and Fantasy, with Beiko and Little

6:30 p.m. room 501
Frankenstein at 200, with UKC and SMU professors! Happy birthday to the Modern Prometheus.

8:00 p.m. Grand Parade Square
Gothic Halifax Ghost ‘tour’ with Aulenback

Saturday 27 October

12:15 p.m. room 103
Cosplay and Diversity with Akakioga and Knightmage and Hamm

4:15 p.m. room 501
Ask a Linguist with Gardner

5:15 p.m. room 504
Tea Dueling Workshop with Aulenback

6:30 p.m. room 504
Margaret Cavendish’s Blazing World and the beginning of science fiction with Morris

7:00 p.m. room 103
Adding lighting and electronics to cosplay with Clarke and Hirtle

8:00 p.m. level 5 ballroom demo space
Mylar’s Old Time Fashioned Radio Program Showe

Sunday 28 October

10:45 a.m. room 506
Pasts That Never Were with Boudreau

1:00 p.m. room 502
Steampunk and Alternate History with Thompson

2:00 p.m. room 504
Fictional World-building with Genre Writers of Atlantic Canada

4:45 p.m. room 106
Gothic Monsters: Then and Now with DU

If you can be there Friday, as a writer, I highly recommend the GWOAC flash fiction workshop (I helped with one of the handouts) and Tying History to your novel with Grossman and Wendig (I so wish I could attend that one.)

I’m looking forward to seeing some of you there!

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The Blurb on Other People’s Words – Kat and More

May 7, 2018 at 2:24 am (dark fantasy, Links, Reviews, writing) (, , , , , )

I recently completed 6th Turn: Kat, my latest read in Ren Garcia’s League of Elder series. I’m a big fan of his writing, and I enjoyed this book because it was a particularly dark story line but followed the action with a consistent thread of hope (I felt the same way Mentralysis, my previous read.)

This was another world-building win from Ren, and was definitely a favourite so far. The story ventures into the realm of the Black Hats – we get to see their creation process with all of its cruelty and suffering, and then follow four shadowtech females sent out on their first mission where success will mean new status. One stands out amongst the others, and when things take a turn for the worse, she manages to overcome adversity with the help of her “angels”. Her quest takes its own turn and she abandons her original mission for a completely new goal.

I loved following her transformation, the budding romance that matures into something stronger and how she deals with all of the obstacles she must face while trying to achieve her higher purpose as the Covus. She’s no fragile flower, fighting, even killing when necessary to protect the ones she cares about.

I liked some of the scenes so much I went back and reread them after I finished the book. I especially enjoyed their startling trip to Vain (with its air of a post-apocalyptic dystopia) and their encounters at Xandarr that ventured into the surreal.

This one was a big thumbs up for me. More like this one please.

I was happy to hear that Ren has now released an Omnibus collection. This is a great way of getting three of his books in one: The Dead Held Hands, The Machine, and The Temple of the Exploding Head, books that follow the adventures of Lord Kabyl, the lovely Sam and their companions.

His space operas, with their mixture of sci-fi, steampunk and strange, dark magic, maintain the high adventure flavour of old cliffhangers.  When you read them, you can count on masterful world-building, diverse characters and moving story lines. I enjoyed these books immensely individually, so its a great opportunity to be able to get them as a set.

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The Blurb on Other People’s Word: Mentralysis

December 15, 2017 at 1:44 am (dark fantasy, horror, Reviews, writing) (, , , , , , , )

Review – House of Bloodstein: Mentralysis – by Ren Garcia

I’m a true fan of Ren Garcia and I’ve read all of his books to date (well, I’m working on Kat now.) Mentralysis started in a very puzzling way. I was very intrigued to see where it was going. Ar first it seemed similar in some aspects to his other books, but off in a way, straying from some anticipated norms.
Then it took a turn to a place darker than any of the others and I found that more than a little disturbing. I thought: “This book is nasty! Nasty, nasty, nasty! I love it….”
Understand, this is coming from an avid reader of all speculative fiction, who especially loves both horror and fantasy. I found the storyline of this book the most creative and original of all Ren’s books, and considering he’s a master world-builder, that’s saying a lot.

In addition to an edgy and moving storyline, the new characters were delightful and entertaining. I particularly enjoyed Laika, a Haitathe – quite a force to be reckoned with and one of the pivotal components of the story. Ren also turns some of the pre-existing characters on their heads (with a well-thought out explanation, of course.)

He presents his heroes with conniving villains who provide some exceptional challenges. They offer up equally exceptional resolutions in return.

If you are looking for some genre-bending, speculative fiction with a fresh approach to a great story, this book’s for you.

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Let’s Blitz Again – Review Edition

October 20, 2016 at 1:52 am (fantasy, horror, Reviews, writing) (, , , , , )

screenshot-2016-10-19-at-10-48-31-pm-editedTwo more submissions have been sent to magazine markets, both new to me.  They are both stories I’ve only submitted once or twice before, so I’m still not sure how they’ll be received.

At the same time, I received an e-mail regarding the upcoming release for one of my two acceptances this blitz.  I should have more details to share here soon, when we get closer to the print release.

Since I finished the story I was working on yesterday, I decided to work today on a review of a book I just finished reading.  Here are my thoughts:

Review – Ren Garcia’s The House of Bloodstein

I’ve always enjoyed Ren’s space opera books for their high adventure and detailed world building, with added elements of fantasy and steampunk, quite dark in some places thanks to shadowtech.  But this new addition to his series leans even more into my favourite genre, horror, which made the read more enjoyable for me.  This particular novel continues the story of his second generation of characters – the first generation appearing in the original League of Elders series.  Kay, Sam, Phillip, and Sarah are offered the opportunity to participate in a game, not as players, but as collectors of some highly sought after game pieces.  There is a twist to the invitation that inevitably leads into dangerous terrain, facing off with dastardly villains, a crazy gun-toting revenant and space zombies far scarier than your average zombie fare.  Joined by King, an artifact creature crafted to assist and defend them and Thomasina/Rose, Phillip’s romantic interest, the characters encounter everything thrown at them with their usual bold flair, making for a wild ride with some incredible fight scenes.  Overall it was a wonderfully fun read.

My only advice is that this book wouldn’t read very well as a stand-alone novel, so if you haven’t read the rest of Ren’s series – start at the beginning and work your way up to this.  His series is definitely one of my favourites.

Time to start a new story – more from my blitz later.

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The Blurb on Other People’s Words – Ren Once Again

May 7, 2013 at 12:00 am (fantasy, Reviews, writing) (, , , , , , , )

Against the Druries: The Belmont Saga (Volume 2) by Ren Garcia

If Ren Garcia writes it, I’ll be reviewing it. He never fails to impress me with his world-building skills, original plotlines and interesting characters. Despite the fact that his writing ventures into genres I don’t usually enjoy reading, like steampunk and science fiction, his work always manages to entertain me.

Against the Druries is the second in The Belmont Saga – Seventh in his League of Elder series – and I found it as equally satisfying as the book preceding it. I’m not going to go into any great plot detail as a lot of what happens in this book would be considered spoilers for the first book, but I will touch on some of the highlights.

One of the first things I liked about this saga was that aside from the protagonist, who is the larger-than-life classic hero typical to Ren’s stories, the majority of the other characters in the book are the type of flawed individuals who appeal to my sensibilities. I was especially drawn to A-Ram, the true underdog sort with something to prove, not just for himself but on behalf of his family. The rough-edged Tarra also made for some necessary comic-relief during very tense times.

While Ren’s not afraid to offer up the darker side of things, this book seemed particularly dark. I prefer my reads grim and messy (not the writing, but the storyline,) so this aspect made me happy. It also leaves us with some rather frightening prospects for stories to come.

The most surprising part of the book was the villains and the revelation of their true nature. They certainly aren’t what they seem to be at first, providing an even greater threat to our heroes and their objectives than first anticipated.

In all, this was an intense, shadowy adventure, filled with intrigue, excitement and extreme ups and down – an edgy joyride. Definitely five stars from me.

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Genre for the Holidays – Celebrating 2012!

December 11, 2012 at 11:56 pm (dark fantasy, fantasy, Links, writing) (, , , , , , , , )

The Blog of The Year Award

I am grateful to receive The Blog Of 2012 Award from a fantastic blogger/storyteller, Cheryl Moore. Cheryl is an amazing artist and a fascinating raconteur and you can find her brilliant work on her site, Unbound Boxes Limping Gods. I will now award this to three very deserving recipients, who are all talented and prolific.. Their names will be revealed after the rules.

1. Select another blog or other blogs who deserve the ‘blog of the Year 2012′ Award.

2. Write a blog post and tell us about the blog(s) you have chosen – there’s no minimum or maximum number of blogs required – and ‘present’ them with their award.

3. Please include a link back to this page ‘Blog of the Year 2012’ Award
and include these ‘rules’ in your post (please don’t alter the rules or the badges!)

4. Let the blog(s) you have chosen know that you have given them this award and share the ‘rules’ with them.

5. You can now also join our Facebook group – click ‘join’ on this page ‘Blog of the Year 2012′ Award Facebook group and then you can share your blog with an even wider audience.

6. As a winner of the award – please add a link back to the blog that presented you with the award – and then proudly display the award on your blog and sidebar … and start collecting stars…

7. There are stars to collect! Yes, there are stars to collect! Unlike other awards, which you can only add to your blog once – this award is different! When you begin you will receive the 1 star award, and every time you are given the award by another blog, you can add another star!

8. There are a total of 6 stars to collect. At which time your “badge” will look like this:

You can check out your favourite blogs, and even if someone else has already given them the award, you can still award them again and help them to reach the maximum 6 stars!

Now for my nominations and the criteria for my decision:

To go with my genre theme, and because I think he deserves all 6 stars, I’m voting for Ren Garcia, who writes the best steampunk space fantasy out there (IMHO). His blog, The Temple of the Exploding Head, offers details from his well-integrated world-building and samples of the artwork from his books. A must see!

I’m also voting for the blog of the talented Bruce Blake who writes incredible fantasy and urban fantasy (although he grabbed me with his short stories – wicked good). He’s heavily involved in the indie writing scene and celebrates writing and genre fiction on his blog.

Lastly is Blood Skies, the blog of Steven Montano. He is a fellow creative accountant who also writes dystopian dark fantasy. He has some holiday content from December 8 – another way he fits my theme. Maybe it’s something in the water that makes us this way…

Anyway – I highly suggest check their blogs out. If you do, you’re in for a treat.

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Adventures in NaNo-land – Location, Location, Location

November 21, 2012 at 3:25 am (fantasy, writing) (, , , , , , , , )

Writing a story set in a place that you’re familiar with is fairly easy, or using an entirely made-up world can be quite simple as well, if you enjoy world-building. Change the setting to a real place you’ve never visited, or even worse, that same place in a different time, and suddenly you face the risk of someone telling you that you’ve got it wrong.

I like to research the places I’m using as a setting for a story, but there’s no guarantee I’m going to get everything right, especially if your tale takes place in the distant past and involves a somewhat obscure culture. Here are a few of the things I look for while doing research on story location:

Place names – Having appropriate village, city or landmark names for your location is important. Sometimes you may want to avoid real place names for a fantasy plotline because of the obvious fictitious nature of the tale, but if you choose to fabricate place names for your real setting, at least research existing ones to give you an idea of what a likely place name might be (with regards to spelling, length, accent, etc.)

Climate – Are there four seasons, or more like two. Are those seasons based on a change in temperatures (warm to cold and back again) or precipitation (rainy seasons versus dry seasons.) Are there lengthy periods of fog, or the does the place tend to be arid in general? How close is the location to either pole versus the equator?

Terrain – Is there one common terrain (woodlands, coastlands, marsh, savannah, mountains, etc.) or does it vary, and are there particular terrains that should be excluded. Is the location primarily highland or lowlands? It helps to know these things to ensure you don’t include any terrain that would not be found there.

Flora and Fauna – Before you include any animals or plants that are common to you, make sure they existed in your location during the time the story is set. You may have to settle for a reasonable substitute. Lions, tigers or bears may never have lived in your chosen land. If that’s the case you may want to seek out a different and appropriate predator. The same thing applies to plants. You won’t find a cactus in a saltwater marsh or a bird of paradise flower by the Arctic Circle (except, perhaps, if magic is involved.)

Special Features – Some places have features particular to their area that may not be found elsewhere. With The Trading of Skin, I had to factor in a slew of religious landmarks, some natural, some man-made.

When you choose a location to give your story a certain flavour, it makes sense to have the right trimmings. You don’t want you butterscotch pudding tasting fishy or a hint of toffee to your tuna salad.

More tomorrow J

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The Blurb on Other People’s Words – Ren Garcia Returns

October 15, 2012 at 10:26 pm (fantasy, Reviews, writing) (, , , , , , , )

Sands of the Solar Empire – by Ren Garcia

I don’t think Ren Garcia will ever write anything I don’t like. I’m a big fan. But I felt like he was toying with me a little with this book. The reader is provided with a great space fantasy adventure, with plenty of dead-ends for our heroes and seemingly impossible situations (at first). It is a fun, quirky, fast-paced tale with his typical larger-than-life heroic characters. And then…

Before I continue, I’ll have to tell you, I have a very linear brain. I like stories, unless they involve time-travel, to follow a definitive path. Any criticism I have about the non-linear qualities of this story are no commentary on the quality of this book – it is a wonderful read – but rather on my peculiar preferences. I still loved this book, but it drove me crazy reading it.

The story jumps back to events preceding the front-end action, following Belmont (or Bel as his friends call him), our hero, right back to the time prior to his birth. His adventures are thrilling. He’s a very sexy character with womanizing ways and a highly unusual family. Description of his household, his sisters, his encounters with demons and the ladies he interacts with are colourful and vividly detailed. The plot is just as intricate as his earlier novels and his world-building just as sublime.

As much as I liked this “reminiscing”, the opening storyline niggled at the back of my brain, a constant distraction while I followed the rest of the book. I wanted to know what happened to the folks he had left in the lurch, to the point where I was practically chewing my nails down to the nubs out of the frustration of having to wait.

It was worth the wait, but in the end I was left with enough loose ends that now I’m going to have to deal with more waiting for the next book. Nevertheless, I’d definitely recommend picking up this book, another addition to a fantastic series.

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Why Do I Do It?

June 15, 2012 at 10:36 pm (dark fantasy, fantasy, Magic University, Reviews, writing) (, , , , , , )

How often are writers asked why they write, and better yet, why do they write a particular genre? It can be a difficult question to answer, especially without seeming trite or clichéd.

I write multiple genres, mostly leaning towards the darker side of the spectrum, but I actually began with fantasy. I had an interesting five-star review that described my fantasy work as “fantasy for non-fantasy readers” and I guess the reviewer is right. I started writing fantasy because I’m a huge fan of the genre, and I was following the “write what you want to read” doctrine. But I have to clarify this point – while I love fantasy, I also hate it.

There are fantasy writers I find enchanting and exhilarating, writers like Jack L. Chalker, Tad Williams, Lawrence Watt-Evans, and Tanith Lee, but mostly because their work is not what I consider typical of the genre. That’s exactly why I love their kind of fantasy.

Apparently, I’m not a true fantasy fan, however, because the norm for fantasy, the epic high fantasy novels with lofty ideals and super-human flawless heroes, over-descriptive by my taste, bore me to tears. I can’t stand encyclopaedic segments inserted in amongst the story to demonstrate the author’s world-building talents, or pages and pages of imagery-riddled description of the landscape or the characters’ clothing, accessories or hair-dos. I think the ardent escapists demand these things, reading fantasy to completely free themselves from their world and their troubles. If it comes into play as a legitimate part of the story, that’s great, but in most cases, I find those kinds of things superfluous at best, and often poorly integrated into the tale.

As well, I like realism to my fantasy – edgy, gritty and cruel. Things aren’t always pretty in real life, and I want that reflected in the fantasy I read. If you do something dangerous on a regular basis, someone eventually gets hurt very badly and/or dies. If people are subject to torture or more responsibility than a normal person can be expected to handle, they break down, they might snap and turn to something like alcoholism to cope, or they may even go insane. Magic doesn’t always work the way it is supposed to because spell-casters are regular people and therefore fallible. Like in Stephen King’s fantasy writing, royalty sitting unobserved alone in their throne rooms, with nothing to occupy themselves, might just pick their noses out of boredom. (Yeah – ewww – but that’s realism, folks.)

I’ve seen evidence that my kind of fantasy doesn’t appeal to the average fantasy fan, the ones who read fantasy explicitly for that extreme display of world-building and those flowery descriptions, and not for the story proper. One reviewer complained there was no world building to my Magic University (she gave me a one-star rating). There was no doubt some truth to that depending on what she was looking for in the way of world-building. The story is set in one location over a 24-hour period, which limits exposure to the world and anything outside of that setting. There is no well-defined good guy/bad guy, and all of the characters are flawed in some way. Not pretty, and not perfect.

There are subtle elements of world-building to the tale, carefully integrated in appropriate places, such as the differences between the Masters and the Renegades and the biases and conflicts that exist because of it, reptilian culture and what social restrictions led to Nia’s exile, Shetland’s struggle with being magically endowed when he is a member of a race that normally repels magic, just to name a few examples. If you are accustomed to preferring that “in-your-face” display of world-building, details like these that have been carefully interwoven into the plot will probably fly under your radar, and my stories aren’t for you.

On the other hand, if you want something different, story-focussed fantasy that feels like it could actually happen if magic and mythical creatures did exist, you might get a big kick out of my work.

Some readers do.

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