What Else 2017, Week 8


Good Stuff

Just in case you’ve forgotten that Christoper Walken was in a music video (for a song with a Dune reference):

Writing Stuff

Added 2621 words to Wicked Witch, Retired and started a rewrite section. I was a bit unsure about my next few steps going forward, but a day off let my brain work on it. Still, didn’t get as much rewriting done as I needed to.

ROW80LogocopyHop over to check out more #ROW80 authors.

Blogging Stuff

In general this week, I decided not to worry about blogging. I thought about posting a round up of the books I’ve been DNFing lately, but I didn’t have the heart. Things are looking up on the reading front, though.

Fitness Stuff

Went for a 5K run last Monday. My time was okay for not having done a run of that length in probably over a month. No ultimate league this past week, but we played pickup on Wednesday and Friday. As some point during the game on Friday, Jody and I both decided we were going to play. I’d like to say I held my own, but I’m not sure that was the truth.

Other Life Stuff

Still working on how much news is too much news. I feel like I should stay informed, but some days are harder than others.

Deal Me In, Week 8 ~ “Mister Hadj’s Sunset Ride”

(Deal Me In logo above created by Mannomoi at Dilettante Artiste)

(Deal Me In logo above created by Mannomoi at Dilettante Artiste)

Hosted by Jay @ Bibliophilopolis
What’s Deal Me In?

“Mister Hadj’s Sunset Ride” by Saladin Ahmed

Card picked: 7♣. Last week I picked the 8♣. I shuffled, I swear!
From: Engraved on the Eye, also available at Beneath Ceaseless Skies

The Story

The toughest man I ever met? That’s an easy answer to give, but a tricky tale to tell.

Mister Hadj was from the same place as my rattlesnake of a Pa. Araby, or someplace like, though I don’t rightly know…

Our narrator, a young man of half-Arabian decent but American West upbringing, tells of his mentor, a man he calls Mister Hadj. This is weird west story and, within the telling, Mister Hadj’s Muslim observances have as much mystical weight as the other supernatural elements. Or, rather, they are treated with the same lightness. In a world that includes hexes and zombies, what does it matter if our hero prays to the east on his “little heathen rug”?

I never learned Mister Hadj’s Christian name, but tell the truth I don’t think he was a Christian. Not to say he wasn’t living Christianly, you hear—

Weird west is a subgenre that I often enjoy more in concept than in execution. I think it easily gets bogged down by an overage of tropes, as horror (and often steampunk) gets heaped upon a western. “Mister Hadj’s Sunset Ride” is short enough to avoid that. Our villain, Parson Lucifer, is a very bad man. Our heroes are out to bring justice. With silver bullets and Mister Hadj’s stone singing. Simple as that.

The Author

I have a confession to make. I don’t go out of my way to read diversely. My reading choices are pretty much dictated by curiosity. This goes for fiction as well as nonfiction. When I encountered a free anthology by someone named Saladin Ahmed, I presumed that the author was possibly Middle Eastern and possibly Muslim. The thought of speculative fiction written by someone of that background intrigued me. What would that author bring to his stories? So, here I am. Thankfully, Mr. Ahmed is a great teller of tales.

What Else 2017, Week 7 (and a bit of Week 6 as well)


Writing Stuff

I added 4195 words to Wicked Witch, Retired. My current plan is to add 800 words a day, Monday-Friday. If I’ve added 4K by Friday, I’ll work on a different project (or WW,R) on Saturday. Yesterday, I reread a short story I’d drafted in November, made notes, and started a rewrite. It seems that I’m best off if I schedule my time and then go write on the less-connected laptop.

ROW80LogocopyA Round of Words in 80 Days

Blogging Stuff

I’ve been in a bit of a reading slump, so I’ve been in a bit of a blogging slump as well. Since my last What Else post, I’ve posted a review of Peter S. Beagle’s In Calabria and thoughts on “Flower Garden” by Shirley Jackson and “The Faithful Soldier, Prompted” by Saladin Ahmed.

Fitness Stuff

I’ve been trying to run enough and play enough ultimate to counteract the new donut shop that opened a couple weeks ago. Actually, that’s not the problem. The problem is that I’ve been overindulging since before Christmas. I currently weight more than I’ve weighed since moving to AZ. On the other hand, I feel like I’ve been playing pretty well. I’m not in bad shape, I just weigh a little more than I’d like right now.

Class Stuff

Eden turned my eye toward Future Learn. They have an interesting selection of courses. Currently, I’m taking a three week survey on Antiquities Trafficking and Art Crime.

Other Life Stuff

Had a nice Super Bowl Sunday, a couple weeks back. Dan, a friend from disc, invited us over to watch the game, but we also played kickball with his kids and pinball on his three machines.

Since then, I’ve had one pretty crappy week and one pretty good week. Been playing disc and setting up for spring league and generally working. I kind of needed a reset last weekend, hence no post. Every-so-often I seem to need to forgive myself for all the stuff I haven’t done, find a new task management system, and start over. Right now I’m back to using Habitica with a fresh new character.

Deal Me In, Week 7 ~ “The Faithful Soldier, Prompted”

(Deal Me In logo above created by Mannomoi at Dilettante Artiste)

(Deal Me In logo above created by Mannomoi at Dilettante Artiste)

Hosted by Jay @ Bibliophilopolis
What’s Deal Me In?

“The Faithful Soldier, Prompted” by Saladin Ahmed

Card picked: Eight of Clubs
From: Engraved on the Eye, also found online

The Story

God willing, Faithful Soldier, you will go to the charity-yard of the Western Mosque in Old Cairo. She will live.

Ali is a veteran of the Global Credit Crusade. Although it’s been years since he’s been a soldier his embedded OS still sends him random reminder messages. Things like “God willing, Faithful Soldier, you will pick up your new field ablution kit after your debriefing today” and “God willing, Faithful Soldier, you will spend your leave-time dinars wisely–at Honest Majoudi’s!” But poor and with a dying wife, one message that repeats nightly seems prescient.

In an effort to do something for his ailing wife, Ali walks from Free Beirut to Old Cairo, facing tigers, toxighuls, and sandstorms along the way. When he reaches the charity-yard of the Western Mosque he receives a new message, one that helps a crime occur. Are the messages just a glitch? A hack? Or something more?

I’m not sure I buy into the Global Credit Crusade as a WWIII situation, but there is a lot of world-building bits in seven pages of story. I’ve had  Engraved on the Eye in my collection for ages. (I believe you can find it perma-free at most of your favorite ebook retailers.) I had read the first story in the collection sometime last year. So far, it’s 2 for 2 on great stories.

The Author

Saladin Ahmed was born in Detroit and raised in a working-class, Arab American enclave in Dearborn, Michigan. His first novel, THRONE OF THE CRESCENT MOON, was a finalist for the Hugo, Nebula, Crawford, Gemmell, and British Fantasy Awards, won the Locus Award for Best First Novel, and received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly, Kirkus, and Library Journal. He was nominated twice for the Campbell Award for Best New Science Fiction/Fantasy Writer for his short stories, which have appeared in YEAR’S BEST SCIENCE FICTION and have been translated into a half-dozen languages. He has also written nonfiction for NPR Books, Salon, and The Escapist. He holds an MFA in poetry from Brooklyn College, an MA in English from Rutgers. (via Amazon.com)

It’s Monday, What Am I Reading? 2/13

When in a reading slump, it’s not good to limit books choices. Therefore, I officially jumped ship on #COYER (only ebooks) and the TBR Dare (only books bought before 1/1). Yes, I suddenly wanted to pick up a paperback I started in December and read the only book I’ve acquired this year. *shrug*

Delusion Fascist Lizards from Outer Space: The Politics, Literary Influences and Cultural History of Kenneth Johnson's V picture
  • Delusion by Laura L. Sullivan <–that paperback
  • Fascist Lizards from Outer Space: The Politics, Literary Influences and Cultural History of Kenneth Johnson’s V by Dan Copp <–my only acquisition in 2017
  • Short works on tap:
    • “Homecoming” by Rachel Pollack
    • “The Faithful Soldier, Prompted” by Saladin Ahmed
    • “The Adventure of the Vintner’s Codex” by Lyndsay Faye

It's Monday! What Are You ReadingIt’s Monday! What Are You Reading, hosted by Book Date!

Deal Me In, Week 6 ~ “Flower Garden”

(Deal Me In logo above created by Mannomoi at Dilettante Artiste)

(Deal Me In logo above created by Mannomoi at Dilettante Artiste)

Hosted by Jay @ Bibliophilopolis
What’s Deal Me In?

“Flower Garden” by Shirley Jackson

Card picked: Eight of Hearts
From: The Lottery, and Other Stories

The Story

Mrs. Winnings lives in Winning house at the top of the hill with her husband and two children and her in-laws. She always dreamed of living in the little cottage on the way down the hill, but she is, after all, a Winnings. When Mrs. MacLean moves in to the cottage, Mrs. Winnings thinks that it will be the next best thing: she can be friends with the new resident and often visit the cozy little cottage. Mrs. MacLean, from New York City, is a widower with a son the same age as Mrs. Winnings’ oldest boy. She paints the little cottage in bright colors (so much different than dark, drafty Winnings house) and plants a large, elaborate flower garden.

All is well until the middle of the summer when the garden becomes too much work for Mrs. MacLean. She hires Mr. Jones to help her. Mrs. Winnings tries to tell Mrs. MacLean: Mr. Jones, a black man, was involved with a white woman and they had three children before the woman left. But Mrs. MacLean just doesn’t pick up on the subtleties of the situation. Mrs. Winnings severs her friendship with Mrs. MacLean, almost too late to protect her own reputation.

As the summer grows hotter and longer, Mrs. MacLean’s garden withers and no one is friendly to her anymore. She wonder’s out-loud to Mrs. Winnings about what might have changed.

“Are you sure it isn’t because of Mr. Jones working here?”

…and Mrs. Winnings went down the hill thinking, The nerve of her, trying to blame the colored folks.

So, there you go: story about race relations with old New England Shirley Jackson flair.

Review ~ In Calabria

This book was provided to me by Tachyon Publications via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Cover via Goodreads

In Calabria by Peter S. Beagle

From the acclaimed author of The Last Unicorn comes a new, exquisitely-told unicorn fable for the modern age.

Claudio Bianchi has lived alone for many years on a hillside in Southern Italy’s scenic Calabria. Set in his ways and suspicious of outsiders, Claudio has always resisted change, preferring farming and writing poetry. But one chilly morning, as though from a dream, an impossible visitor appears at the farm. When Claudio comes to her aid, an act of kindness throws his world into chaos. Suddenly he must stave off inquisitive onlookers, invasive media, and even more sinister influences.

Lyrical, gripping, and wise, In Calabria confirms Peter S. Beagle’s continuing legacy as one of fantasy’s most legendary authors. (via Goodreads)

Why was I interested in this book?
The Last Unicorn is one of my favorite books ever, and Peter S. Beagle is pretty much on my auto-read/buy list. (It’s really a very short list.)

As I did in my review of Summerlong, I feel I’d be remiss if I didn’t include some mention of the controversy between Beagle and his former business manager Connor Cochran. Peter S. Beagle filed suit against Cochran back in 2015. There are also ongoing complaints from fans who have purchased items from Conlan Press, but never received products. I would advise that if you’re going to buy any of Peter S. Beagle’s books, do not do so from Conlan Press and avoid ebooks edited by Connor Cochran. In Calabria, as well as some of Beagle’s backlog, is published through Tachyon.

What Worked
A hallmark of Peter S. Beagle’s work is his light touch with weighty subjects. In Calabria is about a man entering the winter of his years. He has regrets and is alone. It’s the quirky details that make Bianchi’s life real. His farm is populated with Cherubino the goat, Garibaldi the dog, and the cats: Sophia, Mezzanotte, and Third Cat. He has a comfortable life, but perhaps a life devoid of poetry. His visitor, a unicorn, changes all that. For better and maybe worse.

The writing is lovely, of course. Lyrical and poetical, though we are rarely treated to Bianchi’s work. ;)

The story winds out to a conclusion that might not be satisfying for some, but I liked it well enough.

What Didn’t Work
I’m not sure Beagle’s forte is ever works set in the “real” world, in the present day. Would an older man manage to survive such violence against him that is presented in the book? Eh… I don’t know.

This is also the second work in a  row for Beagle in which an older male character ends up in a relationship with a much younger woman. At a certain point in my life, I might have found these May to December plot lines to be charming. But now? I guess I’d like to see an older man in a new relationship with an older woman.

Publishing info, my copy: ePub, Tachyon Publications, January 16, 2017
Acquired: 11/15/16, NetGalley
Genre: fantasy, magical realism