Monthly Archives: March 2014

It’s Monday! What am I Reading? (3/31/14) & What Else in March

31Hosted by Sheila at Book Journey

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading is where we share what we read this past week, what we hope to read this week…. and anything in between! This is a great way to plan out your reading week and see what others are currently reading as well… you never know where that next “must read” book will come from!

Happy Monday Everyone!

Reading

Still working on Tesla: Inventor of the Electrical Age by W. Bernard Carlson. It’s good. I’m gulping down big chunks of it, but I ended up doing a read-through of Luck for Hire last week and didn’t do much other reading. Going to try to finish The Magician’s Study by Tobias Seamon as well.

Arrivals

Shirley The Best Horror of the Year, Volume Six The Medium (Emily Chambers Spirit Medium Trilogy #1) Abra-Cadaver

ARC from NetGalley, ARC from Edelweiss. Two Amazon freebies. I’m a sucker for seances and magicians at the moment (surprising no one at all).

On the Blog

  • Tuesday: Review of Dolores Claiborne
  • Saturday: For Deal Me In, I’ll be reading “16 Mins.” by Eric Lustbader

Work

Today I’ll fo the final formatting on Luck for Hire and then it’s off to KDP with it! (Still offering copies to anyone interested, but probably not after today.) Then, I start a rewrite on Pas de Chat. (I think that’s next up in my queue.)

What Else in March

Writing Work

Model Species was made available for free on Kindle! It took some doing, but Eric figured out how to make that happen. We also released the premium edition of Divine Fire, including the extra short story “The Blunder Games.”

We did some rereading/editing on Pas de Chat and decided that it really wasn’t up to snuff. I’ll give it a rewrite and then we’ll see where we are. We’ve also been putting a final polish on Luck for Hire and Eric has started another read-through on Physic.

Other Life Stuff

I don’t even know where March went. Been playing a lot of disc and watching a lot of basketball.

Once Upon a Time VIII – Update #1

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“The Tattoo” by Bonnie Jo Campbell, from Shadow Show: All-new stories in celebration of Ray Bradbury

This is an investigation of Bradbury’s “The Illustrated Man”: Where would such tattoos come from? What would it be like to have a tattoo that tells stories on your skin?

Gerald MacGregor, new inheritor of his father’s ball-bearing empire, is a fanciful man.  He dreams of going to Mars, despite his poor eyesight. He asks his accountant to marry him, even though he’s only known Sylvia for a few months. After seeing a tattooed woman in a carnival side show, a woman with tattoos that play out scenes from adventure stories, he pays a fortune to get a tattoo of his own. MacGregor becomes addicted to the beauty of his tattoo’s images and ignores what bothers Sylvie the most. The stories never have happy endings.

“So what if some of the stories don’t exactly end happily? I just wish we could watch together, to experience the adventures together, the good and the bad.”

MacGregor finds his own happy ending, but of course, it’s the only kind of ending MacGregor sees.

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Regarding my magician history/folklore thoughts:

I’m becoming familiar with the Aarne–Thompson tale type index, a dizzying list of motifs found in folklore. Luckily, it’s available online at various places. Identity and recognition tests might be a good place to start.

Also, looked at mention of one of the earliest “magicians,” Simon Magnus. As mentioned in the Bible:

Acts 8:9 – A man named Simon lived there, who for some time has astounded the Samaritans with his magic. He claimed that he was someone great.

Obviously, Simon was not concerned with defining his awesomeness in relation to anyone else.

Deal Me In, Week 13 ~ Fat Man and Little Boy

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Hosted by Jay @ Bibliophilopolis

“Fat Man and Little Boy” by Gary Braunbeck

Card picked: Seven of Clubs – a wild card.

From: Shadow Show: All-New Stories in Celebration of Ray Bradbury, ed. by Sam Weller and Mort Castle

Review: Short and very Bradbury in tone. This is a snapshot from a future in which the overweight and obese are exiled to their homes until they become “aesthetically agreeable.” The story is told from the perspective of a little boy who illicitly brings food to a very fat man. The fat man doesn’t care to ever rejoin society. While we’re not given specifics, the little boy is an outcast too, perhaps too intelligent and too quiet for his peers to tolerate. The fat man, on the verge of his last meal, tries to impress upon the little boy the importance of striving forward and being unique. Upon the fat man’s death (he commits self-euthanasia), he gives the little boy the financial means to do so.

Two things that I really enjoyed about this story: First, while morbidly obese and bed-ridden, the fat man doesn’t seem to regret his actions. Instead of warning the little boy, “don’t become like me,” the fat man’s message is more like “be yourself and don’t apologize.” Despite society’s impositions, the fat man lives and ultimately dies on his own terms. Second, every time the fat man speaks of food, it is in the context of something in the world outside his house.

“The crunch of pizza crust sounds like the crackle of distant lightning in the middle of a summer’s night, when you were still young enough to dream that Martian spaceships were hiding up there.”

In this way, Braunbeck give the fat man history and shows that though food has effectively imprisoned the fat man, it’s also his freedom. Not bad for a six page story.

About the Author: I mostly know Gary Braunbeck as a horror writer and was expecting a story more along those lines. The cool thing about Ray Bradbury, and therefore an anthology of Bradbury inspired stories, is that there are so many ways to go. Fantastical Martian landscapes? Check. Creeping horrors just around the corner of your imagination? Check. Nostalgic tales of childhood? Check. Thought experiment dystopias? Check. I expected creepy from Braunbeck and got something a little more along the lines of a nostalgic tales of childhood, set in a dystopia. I’m not complaining. It was very deftly done.

Is This Your Card?

Review ~ The Revenant of Thraxton Hall

This book was provided to me by St. Martin’s Press & Minotaur Books via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Cover via Goodreads

The Revenant of Thraxton Hall: The Paranormal Casebooks of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle by Vaughn Entwistle

 

Arthur Conan Doyle has just killed off Sherlock Holmes in “The Final Problem,” and he immediately becomes one of the most hated men in London. So when he is contacted by a medium “of some renown” and asked to investigate a murder, he jumps at the chance to get out of the city. The only thing is that the murder hasn’t happened yet—the medium, one Hope Thraxton, has foreseen that her death will occur at the third séance of a meeting of the Society for Psychical Research at her manor house in the English countryside.

Along for the ride is Conan Doyle’s good friend Oscar Wilde, and together they work to narrow down the list of suspects, which includes a mysterious foreign Count, a levitating magician, and an irritable old woman with a “familiar.” Meanwhile, Conan Doyle is enchanted by the plight of the capricious Hope Thraxton, who may or may not have a more complicated back-story than it first appears. As Conan Doyle and Wilde participate in séances and consider the possible motives of the assembled group, the clock ticks ever closer to Hope’s murder, in The Revenant of Thraxton Hall by Vaughn Entwistle. (via Goodreads)

One of my favorite movies is Ghostbusters. For me, it’s a nearly perfect ridiculous comedy, one I’ve gained more and more appreciation for as I’ve gotten older. I first watched it when it came out on cable, probably in 1985 when I was 10 years old. In 1986, The Real Ghostbusters cartoon was added to the Saturday morning line-up. While it featured the same characters and the same situation, it’s a softened, more out-right comedic show designed for a younger audience. Egon is blond and Slimer is a good ghost. I appreciated it, then and now, but it’s not *really* the same thing as Ghostbusters. The Revenant of Thraxton Hall presents a version of Arthur Conan Doyle and Oscar Wilde that feel like caricatures that could be a fun buddy team in a cartoon-style adventure. That’s not a bad thing. Unfortunately, The Revenant of Thraxton Hall isn’t entirely successful pulling that off.

In his Author’s Note, Vaughn Entwistle admits that he doesn’t let facts get in the way of a good story. The historical timeline is flexed. Doyle published “The Final Problem” in 1893. This is when the story is set. Daniel Dunglas Hume (Home in the story) died in 1886. The Society for Psychical Research probably did not have its very first meeting ten years after its formation in 1882. Yet, I’ll agree with Entwistle. The mixture of these elements makes for an interesting set-up. Some of the other liberties taken don’t pan out as well. I’m not usually one to complain about female characters, but Eleanor Mildred Sidgwick was, in reality, a proponent for the education of women and a leading figure in the Society for Psychical Research. To have her be just another woman fawning over Oscar Wilde and dashing Lord Webb left me kind of cold. In general, the Society was pretty toothless, barely bringing in any skepticism. The story could have been told without them. (Granted, if you’ve read any of the real Society’s studies, you’d realize scientific rigor often suffered.) Little historical details really bugged me as well. References like “the culprit is invariably the butler” and “a conjuring trick performed at a child’s birthday party” are not quite right for 1893.

There were a couple of times in the last third of the book when a few of the characters acted in strange ways with no plot reasons. The crux of the plot seemed to be rushed together with some leaps of logic. Unfortunately, the aspect that worked the least for me was Oscar Wilde. The character seemed too frivolous to be going, willingly, on this adventure even if he is Doyle’s friend. Now, if he had truly found himself entangled in it? That would have made more sense.

I really wanted to like this story. There were a lot of interesting elements. Maybe too many. Maybe a few things were still hammered out between ARC and publication, but it just didn’t feel cohesive enough.

Publisher: Minotaur Books
Publication date: March 25th 2014
Genre: Historical fiction, horror.
Why did I choose to read this book? Arthur Conan Doyle and Oscar Wilde go to a seance.

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Hosted by Historical Tapestry

It’s Monday! What am I Reading? (3/24/14)

31Hosted by Sheila at Book Journey

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading is where we share what we read this past week, what we hope to read this week…. and anything in between! This is a great way to plan out your reading week and see what others are currently reading as well… you never know where that next “must read” book will come from!

Happy Monday Everyone!

Reading

Tesla: Inventor of the Electrical Age

One of my favorite blogs, Paleofuture, announced their new book club last week. Their first read will be Tesla: Inventor of the Electrical Age. I still haven’t finished it, but I’m setting out to do so this week. I need to keep in mind that it’s only 383 pages. The last 130 pages are notes!

My “non-technical” reading will be Carl Sandburg’s In Reckless Ecstasy. It’s an Open Library checkout and lacking a cover.

Last week was cleanup week. Managed to finish Dolores Claiborne, The Revenant of Thraxton Hall, and Deadlock.

Arrivals

Glorious: A Novel of the American West White A Darkened Landscape

Western, horror, and horror western. Glorious is my first ARC from Random Penguin’s First to Read program. The other two are novella freebies that I picked up on Amazon.

On the Blog

  • Tuesday: Review of The Revenant of Thraxton Hall
  • Thursday: Retro Review? Thoughtful Thursday? We’ll see when we get there.
  • Saturday: I picked the seven of clubs for Deal Me In, which is a Wild Card. I’ll be reading from Shadow Show, an anthology I *still* haven’t finished.

Work

I’ll be reading/formatting Luck for Hire after Eric finishes his editing pass.

Once Upon a Time VIII

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Hosted by Carl @ Stainless Steel Droppings

Friday, March 21st begins the eigth annual Once Upon a Time Challenge. This is a reading and viewing event that encompasses four broad categories: Fairy Tale, Folklore, Fantasy and Mythology, including the seemingly countless sub-genres and blending of genres that fall within this spectrum. The challenge continues through June 21st and allows for very minor (1 book only) participation as well as more immersion depending on your reading/viewing whims.

Sign-Up

Review Site

The following is based on a true story.

Eric, on Friday, knowing of my love of readathons and challenges: Did you see the post at Carl’s blog about the Once Upon a Time reading thing?
Me: Yeah. But I have a bunch of books I should be working on and none of them are fantasy. Also, SF Experience didn’t go so well for me.
Eric: Okay. *goes back to editing*
Me, the next day: Everyone I know is signed up though.
Eric: What?
Me: For the Once Upon a Time challenge. I kinda wanna do it.
Eric: I thought you said you didn’t have any books for it.
Me: I didn’t say *that*. I have books. I have a Peter S. Beagle that I haven’t read yet…
Eric, also knowing that Beagle is one of my favorite writers: You have a Beagle book you haven’t read? How does that happen?
Me: Er…it’s one of his older books?
Eric: *goes back to editing, knowing that I’ll be signing up the next day*

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I’m going to play this totally smart and only sign up for The Journey: Just one book. It’s possible I’ll do more, but I’m keeping it simple.

Potential reads that I own:

The Folk of the Air  Briar Rose: A Novel of the Fairy Tale Series Grendel Fantastic Worlds: Myths, Tales, and Stories

I’ve also carved out a shelf at Open Library; I wouldn’t mind adding stories from a few cultures I’m not totally familiar with. Another idea I’m toying with, on the periphery of this challenge, is how biographies of early magicians set up a sort of folklore for their artistic progeny. The Fantastic Worlds anthology should help me with theory and then I’ll dip into the Memoirs of Robert-Houdin and a few other early biographies to see what’s there.

Deal Me In, Week 12 ~ Maelzel’s Chess Player

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Hosted by Jay @ Bibliophilopolis

“Maelzel’s Chess Player” by Edgar Allan Poe

Card picked: Jack of Diamonds

From: Originally published in Southern Literary Messenger in April 1836. I read it online.

Review: Actually not a short story but one of Poe’s essays, published early in his prose career while a staff writer at the Southern Literary Messenger. Better known as the Turk, the mechanical chess player had been an attraction for over 60 years when Johann Maelzel brought it to the US.

Poe begins with an introduction to some other fantastic automatons and computers of the age including the duck of Vaucanson*, and Babbage’s difference engine. The Turk is different from these, he argues, because both are obviously machines and, though Poe doesn’t use these words, obviously programmed to perform specific functions.

He then gives a very short history of the Turk and an account of its current exhibition in Richmond. Proposing “solutions” to the chess player was a bit of a rage at the time.  I think that, in light of the phantasmagoria of Poe’s later works and his rather ignominious end, we forget that he was a fairly smart guy. Based on his research and personal observations, he comes to his own conclusions about the Turk. On some counts, he’s even correct and chides previous explanations for being overly complicated when a simpler answer suffices.

Most of Poe’s conclusions I had already read about in Tom Standage’s excellent book about the Turk. Still there were a couple of things that interested me about his essay.

One of Poe’s presumptions was that a pure machine would always win at chess:

A little consideration will convince any one that the difficulty of making a machine beat all games, is not in the least degree greater, as regards the principle of the operations necessary, than that of making it beat a single game.

As is often the case with AI, the intelligence isn’t necessarily smarter than its programmers. It wasn’t until over 100 years later that man created a machine that could outplay the best chess players.

I was also intrigued by Poe’s notion of false machinery — that many aspects of The Turk were meant to be more machine-like than they needed to be to prove that it was a machine. Considering that Poe often played with the notions of false life and false death, this sort of rounds out the paradigm.

* Duck of Vaucanson may be one of my favorite things of all time. Mostly, because I have a theory that ducks are inherently funny. The concept of an 18th century robotic duck is utterly ridiculous in that “of course, this is what humans do when they can” kind of way. There is also some mention of the magician Joseffy creating an improved faux duck that presumably could function on it own without a base.

Is This Your Card?
I had a card trick for the Jack of Diamonds, but then I figured that a video about the Turk would be better. This Turk was rebuilt by magic engineer John Gaughan.