Posted in Male Author, Short Story

Deal Me In, Week 35 ~ “The Goldfish Pool and Other Stories”


Hosted by Jay @ Bibliophilopolis

“The Goldfish Pool and Other Stories” by Neil Gaiman

Card picked: Ace of Spades

From: David Copperfield’s Beyond Imagination


I’ve noticed that I always have trouble putting together my thoughts about Neil Gaiman stories. It’s not that I find his works befuddling, but the layers of the story settle into a hierarchy in my thoughts rather than a simple line. It’s hard to make them into sentences.

A young writer’s first blockbuster novel is optioned to become a movie. He travels to Hollywood to meet with producers and to write the script. This story was published in 1996, so I’m not sure how much Neil Gaiman had been exposed to the Hollywood system at that time, but the writer’s experience seems very reminiscent of William Goldman’s Adventures in the Screen Trade and Which Lie Did I Tell?. Basically, the writer meets four different sets of producers/directors who have attached themselves to the project, the previous ones never to be heard from again. Each set know less and less about the project. It’s like a game of phone message. When the writer finally leaves, he’s writing a script for a totally different project.

The second thread of the story involves the titular goldfish pond at the old Hollywood hotel where the writer is staying. The pond is looked after by an aged groundskeeper who has been with the hotel since the 1920s. His name is Pious (“Sometimes I am, and sometimes I ain’t.”) and he tells the writer what he knows of old Hollywood–stories of who was popular and beautiful and what became of them. Of course, considering how the younger people of Hollywood have particular memories of people and events (the death of John Belushi is recounted by nearly everyone the writer encounters with the details always different), we wonder how reliable Pious is. Then again, he is the keeper of fish that are very old and maybe immortal.

And the third “other” story is about the writer trying, in his spare time between meetings, to write a story about Victorian stage magic. In particular he’s taken with the illusions known as the Artist’s Dream and the Enchanted Casement. Both were innovated in a time before TV and movies and both involve moving figures within a frame. Unfortunately, the young writer just can’t get a handle on what should happen in the story.

All of these threads, as well as the story of the writer’s original novel, are all woven together in 40 pages. It works well.

Is This Your Card?

I did have a card trick for the Ace of Spades, but I found rendition of the Artist’s Dream presented by Paul Daniels:

Posted in Readathons-Challenges-Memes, Uncategorized

Readers Imbibing Peril (R.I.P.) IX


It’s one of my favorite “challenges.” R.I.P. R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril.

Hosted by Carl at Stainless Steel Droppings, this is the ninth edition; the third for me. What is R.I.P.?

Dark Fantasy.

Or anything sufficiently moody that shares a kinship with the above.

That is what embodies the stories, written and visual, that we celebrate with the R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril event.

As time has wound on I’ve honed this event down to two simple rules:

1. Have fun reading (and watching).
2. Share that fun with others.

There are levels of participation to fit everyone. If you love any of the above genres, sign up!


I *might* read four applicable novels during September and October, but I *know* I’ll read at least two. Here’s what’s on the slate:

  • The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson – (see below)
  • Last Winter We Parted by Fuminori Nakamura – “A young writer arrives at a prison to interview a man arrested for homicide. The suspect, while world-renowned as a photographer, has a deeply unsettling portfolio…”
  • The Bullet Catch by John Gaspard – The second mystery featuring magician Eli Marks. Really looking forward to this one.

I *might* fit in some short stories as well, but I have my hands full with Deal Me In and Monstrous Affections.


Currently watching True Detective, on episode five now. Good stuff. Looking forward to the new American Horror Story too. On a similar note to both of these, I’ve been itching to re-watch Carnivale. And… Did I hear maybe a chance of an Estella Society Haunting watch party?

Update, 9/3/14: I added an R.I.P. IX list at LetterBoxd.


The Haunting of Hill House is one of my favorite novels of any genre. A reread readalong with the Estella Society should be fun.

R.I.P. IX images by artist Abigail Larson
Posted in Anthology, Mixed Anthology, Short Story

Review ~ Shadow Show

Shadow Show: All-New Stories in Celebration of Ray Bradbury by Sam Weller (Editor) & Mort Castle (Editor)

Cover via Goodreads

“What do you imagine when you hear the name” . . . Bradbury?

You might see rockets to Mars. Or bizarre circuses where otherworldly acts whirl in the center ring. Perhaps you travel to a dystopian future, where books are set ablaze . . . or to an out-of-the-way sideshow, where animated illustrations crawl across human skin. Or maybe, suddenly, you’re returned to a simpler time in small-town America, where summer perfumes the air and life is almost perfect . . . “almost.”

Ray Bradbury–peerless storyteller, poet of the impossible, and one of America’s most beloved authors–is a literary giant whose remarkable career has spanned seven decades. Now twenty-six of today’s most diverse and celebrated authors offer new short works in honor of the master; stories of heart, intelligence, and dark wonder from a remarkable range of creative artists. (via Goodreads)

According to Goodreads, it took me two years to read this book. This is why Deal Me In is helping me get through anthologies…

This anthology was published a month after Ray Bradbury’s death, but that was just a scheduling coincidence. I think I’d had it on my wishlist since December. I had been rather keen to buy it, but like most anthologies, it took me a while to get through it.

Previous Highlights:

I had three stories left and all of them were horror stories. “Hayleigh’s Dad” by Julia Keller and “Who Knocks?” by David Eggers both fell into that area of “bad things happening to girls who have adventures.” I hadn’t realized that Bradbury had set a precedence for this in his story “The Whole Town’s Sleeping.” While that’s a tense story, I’m disappointed that girls in Bradbury stories and Bradbury-esque stories are doomed to horrible fates.

I really enjoyed Kelly Link’s “Two Houses.” It’s a great combination of sci-fi and horror. It reminded me a little of Event Horizon. What makes a haunted house? Can you conjure a ghost by replicating a house perfectly? It’s not the last story in the book, but it was a great ending for me.

Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks
Publication date: July 10th 2012
Genre: short stories, horror, fantasy
Why did I choose to read this book? I like Ray Bradbury

Posted in Readathons-Challenges-Memes

Magic Monday ~ In which Schrodinger’s Cat is Invoked


I like Mondays. On Monday, I am refreshed from the weekend and exhilarated by the possibilities of the week ahead. I also like magic. I like its history, its intersection with technology, and its crafty use of human nature.  I figured I’d combine the two and make a Monday feature that is truly me: a little bit of magic and a look at the week ahead.

As I mentioned a few weeks back, often the fun of magic is how different performers decide to use the standards. Here Morgan & West (well, mostly Morgan) pair cup-and-ball basics with their own comedic twist.

I read an essay last week by Michael Close about the Big Lie of magic: That people *like* to be fooled. In fact, people really don’t, but there are things that performers do that can take the sting out of boldly lying to their audience. This trick of Morgan & West’s is a good example of the Conspiratorial Approach, in which the magician takes the audience into their confidence, and especially the Non-Magic Approach, using comedy to soothe befuddlement. A propos, Morgan & West recently wrote an article for the Guardian about this very type of thing.


What Am I Reading?

I started The Confabulist but I’m not sure I like one of the narrators. Some of Monstrous Affections and Magic And Mystery will probably be read as well.

“The Goldfish Pool and Other Stories” by Neil Gaiman for Deal Me In.

Writing, Blogging, and Other Life Stuff

This has been a rough year for me. A rough handful of years, actually. I’ve been trying to regain my writing mojo and I’m looking at all the things that have changed in this last 7-ish years. In addition to Eric working from home, our self-publishing, and my sometimes sketchy health, the big change has been in my use of the internet. I used to keep a sporadic journal of stuff, unstructured. I’d maybe comment back and forth with a handful of people I knew primarily online. Now, I have a more scheduled blog. I follow more sites and more people on Facebook and on Twitter. While I find these things enjoyable, they wear me out, little by little. I need to be more protective of my time and attention and, you know, actually do my job.

Posted in Short Story

Deal Me In, Week 34 ~ “The N Auntie”


Hosted by Jay @ Bibliophilopolis

“The N Auntie” by Anne McCaffrey

Card picked: Eight of Hearts

From: David Copperfield’s Beyond Imagination

Review: Set in Ireland, during a minor outbreak of whooping cough presumably in the 1990s, Ciara and a group of other mothers discover a troubling trend. Children are dying of illnesses that they might recover from after a visit from a little old lady who passes herself off as a distant great-aunt. This great-aunt always takes an N name, like Nellie or Nora or Naomi. The N Auntie has been around for decades. The oldest member of their community, a woman in her nineties, remembers a visit from the same “aunt.” The women use some amateur detecting skills to figure out where the aunt will strike next and confront her.

The majority of this story lays out the background of the narrator and how this menacing old lady is discovered. There is a genuinely creepy aspect to this woman because she gains entrance into people’s lives through the trust we extend to family. (I’m reminded of when a distant cousin stopped to visit on his way through Nebraska. None of us had ever met him. He could have been nearly anybody!) Unfortunately, this story falls down at the end. As supernatural entities go, the N Auntie turns out to be rather mundane and dealing with her comes down to an accidental event. Considering some of the top bar writing I’ve encountered lately, this story was somewhat disappointing.

About the Author: Anne McCaffrey is one of the heavy-weights of fantasy literature with her Dragonriders of Pern series. Having said that, I will admit that I’ve never been much of a fan.

Posted in Readathons-Challenges-Memes

Bout of Books 11 – Mid-Readathon Update

Bout of Books

List? What List?

The Confabulist: A NovelI *did* foresee the problem.

When I first made my Bout of Books TBR list, I realized that all the books were physical ones. After a couple weeks of Clean Out Your E-Reader, I was actually looking forward to turning pages. My joints had other ideas. I decided I might as well read the next eARC on my list. I started The Broken Hours on Monday and finished it up today. A creepy read.

But, I won’t be getting back to my list. My library hold of The Confabulist became available. I’ve already started it.

I found out over the weekend that I was the winner of Insatiable Booksluts‘ Gone Reading giveaway! Somehow, I totally missed this. Actually, the month of August has been something of a haze… With my shopping spree I purchased a BookBax, a handy-dandy, book-holding device. I just got it today and I’m pretty impressed. It’s funny how much lighter a book seems when I don’t have to grip it to keep it open.
Bookbax:: The Ultimate Book, iPad, Kindle and Tablet Holder

Where Have I Been?

Unfortunately, I’ve been pretty worn out the last couple of days and it takes me a lot of energy to be social. Yesterday, I’ll admit, I skipped the Twitter chat in favor of watching Fool Us and getting some writing done. Hopefully, I’ll make the last chat on Saturday and get back into commenting.

Challenge! — Like This, Try This

The Broken HoursHosted by  Writing My Own Fairy Tale

You must recommend a book based on another book, movie, tv show, etc similar to this: “If you liked _____, you should try _____ because _____.”

I’m going to rec the book I just finished:

“If you liked M.R. James,
you should try The Broken Hours by Jacqueline Baker
because while this story involves H.P. Lovecraft is has the sort of quiet Earthly secrets I associate more with James.”

Posted in Readathons-Challenges-Memes, Uncategorized

Bout of Books 11 – Intro and Day One Challenges

Bout of Books


Introduce Yourself to Your Fellow #boutofbooks-ers

To kick off the read-a-thon, we’re doing something a little different. We’re hosting an informal challenge. Take a picture of yourself with your reading pile, your reading companions, the Bout of Books tagline (Are you ready to get your read on?), or anything else that will let us get to know YOU! Upload it to any social media site with the #boutofbooks hashtag and CONNECT with other readers!

Balsamo2I don’t do selfies. I don’t even have the proper equipment. Instead, here’s my BoB TBR pile with my rendering of Balsamo the Talking Skull.

My reading tastes are a tad off-center and I currently have a preoccupation with stage magic and its history. Don’t worry. Balsamo is a friendly chap and I don’t bite either. 🙂


Challenge! – Bout of Books Scavenger Hunt

Book Scavenger Hunt, hosted by The Book Monsters

Book Scavenger Hunt:
1. A Book that begins with “B” (for Bout of Books!)
2. A book that has been made into a movie/tv show
3. A series you love
4. An anthology of poems or short stories
5. A book on your TBR shelf, or your full TBR shelves


Challenge! – Playlist

Playlist, hosted by LuLo FanGirl

Make a playlist centered around at least ONE of the books you plan on reading during the read-a-thon.

My playlist for The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay. Full of swinging goodness.