Monthly Archives: September 2016

Review ~ Summerlong

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

Summerlong by Peter S. Beagle

Retired history professor Abe Aronson is a cranky, solitary man living out his autumn years on Gardner Island, a ferry ride away from the hustle and bustle of nearby Seattle. One rainy February night, while dining at a favorite local haunt, Abe and his girlfriend Joanna meet an engaging enigmatic waitress, new in town and without a place of her own. Fascinated and moved by the girl’s plight, Joanna invites her to stay in Abe’s garage. It seems everyone falls for the charming and invigorating the waitress, but she is much more than she appears, and an ancient covenant made a millennium ago threatens to disrupt the spring and alter the lives of Abe, Joanna, and all those around them forever… (via Goodreads)

I.

The Last Unicorn is one of my favorite books. I reread it every two or three years. Like many of my generation, my familiarity with the story began as a kid with The Last Unicorn movie. I saw it in the theater in 1982 with my grandpa. It wasn’t until college (and bookstores more impressive than Walden Books at the mall)  that I finally read the book and began collecting Peter S. Beagle’s back list.  In the 2000s, with a new business manager, Beagle started publishing again. Since 2006, there have been three collections of short works, some other miscellanea, and the award-winning novette, “Two Hearts,” a sequel to The Last Unicorn. But it’s been 17 years since Beagle’s last full-length novel.

II.

Summerlong is, of course, a much different novel than The Last Unicorn. It is very much a middle-aged story. Abe and Joanna are set in their lives. Abe, the older of the two, is entering the winter of his life. Joanne, eleven years younger, seems content to continue on as things are. The third character in this novel’s starting situation is Lily, Joanna’s gay daughter. Lily is struggling in her life. Joanna doesn’t seem to know how to help her and is maybe disinclined to engage in Lily’s drama.

Into this trio comes Lioness Lazos. The crux of this story should be the mystery behind Lioness Lazo. She is a young woman of classical beauty who seems to maybe hold some supernatural sway over nature. She is undoubtedly on the run from someone. But the resolution of the mystery takes a backseat to how our trio of characters react to her. Both Abe and Lily are infatuated by her. Joanna feels some level of maternal protectiveness toward Lioness, but it’s her life that is upended the most by the young woman. Many of the summaries for Summerlong emphasize Abe as the main character, but I think this is much more Joanna’s story. When I reread this novel, and I undoubtedly will, it will be with Joanna in mind.

This is a slowly told story and, sometimes, it feels like it lacks focus.  The turning of the seasons is an important part of this novel, but I felt like there needed a stronger chronological basis. The dates at the beginnings of the chapters didn’t seem to reflect the passing of time in the story. (I wonder if this was a problem with the ARC.)

III.

Is Summerlong a novel for fans of The Last Unicorn? Maybe, maybe not. It is definitely for fans of Peter S. Beagle. Fortunately for both types of fans, September brings a feast. The September/October issue of Fantasy and Science Fiction magazine includes “The Green-Eyed Boy,” one of the long-rumored Schmenrick stories. It’s good, but of course it is.

At this point, I feel I should include some mention of the controversy between Beagle and his former business manager Connor Cochran. Peter S. Beagle filed suit against Cochran last year. 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.

Publishing info, my copy: ePub format, Tachyon Publications, September 2016
Acquired: ARC from NetGalley
Genre: fantasy, magical realism

September Reading Wrap-Up

Challenges

ReadMyOwnDamnBooksbutton

Well, September happened. I had good intentions to read more of my own books, but I got wrapped up in a couple of library books. R.I.P. is going well. I’m only through one novel (of hopefully four), but I’ve been reading quite a few “seasonal” short stories.

Finished in September

Long works:

  1. Descent into the Depth of the Earth by Paul Kidd – #readMyOwnDamnBooks reread
  2. The Séance by Iain Lawrence – library book
  3. (I’ll probably finish From the Dust Returned by Ray Bradbury by Saturday.)

I didn’t finish my other library book, American Ghost, although I read about two-thirds of it.

Shorter works:

  1. “Keeping His Promise” by Algernon Blackwwod
  2. “The Invisible Assistant” by John Gaspard
  3. “Smee” by A. M. Burrage
  4. “The Daemon Lover” by Shirley Jackson
  5. “Flop Sweat” by Harlan Ellison
  6. “The Green-Eyed Boy” by Peter S. Beagle
  7. “Two Hearts” by Peter S. Beagle

Additions to my Library

  1. The Faerie Key by  Denise D. Young, 9/8/2016, Amazon
  2. The Invisible Assistant by John Gaspard, 9/8/2016, Amazon
  3. The Whole Art of Detection by Lyndsay Faye, 9/8/2016, ARC
  4. Heaven’s Ditch: God, Gold, and Murder on the Erie Canal by Jack Kelly, 9/8/2016, I won it from Doing Dewey!
  5. A subscription to Fantasy & Science Fiction magazine, 9/26/16, Amazon

Notes

My plan for October is to read R.I.P. books that I already own. But, you know how plans are.

Magic Monday ~ Hoping for a Dazzling Week

MagicMonday

I like Mondays. I also like magic. 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.

Some quick card magic and quicker patter from Alex Elmsley:

It’s Monday, What Are You Reading?

I’ve been behind the ball for the last two weeks. After a semi-restful weekend, I’m ready to begin the week with a clean(er) slate.

American Ghost was feeling like an anchor around my neck so I decided it was time to mark it DNF and move on. This week I will be finishing up From the Dust Returned by Ray Bradbury and moving on to The Accidental Alchemist by Gigi Pandian. My Deal Me In story for this week is “Prey” by Richard Matheson.

From the Dust Returned The Accidental Alchemist (An Accidental Alchemist Mystery)

Next week is the #FrightFall Readathon; most of my current TBR is mystery, so I’ll have to find something more appropriate for that.

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

Mini Reviews ~ Two Little Doses of Peril

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“The Invisible Assistant” by John Gaspard

I’ve read a few mystery short stories over the past couple of years. It seems that long-form mystery writers sometimes struggle to fit a whole mystery, nose to tail, into the form. If John Gaspard struggled with “The Invisible Assistant,” it doesn’t show. This story features Eli Marks, stage magician, amateur crime solver, and main character of three great mystery novels. Yet, no previous Eli Marks experience is required to enjoy this story! Not only do we get a solid mystery, but we get some magic which provides an excellent introduction to the character. I will say that I guessed the solution to this mystery before the end. It seems a little…improbable, but given the tone of the story, it works.

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“Flop Sweat” from Shatterday by Harlan Ellison

Harlan Ellison writes speculative fiction. I’ve always liked the designation “speculative fiction” because it embraces anything that isn’t entirely current reality: science fiction, fantasy, and even horror. I don’t generally think of horror when I think of Harlan Ellison, but “Flop Sweat” is a fine piece of tension. Set against a city on edge due to a razor blade killer, radio talk show host Theresa Ketchum’s guests are cultist Brother Darkness and psychiatrist Jacob Theiss. But neither of them are the crazy one. Just how responsible *is* Theresa for what’s going on in Los Angeles?

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RIPXI Info | Reviews

#ROW80 ~ Round 3 in the Rearview Mirror

I had one set of plans what were usurped a few weeks ago by a totally new plan. And that’s been totally fine! For me, rejoining ROW80 has been about trying to settle back into good writing habits. Part of that ended up being open to a writing project that I’m really excited about.

So, what happened this round?

Writing

newbackProject #1: David Abbott in the Open Court – This was the nonfiction project I was working on at the beginning of the round. It’s a collection of articles written by magician David P. Abbott for The Open Court magazine in the early 1900s. I finished the front and back matter, gave it a final edit, formatted it, and even did a couple covers.  I ended up not publishing it because I decided to release it in conjunction with some of the One Ahead stories…

Project #2: One Ahead series – This is a series of stories about a fictional version of David P. Abbott solving mysteries as a magician and spiritualist debunker.  Coming in to the round, I had one story of 20K done and one drafted and in need of rewrite. The plan was to rewrite story #2 and get a draft of #3 going (I have vague ideas). I really didn’t want to start releasing these stories until I had a few done. I did get some organizational stuff done and worked on the rewrite but then…

Project #3: Wicked Witch, Retired – While I love the concept of the David Abbott stories and have been tinkering with ways to tell these stories for a while (years), it’s been like pulling teeth. I know that writing isn’t always easy, but man. I really wasn’t looking for a new project, but, well, Eric and I started riffing on an old idea and finally something really caught on. I haven’t gotten as much as I wanted done and I haven’t hit the hard middle, but it’s going well. As of right now, the manuscript is at 12K. (It’s been a rough week…)

Other Stuff

Got a good ways through my website improvements and did few online classes. Now that writing is taking more of a center stage, this stuff is taking a backseat.

Future

I’m going to continue on with Wicked Witch, Retired and hopefully have a set of refined focused goals by the beginning of Round 4!]

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What Am I Reading this Week? Same thing as last week, Pinky…

It’s Monday, What Are You Reading?

American Ghost: A Family's Haunted Past in the Desert Southwest From the Dust Returned

Still working on From the Dust Returned. I was sick last week and Bradbury’s fanciful style was too much of an additional head-spin. So I started American Ghost. If I were wise, I’d finish American Ghost this week and return it to the library instead of re-renewing it. We’ll see if that happens. Have a good reading week!

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

ROW80 ~ Out like a dying fish…

Isn’t that a saying? “The round comes in like a lion, goes out like a dying fish?” No? Just me then…

Update Round 3, Week 11

It’s been a sucky week. And after such a good week last week! I’ve been dealing with a flare-up since last Sunday night. I got some writing done early in the week and stubbornly played some ultimate frisbee (which maybe I shouldn’t have). Everything else has been “late” or not done at all. I’ve been taking a lot of naps.

Progress

Added 1600 to the manuscript and got about a third of the way through a rewrite. I also set up a notebook stack in Evernote to help with organizing. I really wanted a tool that can link info, kind of in the form of a wiki, rather than just a spreadsheet. Poking around the internet, I found that you can link to notes in Evernote. It’s quite handy.

By the end of the round? Gosh, I’d like to finish this rewrite and maybe come out on the positive side word-count-wise.

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Please, check out how other Round of Words participants are doing with their goals!