Posted in Male Author, Novella, Readathons-Challenges-Memes

Monday Miscellanea, 11/28/22

Read & Reading

Cover: The Greyhound of the Baskervilles by John Gaspard & Arthur Conan Doyle
Cover: Christmas by Accident by Camron Wright
Cover: Aliens: Vasquez by V. Castro

Finished The Greyhound of the Baskervilles by John Gaspard and Arthur Conan Doyle. This mystery asks, “What if Sherlock Holmes was a dog person?” It’s a retelling of The Hound of the Baskervilles, but from the point of view of Septimus, Holmes’ pet greyhound. It’s a fine adaptation, a freebie I had picked up because I’ve read Gaspard’s Eli Marks mysteries. It’s book #22 for my Beat the Backlog goal.

After finishing Greyhound, I headed to the elibrary for a Yuletide Challenge pick and found Christmas by Accident by Camron Wright. I like the occasional fluffy holiday romance. And then two hours later another book came off hold: Aliens: Vasquez by V. Castro. I also like the occasional military sci-fi movie tie-in.

Watched

Wednesday
Season 1 (2022)

I’m not a fan of supernatural clique boarding school stories, but I am a fan of Tim Burton and The Addams Family (the TV show and the 90s movies especially). So, in the words of my husband on the subject of Wednesday, I’m a sucker. The mystery story is fine, but for me the plot is secondary to the morbid quips and puns. Jenna Ortega is well cast and Wednesday’s interactions with her pastels-and-glitter roommate (Emma Myers) are particularly fun. All of the cast is great, aside from Catherine Zeta-Jones (Morticia) and Luis Guzmán (Gomez). I actually had high-hopes for that pairing but the two have no chemistry. Guzmán seemed too restrained and Zeta-Jones isn’t vampish enough. Tim Burton’s aesthetic is toned down too, but that’s just fine. It actually works really well with Barry Sonnenfeld’s movies.

Writing Update

NaNoWriMo 2022 Banner

Well, it’s the 28th of November and I’ve only written just over 28,000 words. And I marvel at the use of the word “only” in that previous sentence. That’s 10K more than I wrote last NaNoWriMo when I was tinkering with an old project.

My problem with NaNoWriMo is that is gets messy. Not just the manuscript, but my world. I let chores go and put off things I want to do. Yes, that’s a product of doing more writing work than I normally would, but it also makes me a bit nuts. Part of what I wanted to do with NaNo was to get into a stronger work schedule. Time will tell if that worked, but I’m definitely okay with going back to a more balanced life.

And I also hit the wall on how much story I had planned. I’m not a good planner. I’m also not great at “seeing where the story will take me.” So, at around 25,000 words I really needed to take some time and figure out what I’m doing. I’ve clarified the conflicts and have an end target.

I plan on getting to 30K by the end of the month and maybe shooting for another 20K by the middle of December.

Posted in Male Author, Novel, Other Media

Miscellanea, 11/21/22

Read

Cover: Neom by Lavie Tidhar

Neom by Lavie Tidhar

(A copy of Neom was provided to me by Tachyon Publications in exchange for an honest review.)

Compelling world building is a scale with details on one side and ambiguities on the other. A real world needs details: politics, religions, economies, arts, even sciences. The trick is knowing when to not explain these things. Lavie Tidhar’s Central Station is one of my favorite settings because, as a reader, I’m simply dropped into the world and maybe a reference is explained, maybe it isn’t.

The city of Neom is near Central Station. The story is (mostly) Earthbound, but it’s still a mash-up of space opera and fable, where an old robot takes a rose into the desert and digs up a buried automaton messiah. Neom is situated between Mecca and Bethlehem, so I’m sure there are allegories to be had here, but biblical comparisons feel too mundane and not mythical enough.

The characters in Neom are somewhat coincidental to the plot, but that plays into the feeling of predestination. Of course Miriam, with her half a dozen part-time jobs, is always where the story is taking place and of course Nasir and Saleh have items that are needed. The robot characters are more interesting and I’m glad a few of them might live on in other stories.

Short Stories

Deal Me In, Week 46: 10❤️ “Clearly Lettered in a Mostly Steady Hand” by Fran Wilde
Hearts are for Eugie Award winners and Nominees. “Clearly Lettered . . .” won in 2018. A sly story that reminds me of Tod Browning’s Freaks (1932), at least a little.

Yuletide Spirit

Yuletide Spirit Challenge & Readathon image

I’ll admit that this year I’ve been keener than usual to jump into the “holiday” season right after Halloween. (Though feeling that and hearing “All I Want for Christmas” at the mall last week are two different things . . .) When I saw Michelle’s announcement about the Yuletide Spirit Challenge and Readathon, starting on Nov. 21st, I thought, “Perfect! An excuse to have a November start time for celebrating!”

I’m going to shoot for the Mistletoe level (2–4 Christmas books) with a side of Fa La La La Films. And I’m going start my decorating process!

Watched

Nope (2022)

  • I’m kind of amazed that I managed to go into Nope without knowing very much about the movie. This probably says more about my lack of interaction with media than the popularity of the film.
  • I liked Nope better than Us (2019) and maybe more than Get Out (2017) too.
  • As a kid, I found Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) a bit scary. On second watch, I noticed a few things in Nope that strike me as a bit Spielbergian.
  • I miss Fry’s Electronics.
  • I’ve also missed Michael Wincott.
Posted in Female Author, Male Author, Nonfiction, Short Story

Reading Notes, 10/20/22

(I’m playing around with my blog organization once again. This post will be a review and some repetition of my Monday post.)

Cover: Teller of Tales by Daniel Stahower
Cover: My Hear is a Chainsaw by Stephen Graham Jones
Cover: It came from the Closet

Read

Teller of Tales: The Life of Arthur Conan Doyle by Daniel Stashower

I purchased this book in 2005 in Madison, Wisconsin. We were in Madison for the World Fantasy Convention and during an introvert recharge break, I wandered around downtown and into a quiet bookstore. At the time, I hadn’t gotten into stage magic and spiritualism, so I bought Teller of Tales only due to my long-standing love of Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories. As this book sat on my shelves for a few years, I developed a couple questions about Conan Doyle.

First, how could Conan Doyle have so much disdain for his most famous creation? As a struggling writer, Conan Doyle’s ingratitude for his success struck me as arrogant. Teller of Tales showed me the breadth of Conan Doyle’s writings. I didn’t realize that, in addition to his voluminous non-fiction, Conan Doyle wrote well-researched historical fictions, which were his pride and joy. For example, he spent two year researching and writing The White Company, taking a month off to write Sign of the Four for the money. Which have you read? So, I get it. A little. But I’m still annoyed at Conan Doyle for believing that genre works are inferior.

Second, how could Conan Doyle create the logical mind of Sherlock Holmes, but be so uncritical of spiritualism? I had always assumed Conan Doyle’s involvement in spiritualism was mostly due to the death of his first wife and the family’s losses during WWI and the 1918 flu epidemic, but his interest preceded those events. He had long been disillusioned with traditional religions and by 1918/1919, he had become an ardent believer in spiritualism. And there really isn’t an answer for it.

Stashower is obviously a fan of Conan Doyle, but the narrative remains pretty even-handed. Teller of Tales is very readable. I enjoyed it and took my time with it.

Short Stories

Been reading from this list from Book Riot. So far, the stand out has been “There Are No Monsters on Rancho Buenavista” by Isabel Cañas. I’m a sucker for a good folk horror.

Reading

As I mentioned on Monday, this Saturday is Dewey’ Readathon. I’m not going to make it the full 24-hours (I’m a realist), but I’m looking forward to it. I finished the Conan Doyle book this morning, so I’m kind of between books. On my TBR for Readathon:

  • My Heart Is a Chainsaw by Stephen Graham Jones
  • It Came from the Closet: Queer Reflections on Horror, edited by Joe Vallese
  • Plus, the last couple short stories from the Book Riot list and more that I’ve bookmarked.

Challenge Updates

Beat the Backlog

Goal: Read 25 books from my own shelves. Avoid creating future “backlog.”
Progress: Teller of Tales makes book 21 for Beat the Backlog. Honestly, I didn’t think I’d get 20 read, it’s all win from here. And it’s been 7 days since I acquired a book.

Posted in Male Author, Novel

#20BooksOfSummer Review: The Ballad of Perilous Graves

cover: The Ballad of Perilous Graves by Alex Jennings

The Ballad of Perilous Graves by Alex Jennings

The Ballad of Perilous Graves has *so much stuff.*

Dual cities of New Orleans and Nola. Characters have the same name. Songs that are characters. Graffiti that that floats through the city (and a host of people who are sort of addicted to engaging with the graffiti). Drawing that become real. Flashbacks, dreams, near immortals, ghost, zombies, talking animal, crashed UFOs. Killer storms. Lafcadio Hearn…

It’s *so much.*

I very much enjoyed the base world building. The kinds of characters that songs are, especially jazz-blues standards, is a great concept. That the safe-keeping of these songs is vital for the preservation of Nola, an alternate New Orleans is also great. But there is so much other lore and plot going on that I felt a little overwhelmed at times.

I did also like Alex Jennings writing style, especially his use of dialect. I often shy away from works that use character dialects because deciphering dialog can take away from the actual writing. Jennings’ use of dialect comes of as natural for the characters and natural for the reader.

The Ballad of Perilous Graves was often fun, but my wish is that it were a little more trim and focused.

Posted in Male Author, Nonfiction

#20BooksOfSummer22 Review: Amoralman

AMORALMAN: A True Story and Other Lies by Derek DelGaudio

Early last year, I watched Derek DelGaudio’s In & Of Itself, the filmed version of his one-man show. DelGaudio is a very talented magician and his illusions are wrapped in a semi-autobiographical stage-play that strongly includes the audience. He doesn’t so much do tricks in In & Of Itself as much as he creates effects to augment his storytelling. And in that venue, he’s a really good storyteller.

Amoralman, for me, isn’t as successful. Partly, this is because I’m used to magician biographies being fairly divorced from the theatrics of the stage. For me, the most interesting parts of Amoralman are the more biographical details, including DelGuadio’s time working as a “bust-out” dealer at a private poker game—basically, he worked as a card cheat. When DelGuadio brings in philosophy regarding his situation, the writing takes on a pretentious air. This works in his stage show, backed by deft magic; in writing, the theatrics just don’t work.

Posted in Anthology, Male Author

#20BooksOfSummer22 Review ~ Infinity Dreams

cover: Infinity Dreams by Glen Hirshberg

Infinity Dreams by Glen Hirshberg

Glen Hirshberg introduced the Nadine and Normal adventures in the anthology The Ones Who Are Waving. There, he published three “Collector” stories with a brief forward. Nadine and Normal are Hirshberg’s take on the occult detectives with a nod toward the differences in story-telling rhythms between that mystery subgenre and straight-up ghost stories.

In the anthology Infinity Dreams, Hirshberg takes those stand-alone stories (“His Only Audience,” “Hexenhaus,” and “Pride”), adds two others (including origin story “The Fossilist”), and wraps them in an over-arching plot which climaxes in the novella length “Infinity Dreams.” Nadine is an Irish ex-pat with a knack for research and Normal is neurodivergant who finds things for clients. The stories are experienced through Nadine’s point of view with Normal being a charming black box. The characters are the strong point and that’s something I’m not used to in Hirshberg’s works.

The stories themselves are semi-mysteries. Mysteries aren’t solved; mysterious things aren’t explained. That is actually part of the overarching plot. Nadine and Normal are weirdness magnets, but don’t question why. Generally, they go back to quiet life when the weirdness subsides. Until one job shakes all of that up.

Hirshberg is one of my favorite authors, but these stories are not my favorites of his. They are fine, but lack some of the immersive setting details that make “Mr. Dark’s Carnival” or “Struwwelpeter” special.

Posted in Male Author, Novel

#20BooksOfSummer22 Review ~ The Cormorant

Cover: The Cormorant by Stephen Gregory

The Cormorant by Stephen Gregory

I don’t remember how, but at some point in college, I watched “The Cormorant,” an 88 minute episode of Screen Two, which is a British anthology TV series. I think it was probably on PBS and caught my eye because it starred Ralph Fiennes. Knowing that it was based on a book, I kept an eye out.

A few years later, the book was republished by White Wolf. A double win for me since I wanted to support White Wolf’s fiction publishing venture. (White Wolf is better known for RPGs like Vampire: The Masquerade.) And then, as is my MO, I didn’t read the book for 20 years . . .

It’s been nearly as long since I saw the TV version, but there are a few scenes that I’m pretty sure weren’t included in the adaptation. The story set-up is this: when misanthropic Uncle Ian dies, he leaves his cottage in Wales to his nephew, with the proviso that the family continue to take care of Uncle Ian’s cormorant. The cormorant is capricious, as any wild animal is. The year-old son of the protagonist is fascinated by the bird. Additionally, maybe Uncle Ian hasn’t quite moved on and is influencing little Harry.

Gregory’s writing is very sleek and raw. The tone of the novel reminded me of Joyce Carol Oates. Discomfiting, being an apt word for both. There is a somewhat incestuous scene that occurs. Many other reviewers see this as gratuitous and out of place, but I read it as Uncle Ian almost possessing Harry. This doesn’t make it any less squicky. There is also not surprisingly a bit of animal cruelty; be aware.

According to LibraryThing, I no longer own Gregory’s The Blood of Angels. I’m not sure that’s accurate, which would mean I have a box of books somewhere that I didn’t catalog. (This is not beyond the realm of possibility.) If I do still own it, I’ll probably read it at some point. If I don’t, I probably won’t go out of my way to read more Gregory.