Monthly Archives: November 2011

NaNoWriMo: It’s Over (Sort Of)

Well, I did it.  I managed to complete 50,000 words of a novel.  Fifty thousand, forty-five to be exact.  That’s nowhere near all of the novel.  I’m estimating this one will run to at least 70,000, possibly more.  But to “win” NaNoWriMo, you had to complete just 50,000.  Which I did in spite of myself.

I say in spite of myself because I turned out to be my own biggest obstacle.  This is by far the longest thing I’ve attempted.  I didn’t plan it out in detail well enough.  I usually have a general idea of where I want a story to end up.  Getting there is just details.  The devil, as they say, is in the details.  This novel has three viewpoint characters, four if you count the captain who only appears in flashbacks at the end of the major sections.  The characters are in separate locations when the book opens, and I alternate chapters featuring each of them.  I found myself writing more than one chapter about a character, depending how well I understood that part of the character’s story arc in relation to the other story arcs.  I would then go back and insert chapters where needed.  I found this to be both a stressful and liberating way to write.

Anyhoo, I’ve not been blogging much in the last couple of weeks because I was trying to make the deadline.  I’m going to step away from the novel for a few days, finish up a fantasy mystery novella that’s about 1500 words from being done, start reading some of the books that have been piling up.  I’m also going to think about some details I didn’t work out very well before I started writing a month ago.  I hope to finish the first draft of the novel over the holidays, get it to the beta readers, and get to work on the second book in the series.  I’ve learned a lot about writing and how (not) to approach a novel, and I’m eager to put some of those things into practice.

Things I’m Thankful For

There are a number of things I’m thankful for. Here’s a partial list.

First of all, my family, both immediate and extended. (This includes the dogs.)

Our health.

Employment, both for me and my wife. And not just a job in my case, but something I find fulfilling. While I’m not sure it’s something I want to do for the rest of my life, I don’t dread going to work every day.

A place to live, food to eat, cars to drive.

Books to read. Lots and lots and lots of books to read. And vintage pulps. And comics and graphic novels. And opportunities to write.

The good things blogging has brought into my life: new friends, review copies of books from both authors and publishers, and outlet for my writing.

That I live in the greatest country in the world, where I am free to say what I like, read what I like, and worship God in the manner I see fit.

May God bless each and every one of you as much as He’s blessed me.

RIP, Anne McCaffery

Locus Online is reporting that SFWA Grand Master Anne McCaffery died at home in Ireland of a massive stroke on November 21, 2011.  She was 85.  McCaffery was author of the long-running Pern series.  In addition to Pern, McCaffery was the author of a number of other series, which she often co-wrote with up and coming authors who went on to have significant careers.  These authors include, but are not limited to, Jody Lynne Nye, Elizabeth Moon, Elizabeth Anne Scarborough, and Mercedes Lackey.  McCaffery won a number of awards for her work, including the Nebula and Hugo (she was the first woman to win both).  In 2006 she was inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame.

Ann and Jeff VanderMeer Launch Weird Fiction Review

I’m not sure how long the news about this has been out, but I just saw it in a post from yesterday and thought I would pass it along to you.  Ann and Jeff AnderMeer have launched a new online venue called Weird Fiction Review, billed as “Your Non-Demoninational Source for the Weird.”  Ann, as most of you know, is the former editor of Weird Tales.  The new site has fiction, essays, comics, reviews, and other items.  It also is not to be confused with the print journal The Weird Fiction Review edited by S. T. Joshi, and published by Centipede Press.  The site apparently only went live a few weeks ago, but there’s plenty of stuff already up.  I don’t recognize the names of the authors, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.  I’ll try to check it out sometime in the next few weeks.

NaNoWriMo: Excerpt Two

Well, the second week of NaNoWriMo wasn’t as successful for me as the first week.  I got bogged down in the middle of the week with family commitments, then my wife attended an out of town conference from Thursday through Sunday.  That didn’t leave me much time to write, although I can’t complain.  Hanging out with my son for the weekend was worth the missed writing hours.

I should be at 25,000 words today to meet the 50,000 word “finish line” or 30,000 to meet my self-imposed goal.  I’m at just over 19,000.  I think I can catch up if I don’t miss too many days.  I knew I would fall behind during the first part of the month when I started and planned on catching up over the Thanksgiving weekend.

Here’s the second excerpt from the novel.  The storyline concerns the crew of a starship who wake up from coldsleep on a planet.  They don’t know where they are or how they got there and have to survive.  I’m alternating chapters between three viewpoint characters, who are on different parts of the planet when the book opens and whose storylines progress more or less simultaneously.  At the end of each major section, there will a flashback chapter involving a fourth character, the captain of the starship.  Where the captain is and what happened to her is going to be one of several mysteries the other characters will be dealing with.  The flashbacks featuring the captain will not be chronological, but instead will give a different perspective on events and discoveries in the section of the book each flashback concludes.

What follows is when we first meet the captain.

Captain Galina Vladimirovna Lyakhova would have paced her quarters if they had been big enough.  As it was, she had to settle for slamming her palm against the bulkhead and cursing Bixby again.  The first time she’d hit the wall, she’d done so with her fist.  The impact of the slap stung her wrist, and she suspected it was sprained from her initial strike. 
At the moment, she didn’t care, even though that was a mistake she wouldn’t repeat. 
The sealed orders had been waiting for her in an old fashioned envelope when she came out of coldsleep.  Bixby hadn’t wanted any electronic trace of them to be found and must have had them placed there after she entered the chamber.  She couldn’t bring herself to think of him as Fleet Admiral.  Only a bastard of the lowest class would pull a stunt like this, one that didn’t deserve such a title. 
At least this explained the makeup of the crew.  She’d noticed the unusual number of trouble makers and misfits.  It was her first command, and she’d gone over the list exhaustively, trying to familiarize herself with the people whose lives could depend on her decisions. 
It also explained some things about her recent promotion and why she’d been given this particular assignment.  She’d always suspected the smuggling ring she’d discovered and exposed went higher in the ranks than those who were court-martialed.  She’d just never dreamed it would have gone as high as Bixby. 
As punishment, she’d been given this command and a first mission that would get her and a number of trouble makers out of the way.  Permanently. 
Even the name of the ship mocked her.  C. S. S. Integrity.  What was the old axiom?  No good deed goes unpunished, that was it. 
She sighed and stared at the picture of her parents hanging over her desk.  Tears of sorrow came to her eyes, displacing the tears of frustration and rage that had been there moments before.
Oh, Papa, Mama.  Thank God you didn’t live to see this.  Not that they would have been able to see what was really happening.  Instead they would have gotten an official letter, also in an old fashioned paper envelope, only this one would be bordered in black.  Inside would be some official story about her ship being lost, either in an accident or just gone missing, containing the usual platitudes of “condolences”,  “service”, “debt of gratitude”, and the like.  And all of it would be a lie.  A coverup.
She stepped closer to the picture, and as she did Galina saw her face superimposed on first her mother’s, then her father’s.  She had her mother’s long, golden hair and voluptuous figure, while from her father she’d inherited his tall frame and grey eyes, as well as his sense of right and wrong. 
A number of men, and several women, had taken one look at her over the years and dismissed her as a piece of fluff who probably slept her way up the ranks.  Nothing could be further from the truth, but she’d let them think what they liked.  Never correct someone who underestimates you, her father had told her, not until it’s too late for them to do anything about it.  She’d outmaneuvered and outflanked them all.  At least until she met Bixby.  She was still realizing she’d never known who and what she’d been up against. 
“Rescue mission, my ass,” she muttered.
She put both her hands on either side of the picture, leaned her forehead against the plexiglass, and began to weep for her crew.
Eventually, she raised her head and wiped her eyes with her palms. 
The dozens of people in cold sleep were still her responsibility, even if they had all been sold down the river.  She’d be damned if she stood by and didn’t go down fighting for them. 
Captain Galina Valdimirovna Lyakhova headed towards the armory to obtain a sidearm.

Angry Robots Books Announces New Authors

The following is a press release from Angry Robot Books:


Like most successful publishers, Angry Robot generally only accepts submissions through literary agencies. Earlier this year, however, the company ran a pilot programme to see how many unpublished – but talented – authors there were without representation. During March, Angry Robot invited all un-agented authors to submit completed manuscripts as part of an “Open Door Month”. Over 990 novels were submitted during that period.

Today, Angry Robot are delighted to announce the first acquisitions from the first Open Door Month. Two new authors, each with a minimum two book deal, have now joined the Angry Robot family.

Cassandra Rose Clarke was the first signing to come through this process. Her two novels for Angry Robot show the versatility of this important new talent.

‘The Mad Scientist’s Daughter’ is the heartbreaking story of the journey from childhood to adulthood, with an intriguing science fictional twist. And ‘The Assassin’s Curse’ is a fantastical romp, starring Ananna, a no-nonsense lady pirate, born into pirate royalty.

Clarke said: “I’m beyond excited to have Angry Robot publishing my first-ever novel, and not only because of the delightful coincidence that my novel involves a robot who is, on occasion, angry. Angry Robot’s reputation is stellar and their author list incredibly impressive – I’m humbled to be included amongst their ranks!”

We take a somewhat darker turn with a pair of books from Lee Collins – ‘The Dead of Winter’ and ‘She Returns From War’. Both novels follow Cora Oglesby, a bounty hunter with a reputation for working supernatural cases.

Collins said: “As excited as I am at the prospect of rubbing shoulders with Angry Robot’s outstanding authors, publication was really a secondary goal of my submitting to them. My primary reason was the hope, however slim, of cybernetic augmentation.”

Both deals were negotiated by Angry Robot’s editor, Lee Harris, who stated: “There is an enormous amount of talent out there, waiting to be discovered, and I am thrilled we have found two great new talents as part of our search.”

Both authors’ debut novels will be published by Angry Robot in autumn 2012, with their second books scheduled for spring 2013.

Following the success of the project, Angry Robot expects to run a similar Open Door period in spring 2013, details of which are to be confirmed at a later date.

Ok, that’s the end of the press release.  Further details and author photos can be found on the Angry Robot website.  Advanced reading copies of  The Mad Scientist’s Daughter and The Dead of Winter will be available at some point.  I’ll download them and post the reviews, here for the latter and at Futures Past and Present for the former.  Angry Robot is one of the more innovative publishers out there.  I’m eager to see what new authors they’ve discovered.

A Few Thoughts on the Penn State Sex Scandal

The evil that men do lives after them;
The good is oft interred with their bones.
                                               Shakespeare, Julius Caesar, Act 3, scene ii

I generally shy away from current events unless they have to do with publishing or in some way relate to heroic adventure when I’m choosing my blog topics.  For the most part, Adventures Fantastic and its sister site, Futures Past and Present, are current event and political free zones. 

However, for anyone who follows the news, like I try to do, there has been no escaping this week of the coverage of the still growing sex scandal at Penn State.  As a parent of a child in the age range of the ones in question, it’s been hard not to put myself in the place of  the families of the victims.  It’s not been a pleasant place to go mentally, and I’m not going to inflict that portion of my thoughts upon you.  I have found myself today thinking of the events in terms of the heroism, or mostly lack thereof, of the principal players in this drama.

So, if you’ll indulge me in venting my spleen, I’m going to share some of my thoughts.  What follows beyond the “Read More” link might be offensive to some of you, so if you think you might be one of those people, please do us both a favor and don’t read it.

I don’t usually follow sports or related news stories unless they involve local teams, but like I said above, there’s been no escaping this story short of going into isolation.  It’s been like watching a train wreck.

And it’s been pretty revolting.  The only bright spots are that it looks like justice is going to be done, at least to some degree, and the Penn State trustees have acted swiftly to do the right thing by firing the people responsible for the coverup.  Kudos to them for the terseness of their announcement the other night that the president and head coach were fired immediately, without any preamble or dissembling.  None were needed.

I heard the entirety of Joe Paterno’s statement earlier that afternoon, not just the soundbites from it that some networks carried.  In essence, he said he was going to resign at the end of the season so the board of trustees didn’t need to consider him, he was sorry he hadn’t done more, and he would spend the rest of his life serving the university.  It was all a very self-serving and pathetic attempt to spare himself the humiliation of a public firing.  Fortunately the board didn’t pay any attention to him and fired his sorry ass anyway.  As they correctly said, the university is bigger than any athletic program.  I wish more university personnel understood that.

I don’t care how much so-called “good” he’s done for young people over the years.  It can’t make up for the fact that when children needed him the most, when he could have done more good than at any other time in his life, when he could have exhibited exemplary courage and leadership, he did nothing.  He turned a blind eye.  You can’t make up for that.

And Mike McQueary should be in jail as an accessory.  A pretty boy like him will likely find himself as some lifer’s wife if that’s where he ends up.  Although from what I understand about the life expectancy of child molesters in lockup, the lifer would probably be a widow in fairly short order.  He has testified that he walked into the shower and saw Sandusky (I think I’m supposed to say “allegedly” here) sodomizing a ten year old boy, walked out, called his father, then talked to Paterno the next day.  WTF? 

He didn’t try to call the police, and more importantly he didn’t do anything to stop it.  He walked away.  You can make all the rationalizations and excuses for him you like, it doesn’t change the fact that he didn’t man up and do the right thing.  By his own admission, he let that child be (“allegedly”) raped.  This was the defining moment of your life, Mike.  And you blew it.  You could have been a hero.  Yes, it would have been unpleasant, but how are things for you now, huh?  When you see something like this happening, walking away, calling Daddy, and then telling people who cover up the crime just doesn’t cut it. 

And they apparently kept silent so they could avoid some bad publicity and win a few more f***ing football games.  These are the people who are heroes in our society?  The ones who can win games, never mind the rest?  I hope not.  I hope this is just an aberration.  Given the riots that followed Paterno’s firing, I’m not sure it is. 

This is why my heroes are either historical or fictional and are rarely sports figures, career politicians, or celebrities.  My heroes protect children, not programs, not their own asses.

And as a final thought, I don’t think the men responsible for pretending these horrible acts didn’t happen should have been fired this way.  I think their firings should have involved a squad.  (If  the meaning of that last sentence isn’t clear, think about it.)

A Nerve-Wracking Journey Across the Mountains

The Whitefire Crossing
Courtney Schafer
Nightshade Books
Trade pbk, $14.99, ebook $5.99, 300 p.

In the acknowledgements to this first novel, the author states that the first draft of the book was written during NaNoWriMo 2007.  That’s encouraging because I’m participating in NaNoWriMo this year, and I can only hope to write something half this good.

This is a dark, at times disturbing, adventure story with villains who are deliciously evil, yet have believable motivations.  The heroes are young, flawed, make mistakes, grow, and learn about themselves and the world.

The suspense is intense at times, and the passage across the mountains, especially after the blood mage attacks, is downright nerve wracking.

The story opens in the country (city state?, kingdom?, the political structure isn’t clear) of Ninavel, a haven for mages.  There is no restriction on the type of magic a mage can practice in Ninavel.  All are allowed, including blood mages, whose magic requires human sacrifice.  The neighboring kingdom is Alathia, where just the opposite situation exists.  Magic is strictly proscribed, and only government sanctioned (and controlled) mages are allowed to practice, and then only in the service of the country.  Most forms of magic are illegal and practitioners strictly punished.  This is especially true of blood mages.  Neither is a place I would particularly want to live, for totally different reasons.

The story opens when Dev, a young smuggler, is told by the man who gives him his commissions that on his next trip into Alathia he’ll be smuggling in a young man named Kerin, who is trying to escape from some of the local banking houses due to certain poor financial decisions.  Dev is suspicious but needs the money.  He promised his dying mentor he would buy the man’s daughter from the crime lord who owns her before she changes.  It seems a common trait among children in Ninavel is the Taint, which is basically telekinesis.  Slavery is commonplace, and there are a number of crime rings which use children as thieves.  The Taint goes away at puberty, and the children are sold to whoever wants them, no questions asked.  Dev was a slave to the same crime lord until he changed.  When this girl changes, she’ll be sold to a brothel with a really nasty reputation.  Dev is doing everything possible to raise money so he can to buy her first.  And so he takes a job against his better judgment.

Dev is right to be wary.  Kiran isn’t running from a banking house.  He’s running from a blood mage, one he happens to be indentured to.  Kiran has no stomach for the torture and murder that are a part of being a blood mage.  Did I mention most mages in Ninavel regard those without magical ability to be little more than animals?  This is especially true of blood mages, who tend to be possessive, vindictive, and ruthless.

Kiran and Dev travel with the first caravan over the mountains.  Dev is a regular guide on these treks, and Kiran is posing as his apprentice.  It doesn’t take long before trouble follows after them.  They don’t trust each other, but soon they have to flee the caravan and depend on each other for survival.  Dev is one of the most experienced guides around, but he can’t fight magic.  Even if they make it across the mountains and pass the border crossing, their troubles will be far from over.  Just being in Alathia is enough to earn Kiran a death sentence.

Courtney Schafer is a rock climber, a passionate one.  It shows in her writing.  She brings the passage across the mountains alive.  The suspense, not just from the pursuit of the villains, but from trying to survive against the elements, gets intense.  Maybe I’d had too much coffee and not enough food, but I found that whole segment of the book to be one of the most nerve wracking things I’d read in quite a while.

This book has some serious themes running through it.  Betrayal, conflicting commitments, situations in which there are no choices that won’t leave innocent people dead.  Both Dev and Kiran have to learn about trust.  Both have to decide what kind of man they want to be and then pay the (excruciatingly high) price to be that type of man.  In many ways, this novel is a coming of age story, albeit a grim and bloody one.

I recommend it highly and am eagerly waiting for the sequel.

NanoWriMo: Week One

Well, I’ve managed to write every day of the first week of NaNoWriMo, although I haven’t quite made the daily goal I set out for myself when I started.  As of right now, I’m 2,000 words behind and have written just over 12,000, or to put it another way, I’m basically one day behind.  The weekend wasn’t good for writing, so I didn’t make my quota every day.  Tonight isn’t looking good at all.  My son’s final soccer practice is this evening; they’re playing for the championship this weekend.  I’ve got a stack of exams sitting here that I need to finish grading before tomorrow morning.  If the morning goes like today and yesterday did, then I can’t count on finding time to grade in the morning. 

On the whole, though, I’d say the first week has been a success.  Taking a day or so off shouldn’t kill my momentum.  I need to think about what each of the three viewpoint characters is going to go through next to get them where I ultimately want them to end up.

John Joseph Adams Buys Lightspeed and Fantasy Magazines

John Joseph Adams

Prime Books announced today that it is selling both Lightspeed and Fantasy magazines to current editor John Joseph Adams.  The sale is part of the expansion of Prime Books.  Publisher Sean Wallace stated that the book publishing side of his job was taking more and more time.  Adams is a highly respected editor not only of the magazine but of numerous anthologies as well.  Adams issued the following statement:  “It’s an exciting time to be involved in publishing.  Models are changing and so is the readership, and online magazines have a better shot at sustainability than ever have before. I believe the possibilities for growth are tremendous, and I look forward to staying in the vanguard of this new frontier.”

With the announcement last week that Realms of Fantasy was closing again, it’s been an eventful week in sff periodical publishing.  As I promised when I posted about RoF I’ll have more to say about these changes in a post later this week.