Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Rough draft conquered!

I finished a rough draft of my current novel, Frankenstein Vs. The Titans on Saturday, December 15th. I am loosely blurbing it as:
Detective Audrey Sefton investigates a ritual sacrifice in a bombed out library. Then he nearly gets his face clawed off by a ghost in a murdered wizard's apartment. And his partner confesses at the doughnut shop: I'm that Frankenstein. The monster, not the doctor. Detective Prometheus (Theo) Frankenstein, taking his surname from his father and his first name from the novel created from poor Victor's letters. 
Audrey's a little shell shocked to find out that his home town, Westhoeven, IA, is a reservation where the Federal Government stashes it's spare monsters: ogres, werewolves, grey aliens, a few quarantined vampires, two Gorgons. And Theo. It's a place where creatures gather. And a mysterious new cult is making strange alliances and busting things up, all in pursuit of a catastrophic new world order.
This is my 5th completed novel manuscript since... 1998? It is 345 manuscript pages, which should boil down to 215 trade paperback pages. Feels sleight for the amount of crap I packed in there. I'm calling it "Gonzo Urban Fantasy." I averaged 345 pages per writing day, and wrote on it 183 days out of approximately 690. Eeek..

Hooray for me, though! I always try to remind myself that I've gone where other writers often can't, and this is my fifth time. It is an achievement. Never the achievement you think it is. But still, a thing done.

Assuming I started writing my first novel in '96, that's a novel every 38 months or so, not including two major false starts. I started writing Frankenstein vs. the Titans on January 13th, 2011. 23 months from birth to fini. 2012 has felt like my worst writing year in awhile. I finished the rough of Vignetta in the Red House, 703 manuscript pages (average 258 words/day), in 17 months, November 2006 to April 2008. However, Rock of Aeons took 23 months, January 2009 to November 2010, to write 310 manuscript pages. The average words is messed up because I was also keeping track of Vignetta rewrites in that document. During each of those stretches, I also wrote some short stories, lots of book reviews, bits of articles, rewrote Vignetta while writing both Rock of Aeons and Frankenstein vs. The Titans, and wrote part of another novel with a writing partner who dropped it midway.

Statistics are for obsessives. Only Not even other writers will care for that.

It will take me a month to read through and catch obvious errors. Another couple of months of first readers and rewrites? I may be done in April, release in June. Maybe.

What next, what next? I have two chapters of a sequel to Vignetta, ten pages of a sequel to Rock. I am thinking about launching right into a Frankenstein sequel. I like Theo and Audrey a lot. I am thinking about turning an old series of short stories into a longish novel. I am thinking of checking the manuscript of my first novel to see if I can do a brush up and post that. I have a really unformed idea for a near future polyamory soap opera. What to do, what to do?

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Vignetta in the Red House available on Nook soon!

For the first time in it's storied history, Vignetta in the Red House will start to become available on stores other than Amazon beginning today. It was first published through the Kindle Select program in May of 2012, which allowed me access to some different revenue streams through Amazon, but required that I sell only on Amazon. Unsurprisingly, for a relatively unknown hobby publisher, the benefits of Kindle Select were kind of meh. So, as of today, Vignetta in the Red House is available from Smashwords for $4.99. Smashwords will made it available in mobi, epub and pdf formats, so you can read it on any e-reader. Vignetta in the Red House is still available from Amazon at This Link, and in softcover from Amazon at This Link. It should thereafter become available from most ebook retailers.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Rock of Aeons available on Nook soon!

Rock of Aeons will start to become available on stores other than Amazon beginning today. First published on Smashwords in November of 2011, I enrolled it in the Kindle Select program in May of 2012, which allowed me access to some different revenue streams through Amazon, but required that I sell only on Amazon. Unsurprisingly, for a relatively unknown hobby publisher, the benefits of Kindle Select were kind of meh. So, as of today, Rock of Aeons is available from Smashwords for $2.99. Smashwords will made it available in mobi,epub and pdf formats, so you can read it on any e-reader. Rock of Aeons is still available from Amazon at This Link, and in softcover from Amazon at This Link. It should thereafter become available from most ebook retailers.

Vignetta in the Red House will become available through other ebook retailers next Saturday.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

11 PM Book Review: Going Solo: The Extraordinary Rise and Surprising Appeal of Living Alone, by Eric Klinenberg

Going Solo is an exploration of demographic change in the western world. "In 1950, only 22 percent of American adults were single. Today, more than 50 percent of American adults are single, and 31 million—roughly one out of every seven adults—live alone."

Klinenberg interviews people who live alone because of inclination, divorce, the loss of a spouse, poverty, and old age. Taken together, their insights are powerful and an interesting reminder that although the culture at large considers the end game of life some version of the nuclear family, many people, through personality and circumstance, will live alone for chunks of their life, and almost everybody spends some time living alone.

In addition, he points out that many people find living alone a respite from a busy, 24/7 connected world. Klinenberg's conclusions are about how to mitigate the few ill effects of living alone, isolation and reclusiveness, especially in the poor and the elderly. He looks primarily at Sweden, which has retooled a great deal of its infrastructure to support people who live alone, from young adulthood to old age. Going Solo is an appealing look at and good overview of a topic that people will focus on more and more as this demographic shift deepens.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

11 PM Book Review: Druid's Blood by Esther M. Friesner

A Holmes pastiche where Watson is the main character and gets the girl. Set in a Britain ruled by Druids, isolated from the rest of the world and technology (cold iron, bad for druids) by magic defenses. The contraption on the cover made me think it would be more "steam punk," but that's just Wells' time machine.

It took me a little while to get into the story. The author starts with a chapter that never seems to get fully explained, and then builds the rest of the novel as if it were a children's serial, one exciting Victorian hijink after another. In the nature of Victorian pastiche, the author seems to want to jam in way too many characters. A Night in Lonesome October or the first volume of League of Extraordinary Gentlemen do this more smoothly. Watson is very wishy-washy, Holmes is a huge Mary Sue. Both can be a bit wearing. The "twist" of Watson's identity is telegraphed and never truly surprising. I put it down and picked it back up several times before I finished it. It's an okay read if you are a Friesner completist, a huge face of Victorian pastiche, or only have Clive Cussler books to read otherwise.

Frankly, that first chapter, which seems to hint that the Holmes character actually took his identity from Watson's stories about him, is the bit I would have liked to see developed the most. I particularly liked her hint of this alternate America. "Dons from the great western outposts, Mynheers from the eastern trading centers, voyageurs from the south, redmen  of the Seven Nations, and a sprinkling of joy seeking Turks and Venetians from Florida thrown in... No matter their many different races and governments, the Americans all took their theater seriously."

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

11 PM Book Review: Havemercy by Jaida Jones

Fun soap opera about four characters caught in the endgame of a magical war.

Titled for a character's flying mechanical dragon, the book has little to do with the dragons, but alot to do with their riders, the "airmen".

The first 50 pages were a bit of a slog, but after the tension ratchets up between two of the main characters, an airman and a sensitivity trainer who is tasked to teach the valuable airmen manners after a diplomatic incident, it begins to roll along. That storyline, the chaste M/M romance between the other two viewpoint characters, and to a lesser extent, the mechanics of the magical war itself (magical germ warfare, guerrilla warfare, and bombing runs), kept me entertained.

I was mystified by the complete lack of female protagonists, the male characters seeming to stand in for them in some cases. I didn't find the main characters motivations convincing, but they were so sincere that I just figured what the hell.

A good read for anybody who likes potboilers and the new weird or m/m romance and fantasy.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

11 PM Book Review: Fragment by Warren Fahy

I had fun with this book. It ain't litricha, but is a great potboiler with thinky science attachments.

A reality show on a boat, visiting out of the way spots, goes to previously unexplored island completely isolated from the rest of the world. In doing so, they find life that has evolved in isolation from the most primitive creatures that lived. Think Australia, except with gimungus arthropods. Said life is, of course, mostly dangerous. Do we destroy this brave new world that hath such creatures in it? Or are we doomed to be destroyed by it?

The action sequences are over the top fun, sandwiched by over the top essays about evolution (written as lectures by a character introduced to the action further in) that support the narrative and circumvent the many as-you-know-Bob moments required by a text like this. As much as I like the premise (scary-hidden-species with stupid evolution tricks), I might have passed it up if it didn't also have uber cool pictures of multiple crab monsters. Characters are a little - wooden, emo? I'm not sure. Flat. Likable but unflawed. Does anybody use the word "turkey" in a confrontation anymore? Comparisons to Crichton are not out of order, especially his less polemical science thrillers. If you found Jurassic Park to be fun, you will probably like this too.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

11 PM Book Review: The Devil You Know by Mike Carey

I started out kind of lukewarm on The Devil You Know, but I think the secondary characters are the bomb, so I warmed up quick. A noire urban fantasy for those what don't mind violence. My only caveat to that is that human trafficking is a strong theme in the plot.

In the near future, the dead have risen. Hauntings are common occurrences, even to the point that ghosts haunt their own corpse (as homeless zombies) or the bodies of animals, that they twist to resemble their former human forms (loup garous). Felix Castor is an exorcist for hire. Although he has been "retired" for a year and a half after botching an exorcism that left his best friend possessed by hell-kin, he needs cash and finally takes a job exorcising a ghost from a London archive. He has a hard time with the case at first, and the longer he's on it, the more he suspects he needs to solve the murder that created the ghost before he exorcises her...

This was huge fun. The secondary characters, especially the bad guys, are just fun to watch move around the page. The opening scene didn't hook me in, but it was well worth waiting for the plot to get going. Not a lot of romance, for them what likes romance in their urban fantasy. But for them what doesn't like glamour vamps, the milieu is very subdued (so far, first book), with strong human protagonists. There are no signs of fey courts or werewolf packs yet, just ghosts in various funky forms.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

11 PM Book Review: Shotgun Gravy by Chuck Wendig

Shotgun Gravy begins when Atlanta Burns disables three bullies with bear mace.

And it goes downhill from there, but fun downhill, like a bumpy go-cart ride. Wear a helmet. Atlanta is a high school junior in rural Pennsylvania. Shotgun Gravy is a noir crime story about bullying set in the ugliest periphery of high school culture. But: Trigger warning. Is that fair to say in pulp fiction? Atlanta is a rape survivor. It seems awful to say that a novella about a rape survivor is fun. She's a strong, nuanced character with a big real life problems: She worries that she's racist. Her mom's on welfare. She has an Adderoll addiction that helps her fend off nightmares, a "reputation" after shooting the testicles off her attacker, and a sense of justice that won't let her back down when she really probably should. It's not like she doesn't scare herself with the shit she pulls. Sure, it's escapist, but it's really glorious, too. Larger than life.

Then Atlanta takes on a commission from one of La Cozy Nostra, the high school's self proclaimed gay mafia: Scare a group of white supremacist gay-bashers into leaving him alone.

The language is crisp and beautiful, especially when the action starts, which is harsh and brutal. The characters are bent ("My Mom didn't dust, but my gun and drug dealer did"). But they could exist... in a world ruled by Quentin Tarantino and RuPaul's love child. The supporting characters: Atlanta's soon to be gay best friend, and their Venezuelan, Dungeons and Dragons playing co-conspirator, are charming in a way that you don't see in noir fiction. They are sweet-natured and unwilling to accept their victimization. The dialog is buffy-quirky. Chuck Wendig is a charming, horrific, and crackerjack writer. I read this novella in two sittings and picked up the sequel, Baitdog, the day I finished Shotgun Gravy (Which you should do, too, because the Kindle edition of Baitdog includes the Shotgun Gravy. Save yourself a buck).

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Do these things: Moral Absolutism for Fun and Reader's Advisory.

I am thinking that I should become a moral absolutist. An absolute moralist. Beginning today, I will issue proclamations about morality. Everybody else has fun with this, on the marcro and micro level. Hard right people of faith believe that everyone should ascribe to their faith. Hard left people of faith also believe this, except for the parts that are Hard Right. In subcultures ranging from polyamorists to civil war re-enacrors to BDSM people to belly dancers to swingers there are rules that unfortunately change from person to person but are inviolate within their personal cosmos.

I am usually pretty easy going, but moral absolutism seems to inflame the panties of the masses. Because I live to please, and inflaming panties is the surest way to please, I will become the voice of  authority.

I understand that I cannot do this in a half assed sort of way. You cannnot be "A" voice of authority. One must be "The" voice of authority. Otherwise there will be message confusion, as competing voices seek to assert authority, and turn life into a version of  "A Comedy of Errors."

The key to asserting authority is to follow up with reasonable consequences for violating rules. So, from here on out, IF YOU LAY EYES on this document. If you even read the letter "I," your punishment for not following my dictates will be to spend the afterlife with a frog ghost living in each of your spectral orifices. Which is very uncomfortable. VERY UNCOMFORTABLE! Squirmy. Think hard on that.

So follows are the rules that you need to follow in order to be a Good Human Being (TM):

Rule One: To start with, Every Living Human Being should listen to the classic Christmas Carol "Fuck You If You Don't Like Christmas." Every time the singer says "Fuck You..." you must hear "you should." Except the line about brushing your teeth, which would parse as "You should like if you don't brush your teeth. It's Nasty." Which is bizarro world language. Instead, take that line as cannon, just as it is. Fuck you if you don't brush your teeth. It is nasty.

This is sort of a "do as I say not as I do" sort of thing. I don't like Christmas much myself, mostly because over Christmas weekend I end up watching alot of CSI at my parents. But I fully agree that any excuse to celebrate is VEN-or-ATE-able. An opportunity to just fucking let go of the horrendous bullshit that we put up with every day of our white collar, corn fed American lives just to buy video games and feed our kids. Any excuse to celebrate is a mandate. If you don't have work.

Rule Two: Every Living Human Being should read Kim Stanley Robinson. His entire cannon, but if you want an easy in, then you should start with 2312. Kim Stanley Robinson is the essence of liberal humanitarianism, the most pragmatic moral philosophy that exists. It recognizes that life is hard, even in first world countries, because  you are experiencing it as hard. There is no bottom, empiracle level of hard. Your hardship is honored. But you still have to deal with shit. And it's easier to deal with heartbreak than endemic poverty. Just sayin', to quote The Bard. KSL illustrates this in every one of his magical novels.

Rule Three: Every Living Human Being should listen to the My Chemical Romance Album The Black Parade. This album is the best sequence of music that illustrates preservation in the face of despair, and the fair acknowledgment that your best efforts might result in nothing. BUT: And here's the point here: They are your best efforts. All of your best efforts are energy that propels the great ship of humanity into a future that will transcend the heat death of the universe. Your ignominy is a seed for the glory of your kin and legacy.

Rule Four: Every Living Human Being should read The Sandman, by Neil Gaiman, issue one to alkdfhjaldkhfadlkfhadlkh, which is the graphic novel version of the message in "The Black Parade." Studies have shown that people have to be exposed to an idea three times before they adopt it, so we've got two right here. A third will show up shortly.

Rule Five:  Read the Principia Discordia, which is available for free everywhere. Because I abhore sycophancy, I will not tell you why. Your challenge is to figure it out how it ties in.

Rule Six... fuck, I don't know. This will be an evolving document. It's kind of co-dependant. But as a series of recomendations, it actually works out pretty well.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Blog Tour: Nicki J Markus' Time Keepers

Hi! I'm entering the blog tour arena by helping spread the word about Nicki J Markus' new urban fantasy Time Keepers. Nicki helps keep other indie publishers in the public eye. Her style is crisp, and her approach is fun.

In the not so distant future, Supernaturals have announced their presence to the world. But now a secret government agency is rounding them up, hoping to use them for its own purposes.

With Supernaturals going missing every day, Nick has been careful to guard his own secret, never giving anyone reason to notice him. That is until Ellie comes careering into his train carriage.

Instantly drawn to her, he tries to help. But soon both their secrets are revealed and they find themselves on the run in a desperate bid to escape from the mysterious Time Keepers, whose net is closing in around them.


Say No To Fur!!
The poster caught his eye as he stood on the muggy, station platform waiting for the southbound Jubilee Line tube.
Nick frowned, tilting his head slightly and staring at it. The hologram of a wolf's head hovered in the centre, the trademark tinges of reds and greens, which even modern technology could not erase completely from the image, were just visible behind its charcoal grey fur. It rippled there in seeming innocence, a benign look in its yellow eyes as it watched the passers-by.
In some ways it seemed inconspicuous, lost as it was amidst the neon graffiti tags that covered every free inch of wall space, and yet it drew the eye somehow, creating a sense of disquiet that made everyone give it a wide berth as they walked past.
Then a woman stepped a little too close.
The wolf's head leapt out from the poster, eyes bloodshot and jaws open wide, revealing glistening pointed teeth that dripped with saliva and snapped viciously at her. The woman shrieked and jumped back in fright, dropping her handbag as the wolf retreated, reverting once more to its former pose.
Nick bent down and retrieved the worn leather bag, holding it out to her. He could hear the heavy pounding of her heart within her chest, and he waited patiently while she took a moment to compose herself. Finally her watery grey eyes focused on him, and she reached out a gnarled and wrinkled hand to reclaim her possessions.
"Thank you, young man." She carefully eased the handles of the bag back over her emaciated arm, the additional weight making her hunch her shoulders as she supported one arm with the other. "It shouldn't be allowed."
"No, the tube station really isn't the place for posters like that," he agreed with her readily, casting a wary glance at the wall where the wolf still hovered, looking peaceable once more.
"No, not the poster, young man; I mean these Werewolves—and the Vampires too. As if there isn't already enough wrong in the world without such evil creatures roaming around free. The sooner the Government stamps them out the better." The woman turned away and waddled off farther down the platform.

Author Bio

Nicki JMarkus was born in England in 1982, but she now lives in Adelaide, South Australia with her husband. She has loved both reading and writing from a young age and is also a keen linguist, having studied several foreign languages. She has completed a BA (hons) English with French from the University of Greenwich, London and a PGDip in Translation from the University of the West of England, Bristol. She is currently studying for diplomas in Editing and Publishing.

Nicki J Markus launched her writing career in 2010 and her fiction work has been accepted for e-book publication by both Wicked Nights Publishing and Silver Publishing.

In her spare time, Nicki J Markus also enjoys many other creative pursuits including music, theatre, photography, sketching and web-design. She also has a keen interest in history, folklore and mythology, pen-palling and travel.


Thursday, July 26, 2012

My face on the web/Social networking workflow

So, I'm all over the web, because like any of my tribe (Gen-X Overthinkers, of the subtribe Shlubby Ink Stained Atheist Fanboy), I am a technophile and something of a collector. I like pages that track my interests, and expose me to other people's.

In addition, I am in the process of starting the "self promotion" part of my shoe string self publishing hobby. I would appreciate the help of a few clicks if you have a Facebook or Amazon account. Also, I may use the info in a Indie Pub !Science! article.

Note, I'm not asking people to buy books. My attitude is that if you're on my Facebook feed already, I'm happy to give you a copy in epub or mobi format (which will work on Kindles) for free. Email or PM me. I am interested to see if this kind of social networking convinces other people to buy books from an unestablished, unrepresented author, however.

This is the link to my Amazon author page. I have heard a rumor, possibly false, that these get bumped up in the ranks if there are more author "likes".  It's easier than writing a review, if you've read any of my books and enjoyed it at all.


This is the link to my Facebook Author page. Once 30 people "like" this page, I can view traffic stats. :-/. I believe I might start pushing all my "every week should end in awesome" type links through this page. I believe.


I am on Twitter. I blort things on here, sometimes.


I am on Good Reads. We can compare book collections, and I will be notified when you review books.


I am on Pinterest, because I love weird art. This is where I collect tattoo flash, pictures of monsters, and food pr0n.


I am including my blog address because I know this link will show in my Facebook feed. You can RSS it. Lolololololo!


I used to publish on Smashwords, and may do so again because it distributes to so many publishing platforms. You can like this author profile, but I think you need a Smashwords account, which is of marginal use to people not interested in Indie Pr0n. But if you're there already....


Because I like to add value, here's a couple of workflow tips for fellow Indie writer wannabees:

You can update Facebook automatically from any blog or tweet, meaning each update to your blog or twitter feed is a twofer.

In Twitter I do all my short, texty, "pith and vinegar" posts. To connect Twitter and Facebook, go to Settings, then Profile, then your Facebook settings.

Longer posts come from my blog, and I use the Facebook App RSS Graffiti to pull them from my blog directly into my Facebook page. Search for RSS Graffiti in facebook and then allow it access to your Facebook page. After that, it will show up under Apps in your newsfeed. When you open RSS Graffiti, you need to create a Publishing Plan, enter a URL that should be imported to Facebook, and target the appropriate Facebook page (for instance, your personal or Author Facebook page).

If you have social networking workflow tips that you'd like to share, let me know in the comments!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

11 PM Book Review: 2312

2312, by Kim Stanley Robinson, is perhaps the loveliest science fiction novel ever written and an excellent beginning sf novel for people interested in literary fiction. Set three hundred years from now, humans have colonized the solar system from the asteroids inside the orbit of mercury to the moons of Neptune, and travel the solar system in hollowed out asteroids. In this milieu, Swan and Wahram, each over a hundred years old, meet after the death of Swan's grandmother Alex. When Swan's home city is destroyed by sabotage, she becomes involved in an investigation  of artificial intelligences started by Alex and Wahram

Despite the thriller-esque overtones of the overarching plot, KSR spins the story out in a leisurely but compelling series of vignettes that involve social justice and ecological repair on an earth ravaged by global warming, meditations on the nature of gender, a love story between Swan and Wahram, two entirely mismatched paramours, and snippets of Rumi. Kim Stanley Robinson's stories have a way of acknowledging the ripe stink of human history, but the nature of his stories assume that the future is bright and the structure of his novels minimalizes the inherant conflicts and maximizes the value of human beings searching for meaning all while presenting you matter of factly with wonders: magical environments created through the application of technology.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Forbidden Planet Readalikes: A short bibliography I wrote to supplement a movie program at Portage District Library

Widely believed to be lifted from the play The Tempest by William Shakespeare, the movie Forbidden Planet is about a genius whose powers get the better of him. The plot involves unexpected mysteries found exploring distant planets, and "things man was not meant to know" in the form of "monsters of the id."

Here are some other science fiction books that deal with mysteries on new planets:

The Engines of God: Jack McDevittMcDevitt. Terraforming threatens critical research on the enigmatic alien ruins on Quraqua and its moon, which include a bizarre false city dubbed Oz.

Foreigner: CJ Cherryh. A human starship, lost in space, discovers another race. Overconfident, they are defeated in a war and must live on a reservation.

The Outback Stars: Sandra MacDonald. The crew of a space ship discovers strange thing about the alien faster than light travel system that they use.

Rendezvous with Rama: Arthur C. Clarke. When a 31 mile long alien starship enters Earth's solar system, a group of human explorers intercept the ship in an attempt to unlock its mysteries.

Ringworld: Larry Niven. Louis Gridley Wu travels beyond the edges of space known to humans, and joins an alien's expedition to a world constructed like a continuous ring around it's sun. Nobody knows who or what created this gigantic planet, but they seem to have been aware of us!

The Sparrow: Mary Doria Russell. Human exploration of a distant world results in the lone survivor being brutally enslaved.

Speaker for the Dead: Orson Scott Card. An indirect sequel to Ender's Game, the alien life on a human colony world turns out to be unlike anything seen before.

To Your Scattered Bodies Go (Riverworld Series): Philip Jose Famer. All of humanity is resurrected on the banks of a river. Mark Twain, Richard Burton, and Alice in Wonderland decide to find out what's up with that.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

11 PM Book Review: Hide me Among the Graves

In London, 1845 ­ a 14 year old Christina Rossetti, who will become a well known poet, accidentally awakens the vampire-ghost of her uncle. This will set in motion three decades of struggle as Christina, her brother Gabrielle, a hapless veterinarian and a reformed lady of the night are haunted and stalked by the two great vampires of London. The vampires inspire the Rossettis to create great poetry, but jealously kill anybody their poet "family" might love more than the vampires.

Tim Powers writes fantasies that use historical characters and settings which he painstakingly researches, creating an absorbing secret-history feel. In addition, his vampires are an interesting take on the genre: hugely powerful, elemental horrors limited only by the character of their compulsions and neurosis, they aren¹t characters so much as supernatural traps that the Rossettis and their allies must puzzle their way out of.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

11 PM Book Review: Marriage Confidential: The Post-Romantic Age of Workhorse Wives, Royal Children, Undersexed Spouses, and Rebel Couples Who Are Rewriting the Rules

Marriage Confidential, by Pamela Haag, is a very interesting quasi-sociological read with a highly journalistic feel. The author's general focus is on contrasting the "romantic" marriage culture of previous generations with the "post-romantic" culture of Xers and millennials. I think this loosely translates into a "culture of passionate marriage" vs. a "culture of pragmatic marriage." Haag seems to believe that post-romantic marriage ideals are a result of the sexual, childbearing, and financial support "roles" of marriage being becoming unnecessary and replaced with a charismatic Christian ideal of "sticking out" a marriage for reasons like "the kids," and that this holds true even for secular people. She points out that trends like childfree marriage may be largely due to the dourness of the charismatic influenced "marriage movement" which makes child raising sound histrionically important to the exclusion of adult needs.

"Children today occupy the center of a marriage with fewer if any rivals because marriage has been pruned of it's other imperatives." p 114

"The family values movement may have killed the goose that laid the golden egg. It sets such strict child-first standards that type A parents… might understandably decide to stay childfree." p 115

The author combines current data on marriage trends with interviews of friends, acquaintances, and correspondence from personals websites. She includes several shallow but non-judgmental chapters about non-monogamous marriage trends. Most of her interviews are with people whose marriages have failed, so Marriage Confidential seems biased against successful marriages. However, this is a breezy read about a serious topic. I think this is a good look at why people feel bad about "serviceable" marriages. It would be excellent for young or new couples, as a mindful inoculation against extremist ideals in marriage.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

I am sincerely uncomfortable with moderates and republicans who vote their fiscal conservatism while trying to take the rational and moral high ground of being socially liberal. The Michigan State government is a prime example of why this is the case.

In the last year alone, the Republican Governor and Republican majority in the Michigan Government has:

Denied Democratic representatives the right to speak or vote, thus denying their constituents representation in state government.
And how they've done this is remarkable. These "immediate effect" laws are supposed to get a two-thirds majority. That's numerically impossible in the House, because Republicans don't have two-thirds majority and Democrats have remained united as a bloc against them. The House Republicans simply ignore the two-thirds part of the law. They hold a separate "immediate effect" vote after voting in a bill, and rather than doing a roll call vote, just simply eyeball the assembly and call it two-thirds.
Invalidated local elections by allowing the governor to replace local candidates with political appointees, er... emergency managers. Literally, your vote does not count anymore.
Public Act 4, the Local Government and School District Fiscal Accountability Act. Signed into law in March 2011, it granted unprecedented new powers to the state’s emergency managers (EMs), including breaking union contracts, taking over pension systems, setting school curriculums and even dissolving or disincorporating municipalitie
Voted to shut down reproductive counseling offices by mandating increased licensing and insurance. My representative, Margaret O'Brien, pitched this bill to me as "protecting women" although the right-to-life-article I linked clearly seems to think that over-regulation of reproductive health care establishments is a good idea. This is interesting to me because Governor Snyder insists that we should be de-regulating industries,
including in medical fields such as: Acupuncturist, Dieticians, Nutritionists, Ocularist, Respiratory Care, Speech Pathologist.

I was particularly interested to note that included in de-regulation are: Consumer Finance Services, Forensic Polygraph Examiner, Security Alarm Contractors, which I assume is to better allow (SMEAR ALERT FOR THE EASILY OFFENDED) wealthy republican business-folk to cheat, lie to, and steal from the Michigan electorate more easily.

Sanctioned lawmakers for using medically correct words. "What she said was offensive. It was so offensive, I don't even want to say it in front of women. I would not say that in mixed company." Srsly, Mike Callton? So, how do you refer to a vagina in front of women?

Voted to allow professional to deny service based on their religious beliefs.
A public degree or certificate granting college, university, junior college, or community college of this state shall not discipline or discriminate against a student in a counseling, social work, or psychology program because the student refuses to counsel or serve a client as to goals, outcomes, or behaviors that conflict with a sincerely held religious belief of the student, if the student refers the client to a counselor who will provide the counseling or services.
I'm especially fascinated, as an atheist, by that last bill. Imagine going into a library looking for any book on faith and being told that I could:
Refuse to supply religious books that conflict with my sincerely held rational beliefs that religion is a cultural hoax, if the librarian refers the client to a library who will provide religious books.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Molly Strega Versus the Harmonic Oubliette - Flash Fiction

by Lawrence Kapture (some naughty language included)

Molly Strega thumbed the trigger button on her Polychro Pistol. The rainbow beam of solid light struck the Man in Black on the minuscule patch of his chest unarmored by a black suit jacket. The beam touched every chakra in his numic-field at once. With a reluctantly ecstatic moan, he slumped to his knees, then face down on his chest, drowning in the bliss that comes from having a high energy field unify your chakras.
She stepped up and kicked him hard in the chest, rolling him over. She heard ribs crack. She was a small woman, but her bush was shaved in the symbol of iron, evoking an alchemical resonance through her serpent chakra and lending her mass. "Where's my boyfriend, pig? You can't have gotten him to Area 51 already. Tell me where he is, and I'll leave you breathing."
The agent moaned and spasmed, an oily sheen of sweat breaking out around his smoked glass shades. Molly stepped up on his chest. She probably weighed as much as a pony right now. She heard his ribs creak, and breath wooshed out of him.
She pulled his shades off, and held the adamant crystal barrel of the pistol up to his blue, blue eye. "Tell me now, or I'll blow what's left of your sanity out through the back of your skull." The eyes were the window to the soul, and they let solid light rays chew up your numic-field like an antacid. Ecstasy, like oxygen, is necessary to human life, but in large quantities, either one can deep fry you. And sending someone to Nirvana  early wasn't a sin that would pollute her karma. Much.
"They're at the airport by now," the MIB said. "A glass zepplin will have them in Utah by morning. Then it's into the Harmonic Oubliette with the rest of the trash." There was a metric ton of malice embodied in the tiny grin that he allowed to curl his lip. He was taunting her. He wanted to die. Suicide by free radical. And she was the free-est, baby.
She wanted to oblige the bastard, but couldn't afford the time that it would take to clean that bad karma out of her own numic-field.
What to do with a spare Man in Black, if you couldn't make sausage? She looked around the parking garage. There was no dearth of places to hide a body, live or dead.
She took off her tesseract pack. "Not if I intercept them," she muttered to the man she stood on.
"Yeah," he laughed, a little drool escaping as he spasmed again." His kundalini wasn't doing anything for the Black Matriarchy any time soon.
She stepped off him. It would be a few minutes before he could move again. She patted him down, grabbing his wallet and pulling out his aether card and torc. She fried them both with a blast from her pistol. She tucked his Entro Pistol into her pack for disposal later.
Then she put on her own aether torc. She contacted her secondary boyfriend. "Bro, they've got Sissy. I need you to hack the net and open one of the autoperambulator trunks around me. Find the one that's been in this garage the least time. Then I need you to find me the flight path of a federal glass zepplin headed from WFC airport to Groom Lake."
"What good will that do you?" Bro asked. Over the aether-waves, Molly heard him crunching on pocky.
"I'm going to use the Icarus glider to intercept him."
"That's a lot of work for a newish tertiary. Can't we just recruit another one?"
There was a little jealousy between her long-time secondary and the new tertiary. But it wasn't that simple. She generally picked her boyfriends for their likability. Hazard of being a revolutionary. You had to enjoy your co-workers.
"Just get me the data."
She got out a set of cuffs, and cuffed the agent's hands behind his back. She brought the Icarus out of the tesseract pack. She slid the frame of aurichalcum wires and adamant glass feather panels over her arms and shoulders so that it hung like Indian fringe.
Then she took a straight razor and a little can of aloe shaving cream out of her pack. She squatted right in front of the agent, and flicked off the remains of her pubic hair, effectively dismissing the symbol of iron from her serpent chakra. She replaced the toiletries in her pack, and removed a homunculus skin patch with a symbol for aluminum. She pressed it against her chest, over the heart chakra. She waited for the homunculus skin to warm up and bind with hers. As she did, she felt the alchemical rune take hold. She felt light, but tough. Excellent rune for flight.
Behind her, she heard the latch of a trunk lid pop. And because she wanted the Black Matriarchy to know just how she was fist-fucking them, she said "Everything your Matrihoes can do with with their money and research banks, I can do with my ingenuity. They may own everybody else, but they don't own Molly's Polychromes." She dragged him over to the trunk and wrestled him in. It would have been easier with the mass of iron on her side.
She slammed the trunk lid on him.
She wasn't letting Sissy be eaten by the oubliette. He wasn't a bruiser, like Adam. He wasn't a hacker, like Bro. But he fed her tantric battery better than any of her other boyfriends ever had.
She flicked on the phlogistine battery of the Icarus. It started to glow in all the colors of the rainbow, as energy infused the glass feathers.
Then she headed for the stairs to the roof of the garage. She had a zepplin to catch.

(c) 2010

Notes: I am publishing this here because I am submitting this to a flash fiction contest on Chuck Wendig's page. It's just sitting on my hard drive, and is the wildest pulp style flash I've done. It should also appear in the forthcoming Kazoo Books Writer's Group collection.
Rock of Aeons will be free May 17th until May 19th. My first indie publication, published back in December of 2011 without the benefit of the KDP select free pricing, here is the blurbing:

When Ozzie follows Hank into a junkyard, she doesn't expect to find him being held up by angels. Nor does she expect him to turn into a dog to escape from them. Ozma Jones (Ozzie to her friends) is plunged into the middle of the war between shape shifting Djinn and angels who have infiltrated the world's governments. The Djinn want to use her as a mule to carry the missing piece of Solomon's ring. The angels just want her out of the way, and will stop at nothing to nullify her. If the missing piece of the ring is replaced, it will stop the angels from interfering in human affairs, and keep Ozzie and her family from being punished for what Ozzie knows. But to do so, she has to avoid falling for Hank, and maybe even summon a more ancient threat than either angels or Djinn.

This one is shorter but racier than Vignetta: Contains violence and sexual content. 200 pp novel.There is also a print edition

I have received a lot of kind words from the free promotions, which, if you're not in it for the money, is pretty much the best thing you can get.

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Vignetta in the Red House goes live today!

May 2nd! I’m releasing Vignetta in the Red House today. This is a novel about a girl who likes to make homuculi and her tyrannical grandmother.

Here’s the cover copy:

When Vinni was five, her mother was institutionalized for madness. Vinni’s family, the women of the Red House, have built their wealth and standing by using alchemy to make homunculi: Artificial creatures that act as companions and helpmates. Vinni's mother made the best.

Since her mother was sent away, Vinni has longed to make homunculi as brilliant as her mother's. Though none of her Aunts will undertake to teach Vinni anything serious of the craft until she's had her first blood, Vinni is learning in secret, hampered by the strict rules of her Grandmother, who leads the Red House.

Vinni's quest to make a homunculus early puts her on a collision course with Grandmother's plans for the Red House, which are in turn putting the Red House on a collision course with the rest of Sangrila, the most powerful city state on the Red Coast.

When Vinni discovers that her Grandmother’s plotting is responsible for her mother's insanity, she flees to the streets of the city. On the streets, hunted by the other forces of Sangrila, Vinni collects a group of her sorceress cousins and street urchins to become the opposition to her Grandmother's monstrous plans. Can they save the only home Vinni has ever known?

432 pp, some scary situations for children.

It will sell as an ebook for $4.99, BUT for the first three days, May 2nd - 4th, it will be FREE!

I am only releasing this on Amazon, for the Kindle. However, you can read Kindle titles on other devices: laptops, blackberries, smart phones, android tablets, iPhones, or iPads, with Kindle reader Aps. So go over and download a copy to save for when you have a tablet: it will be in your Amazon account forever. Also, if you are part of the Amazon Prime program, you can borrow it for free.

It will sell in dead tree format as well, for $12.99.

Oh, and also: I have a Facebook author page, so if you don’t already think I’m enough of a troll, go on over there and like me. Please? Really, really like me? :) http://www.facebook.com/LawrenceKapture

And here are my Acknowledgements: This is my book, and self published or not, I need to thank a bunch of people for its being here. I want to thank Ruby Kapture, always my first reader. I want to thank Cathy Srygly, who took the time to read the full manuscript and offer excellent suggestions. I want to thank Kat Slater, another reader who schooled me on writing about young ladies. Lastly, I want to thank Excelsior!, the crit group who critted sections of Red House: especially Merrie Haskell, Sarah Zettel, and Christine Pellar-Kosbar (who should write more). The cover is by Kevin Amiel Bagabaldo Ismael (Vin.Ismael), contracted through 99designs.com.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Indie Pub News

Not that anyone is paying attention, regards Rock of Aeons, but it's coming down off of Smashwords today. It will continue to be sold on Amazon. I will no longer be able to give coupon codes, but have saved epub and mobi version for those treasured people close to me, and potential reviewers, who want to read it for free. In addition, I will set it to free on Amazon for three days in mid May.

The first week of May, I am planning on releasing Vignetta in the Red House. Because I am indie publishing, and really have nothing to lose, I will be entering the Kindle Advantage program with both my novels, which means that for at least three months my two novels will only be available from Amazon, in the Kindle format. However, you can read them on other devices: laptops, blackberries, smart phones, android tablets, iPhones, or iPads, with Kindle reader Aps.

I will also be changing the price. Because the $.99 price is not magic, or possibly past it's use-by date, I am going to claim Amazon's 70% royalty rate by selling titles at or above $2.99. This will let me make more from selling my books very slowly, rather than less.

Vignetta in the Red House will be released on May 2nd, and be free from May 2nd until the 4th. Rock of Aeons will be free May 16th until May 18th. Both will be free again June 13th and 14th in celebration of my birthday.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Woot: Outside Review for Rock of Aeons

I have been submitting Rock of Aeons to review blogs and the very kind and elegant Nicki J. Markus was interested enough to write a review.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Things what I should have done more with

At some point, I thought about narrowcasting my most ill formed opinions in the form of a political blog. While poking through some of the junk in my flash drive, I came across the few posts I wrote before I got bored. I am very much an armchair liberal.The entries are dated, but I actually thought they were kind of funny. So I am posting them as one article, here. The file this was saved under is titled Angry Little Fat Man.

Statement of Purpose

Ever since the end of the Clinton administration, I have been ballooning with bile. I didn't feel Clinton was a highly ethical president. He made and broke campaign promises, and was very selective in the wars he chose to enter. However, it seemed like he got his rewards from life, whereas the current administration is focused on the afterlife, which I will avoid for as long as I can. I am hoping this administration does not "save" me along with the other Charismatics they entertain, who are, of course, welcome to the kingdom of heaven.

I tried to give George the benefit of the doubt. I really did. At the very least, I was sure that the forward momentum of human history couldn't be halted by one eight year administration. I'm still pretty sure. But that thin sliver shaved off my optimism is enough to keep me in heart burn, and so I need a release valve. My blog will be that valve, I hope, with the stated purpose of deflating the hyperbole and anal sack expressing that serves as fact checking for conservative pundits.

The Devil’s Dictionary, vol. 2

Definition - Creation Science: A new name for charming peasant folklore. The science comes from a firm denial to see the possible origins of life, as with Behe's theory of irreducible complexity, which states that the inability to see an event, like the evolution of flagellum or the transferal of the soul into the afterlife, eradicates the possibility that it could happen, and the fact of it's existence does not hint at the probability that it did.

Creation Science is often supported by alternate history, for instance, the current prime promoter of creation science, Anne Coulter, fantasizes a reality in which one of the discoverers of DNA repudiated Darwin and embraced Raeliansim (1), which would be considered a lie if it weren't so wittily inobservant (2).


(1) As I describe in my book, Cambridge astrophysicists Sir Fred Hoyle and Chandra Wickramasinghe, as well as Francis Crick, winner of the Nobel Prize for his co-discovery of DNA, didn’t believe in God, but realized Darwin’s theory was a crock.

(2) In a retrospective article[38], Crick and Orgel noted that they had been overly pessimistic about the chances of life evolving on Earth when they had assumed that some kind of self-replicating protein system was the molecular origin of life. Now it is easier to imagine an RNA world and the origin of life in the form of some self-replicating polymer besides protein.

see also

This compelling argument was shattered by Charles Darwin, who believed that the appearance of design is due to the process of natural selection.

Definition - Debate

Usually a discussion in which such topics as weight, personal appearance, and trust-worthyness determine the usefulness of an individual’s point.

Definition - Good Economy

A good economy is one in which wealthy individuals are making money, which is almost always, as the only rich people who lose money are complete fatheads. Job security is not a measure of a good economy, because wealthy people rarely have jobs, but plenty of security.

The Devil's Bibliography

State of Fear - A technical manual by scientist Michael Crichton, who's central thesis is that extinction is healthy for the ecosystem. "Ecologists are Nazi's." Crichton states in chapter 594. "Greenpeace has plans to feed hundreds of thousands of poor Africans to whales. I've seen the documents, but they were all destroyed in a freak Tornado manufactured by super humans working for the Gnomes of Zima."

Crichton recommends DDT as a refreshing health beverage, and proves with chaos theory that bald eagles would eat human beings if they could, especially if genetically engineered with frog DNA so that they could breed in the water, so they should probably all die, anyway.

Godless - A book in which Ann Coulter refutes the usefulness of empirical evidence over faith and reason, an underlying theme in her fiction. The central theme of Godless is that Jesus loves her, although she recognizes most other people don't. States that Christians should convert to Judaism, because there is no real difference between the religions. States that biblical literalism is on a par with Darwinian evolution.

"My faith and reason tell me that God created the world and I’m not particularly interested in the details."

The Devil's Hagiography

Anne Coulter - One of the New Victorians, who has stated that she is unaccountable to anyone but God. The few people safe from her anger are fetuses, for whom she is unable to imagine a pastime that she can portray as a crime, although the Catholic Church would disagree.

Has often been on The New York Times bestseller list, a fact of which she very proud despite wishing their staff would die. However, all of her works together have not been on the bestseller lists longer than The Da Vinci Code. Has suggested that marriage inevitably leads to divorce (1). Ann Coulter believes that personal comments are inappropriate (2).


(1) Assuming that’s true, probably because marriage is more popular in the red states than in the blue states and because of all the blue-staters living in the red states.

(2) As a journalist, do you long to have a sense of decorum? Or do you see your life’s vocation as primarily asking strangers utterly inappropriate personal questions?

Mel Gibson: An actor exempt from the general conservative principle that all celebrities are idiots. Brought love to the hearts of Christians everywhere with depictions of the brutal beating of a wrongly convicted political prisoner, thereby convincing most Christians of their own central importance in the drama of the universe. Passion of Christ was gratuitously attacked with ad-hominem accusations of anti-Semitism.

Luckily, he was able to correct his imprecision by making anti-Semitic statements to an arresting officer. Scored a striking victory for victimology when conservative pundits agreed that he shouldn't be held responsible for his opinions because he was drunk while having them (1).

(1) "[t]he guy was drunk, for heaven's sake. We all say and do dumb things when we are drunk."

Friday, March 02, 2012

11 PM Book Review: Zoo City

Zoo City by Lauren Beukes is about Zinzi December, down and out in Johannesburg. Zinzi has a tree sloth for a familiar and makes her living by psychically finding lost items and writing email fishing scams. Most zoos, people with animal familiars, have committed some kind of murder to be “gifted” with their familiar in the first place. Zinzi also just so happens to owe gangsters a lot of money for her ex crack habit.

She doesn’t like tricking people out of their money, so she takes a job to find a teenage pop starlet for the starlet’s controlling manager. Did she run away? Was she kidnapped? Zinzi uses her former contacts as an entertainment writer to follow a trail through drug and alcohol treatment centers, nightclubs, and ex boyfriends. All the while she is negotiating her own problems with gangsters and her lover, who’s missing family shows up in a refugee camp in another country. Eventually she realizes that something far more horrible than she expects is in store the starlet and the starlet's brother.

Zoo City is a very gritty noire urban fantasy set in South Africa, amongst an underclass of magically talented people marked out by their familiars. I liked it because Zinzi’s voice is spare and cynical without managing to lose all of her emotions. The supporting characters, especially their animal familiars, make for a great series of dialogs.

I like the author’s voice, too, which is dry and witty. “Nzambe azan a zamba te,” says a witch Zinzi consults. “God is not in the forest. Maybe he is too busy looking after sports teams or worrying about teenagers having sex before marriage. I think they take up a lot of his time.”

The plot was a little hard to follow in places, but kept you guessing, and kept Zinzi moving, and the end is a really grand guignol horror show that manages to preserve Zinzi’s heart despite staying true to the gritty magical and noirish aspects of the book. I’m a big fan of this book, and will go back and find Lauren Beukes other book, Moxyland.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Indie Pub News

The first week of May, I am planning on releasing Vignetta in the Red House. Because I am self  indie publishing, and really have nothing to lose, I will be entering the Kindle Advantage program with both my novels, which means that for at least three months my two novels will only be available from Amazon, in the Kindle format. For a couple of days each I will make them free, to see how many downloads an unknown author can get doing this. For Science! Sweet, sweet Indypub science.

I will also be changing the price point I am selling at. Because the $.99 price is not magic, or possibly past it's use-by date, I am going to claim Amazon's 70% royalty rate by selling titles at or above $2.99. This will let me make more from selling my books very slowly, rather than less.

However, because I aim to make money by selling books to strangers, not friends, AND because I would like to encourage some traffic to the Kindle page for my book, I am going to make another offer to friends:

If you want a free copy of Rock of Aeons from Smashwords, and are willing to post a review to the Amazon site, I will send you a coupon code if you private message or email me. It doesn't have to be a good review. You hate the book, write a one star review. But I would like to get some more reviews on Amazon. Think about it! Free book. And before you fuss about buying it: right now I make .30 each sale. The potential joy I create by entertaining someone I love (Yes, I love all of  you!) is worth way more than a third of a cup of coffee. Cheap coffee.

In fact: if you have a friend who says they would review it, have them PM or email me with your name, and I will give them a coupon code, too. The possibility of entertaining someone that you love is worth almost as much to me, because you have added so much to my life. Does that sound unctuous? It isn't. The only thing I really have to offer people is my strange, strange brain.

Fair warning, there is sex in Rock of Aeons.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

11 PM Book Review: Supervolcano: Eruption

Supervolcano: Eruption is a soft apocalyptic novel about catastrophic environmental change in the wake of the Yellowstone cauldera blowing up and dumping ash over a third of the United States. It views the events through the lense of a family: a cop, his ex wife, their grown children, and his girlfriend.

I liked most of the characters in this. It was interesting to see how they dealt with their individual issues, and the author drew their characters very sharply. You could generally see their flaws better than their strengths, and clearly see how each affected their choices. The most interesting problem belonged to the self important and bitchy character of Vanessa, the cop protagonist's daughter. She ends up living in refugee camps spread around the ash fall from the volcano, and I would have liked to see a lot more of her and how she dealt with her problems.

Unlike character driven Sci-Fi with similar themes, say the Niven and Pournelle disaster novels, Supervolcano didn't 't really hold up for me. Although I liked the characters, I felt that they alone were not a strong enough throughline to carry the story. Really, this is a disaster story, and there's not nearly enough disaster in it. It takes some 95 pages to get to the eruption. Mind you, no one survives a supervolcano. So the way the author handled the eyewitness account of the eruption was elegant. But for the rest of the novel, most of the characters are relatively unaffected. They live out their day to day concerns: how to stay in college, how to defend a thesis, how to bag groupies on the road... and the Supervolcano affects them largely with inconveniences.

So, I liked the characters, but it got kind of boring watching them sometimes. And there was a Supervolcano in the background that I wanted to see more of. I think this is part of a series, and if the author follows his usual themes, other series entries will deal with How-Life-Changed-As-A-Result. Which I cold see being interesting. But probably not enough to make me pick up another installment.

Thursday, February 02, 2012

11 PM Book Review: Switched

Switched is about Wendy, a troubled young woman who's mother tried to kill her when she was a child, and who has been in the care of her aunt and brother ever since. When she starts to exhibit psychic powers, a strange young man begins stalking her. Chased by kidnappers, the strange young man sprits her away to a secret city. There she finds out that she is a changeling: Trolls (or Trylle of the series title) live in secret along side human beings. They steal human babies, and put troll babies in their place. When the troll babies are reintegrated into troll society, they bring the money and influence of their adopted families back with them. She's not just any troll either. She is the daughter of the Queen.

I picked this up because I often read self pub wonders (and dream of being one) to see what "takes off". It's easy to see why people enjoy this. The voice is engaging, the prose is upbeat and active. It's an easy read, and despite the poor editing, a pretty smooth one.

That said, the editing is poor. There were a good number of malapropisms and a fair number of typos. Probably not more malapropisms than Alter of Eden, by James Rollins, or more typos than in Briarpatch, by Tim Pratt. I don't think I'll pick another one up because despite the fact that it is an engaging read, the trylle/changling society is rigid and unsympathetic: aristocratic, classist and racist. Although the Trolls get their kids back, humans are never returned to their human families and remain as a servant class. Wendy's lack of motivation to leave really kind of makes her a milksop. I know the idea of being a "princess" is a powerful narcotic to many people. However, Wendy, as written, has little interest in being a princess. And the idea that an entire separate race could prey on other people's children in a 21st century U.S. was kind of unconvincing as well.

Monday, January 30, 2012

11 PM Book Review: Briarpatch

Briarpatch is about Darrin, who witnesses his girlfriend jumping off a bridge months after she left him with no explanation. He knows she left him for a mysterious man named Ismael Plenty. Unconvinced that his girlfriend would kill herself, he uncovers a bizarre consipiracy, engineered by Ismael Plenty, and centering around himself.

Darrin and Ismael are Briarpatch babies, though Darrin is unaware of this. Of uncertain origin, the Briarpatch babies have the ability to step into a series of interconnected worlds of varying degrees of probablility: some with hospitals that include machines that heal you by taking better bodies from alternate versions of yourself, some where you might be attacked by werebears. Ismael wants to find the perfect world, the one where the light itself causes you to forget all need and be perfectly satisfied. Because, you see, Briarpatch babies are immortal. And immortals get bored, and despair, and want to move on to the afterlife. At least Ismael does.

To learn to see the Briarpatch, you generally need some sort of shock. Ismael has decided to drive Darrin to despair. He convinced Darrin's ex-girlfriend to kill herself (to get to the light of another world - a way denied to Immortals). He convinced Darrin's BFF to get Darrin fired. Then he staged an affair between Darrin's BFF and his new girlfriend. Nothing quite works out the way Ismael wants to, though. Darrin is made of sterner stuff.

Briarpatch is a really low key, personality driven fantasy. I liked it because of the themes. It contrasts delight in life with a yearning for transcendence to create what is essentially an anti-dualist fable. There may be something wonderful in the next world, but this is the one you have to kick around in until you get there. Darrin and some of the cohort he picks up on the way, including an ex-suicide haunted by Darrin's ex-girlfriend, and a man driving an automobile from an alternate detroit around the Briarpatch in order to find a version of his wife so that he can ask her if she commited suicide, or just sat too long in an enclosed garage, all have engaging voices. They are driven but not anxious, despairing but still curious about the world. They all are dealing with the question of why we continue to exist in the face of disapointment in small but pragmatic ways. It may turn out to be the great question of secular life, once we are free of disease and war. Darrin is not a passive man, but the loss of the love of his life has made him so, and learning to love his life gives him freedom again.

I also liked it because it's it pretty, surrealist book. The touristy trips into the Briarpatch are filled with glossy snapshots of irreality: vampire bars where you tip the bartender in blood, the Pontiac Wendigo itself, and city ruled by bees will feed the heads of people who like some Dali with their Drama.

It is very low key fantasy. It's got some sex and booze and poker in it. You can't advertise for life without the elements that make it fun. If you need swords with your sorcery, this may not be for you. If you're not up for a read with a little bit of meditation, save it for later. But if you want something pretty and meditative and earthy, this would be a good next for your reading list.