Thursday, July 24, 2014

Temporary Blogging Break

I don't take a lot of blogging breaks, but I'm going to be going without a laptop or tablet from the 27th to the 2nd, so I'm going to go without posting until August 5th.  I've elected to start my break a bit early by not posting today.  "See you" in twelve days!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Custom Reproductions TM

"Custom Reproductions TM," written by Angelle Haney Gullett, is the first story I've read from Kaleidotrope.  It sits in the murky region of fictiondom that isn't long enough to properly distinguish as a specific one of the speculative genres.  Sci-fi, fantasy, or magic realism?  That is too tough to call.  And like genre, the quality of this short story is hard to pin down.  "Average" is perhaps the best way to put it.

I liked both of the main characters, but neither struck me as spectacular.  Julienne is a bit blank-slate.  Grigory has more depth, yet we never get to see him do something he's really competent at, which hurt him as a character.  His sympathy and proactivity sliders were decently high, though never affected me quite as they should have.

I've seen this plot before.  Someone is making babies through artificial means.  The only new element this story brings to the table is the conflict with the protagonist about the babies not having souls.  There wouldn't be a story at all if that bit hadn't been included, as without it the story would've fizzled out without a proper ending.  As it was, the final paragraphs felt forced.  Up until the very end of the third scene the story was paced nicely.  After that it fell apart for me.  I know it was supposed to have a snap to it, but it didn't work quite right.

Again, this is a trope story.  A setting with artificial babies has been done before several times.  There isn't a whole lot of "new" or "exciting" going on.  The attempt to tie the building with Grigory emotionally fell flat and failed to redeem this aspect of the story.

This review may be a bit too harsh.  Despite all of the little negatives, "Custom Reproductions TM" is far from being a bad story.  I would recommend it to those who enjoy the speculative genres, but not to those who don't.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Post Delay

I'm delaying today's post until tomorrow.  Ten minutes is not enough time to type up a proper review before midnight and I have to get up relatively early tomorrow for a dentist's appointment, so I'd like to have the sleep.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

The Last Page

      Mai swore.  She ran a finger along the jagged edge of a piece of oiled parchment.  The leather back of her tome mocked her.
     “It’s okay, Mai,” she muttered.  “I’ve performed the Ritual a thousand times.  I don’t need that page.”
     Mai’s breathing slowed.  “No, it can’t be coming this fast.”  Her heart crashed against her ribs for several beats.  Then its pumping went soft.  The setting sun, image shimmering through stained glass, dissolved—along with Mai’s vision.  She gurgled.
     The maid’s bright laughter echoed behind her.  Mai heard parchment crumble.
     Her other senses bled away, one at a time.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Recommended Writing Resource and Anthology: Shadows Beneath

It's late and I completely forgot about posting until just now (about 11:37 PM).  So, I'm going to give you a link to a valuable writing resource/anthology and call it a night.  Buy this and thank me in the morning.

I got the numbered-edition before it sold out.  My copy is numbered 51/200.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Next of Kin

Next of Kin (a novella by Dan Wells) is the best story I've ever been disappointed with.  By that I mean that I was expecting a five-star story and only got a four-star story.  The sheer awesomeness of the original John Cleaver trilogy may actually make this story look bad, even though it's great in its own right.  Just not as great as I wanted it to be.

For this novella to work, the setting had to be pretty bare bones.  It really doesn't matter much, especially through the lens of POV.  As far as depth of description for the setting, Mr. Well's mastery plays on.

The conflict in the story went steadily deeper across its short length.  It came from several different directions, which I liked.  The use of foreshadowing was spot on.  The largest conflict in the story resolved itself rather quickly, but the built up to the event coupled with the impact of the last few pages on the series as a whole allowed that to work.  A few more paragraphs would have aided the pacing perhaps, if one wants to nit-pick.

Character was my only real problem with Next of Kin.  Compared to other narrator's, Elijah isn't that bad.  It's just...he isn't John Wayne Cleaver.  Elijah is sympathetic, competent, and compelling, yet he's missing something crucial.  He isn't proactive enough.  At least, for this series.  John thinks about what he's going to do intently for a few pages, then he does them.  Elijah thinks a little bit longer and I think it hurts his proactivity "slider" a lot.  Yeah, he got things done, but he was (for the most part) a bit too reactive.  I couldn't get into the voice quite as much as I did with John.  There are probably several reasons for that, none of which this literary criticism is going to get into detail on.

Would I recommend this story to others?  Heck yeah.  It wasn't as kick-butt as I wanted it to be, but it's still better than a lot of other stories out there.  So go buy Next of Kin and support the superb Dan Wells.  Right now.  Please.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

I'd Rather Fight the Zombie

"I'd Rather Fight the Zombie" is the 360-word fantasy flash fic I entered in the 27th round of the Flash Frenzy contest.  Results are pending.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Favorite Quotes From the First Third of The Lord of the Rings

"'The worthies of Bree will be discussing it a hundred years hence.'

'I hope so,' said Strider.  Then they all fell silent, and one by one the hobbits dropped off to sleep."

This first quote is perhaps the most mundane of the three I'm going to mention here.  There isn't a whole lot to it.  It's two bits of dialog and a sentence of description.  However, it manages to hide tone brilliantly.  Normally, you don't want to "hide" tone.  That should defeat the point.  In this specific case, it manages to show a facet of Strider that readers need to see early on.  Strider is hopeful, yet still very realistic.  Readers who haven't been exposed to the remainder of the story prior to reading this quote may miss some things about it.  This statement cements the massive, epic scope of The Lord of the Rings.  Strider hopes that "Bree will be discussing it a hundred years hence" because it is quite possible that Bree may be burned to the ground by Sauron within a hundred years.  He knows how dire the situation is and if readers read will incredible care they can know too.

At least, that's what I got out of it.  Maybe I'm just making that all up...

"There came a cold clear dawn at the end of a long stumbling night-march.  The travellers reached a low ridge crowned with ancient holly-trees whose gray-green trunks seemed to have been built out of the very stone of the hills.  Their dark leaves shone and their berries glowed red in the light of the rising sun."

In many places I feel that Tolkien's descriptions in LoTR were too extensive.  I like bare, Orwellian prose.  Here I feel that Papa Tolkien hit a sweet spot.  He managed to create an engaging tone, push the plot forward slightly, and show the setting in very few words.  These setting details are attractive and manage to give us a sense of the landscape as a whole for this scene, all while playing cool tricks with dawn lighting.

"As soon as Frodo swallowed a little of the warm and fragrant liquor he felt a new strength of heart, and the heavy drowsiness left his limbs.  The others also revived and found fresh hope and vigour.  But the snow did not relent.  It whirled about them thicker than ever, and the wind blew louder."

To my knowledge, the concept of "Yes, but"/"No, and" is relatively modern.  This, however, is definitely an old example of its use, on the small scale.  Yes, the cordial of Imladris made Frodo feel better, but, the snow made the magic far less useful.  Gandalf had a quick fix to their problem, as readers would expect, but natural events managed to thwart it somewhat.  Well done, Tolkien.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

No Post Today

I'm on vacation.  No post today.  I'll be back Thursday.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Fallen But Not Forgotten

My fantasy flash fic "Fallen But Not Forgotten" was one of a few runners-up in the 26th round of the Flash Frenzy competition.  The judge had some nice comments for it.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Liebster Award

RULES
1. List 11 facts about yourself.
2. Answer the 11 questions asked by whoever nominated you.
3. Nominate 9 bloggers with less than 300 followers and leave them a comment saying they've been nominated. (Since just about every blogger in the sphere who qualifies has already been given the Liebster, I'm just going to snip my root from the award-spreading tree.)
4. Ask 11 new questions for your chosen nominees.
5. You cannot re-nominate the blog that nominated you.

11 Facts:
1. "Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing" is my current favorite hymn.  It is pretty amazing.
2. I have played both soccer and football for my high school (although not both in the same year).
3. I have done some form of extemporaneous speaking in school Forensics every year since 7th grade.
4. I have written over 50 fantasy flash fics (almost all of which are readable on this blog).
5. (Shameless self-promotion) I have three drabbles forthcoming to SpeckLit.com in the relatively-near future.
6. I have red hair and blue eyes.
7. Brandon Sanderson has taught me more than any other teacher I've ever had.
8. I turn 17 in 13 days.
9. I am asking for a feather duster for my birthday.
10. Boy Meets World, House, and Dr. Who are my favorite television programs.  (Hopefully Girl Meets World lives up to its birthright.  The pilot was quite good for a pilot with the target audience it has.)
11. I'm considering the purchase of a mandolin in the near future.

Questions for me to answer:
1. What is your least favourite book genre?
First of all, there's no "u" in favorite.  :p  To answer the question, I'm going to go with erotica, because I simply refuse to read it.
2. What is your least favourite colour?
I've never given this a whole lot of thought.  I suppose pink.
3. Pick one character (from anywhere, book, tv, movie, etc.) for each of these: snog, marry, avoid.
Since snog is a British/Australian term, I'll go with Luna Lovegood from the Harry Potter series.  I'm wracking my brain to think of some overtly-Christian girl to "marry," but I can't think of many off the top of my head, so I'm going to go with Topanga Lawrence from Boy Meets World based upon all of her other amiable personality traits.  Avoid?  I guess Foreman from Dan Well's Mr. Monster.
4. Your favourite television programme from your childhood?
Winnie-the-Pooh
5. Was there a character from a kids show you were legitimately afraid of?
There was one frame from an episode or movie in the Winnie-the-Pooh "franchise" in which Piglet was drawn in such a way that it was pretty terrifying, as funny as that sounds.
6. What fruit do you consume most frequently?
(These questions are really hard.)  I'm really not sure.  Apples, red/purple grapes, or peaches probably.
7. Would you rather be able to do a backflip or stand on your head?
Backflips are cool.
8. Can you do a backflip or stand on your head?
I suppose I'm probably physically-able to do both, but I'd rather not try.
9. What style(s) of dance have you had lessons for? (They don't have to have been serious lessons.)
Musical-style, if that counts.  (I was in my high school's production of Damn Yankees.)
10. Which of your own characters are you most proud of having created?
Zento
11. Would you rather live in Westeros and the Free Cities, Middle Earth, or Narnia?
I guess Narnia.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Forthcoming Drabbles and a Post-Script

I haven't made it known on here yet, but now that I've signed the contract, been paid, and have the dates of publication in my inbox, I guess I can tell everyone some exciting news. I have three 100-word stories (drabbles) forthcoming to SpeckLit.com. These are my first pro-rate sales (5 cents a word; also my first sales I'm making any money on at all). My stories go up: July 15th, August 10th, and September 21st. The first is fantasy, the second is horror, and the third is sci-fi.  All three are 1st-person, which is kind of odd, because I don't write a lot of 1st and SpeckLit doesn't publish a lot of 1st.  I'm definitely not complaining though.

One of the most exciting parts of this is that my first professionally-published story will be launching the day before my 17th birthday.  It's just a bonus that it's in the fantasy genre.

P.S.  I'm not doing a full literary criticism today.  Instead I'm just going to point you toward Cat Rambo's latest Daily Science Fiction story, "English Muffin, Devotion on the Side."  It manipulates POV in a cool, sci-fi way.  And, if you really think about it, the story is also horror.