Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Music blog: Schindler's List Main Theme - Tina Guo

Beta readers are taking over my computer today to read through Good to the Last Drop.

So, I'm taking a break and reading.

Enjoy the music.





The Dragon Awards are open and ready for nominations, and I have a list of suggestions you might want to take a look at. If you already  have a good idea of what you want, just click here to go and vote for them. The instructions are right there.


The Love at First Bite series. 


    

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

TV Review: 2017 Season Finale

Several of the shows I'm going to list I haven't done a review of yet, so bear with me.

For example? I have not reviewed...

24: Legacy: It's ... okay. The basic setup hasn't changed. In this particular case, we have an Army Ranger who took out not-Osama knockoff #6. He and his Rangers are being hunted by not-Osama's son. The son is also looking for a list of sleeper cells they want to activate, and one of the Rangers have stolen. Miranda Otto plays a former CTU head who planned the mission. She's married to a Presidential candidate. Hilarious ensues. Our lead is married, and sends his wife to the protection of his brother, the gang leader, so that's another subplot.

Part of the problem with the show was our lead. Yes, they had traded Kiefer Sutherland for a younger black actor, but the problem isn't that he's young, black, or just not Kiefer. That isn't the problem-- it's that everybody was more interesting. Miranda Otto was interesting, her husband, played by Jimmy Smits (whose father was Gerald MacRanie, go figure) were interesting. Our lead's gangsta brother is more charismatic than he was. I also liked gangstas versus jihadis, that was fun. And we had Oded Fehr (The Mummy, The Mummy Returns) once again playing Middle Eastern.  It was all right. And it's renewed. We'll see how far nostalgia can take them. 7/10

Taken: Yes, this is supposed to be a prequel to the films, only they're really not trying that hard for accuracy. There is only one person who looks like he could turn into a character we saw in the films.

On the one hand, I like the cast. Jennifer Beals needs a career, and she's fun.. One or two characters from The Unit make a return in basically the same roles. And yes, I can see their lead growing up to be Liam Neeson.

Though the pace is incredibly different from the films, ponderous, and very slow some times. Though I must admit, Vince Flynn would be happy with the dead politician count. And it's supposed to be under a Hillary Clinton administration (the President is referred to as "she"), so the depth of the political corruption is hilarious, and I don't think they meant it to be so.

6/10, with room to grow.


iZombie: I originally tripped over this show on NetFlix, tried the first episode, and ended up binging the first season in on go. Then season 2. I was a little worried about Season 3. Would it hold up on a week to week format? Apparently.  The Premise of the series is simple: Zombies are only mindless killers under certain conditions -- but if they get their brains quickly enough, they can pass for albino humans. Olivia "Liv" Moore (yes, breath in the pun) works at a morgue, so she can get her brains. Her boss, Ravi, used to work at the CDC, caught on to her condition, and started thinking "cure." At the end of season 2, we were introduced to a PMC that is filled with zombies, and I thought "oh, come on, are these the bad guys in season 3? This is going to be cliche and sucky."  No.  It isn't. No, they didn't. They took the premise and went a direction I didn't even think of. It's awesome, really. It is funny as all yell, and smart. You might even say that have a really, really nice set .... of brains.

YYYYEEEEAAAAHHHHH

Go, watch it.

10/10... Yes. Really. There hasn't been a sucky episode yet. And it's still broadcasting.

The Arrowverse.


Sigh. I'm done with The Flash, Supergirl, probably done with Legends of the IdiotsArrow is the only one that's tolerable lately.

The problem is still that the season-long plot is overshadowing the villain of the week, and I liked the villain du jour method of handling problems. I remember when they used to be able to do both at once.
  • The Flash: They lost my interest early on this season. They opened with the "Flashpoint" alternate timeline, and made the start of the season so disorienting that people I watched it with were confused and turned off. Then it went totally downhill, becoming melodrama, and completely rejecting any and all sense of plot and story for the sake of whining. Then there's a vision of the future where Iris is murdered, and everyone's attention is focused on saving her.... it might have been nice if I cared about the character. Iris died in the comics, time for her to die in the show, too. Barry will get over it. 4/10
  • Legends of Tomorrow: Due to schedule conflicts, Arthur Darville, Captain Hunter, left for the first half of the season. This put Sarah Lance in charge of the ship. And I don't think I cared when she seduced a French queen while her colleagues were being shot at -- oh, wait, I really do. They plain old pissed me off when they put Guinevere in plate armor AND had her making out with Sarah. And their Union versus Zombies episode? Don't even get me started on that BS. Right now, I'd be more interested in a Captain Cold and Heat Wave TV show, except they already have that on Fox, and it's called Prison Break. 4/10
  • Supergirl: Agit-prop dumpster fire where they care less for plot and character than any of the shows above, and that is an extremely difficult challenge. 1/10
  • Arrow: Aside from some editing, and needing a shorter season, season 5 was fairly solid. And the return of Manu Bennett was nice to see. I only hope that means he can come back to the show on a regular basis now. But they lose an entire point for attempting to do a gun control episode, and doing it poorly; it was message fiction that barely had a coherent message. Also, for their torture Oliver episode. 7/10
MacGyver: I watch for the Murdoc episodes. That actor chews scenery in an entertaining fashion. It's fun to watch. And while it's gotten better than the first episodes, it's still mediocre. 5/10

NCIS: This was a strange season, and I think it took have the season for them to get their bearings. The cast seems tired of showing up, and Gibbs has less and less screentime. I'm waiting for them to have Gibbs die, set MacGee up as team leader, and we can close the book on this show before it turns into original CSI on us. Because right now, the minute that actors David MacCallum, Paulie Perrette, or Sean Murray die, or decide to leave the show, the producers had better hit the panic button, because I will stop watching soon after. 6-/10, depending on the episode.

NCIS: Los Angeles -- I say this every time, but someone has to stop pretending that LL Cool J and Chris O'Donnell are interesting. I watch for .... pretty much everyone else, really. There is some fun character byplay that, at times, reminds me of Homicide: Life on the Streets. 7/10

NCIS: New Orleans -- This was a very strange season. I'm not even sure if I liked where they ended up. At least they remembered to have New Oreleans in their New Orleans show.  6/10.

Scorpion: I like the pacing. I like the characters, who have turned into entertaining people instead of the cardboard caricatures from the first episode. But good Lord, someone tell them to stop pretending to have something like science. The space rocket episode? No. Just no. Mileage may vary. 6-8/10

Hawaii 5-0: It's okay. Nothing really stood out about this season. Though I'm getting tired of the old married couple bickering of our main characters. You'd think they'd tone it down after a while. 6/10

Blue Bloods: Solid series. Generally sane. They usually deal with topics as apolitically as possible. But there were still a few elements of pure stupid in there. They avoided some of the SJW scripts this season, I don't know how, but they did. Congrats, guys.  9/10.

Criminal Minds: AAARRRRGGGGHHHH. If anyone does a repeat of this season, I'm done. While the season-long story arc had a satisfactory conclusion, good God, it was painful to watch .... I'm sorry, not watch, fast forward through. "Spencer in jail" was a waste of time, generally not interesting, and I was able to pick up on what was happening while I sped through the Shawshank sequences.  6/10, and don't do that again.

Bull: Eh. I generally like the series.  It's mostly a 6/10, though the last few episodes were closer to 8/10 -- mostly due to the introduction of Eliza Dushku, a character who could talk at least as good a game as Michael Weatherly. If we keep her for season 2, I'll probably even watch.

Lucifer: With the introduction of Tricia Helfer as Lucifer's mother, a goddess, they lost any pretense of this being the Judeo-Christian Devil, and basically turned the show into a straight-up urban fantasy. I guess that could be seen as an improvement, so they're obviously tossing out any standard mythology around Lucifer. Also, since there is no reference to Jesus as a historical event within the universe, it pretty much makes this more Zoroastrian than Judeo-Christian. Turn your brain off, enjoy the insanity. It's a comedy police procedural ... almost like Castle. Only more insane. 8/10

Elementary: It was okay. The season finale subplot was out of left field, and jarring, and I'm not sure I was a fan of the primary arch. Tolerable, and generally entertaining. 7/10.

The Blacklist: The second half of the season had nothing to do with the first half, and that's a positive. The war with "Mister Kaplan" was an interesting battle, and there's a glimmer of an explanation behind everything going on. But I think they have only one more season left to them. They've broken up the story into half-seasons, and it's getting a little tedious. Finish it, or ratings finish you, Blacklist. 7/10-- points deducted for the first half of the season sucking so much.

Lethal Weapon:  Still the best series of the season. 10/10. If you haven't watched, you're missing out. It has heart, humor, character development, and a great balanced between solo episodes and overall season plot. I miss this series, and next season needs more episodes. Watch it, and throw out the Mel Gibson films.

The Dragon Awards are open and ready for nominations, and I have a list of suggestions you might want to take a look at. If you already  have a good idea of what you want, just click here to go and vote for them. The instructions are right there.


The Love at First Bite series. 


    

Monday, May 29, 2017

Kal Spriggs reviews Honor at Stake

So, a quick post today. Kal Spriggs posted his review of Honor at Stake over at his blog. 

Some highlights

"clever and funny.  The characters are witty, the plot is fast-paced and the story is engaging."

"The main characters are smart, engaging, and keeps you guessing.".

"I recommend it, especially if you like your contemporary fantasy with a pinch of humor and a lot of action."

"I, for one, can’t wait to read more!"
I'm good with this. Heh.

The Dragon Awards are open and ready for nominations, and I have a list of suggestions you might want to take a look at. If you already  have a good idea of what you want, just click here to go and vote for them. The instructions are right there.


The Love at First Bite series. 


    

TV Season Review: Good, the Bad, the Cancelled



Today, I'm going to be looking atre shows that will no longer be with us, but that really should have been around at least a little longer.

APB: You may remember back when I first posted the trailed for this series that it looked like Tony Stark takes over a police precinct. It was and it wasn't. Gideon Reeves, who looks like a SpaceX clone, is more of a tech geek and slightly less of an egomaniac than Tony Stark ever was. The premise was simple: after his best friend his murdered in the middle of a stickup, Gideon finds a way to take over the overworked Chicago precinct where he was killed. Instead of it being a one-trick pony, endlessly repeated, it had a very nice, even surprising balance. They usually introduced a new problem every week, and between his technology, and the basic police work, the problem is solved somehow -- usually after the problem adapts to each new solution. It was a fun show, and I don't know what the ratings looked like that killed it. But it was a solid 9/10, and it never had a chance. Damnit.

Pure Genius. While I originally likened this show to Tony Stark runs a hospital, it really wasn't. Yes, it was another tech genius, but he was highly charismatic in his element, yet amazingly socially awkward in every facet of his social life. He's better with tech than people. It was a nice look at some emerging medical biotechnology -- several of which hit the news as the show was on the air. So, I was seriously surprised at how well this show worked. But it was poorly marketed (the commercials looked nothing like the show, which is a good thing, the ads suck), and premiered late in the season, and had a limited run, as well as attempting to go up against The Blacklist, which is a bad call on their part. 9/10. RIP

Conviction: Haley Atwell can't get a break. A show that could have been pure agit-prop turned out to be surprisingly well executed. But after a half-season, I guess the ratings didn't support it. Again, I think the commercials didn't really grasp how much fun it was going to be.

Blacklist Redemption: I had given up on The Blacklist, because I was sick and tired of all the various and sundry crap around agent Keen, the Russian gangster who kidnapped her baby, and I'd just had enough.  But this brought me back to the original show. A mid-season replacement, Blacklist Redemption focused on Tom Keen, expert con man, as he joined a private security firm to run Mission: Impossible operations every week. It didn't hurt that Famke Janssen is still breathtaking at her age. The writing was sharp and tightly put together, with 24-style camera work. It brought me back to the main series, and I'm going to be interested to see if they integrate the story from this one into the main Blacklist storyline. Hopefully, they will. 7/10. RIP

Training Day: Damn it, I liked this show. While I had never seen the movie, the TV show picks up after Denzel's character goes down. Frank Rourke is presented as a dirty cop, though I think he's probably more accurately portrayed as a gray cop. He'll take a duffel bag full of cash from white slavers he just gunned down .... and use it to set up the slaves in new lives. His girlfriend is a madam, but they work. It's strange. It was also nice to see Katrina Law in a different environment from Arrow. The narration was fun, the comments hilarious, it was un-PC as all heck ... and then Bill Paxton, the lead, dies. Can't really run a show without the main character. It was also moved to Saturday night after he died, so lord only knows what that did to the ratings. 9/10. RIP

Notorious: It was a fun show that replaced a Shonda Rhimes piece of garbage. But it was smart and it was witty, and it had a basic ethical and moral code, so all of the people who watched expecting a Shonda Rhimes clone didn't get their usual fare of putrid filth, and so tuned out.

Ransom: This show was amazing. I'm just sorry I never got a chance to review it. This not only had the disadvantage of airing on Saturday night, it also had the problem that it was smart. No character -- not a single person -- was stupid on this show. Nobody. Not the HTs, not the cops. Everyone was spot on, with great writing, great acting, and awesome execution. It followed a team of hostage negotiators around the world, settling kidnappings. They never played the same trick twice. They never had a simple solution. They kept putting in variation after variation. It was fun. And it's dead. 9/10. RIP

Criminal Minds: Beyond Boarders: Or as I called it, Criminal Minds International was actually pretty fun. Then again, it was essentially the return of Mac Taylor from CSI: New York, the only park of the franchise that I wanted to keep going. Sadly, despite an interesting cast, fun dialogue, and some surprisingly badass moments, the show is dead. It still lasted longer than the last Criminal Minds spinoff, Suspect Behavior.  7/10, RIP

Grimm: This show was at least allowed to die a natural death. After years of twists, turns, and basically being Buffy for adults, this one had a solid resolution to most of the dangling threads that I recall throughout the series. While there could have been better setup for the final boss battle, I think that, all in all, it balanced out. Despite one of their last seasons going full GrimmDark (no pun intended), they brought the show back from the abyss, with "they all lived happily ever after." 8/10. RIP

Time After Time: Hey, a TV show based off of a film from the 70s, what could go wrong? The premise is that HG Wells built a time machine, and it is stolen by Jack the Ripper. Jack goes into our time period, and Wells follows after him.  This might have worked better if they had done something strange ... like told their own story, instead of stealing it beat for beat from the original film. Seriously, the movie version (of the same name) had Wells taking time to adapt to the current environment, puzzling things out as they go along. It also had Macolm MacDowell and David Warner as Wells and Jack. This? This had Brent Dalton, Agent Lifeless from Agents of Stupid, as Jack the Ripper .... Sadly, he was the best actor here. I finished the pilot, and then gave up on the whole thing. It was cancelled two episodes later. Do I have timing or what? 3/10 Rest in Pieces.

Doubt: A crusading lawyer show, starring Dule Hill, Katherine Heigel, and Elliot Gould. I'm surprised I even tried in the first place, since I don't believe in crusading lawyers. I gave up 15 minutes into episode one. It didn't make it to episode three. 1/10. Go to Hell, and stay there.

Emerald City: Vincent D'Onofrio is the Wizard of Oz! Sign me up! Yay! This is going to be awesome! .... Oh, wait, he's barely in the show? .... And it's a Grim and Gritty retelling? ... the Munchkins are actually savages, the Yellow brick road is only yellow pollen, Dorothy is a nurse with a police dog, and the Scarecrow without a brain is actually a former storm trooper for the Wizard's tyrannical rule, and he has amnesia? Are you freaking kidding me? I got through episode 1, and I wish I hadn't. The directing looked like that someone wanted to be Sam Raimi when they grew up, but have yet to grow up. -2/10. Yes. I gave it negative numbers. D'Onofrio may do his penance by making a Kingpin Netflix show. Everyone else? You're fired.

Here, the season is almost over. Have some books.

The Dragon Awards are open and ready for nominations, and I have a list of suggestions you might want to take a look at. If you already  have a good idea of what you want, just click here to go and vote for them. The instructions are right there.


The Love at First Bite series. 


    

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

On the Books: Writing Action

I'm going to be live with Brian Niemeier ... pretty much now. Come, ask me questions.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

#TuesdayThoughts on the #ManchesterBombing

In less than 100 years,  we've gone from "we will fight them on the beaches.  We will never give up. We will never surrender," to "we need to just be more kind, compassionate and UNDERSTANDING."

We can, of course, ask what led to these changes, but you can probably come up with your own answer. Mine is the convergence of liberal / Marxist ideology with the mainstream culture. It's why you have idiots saying that violence isn't the answer when violence is actually the opening question, and any answer is simply return fire.

Part of the problem is, I understand ISIS. They're evil. They are literally trying to bring about the apocalypse. Yes. Really. It was a solid article in the Atlantic, one of their few good research and reporting segments. They're basically al-Qaeda on an accelerated schedule, and without the finesse. And when you consider that AQ's idea of finesse was 9-11, that should tell you something.

But Islamofascism at large is all the same, really. Nihilistic, and more interested in the end goal of murdering infidels than living. It is an ideology where there is no hope. There is nothing good to be gotten from living another day. Cut off their nose to spite their face? They would cut off their child's head if they thought that it would hurt somebody else.

An exaggeration? Don't believe me? Let me bring your attention to the Gaza strip a few years ago, after Israel pulled out. There were thriving businesses in Gaza. A seriously large synagogue. Solid residential neighborhoods. Now, normal people, when suffering, poor and hungry, might do something strange when an entire area is just handed to them: take over the businesses, move into the homes, perhaps convert the temple into a mosque. No. They burned everything. Took everything that was literally handed them, and reduced it to ashes, overnight.

This is ISIS. This is AQ. This is Hamas. They're all interchangeable really.

And we've seen what they'd do when they get their way. They attacked a concert for Ariana Grande, whose primary audience is made of of teenagers.  Kids, basically. That's who they targeted. That's the sort of people we're talking about.

Gold Meir once said, "We can forgive them for killing our children. We cannot forgive them for forcing us to kill their children."  But now, we don't have to worry about killing their children, they'll do it themselves. They'll strap bombs to them and blow their own kids to Hell. Because why give them a better future.

And the first dumb son of a bitch who says that they just need to be educated: have you LOOKED at the advanced degrees some of these people have? Doctors and architects. Osama was part of the largest, wealthiest family in the Middle East. Didn't stop him.

Guess what, people, this isn't poverty we have to stop. This is fascism. This is an ideology that actually stretched back to Hajj Amin al-Husseini, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem. He was also a friend to Eichmann, and Hitler, broadcast on German radio, and assembled Nazi Muslim brigades-- Hanjar units. And his disciples created the Baathist party, who ran Syria and Iraq. His disciples raised two interesting folk: Yassir Arafat and Saddam Hussein.

Frankly, it's same crap, different day.

I could go on. I could go on forever, really. But the short version is this: every terrorist is not someone we should understand. Every terrorist is just one more person we should kill. Rules of warfare state that if you're in civilian garb while executing an attack, you are an illegal combatant, and under the rules of the Geneva convention, you are owed nothing. Any such combatant isn't owed a cell, or good care. They are owed a bullet to the back of the head, and that's it. Any additional minutes given to them are purely given by the grace of the person who has gotten their hands on said SOB. We could have taken every last Illegal Combatant we put up at GITMO, then take them out back into the bay, shook them in the back of the head, and feed them to the sharks.

Okay, I would slit a minor artery, THEN throw them in, so they could be eaten alive.

Short version: find everyone involved in Manchester. Find everybody who executed the plan, and kill them. Find everyone who financed it, and kill them. Find everyone in the room when they brainstormed the attack, and kill them, too. And just to be certain, we find everybody who was happy about the attack, and kill them too. Then we smother their bodies in whatever part of the pig that isn't eaten and set their remains on fire.

Everyone who then complains that we're treating the enemy poorly? They can go live with the enemy for a month, and we'll see if they're complaining at the end of the day. Because I've had it. You don't like western culture? Here's your ticket to Iraq, or Afghanistan -- not Dubai, they have too much Western architecture.

And no, it's not "because of Trump," you mealy mouth liberal asshats. The west have had terror attacks under Clinton, W, Obama and Trump. They don't care for your BS. I don't care for your BS. You want to make it because of Trump, again, here's your ticket to anywhere else on the planet. Don't let the door hit you on the ass on the way out.

Pardon me. I think I've had too much crap today online. I think I'm going to write a short story where I feed terrorists to vampires.  They just need a little salt. And bacon bits. Lots and lots of bacon bits.


The Dragon Awards are open and ready for nominations, and I have a list of suggestions you might want to take a look at. If you already  have a good idea of what you want, just click here to go and vote for them. The instructions are right there.


The Love at First Bite series. 


    

Monday, May 22, 2017

Review: Rachel and the Many-Splendored Dream Land

Poor Rachel Griffin. She's spent the last six weeks going through a lot of trauma. She's been sent to the infirmary so much, she's bucking for a record. She holds secret that could destroy the universe. Friends have died. She's been shot at more than most veteran police officers. We won't even touch on the dragons, the death cults, the demons, the angels, the elves, gods or monsters. The weight of whole worlds is on her tiny, 13-year-old shoulders....

This isn't even counting school work.

Welcome to round three of the Rachel Griffin novels, Rachel and the Many-Splendored Dreamland.


To be fair, the plot is described as follows.
It’s Halloween at the Roanoke Academy for the Sorcerous Arts, and Rachel Griffin is stirring up the dead!

All her life, Rachel has wanted to visit Beaumont Castle in the kingdom of Transylvania, the last known location of her hero, librarian-adventurer “Daring” Northwest. Only falling out of the land of dreams onto her face was not how she had expected to arrive. 

Now, the castle is right there, looming over her. Only her best friend, the Princess of Magical Australia does not want to go in, so as to avoid an international incident. But what if the castle holds some clue as to her hero’s final fate?

And who was that mysterious figure hanging by the neck she glimpsed in the dreamlands, just before she fell. Could the Dead Men’s Ball, where the spooks and ghosts of the Hudson Highland gather once a year on Halloween to dance to the music of some very unexpected musicians, be the key to discovering the hanged man’s identity?
Where do we start?

Let's start with some SPOILERS FOR BOOKS ONE AND TWO....Yes, you'd think after my The Raven the Elf and Rachel review, that would have been spoilery. It seriously, seriously isn't.

So, Rachel has defeated the demon Azrael, fought off a death cult -- twice -- including a dragon. Surely the cult out to destroy the world is no longer a problem, right?

Oh. Wrong. So very, very wrong.

Due to a magical experiment gone wrong, Rachel goes from New York and ends up in Transylvania, and the children of the night are restless. Due to circumstances beyond their control, a demon is unleashed, Morax .... servant of Moloch.  If you don't know what Moloch is, then read through the book, and expect it to go dark. And by dark, I mean "When did early Peter Jackson start directing this film?"  Let's just say that, during the climax of the novel, there is a scene that Ray Harryhausen and Sam Raimi would have loved, because there's going to be an army of darkness, with no Bruce Campbell. And no, I was looking for a chainsaw.

And dang, the references. I wish I could tell you all of the references. From comic books to Norse and Greek mythology, to Biblical in-jokes about the Temple of the Unnamed god (for you biblical type folks who read it, think Saint Paul in Athens). We won't even go into the lion the size of a plushy doll. I'm trying to figure out if Jagi is amazingly subtle, or hitting readers over the head with a brick. I guess it depends on if you're an information sponge, like me.

Now, I'm not going to say there's a shootout every 25 pages .... but there's at least a shootout every 50 or so. Though this one also places an emphasis on emotional conflict, internally and externally. The Magical Princess of Magical Australia is magically annoying at times, and is getting into problems with Sigfried, who is one part Dickens Character, and one part Parker from Leverage. ANd, of course, Rachel has do deal with all of the various and sundry crap she never dealt with from the first two novels -- ie: she's dealt with none of the trauma she's already gone through. That'll make for a mentally healthy 13 year old.

I do so enjoy these books. There is no question of Rachel just happening along as she trips over the solutions to problems. Rachel is a highly active character. She knows there is an enemy, and is doing everything in her power to stop it. It's highly refreshing after certain other YA novels spend most of their time overhearing just the right conversation to get some detail, and have some Hermione look up the data for them.

It's also nice to see that, in all three of these novels, the adults aren't completely useless. In fact, they're doing something odd -- like THEIR JOBS. The adults have a learning curve. Like "Gee, maybe we should listen to the children here." Or even better: "Hey! Maybe we should give our kid a fast-acting wand to shoot spells against the bad guys who seem to be actively out to kill them." The adults here are at least smart enough to conclude that, yes, the kids really are in danger, they really do know that something is going on, and the next time something like this happens -- because it's obvious even to the characters in universe that something is going on -- that the kids should be allowed to defend themselves...

... I didn't realize this while reading it, but looking over that paragraph makes me think this novel has a Second Amendment commercial in there somewhere.

Rachel and the Many-Splendored Dreamland also expands the world. We know more of the culture of Australia and Transylvania, and even hints at Bavaria.  More importantly, we get more and more glimpses at what the "World of the Unwary" looks like, from cops to how historical events are handled.

Rachel and the Many-Splendored Dreamland wraps up many of the plot points in a neat little bow. The main plots of the book are neatly cleaned up. But that never stopped Rachel from getting into trouble, usually on the same exact day the last book ended. And there are still enough dangling threads that show some of where book 4 is going to go: more interpersonal complications to wrap up, psychological damage to at least two of our main characters to fix, as well as the hole in the world that needs to be dealt with. Heck, we've barely touched on a violent episode that happened back in book 1, but was revealed in book 2, and only barely mentioned later on....Right now, I don't know if I approve, or disapprove of how it's being handled, or not handled, as the case may be. I'll bring it up in a later review, should they focus on it some more.

All in all, I am enjoying the heck out of this series. Keep in mind, I typically hate YA novels. You have to be Timothy Zahn or David Weber to make me read it. But, like Narnia, this series really is too good for children.

Anyway, go, buy Rachel and the Many-Splendored Dreamland, and please consider it for the Dragon Awards. Enjoy.

The Dragon Awards are open and ready for nominations, and I have a list of suggestions you might want to take a look at. If you already  have a good idea of what you want, just click here to go and vote for them. The instructions are right there.


The Love at First Bite series. 


    

Sunday, May 21, 2017

The Catholic Geek: Awakened Modern 05/21

The Catholic Geek: Awakened Modern 05/21 by We Built That Network | Books Podcasts:




Authors Hal Greenberg and Walt Ciechanowski will join host Declan Finn as they discuss the anthology The Awakened Modern.


Walt Ciechanowski is an award-winning author and developer who primarily writes for the roleplaying games industry, contributing to such lines as DC Adventures, Doctor Who, Dungeons & Dragons, Mutants & Masterminds, Rotted Capes, and Victoriana. He is also a founding contributor to Gnome Stew and has co-written several books offering roleplaying advice. Outside of the roleplaying game industry, Walt has also contributed a short story to the anthology The Stories in Between. Walt lives in Springfield, Pennsylvania with his wife Helena and his three children, Leianna, Stephen, and Zoeanna. 

Hal Greenberg is an ENNIE winning art director, author, game designer, lead on anthologies, and world builder. Some of his works include the world of The Awakened®, Sisterhood of the Blade®, Bluffside: City on the Edge, Approaching Dawn: Witching Hour. Hal has worked with such industry veterans as Monte Cook, Todd Lockwood, Jeff Easley, Jim Butler and many more. He has been a guest at GenCon, Necronomicon, and Salty Bay Con. Hal is a divorced father of two, with one dog, who resides in Florida. His hobbies include collecting: books, games, movie and TV props, art (sci-fi/fantasy and animation), watches, knives, and swords. He has also recently taken up the art of Bonsai with his daughter. Hal enjoys playing RPG's (online and in person), board and card games, and binge watching Netflix® in his spare time. You can find him on Facebook at realhalgreenberg.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Music to Write to blog: Doctor Who Theme - Sonya Belousova

I ... have to admit that I completely forgot that this one was in my drafts.

Oh well. Enjoy.

Maybe something to read while you're enjoying the 99-cent deal that ends tonight.

Enjoy.





The Dragon Awards are open and ready for nominations, and I have a list of suggestions you might want to take a look at. If you already  have a good idea of what you want, just click here to go and vote for them. The instructions are right there.


The Love at First Bite series. 


    

Thursday, May 18, 2017

DOLLAR DEALS (And book 4 is done)

We are nearing the end of my last sales with Honor at Stake. As of this moment, the Dragon Award nominated novel for best horror is only 99 cents.

After tomorrow, Honor at Stake will never be this cheap again. It's part of a $.99 deal being run over at another site... it looks like 100 books for $100, but I may  have miscounted.  Bad Date is also in there, somewhere...that's the short story that came with the mailing list, so if you're part of the mailing list, you're already up on it.

But after Friday, Honor at Stake will never be that cheap again. Ever. In part because I'm soon going to move on to other projects down that book 4 is done.

.... Yes, book 4 is done.

As Marvel comics used to say -- BECAUSE YOU DEMANDED IT!!!!!-- the book is called Good to the Last Drop. I finished it Wednesday afternoon. If you follow me on Facebook, you've seen the progress it's made over the past few months. And the last two weeks, I really hit my stride.

And dang, it was epic. Heck, so much stuff happened, I'm not even entirely certain how much work will have to be done along the way. I had considered two or three subplots, but I just kept blowing past it all because it kept slowing down the story. I wanted to get to showdowns and battles and armies.

Along the way, I killed off three characters, beat our heroes black and blue, started off threads that may spin out into their own series, and oh, by the way, did I mention that this was going to end where it began?

It's gonna be FUN.

By the way, people on the mailing list? You're going to be getting a special offer sometime soon. Keep an eye on your in boxes.

Book 4 will be out in August... coincidentally, before the Dragon Awards.

Yes, I'm placing a lot of money that I get at least a nomination.

Also, book 4 will be out right at the start of the eligibility period for NEXT year. Though if I win an award this year, I'm going to happily take it and run.

Anyway, edits await. Time to slash and burn.

The Dragon Awards are open and ready for nominations, and I have a list of suggestions you might want to take a look at. If you already  have a good idea of what you want, just click here to go and vote for them. The instructions are right there.


The Love at First Bite series. 


    

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Review: The Raven, the Elf, and Rachel

You might remember that I reviewed the Unexpected Enlightenment of Rachel Griffin, in which a magical girl ended up at a magical school, collected nearly a dozen magical friends, joined a fraternity, investigated a mystery, saw an omen that heralds the doom of worlds, headed off an attack by an army of dozens of mind-controlled students, saved the entire campus, and provided support for a battle that involved the dragon that used to be Professor Moriarty.

Not bad for the first week, huh?

No. Sorry, my mistake. It's not bad for the first five days of school. Take that, Harry Potter.

How do I know that book one was the first week? Because book two opens only a few hours after the end of book 1, and states she's only been there five days.

If the books get any more dense, we're going to have to call Rachel Griffin "Jack Bauer."


In spy novels, most people will cite John Le Carre, usually for good reason. As far as I'm concerned, his crowning achievement were his George Smiley novels. The middle book of his Carla trilogy was called The Honorable Schoolboy-- book 1, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, ended with the discovery of a mole in MI^, and his unmasking. Much of the second book is walking back the cat -- going through the mole's history and discovering exactly what havoc he hath wrought upon the spy service during his period working for the other team.  Much of The Raven, the Elf, and Rachel proceeds forward in a similar manner. Book one was so dense, and the implications from them so vast, we essentially need an after action report just to get a good idea of the fallout.

In fact, the first 100 pages of The Raven, the Elf, and Rachel handles: recaping the first book, reintroducing the characters, walks back the cat on the enemies from book 1, as well as sets up the conflict going forward.  Not bad, huh?

So, if you think that the first book ended a little abruptly, without any follow through, there's a good reason for that. It would have added another 50-100 pages.

But don't worry, there is enough solid data here that you can read these books back to back without it being a problem. How do I know that? Because I have three other people I convinced to read these books who did just that.

Anyway, for those of you who fear the repetitive nature of YA books ... no. Not at all. There is nothing repeated here. In fact, this one continues to wrap up plot threads left over from the first books -- there actually were plot threads dangling, but I didn't realize it with all the screaming, chaos, and running about in the grand shootout in the finale. I'm almost afraid to see how the series will end.... answer: in fire, probably.

And good God, the references. Everywhere. I think you need a degree in classical literature and be in on the jokes of three different languages and five different cultures in order to get all of the little hints and nods and such in the novels. But that's a general observation, not specific to this book.

Now, I've seen that Jagi doesn't like having her book compared ti Harry Potter. I know. It's not fair to JK Rowling. But I've given book 1 to other people. And they read only 10% into Unexpected Enlightenment and decided that it was a deeper and richer world than Potter. And the farther in we go, the deeper everything is. Or maybe it just shows us how shallow Potter was and we never realized it. There are no johnny one-note characters here. Everyone has different emotions and moods and personalities. Hell, I think Rachel went through more emotions over the course of any five pages of The Raven, the Elf, and Rachel than the entire body of Hogwarts in 7 novels. That may be unfair, but I don't think so.

In The Raven, the Elf, and Rachel, you see more sides to people we've already seen. Whether it's the magical prince of Australia, or the Artful Dodger and his pet dragon, or even Vladimir von Dread (I'm almost certain that his family crest reads DREAD IS BAVARIA. BAVARIA IS DREAD, but I haven't asked yet). In fact, if she ever wants to do an anthology, I call dibs on von Dread shorts, he's just that interesting. It is a vast and colorful crew, and I suspect we're going to see more of their own backstories as time goes on.

As for the plot... the short version is that it's really wrapping up a lot of plot threads from book 1. And there's a lot to wrap up: the raven that heralds the doom of worlds; the Outsiders from other worlds; the "Lightbringer," the ones behind Moriarty last time; the one behind THAT threat; her relationship status; the story behind Rachel's father and his work as an agent ... there's an awful lot kicking around. And we aren't even going to get into all of the new various and sundry plot elements kicking around.

SHORT VERSION: five out of five. Go read it.


The Dragon Awards are open and ready for nominations, and I have a list of suggestions you might want to take a look at. If you already  have a good idea of what you want, just click here to go and vote for them. The instructions are right there.


The Love at First Bite series. 


    

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Black Panther and Crew Canceled Because of Racism

No, that isn't the headline, but it will be shortly, I'm sure.

There is a Black Panther spinoff called Black Panther and the Crew, and it's been cancelled on issue #2.

Gee, why ever would they cancel a comic around a character that was part of the popular film, Captain America: Civil War?

Let's start with the premise.
Black Panther and the Crew brought together several of Marvel’s most popular black characters, including Black Panther, Luke Cage, Storm, Misty Knight, and Manifold for a story dealing with police violence in Harlem.
They ....

Did .... 

WHAT?

Let's just think about this for a moment, shall we? 

Black Panther -- KING OF HIS OWN COUNTRY -- has come to Harlem to deal with police violence... The only time he should have to deal with the cops of another country is the five minutes before he tells them that he has diplomatic immunity, and they're fired if they even look at him the wrong way.

He's joining forces with his (for the moment) ex-wife, Storm, the mutant FROM AFRICA, who has previously joined in on intergalactic wars. She has personally fought, and is friends with, freaking space aliens. But she's going to come down from her mansion in Westchester ... to deal with police officers?

All of this is to deal with a political narrative from over three years ago...

And they expect teenagers -- THEIR TARGET AUDIENCE -- to give a crap about this?

And it's written by a "journalist" from The Atlantic....

Yes. Didn't know that? The author, Ta-Nehisi Coates, is a journalist. He's worked for CUNY, and now NYU. A journalist, and an academic. He's also written for the New York Times, and the Washington Post....

I wonder if he's at all left-wing.  Gee. Maybe?

And of course, notice that I didn't say that he was a New Yorker. Because he's not. No. He's from Baltimore. Some people get pissed about fake news. I get pissy about out of towners who think they can write stories about my city and get away from it. Fight fake New Yorkers.

But wait, there's more.

"When Ta-Nehisi Coates and Yona Harvey’s Black Panther & The Crew launched earlier this year, it proved that big publishers like Marvel can, in fact, still tell timely stories about real world issues, like how police brutality devastates black communities. But now, after a mere two issues, Marvel has cancelled the series.
Yeah. We kind of thought that this was political BS masquerading as a comicbook.
But despite having a story line so politically blatant, Coates had the balls to say
Coates tells the Verge that Black Panther and the Crew wasn’t about making a political statement.
Yeah. He said that.

Hey, Coates, tell io9 that you weren't being political. Go ahead. Tell them that. Tell them. Go on.
“The Crew was an opportunity to get inside them as black people,” Coates said, assuring fans that “the mystery will be solved." 
Uh... huh...

Right now, the only mystery I see is how this launched in the first place.

Storm grew up poor on the streets of Africa. I'm not even going to ask how she survived, and just presume it was all Artful Dodger 101. She then moved into a mansion, and works as a teacher when she's not engaged in full-on battles or married to a King.

Black Panther grew up as an African Prince in a highly-advanced fictional country.

Luke Cage and Misty Knight actually grew up in Harlem. One is an ex-con, the other is a detective.

I'm certain -- CERTAIN, I tell you -- that these four, "as black people," will be exactly the same. Because they're black, and that's all that's needed for conformity of soul, spirit, and personal life experience.

....

....

OF COURSE NOT, ARE YOU INSANE? That would be one of the dumbest, most idiotic things I've ever heard in my entire life. That's as insane as saying that just because I'm white, I have the exact same live experiences as any other white person in any random country on the planet. I'm sorry, but what racist idiot truly thinks that "black people" is a universal experience?

As I said in the title, I'm certain that someone is going to bitch about racism somewhere. Coates is also currently writing the main line Black Panther comic ... though, mysteriously, that's actually selling relatively well. I wonder if it could have something to do less with the aspect of a Black character, and more with a focus on -- gasp -- good story telling!

Nah. That can't be it, can it?

Then again, Black Panther was one of the best selling comics last year probably because of the Civil War movie, in which the character was a bad ass. I notice that the article I've found refers to Black Panther #1 as being a best seller last year ... it says nothing about the rest of the series. I wonder if that means the rest of that series sucks too-- just not as badly as The Crew.

Seriously, The Crew. That's a racing video game.

While Coates tried to claim a politically neutral stance -- and to be honest, he might have meant it -- io9 preferred to spin Black Panther and The Crew a different way
Stories like Black Panther & The Crew deserve to be told not just because they’re socially relevant, but because they demonstrate how comics as a medium can bring people from all walks of life into important conversations they might not otherwise participate in. However, simply creating these comics is not enough. If Marvel (and other publishers) really believe in the messages of diversity and inclusion that they proudly preach, then they’ve got to get better about actually supporting these endeavors once they go to print.
Sigh.

Notice that they didn't say it was a good story. Or an entertaining story. No.It was "important." Somehow, it's not "important" that Cage or T'Challa (the Black Panther's real name) have their own comic lines, which might--might, I say -- actually make money. I mean, Hell, Marvel can only run so many virtue signalling story lines on which they'll make no money (I'm looking at you, Secret Empire). 

Anyway, let's look at this for a moment. What did they actually do?
Set in a near-future Harlem-turned-police state patrolled by robotic police officers controlled by a private security contractor
STOP. Just stop right there.
  1. That's RoboCop.
  2. That's stupid. 
  3. I don't see any Officer Murphy here.
What should I expect from a world that put Norman Osborn, psychopath, as the head of a SHIELD replacement agency?

Let's look at this.

Frank Miller should sue. He did RoboCop, right?


Wow. We're going to shoot little old ladies in the middle of the street, and this is not about politics? Are you kidding me? When Deathstroke came out for gun control, I knew it was bad. But wow, I don't think I've seen something this heavy handed since, well, that.

Shoot me now.

But, yeah. I await someone to spin this as a matter of racism, instead of blatant lefty narratives being dressed up with bright superhero colors. 

Screw it. Here, have some books that are completely and utterly devoid of politics. Enjoy,

The Love at First Bite series. 

    

The Dragon Awards are open and ready for nominations, and I have a list of suggestions you might want to take a look at. If you already  have a good idea of what you want, just click here to go and vote for them immediately. The instructions are right there.

Best Horror in the Dragon Awards, 2017

To begin with, let's have a conversation over what I've been making all the fuss about.

In 2017, I'm hoping to get one of these.

Take a look.


Nice, huh? They look nifty, right? They really are. They're about ten pounds each, perhaps more, of pure, handcrafted, blown glass. Each one of them is unique, so no two of them look a like. There is literally no other award like it.

Here, let's pull back a bit.


When I started the year, I out and out said that I would lay money on Live and Let Bite being the winner in horror for the second annual Dragon Awards, this September.

And it wasn't boasting. I figured it was simply logical.

It had everything good from the trilogy to date, and more of it.

It had more romance

It had more action.

It had more vampires.

It had an expansion of the vampire lore I'd already established.

It has SpecOps minions, it has terrorist attacks with RPGs, shootouts, vampires going to war with street gangs, the mafia, the NYPD, other vampires, leveling three separate buildings, gun battles with Vatican Ninjas, miniguns, mental warfare, a vampire that took a MOAB to the FACE, and everything short of demons... Because I'd already done that. I have shootouts that make Underworld look like a day trip to Chicago.

....Okay, wrong comparison.

But now ... I'm not entirely certain that people like it more than Murphy's Law of Vampires

It seems that Marina Fontaine suggest edthat there wasn't as much of a threat in Bite as in Murphy's.

Jim seemed to have an issue with how perfect some of my fight scenes went.

And JD Cowan's review seemed to encompass the entire series.

Though I'll admit, it was nice to see Injustice Gamer's review: "Declan thinks this will win him a Dragon Award. I'm not going to tell him he's wrong.....This is the best entry for the series so far."

Heh.

Anyway, Murphy's vs. Bite is going to be a coin toss. Which is strange, but not the first time I've been wrong. Please remember, I didn't think that Honor at Stake would go this far. I wasn't expecting any of the accolades it got last year. I didn't expect it to go farther than an "it's okay" while I worked on a half dozen other projects.

So ... what do I know?

Thankfully, as I mentioned in my last Dragon Award post, both Murphy's and Bite are eligible

Don't worry, I'm not going to kvetch if you prefer one of my books over another.

Again, I'm obviously the last person to judge.

Anyway, The Dragon Awards are open and ready for nominations, and I have a list of suggestions for you. If you already  have a good idea of what you want, just click here to go and vote for them immediately. The instructions are right there.


The Love at First Bite series. 


    

Monday, May 15, 2017

Publication Schedule: Planetary Anthology, Superversive #PulpRev, and Silver Empire

It is only recently that it occurred to me that I have a busy year. While I have the occasional urge to succumb to depression, I realize now that I don't have the time.

Walk with me through the scheming. (Yes, Babylon 5 reference, for anyone who remembers that episode)

Superversive

First of all, I have submissions to Superversive SF's Planetary Anthology series. It's simple enough: they have one book per theme of each planet. You know, like Holtz's "The Planets."



To be specific, the themes are
Mercury: journeys and messengers
Venus: love and romance
Earth: Discovery and daring deeds
Mars: conflict and war
Jupiter: power, authority and leadership
Saturn: time, age and endings
Uranus: New beginnings and creation
Neptune: High seas and knowledge
Pluto: Wealth and death
Luna: Madness and (despair or isolation or loneliness)
Sol: Nobility and righteousness
To which I asked, "How about Mercury, the Trickster?" They said "Why not?"

I'm in the Mercury Anthology. Yay.

I've submitted one to Mars, edited by Jon del Arroz. And I've submitted three to Venus, edited by Jagi Lamplighter Wright and her friend AM Freeman, from Forbidden Thoughts.

Remember the Tales of the Once and Future King? It was first announced on my radio show, and brought to you by the man who edited God, Robot? I'm in that too. The title is "Arresting Merlin." Heh heh heh. I had fun.

I'm told I will also be in the Pulp magazine, brought to you by Superversive Press, Astounding Frontiers. The story, as of now, is "According to Culture." Imagine if Pulp SF did Taken.

Silver Empire

I've had people ask me what happened to The Pius Trilogy. It's what started the blog. It's what started my writing career (after a fashion). And it was the single most driving force in my entire life for over a decade. So where the hell is it?

I'm having a launch party for the rerelease of book one, A Pius Man at LibertyCon, brought to you by Silver Empire.

Yes. It's coming back. It'll be polished up and edited and shiny and everything, complete with a new cover.

Expect A Pius Legacy to come out by year's end.

Meanwhile

So, I have as many as three anthologies, a magazine, and probably two Pius rereleases upcoming, and I've already released Live and Let Bite already. Not bad, huh?

But wait, there's more.

Book 4 of Love at First Bite is coming, and it's called Good to the Last Drop, and it will be The End. It will hopefully come out in August. I'd like for it to be out in time for a Dragon Award nomination ... but let's see if I even have a Dragon Award nomination, shall we?

Meanwhile, I'm going to start editing some older mysteries of mine. They're more traditional cozies, and set pieces in time. Because they're very much elements of their time. I'll be a coauthor on them, but really just the editor. Why? It's a long story, and I'll get to them when I can.  There will be three of them. Depending on the publication schedule, I might release them all this year, or next year.

And I'm working with Dawn Witzke on a novel she wants to work on, Called Dark Court. We might submit it, we might self publish. Who knows?

So, for those of you keeping score, thus far, according to my schedule, I will probably have four shorts out in the wild, and perhaps as many as seven novels out this year.

And I have two more conventions to to go.

I'm not really that busy. Honest I'm not.

And, while we're at it, I'd really like a Dragon Award, which are open and ready for nominations, and I have a list of suggestions you might want to take a look at. If you already  have a good idea of what you want, just click here to go and vote for them immediately. The instructions are right there.

Or: sign up for my mailing list in order to get free stuff.

Be well.

The Love at First Bite series. 


    

Dollar Book Deals, Free Shorts

A few things, while I think about them.

Yes, my Dragon award nominated novel, Honor at Stake will be only $.99 for this entire week, from Mary 15-19.  For the record, this will be part of both the CLFA booknado, and part of a $.99 sale in conjunction with another website.

Second, my free short story, Blood Stained Cliffs of Dover, will stop being free soon. I already have the pre-order up on Amazon. So you might want to get it before I swap it out for a new freebie.



The Dragon Awards are open and ready for nominations, and I have a list of suggestions you might want to take a look at. If you already  have a good idea of what you want, just click here to go and vote for them immediately. The instructions are right there.


The Love at First Bite series.