Put your finger on the problem

I’ve written about conviction and commitment before. It’s one of those things I’m learning about myself (slowly). It comes up a lot with wanting to do something, anything really, related to creative work. Art, writing, convention running – all those things take commitment. Consistency. Back when I wrote about my new secret writing project I was full of hope and really felt like this was the one that would succeed.

It didn’t. Well, at least not yet.

The thing I’m struggling to teach my daughter about is what it takes – that commitment to getting what you want. I’ve fallen back to what I know – sports. I actually wish I’d had somebody sit me down and break it out into simple terms then stick with it as much as I needed to get it through my head. I hope I’m teaching that. Being dedicated to what you’re trying to achieve is important.

I’ve heard a lot of folks talk about sports in a negative manner in the past. Many times deservedly so. Sports, and particularly American football, have become so ingrained in our culture that it’s very difficult to avoid. I am not part of the ‘cult’ of sports, but there are many, many good things that come from sports as well. They can certainly show you the good and the bad of commitment. Football players are frequently mocked – but any that reach the professional level have such commitment as to amaze a person. This is where both the good and the bad show up. Totally dedicated to success (awesome) to the point where it physically destroys you (whatever the opposite of awesome is). I’m putting this here as partially as a reminder about dedication and partially as a teaching tool.

How far will you go to succeed? What will it take to stop you? It’s a fine line between commitment and needing to be committed.

This is not for the squeamish but consider what level of commitment it took to go there…



Dark Currents (Agent of Hel, #1)Dark Currents by Jacqueline Carey
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

If not for the urban fantasy book group I find it unlikely I would ever have picked this book up. They were the catalyst on this one – and it turned out pretty well.

I know it’s only 3 stars, but that comes up as “liked it” on my little hint window and I think that’s a fair description. I might even go to 3 and a half. I liked it. It was a light and fast read. One aspect that made the story easier for me to move through was that the characters seemed their age. I often struggle with supernatural folk that seem to land in a young adult human age category with their attitudes, speech and mannerisms – and this book really nails it. Creatures that are older and stronger act that way. They seem alien and act differently than we would expect from a human at that age. Well done.

I thought the world building was interesting. I suspect since this was the first in a trilogy that there was a lot of set up in this book. There were a lot of times I wanted something more or something deeper and didn’t get it.

All in all, if you like urban fantasy you’ll probably really enjoy this book.

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Sandman Slim (Sandman Slim, #1)Sandman Slim by Richard Kadrey
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

The hero of the story isn’t really a hero. I understand there are a number of people out there that appreciate the anti-hero, but I am not one of them.

I would describe Sandman Slim as a blunt object. He’s single minded and terrible to the people he should keep close. He is unlikable. He doesn’t consider his actions – I think you could pretty easily call him a sociopath – and he just charges ahead to maim and destroy.

There are parts of this story I found to be quite interesting. I struggled with the setting. The author made it very real, but mixing it with an unlikable hero soured me on the location.

When I finished this book I thought this was like Constantine without the redemption. I’m not rushing to grab the next one, but might give some of the other work by this author a shot. He’s got a writing style I can get into, just not for this story.

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I’ve been meaning to track down the relatively recent Shannara television program. I struggled when I realized I don’t have MTV as a channel in my television line up and had totally failed to notice that. Then it came to me… I can always catch up with that later but right now I still have the book. The real, actual paperback novel.

I picked this book up when I was a kid and devoured it. I think I was 10 at the time and I recall doing a diorama of one of the scenes for a book report at school using Star Wars action figures and a shoe box. As an adult I seem to recall that it was very much like the Lord of the Rings series I was so enamored with, but all the details were fuzzy. I decided I’d go and pull it from the depths of the library and read it again.

I tried that with the very first Dragonlance book a while ago and met with… minimal success. As it turns out my ten year old self and my self now have spectacularly different taste in writing styles. I’m wondering what I’ll see and how I’ll react to reading this book again after more than 30 years have gone by since I first read it.

What’s your experience been like with re-reading your favorite works?

Sword and Stones

In the bones

California Bones (Daniel Blackland, #1)California Bones by Greg Van Eekhout
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I actually heard a story by this author on a podcast. IF you haven’t heard of the podcasts from Escape Artists you should go and listen. Why? Because you’ll find authors of works like this. A really cool book. I enjoyed it and will track down other works by this author.

I liked the world building. Magic comes from bones. Dig them up or take them from other magicians – they’ve got magic. Put all this in an alternate California that has broken away from the United States. You get a number of familiar pieces along with all the new bits just waiting out there to be discovered. It was a fun, quick read for me.

Is this a book without problems? No. There are things I question. There are small things that don’t really work right in my mind. I’m sure there are parts that won’t add up if I give them more thought. The key is I *didn’t* think of them while I was reading. I just blasted right through to the end.

I definitely recommend picking this one up.

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The watch

Night Watch (Watch, #1)Night Watch by Sergei Lukyanenko

It was really interesting to read something from a non-American author. It was very easy to see the Russian – particularly post cold war era – point of view. It is worth the read for that alone. Get a different perspective on the things.

The main character was difficult to pin down for me. I couldn’t get a grasp of his age. I also got (after many repetitions) that he wasn’t sure if he wanted to be on the side of the good guys. He wasn’t sure they really were the good guys – and neither was I.

This is a book that’s worth the time to check it out. Having said that, I got the book as part of a bundle with the next two and I’m not in a rush to read the other two. I might – they’re hanging out there – but one might just be enough.

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Iron and…

Iron & Blood (Jake Desmet Adventures #1)Iron & Blood by Gail Z. Martin
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book has a lot of stuff going for it. There’s a ton of action. There’s all kinds of cool steampunk inventions. It’s steampunk set in America – not just anywhere either – Pittsburgh. That’s cool. Bad guys that actually do bad things. A ton of interesting world building.

I really really wanted to love this book and I just didn’t. It’s got a ton of stuff in it, but it’s almost like all the parts didn’t completely form. There were parts of this that worked. There were really interesting characters. I’m actually having a hard time putting my finger on exactly what the issue is.

IF you’re a fan of action and steampunk, give it a shot.

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A little mystery…

I truly enjoy that there are so many things to discover still in the world. The world needs a little mystery to keep things going. There are things that are OK being a mystery. Solving the mystery actually takes away that special something that draws you in.

I recently heard about the Voynich manuscript. It’s fascinating if you haven’t heard about it. Imagine a book written hundreds of years ago that still survives today. More than the fact that it still survives, imagine that nobody can read it. That’s right – it’s some kind of code or language that nobody can figure out. There are dozens of images and notations. There are multi-page fold outs and super vibrant colors… and nobody has any idea what it all means. The name even comes from the book dealer that rediscovered it in 1912 because nobody is certain who actually wrote it.

The book has been tested, chronicled, studied and discussed. Scholars, scientists and cryptographers have all attempted to figure it out to no avail. They’ve decided it’s not a hoax. The chemical mix of the inks are right for the time. The parchment has been tested and dated, showing it was created around the year 1420. That’s right, we’re coming up on 600 years and nobody has figured it out.

Kind of cool, right?

When I said there are some things that are acceptable as a mystery? This is one of those times. Would it be valuable to history if we figured out what it all said? Maybe. Would lose something in my mind if we cracked the code and figured out it was a big fat book on medicinal plants? You bet. It’s likely to be something like that really, but it’s better to leave it wrapped up in mystery. Doesn’t it sound better if we can say that John Dee has been associated with it? It could have been referenced by alchemists or coded to keep rival magicians from stealing secret recipes? Was it sold to Emperor Rudolf II in Prague? Where did it go between 1600 and 1912? The mystery is what draws you in.

It’s actually available for download now. Somebody has created a PDF version of it (pretty large download). It’s a fun thing to check out. You can find it here.

I suspect that with more access, a worldwide viewing audience and multiple modern tools the code will be cracked. Somebody has already claimed to have a start on it (here). I’m hoping it’s still a mystery, it’s far more interesting that way.


Writer’s Fuel

Being sick doesn’t have a lot of advantages, it’s mostly terrible with a strong amount of wishing to get better. One of the things being sick can do for you is give you fuel for your writing.

I couldn’t say if it was the self administered ‘cough medicine’ I had before bed combined with vapor rub fumes or not, but last night landed in a very weird place. That was terrible for getting some sleep and the rest needed to get better, but it was really great as writer’s fuel.

My dreams (nightmares?) took place in an expanded haunted house combination version of the place I grew up in Maine and my grandmother’s house. An old house with hidden storage under the eaves between closets where the walls didn’t get constructed all the way to the roof. I was hearing something that I couldn’t define, like I kept trying to tune in a fading radio station that was saying something important or something sinister and I couldn’t quite put a finger on it. The whole thing would fade when I got closer to being awake and then pick up just as I was really drifting off. Hazy, woozy and scrambling forward without being able to make any progress. I don’t really remember the details but the feeling was queasy and panicked. Not a great combination for rest, but just the sort of thing to put one in the right frame of mind for writing something moody.

What sort of fuel do you use for your writing?