Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Sci-fi Song of the Week

For no other reason than I'm feeling the love for Battlestar Galactica at the moment, and this is rather a funky metal hip-hop crossover type thingy that's got a soundalike title. And no video - can't believe nobody's put a BSG montage to it on YouTube yet!

Anyway, because (for a change) I can't be bothered putting a proper post up, here's some music...

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Wednesday Review: Scream by Mike Dellosso

You may have noticed that this week the Christian Science Fiction and Fantasy Blog Tour has been featuring Darkness Follows by Mike Dellosso. Naturally, I will therefore be reviewing something entirely different.

Scream is the story of Mark Stone, hard working everyman who just happens to have messed up his marriage and started hearing Hell on his telephone. It’s the story of his efforts to solve the mystery of the screams, which bring him into regular contact with the local police, and with probably the least stereotypical Pastor in all of Christian fiction. The guy has tattoos, people!

It is also the story of the faceless psycho known only as Judge, whose hobby of stalking and kidnapping innocent women and keeping them in a barn leads his plot inexorably towards Mark’s.

Aside from the wailing, weeping, and gnashing of teeth that keeps interrupting Mark’s phone calls, there’s not a lot of what I would call ‘horror’ in the story, and in fact I was more on edge for the ‘real life’ issues – the traumatic childhood incident that birthed Judge, and Mark’s marital disaster. Those things were both relatable, and written in way that highlighted their relevance and drove the point home.

There was enough suspense in the story to keep me wanting more, and although the twists were not all entirely surprising, I found them satisfying.

Part of me wants to say that Scream would work perfectly well as a straight thriller without the supernatural screaming, but the screams do serve the purposes of pulling the various plot strands together, and of reminding the reader, as they reminded Mark Stone, that death – and Hell – can come calling at any moment, and what happens to us then is something we can change – have to change – before that moment arrives. The problem is that’s all they do… I realise explaining them inexplicable would be daft, but I feel a little short-changed, I wanted more from the Scream!

Despite having an obvious message, Mike Dellosso manages to avoid being ‘preachy’, or leaving the reader with nothing more than a hellfire and brimstone message. The message is delivered as a natural part of the story (and, in case you didn’t get it from the story, helpfully recapped in an afterword by the author), and along the way the reader is presented with some interesting comparisons: our hero, ostensibly a ‘good’ person, has utterly broken his wife’s heart, while the apparently ‘evil’ Judge shows moments of human kindness towards his captives; more importantly, he presents a very real and challenging comparison between empty religion and a genuine knowledge of Jesus.

So to summarise: an important gospel message, nicely presented in a cracking story.

Noah Arsenault Red Bissell Thomas Clayton Booher Beckie Burnham Melissa Carswell Karri Compton CSFF Blog Tour Chris Deane Cynthia Dyer Nikole Hahn Katie Hart Ryan Heart Bruce Hennigan Jason Joyner Julie Carol Keen Inae Kyo Shannon McDermott Allen McGraw Shannon McNear Rebecca LuElla Miller Joan Nienhuis Sarah Sawyer Kathleen Smith Jessica Thomas Fred Warren Phyllis Wheeler

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

CSFF Blog Tour vs Tuesday Tunes

I may be running a little bit late here, but never fear, in honour of this weeks CSFF Blog Tour, which is featuring Darkness Follows by Mike Dellosso, I present to you, hurriedly thrown together ina  darkened room, the Top Ten Darkness Songs.

10. The Darkness: I Believe in a Thing Called Love
Opening for us tonight, the spearhead of Suffolk's glam-rock revival in the early 21st Century.

9. The Strokes: Under Cover of Darkness
The first single from the recent album Angles. You see, I'm down with the kids.

8. Moby: Lie Down in Darkness
And a decidedly current piece of electronica this week too, this having been out for about a month... I think I need to lie down in darkness....

7. Buckethead: Chase the Darkness Out
That's better, weird ambient prog-rock by a guy with a crazy name. This I feel comfortable with.

6. Ash: Joy Kicks Darkness
This was B in their A-Z Series of singles a little while ago. Yeah, go figure.

5. Shonen Knife: The Queen of Darkness
My all-time favourite J-Rock girl band. Or something.

4. The Kinks: Little Miss Queen of Darkness
Is anybody spotting a theme within a theme?

3. Alice Cooper: Prince of Darkness
I think Alice Cooper is an immensely awesome and funny guy, so here's a song he wrote about the devil.

2. Rage Against the Machine: Darkness
It's that shouty man, getting angry about greed and Capitalism.

1. Republica: Out of the Darkness
Seems an appropriate title to finish the list with.... techno-pop punk rock for the post-Britpop generation - best played loud :)

Your Spotify playlist is here, I'll find some links for the individual songs later - except I probably won't, so while you wonder what they actually sound like, why not wander round these blogs and find out a little something about Darkness Follows and Mike Dellosso.

Noah Arsenault Red Bissell Thomas Clayton Booher Beckie Burnham Melissa Carswell Karri Compton CSFF Blog Tour Chris Deane Cynthia Dyer Nikole Hahn Katie Hart Ryan Heart Bruce Hennigan Jason Joyner Julie Carol Keen Inae Kyo Shannon McDermott Allen McGraw Shannon McNear Rebecca LuElla Miller Joan Nienhuis Sarah Sawyer Kathleen Smith Jessica Thomas Fred Warren Phyllis Wheeler

Monday, June 20, 2011

CSFF Blog Tour - Darkness Follows

So it seems that just because it's blog tour week and I am contractually obliged to post something loosely related to Darkness Follows by Mike Dellosso, Blogger decided to move all the buttons around on its dashboard. Yes, it's all very pretty, Blogger, and I'm sure it will improve my blogging experience no end once I'v ehad a chance to find the 'New Post' button, but couldn't you have waited a week?

Ah well, let's muddle through as best we can, shall we?

Officially: Darkness Follows is suspenseful, mysterious, scary, even creepy, but after all is said and done, it’s a love story. It’s about Sam Travis, a man who thinks he’s losing his mind. He becomes more and more obsessed with a series of mysterious journal entries from a soldier of the Civil War, entries Sam himself has written unawares. The more obsessed he becomes with the entries the more he pushes away those who care about him most, his wife and daughter. Meanwhile, Sam is also being haunted by the memory of his late brother who died a terrible death. In the end, Sam will have to make a choice, give into the darkness that’s been following him, or accept the freedom that comes from the unconditional love of his daughter and, ultimately, the love of his Father.

Unofficially, it's an American Civil War time-travel horror romance. Genre? We laugh in the face of genre! Mwahahahahaaaa!

Ahem sorry, not sure what came over me there.But look: that's where they put the HTML button! That will make pasting linky goodness easier, like this:

And the tour links:

Noah Arsenault
Red Bissell
Thomas Clayton Booher
Beckie Burnham
Melissa Carswell
Karri Compton
CSFF Blog Tour
Chris Deane
Cynthia Dyer
Nikole Hahn
Katie Hart
Ryan Heart
Bruce Hennigan
Jason Joyner
Carol Keen
Inae Kyo
Shannon McDermott
Allen McGraw
Shannon McNear
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Joan Nienhuis
Sarah Sawyer
Kathleen Smith
Jessica Thomas
Steve Trower
Fred Warren
Phyllis Wheeler

And finally, Mike Dellosso's website, with bloggy goodness, blurbs for all his novels, and free stuff to download. How can you resist?

Now, how do I get this thing uploaded...?

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Wednesday Review: A British Crash by Roger Harper

I’m taking a bit of a step outside my usual genre for this review, because… well, frankly, because a Christian novel set in England – in Birmingham, no less, somewhere I know well – deserved a look.

I will start off with a caveat though: This is a self-published novel.* This is not a bad thing; on the contrary, many outstanding novels in the field of Christian literature *cough* Countless as the Stars *cough* have been self-published. And indeed, top marks to author Roger Harper for getting the thing in front of me in the first place.

So, I hear you ask, what exactly is this thing in front of you? Well, at its heart A British Crash is a whodunit, set against predominantly a church-based background, with a Christian protagonist. A flawed Christian protagonist. Indeed, most of the Christian characters are drawn with realistic flaws – the narrator, David Jeffery, is a happily married man who unexpectedly finds himself drawn to another woman; his best friend Will has such an abrupt manner and coarse, often racist language that I found myself questioning whether he was as Christian as he made himself out to be. And, with a Muslim family at the centre of the plot – the titular crash, which is the subject of the whodunit – there is plenty of scope for this (sadly believable) racism to come to light.

The Christian elements of the story are handled interestingly – just as facts, a part of the characters routine lives just the same as work or breakfast – and that allows the author to show genuine, believable Christians interacting with Muslims, New Agers, and hot secretaries without the need for any supernatural nonsense or preachy messages getting in the way.

As an aside, I think the journal format the story is presented in is a little unnecessary. There are whole conversations and daily trivia that I don’t think likely to appear in a real journal; having said that, it didn’t really get in the way, except when it forced the chapters to be a bit too long.

So far so good, but… there’s no escaping the fact that this book didn’t have a professional editor. Calling two characters Jane may be realistic, but in fiction is surely a schoolboy error unless it’s for comic effect. While anyone not from Birmingham might accept that the shopping centre was called The Palisades, there were many typos that I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t take a writer to spot, and I’m convinced the year changes half way through the week.

Now, I probably know better than most how hard it is to get that editing process right. However many times you and your beta-testers read the draft, something will slip through the net. And, to be fair, they weren’t the most hilarious/embarrassing bloopers I’ve seen in a self-pubbed book, but the editing, or lack thereof, does let down what is otherwise a good concept, a decent story, and some nice, authentically broken Christian (and non-Christian) characters.

*OK, technically, it’s published by a Christian Equitable Company, which may or may not amount to the same thing. As a self-published author myself, I believe there is a place for self-publishing (or indie publishing, or whatever you wish to call it) in niches like British Christian fiction, and for getting those labours of love out into the world. But all of that is another conversation, which maybe I’ll return to another day.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Sci-fi Song Of The Week

Following seemlessly from yesterday's post about ways of using dialogue in characterisation, this weeks Sci-Fi Song should serve as a warning not to overdo thecatchphrases...

They don't make 'em like that any more (videos or songs)!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Out of the mouth of babes....

I have this little daughter, she is small and very funny. For instance, straight after finishing a bedtime story recently, she insisted on a recap. Yes, a five year old asking for a recap. I thought that was odd too, but apparently it's something her teacher does at school. Or more to the point, a word her teacher uses a lot at school.

But it was when I noticed that this same five year old had developed a tendency to use the phrase 'I have a tendency to [insert habitual activity of five year old girl here]' that I realised what I had... I have my very own personal catchphrase detector!

Being a writer, I occasionally have need of useful ways to tell my characters apart in those lengthy sections of dialogue; things such as patterns of speech, favourite subjects, and, yes, their favourite words and phrases. Writers are often told to listen to conversations on buses and such to pick up these sorts of things, but now I can just send my daughter off to do it for me, and I only have to listen for the unexpected words and phrases that she starts coming out with. (I will have to bear in mind, of course, that she is an annoyingly smart child. The sort who will baffle nursery staff by using the word 'foliage' perfectly correctly.)

Are there any more inventive (ie lazy) ways of creating individual speech patterns for characters?

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Phursday Photos: Dunstanburgh Castle

For no other reason than that it's been something of an iconic view since my childhood, and every time I go back I find myself taking more pictures of the castle and the scenery around it. So, while I get on with thinking up some sci-fi related stuff to post, here are some of them.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Sci-fi Song Of The Week

I think this is where the whole song of the weel thing started, but after a big Who event, it seems like the only way to go...
Loving that video... similar production values to original Who (and, indeed to the song itself...)

Monday, June 06, 2011

Shall we talk about Doctor Who?

Yes, ok, my planned return toregular-ish blogging stalled, but we're here now, and it seems we might as well at least mention that Doctor Who cliffhanger which is busy dividing opinion across the blogosphere.

I liked it. Well, not the cliffhanger so much, because that was pretty lame and 'oh, well that's alright then, nobody's going to die horrily over the summer'. But the episode, as a whole, was pretty fun. I mean yes, you might ask how the Doctor came to be owed a favour by the Judoon, and why he's best friends with Vastra, the Victurian Silurian, but that would spoil the fun. You could also ask why the para-military church types guys didn't just shoot a squillion holes in the Doctor's two hearts while they had all those guns pointed at him, but, that would just cause the entire story to disappear into a plot hole, and nobody wants that.

But Doctor Who has never taken itself that seriously, and even now, as it seems to be taking a somewhat darker turn, we probably shouldn't start over-analysing it. It was a fun story, with a few flaws, but bucket loads of action, lots of wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey nonsense, plenty of bad guys, and a slight cliffhanger. Oh yes, and River Song becomes slightly less of an enigma, so it will be interesting to see where that goes next.

I don't know if I've said this before, but I like a character with a dark side, and I'm looking forward to seeing a little more darkness from Eleven - a little more of the violence that the Doctor always had in him before the Last Great Time War (after which it seems Nine and Ten took to pacifism and a moody kind of darkness in an attempt to redeem themselves for 'destroying' the Daleks and the Time Lords).

Bow ties are definitely cool.