Wednesday, September 26, 2012

CSFF Blog Tour: The Telling by Mike Duran

Ok. Enough with the tangents. Let's actually get to the point of the tour shall we? The point, of course, being Mike Duran's supernatural thriller The Telling.

Until such time as I have read it (look out for a review next spring), here's the blurb:
A prophet never loses his calling, only his way.
Disfigured with a hideous scar from his stepmother, Zeph Walker lives his life in seclusion, cloistering himself in a ramshackle bookstore on the outskirts of town. But Zeph is also blessed with a gift—an uncanny ability to foresee the future,to know peoples’ deepest sins and secrets. He calls it the Telling, but he has abandoned this gift to a life of solitude, unbelief, and despair—until two detectives escort him to the county morgue where he finds his own body lying on the gurney.
On the northern fringes of Death Valley, the city of Endurance is home to llama ranches, abandoned mines, roadside attractions...and the mythical ninth gate of hell. Now, forced to investigate his own murder, Zeph discovers something even more insidious behind the urban legends and small-town eccentricities. Early miners unearthed a megalitha sacred site where spiritual and physical forces converge and where an ancient subterranean presence broods. And only Zeph can stop it.
But the scar on Zeph’s face is nothing compared to the wound on his soul. For not only has he abandoned his gift and renounced heaven, but it was his own silence that spawned the evil. Can he overcome his own despair in time to seal the ninth gate of hell? 
His words unlocked something deadly,
 And now the silence is killing them.
I'm not quite sure where to start with all that, other than to say that this is going on my Christmas list. And I'm not sure if it's the llama ranches or the ninth gate of hell that swings it, but I think Endurance sounds worth a visit too.

Linky goodness:
Reviews of the book by Becky Jesse (who got missed off the list I posted yesterday), Nikole Hahn, and Kathleen Smith among others.
Bruce Hennigan reads a map
Jessica Thomas reviews it in three parts
Becky Miller talks demons and lost prophets
The author's website
My review of The Resurrection by Mike Duran

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

CSFF Blog Tour vs Tuesday Tunes

Contrary to whatever impression this blog has given you so far, this week the Christian Science Fiction and Fantasy Blog Tour is featuring The Telling by Mike Duran.

The 'Telling' of the title is what the book's protagonist calls his uncanny ability to foresee the future and know peoples’ deepest sins and secrets, and so, it being Tuesday and me not giving a fig if this might seem controversial on an ostensibly Christian blog....

It's the Top Ten Psychic Tunes!

10. Jah Wobble: Psychic Life
Apparently Mr Wobble took his name from the way Sid Vicious said John Wardle (his real name) when he was drunk.

9. Men Without Hats: Telepathy
A Canadian bloke singing over the top of a Commodore 64 playing The Buggles. Probably.

8. Crash Test Dummies: The Psychic
It's basically that Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm one from 1993, with words. About a girl with psychic powers.

7. The Killers: Read My Mind
The 57th Greatest Song of All Time, yet somehow only the 7th greatest Psychic Song. I bet XFM never saw that coming.

6. Ned's Atomic Dustbin: Premonition
We had some great bands in the English Mid-west back in the 90s. This is no Kill Your Television, but the sound of Ned and his indie rock bandmates takes me back to my mis-spent youth.

5. Cud: Take The Time And Read My Mind
Another band straight out of my Sixth Form days, and this is really quite a pleasant listen... which probably means it's a song about dying horribly or something.

4. Hawkwind: PSI Power
The original cosmic rockers tell us about the downside of being psychic.

3. Ozric Tentacles: Psychic Chasm
I don't listen to enough Ozric Tentacles. That's going straight on my to-do list: listen to more Ozric Tentacles. Followed by: say Ozric Tentacles in the course of normal conversation.

2. Kenickie: Psychic Defence
Yes, we're back in the 90s again, this time for an insanely hummable little brit-pop number.

1. Blue Oyster Cult: Veteran of the Psychic Wars
So, you take a Hawkwind lyric, get Michael Moorcock to write a story about it, and set it to music for a hard rock band. How was that ever not going to top the list?

And with any luck, you should have no excuse whatsoever for delving into the weirdness that is my musical taste:
While that's playing, let's not forget there's a blog tour going on. Follow it here: Jim Armstrong Noah Arsenault Keanan Brand Beckie Burnham Brenda Castro Jeff Chapman Christine Theresa Dunlap Victor Gentile Nikole Hahn Bruce Hennigan Jason Joyner Julie Carol Keen Emileigh Latham Meagan @ Blooming with Books Rebecca LuElla Miller Anna Mittower Kathleen Smith Donna Swanson Jessica Thomas Steve Trower Dona Watson Shane Werlinger Phyllis Wheeler

Monday, September 24, 2012

Monday Review: The Realms Thereunder by Ross Lawhead

In conjunction with the CSFF Blog Tour, I received a free copy of this book from the publishers for review. Admittedly, that was about eight months ago, and the tour has moved on to The Telling by Mike Duran now, but despite having a good excuse for delaying, I should really meet my end of the deal and provide a proper review.

Before we begin, for those who don't know, I don't do fantasy. It just doesn't work for me. However, most of the books we see on the Tour are written and/or set in the USA, so when I got the chance to read something set this side of the pond I decided to put that aside and give it a go. Besides, Lawhead told us this wasn't about a fantasy world, it was the world which exists beneath the one we see (hence the title). So, great, a fantasy England, with English folklore woven into it. Could be good.

But, I have to say, although the underground world our young heroes Daniel and Freya explore with a couple of Saxon knights could be considered 'not a fantasy world' in the traditional sense, older Daniel's adventures in the book primarily took place in, and trying to return from, Elfland (the faerie realms, to be precise). Riiiight. Given that I was hoping for the story world to be a little more Rowlingesque, I did feel I'd been somewhat mis-sold as I waded through the faerie realms.

The book is made up of two sets of stories - young Daniel and Freya's experiences in Nidergeard (the underground world) as teenagers, and their individual exploits some years later, Daniel in Elfland, and Freya... well, therein hangs the wossname.

Back in February, I wanted to share my unique British perspective on this with the tour as a whole, but having not finished the book, didn't know whether it would later become apparent - or indeed serve a purpose to the plot - that Freya was kidnapped by an Atlas of Britain.

It didn't take me a second thought to realise that Professor Felix Stowe was named after the largest freight port in the UK, and when he introduced us to First Lieutenant Gerrards Cross, Brent Wood et al, I was wondering whether this was deliberate, or whether the author was just rubbish at making up names and hoped his American publisher wouldn't notice. But when Freya started quoting from books by Cookham Dean and Dudley Port, I'd about had enough and wanted to throw the book off the cliffs at Rosslaw Head.

Never fear though, for Freya - being an educated woman who can probably even spell Abbingdon correctly - did eventually work out that all was not as it seemed and that she was being held captive by an A to Z. But we never found out what their agenda was, or why they had such outrageously silly names. Which was a shame, because although many of Freya's actual pages were largely pointless, save for hypnotising both Freya and the reader, hers was the only part of the story I actually wanted to follow.

So, in summary, maybe my expectations of the story and setting were off, and it says something that despite being set in Fairyland and not England after all, I still finished the book. But ultimately, as much as I wanted to like this book, I just didn't. And those bits that I did like were treated as so insignificant in the overall story that they are not enough to sell me on the rest of the series.

Linky Goodness:
My initial thoughts on The Realms Thereunder

But that's enough about that, I think I would much rather have read The Telling by Mike Duran, like these bloggers have:
Jim Armstrong Noah Arsenault Keanan Brand Beckie Burnham Brenda Castro Jeff Chapman Christine Theresa Dunlap Victor Gentile Nikole Hahn Bruce Hennigan Jason Joyner Julie Carol Keen Emileigh Latham Meagan @ Blooming with Books Rebecca LuElla Miller Anna Mittower Kathleen Smith Donna Swanson Jessica Thomas Steve Trower Dona Watson Shane Werlinger Phyllis Wheeler

Wednesday, September 12, 2012


Yes, it's September, or to give it its proper name, National Novel Writing Anticipation Month, those thirty days in which writers and crazy people the world over start to get all twitchy at the thought of starting another 30 day novelathon (in about seven weeks time).

And more often than not, start to panic when they realise they haven't got a clue where they are going to start on November 1st.

As for me, apart from a couple of vague attempts at short stories, I have hardly written anything this year, and as a result have my spare ideas from last NaNo plus one or two others rattling around inside my head, competing for my attention over the next couple of months. So, mainly for my own easy reference, here's my current WIPlist (or rather, ideas list, as most of these are insufficently developed to qualify as 'in progress'):
  • An Old Testament Space Opera. I think I can put an original enough slant on the story of Joseph and his brothers for it to work. 
  • A comic fantasy. I think DragonQuest (NaNo 2009) needs a prequel.
  • A paranormal/slipstream/ weird novel which sort of exists in my head but whose plot I haven't been able to distill into a sentence or two yet.
  • A collection of short stories which may or may not be interconnected. This would give me the chance to start any or all of these ideas, and more, and see which have the legs for a novel and give me plenty of raw material to work on over the next year.
  • A memoir. Also not strictly within the rules of NaNoWriMo, but if NaNo isn't about breaking the rules, what is it about?
  • Some sort of timey-wimey story, either time travel or alternate history, in which Christ's life on Earth forms a critical point. 
  • The wild card option. Just pluck some characters, a plot and maybe a few other things at random from the adoptables threads, mix them all together and create something entirely rubbish...
And left over from NaNo 2011:
  • An alternate history of WW2. I have sort of an idea for this, but I’m not sure I can make it stand out from the squillions of alternate WW2 scenarios already played out in fiction. Unless….
  • An alternate version of Left Behind – in which the rapture occurred during WW2, the Cold War, or the 1990s...Has the minor drawback that everything I know about the rapture and what comes thereafter I learnt from reading the Left Behind series years ago - and I've no wish to revisit them now.
I may put a poll up in the near future, just out of interest, to see what my reader would like to see. Unless I can make up my own mind, I may even go with the result...

Monday, September 10, 2012

Monday Review: The Last Dragonslayer by Jasper Fforde

I know what you're all thinking, and yes, it is true - I am about to review a *ahem* fantasy novel. A fantasy novel for the young adult market, no less.

But fear not, I have not yet taken leave of my senses, for it is a fantasy novel for the young adult market by Jasper Fforde, and as eagle-eyed readers may have spotted, that qualifier was enough to sell me on the YA fantasy novel bit.

Being for the younger market, it's shorter than your average Thursday Next novel, and a much fluffier affair than Shades of Grey, but definitely retains the flavour of a Ffordian world.

It also has as its protagonist a wise-cracking teenage girl who unexpectedly discovers that she is the last in a long line of slayers, so, you know, comparisons are bound to be come to mind - except, possibly, to the teenage target audience who might only know Buffy as some obscure old skool vampire show that knocks around on the daytime TV schedules.

But I digress. The Last Dragonslayer is set in the unUnited Kingdom, a dystopian land of faded magic, agency Wizards and Fizzy Pop, where the last dragon still lives safely in the no-mans land between the kingdoms of Hereford and Brecon - until, that is, the Last Dragonslayer is summoned...

You get the picture. Essentially this is the origin story of Jennifer Strange, Dragonslayer; but it is also the origin story of a world which, in the rest of the trilogy, will be changed because of her actions. Whether that world turns out just to be Hogwarts with jokes remains to be seen (at least by me). It certainly could go that way, were it not for that qualifier again: 'by Jasper Fforde', which of course means it is far more likely to turn into Buffy meets Monty Python, and what's not to love there?

So, yes, it's a YA novel, so it's not as deep or as dark as Shades of Grey, the characters are not as well formed as Thursday Next (at least not yet), and there is of course a coming of age theme (none of which are bad things, unless you really dislike YA novels or a quick, easy read). Yes, it's a fantasy novel, with magic, dragons, quarkbeasts and so on. But above all, it is a Jasper Fforde novel, with the brilliantly imagined world, surreal Ffordian humour, and those special features tucked away in the dusty corners of the author's website. Definitely one to add to any comic fantasy bookshelf.


Linky goodness:

Thursday, September 06, 2012

Phursday Photos at the Paralympics

I can hardly believe I got up at 5am to go and watch sport once, never mind twice, but it seems I must have done, because there is photographic evidence.

Having said that, before last weekend if you had asked me what the minimum requirement for competetive cycling was, I'd have said two legs - either natural or prosthetic.

Turns out I was wrong. Didn't get any photos of the German team sprint - too busy watching as 3 guys with 10 limbs between them broke the Paralympic record - but they were a definite highlight of the day.

Even so, no apologies for the obvious team bias in the photo selection...