Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Today's Wisdom from Middle Earth

“The wide world is all about you: you can fence yourselves in, but you cannot for ever fence it out.”

― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring

Monday, January 15, 2018

Lace and Blade 4 Author Interview: Marella Sands

Just in time for Valentine's Day, Lace and Blade 4 offers a bouquet of sensual, romantic, action-filled stories. Order it from online booksellers in ebook and paperback editions. The Table of Contents is here.

Deborah J. Ross: Tell us a little about yourself.  How did you come to be a writer?
Marella Sands: In fourth grade, our teacher wrote a sentence on the board first thing in the morning, and we had to use it as the first line of a story. I still have some of those stories, and they are truly terrible in a funny way. My favorite was about me living in a haunted house. The ghost was so powerful, it killed everyone else on my block, so I moved. Apparently, I was a rather practical nine-year-old. Anyway, after that, I never really stopped.

DJR: What inspired your story in Lace and Blade 4?
MS: A few years ago, a Pakistani man I know introduced me to the game of cricket. He was so excited about it that I guess I just caught the fever, because then I started watching it (also, I read "Cricket for Dummies," which is actually a real thing). For my birthday that year, I asked for a subscription to Willow TV (all cricket, all the time). While I was watching a match and wondering what to do for this story, I suddenly thought, why aren't there more team sports in fantasy stories? Not just mentioned in passing, or set up as a bit of world-building, but introduced as something so integral to the plot, you couldn't have the story without the sport. Almost instantly, I had my four main characters, who play a very cricket-like game in a vaguely West African-like land. 

DJR: What authors have most influenced your writing?  What about them do you find inspiring?
MS: The first two that come to mind are Richard Adams and J.R.R. Tolkien, because the two books I couldn't put down for years were Watership Down and The Lord of the Rings -- sweeping fantasy stories that just carried me away into worlds so completely I was almost distraught I couldn't actually go there. If I lived in the world of Fahrenheit 451 and had the opportunity to be a book, I'm not sure I could choose between them.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Short Book Reviews: Children of the Spaceship City

Edward Willett The Cityborn. DAW July 2017
One thing I adore about good YA is the agency of the young people. That is, they make judgments, set their own goals, and demonstrate both persistence and resourcefulness. That describes the two central characters in this dystopic-sf novel. Having landed on a distant planet, a spaceship gradually transforms into a city, and then decays. 

While the officers clone themselves and then use nanobots to pass on their memories and skills to the next generation, the Captain has for various reasons not passed to new bodies. And as the Captain’s vital signs sink ever lower, so do the parallel vital functions of the City. A desperate scheme results in the creation of two children, in vitro offspring of the Captain and First Officer, who are then theoretically capable of taking the place of the dying Captain and restoring the City. 

One of the children is kidnapped by a rebel underground, dedicated to overthrowing the class tyranny of the Officers; now a young adult, he is joined by the other, who narrowly escapes being turned into a mind-controlled Captain. The two are catapulted into a quest filled with action, suspense, and the emotional turmoil of carving out an individual identity in a world determined to control and exploit them. An exciting, absorbing read for adult as well as YA readers.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Today's Wisdom from Middle Earth

“Some believe it is only great power that can hold evil in check, but that is not what I have found. It is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay. Small acts of kindness and love. Why Bilbo Baggins? Perhaps because I am afraid, and he gives me courage.”

― J.R.R. Tolkien

Monday, January 8, 2018

Lace and Blade 4 Author Interviews: Lawrence Watt-Evans

Just in time for Valentine's Day, Lace and Blade 4 offers a bouquet of sensual, romantic, action-filled stories. Order it from online booksellers in ebook and paperback editions. The Table of Contents is here.

Deborah J. Ross: Tell us a little about yourself. How did you come to be a writer?
Lawrence Watt-Evans: I always wanted to be one. I started to think seriously about it in second grade, when my teacher’s response to my very first creative writing assignment was, “Maybe you’ll be a writer someday!”
My parents convinced me that it wasn’t a likely way to make a living, though, so even though I kept writing I figured it would just be a hobby -- until my stories started selling, and I couldn’t find a decent day job. I wound up making my living as a writer for thirty-some years.

DJR: What inspired your story in Lace and Blade 4?
LWE: I wanted to play with stereotypes and expectations a little -- and I wanted to be in this anthology, having failed to deliver for previous volumes in the series!

DJR: What authors have most influenced your writing? What about them do you find inspiring?
LWE: L. Sprague de Camp and Terry Pratchett have been big influences; both have a knack for looking at the trappings of fantasy and considering how they would work for actual human beings, rather than mythic archetypes. Others have been, in no particular order, Dorothy Sayers, C.S. Forester (from whom I got my love of interior monologues), Robert Heinlein, Fritz Leiber Jr., Robert E. Howard, J.R.R. Tolkien, C.L. Hales, Robert W. Chambers, Anne McCaffrey, Leigh Brackett...

DJR: Why do you write what you do, and how does your work differ from others in your genre?
LWE: I write what I like, what interests me. It differs from other fantasy because I’m not particularly interested in nobility, honor, derring-do, the nature of evil, and so on, but in how people muddle through.

DJR: How does your writing process work?
LWE: Damned if I know. I sit at the computer and type.

Friday, January 5, 2018

Short Book Reviews: A New Twist on Witches in New Orleans

Rich in history and the atmosphere of New Orleans, tJ. D. Horn's The King of Bones and Ashes follows the loves and feuds of two powerful families of witches features intricate characters, well-thought-out lore, and plot twists galore. I visited New Orleans in 2011, and many of the scenes evoked hours spent exploring the French Quarter and beyond. 

Nowadays the allure of witches (or other magical/supernatural beings) in the “Big Easy,” also known as the City of Second Chances, has given rise to many depictions in print and visual media. All too often, however, the portrayals are superficial and derivative, and are poorly integrated with the city’s history and culture. Not so J. D. Horn’s The King of Bones and Ashes.  I loved the sense of dynastic progression, of the increasingly desperate tactics to slow the disappearance of magic, of the witches’ attempt to counteract Katrina’s damage, not to mention the complex system of witchy magic. 

I also liked that the circularity of the story; instead of having everything laid out clearly, I had to put pieces together in more active reading. It’s not an easy read, but that makes it all the more satisfying. The actual mystery enhances the mysteriousness of the setting and drama.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Today's Moment of Serenity

Edward Cucuel (August 6, 1875, San Francisco – April 18, 1954, Pasadena, California), was an American-Born Painter who lived and worked in Germany.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Today's Wisdom from Middle Earth

“A man that flies from his fear may find that he has only taken a short cut to meet it.”

― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Children of Húrin

Monday, January 1, 2018

Lace and Blade 4 Author Interviews: Pat MacEwen

Just in time for Valentine's Day, Lace and Blade 4 offers a bouquet of sensual, romantic, action-filled stories. Order it from online booksellers in ebook and paperback editions. The Table of Contents is here.

Deborah J. Ross: Tell us a little about yourself.  How did you come to be a writer?
Pat MacEwen: Born that way, apparently. I started doing crayon drawings and telling stories about them when I was four, and put my toy giraffe through endless adventures that cost him one of his four rubber hooves and all of his dignity, but he never seemed to mind very much. I read everything in sight, including cereal boxes, and spent a lot of time playing pinochle with my older relatives. They gossiped like mad and told stories non-stop, and I learned all about how they survived the Great Depression, World War II, the government’s Indian boarding schools, and sometimes each other. At 13, I was given a box full of paperbacks by an older cousin during a cross-country road trip, and promptly fell in love with the works of Andre Norton, Poul Anderson, Terry Carr, Doc Smith, and dozens more. Eventually, I wondered whether I could ever do anything half as good, and decided to try. Probably doesn’t hurt that the MacEwen clan has been spawning bards and shanachies for a thousand years and more.

DJR: What inspired your story in Lace and Blade 4?
PM: My son-in-law runs EuCon – an annual Comic-Con that takes place in Eugene, Oregon every fall. I met one of their celebrity guests last year – Deep Roy – a diminutive actor who has played Yoda and all of the Oompa Loompas, and has had many other roles in science fiction and fantasy films. The man has a delightful sense of humor and such a deep and abiding intelligence, he intrigued the hell out of me. It so happened I’d already run across a biography of Lord Minimus, and I found myself imagining Deep Roy in the role of that valiant though very short cavalier. And then I got to wondering what would happen if the smallest man in British history were to encounter the Little People during the height of the English Civil War. Now I’m working on a screenplay about his further adventures in France, with the Court-in-Exile.

DJR: What authors have most influenced your writing?  What about them do you find inspiring?
PM: Poul Anderson is one of my personal heroes. He built so many amazing aliens and alien cultures, and he did it with so much humanism, you couldn’t help but sympathize with them, including the villains! All while using the most amazing bits of new scientific information. Thomas Costain wrote excellent historical fiction and non-fiction (especially his series about the Plantagenets) that did much the same for the Middle Ages C.J. Cherryh has taken me deeper into plausible but totally alien minds and cultures than I ever thought was possible. Pat Conroy and Connie Willis are two very different authors who have succeeded in reducing me to tears with both the screwball comedy and the sheer heartbreaking pathos in their stories, and they’ve each of them done it within the course of a single book. So that’s who I’d like to be when I grow up – one of those writers.