Archive for the ‘writing’ Category

I am currently reading the Song of Ice and Fire series (Game of Thrones) by George R.R. Martin and decided to do a bit of an experiment. You see, people have been recommending that I read the books, or at the very least watch the show on HBO for a while now. I normally like sci-fi and I find that I have to be in a certain mood for a Fantasy novel of any length, let alone an epic series where each book is 800+ pages. (I’ve never been one to balk at length, it’s just that it’s a commitment that is sometimes difficult to make before you know if you’ll even like it or not.) Anyway, I started the novels, then had a thought. I’ve read enough of the first book to get a handle on the plot, so I’ll watch the first episode of the HBO show and see how I like it. See if it’s true to the book (always a huge deal for me) and maybe it will help me solidify the characters in my mind. If I can put a face to a name, then I can tell Arya apart from Sansa more easily. Or so I thought.

Well, it turned out that I had read just enough so that the show didn’t have any spoilers for me. I read another hundred pages or so and watched episode two. Rinse, repeat. Great.

But then I got to thinking. This wasn’t the first time I’ve done this. A few weeks before, I watched the beginning of “Treasure Island” (1991 version) with my son because we were reading the classic by Robert Louis Stevenson yarn for bedtime and I thought it might interest him to see how what we had just read looked like in “real life.”

But now, for the rest of the book, Jim Hawkins will look like a young Christian Bale to my son. And Long John Silver can’t look like anything other than a crusty Charlton Heston. treasure-island7

And the same is true for me now. Danaerys  Stormborn will always appear in my minds eye as Emilia Clarke ( yes, there are worse fates.) Ned Stark is Sean Bean. Etc. That’s when I had a terrifying thought:

We are letting our imagination wither and die like an atrophied muscle.

Our kids watch cartoons about other fictional kids going out to their backyard and having adventures where they imagine that they are astronauts, cowboys, wizards… But my kids aren’t doing any of that! THEY ARE SITTING INSIDE, WATCHING A TV SHOW ABOUT KIDS WHO HAVE IMAGINATION! (I’m lookin’ at you Backyardigans!)

Caution___TV_is_not_a_friend

AHHHHHHH!

How do we fix this?

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All right, I’m not a spokesperson for Stihl, but they come close to my point. We need to get our kids (and ourselves) outside more often. We need to sit under a tree and dream. We need to create. No matter what you think your talent is or isn’t, you can create something.   If you’re good with your hands, make something. If you’re “too out of shape/ too fat/too clumsy/ etc.” that’s not stopping you from writing an amazing story or composing a beautiful song, making a stunning piece of jewelry or woodwork. The author of the books I’m reading now doesn’t have what most people would call an athletic build (see below), but he has created an amazingly detailed epic book series. No excuses. Go from a consumer of culture to a creator of it.

Everyone dies

Everyone dies

Terence McKenna had a thought along similar lines:

“We have to create culture, don’t watch TV, don’t read magazines, don’t even listen to NPR. Create your own roadshow. The nexus of space and time where you are now is the most immediate sector of your universe, and if you’re worrying about Michael Jackson or Bill Clinton or somebody else, then you are disempowered, you’re giving it all away to icons, icons which are maintained by an electronic media so that you want to dress like X or have lips like Y. This is shit-brained, this kind of thinking. That is all cultural diversion, and what is real is you and your friends and your associations, your highs, your orgasms, your hopes, your plans, your fears. And we are told ‘no’, we’re unimportant, we’re peripheral. ‘Get a degree, get a job, get a this, get a that.’ And then you’re a player, you don’t want to even play in that game. You want to reclaim your mind and get it out of the hands of the cultural engineers who want to turn you into a half-baked moron consuming all this trash that’s being manufactured out of the bones of a dying world.”

― Terence McKenna

Turn off your smartphone, turn off the music, stop doing things just because they will make a #clevertwitterhashtag or Facebook post later that will def impress your “friends” or “followers.” Live Life. Rediscover your passion and be amazing at it.

CREATE!

So I finally got to see Peter Jackson’s “The Hobbit” movie last night in all its 3D high frame rate glory. The verdict?

Terrible… with some shining good points.

But Dan, you say, I thought you loved JRR Tolkien and the Hobbit? Yes. Yes I do. Why do directors/screenwriters feel the need to mess with something that has been a well-loved classic for millions? WHY! If it has enjoyed success up to this point with the story that exists, why change it? And don’t tell me, “For the story/ narrative.” The narrative worked just fine, that’s why there are Tolkien fans world-wide. So if you’ll indulge my nerdy wrath, let me tell you the various reasons why I was disappointed in the film.

The whole backstory with Azog the goblin. Yes he existed, but he was dead long before the company of 14 left Bag-end. I kind of see that the writers needed a stronger antagonist for this cut-up part of the story, but come on. Here’s what really happened:

After Smaug took the Lonely Mountain. Thror gave his Ring of Power to his son Thrain, and left with a friend, Nar, to go to Moria. When he got there, the gate was open and his friend warned him not to go in, but he walked in like an heir returning. Nar waited outside for many days before the body of Thror was tossed out, headless. The head was also tossed out and on it was branded AZOG. Nar was told that Azog was the new master in Moria and to go back and tell the dwarves. Of course Thrain was furious and the dwarves spent three years amassing an army before they finally marched on Moria in 2799. That is the scene in the movie where Thorin and Thrain are battling the goblins. That scene is accurate in that it shows how Thorin got his nickname Oakenshield, but that’s about all. Nain is the dwarf who battles and is killed by Azog, and Dain (of the Iron Hills), son of Nain, revenges his father and kills Azog, beheading him. Not just cutting off his arm for him to fight another day. Dead. Storyline ends there. Bye bye Azog.

Years later, Thrain, Thorin’s father is captured on the outskirts of Mirkwood and is taken to Dol Guldur where he is tortured and the Ring of Power is taken from him and delivered to Sauron in 2845. Five years later, Gandalf enters Dol Guldur and receives the key to the Lonely Mountain from Thrain before he is killed.

Whew! History lesson over. OK. Next.

The beginning of the movie is fine. The dinner party at Bagend is great. Where it departs from Canon is with the Trolls. First of all, it was pouring rain, not a nice day. Second. The whole party voted that Bilbo should go check out the firelight, not go chasing after some lost ponies. Third, Bilbo is discovered but manages to get away when the trolls start fighting amongst themselves, then the dwarves start showing up one by one and get put into sacks so that they can’t warn the others. Thorin manages to get in a few licks with a burning branch, but he too is captured and Bilbo is punted up into a tall bush. Then Gandalf comes back and impersonates the Troll’s voices so that they end up arguing about how to cook the dwarves until daylight turns them to stone. All in all, the movie didn’t change too much, and the scene is not pivotal to the plot. But if it wasn’t so important, why change it at all? It was fine as originally written.

Then the movie goes on a lark with Radagast the Brown and tries setting up how Sauron is amassing power in Mirkwood, but that doesn’t really enter into the Hobbit at all. Gandalf just mentions that a “Necromancer” is gaining power in Mirkwood and Radagast the Brown shows up in the Hobbit for all of ONE SENTENCE, while they are on the way to Beorn’s house.

And the whole business about being chased by Wargs before “escaping” to Rivendell? Rubbish. They missed the whole fantastic scene in the book where the company enters Rivendell at twilight and the elves sing/make fun of them from the trees. Also, still on ponies and horses. They didn’t run away after their ordeal with the trolls.

Rivendell itself was spectacular as it always is, but the whole council with Galadriel and Saruman never happened.

The Stone giants scene was cool and I’m willing to forgive a little creative license there, but they still had the ponies with them, and Gandalf too, when they were captured in the cave. Bilbo remains with the group the whole time during their escape, which was a ridiculous affair of Disney theme ride/ Ewok village rope bridges in the movie, where in the book it is all dark low passages. When the goblins catch up with the group a second time, Dori, who was carrying Bilbo on his shoulders, is grabbed from behind and Bilbo is knocked out and overlooked. When he awakes, he fumbles over The Ring on the ground, he doesn’t watch it fall out of Gollum’s pocket.

The Riddles in the Dark scene is great, except that it’s not dark. When Bilbo finally escapes, he losses his brass buttons trying to squeeze out the final door to the outside, away from Gollum and the goblin guards.

The scene where the party goes from the frying pan and into the fire was well done except for the whole showdown between Thorin and AZOG, who as we found out, was already long dead.

When they are rescued by the Eagles, (who just look down and see the fire with their good eyesight and don’t have to be informed via butterfly mail) we miss out on the whole scene of the dwarves being taken up to their Eyrie that night and wondering if they are going to be eaten for the Eagle’s dinner. And then they are brought to the Carrock, and so we leave them there., gazing at the nonexistent view of the Lonely Mountain.

After all that, here’s what the movie did right: Visually stunning. The HFR was incredible, but hard to get used to. At first, it looks a bit like Spanish daytime soap operas. You know, that hard light where everything looks very realistic. After a while, you begin to appreciate the detail, but it takes time. Erebor was amazing and the golden hoard was a sight to behold. All the characters were wonderful, and Bilbo and Thorin were spot on, even though they participated in scenes that shouldn’t have existed. the Wargs were awesome, and the goblins were perfect. Just different enough from LOTR’s orcs to be just right. The Goblin King in particular was wonderful.

Overall, I think that Peter Jackson has a great vision for the world of Middle Earth, and he did better than most would. But why didn’t he just stick to the beloved story? Tolkien fans should watch it, but you have been warned to not expect it to be true to canon.

What do you think?

P.S. I think I’m so upset, because I grew up with Tolkien s’ works. It’s different than, say, The Walking Dead graphic novels versus the TV show. I read and enjoyed the comics first, and noted the differences when the show aired, but since it wasn’t ingrained in my childhood; since I didn’t spend hours drawing maps of Georgia, or making hand-drawn board games of The Walking Dead, I wasn’t as upset. Or take any modern series. Harry Potter or The Hunger Games. Yes, it bothered me when the movies departed from the novels, but it didn’t feel like a betrayal.

Another good year for books. Since I got a Nook, I read even more than usual. But I still kept a lookout at the library and when I spied some new addition to a series I enjoyed. I will say though, the Nook contributed to some reading A.D.D. I definitely started a good deal many more books than I finished this year. And switching to digital has spoiled me in some ways too. I found myself reading a real paper book and getting annoyed that I couldn’t just touch and hold a word for an immediate definition. Or that it took my 12 seconds to turn the page when I was reading on my side in bed with one arm under the covers; instead of just a push of a button. ‘Tis the way of  the future I suppose. Anyway, I hope you get something out of my list. Happy reading!

Robopocalypse: A Novel

A welcome change from all the zombiepocalypse novels I’ve read lately. Basically the military experiments with AI and, what do you know, it escapes and decides to “destroy” the humans. When you read it, you’ll understand the quotes. The book is well written and follows several disparate groups along their path to fight against Big Rob. The book is also written completely from the perspective of recorded digital footage gleaned from a hard drive. So, all conversations, movements, etc. appear from a robot’s sensors. This is not nearly as tedious as it sounds, and was quite cool.

Indulgence in Death

Possession in Death (In Death Series)

Treachery in Death

Assassin of Secrets

A good old spy thriller set in the 60’s. If you like James Bond or Jason Bourne, you’ll enjoy this romp through Europe at the heels of the best secret agent in the US as he tries to snare the organization that is systematically killing off top operatives all over the world.

Leviathan Wakes (The Expanse)

After reading about spies, robots, and New York City Police Lieutenants, it was nice to get back to a really good space opera. Although one of the main plots follows a detective following his nose in classic Noir. This book was political without trying too hard, and seemed to accurately predict what society might be like after a few hundred years living in the outer Solar System on asteroids and on the outer moons. Tension builds well throughout the book and, much as I try to escape it, I still ended up reading about zombies. (kind of).

Patient Zero: A Joe Ledger Novel

A zombie novel centered around a secret government organization (think NSA, CIA, + Seal Team Six) trying to stop the first outbreak before it becomes public knowledge. Oh, yeah, also, the zombies are terrorist bio-weapons, designed for maximum contagion by radical Muslims. A fun, bloody stroll through terror suppression, but since it is contemporary, it doesn’t totally redefine the world like “Feed” by Mira Grant.

Engaging the Enemy (Vatta’s War)

This is the 3rd in the series, however, after trying to sync up my reading schedule and library holds, I just couldn’t wait any longer to start at the beginning. It was a pretty good military sci-fi tale.

Command Decision (Vatta’s War)

Context

I like everything this guy has written, so that said, this is a great collection of essays (blog posts) about writing, life in the digital age, copyright, and other cool issues. Dig it.

Rule 34

Yes, that rule 34. A good mix of detective yarn and political thriller set in Edinburgh around 50 years from now. I liked all the cool gadgets like the augmented reality spex that the police use (much like Google is designing now) and the cheap 3D printer/ fabbers running in back garages, making things for the black market using illegal feedstock disguised as…well I don’t want to ruin it.

Victory Conditions (Vatta’s War)

Seed

A desolate, distopic, ecopunk vision of America after extreme climate change. The only way people can scrabble a living is using genetically engineered seeds from an all powerful corporation, Satori. But that’s just the beginning.  This was a supremely creative work, filled with Chicano slang, genetic engineers who can literally see the helix dance, sleek military vehicles growling across the desert, and a city made from living flesh and bone.

The Dervish House

A book that you can really delve into, sinking slowly past layer upon layer of character, location, culture, and cutting edge science that all coalesce into a magnificent whole: Istanbul. The city features in this cool near-future mystery through the streets of the Queen of Cities.  And it even has a very satisfying ending! One of the best I’ve read in a while.

Coffee is Good for You: From Vitamin C and Organic Foods to Low-Carb and Detox Diets, the Truth about Diet and Nutrition Claims

Foolish me, I thought the whole book would be about coffee. Still an interesting read. I generally eat pretty well anyway, so I already knew many of the things to stay away from, or eat more of.

Hell’s Gate (BOOK 1 in new MULTIVERSE series)

I usually limit my fantasy intake to one or two a year, but this seemed to have enough sci-fi in it to qualify. Also, I was between books and this had been recommended to me (thrust into my hands, in fact) and so I gave it a chance. Once you get over the fact that there are multiple universes that can be travelled to by passing through portals, it isn’t too bad.  Basically, two scouts come face to face in a wood where neither one expected to see other humans. One guy is from a culture that is based on magic. They use spells in everyday life and think nothing of it. The other guy is from a culture much like our own around the 1890s. They have steam power and machine guns, but still use horses to travel. Also, a section of their culture has mental powers, such as the ability to communicate over long distances, or visualize terrain. This was a bit of a sore point for me, as I thought the story would have been better had the technological civilization been modeled more closely on our own, without the mental “Talents.” Either way, the story pulled me along to the point that the book was constantly in my pocket or in my hand. The story itself follows a husband and wife, among others, as the two cultures deal with the fallout of their two cultures clashing in violence at their first meeting. It will definitely read the sequel as I have already invested 1400 pages so far.

Hip Tastes: The Fresh Guide to Wine

A great primer on wine, written with a fresh insight and a knowledgeable hand. Read this, and drink more of the Good Stuff.

The Games

A fast-paced thriller about the future Olympic gladiator competition where the contestants fight to the death and the only rule is that they can’t have any human DNA.  Pretty good. I think I read it in two days.

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes

I’m almost ashamed to say, this was my first time reading the Holmes stories. This also marked my switch-over from paper to digital e-books. As proven by history, the Sherlock Holmes tales are superb and rightfully deserve their place in literary classic literature.

The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes (Dover Thrift Editions)

Before the Strand  by Amanda Raymond

A great novel written by my oldest friend. (we met when I was two) Succinctly, a novel that centers on Sherlock Holmes’s secret son. The author is a true Holmes fan, so I assure you that everything makes sense, fits with earlier timelines, and is accurate to the nth degree. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and, as you can see, I read it right in the middle of reading all the classic Holmes stories and it rang true. Her tale is well thought out and fast paced, taking the reader on a tour of Old London and Cambridge following Holmes’s son Jonathan as he comes to terms with who he is as a man, and struggles to escape death at the hands of one of the most famous murderers in Europe.

A Study in Scarlet

A great mystery of intrigue and Mormonism.

The Sign of the Four

The Hound of the Baskervilles (with illustrations by Sidney Paget)

One of the greatest tales of Sherlock Holmes.

Sh*t My Dad Says

Hilarious. That’s all you need to know.

The Return of Sherlock Holmes

Just when you were missing the shorter tales, he’s back!

Kill-Basa by Sean Graham

A cool collection of zombie short stories.

Countdown: A Joe Ledger Short Prequel Short Story to Patient Zero

This works as a short story, only if you don’t plan to read Patient Zero, because it”s basically just the first chapter of the novel. Patient Zero was fun though, so give it a try.

Caliban’s War (The Expanse)

The sequel to Leviathan Wakes.

Exogene (The Subterrene War)

The Subterrene war from a clone’s perspective. Very bleak, with much existentialism and religious control thrown in. A chilling read on the future of warfare. Really good.

Chimera (The Subterrene War)

The final subterrene novel. This was a crazy trip through war, kind of like “Heart of Darkness” meets “Apocalypse Now” meets “Blade Runner” Really cool. Very dark. The main character is a classic anti-hero. A masterful capstone to the trilogy.

Apocalypse Scenario #683: The Box

A chilling short story from the author of the Newsflesh trilogy.

Heat Wave, Premium Edition (Nikki Heat, Book 1)

The first Nikki Heat novel by fictional crime writer Richard Castle from the ABC show Castle with Nathan Fillion. This was a great quick read. I found it especially interesting because if you are a fan of the show, you can gain insight into the authors decisions for how the “journalist” and the detective interact. It was better than you would think a book based on a TV show about writing crime books could be.

The Book of Rules: The Right Way to Do Everything

This was a fun book. I thought it would funnier than it was, but no it IS actually a book of rules for life. However, there are some good ones. Having to notify and obtain permission from your neighbors if you plan on installing wind chimes. Bending Q-tips in half after use so they won’t be reused inadvertently. Stuff like that.

Day by Day Armageddon: Beyond Exile (Book 2)

The adventure continues and widens in scope.

The Book of Swords

If you are a fan of swords, knives, axes, knights in shining armour, vikings, etc. then you should really read this book.

The Cold Commands

A great sequel to “The Steal Remains.” My biggest complaint with the first book was that there was too much explicit gay sex. It seems that the author listened to his fans as the intimate moments in this volume are toned WAY down. Far from detracting from the realism of the story, my enjoyment was increased by their absence. By the way, I don’t hate gay people, I’d just rather not read very descriptive sex scenes all through a fantasy book. The Cold Commands expanded on  the world-building of the Steal Remains and followed an ever tightening circle of mystery to a cool climax.

7th Sigma

I was sure exactly what to expect with this book and I was pleasantly surprised. The main character is a young boy who falls in with an Aikido master in the American West… after a mysterious event happened where that part of the country is infected with robotic bugs that devour all metal. A cool mix of serene martial arts, undercover spy novel, and western, with crazy bugs thrown in.

Foreign Influence: A Thriller

A good thriller that I was semi-forced to listen to on a roadtrip, but when we got back home, we were only halfway through. So I had to finish it.

Weather by Alastair Reynolds

A great short story about knowledge of self, sacrifice, your life’s work, and of course, space pirates.

Blood Oath

One of my first Vampire novels besides Dracula. I stick more to zombies. Anyway. I thought this was really good. The basic idea is that the President has had a Vampire working for hi since 1860 or so. He’s like the ultimate secret agent and Seal Team Six rolled into one. It did a good job of explaining the vampires physiology and limits. An interesting idea, well executed.

Casino Royale (James Bond)

The first Bond novel. Very good. Stark.

The Fixation by Alastair Reynolds

A cool short story about the consequences of trying to mess with physics and multiple universes.

Live and Let Die (James Bond)

If there is one word that would describe the essence of this book, it would be: negro. Yeahhhh, I know. It was first published in the 50s and it is now very dated. Once you get past the awkward language, it’s a great spy story.

Redshirts: A Novel with Three Codas

What can I say? I love pretty much everything this man has written. A great, fast paced ( I think I read it in 2 days) novel that pokes fun at Trekkie tropes and yet creates something new.

Little Fuzzy

I read Scalzi’s reboot last year, so I thought I should check out the original. It was good, but I preferred the updated version.

Amped

A great cautionary tale about how society reacts to scientific advancement and change. Mirroring apartheid, humans that have undergone intelligence amplification quickly become outcasts from society and have to fight for equality against public opinion and a shadowy organization.

Boneshaker (Sci Fi Essential Books)

A decent steampunk yarn, but somehow I was expecting more.

Blackout (The Newsflesh Trilogy)

The conclusion of the greatest zombie trilogy out there.

Countdown: A Newsflesh Novella

How it all started. A must for Newsflesh fans.

Rot & Ruin (Benny Imura (Rot and Ruin))

A cool take on living post zombie apocalypse. I read part of this novel as a short story and the idea captivated me. Benny Imura’s brother is a bounty hunter for zombies. People still remember their loved ones, so they take old pictures to “erosion artists” who paint them as zoms. Then they hire bounty hunters to go out and kill their zombified relatives to give them peace. But the novel is so much more than that.

Naked Heat (Nikki Heat)

The second book by fictional author Richard Castle from the TV show. This one drew far more on plot points from previous episodes in the show, but that didn’t make it bad. The actual mystery kept me guessing till right near the end.

Moonraker (James Bond)

I’m sure this was a great story in the 1950s. But it is very dated today. It’s still a good Bond story though.

The Great Bazaar and Other Stories

Fans of Arlen and the Demon Cycle will really like this collection. I like the one about his searching for the lost tomb.

The Passage: A Novel

Wow. Cronin writes beautifully, and the 850+ pages fly by. I wasn’t sure how I would like yet another vampire book, but this is believable enough that it makes sense. You know the deal. Military is working on biological enhancements for soldiers, oops they escape. World ends. But the whole milieu is great. A classic quest tale.

The Hobbit or There and Back Again. Illustrated by the Author

Classic. I read this to my son for bedtimes the last few months. It’s still such a good tale. If you haven’t read this yet, you really need to.

Lodestone Book One: The Sea of Storms (Volume 1)

I got this series as a gift. It is much more fantasy than sci-fi in the beginning, however it has a way of turning inexorably towards a bigger picture. Like most trilogies, the first book doesn’t really come to a conclusive end, so I must press on. It’s also interesting that the humans are the bad guys.

The Tamarisk Hunter

This is a short story that can be found here: Pump Six and Other Stories  A realistic look at what may happen in the American West when fresh water and water rights start becoming super important. Important enough to destroy cities and alter society.

Lodestone Book Two: The World of Ice and Stars (Volume 2)

Book two. The far side of the world. What would happen when one species is separated early in it’s development and then develops along two very different paths? Well, we know from all the varied cultures here on Earth that anything i possible. My one big complaint with this series so far is that the timeline of events is not clear. Everything with the main characters is fine. I’m talking about planetary developments throughout history. Regardless, I will finish the 3rd book in the series within the week.

Total 59

It’s a little late this year, partially because I’ve been reading other good books, but here it is! My 2009 reading list…with reviews!

2009………………………………………………………………………………………………54

Zoe’s Tale

John Scalzi is a master of clever dialogue. He has just the right amount of snarky humor and sarcastic wit to satisfy my particular taste. I read this one with my wife which made it special as she was once a sixteen year old girl. Somehow it didn’t seem right for me to read the parts about how a certain boy was sooo cute. I think Scalzi did a great job of retelling a story from a different point of view. Nice work John.

Bloodcast 1                         1-10-09                                                                   Scott Sigler

I liked it. Sigler has as good a grasp of short stories as he does with novels.

Crystal Rain

I wasn’t sure what to expect with this one. The world building is fantastic. You really get plunged into a whole new culture, I like how it kept changing, revealing more and more of the past as you read. I know most books do that, but this stood out. I will definitely finish the series.

Contagious: A Novel

Awesome. This sequel is even better than Infected. After listening to the first six podcasts, I gave in and had to read the rest. I couldn’t hold back. I read the rest in one sitting. That’s over 300 pages in one go. Yeah, it’s that good. There are many parts not for the squeamish or weak stomached, but come on…it IS Scott Sigler. Very well written with masterful plot points and timing. Read it now, or succumb to the Crawlers!

Ragamuffin (Sci Fi Essential Books)

Tobias has done it again. This book, which is a sequel to Crystal Rain, went above and beyond my expectations for what the story would do next. He expanded the universe out much farther than I thought and I enjoyed every minute of it. It was cool to see all his new characters and how they tied in to the established ones. They story moves along at a brisk pace and sucks you in to the plight of humanity. Excellent 2nd novel.

Secrets of Successful Writing: Inside Tips from a Writing Expert

A great little book filled with easy tips. I read it in an evening. I will use the suggestions more for re-writing though.

The Art of War: New Translation

It’s surprising how many truths this text still contains. I wonder if Bush read this before invading Iraq? Probably not.

Multiple Streams of Income: How to Generate a Lifetime of Unlimited Wealth!

This book was just what I wanted. Like other books, it included various strategies on how to build wealth, but unlike other ones, went in depth into each one. Having said that, the writing isn’t great and a few of the chapters are co-authored which is confusing when he refers to the author in the third person. All in all though, a very good book with different ways to choose how to become wealthy.

Nocturnal: A Novel

This is a great monster/mob story with an incredible plot, unforgettable characters, and lots of nasty violence. Based in the author’s home city, the tale keeps the reader up at night, trying to consume as much as possible before sleeping.

America                                                 3-6-09                                Jon Stewart & The Daily Show

Hilarious, sad, and true-ish.

Sly Mongoose                                        3-13-09                                                Tobias S. Buckell

This was a fun one. Who doesn’t like space zombies and floating cities? A fairly quick read with a lot of adventure. Pretty cool.

The Steel Remains                                3-24-09                                              Richard K. Morgan

Hmmm. It was a really well crafted story. The plot moved along fast and the separate character swirled in towards each other with increasing intensity. I liked Morgan’s anti-hero as always except for one thing. I could have done without the explicit gay sex scenes. Sometimes it’s best to leave the details out, but I guess that’s what people mean when they say his writing is “gritty.” I love the way he writes in general, but I think I like his sci-fi more than this. Having said that though, I WILL read the next two books in this trilogy. It’s a good sword slicing adventure.

Ficciones                                              4-4-09                                                 Jorge Luis Borges

Wow. Crazy stuff. Very creative. Borges has a totally unique writing style. I’m so glad to have been exposed to his writing. I see his influence in other things now.

Infoquake                                              4-6-09                                            David Louis Edelman

Great read. Very quick pace and intriguing story. The future technology of this world is very cool. I want to live there. Plus, I never thought a plot based mainly on business, marketing, etc. could be so interesting. Definitely reading the next one in the series.

MultiReal                                               4-20-09                                           David Louis Edelman

David Louis Edelman continues to improve his financial cyberpunkish series. This answered many questions that were left at the end of the first book but asks just as many. The plot stays tight as a conspiracy unfolds. Very good. I can’t wait for the third one. The world he’d created is vibrant and alive. I enjoy my time there almost as much as following the story. This is a good read, but I would recommend reading “Infoquake” first.

Sun of Suns                                          4-26-09                                                  Karl Schroeder

Very cool world building with a good plot that spirals towards a nail-biting ending. Kind of like steam-punk without the steam if that makes any sense. No it probably doesn’t. You’ll see when you read it, which you should do, cause it’s good.

Cowboy Bebop: Shooting Star 2            4-26-09                                                          Cain Kuga

Cowbot Bebop remains suave and awesome.

Queen of Candesce                              5-2-09                                                    Karl Schroeder

Another great yarn taking place in a spectacular world. I loved all the political intrigue and twisted plotlines. Venera Fanning is an interesting character indeed.

Snow                                                    5-4-09                                                         Morgan Luthi

Very young adult-ish. The way the characters were drawn did not fit the story. Meh.

Rurouni Kenshin 6                                 5-5-09                                                 Nobuhiro Watsuki

Sweet Samurai manga action.

A Random Walk down Wall Street   5-7-09                                          Burton G. Malkiel

Just too outmoded for today’s economy. Plus the main premise of the book is that anything you pick has an equal chance of making money in the market. Basically monkeys could invest as well as someone on Wall street.

Pirate Sun                                            5-12-09                                                  Karl Schroeder

The third installment of the Virga series was just as enjoyable as the first. The varied scenes are each spectacular and vivid. New main characters for each book also give it a fresh feel. Nice work Karl.

Prophets                                              5-24-09                                                S. Andrew Swann

A very cool take on far future human civilization. I thought the focus on religion was intriguing. Especially the character’s take on it when they themselves were created by humans (genetically engineered animal/human hybrids) I look forward to the rest of the series.

Altered Carbon                                     5-28-09                                              Richard K. Morgan

This is the second read through for me. I love this book. Morgan’s ideas are so well developed. Sometimes he just brushes off a whole type of tech with a one liner and I’m sitting there wanting to know more. His plot is great and the characters are gritty real. Still one of my favorites after all these years.

Future Imperfect                                    6-6-09                                                David D. Friedman

This was a great summation of most current tech that will affect us in the next 50 years. The prudent sci-fi writer would take notes while reading this as it is filled with hundreds of cool ideas. The one downside is that it was written by an economist and is sometimes rather dry and legalistic. But it more than makes up for it in scope. Great read!

The Mirrored Heavens                            6-17-09                                                  David J. Williams

While the ideas in this book are cool, and the future history is scary because it still could become true, I just could not get into this one. Maybe it was the author’s style, or the tense it was written in. It is chock a block with action though. The plot switches between four points of view and it does so rapidly and constantly. Somewhat annoying. I doubt I will read anything by this author again. Just personal taste.

The Green Year                                                6-18-09                                                        Jodi Helmer

A good simple book with tons of suggestions on how to live a greener life. We do 192 of them already. It might have been more but some didn’t apply to our family, like buying pet food in bulk. No pets.

How to Learn Golf                                  6-27-09                                                       Harry Hurt III

This offers a good overview of the different styles that are practiced for all aspects of golf. From putting, to swings, on course emotional management to which instructor you should choose. Pretty good overall. But the purpose is not to teach you golf, but how you should learn it. It focuses on helping you pick a style that works for you.

Nickel & Dimed                                     6-29-09                                             Barbara Ehrenreich

Barbara presents this compelling social commentary as a gripping description of someone trying to beat the odds. Every page, you hope that she will make enough to pay her rent. Her writing is insightful and authentic. I was transported back in time to my own days as a server when she described all her hardships waitressing in Florida. Even though this was written nearly a decade ago, it remains a powerful book, full of evidence that many middle class people refuse to see. If you have ever wondered how someone working minimum wage in America lives, read this book.

The Caryatids                                           7-3-09                                           Bruce Stirling

Pretty cool. I think that it is set a little too close to he present for some of the societal changes that he describes, but you never know. I loved the ending in a way I didn’t expect.

How to write Sci-fi/ fantasy                      7- 11-09                                             Orson Scott Card

This is a great book. Very well written and brimming with good advice from a writer who’s been there before. I found the chapters on the business end of writing particularly helpful. Maybe because my novel is already written, so world-building advice is already too late. I might even venture to say that this is a must-read, for an aspiring sci-fi/ fantasy writer.

Catch-22                                              7-20-09                                                     Joseph Heller

I like his style, but I could not get into this book. There was nothing to drag me along besides the oddness of the characters. Maybe someday I will continue, but for now, there are too many good new books out there for me to spend time on a “classic” that is mediocre, in my opinion.

Norse Code                                          7-25-09                                               Greg Van Eekhout

This was a very cool idea that kept me turning the pages. I love Norse mythology and found that Greg hit all the right notes in this urban fantasy with Asgard and Home Depots. If you have any interest in Vikings, you should read this book.

Rotten Rejections                                8-5-09                                                      Andre Bernard

This little book serves as great solace to aspiring writers everywhere. It includes rejections for books that have since become classics of the English language. No one is spared. Dickens, Whitman, Joyce, etc.

You’re not fooling anyone when you take your laptop to the coffee shop   8-6-09           John Scalzi

I just can’t say anything bad about John Scalzi, or his writing. This book is a great collection of posts from his blog about the writing life. His voice comes through clearly in the writing and is easy (and dare I say fun) to read. he makes good logical points about many issues that aspiring or professional writers face. Well done John, and thanks for the advice.

Freakonomics                                          8-6-09                          Steven Levitt & Stephen Dubner

This was an interesting view on wildly varying topics. I thought it only a tinge racist though. I know it has “data” to back up the theory that babies with black-sounding names (DeShawn) are not as successful in life as babies with white-sounding (William) names are, but still. All in all though, a fascinating read that will spark many conversations.

The Complete book of insults                 8-6-09                                                      Nancy McPhee

A cool list of insults throughout history. I had to get out my notebook and write down some of my favorite words like: druggles, lob-dotterols, palsied poltroon, etc. 

Mind over Ship                                      8-15-09                                                    David Marusek

This had some really cool ideas in it but was tough to get into. Once I did though, it was hard to put down. It’s got a great plot, very complex, and good characters. I haven’t read the first book and actually didn’t know there was one until the end. Maybe that’s why the author didn’t explain as many off the terms he uses. All in all though, pretty good.

Little Brother                                         8-18-09                                                Corey Doctorow

Little Brother is a dangerous book. Stop reading this and go read that instead. Right now! I can see why this was nominated for Best Novel of ’09. It is one of the best books I’ve read this year. Forget that it’s YA. This book rocks. But if you want to be seen as a responsible adult (say, if you’re a teacher) NEVER recommend it to your students or teens. It is subversive and smart and cool. It should be standard reading for any teen who uses a computer. Great book. I finished it in two days, and inspired to do ll this fun research now. A must for any hacker or tech geek. You’ve been warned.

Anathem                                                            9-9-09                                                  Neal Stephenson

Despite its intimidating heft, I took the plunge and read Stephenson’s latest masterpiece. Wow! The story takes place on Arbre, an Earthlike planet, but not Earth itself. This allows Neal to make pointed social commentary on many things that also bug me, but since it’s not Earth, no one can take offense. He’s not complaining about CEOs jabbering away on their cell phones in cars. He’s complaining about “extras” jabbering on their “jeejahs” in “fetches.” That is just the tiniest smidgeon of what makes this book so cool. The astronomy, math, philosophy, and other ideas he uses are all explained easily and the reader only learns what is needed for the story.
The story itself takes place on a grand scale. I had no idea it would end up like it did. I also love the sense of history. One gets the feeling that Earth would be like this, if only we had the Avout keeping better records the whole time. The characters are great too. His worldbuilding is astounding. Get past how long the text is and give it a try. It will be the most challenging, and satisfying thing you read in a long time.

The Book of Coffee and Tea                9-10-09                                   Joel Schapira

This was a fascinating and well written look into all aspects of coffee and tea. I really enjoyed all the cool behind the scenes stories of how coffee was spread across the globe. This book has also had a consequence of making me into a coffee snob though, so watch out. I enjoy it much more and know which kinds to look for. A great read for any coffee/ tea enthusiast.

The Edge of Evolution                             9-12-09                                         Micheal J. Behe

This was a good book that offers scientific proof that evolution can only account for so much advancement in this vast world we live in. It is very technical though. Maybe that’s why I stopped halfway through. I got the main point early.

The Huffinton Post’s complete guide to blogging             9-22-09                the editors of HuffPost

Great book for someone new to blogging. It has many nice tips for the veteran blogger as well. My only complaint is that the second half of the book extols the virtues and accomplishments of The Huffington Post.

The House of Suns                                9-28-09                                               Alastair Reynolds

Alastair Reynolds takes normal sci-fi conventions and flips them on their head. Oh! A normal story takes place in the span of a few hundred years? Try six million! I love that Reynolds was an astrophysicist so that his science is hard and true…for the most part. At least plausible. This was a great story and had some great characters. I still like Chasm City better, but not by much.

The Graveyard Book                              9-29-09                                                        Neil Gaiman

A very fun book to read on a dreary day. I loved the odd story, and all the little English slang that you don’t find in American books. Like most YA fiction, it only took me an evening and a day to read. The characters were pretty well developed for being a young adult book. I’m looking forward to the further adventures of Bod, if there are any more to come.

The Road                                             10-11-09                                             Cormac McCarthy

The Road is beautiful in its desolate prose, ugly in its lack of punctuation, and compelling in its tale of human survival against all odds. A haunting book that leaves nightmares as a consolation, and dessicated corpses as comfortable decoration. Those who cannot imagine feasting on human flesh out of pure desperation, will find this book squeamish at best. Excuse me while I go stock up on canned goods…

Snoopy’s guide to the writing life            10-15-09                                                Barnaby Conrad

This book was interesting in that it has short essays by famous authors about writing, but I have read many other books on writing that were far better.

Green                                                  10-23-09                                                           Jay Lake

Pretty interesting book. Slow in some parts, very fast in others. Jay’s writing style is very easy to get into though, and Green is a cool character that makes you want to see how everything turns out with her. The world Lake invents is crazy. I’m kind of looking forward to a sequel. It’s also fairly smexy, in a classy way.

Start & Run a Real Home-based Business         10-24-09      Dan Furman

This was a well-written (it better be since he’s a professional business writer) book dealing with the pitfalls and best practices of running a home business. Very useful, practical info.

The Areas of my Expertise    10-27-09                                      John Hodgman

This book was funny, but not as funny as I thought it would be. I like John Hodgman in his appearances on The Daily Show, & thought I knew his quirky humor, but there were only a few times that I really laughed out loud.

Bitter Angels                                         11- 15-09                                                 C. L. Anderson

I didn’t finish this. It was overdue and I just didn’t care enough to renew it. The plot didn’t draw me in and I couldn’t relate to any of the characters. Blah.

Dumbheart                                                 11-25-09                                                Darby Conley

Another great Get fuzzy collection. I laughed out loud many times reading this, even in public. Bucky still loves monkeys, Satchel battles for animal rights, and Rob just deals with the maelstrom of chaos.

The Zombie Survival guide                      12-12-09                                                      Max Brooks

A very thorough guide for what to do when the zombie apocalypse happens. This is a good guide for any big disaster, but adding undead ghouls to the mix makes it even more fun. I loved reading this and now have quite a large shopping list for zombie killing supplies.

501 things to do if you dare                    12-25-09                                                     Ben Malisow

A cool list of dangerous stuff to try. I immediately got out a pen and started checking off things I’ve already done. I think I’m over 150 at least.

I think overall, I most enjoyed discovering the “Jump 225” (infoquake) series, the “Virga” (Sun of Suns) series, and Toby Buckell’s books. Other notable books were Ficiones, Nickled & Dimed, Freakonomics, Little Brother, and the Zombie Survival Guide  .

Nephilim

a novel

By Dan Mumford

 

The screen flickered to life, showing blips and graphs. Six different sets of vital signs sprang into focus. Tom watched the soldiers they belonged to move about the small room through the feeds in their headset cams, preparing equipment and re-checking their gear. Sun shone in from a window onto a bare dirt floor. Little swirls of dust swished about the room as the team readied themselves for the upcoming operation. (more…)

I wish you a fun day of chaos and mayhem. For a fun look back at some of my previous costumes, check here.

National Novel Writing Month starts tomorrow. I think I’m ready for the challenge of writing 50,000 words in a month, but please check back here occasionally and give me some encouragement, or scorn if I appear to have given up. Cheers!

NaNoWriMo 2009

Posted: September 30, 2009 in Books, sci-fi, writing
Tags: , ,

So I decided to do NaNoWriMo 2009. What is it, you may ask? National Novel Writing Month. All November long, I’ll be churning out content. Then I’ll have a rough first draft at the end of it. I have three potential novels I could write during that time. We’ll see how it turns out!

I have a weird mental checkbox that I feel must be filled for me to be a successful writer. I must own a tweed jacket with leather elbow pads. I know what you’re thinking, “Yup, that’s pretty weird.” and “Didn’t he already write a whole novel without this magical elbow padded jacket?”

Well I have good news to report. I am now a successful writer. The other day, I filled in said mental checkbox by purchasing the perfect tweed jacket at the Thrifty Shopper. It was $6.99, but it had a purple tag, so it was 40% off. Not that this makes a difference, but my Mom saw that it was an Evan-Picone and speculated that it was quite pricey. So I got a $150 sports jacket for $4.19. Sweet.

Tweed Jacket

But back to the main point. Why would I feel the need to own a tweed jacket with leather elbow pads in the first place; and, have it be connected with a successful writing career? The short answer is: I don’t know. The long answer is: Maybe at some point I associated some famous/ favorite author of mine with this style and it made an impression on me. The only one that jumps to mind is J.R.R. Tolkien, but I can’t be sure he owned one of these style monstrosities. I just have this vision in my head of a venerable novelist sitting in front of an audience to give a reading. Maybe he is sitting in a leather chair, maybe a pipe sits on a separate marble end-table with cherry flavored smoke idly twirling through the air. He finishes the reading and people are clapping wildly. The leather elbow pads squeak against the rich red leather of the armchair as he gets up to acknowledge their praise. I suppose this is my yardstick for writing success. If that’s true, I’ll be waiting a long time. Thoughts?

There are certain phrases that really irk me. Sometimes they really irk my wife, so If I am not also irked to the same degree…she becomes irked with me too. So, there are some phrases that irk me. One of the worst offenders is: Whole nother. As in: “We made it down the mountain in one piece, but what happened at the campsite is a whole nother story!” This is wrong. Period. Full stop.

“But it’s colloquial!” You’ll say. No. It’s colstupidal is what it is. Why not just say:  “We made it down the mountain in one piece, but what happened at the campsite is a another whole story!” Or just say, “another story” and forget the whole.

I can’t say why this gets to me so much, but it does. I’ll have more grammer/ phrase rants soon. What are some of yours?

This is just a quick life update. I am now a stay at home dad for two days a week. The others are spent doing projects around the house that we haven’t had time to do in the last few years. Like: ripping down the wall between the kitchen and dining room, replacing broken window panes, stripping paint, fixing the leaky basement, etc.

I have received 3 rejections from agents about their interest in my novel so far. I’m waiting on 2 more. I may start sending it out to publishers too, but I’d rather have an agent first.

I’m starting on my last semester of classes for my A.S. in Business from OCC. I like my guitar class the best so far. I know how to play, and have for years, but it’s fun remembering all the old Metallica songs I used to know and jamming with the other advanced students.

The toddler is adapting well to his first major life transition: Mom at work, he’s in daycare or with me, I’m gone at night at class. That’s it for now

My life is going through some rather large changes at the moment. The biggest of these is that I have just given my two weeks notice at my job that I have had for the better part of a decade. Yes, after nearly ten years, it is time for me to go. So…I’m crazy right? I just quit my job in a terrible economy. My wife is also not working. We have a one year old who still needs to eat. What am I doing?

Who knows? I just knew I could not stay at my job any longer. What started as a great career leading groups through a ropes course, being outside and working with my hands, has led to me sitting behind a desk for 8.5 hours a day, filling out government forms and shuffling papers around. Enough was enough.

While I am not naive enough to think that I can make it as a professional writer (seeing as how I’ve not been paid for one single word I’ve written so far) I still hope to get my novel published. I’m sending it out to agents right now. That would be super cool. But it will continue to be a side hobby until it really pays off.

I imagine I will just do odd jobs until I can find one I really like. I always liked working with my hands, but I don’t have a trade, per se. I can do carpentry, but I wouldn’t call myself a carpenter. If you have a specific set of skills, you will almost always have a job available to you. But I don’t like my skills as a Workers Comp and Disability form filler-outer. I want something new. I am blessed with a smart wife with a good job, so I can afford to take a little time to look for just the right fit for me. I will also be finishing my Associates Degree in Business this December from OCC. This will help me if I ever want to get another desk job, which at the moment, I do not.

The other big change, or area of weakness on the fault line of change, is church. Ahh church. The peaceful serene escape from our worldly life and a bright shining respight from our toils on Sunday morning. Yeahhhh, or not. There are several issues that we are dealing with, but the biggest of these is childcare/ nursery. To make a long story short, our congregation was kicked out of the building we had used for over a hundred years by the Episcopal church. We are now in a storefront space. The people who own the space are very gracious and are letting us have church there for free. The space next door is available with the same situation. However, it was never meant to be a baby-safe nursery. There are big metal bookshelves with exposed edges, a carpet that is so dirty it turns Andrew’s knees black when he crawls on it, and a door leading out to a busy street that a baby can push open and crawl out of.

Due to many factors, we don’t see this situation improving much, so we are kind-of looking around at other churches right now. The sad thing is, we like the service and the teaching there. But there are other issues I won’t write about here that contribute to the fact that we are looking elsewhere.

So I will soon be out of a job, and possibly going to a new church. Big changes.

My first rejection

Posted: August 4, 2009 in Books, writing
Tags: , , ,

So now I’m officially a writer. I’ve received my first rejection from an agent.

Thanks for your query, but I’m sorry to say I’m not the right agent for your book. I wish you the best of luck in your search for representation.

You may ask why I post my old school papers on my blog. Well, because I wrote them and I’m proud of my writing. Even if I wrote them when I was 17 and they’re about stories or books people haven’t read before. I was surprised that a piece I wrote about Jordan Baker in “The Great Gatsby” is one of my most popular posts. The popularity peaks around when finals are due, so I finally got the correlation. I now have a blurb about how plagiarizing is wrong at the top. Anyway, I figure that I spent a week or so researching a paper in high school, so I may as well share that bit of writing with others. If people want to copy it, that’s on them. I am flattered to be used as a source, but don’t condone cheating. One might argue that it’s similar to giving away guns while saying you’re against murder. The thing is, if I took my time to handcraft a beautiful weapon, I would want to share it. A gun can just as easily provide a family with food as kill someone, but the manufacturer shouldn’t be blamed for other people’s choices. I understand that this is a limited argument. A well written essay is usually written for a good reason, whereas assault rifles are made, not for hunting deer, but killing people. Cigarettes are another example of an item that is manufactured for a less than healthy purpose. This is a case where one might hold the maker to some standard of responsibility for their actions.

Wow that got off track. Anyway, enjoy my old essays. And remember, if you plagerize, you’re only cheating yourself.

Dan Mumford                                                                                                            3-1-04

Western Civ. 103                                                                            A Journey Through Time.

You watch with detached curiosity as the scientist is making his preparations. Amid the transistor coils and laser defragmenters, you make out a form huddled over a keyboard and hear a voice saying, “Ready?”  In 5…4…3…2… Zap! (more…)

Glasgow

Posted: June 15, 2009 in Scotland, writing
Tags: , ,

Glasgow

By Dan Mumford

Dr. Karen Dhanda

3-29-04

Glasgow, Scotland is a city that has withstood the ravages of time, war, fire, epidemics, class struggle, and economic collapse to emerge as one of Britain’s premier cities in all respects. From its meager beginnings as a fishing village on the river Clyde, Glasgow used its position on the west coast of Scotland to trade with the American colonies and jumpstart its own industrial revolution. (more…)