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Friday, June 29, 2012

eBook Review: The Great Sphinx of Amun-Ra by Herbert Smith

I must say, reading The Great Sphinx of Amun-Ra was likely one of the oddest experiences I've had all year. Herbert Smith first came to my attention as part of the Pump Up Your Book tour, and I was quite eager to give his tale a read. Unfortunately, the book had not arrived in time for my stop on the tour, so Herbert stopped by instead with a guest post. When the book finally did arrive, it was a printed manuscript, complete with a handwritten note from Herbert apologizing for the fact that he wasn't able to staple it.

Somehow, reading the story like that, flipping through loose leaf pages, with no cover or binding surrounding it, seemed to orient me in the experience of the story. I rather felt like an archaeologist myself, perusing a colleague's loose collection of extensive notes, preparing myself for the next morning's dig.

The Great Sphinx of Amun-Ra is a collection of short stories covering more than 7000 years of human history. Blending fact, fiction, mythology, and archaeological theory, Smith explores the origins and the evolution of what we know today as Egypt. Through his eyes we see not just how the people and legends evolved, but how the very landscape changed throughout the years. What I found most interesting, however, was the way in which the Egyptian creator-god Amun-Ra remains dominant throughout the stories. Even though Smith works in various Biblical personages and events, it is Amun-Ra who continues to speak to his people, never giving way to the voice of a Judeo-Christian or Muslim god.

In addition to the voice of Amun-Ra, two things link these stories together - the staff of Amun-Ra (which I'm thinking would make a great MacGuffin for the next Indiana Jones adventure), and the Great Sphinx (who we see evolve from his lion ancestry to the human face we know today). While the shift in characters and stories seemed a bit awkward at first, once you accept Amun-Ra as a character of the story, and not just a mythological concept, you begin to detect the overall narrative flow.

If you have any interest in the history of Egypt, and don't mind being educated while you're entertained, then this is a great story to explore.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

TGIF - Feature & Follow Friday

Feature & Follow Friday is a blog hop that is designed to provide some much-appreciated exposure to the bloggers participating, and to expand their following. Hosted by Parajunkee and Alison Can Read, each of whom feature a chosen blog for the week, it's an interesting way to get to know one another.

Question of the Week: Birthday Wishes -- Blow out the candles and imagine what character could pop out of your cake...who is it and what book are they from?

A very timely question, since my birthday is this weekend. I could go for the cheesy answer and pick an impossibly beautiful urban fantasy heroine, all decked out in leather and latex, but I'm going to be a bit more creative and go with Matrim Cauthon from The Wheel of Time. I figure, since it is my birthday and all, he can save me the suspense and let me know how A Memory of Light ends. :)

Parajunkee also hosts a Social Hop for Facebook and Twitter, which I regularly take part in. So, if you're one of those people who aren't on Blogger, or who just don't like Google Friend Connect, it's a great way to keep in touch and follow one another.

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TGIF is another blog hop designed to provide much-appreciated exposure to the bloggers participating, and to expand their following. Hosted by GReads, it's an interesting way to recap the week, pose a question, and find some exposure with a different audience.


Question of the Week: 
Best I've Read So Far - We're half way through the year (crazy how time flies!), which top 3 books are the best you've read so far this year?

Let's see, I guess my top 3 reads of the year-to-date would have to be Shadowrise by Tad Williams, The Scar by Sergey & Marina Dyachenko, and The Cannibals of Candyland by Carlton Mellick III.

Canada Day Blog Hop GIVEAWAY


Good day, eh? Welcome to the 2nd Annual Canada Day Blog Hop, co-hosted by our fellow Canucks over at Snowdrop Dreams of Books, Rabid Reads, and Stitch Read Cook.

Each blog participating in the hop has their own unique Canadian themed giveaway to offer. Here at Beauty in Ruins I have put together a multi-purpose giveaway, open to US/Canada mailing addresses.

Going with the theme of Canadian authors, I have paperback copies of the 2 most important works in Canadian fantasy to give away - The Summer Tree (The Fionavar Tapestry, Book 1) by Guy Gavriel KayGardens of the Moon (Malazan Book of the Fallen, Book 1) by Steven Erikson:


Also, since this weekend is my birthday, and since we are likely to celebrate 300 followers by Canada Day, I am also tossing in paperback copies of 2 of the most important works in Canadian science fiction - Survival (Species Imperative, Book 1) by Julie E. CzernedaValor's Choice (Valor Confederation, Book 1by Tanya Huff:



Entry and Eligibility:
To enter, simply fill out the Rafflecopter form below. Remember, there are extra chances to win for following Beauty in Ruins on Facebook or Twitter, and for adding me as a friend on Goodreads. The giveaway is open to all US/Canada mailing addresses. The giveaway is open until midnight on July 1, 2012.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

There are tons of other Canuck blogs participating, so don't stop here - hop through and enter for all the giveaways available!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Waiting On Wednesday: Clockwork Angels by Kevin J. Anderson

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill over at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

This week's pre-publication "can't-wait-to-read" selection is:

Clockwork Angels by Kevin J. Anderson

A remarkable collaboration that is unprecedented in its scope and realization, this exquisitely wrought novel represents an artistic project between the bestselling science fiction author Kevin J. Anderson and the multiplatinum rock band Rush. 

The newest album by Rush, Clockwork Angels, sets forth a story in Neil Peart’s lyrics that has been expanded by him and Anderson into this epic novel. In a young man’s quest to follow his dreams, he is caught between the grandiose forces of order and chaos. He travels across a lavish and colorful world of steampunk and alchemy with lost cities, pirates, anarchists, exotic carnivals, and a rigid Watchmaker who imposes precision on every aspect of daily life. 

The mind-bending story is complemented with rich paintings by the five-time Juno Award winner for Best Album Design, Hugh Syme. (September 1, 2012)

Okay, I'm gonna let my inner Canadian geek out here . . . it's a novel based on the strongest Rush album in years . . . this one may as well be required reading. :)

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

GUEST POST: Beginning to Remember by Anderson O’Donnell

Beginning to Remember by
Anderson O’Donnell

There’s no question that, both as individuals and as a collective society, our attention spans have narrowed. We bounce from one shiny new diversion to another, forgetting much of our past in the process. New buildings are thrown up on top of old ones; we can’t even spare the time or the expense to give our history a proper burial.

In my new biopunk thriller, Kingdom, I tried to address this cultural amnesia by creating a city that is devouring itself: Tiber City, the dystopian capital of my fictional universe, is in a constant state of “progress” that allows its denizens no time for reflection or contemplation. New businesses rise and fall almost overnight; entire alleyways vanish—or perhaps they are forgotten. No one can remember, but, without question, they’re gone.

At some point, this process becomes almost autonomous; there is a sense that Tiber City is somehow not only sentient, but, driven by a dark energy, is intent on perpetuating our societal ADD.


I’ve been looking forward to my tour stop at Beauty in Ruins because I knew BiR’s audience would be sympathetic to the idea that landscapes, that monuments and ruins, can project a certain power, an energy that captures the imagination. Tiber City is that kind of place. But this is also a city without a soul that seems intent on exerting its will over its people. There are parts of the city, however, that still hold mystery and wonder; places that were constructed with care and vision and lie in patient repose. In fact, the fate of Kingdom’s protagonist rests of his ability to navigate these ruins, and understand their secrets.

Below you’ll find a short excerpt from Kingdom, a paragraph that describes Tiber City and its descent into cultural amnesia.

Reaching the exit, Campbell pulled open the steel door that marked the camp’s main entrance. Like much of Tiber City, the old warehouse—the basement levels of which held Camp Ramoth—had been hastily constructed to satisfy an immediate need and then forgotten, money, politics, and power always pushing forward, need begetting need begetting ever more need. Consequently, rather than taking the time and the money to tear buildings down, these structures were buried alive, fresh concrete and steel poured over the still-viable structures. When the money dried up, these new buildings—little more than heaps of cheap material slapped together atop uneven foundations by strangers, by men who were not from these neighborhoods, by men who couldn’t care less—began to crumble. And when they did, no one gave a shit because the goal had never been sustainability; turn a profit and move on was the fundamental philosophy. Structure began cannibalizing structure, and as the foundations of the newest buildings collapsed, older, forgotten buildings were unearthed. As a result, the Jungle’s geography was forever changing as the slums rose up to reclaim the land, prefab material no match for the infinite patience of time.


Thank you for taking the time to read this post. And a huge thanks to Beauty in Ruins for allowing me to hijack valuable blog space.

Cheers,
Anderson

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The Kingdom
by Anderson O’Donnell

In a secret laboratory hidden under the desert, a covert bioengineering project--codename "Exodus"--has discovered the gene responsible for the human soul.

Somewhere in the neon sprawl outside the nation's collapsing economic core, a group of renegade monks are on the verge of uncovering a secret that has eluded mankind for centuries.

In a glittering tower high above the urban decay, an ascendant U.S. Senator is found dead--an apparent, yet inexplicable, suicide.

And in the streets below, a young man races through an ultra modern metropolis on the verge of a violent revolution....closing in on the terrible truth behind Exodus--and one man's dark vision for the future of mankind.

Welcome to Tiber City.



Monday, June 25, 2012

Paperback Review: Riptide by Preston and Child

I can't remember the last time a book frustrated me so often, and so deeply, yet still managed to be so much fun. If only Preston and Child could have devoted the same amount of attention to character building as to treasure hiding, this could have been a stellar read. What frustrates me is that I know they can do it. Agent Pendergast is one of the greatest characters being written today, and they usually manage to surround him with a solid cast of strong, intelligent, well-rounded characters. Here, however, they seem to have gotten lazy, trusting in the technical and adventurous thrills to deflect attention away from their weakest point - the human element upon which, unfortunately, the entire climax is so precariously perched.

What initially drew me to Riptide was it's fictionalization of the Oak Island treasure hunt. I mean, really, what Canadian kid hasn't dreamed of being the first to discover just what is buried on the small, Nova Scotia island? All the historical elements are here, from the succession of failed digs, to the flagstones and timbers, to the uncontrollable flooding of the pit. In moving the island to the coast of Maine, Preston and Child also up the stakes, incorporating a series of gruesome deaths into their story, and inventing Edward Ockham to take the place of Blackbeard and Captain Kidd as the pirates behind the treasure.

It's here that they truly shine, not only adding some interesting narrative depth to the history of the pit, but also devising a really clever explanation for it's construction. Incorporating the natural flaws, caverns, and sinkholes of the real Oak Island into their pirate traps, they also weave in elements of historical architecture to hold it all together. The investigation and analysis of the island is sound, and even if you know it can't be that easy, you really do expect the treasure hunters to succeed with each new solution. Preston and Child also know just how long to prolong the suspense, making each successive failure work to draw the reader in, without ever pushing him away in exasperation.

For some reason, though, Preston and Child can't just be content with a treasure of buried gold and jewels. Instead, they have to invent a mystical artifact in St. Michael's Sword, and make that the focus of the treasure hunt. The whole sword idea just feels odd and out-of-place, right from the start, and it's wielded so awkwardly, you have to wonder if either of them really knew what to do with it. Ultimately, it provides a far too easy, far too convenient explanation for the curse, and one that is mishandled badly. I can't count how many times I wanted to reach into the book and slap a character for not seeing the obvious. Really, with all these doctors, scientists, and ex-military personnel involved, how did nobody else figure it out? Had just one of them turned on the damned piece of equipment Preston and Child went to such lengths to draw our attention to early on, the mystery would have been solved.

That brings us back to the characters. Their stupidity notwithstanding, they are a pretty solid bunch of characters for about two-thirds of the book . . . and then the laziness sets in. For no other reason than it makes for an action-packed climax later on, 
Captain Neidelman is suddenly rewritten to be this crazy, paranoid, homicidal maniac who will stop at nothing to attain St. Michael's Sword. Not only that, but his second-in-command is inexplicably transformed into a mindless brute of a henchman. Toss in an awkwardly placed preacher who exists primarily to bash you over the head with the "greed is bad" message, and you've got a climax that has deus ex machina written all over it.

Had they left St. Michael's Sword out of the equation, and been content to let the pirates (and their treasure pit architect) be the villains of the story, this could have been a fantastic read. All of the elements were there for it to succeed, if only Preston and Child could have resisted the temptation to tack on such a heavy-handed bit of mystical nonsense and moralistic messaging. Despite all that, it still managed to be a fun read, and one that I'd happily recommend as a mindless beach read - with an emphasis on mindless.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

TGIF - Feature & Follow Friday

Feature & Follow Friday is a blog hop that is designed to provide some much-appreciated exposure to the bloggers participating, and to expand their following. Hosted by Parajunkee and Alison Can Read, each of whom feature a chosen blog for the week, it's an interesting way to get to know one another.

Question of the Week: If you could “unread” a book, which one would it be? Is it because you want to start over and experience it again for the first time? Or because it was THAT bad?

I'd love to forget The Last Battle. I was reasonably fond of the Chronicles of Naria, right up through The Silver Chair. That WTF ending, though, so thick with Lewis' religious propaganda that you could cut it with a sword . . . it's the only time I've ever thrown a book in the trash.

On the positive side, I'd be curious to forget Pet Semetary and give it a fresh read, not from the perspective of a young boy graduating from YA fiction, but as a father with a child not much younger than Gage. I suspect it's impact would be far different now than it was then.

Parajunkee also hosts a Social Hop for Facebook and Twitter, which I regularly take part in. So, if you're one of those people who aren't on Blogger, or who just don't like Google Friend Connect, it's a great way to keep in touch and follow one another.

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TGIF is another blog hop designed to provide much-appreciated exposure to the bloggers participating, and to expand their following. Hosted by GReads, it's an interesting way to recap the week, pose a question, and find some exposure with a different audience.

Question of the Week: Have you ever contacted an author you admired? How did that experience go? If not, which author would you love to have a chat with?

I've had some interesting email conversations with authors I've certainly come to admire, but I can't say I've ever had the chance to connect with any of my old, long-time favourites. If I had the chance to sit down and chat, I'd be looking to invite the likes of authors who are just as interesting for their past or side careers as for their writing - Clive Barker, Douglas Preston, and Clive Cussler.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

eBook Review: Waiting For Daybreak by Amanda McNeil

"What is normal?"

It's a good question, and one you'll never look at quite the same way again after reading Amanda McNeil's Waiting For Daybreak. Taking her inspiration from  I Am LegendAmanda offers up a first-person exploration of the last human being on Earth scenario . . . but then ups the stakes with a narrator who was already asking the question "What is normal?" long before the world devolved into a mass of angry, violent, brain-eating zombies.

Frieda is a young woman with a borderline personality disorder, one that causes dissociative fugues where she becomes angry and violent, and leaves her with no memory of her actions later. As if that weren't enough, she also suffers from anxiety and depression, often resorting to self-harm in order to alleviate the psychological pain. Despite that, Amanda portrays her more as quirky than crazy, establishing her as a very likeable, extremely sympathetic character. It quickly becomes clear that her personality (and the isolation it imposes upon her) is largely responsible for her being spared from the outbreak.

The first half of the novel is like a diary of her survival. We learn about how she's fortified her apartment, how she's cultivated balcony and rooftop gardens, and how she deals with the Afflicted (i.e. zombies) who get too close. We also get to explore a bit of her back story through her memories and musings on the last few days of her life before the outbreak. Where the story takes an interesting twist is when her cat, her sole source of companionship, becomes ill. Forced to embark on a dangerous scavenging mission to the veterinary hospital across town, Frieda leads us on a frantic chase through the ruins of the city, confronted more than once by the hungry, only to discover there's at least one other human being left alive.

The second half the novel then becomes something of a post-apocalyptic love story. It's an interesting and awkward romance, one that you want to succeed for Freida's sake, but which you just know in your gut can't end well. Convenience and desperation are never a solid foundation for a relationship, and when both lovers suffer from their own issues with depression . . . well, the potential for disaster looms large. This is where Amanda really gets to the heart of the novel, using Freida and Mike to question just what is normal - pre and post apocalypse - and whether it's better (or, perhaps, easier) to just be like everybody else.

I won't spoil the ending, but it took a turn that quite surprised me, leading to an action-filled climax that worked exceptionally well. While I found it a little light on detail on some areas, and felt as if there were some secrets about Mike that were hinted at but never fully revealed, the writing is solid, the dialogue creatively engaging (even with Freida's silent cat), and the novelty of the personality issue alone definitely makes this worth a read.

Waiting On Wednesday: Seven Wonders by Adam Christopher

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill over at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

This week's pre-publication "can't-wait-to-read" selection is:

Seven Wonders by Adam Christopher

Tony Prosdocimi lives in the bustling Metropolis of San Ventura – a city gripped in fear, a city under siege by the hooded supervillain, The Cowl.

When Tony develops super-powers and acts to take down The Cowl, however, he finds that the local superhero team Seven Wonders aren’t as grateful as he assumed they’d be. (August 28, 2012)

I'm always up for a good superhero book, and with advance praise from novelists and comic book writers alike, this looks like a winner. I've already got the ARC in hand, so here's hoping it's a good one!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

FREE - Cinema of Shadows and The Exodus Gate

Not 1 but 2 - yes, count 'em, 2 - free Kindle releases this week from Seventh Star Press!

First of all we've got Cinema of Shadows by Michael West, a book I reviewed here:

Welcome to the Woodfield Movie Palace. The night the Titanic sank, it opened for business...and its builder died in his chair. In the 1950s, there was a fire; a balcony full of people burned to death. And years later, when it became the scene of one of Harmony, Indiana's most notorious murders, it closed for good. Abandoned, sealed, locked up tight...until now. Tonight, Professor Geoffrey Burke and his Parapsychology students have come to the Woodfield in search of evidence, hoping to find irrefutable proof of a haunting. Instead, they will discover that, in this theater, the terrors are not confined to the screen. 

But that, as they says, is not all! We've also got The Exodus Gate by Stephen Zimmer:

The Rising Dawn Saga begins with a prologue that calls to mind the imagery of Milton's Paradise Lost, and then introduces Benedict Darwin, the host of a popular late night radio show dealing with the paranormal and the things of myth, legend, and conspiracy. Benedict comes into possession of a virtual reality simulator that turns out to be something far greater, and far more dangerous than he ever expected.

Supernatural powers from the Abyss are aiding humans at the heights of political and economic power in a centuries-old movement called The Convergence. It is focused on bringing the world under one political and economic authority, one that erases borders between nations and governs all populations across the world.

A tale of courage, hope, and adventure, with fantastical realms and exotic characters, The Exodus Gate is a unique story that blends fantasy, science fiction, the paranormal, horror, and military thriller elements into a powerful voice within the realms of urban fantasy. 


Please share this link and spread the word!

GUEST POST: The Great Sphinx Of Amun-Ra by Herbert Smith

The name of the oldest civilization known to the modern world is Kmet, sometimes spelled Kemet (or other variations), although the original name in the original language would be transliterated as Kmt. Many eastern languages still are devoid of vowels, although some use a symbol to indicate where a vowel should be; the same symbol for all vowel sounds. That is the reason for different English spellings for Arabic words. For example, the word for a Nile sailing vessel that has come down to us from prehistory can be spelled as felucca – the spelling I use - or fulucca, or even felooka. There are any number of ways a word can be spelled in translation. It shows us that some of the sounds of languages are almost impossible to reproduce in English.

One of the most interesting words I know, the name of the nation of Qatar, is often pronounced as something close to “gutter” in English, but I lived in Qatar for a year, and the people there don’t say it that way at all. KAT-tar is the local rendition, although I probably missed some of the very subtle sounds within the word. That is often the case when attempting to pronounce words from other languages, our predilection toward English sounds limits our ability to hear things as they are actually, when they are subtly spoken.

There are some words that seem to have an ancient commonality. Once, when a neighbor who had come directly from the Assyrians of Eastern Europe, a refugee, was visiting at our house, she brought her three year old grandson who had not yet learned English. They spoke their native language at home, which they insisted was the original language of the human race. We had a large, gentle old cat, who strolled through the room, and the child was overjoyed to see it. “Gato!” he shouted gleefully. “Gato” is the word for cat in Spanish as well as Assyrian. Often the words for ‘mother’ and ‘father’ (or their more familiar forms of ‘mama’ and ‘daddy’ or ‘papa’) are similar in languages from all parts of the world, and other common use nouns reflect the same similarity. For some reason there are far fewer similar verbs than nouns. That could well reflect the idea that ‘personal’ names were in general use and of greater importance to ancient people than were the names of activities they carried out day by day, from which verb forms sprang. 

It was with the understanding that language could not express very much of what existed in a culture out of the ancient past, and that almost everything has been lost of that culture, that I started working on the first chapter of the novel. I wanted to construct a possible, realistic setting, and a living picture of the people of Nomo and their migration across the Sahara, by no means an easy feat, and set them up beside what was, for them, an impossible dream; an immense, never ending supply of water. As was common among ancient people, they had some idea that a god had created and controlled all things; an intrinsic knowledge of a power beyond their understanding, and they set out to honor that god with the best things they could offer. Their god was the sun, a logical conclusion for an ancient tribe, and they carried the worship of their god with them. He eventually became the great god, Amun-Ra, the sun god and creator god of the Pharaohs who existed in grandeur and nearly unlimited power in the minds of the ancients for three millennia.

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About the Book:


The Great Sphinx Of Amun-Ra
by Herbert Smith

What is the true age of the Great Sphinx of Giza? There is a lot of discussion and much controversy among Egyptologists concerning its origin, and no one has yet been able to find a date or inscription that will settle the dispute. The evidence, according to a large group of scientists, is the human visage of the statue. They believe it can be dated to the time of the Pharaoh Khafra (Khefren) who ruled about 4,500 years ago, by the style of the headdress the Sphinx wears. But the fact that the head is so much smaller in proportion to the body of the beast is, for many, a clear signal that the Sphinx was changed at that time, and the resulting theory is that the original appearance of the great stone lion was quite different. No one can determine the precise time the original statue was constructed. Some serious scientists have estimated that it may be 10,000 years or older.
The tiny colony of Nomo, far to the west of the Nile Valley, set out nearly 8,000 years ago to find a new home along the Great Water that some members of the tribe recalled from their young years. The Water lay many day’s distance across the treacherous sands of the Bab – the name they gave the Sahara Desert – and their exploration to find the water was a monumental task. But the explorers were successful and the tribe picked up all they could carry and resettled themselves beside the Great River, founding a village that grew into a town, and eventually into a nation, joining with many other tribes to form ancient Kmet, now called Egypt. They thrived there for millennia, growing and changing into a complex and sophisticated society ruled by Pharaohs, and became the builders of the mighty pyramids and temples that lie along the Nile, and creators of the greatest sculpture the world has ever seen: the mighty Sphinx of Giza.

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About the Author:

Herbert L. Smith has lived and taught in many different countries of the world, from Africa to South America, and has written about some of his posts in three books published since 2008: Cairo: The Mother Of The World, Crossing Borders, and his most recent, The Great Sphinx Of Amun-Ra. All these books are based in Egypt, where he lived in the 1990’s, and he has followed the evolution of Egypt continually since that time.
The first two books are travel memoirs, and The Great Sphinx Of Amun-Ra is a novel set in ancient as well as modern Egypt. It is a time-travel kind of experience, placing readers in pre-history as well as Cairo in 2012, which he knows well.

Smith has been a teacher since 1968, working in the U.S. as well as abroad. His subject as well as his interest is English Language, and he has taught primarily in Colleges and Universitiespreparing international students for academic work in English.

Other disciplines that attract his attention are music and history. He is a pianist, organist, and choirmaster, and a reader of history. He now lives in Eugene, Oregon where his writing and musiccontinue. A biographical novel that will eventually follow (in about two years) is titled David, The King.

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Check out the rest of Herbert's tour schedule over at Pump Up Your Book . . . and stop back later in the month for my review of The Great Sphinx Of Amun-Ra.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

TGIF - Feature & Follow Friday

Feature & Follow Friday is a blog hop that is designed to provide some much-appreciated exposure to the bloggers participating, and to expand their following. Hosted by Parajunkee and Alison Can Read, each of whom feature a chosen blog for the week, it's an interesting way to get to know one another.

Question of the Week: Happy Father's Day! Who is your favorite dad character in a book and why?

Since we're talking books I'll take a pass at the obvious - Darth Vader - and go with the dad who not only sticks best in my mind, but who always reminds me of my dad. I'm going with Calvin's dad from Calvin and Hobbes.



Parajunkee also hosts a Social Hop for Facebook and Twitter, which I regularly take part in. So, if you're one of those people who aren't on Blogger, or who just don't like Google Friend Connect, it's a great way to keep in touch and follow one another.

αωαωαωαωαωαωαω

TGIF is another blog hop designed to provide much-appreciated exposure to the bloggers participating, and to expand their following. Hosted by GReads, it's an interesting way to recap the week, pose a question, and find some exposure with a different audience.

Question of the Week: Most Valuable Book: From your personal collection of books, which ones hold the most value to you - is it signed by the author? or maybe it's your favorite story of all time? Share it with us.

No question - I have to go with my signed hardcopy edition of The Essential Clive Barker.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Waiting On Wednesday: The Dusk Watchman by Tom Lloyd

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill over at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

This week's pre-publication "can't-wait-to-read" selection is:

The Dusk Watchman by Tom Lloyd

Book Five of The Twilight Reign

After his pyrrhic victory at Moorview, King Emin learns the truth about the child Ruhen - but he is powerless to act. Instead, he must mourn his dead friends while his enemy promises the beleaguered peoples of the Land a new age of peace. The past year has taken a grave toll: the remaining Menin troops seek revenge upon Emin, daemons freely walk the Land, and Ruhen's power is increasing daily.

And yet, a glimmer of hope remains. There is one final, desperate chance for victory: a weapon, so terrible only a dead man could wield it, and only a madman would try. But if they do not grasp this opportunity, King Emin and his allies will be obliterated as Ruhen's millennia-old plans are about to bear terrible fruit. If his power continues unchecked, Ruhen will achieve total dominion - and not just over mankind, but over the Gods themselves.

One way or another, the future of the Land will be decided now - written in the blood of men. (August 30, 2012)

Yet another series I am woefully behind on - sometimes it just seems as if there aren't enough hours in the day! I'm hearing good things about the series from a few guys in the office, though, so I'll be making time for it soon.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

eBook Review: The Cannibals of Candyland by Carlton Mellick III

Sometimes you want to sit down and savour a literary meal, to indulge yourself in a four-course door-stopper of a novel that leaves you feeling comfortably bloated at satiated at the end. Then again, sometimes you just want to grab a narrative snack, to guiltily devour the sugary goodness of a candy-coated novella, preferably one that leaves you feeling just a little bit sick as you force down that last bite.

The Cannibals of Candyland is that perfect candy-coated treat.

Here we have an entire race of cannibalistic beings who have evolved from candy, in a land made of candy, surrounded by homes made of candy. It's a world where taste and smell trump physical appearance every time, where mates are taken for life, and where your original candy coating provides proof of virginity. There's no flesh in Candyland, just an infinite number of variations upon candy cotton hair, gumdrop eyes, marshmallow breasts, licorice limbs, and rock-candy teeth. Actually, there is a tiny bit of flesh in Candyland - all of it belonging to children stolen from the human world. After all, even people made of candy know that you can't live on candy alone.

Before we get to Candyland, though, we need to backtrack a bit. The story opens with a rather peculiar gentleman by the name of Franklin Pierce. He's a man with two wives (one of whom is his mother), both of whom revel in the opportunity to publicly cuckold him. He's a man with a flawed cybernetic brain, guaranteed to breakdown and drive him insane within the next few years. He's also a man who devoted his entire life to proving the existence of the candy people, ever since he watched them eat his siblings years ago.

I won't spoil the story by going into too much detail, but this is very much an Alice in Wonderland type story, except that Franklin goes through the candy dish instead of the looking glass. There is falls victim to a kind of Stockholm syndrome that sees him partially eaten, reconstructed with candy, and forcefully mated by the very same candy woman who ate his siblings. It's a rather twisted tale of the extent to which one man will go to ensure his revenge, but also a surprisingly sweet tale of the love to be found in the oddest flavours.

A quick read, filled with just enough sugary gore to delight even the most perverse of readers, it's a book that more than delivers on the promise of its concept.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Retro Saturday Geek-Out at the NFCC

So, we had a retro geek-out day today at the Niagara Falls Comic Con. Considering the convention first saw life last year as tiny ad-hoc affair, squeezed into the corners at Dave & Busters on Clifton Hill, the 27,000 square foot set-up at the Scotiabank Convention Centre was a pretty impressive full-scale debut.

Coming into the hall, the first thing we encountered was a trio of R2-D2 droids, followed by a pair of Stormtroopers.



On display at the back of the hall was the original Batmobile and (my personal favourite) Doc Brown's DeLorean.



We weren't about to pay $20 a pop for photos with any of the celebrities (apparently the wrestlers were charging $30!), but it was easy enough to snap a shot or two over somebody's shoulder.

Burt Ward (TV's Robin).

Robert Picardo (Voyager's holographic Doctor)

Gunnar Hansen (the original Leatherface)

Of course, there were a virtual plethora of comic book and collectible vendors, some with some amazing bits of nostalgia to offer. I was sorely tempted to blow my day's budget on this alien Visitor from the original 'V' miniseries, but somehow managed to keep my wallet in my pants.


Can't say I'd heard of the Dead Glamour Girlz before today, but I couldn't resist snapping this shot of them hanging out with a Ghostbuster.


The local cable television crew was on-hand, well into the spirit of things with a Princess Leia and a Bartman. Definitely an odd couple . . . but not the oddest we encountered.


Not sure why he was so popular, but there had to be at least a half dozen Boba Fett clones walking around, including an entire family of them.


Unfortunately, he'd run out of books for the day, but I did have a good chat with Wayne Mallows, author of Whitechapel Road. He's got a really interesting take on vampires, so I'm curious to give the first book of his trilogy a read.


On the vendor side of things, I really liked the clothing from Nekrotic (particularly their Ram Man shirt), and Bev Hogue's work really caught my eye. The ZombieBit.Me gang was pretty interesting, and the 40rty Grit work was fantastic.Oh, and we got a signed poster of Red Squirrel, so here's hoping Gordon gets his publishing deal and becomes a HUGE success!

All-in-all, a good day a good deal. Definitely looking forward to seeing what next year brings.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

TGIF - Feature & Follow Friday

Feature & Follow Friday is a blog hop that is designed to provide some much-appreciated exposure to the bloggers participating, and to expand their following. Hosted by Parajunkee and Alison Can Read, each of whom feature a chosen blog for the week, it's an interesting way to get to know one another.

Apparently I need to pay closer attention - this week is FF #100, with a massive list of giveaways. I missed out on joining the giveaway hop, but I'll definitely be looking for some good sites to visit and giveaways to win.

Parajunkee also hosts a Social Hop for Facebook and Twitter, which I've taken part in the past two weeks. So, if you're one of those people who aren't on Blogger, or who just don't like Google Friend Connect, it's a great way to keep in touch and follow one another.

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TGIF is another blog hop designed to provide much-appreciated exposure to the bloggers participating, and to expand their following. Hosted by GReads, it's an interesting way to recap the week, pose a question, and find some exposure with a different audience.

Question of the Week: If you could use existing characters from some of your favourite books to create a new story, who would be in it?

I'd bring together a few villainous hordes, just to mix 'em up and see what happens. Invited to the party would be Brian Lumley's Wamphyri, Clive Barker's Cenobites, Robert Jordan's Forsaken, and Terry Goodkind's Mord-sith (before Richard went and redeemed them).

eBook Review: Absolution by Louis Corsair

Louis Corsair's Absolution is an unusual novel, a 1940s pulp detective novel, transported to present day LA, and coloured with the trappings of an urban fantasy. It's an awkward mingling of genres that shouldn't work, but which he manages to pull off.

The story starts with a bang - literally - as Raymond Adams is shot dead in an investigation gone wrong. From there we're transported to a kind of limbo, complete with a supernatural attendant, before he's called upon to make a temporary return to the land of the living in order to investigate a supernatural death.

If I had one problem with the novel, it's that the mythology behind the tale (which is pretty heavy) is simply dropped on the reader. As a reader whose knowledge of all things spiritual pretty much begins with Dawkins and ends with Hitchens, I'm not sure how much of the mythology is canonical and how much is imagined, but I definitely felt lost for the first few chapters. Corsair offers enough tidbits for the reader to get by, but I do wonder if perhaps I missed something.

That one quibble aside, this is a story that works very well. There's just enough culture shock for Adams to ring true, without being too comical, and his deadpan gumshoe narration comes across as authentic. The range of characters is just as unsavoury as you'd expect from such a tale, complete with the proverbial stripper with a heart of gold to keep the detective on track. Jenn was definitely an interesting character, one who seemed to go along with all the weirdness a bit to easily, but who does get her WTF moment later on.

This is a genuine whodunit, an old fashioned mystery that keeps you guessing. The twists and turns are genuine ones, honestly presented to the reader as Adams comes in contact with them. There's no feeling that the author is holding back or cheating the reader, and the joy of working the case alongside Adams keeps the story going.

While there are some horrific moments, and some instances of questionable morals, Corsair is generally content to show and not tell. He's economical with his words, never wasting the narration on details that are not integral to the plot . . . or of interest to Adams.

All-in-all, an unusual novel that works better than I expected.

GUEST POST & GIVEAWAY: Louis Corsair (author of Absolution)

I’m very happy to be here as Bob’s guest! What I wanted to talk about is a subject that becomes all too visible within the first few sentences of my novel, Absolution: The language. Because the protagonist, Raymond Adams, lived in the 1940s he speaks a certain way. Some of you will be reminded of those black and white film delights from the Studio Era of Hollywood, with their sharp dialogue that sometimes sounds funny now--like the way the word “baby” is used in Double Indemnity. One of my test readers pictured Humphrey Bogart whenever Adams said anything.

If you look at newsreels from those days you’ll note that not everyone spoke like the star of a noir film. For stylistic reasons I exaggerated a few components of my character’s speech. So you have an assortment of nouns that not everyone in the 1940s used, like “dame,” which refers to a woman. The intent of this is to bring the character closer to the hardboiled background he comes from. Also, it is thematically relevant.

One of my novel’s themes is that everything in this era is pretending to be something it is not--synthetic fruit flavors, I can’t believe it’s not butter, meat flavoring, serial killers, etc. Since Adams is in this era during the events in the novel, he too is pretending to be something he is not. I won’t give away what that is here.

Altering the language for stylistic reasons is not an uncommon practice. Look at any novel by Mark Twain and you’ll see the narrator’s voice is as much a part of the landscape as are the characters. The technique is meant to give the reader a taste of a place they cannot visit, like England or the American South.

The key is not to overdo it.

This is horribly vague. What I meant is that when using a special dialect to bring to life a character’s speech and internal monologue, it would be problematic to do it in a way that confuses the reader. I know what you’re thinking, because I’m thinking it too: How can you possibly know what is going to confuse every reader on the planet? You can’t. I sure can’t.

Let me try again. There is no simple rule of thumb--no catchy phrase--or shortcut that will help the writer determine how much is too much. And if you hear someone tell you that there is one, you should run. It is a lie. Writer-instinct has to guide you while you write. The only way to develop this instinct is to read other works of fiction, better if they are similar to your novel or short story. There are other things that help too. That’s why test readers come in handy, but they are limited--there is no clear representation for an entire nation of readers.

My approach was to flower the First Person narration with tidbits that are recognizable as 1940s speech. He’ll call someone a sap or threaten to let his friend squirt led pills on you (shoot you with his gun) or dismiss you by calling you “kid.” I was also careful not to include modern speech.

Nothing kills a period piece like reading a character use a modern expression like, get a life or talk to the hand. Since Detective Adams is a walking period piece, it would have been awkward for him to say something like “I got this” or “shit happens.”

This is an enormous effort. It makes sense for me to have made some mistakes along the way. You’ll forgive those, I’m sure. The intent was to execute what I described above.

You’ll forgive me, right?

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: 
Louis Corsair is an eight year veteran of the United States Army. Currently, he lives in Los Angeles, CA and attends Long Beach State University. He also works at the Peninsula Center Library in Palos Verdes, where books have become his family. To him, writing is more than a hobby or a passion; it is the only way to exist—at times life itself.

The idea for Absolution came to him after watching news of a murdered Adult film actor in Hollywood.



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ABOUT THE BOOK:
Absolution by Louis Corsair:

In 1947, a gangster murders private investigator Raymond Adams. In 2011, he's brought back to life for 24 hours to solve the supernatural murder of a Hollywood Adult film star.

When the son of a Pit Lord is murdered in Hollywood, the celestial beings in charge of the Four Realms ask Raymond Adams to figure who did it and find the victim's missing soul. Without memories of his life, he accepts the case to gain eternal peace. But the job is daunting:

24 hours to nab a killer...
24 hours to find a missing soul...
24 hours to unravel the victim's exotic private life...
24 hours to stop a plot to send the universe into chaos...

With only the help of a possessed cop and a medium, Adams must trek through a Hollywood underground filled with pornography, prostitutes, the homeless, and sadists, along with supernatural monsters. But can he solve the case when his own haunting memories keep surfacing, telling him exactly what kind of man he was in life?

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TOUR AND GIVEAWAY:
Be sure to stop back later this morning when I post my review of Absolution. In the meantime, don't forget to check out the details of where Louis will be next . . . and be sure to enter the GIVEAWAY for a paperback of Absolution, a keychain, a bookmark, a magnet, a hat, a magnifying glass, and a pair of shades.


Oh, and don't forget - Absolution is only $0.99/£0.77 for as long as the tour lasts, so get your copy today!