Friday, November 28, 2014

There Is No Lovely End

There Is No Lovely EndThere Is No Lovely End by Patty Templeton
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Though this is not true, I picture every scene, in my mind's eye, as taking place at night. Is it the dreamlike quality of the writing? The Gothic accouterments of dark lace and midnight-blue frock coats? The absence of a veil, for some, between the living and the dead? Or the morbid edge to the humor that threads through the dialogue and the plot itself? Like any great book, it is this and more. It is the fact that Templeton has set up clear guide posts that allow my brain (encased in my skull, away from the light) to fill in the interstices with shadow. I have been engulfed by this book.

Of course, when I mention gallows humor and the dead, you will immediately think of director Tim Burton's work. This is a fair beginning, but only a beginning. There is much more going on between the pages here. There is pathos.

In particular there are two of the main plot threads that delve down into a level of emotion - serious emotion - that lifts the work beyond mere Burton-esque fare: 1) Hester Garlan's quest to kill her son Nathan in order to wrench back from him the gift of seeing and speaking with the dead and, 2) the haunting of Sarah Winchester.

There is a great deal to laugh about in this book. But these two narratives cause the reader not frisson, but an discomfiture that twists the heart. The psychological and physical abuse that Sarah Winchester is subjected to makes one cringe and yearn for her release. And when the hope of release seemingly comes, it is all the more devastating to see that the abuse has not ended, but merely undergone a transformation. It is still there, and Sarah Winchester is haunted by it.

Take also Nathan Garlan's predicament: Hester tried, after the unwanted child's birth, to sell him off to a man who was not his father. After spending his youth in a hellish orphanage, the young man grows to become one of the most respected mediums in the country. Little does he know that the woman who gave him life wants to take it from him again. And let's not forget that the boy, now a man, has a father, as well, a ne'er-do-well haunted by the (rather stupid) ghost of his own brother.

I would spoil the fun and the wonder of this book if I were to reveal more. It is beautifully written, well-plotted, and meaningful. Templeton breaks Burton's boundaries and expands them. This is a dark and vivacious work that, ironically, breathes new life into some of the old, tired tropes of Gothic literature and dark cinema. It is absolutely worth your time and your hard-earned cash. There is no lovely end to the praise I can heap upon this book. Go buy this little ebony box of mysteries and make it your own.

PS: In the interest of full disclosure, yes, I know the author. No, she did not gift me a copy of this book - I bought it with my own cash. She did not ask for a review, nor did I promise such a thing. What you see in this review is all that it seems - high praise for a highly praiseworthy work of fiction.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Angry Candy

Angry CandyAngry Candy by Harlan Ellison
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I had a very interesting conversation with editor Dave Hartwell at the World Fantasy Convention. We both agree that Ellison is a completely venomous human being with low standards of behavior who thinks he is much smarter than he really is. We also agree that when his game is on, he hits home runs. This is the case with Angry Candy, the best collection of his more experimental work. I would definitely rank it among the top twenty short story collections I've ever read, maybe even in the top ten. One thing that is not in question: the story "The Paladin of the Last Hour" is one of the best pieces of short speculative fiction ever written. Ever.

View all my reviews

Monday, November 10, 2014

World Fantasy, How Do I Love You? Let Me Count the Ways

  1. Finishing the draft of Solistalgia the day before I left for DC.
  2. I don't live in Illinois, Indiana, or Ohio, I only have to drive through them to get to you.
  3. I used to live in Pennsylvania. It is still beautiful, especially this time of year. Hail, Pitt!
  4. NPR had a bit on a magicians' library that I listened to on part of my drive. It was fascinating and gave me grist for the next novel.
  5. The Educated Goldfish.
  6. I don't have to live with DC traffic.
  7. There was a biker-veteran convention (Rolling Thunder) at the same time. How cool is that?
  8. Lots of books in the book bag. One of which I actually wanted!
  9. The World Fantasy Convention passport, which shrunk down what is usually an excessively-oversized program booklet into something literally the size of a passport. Well-played, WFC committee, well-played. 
  10. Ghost Stories Without Ghosts panel with Patty Templeton, et al.
  11. Patty signed my copy of her book with a ghost!
  12. Scribe Agency authors going to dinner after flashing devil signs, a-like so: 
  13. Many good foods. Indian, Thai, Fillipino, Japanese. Thanks for the weight-gain, WFC.
  14. Jeffrey Ford's reading. Wow.
  15. Watching the Badgers beat Purdue with Jim Minz. Go Bucky!
  16. Having some stranger at the Thai restaurant see my Badgers sweatshirt and say (with a smile) "Your team just got lucky". My response: "Oh, you're a Purdon't fan?" It's all in good fun, but seriously, they let these people into our nation's capital?
  17. Author signing, where I sold a few copies of Heraclix and Pomp and learned (directly from the reviewer) about this very, very positive review.
  18. Reconnecting with old friends whom I haven't seen for years, such as: Jeffrey Ford, Jeff and Ann VanderMeer, John Picacio, Jim Minz, Paula Guran, John Lawson, and a bevy of others. So many that I'm sure I've missed a dozen of you (for which I profusely apologize).
  19. Reconnecting with those I've seen not so long ago: John Klima, John O'Neill, Patty Templeton, Mark Teppo, Darin Bradley, Agent Kris, Jenn Brissett, Becky Johnson, etc.
  20. Meeting those with whom I've had virtual relationships, but only now met in person; mostly editors who have published my work but whom I hadn't had the pleasure to meet in person until now: Mike Allen, Matthew Kressel, Sheila Williams, and others.
  21. Meeting new-to-me and very talented people like Matt Wuertz, Russ Linton, Jeremy Zerfoss, and so on. Special props to dinner with Matt and regaling each other with old D&D stories, laughing our fool heads off the whole time. The waitresses didn't quite know what to do with us, I don't think.
  22. Selling some books.
  23. Drooling over more rare books than I will ever be able to afford in my lifetime, viz., everything Arkham House ever published and every hardcover put out by Tartarus Press.
  24. Very, very late nights where I was the only sober person within a three mile radius (I don't drink, but people I hang out with drink quite a bit).
  25. My sister-in-law and her husband, who let me crash at their place and come in at very odd hours of the morning.
  26. Everyone in attendance at WFC, except for that douchebag who thought it was okay to conduct a live interview in the freaking writer's retreat room that was reserved as a quiet space specifically to allow writers to WRITE. Some of us were actually in there to write, not to here your condescending drivel about how badly-behaved con-goers have become. Puke.
  27. Notre Dame, for losing their game. Jim and I high-fived each other more for that than for the Badgers' winning. I love WFC: I hate the golden domers. No, seriously, I do.
  28. Seeing Vincent Villafranca's amazing sculptures in person, along with the other amazing art on display at the art show. Lust, lust, lust.
  29. Hearing that Sofia Samatar's outstanding novel, A Stranger in Olondria won the World Fantasy Award.
  30. Heard another great story on NPR which will also feed into my next novel, at least thematically. Maybe I should just entitle this one "Thanks, NPR"!
  31. Seeing a billboard as I entered Indiana that said "Remember: Always Wear Your Life Vest" and thinking "Right now? While I'm driving?"
  32. Speeding, a lot, and not getting caught, which shaved about an hour off my travel time home.
  33. Listening to the radio as the Packers dismantled Da Bears.
  34. Avoiding Illinois drivers, who were on the other side of the road, coming back from pillaging my beloved Wisconsin one last time before winter sets in.
  35. Seeing home all safe and sound.
  36. Only one regret: Having missed the Demystifying Crowd Funding panel, because I had overslept that morning.
  37. Slowly remembering all the great things that I've forgotten that didn't make this list. Best World Fantasy Convention so far. Well done, WFC committee!

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Away for a Spell

I will be away for a week at the World Fantasy Convention in Washington DC. I hope to do up a full report when I get back.

In other news, I have completed the draft of my space operatic science fiction novel, Solistalgia. I will be moving on to another project to give my brain some breathing room before I go back to do some thorough edits, as well as continuing on with my top-secret RPG project.

See you on the other side!

Playing Surreal Games at Mystery to Me Books

I love to write, I love Madison, and I love games! I'll be combining these three loves of mine at Mystery to Me books in Madison on Friday, December 5th, from 7-9 PM. The clientele there likes audience participation, and audience participation they shall have! We will be playing several surrealist games, all meant to expand creativity and foster strangeness and fun, using the text of Heraclix and Pomp as a jumping-off point. If you're in the area, stop in, warm up, buy a few books, and have a great time! I look forward to seeing you there!