Saturday, May 14, 2016

Brainwash Them Young!

It has been a great couple of days for my family. On Friday the 13th my sons both had activities--Alex started a track meet with his school team and Anton's band (Anton and the Ants) held a concert at the Harbour Tap and Grill. The concert was great, and we got a call early on that Alex had won a gold medal in the 400 meters and was on his way to join us. When he arrived, the band called him up to sit in on drums for two songs. Now my wife and I had been begging our kids to play together for the past couple of years and they just never have, so this was the very first time we ever saw them play music together! I wish I had recorded more of the songs, since so many of them were great.

The next day was Anton's 18th birthday, and Alex had the rest of his track meet to contend with. He was in four more events--the long jump, the 100 meters, the 200 meters, and the 4 x 400 meter relay--and he won silver in all of them!
In the evening after cake and presents, we watched some old video from when the boys were very young, and we cracked up over this little bit of Alex singing Beatles songs. It reminds me that I instilled a love of great music into the boys from their earliest days, and that is paying off beautifully with their musical talent nowadays!

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Anton and the Ants - Live in Baku!

I'm so very proud of my two sons. At their school's Battle of the Bands a few months ago my oldest son's group won first place while my younger son's band took second. Besides the school bands, my older son Anton has another group made up of teachers from the school. They call themselves Anton and the Ants. Yesterday they did a concert at the Sunset Cafe here in Baku, doing about twenty songs for an appreciative audience. It was fun watching all the kids dancing around.
Advert for the concert
I didn't have anything to record with except my iPhone, so the quality of the couple songs I recorded isn't the best, especially since I was too close to the bass speaker and too far away from the guitar speaker, but I still think it sounds decent. Here is the group playing Iggy Pop's Real Wild Child.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Book Sale!

I kicked off a sale on two of my books today.

Lord Fish is a collection of short tales and for the next five days it is free. Please tell your friends who love fantasy or science fiction!

Here are the blurbs:

'Dragon Play': All their lives the group of young Vikings had heard of their clan's past glories, but all they have known is the terror of being relegated to living within the shadow of a dragon's mountain. When the chieftain's daughter finds an ancient scroll showing a hidden back entrance to the dragon's lair, she and her three friends decide to sneak in and retrieve the lost talisman that holds the luck of their clan. 

'Lord Fish' tells the tale of a newly-minted noble who meets his nemesis in Sir Brindor, the realm's most famous knight. Can the lowborn Lord Midas survive single combat against the deadliest warrior in history? 

In 'The Stolen Castle', Lord Midas pays a visit to the long-deserted keep granted him by his new liege lord. When his entrance is refused, Midas learns that a hedge knight has taken up residence. With only his squire to aid him, Midas must find a way to take back his rightful home. 

'Arrival' tells the tale of how a group of scientists from Earth first came to colonize the planet of New Eden...along with one unexpected guest.

And The Shard: Chronicles of Xax is a full-length novel that is on sale through April 11 for only .99. And here is its blurb:

A dying king. A mysterious invader. The seer's vision was clear: find the lost shard from the Spire of Peace or the realm would drown in blood. 

The problem: eight hundred years ago the elven hero Kathkalan took the shard with him into the lair of the most vicious dragon ever known to mankind...and he never returned. 

Reluctantly drafted to lead the quest is the minor noble Midas, torn between his duty to the realm and the desire to protect his sons. With an unlikely band of heroes, including two elderly rangers and a young tinker’s son, Midas must risk losing everything he loves if he is to locate the shard and save the Known Lands.

Please note that on the right-hand side of this page are direct links to each of my books. Thanks for getting the word out!

Friday, March 25, 2016

Fantasy vs Science Fiction

Having read both fantasy and science fiction from a young age, I've always assumed that those who are drawn to this type of story would generally like both. I mean, what's not to like? So it has been a bit of a shock for me to see that there is very little crossover between those who read and like one of my books in one genre versus the other. In other words, very few readers read both my fantasy and my science fiction, even if they really loved what I wrote.
Zoya from The Immortality Game. Art by Stephan Martiniere.
Is it really so unusual to like both fantasy and science fiction? What would make a person read a book in one of these genres, and if you like it not want to read books by the same author just because they are in the other genre? I loved the fantasy novels of Ursula Le Guin, so naturally I tried out her sci-fi novels. I do admit that so far I haven't loved them as much as the fantasy books, but I still tried them. Same thing with Richard K Morgan. I loved his sci-fi novels, so I tried out his fantasy books. They were pretty decent.

How about you? Do you like just one of these two genres and not the other and if so, why?

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Battle of the Bands

Anton and the Ants rock Baku!
I'm so proud of my two sons tonight. They both played in different bands at their high school's 'Battle of the Bands', and their groups took first and second place. It was a close thing, because both of them were so good, but my older son's group got the first place trophy and my younger son got second. Honestly, Alex--the younger--was the rockingest drummer of the evening, especially his outro on their second song.
 What is most amazing to me is that a year ago this time, Alex had never touched drums. He was good at piano but didn't seem to be in love with it, and when he watched the school performances last year, he simply decided he was going to be a drummer.

 Anton first played songs with his winning group (above), and then he played two rocking Beatles songs with the teacher's band (Back in the USSR and I Saw Her Standing There). His lead singer introduced him as 'Bass God'. I'm so proud of my talented boys!

Saturday, January 9, 2016

What I Read in 2015

At the end of each year I do a summary post of what I read throughout the year. I find it interesting to see my reading habits, and to make note of what the best books were each year. Last year's post shows that I read 52 books, and I did the same this year. I use a standard five star rating method with five stars meaning I loved the book so much I intend to re-read it throughout my life, so there are rarely any five star books. This year there were more five star books, but that was because I actually did reread a good number of books that I love.

1. So, Anyway by John Cleese ***
2. Abaddon's Gate by James S.A. Corey *****
3. The World of Fire and Ice by George R.R. Martin *** and a half
4. Prince of Thorns by Mark Lawrence ****
5. Convergence by Michael Patrick Hicks *** and a half
6. Factoring Humanity by Robert Sawyer ***
7. The Martian by Andy Weir *****

8. Characters and Viewpoint by Orson Scott Card **
9. The Bloody Crown of Conan by Robert E. Howard *****
10. The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian by Robert E. Howard *****
11. The Risen Empire by Scott Westerfeld *****
12. The Killing of Worlds by Scott Westerfeld *****

13. Joyland by Stephen King ***
14. The Long Walk by Stephen King *** and a half
15. Defiance by Lucas Bale *** and a half
16. Red Country by Joe Abercrombie ****
17. The Magicians by Lev Grossman ** and a half
18. A Fire Upon the Deep by Vernor Vinge *****

19. World of Trouble by Ben Winters *** and a half
20. A Shroud of Night and Tears by Lucas Bale *** and a half
21. Market Forces by Richard K. Morgan *** and a half
22. Sins of the Father by Anthony Vicino *** and a half
23. The Republic of Thieves by Scott Lynch ****
24. Joker One by Donovan Campbell **
25. Red Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson *** and a half
26. Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King ****
27. The Dark Between the Stars by Kevin Anderson *
28. Use of Weapons by Iain Banks **** and a half

29. Looking for Jake by China Mieville **
30. Cibola Burn by James S.A. Corey *****
31. A Dark Matter by Peter Straub **
32. Natchez Burning by Greg Iles *****

33. Time Heist by Anthony Vicino ****
34. Pandora's Star by Peter F. Hamilton ****
35. The Call of the Sword by Roger Taylor ****
36. The Fall of Fyorlund by Roger Taylor *** and a half
37. We Have Always Fought by Kameron Hurley **
38. The Conquering Sword of Conan by Robert E. Howard *****

39. Judas Unchained by Peter F. Hamilton **** and a half
40. Bran Mak Morn: The Last King by Robert E. Howard ***
41. The Death Factory by Greg Iles ***
42. The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula Le Guin *** and a half
43. A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula Le Guin *****

44. The Tombs of Atuan by Ursula Le Guin **** and a half
45. The Farthest Shore by Ursula Le Guin **** and a half
46. Tehanu by Ursula Le Guin *** and a half
47. Altered Carbon by Richard K. Morgan *****
48. Broken Angels by Richard K. Morgan *****
49. Woken Furies by Richard K. Morgan *****

50. Bran Mak Morn: Legion From the Shadows by Karl Edward Wagner ** and a half
51. Half Way Home by Hugh Howey **
52. The Magic Kingdom of Landover: Volume 1 by Terry Brooks ****

Monday, December 21, 2015

Nitpicking Star Wars: The Force Awakens

****Spoiler Alert - don't continue reading if you don't want any details to be spoiled****

My family went to see the new Star Wars yesterday, along with just about everyone else, it seems. We enjoyed it. It was certainly better than the horrid prequels (episodes 1-3). But other than the special effects, it wasn't as good as the original three. 

I could go into great detail about what I enjoyed about the movie (my favorite was the battle detritus on the desert planet, the ATT Walker and Star Destroyer and other wreckage strewn around), but instead I want to nitpick the issues I had with the movie. Why do this? Because of some vain hope that JJ Abrams might hear about the problems and actually agree with them and do something to fix them in the sequels!

So, in no particular order, here are the biggest flaws I saw in the movie:

  • If a trained swordsperson faces off against someone who has never held a sword in their life, it's going to be over in no time at all. It won't be a real fight. Yet, here we saw two such rookies hold their own to some degree and then one of them even beat the trained person, albeit with light sabers rather than swords, but it's the same principle. These fights should have been no contest, and having it actually go the way it did was absurd. The sad thing is, it could have been done realistically and still fit the story line well. Kylo Ren (the trained one) could have laughingly laid out Finn in a couple of seconds, merely wounding him and sneeringly leaving him alive while he then faced off with Rey. He then could have easily whipped Rey as well, but then her anger could have welled up in an enormous burst of pure Force rage (untrained, but it could have shown just how immense her talent with the Force is) and blasted Kylo. To me that would have worked better and actually felt realistic.
  • The Millennium Falcon just happening to be there on the desert planet with the supertalent Rey
  • The desert planet having to be exactly like Tatooine except with a different name
  • Han Solo just happening--in a whole wide galaxy--to be right there and find the Millennium Falcon. And if there was a tracking device on the ship, what kind of lousy tracker it must have been in such an advanced society to only work if the ship is powered on!
  • The whole fly down the trenches with tie fighters following you to blow up the death star-like ending. Why oh why did they have to go with a cliche here? There are so many cool things that can be done; you don't have to resort to doing the same things! Actually, this movie repeats all manner of elements of the original rather than try to actually be original itself.
  • Sucking up a star so nice and neatly? I don't think a star would behave so properly even if such a thing could be done.
  • The planet-destroying superweapon blasts off four beams and they somehow destroy four planets or moons that just happen to be right near where the main characters are, and by the way all of these moons or planets are all visible right near each other and all are habitable. 
  • The Supreme Leader Snoke looks pretty ancient, so where the heck was he a few decades ago when the Emperor and Darth Vader were running things? I'd have bought this better if he were younger and could have been an up-and-comer rather than believe that such a talent with the Force went completely under the radar back then.
  • Probably the number one worst aspect within the movie was that it rushed each stage. The original trilogy did a great job of spending some time in each location, allowing us some character development and letting us really get to know each place. The settings themselves became characters in the films. Here each location was rushed through, cramming too many into one film and not allowing the locations to really come to life. I sure hope they come out with an extended version on Blu-Ray that adds in a lot of deleted scenes that would allow more development of each setting.
Hey, at least it was a much better movie than the prequels, and it gives hope that the sequels will become even better if they listen and learn from the mistakes they made with this one. One of my sons said, as we were leaving the theater, and the rest of us agreed with him, that it wasn't embarrassing to watch this one. That's so true. It was embarrassing to watch the prequels, because they felt so wrong on so many levels. This one shows the promise that the original trilogy gave us.