Saturday, December 31, 2016

What I Read in 2016

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. I read 52 books each of the past two years. Not quite that many this year, though close at 47. 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.

1. NOS4A2 by Joe Hill *** and a half
2. The Slow Regard of Silent Things by Patrick Rothfuss ** and a half
3. Lock In by John Scalzi ****
4. Gardens of the Moon by Steven Erikson ****
5. Deadwood Gates by Steven Erikson ****
6. Nova by Samuel Delany ** and a half
7. Just After Sunset by Stephen King **
8. Turning Angel by Greg Iles **** and a half

9. Kushiel's Dart by Jacqueline Carey ****
10. The Bone Tree by Greg Iles **** and a half
11. True Evil by Greg Iles ****
12. Aurora by Kim Stanley Robinson ***
13. The Dragon Chronicles by mix of authors ** and a half
14. Nemesis Games by James S.A. Corey **** and a half

15. Dr. Sleep by Stephen King ****
16. If At First... by Peter F. Hamilton ***
17. Beacon 23 by Hugh Howey ****
18. Imperium by Robert Harris ****
19. Conspirata by Robert Harris ****
20. Darkness Weaves by Karl Edward Wagner ***
21. Warship by Joshua Dalzelle ** and a half
22. The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller ****

23. Rendezvous With Rama by Arthur C. Clark *** and a half
24. Three Hearts and Three Lions by Poul Anderson ** and a half
25. A Different Kingdom by Paul Kearney ****
26. Future Imperfect by Keith Laumer **
27. Kick by John L. Monk ****
28. Intrusion by Rosalind Minett ****

29. Infiltration by Rosalind Minett ****
30. Seed by Rob Ziegler ***
31. Beyond Redemption by Michael Fletcher ***
32. Wastelands: Stories of the Apocalypse by various authors ***
33. Wastelands 2 by various authors ***
34. The Song of Albion collection by Stephen R. Lawhead *** and a half
35. A Serpent in Eden by James Owen **
36. Hell in the Pacific by Jim McEnery ***
37. Inferno: The World at War 1939-1945 by Max Hastings *** and a half
38. The End of All Things by John Scalzi ***
39. Shakey: Neil Young's Biography by Jimmy McDonough ***
40. Seveneves by Neal Stephenson *** and a half
41. Fatal Crossroads by Danny Parker **
42. The Last Kingdom by Bernard Cornwell ****

43. Lords of the North by Bernard Cornwell ****
44. The Archer's Tale by Bernard Cornwell ****
45. Vagabond by Bernard Cornwell ****
46. Heretic by Bernard Cornwell ****
47. 1356 by Bernard Cornwell *** and a half

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Life Keeps Moving Right Along

With Facebook being so easy for doing instant updates, I find it difficult to keep up to date on the blog, especially during big life changes. My family departed Baku, Azerbaijan in July. We spent a month and a half in Beloit, Wisconsin helping our eldest son Anton get settled into this freshman year at Beloit College. Follow the progress of his new rock band Tortuga on Facebook!
Goodbye lunch for Anton
Anton quickly met some musicians at the college and formed a band called Tortuga
Sadly leaving Anton behind for the first time in our lives, we went on to Washington DC for a week before heading for my new posting in Nassau, Bahamas. It has already been an interesting couple of months here.
Typical view on New Providence, Bahamas
First we had the biggest hurricane in living memory hit us. Hurricane Matthew was Category 4 when it struck Nassau. I lived in my office for four days, which wasn't fun. Our house was mostly okay, except for the back yard and having to throw most of our cold/frozen food away.
The hurricane left downed trees and power lines all over
Then I played in the Fall Classic chess tournament, which was a qualifier for the national championships. I took 2nd place and qualified, so this coming weekend I'll be starting the double round-robin National Championships of the Bahamas.Wish me luck!
Playing in the Fall Classic 2016

Thursday, June 16, 2016

The Curtain Drops

I have been so proud of my two sons these past two years in Baku, Azerbaijan, as their music talents have truly blossomed. They were fortunate to have two teachers at their school who were enthusiastic and talented musicians. Having these teachers gave the opportunity to bring out talent in the students that might otherwise have gone undiscovered. My son Anton already loved bass guitar before we came here, but my younger son Alex only played piano. It was only by watching the bands in action here that Alex decided he wanted to play drums.

The two teachers had always had a 'teacher band' at the school, and until this year they had never had a student join them, but they decided to have Anton join their band this year, and they half-jokingly called themselves 'Anton and the Ants' for all of their performances. The core members were my son Anton and the two teachers, but as the year progressed they more and more often had other student musicians and singers rotate through for various songs.

The videos on this post are from the very last concert of Anton and the Ants, at the Sunset Cafe in Baku on June 14. We are leaving Baku in a couple of weeks, moving on to our next posting (and Anton to college!). It was a fun and bittersweet performance, knowing these fast friends would not play together again.
It was especially wonderful to have both of my sons play together, which doesn't happen very often. Below you see Anton on bass and Alex on drums.
On a side note, I'm running a giveaway of some Kindle versions of my novel The Immortality Game. Sadly it's only valid on the US Amazon, but if interested, CLICK HERE!

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 ****