Monday, December 31, 2018

What I Read in 2018

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 did better than last year but still haven't gotten back to the more than 50 per year that I am used to. 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. Farewell to Russia by Jim Williams ***
2. Age of Myth by Michael J Sullivan ****
3. Mississippi Blood by Greg Iles ****
4. Noumenon by Marina Lostetter **
5. Inside Out, a personal history of Pink Floyd by Nick Mason ***
6. Custer's Trials by T.J. Stiles ***
7. No Quarter, the three lives of Jimmy Page by Martin Power ****
8. Age of Swords by Michael J Sullivan *** and a half
9. Nothing is True and Everything is Possible by Peter Pomerantsev ***
10. Play Like You Mean It by Rex Ryan **
11. Gwendy's Button Box by Stephen King ***
12. Putin Country, A Journey into the Real Russia by Anne Garrels ***
13. The Darkness That Comes Before by R. Scott Bakker *****

14. Tick Tock by James Patterson ***
15. The Warrior Prophet by R. Scott Bakker *****
16. The Thousandfold Thought by R. Scott Bakker *****
17. Ghosts of War by Brad Taylor ***
18. Revival by Stephen King ***
19. The Judging Eye by R. Scott Bakker *****
20. Tales from Earthsea by Ursula Le Guin ****
21. Novels and Stories: The Call of the Wild/White Fang by Jack London ****
22. The White Luck Warrior by R. Scott Bakker *****
23. The Ghost Line by Andrew Gray **
24. A Relative Invasion: The Prequel by Rosalind Minett *** and a half
25. Life by Keith Richards ****
26. Bandwidth by Eliot Peper ***
27. Kings of the Wyld by Nicholas Eames ****
28. Children of Time by Adrian Tchaikovsky ****
29. The Great Ordeal by R. Scott Bakker *** and a half
30. The Collapsing Empire by John Scalzi ****
31. The Fix by David Baldacci ***
32. Evolution's Darling by Scott Westerfeld ****
33. Eon by Greg Bear ***
34. Persepolis Rising by James S. A. Corey ****
35. Fire and Blood by George R. R. Martin *****

36. Nightflyers and Other Stories by George R. R. Martin *** and a half
37. Tau Zero by Poul Anderson ***
38. The Return by Joseph Helmreich **
39. Non-Stop by Brian Aldiss *** and  a half
40. Sea of Rust by Robert Cargill ****
41. Artemis by Andy Weir ****
42. Eifelheim by Michael Flynn *** and a half

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

New Cover for The Shard

I'm happy with the new cover for my epic fantasy novel The Shard. The artwork was done by Phuoc Quan and the cover design was done by Steven Beaulieu.

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Working on New Cover Art for The Shard

Our eldest left for his junior year in college today, and we head out on Monday to take our youngest to start his freshman year. We'll be empty nesters! Sad ones, though, since of course we'll miss our boys.

My epic fantasy novel The Shard rarely sells, despite terrific reviews, so I figured it was time to work on a new cover. I looked around for a while and stumbled across Vietnamese artist Phuoc Quan. I saw some things I really liked and thought he might be able to pull of what I was looking for. He offered a great price and full rights to the completed work, so it was definitely worth trying. Now seeing his first draft of the cover, I'm extremely pleased.
art by Phuoc Quan
It depicts and important scene from the story, where a baby dragon ambushes the party as they were passing through some caverns beneath a mountain. That dragon doesn't look much like a baby, but then the mother is much, much larger! I love what Phuoc did with the wings and how he managed to make a pitch dark cavern view-able, which can't be easy. I've asked if the figures can be moved down a bit and not yet notice the dragon, so that it can be more like the scene in the book, where only Lord Midas spots the dragon and he doesn't have time to warn anyone before it attacks. I think this is going to be a great cover, if only I can work out the typography properly.

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Best Neil Gaiman Film

I was thinking about all the movies made from Neil Gaiman stories, and it struck me that my very favorite one--the one I truly think is the best of all of them--is the one that gets the least attention. When I see people discussing Gaiman movies, they always mention the decent but not great ones, like Stardust or Coraline, but they never mention Mirrormask.

If you haven't seen Mirrormask, do yourself a favor and give it a try. It's surreal but also gorgeous and amazing.

Today is the day my youngest son turns 18, and we're very proud of him. He was valedictorian at his graduation, and he's off to start Political Science at UMass Amherst this August. He got accepted to Georgetown as well, which he really wanted, but it just wasn't affordable, sadly.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

A Grandmaster of Fantasy - R. Scott Bakker

I don't typically blog about trade published authors. I'm not a book reviewer, so it just never enters my mind to do so. But I recently started a series by an author I'd never read, and the brilliance of the books made me think it worthwhile to post something.

Usually if an author is brilliant, fans of the genre tend to hear about them fairly regularly -- Tolkien, Howard, Martin, Rothfuss, etc. In the case of R. Scott Bakker, I had heard of him, but I rarely hear him discussed in the various fantasy outlets where I hang out. This should be remedied, because he is easily one of the best fantasy authors I have encountered.

I am halfway through book two of his first series, "The Second Apocalypse" (also called the Prince of Nothing series), which started with The Darkness That Comes Before. My youngest son has already finished this series and is on the final book of his four-book second series set within the same world. He loves it so much that it's the first time I can recall him demanding that I order the next books of a series.

Like I said, I'm not a reviewer, so I don't want to get too far into the details of the stories. They are intellectual and take a bit of effort on your part to get invested in them, but the payoff is tremendous. They remind me of a saner version of Steven Erikson, imaginative and vast in scope, but Bakker's work is more accessible than Erikson's is. I think it's a shame that all lovers of fantasy fiction haven't given him a try.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Altered Carbon and The Immortality Game

I watched the first episode of the new Netflix series Altered Carbon and it was pretty decent. I do think the lead character was miscast, but other than that it was better than I expected. I hope it just keeps getting better.
As some of you already know, I love the three books of the Takeshi Kovacs series by Richard K. Morgan, the first of which is Altered Carbon. However good the show turns out to be, I guarantee the books are even better. I especially love the second one.

It was this series that led me to write The Immortality Game, so in a way my novel is a distant prequel to Altered Carbon. After I read the series I kept wondering what the resleeving technology must have been like back when it was first being developed. This question nagged at me for a few years, and in the back of my mind it kept percolating until I had a story. Mine is set a couple centuries before the Kovacs novels, in the year 2138. Mind/data interfaces are just being perfected and evolving into better and better models (called 'slots' at this time). There are no cortical stacks yet. That's how the technology improves in the far future.
Cover art by Stephan Martiniere
I'm happy to see that if I go to Amazon and type in Altered Carbon, my novel appears on the second page. Wish it could make it to page one, but I'm not complaining! I'm just hoping some people who enjoy Altered Carbon may decide to check out The Immortality Game as well.

Monday, January 1, 2018

What I Read in 2017

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 a lot less this year, unfortunately. I had been reading over fifty books a year, but this year only 35. I need to do better. 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. Dictator by Robert Harris ****
2. The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith ****
3. The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith ****
4. Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith ****
5. Zoe's Tale by John Scalzi ****
6. Finders Keepers by Stephen King **** and a half
7. American Pastoral by Philip Roth ***
8. Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey (reread) *****
9. The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch (reread) *****
10. The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North ****
11. End of Watch by Stephen King ****
12. The Death of Caesar by Barry Strauss ***
13. How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big by Scott Adams **
14. Senlin Ascends by Josiah Bancroft **** and a half

15. The Quest by Nelson DeMille **
16. An Army at Dawn by Rick Atkinson ****
17. Impact - A Relative Invasion by Rosalind Minett **** and a half

18. Star Wars - Bloodline by Claudia Gray **
19. Elon Musk by Ashlee Vance *** and a half
20. The Day of Battle by Rick Atkinson *****
21. The Guns at Last Light by Rick Atkinson *****
22. The Ice Dragon by George R.R. Martin **
23. The Futurological Congress by Stanislaw Lem **
24. All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr *****

25. Saturn Run by John Sandford ****
26. Heroes Die by Matthew Stover *** and a half
27. The Lost Girls of Rome by Donato Carrisi ***
28. The Whisperer by Donato Carrisi ***
29. Red Shirts by John Scalzi ** and a half
30. Anti-Soviet Activities by Jim Williams ****
31. Babylon's Ashes by James S.A. Corey *****
32. Welcome to the Occupied States of America by Peter Cawdron ***
33. Armada by Ernest Cline ** and a half
34. Shovel Ready by Adam Sternbergh ****
35. Jimmy Page by Jimmy Page *** and a half