Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Short story review coming soon

Good evening constant reader.

I sit here typing this good news, with a big black cat literally at my left hand. If she got any closer, I couldn't type, but I don't have the heart to make her move.

I received a short story submission in my mail not too long ago. My first reaction was to politely write back and inform the author I only accepted novels or short story collections for review.

But I stopped and thought it over.

There are tons of short stories offered for download online, giving authors another platform for exposure. Why shouldn't I give these authors the same consideration as authors of books?

I read the story and am pleased to say I think it is worthy of review and will be posting that review soon.

The Written Universe has started accepting short story submissions in the genres of horror, science fiction, fantasy and mystery. The only stipulation is that the story must be available on line for the reading public to download.
As always, there is no charge to the author for this service.

However, this reviewer needs to eat, so, for now, if you, constant reader, would be so kind as to take advantage of the "contextual ads" and the Amazon carousel widget if interested in purchasing what has been reviewed, I would be most appreciative.
I am in the process of finding out how I can monetize this blog for maximum effect and am looking at turning TWU into it's own dedicated webpage, with and Amazon affiliate store, as well as a Pay Pal "if you like what you're reading, donations kindly accepted", button.

I am passionate about the success of this site and strive to provide a dual service: getting good authors the exposure they deserve without charge, and providing readers with excellent choices in reading material.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

13 Questions with...Lee Jordan

 1. You’re hosting a dinner party. What is the menu, and do you cook it yourself, or do you call a caterer?

My favorite meal is this stew my wife makes. It’s basically a hodgepodge of meat and seafood with a lot of peppers, onions, and spices in it. I would serve that after begging my wife to make it.

2. What is your beverage of choice?
I drink about 3 or 4 Pepsi Max’s per day (with an occasional Dr. Pepper). As far as evening goes, I like a nice Sangria.

3. Physical book Vs an E-Reader. Your preference and why?
I’m still very old school. I have tried the e-readers but like the feel of a book in my hands and I read every day.

4. What kinds of books make up your personal library?
 Horror, Thrillers, and real –life unsolved mysteries. I never get enough of those things. I’m reading a book on Earth’s ancient mysteries at the moment.

5. How and when did you catch the writing bug?

I started writing my first book when I was around 4th or 5th grade. It was a picture book using the characters from the Fantastic Four Comic Book series. My mom was the only reader….

6. What is your writing routine?

I usually gather up my dog and go into my office in the mornings when the house is quiet and the kids are at school and the wife is running errands. Around 9 every day is the best for me. I try and write something or at least do some research. And then I don’t read it again for at least a week to see if I want to keep it or not.

7. If you ever encounter writer’s block, what steps do you take to get past it?

 I actually had it after I finished Coronation. I couldn’t think of anything to write and everything I put on paper I thought was not well written and did not reflect what I wanted it to say. So I took a break, and then got this idea (I was at a horror convention when the thought struck me), and I’ve been working on it ever since.

8. Do you have a hidden talent?
Great question and one I’ve never really thought about. About 15 different answers just went through my head, but I’ll stick to the more mundane answer and just say “not really”.

9. What was your best subject in school?
I always did well in Math and Science, but I was a voracious reader of vampire books from the time I was around 10 or so. My sister was always afraid I was going to run off and join a cult….

10. As in any entertainment, there are current trends. How much do these “current trends” influence what you write?
I really dislike current trends in general. I have never been one to jump on any bandwagon (writing wise or in life in general). I‘m more of the belief that what is trending today will be old hat tomorrow.

11. Mac or PC?

That’s easy. Mac, all day long.

12. Where do your ideas come from?

 That’s a harder one. I get my ideas from the things I love to read about. I love horror and actual mysteries (as you can tell from Coronation). When I find something that I think I can play with, I kind of let the notion work itself into my thought process until the idea is fully formed. I don’t force it or make it come out. I prefer to just let it linger in my subconscious as it manifests.

13 What advice would you pass on to an aspiring author?
It may be an old idea, but it really works for me. Don’t let one person’s opinion of your work alter what you write or what you want to write. It is your choice and opinions are a dime a dozen. Rejections are simply challenges.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Review: Coronation

Lee F. Jordan
Available through Amazon in paperback
and Kindle edition, and through Barnes & Noble,
in paperback or Nook edition.

Good evening constant reader.

If you're looking for an interesting horror tale that doesn't follow the already beaten-to-death-path, and has an intelligent plot that doesn't insult it's reader, this book is for you.

Jon David Stickle's nose will start to bleed when there's mischief afoot, and he just so happens to be employed by the United States Navy.
When the nuclear submarine USS Nevada shows up, her entire crew dead for no apparent reason (oh you'll know how they died, more or less, but the reason isn't immediately clear), the Navy calls in JD to see if he can find out what happened to the crew.
He begins his investigation, and then we flash back to the past, to investigate another nautical disaster...and another and another.

One disaster has a set piece that had this reviewer's gorge literally rising. I had to put Coronation down for a moment and collect myself, then I was able to finish the chapter. I still had to set the book aside for a day. This reaction from someone who has read horror novels and watched horror movies since she was 12, and I have never come across anything that got to me like this did.
Did Jordan go for the gross out? Oh yes he did, but there's nothing wrong with that as long as it's central to advancing the plot and not gratuitous. Trust me, you read this, and it will stick with you.
The gorge-rising scene wasn't repeated over and over. It's one thing to punch you in the gut with one, but it becomes overkill, no pun intended, if the author repeats the gore fest for the rest of the book.
If Jordan's other works have one gut-wrencher per book, trust me, it's worth it. You won't forget it.

We move back and forth between Stickle's present day investigation and the happenings in the past and then Jordan throws in a curve ball, that in lesser hands, could have come off as a weak cop out, but worked brilliantly within the framework of the story. Shall I tell you what the curve ball was? Nazis. Yes, you read that right. Nazis. Time and again, we've seen Nazis trotted out as the mean bugaboos, but in this case, they don't come off as trite and are grounded in fact. I know, because I looked it up.

I recommend Coronation highly.

For more information on Lee F. Jordan:
Lee F. Jordan
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Saturday, July 20, 2013

Not usual

Good evening constant reader.

It isn't usual for me to comment on something as I'm reading it.  I'm not divulging the title, as I'm not even halfway through the book, and I'm hoping and praying it holds together and warrants a review.
Why you ask?

Because this book, in all my time as a reader of horror, and that's been a long time...has one of the most gut-wrenching, gorge-rising scenes I've ever read, by any author, ever.

Stephen King used to say if all else failed, he would go for the gross out. Well folks, I've never read any thing that comes close to this in a King novel or the work of any one else. It isn't gratuitous, and fits within the narrative. I wondered for a moment where the hell we were going with it, and then it came into focus. Wowee.

Cross your fingers this one makes it's way to the end of the race.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Clive Barker comes to Subterranean Press

Good morning almost afternoon constant reader.

It is with some pleasure I bring to you the news that Clive Barker's Chiliad: A Meditation will be published by Subterranean Press. There will be additional Barker works to follow.

From the Subterranean Press press release:

"Welcome to the world of Chiliad, an astonishing two-part novella by the incomparable Clive Barker. A brilliantly composed narrative filled with unforgettable images, this visionary meditation on time, history, and human suffering is surely one of Barker’s most distinctive—and distinguished—creations.
Chiliad consists of two interrelated stories, stories filtered through the melancholy imagination of a narrator perched on the banks of a river that flows backward and forward through time. The first movement, “Men and Sin,” takes place in the millennial year of 1000 AD. The second, “A Moment at the River’s Heart,” occurs exactly one thousand years—the length of a “chiliad”—later, as the new millennium approaches. At the heart of these stories are two savage, seemingly inexplicable atrocities, each of which reaches across the centuries to reflect and connect with the other. As the narratives unfold and time becomes increasingly permeable, Barker creates a dark, sorrowful portrait of the ancient human capacity for cruelty and destruction. Writing always with lucidity and grace, he addresses a host of universal concerns, among them the power of guilt and grief, and the need to find signs of meaning in the chaos that surrounds us. In the process, he examines the endless chain of consequences that inevitably proceed from a single act of violence.
At once hugely expansive and deeply personal, Chiliad is a compact masterpiece, a resonant reminder of Barker’s ability to create fictional worlds that enrich and illuminate our own.

Chiliad will feature a full-color dust jacket, as well as duotone endsheets and interior illustrations by Jon Foster.
Lettered: 26 signed copies, bound in leather, housed in a custom traycase:  $250 (sold out)
Limited: 350 signed numbered copies, bound in leather: $45
Trade: Fully cloth bound hardcover edition: $30

Chiliad is on sale now through Subterranean Press.
As always, I can't wait to get my hands on a work by Barker.

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Sunday, July 14, 2013

The Shirley Jackson Awards

Good afternoon constant reader.

While I'm reading review material, I like to bring you new items of interest. In that vein, may I present the winners of the Shirley Jackson Awards, which have been presented since 2007.

"In recognition of the legacy of Shirley Jackson’s writing, and with permission of the author’s estate, The Shirley Jackson Awards, Inc. has been established for outstanding achievement in the literature of psychological suspense, horror, and the dark fantastic.
The Shirley Jackson Awards are voted upon by a jury of professional writers, editors, critics, and academics, with input from a Board of Advisors. The awards are given for the best work published in the preceding calendar year in the following categories: Novel, Novella, Novelette, Short Story, Single-Author Collection, and Edited Anthology.
Shirley Jackson (1916-1965) wrote such classic novels as The Haunting of Hill House and We Have Always Lived in the Castle, as well as one of the most famous short stories in the English language, “The Lottery.” Her work continues to be a major influence on writers of every kind of fiction, from the most traditional genre offerings to the most innovative literary work."

Here are the winners:
Novel - Generation Loss by Elizabeth Hand
Novella - "Vacancy" - Lucius Shepard
Novelette - "The James Tree" - Glen Hirshberg
Short Story - "The Monsters of Heaven" - Nathan Ballingrud
Collection -  The Imago Sequence and Other Stories by Laird Barron
Anthology - Inferno - edited by Ellen Datlow

Novel - The Shadow Year by Jeffrey Ford
Novella - "Disquiet" - Julia Leigh
Novelette - "Pride and Prometheus" - John Kessel
Short Story - "The Pile" - Michael Bishop
Collection - The Diving Pool by Yoko Ogawa
Anthology - The New Uncanny - edited by Sarah Eyre & Ra Page

Novel - Big Machine by Victor LaValle
Novella - "Midnight Picnic" - Nick Antosca
Novelette - Morality - Stephen King
Short Story - "The Pelican Bar" - Karen Joy Fowler
Collection - Tunneling to the Center of the Earth - Kevin Wilson
Collection - Love Songs for the Shy and Cynical - Robert Shearman
Anthology - Poe: 19 New Tales Inspired by Edgar Allan Poe edited by Ellen Datlow


Novel - Mr. Shivers - Robert Jackson Bennett
Novella - "Mysterium Tremendum" - Laird Barron
Novelette - "Turth is a Cave in the Black Mountains" - Neil Gaiman
Short Story - "The Things" - Peter Watts
Collection - Occultation - Laird Barron
Anthology - Stories: All New Tales - Neil Gaiman & Al Sarrantonio

Novel - Witches on the Road Tonight - Sheri Holman
Novella - "Near Zennor" Elizabeth Hand
Novelette - "The Summer People"- Kelly Link
Short Fiction - "The Corpse Painter's Masterpiece" - M. Rickert
Single-Author Collection - After the Apocalypse: Stories - Maureen F. McHugh
Edited Anthology - Ghosts by Gaslight - edited by Jack Dann & Nick Gevers

Novel - Edge - Koji Suzuki
Novella - "Sky" - Kaaron Warren
Novelette - "Reeling For the Empire - Karen Russell
Short Fiction - "A Natural History of Autumn" -  Jeffrey Ford
Single-Author Collection - Crackpot Palace - Jeffrey Ford
Edited Anthology - Exotic Gothic 4: Postscripts #28/29 - edited by Danel Olson

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Kindle ahoy?

Good afternoon constant reader.

I got my Kindle unpacked and charged, and with a few clicks was able to transfer all the mobi and PDF files I had been hoarding on my lap top. Now I've got to set about the task of sorting through what's what, maybe deleting a few files and motivating myself to read.

Yes, you read that right. I'm having to motivate myself to read. I hate reading on my Kindle, and today I can say with good reason: it isn't back lit, the cover it's in lets the Kindle flop loose and it hit me in the forehead, and the tabs on the side to advance the page...they tend to get pressed when I don't intend them to.
What is this all leading up to you wonder?
I think I want a Kindle Fire HD.
It's back lit, it organizes the books better and it will function as a tablet. It will also format any file to fit the viewing area without falling off the page.

So I'm setting my sights on a Kindle Fire HD in the hopefully near future.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Hope springs etenral

 Good afternoon constant reader.

I was 62 pages in to the review book and cast it aside.

Why did I go past my page 50 rule?
Because hope springs eternal and I was hoping with the next 12 pages after 50, the author was going to kick things into high gear.
The book started off gamely enough, but got hung up with repeating information about the characters  already stated, repeating the characters first and last names over and over, the plot devices were trite (thank you Mr. Couch for teaching me that word) and nothing was really happening.

I expect a book to grab me by the arm and pull me along from the first paragraph. If an author can't engender that reaction in me, then they've failed, in my estimation. Yes, I know there's value in slow build up, but you can do that and still hold my interest and not insult my intelligence by repeating information that has already been stated.

So into the Rejected Review Boos pile it goes, and I pick another and start to read...

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

What am I reading now?

Good evening constant reader.

I'm currently reading a book for review, but at the same time, I'm reading three other books.

I'm reading Incubus Dreams by Laurell K. Hamilton, the graphic novel adaptation of Guilty Pleasures, by Ms. Hamilton, and today as a special treat, I've decided to start reading The Adventures of Mr. Maximillian Bacchus and His Travelling Circus by Clive Barker.

There are two reasons for this.
1. Clive Barker is one of my very favorite authors and I haven't read anything by him in a while.
2. When I moved, two boxes of books went missing and I thought The Adventures of Mr. Maximillian Bacchus and His Travelling Circus was in one of those boxes. I was beside myself as I knew my copy was signed. I was sitting on the bed looking at my bookcases and got up to see what one book was and tucked in next to it, was the Barker book. My heart soared.

Now you know what it is I'm reading.

Monday, July 8, 2013

My rules of the reading road

Good afternoon constant reader.
I read an article today where the writer stated their rules for reading and it got me to thinking about my own.

1. I don't dog-ear the page to mark my place. Nothing irritates me more and I broke myself of it years ago. Book marks only.

2. I don't keep every book I get. If I did, there wouldn't be room to live in the house. Basic rule of thumb here is: the book must be extraordinary for me to keep it, it usually must be a hard cover (exception is if it's a paperback original), or the book will automatically get kept if it's by a certain author, i.e., ones I like.

3. I read most of my books only once; I've got so many pleasure books to read and review submissions, re-reads are nigh impossible, but not completely off the table. Years will pass before I re-read things.

4. Reading at bedtime has been re-instituted and is a treasured part of the day.

5. I try to stop at the end of a chapter and almost always do, unless Morpheus is trying to drag me under.

6. I do not, for any reason, write in my books. The only time I did this was when I was in college and only then it was text books and any books I was reading for a class. I never write in any book I'm reading for pleasure or for review. Thank my mother.

7. If I'm reading a hardcover,or lending one out, the dust jacket comes off and stays on the shelf.

8. If any book I'm reading hasn't pulled me in by page 50, I stop reading it.

Do I keep e-books after reading? No.

What are your rules of the reading road?
There's a space for comments at the end of every blog.
I welcome your feedback on what ever I'm writing about.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

The Written Universe is ready for business again

Good afternoon constant reader.

I am pleased to announce The Written Universe will be accepting new submissions and I will be sifting through submissions that arrived during my then unsuspected black mold poisoning and have been gathering dust.

I'm going to unpack my Kindle and load it with all the files that have accumulated and pull out all my hard copies and start deciding what is going to get reviewed.
I can't guarantee everything I have been submitted will get reviewed: my policy is to only publish reviews of what is worth reading.
There's no sense in publishing a negative review. It tells you the reader what not to read.
I want to be able to grab your sleeve and pull you aside and say "Read this now!", that's what The Written Univerese is all about.

In the mean time, I will more than likely make entries to TWU about authors, book news and other esoterica as I see fit. I want TWU to be a place where you can not only find reviews, but news and other items of interest.

BTW- you can follow The Written Universe on Facebook:
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Friday, July 5, 2013

Help Seattle to name a park after noted science fiction author Octavia Butler

Good day constant reader.

I found this and wanted to share it with you all.
I think it's a noble endeavor and one I'd like to see come to pass. This country needs to honor it's authors.

Octavia Butler was a recipient of the Hugo award for best short story, Speech Sounds in 1984 and best novelette Bloodchild in 1985, and the Nebula award for best novelette Bloodchild in 1984, and best novel Parable of Talents in 1999.
Butler was one of the best-known African - American women in the field.
Please follow this link and vote for Octavia Butler.

Help Seattle to Name a Park After Octavia Butler

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

The Return is Coming

Good afternoon constant reader.

Your reviewer has improved greatly since the May 1st entry.
My eyesight has improved so that I can read and my concentration and retention has improved.
I have several things in the pipeline to review, and intend to begin taking submissions again soon.

Until then, as the graphic says, keep calm and read good books.