Location: Imagination

Mir Diamond Mine, Mirny, Eastern Siberia.
Mir Diamond Mine, Mirny, Eastern Siberia.

I have a series of posts about Earthly locations that look quite alien. While the photographer responsible for the images I use may not have always been inspired by the same thoughts, I think there is something in all of us that responds to the “alien”. Not many of us get to travel, and so we spend our lives surrounded by the familiar. Images that expose us to the unfamiliar can elicit a variety of responses ranging from fear to wonder.

When I look at these images, I almost always imagine a location—either for a story I have read, written, or the one I have to immediately sit down and make notes for.

Continue reading Location: Imagination

Review: Skies of Fire

I met Vincenzo Ferriero and Ray Chou at the New York Comic Con (2014). Infected by their enthusiasm for their project, I handed over five dollars for an oversized, glossy comic book called Skies of Fire. I had flipped through it and the artwork appealed. Airships and pirates, bearded men dressed in flight jackets and peaked caps, low-slung cities dotted with tall towers that served the sky. A brooding line of clouds called the Expanse. Fire, destruction, politics and a plucky naval captain who wanted to talk on the world. And pirates. Yep, worth five bucks.

I like a good story, but my choice of comics usually comes down to the art. A good cover catches my eye, as does clever use of colour. Skies of Fire is a really pretty comic book. Inside the front cover they have a wonderfully detailed map of the Aquilan Empire. The style of art within, the line work and colours are consistent with the steampunk flavour of the story. Continue reading Review: Skies of Fire

Review: Willful Child by Steven Erikson

22129402Steven Erikson is the author of the hugely popular series ‘The Malazan Book of the Fallen’. Willful Child could not be more different from his sweeping fantasy saga, however, which is why I chose to read it. I wanted to see what he’d do with some science fiction, particularly as the blurb promises he’ll be turning it inside out and examining the guts – in a loving and humourous manner.

Captain Hadrian Sawback is an idiot, yet somehow he has command of the ASF starship Willful Child. His crew seem as baffled as perhaps the reader is. Sawback selected the female members of his crew based on their looks and other obvious assets. He seems surprised when they prove to be good at their jobs, which is just as well as the Willful Child is going to take them to some very dark and hairy places.

Their mission is to explore space and chapter one begins with Sawback recording a journal entry:

“SPACE… it’s fucking big.”

Continue reading Review: Willful Child by Steven Erikson

Review: The Winter Boy by Sally Wiener Grotta


At the centre of the known world there is a valley occupied by a society of widows. The valley forms a centre of learning and resources where young men are invited to stay for a Season, a period four months. During that time, they will be paired with one of the widows – an Alleshi – who will use methods honed over centuries to help shape these young men into leaders – Alemen and defenders of the Peace.

Rishana is a new Alleshi and her first boy, her Winter Boy, doesn’t bend easily to her mould, even after they enter the ‘inner room’, where intimacy is used to enhance the lessons. For his part, Ryl feels as if his entire existence has become a lesson. He resents having to think on every word and it takes him a while to grasp the difference between reaction and thought. As the young do, he bucks the system. He is what the Alleshi would call a ‘problem boy’. But Rishana was encouraged to choose him for many reasons, chief among which is the fact her style of mentoring might be just what is needed to encourage the gem to emerge from Ryl’s rough exterior. With his sharp mind and questioning nature, Ryl could be a talented Aleman and a powerful ally of the Peace. Continue reading Review: The Winter Boy by Sally Wiener Grotta

Tasting Single Malt

A Scotch tasting differs from a wine tasting in a few ways. Firstly, the hangover can be fierce. Yeah, I’m gonna lead with that because I might have written this blog post yesterday if I had actually had a more than two brain cells to rub together. Not that I drank a lot, mind you, but sampling six different varieties of single malt is a lot to me. It’s about three times what I normally drink in one sitting.

The second difference is related to the first. The crowd got a little rowdier. Six hits of Scotland’s finest will do that. We all maintained our civility until the end—though Husband and I left before the fights over who got to finish the bottle of what might have broken out. Continue reading Tasting Single Malt

Review: Liesmith by Alis Franklin

Liesmith: Book 1 of The Wyrd

Sigmund Sussman is your stereotypical nerd. At twenty-two, he still lives at home. When not working tech-support, he plays games – handheld, console and MMOs. He has a Dungeons and Dragons group and the walls of his bedroom are papered with Star Wars posters and pictures of dragons. He’s a bit plain, a bit overweight, wears glasses and is still a virgin. So, perhaps no one is more surprised than Sigmund when the new guy in IT, the painfully hip and casually gorgeous Lain Laufeyjarson flirts with him. Sigmund has kissed a girl. Twice. Beyond that, he’s never considered is sexuality. Lain radiates the sort of confidence that encourages everyone to act now and think later, however, and so Sigmund flirts back. Clumsily.

Shortly after bucking the expectations the tech-support department, his two closest friends and his father by dating the hot new guy, Sigmund figures out the meaning of Lain’s last name. The fact that every story Lain tells is filled with lies sort of makes sense if he’s actually a deceased Norse god, right? When Lain sprouts horns and a tail, Sigmund’s suspicions are confirmed. He’s actually dating the Liesmith, more commonly known as Loki. Continue reading Review: Liesmith by Alis Franklin

Review: In the Fire by Nikka Michaels and Eileen Griffin

In the Fire (In the Kitchen #2)Holy angst, Batman! I read In the Fire in one sitting because I had to. I needed to know, from the second chapter forward, whether Ethan and Jamie were going to work it out—and if they didn’t, I was going to book the first flight to Seattle, or maybe New York, and start banging heads together. Never mind that these characters are fictional.

It’s been eight years since Jamie left for Paris and, apparently, it’s been about that long since the boys have seen each other. While I absorbed that little nugget with all due sadness, I can’t honestly say I was surprised. They were so young and both so hungry for success. The need for a “happy ever after” aside, I think they made the right decision in choosing their careers. Eight years later, the divide between them is wider than a coast to coast commute, however. And despite success in their separate careers, neither of them is overwhelmingly happy. Continue reading Review: In the Fire by Nikka Michaels and Eileen Griffin

The Lies My Mother Told Me

Greyfriars Cemetery, Edinburgh

I’m not sure when I realised that holding an expression while the wind changed direction would not doom me to wear that twist of features forever. I was probably pretty young and I had probably disproven the theory, wittingly and unwittingly, several times. To this day, however, the sound of my mother’s voice wrapped around certain warnings triggers an almost instinctive or primal fear.

We all grow up believing in and eventually disproving (or not) certain myths. I’m pretty sure I don’t inhale the souls of murderers and thieves if I breathe while passing a cemetery. Pretty sure. But there are a few other words of motherly advice that have me thinking twice. So, I decided to do a little Googling and set my mind at rest. Continue reading The Lies My Mother Told Me

Review: East of West Volume 3: There is No Us

East of West, Vol. 3: There Is No UsEast Of West Volume 3: There Is No Us’ collects issues 11-15 of the comic ‘East Of West’. It’s tempting to babble senselessly about how good this comic is, urge you to go out and buy all available issues right away, but I wouldn’t be much of a reviewer if I didn’t explain my fascination. I’ll start with a little back story.

Loosely based on the ‘Book Of Revelations’, ‘East Of West’ tells the story of impending apocalypse. It’s clear from the very first issue that the world has been destroyed and revived before in what might be an endless cycle. What’s not clear is the role to be taken by the very recognisable symbols of a biblical apocalypse. The Four Horsemen are missing one of their number, Death. The Seven Seals have been replaced by seven nations. The Beast is…difficult to explain without spoiling some of the surprises of the story. Then there is the Message, which is presented as a constraint upon the actions of all. A dictate on how the world will end. Mixed into this over-arching story are the lives of the people within each nation. The leaders and their friends and foes. Continue reading Review: East of West Volume 3: There is No Us

Drowning in Books

Tower of books by Matej Kren
Tower of books by Matej Kren

Last year I wrote about my effort to reduce the number of books residing on my physical “To Be Read” shelf. The fact that I have to differentiate between a physical and virtual shelf only underscores my problem. Yes, it is a problem. I admitted that years ago and I’ve been making an effort to collect fewer books.

I have bought fewer books. But the number on the shelves has increased. Review copies, autographed books from conventions, loaners from friends, books that secretly migrated to Kelly Country in the middle of the night. There are so many books there that I can’t see them all anymore. They are lined up along the shelves, tucked in over and under and stacked along the front. There are hundreds of books there. Hundreds. To be quite honest, the number has me feeling a little faint. I know I can’t read them all. I know I won’t. But…I really, really want to. Continue reading Drowning in Books