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Fifty Shades of America’s New Dark Ages

Wednesday, February 11th, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

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This year you could spend your Valentine’s Day in a theater full of middle-aged women oozing over a hot-bodied twenty-something whipping his blindfolded secretary to the point of striking blood in the name of “love.” Daytime television loves to play up to the Soccer Mom demographic (a title first dubbed to describe Clinton fans, ironically) seeking fantasy fulfillment in the form of sexual fiction. It was corny enough when shirtless Fabios graced the covers. Now that the most popular sex trilogy focuses on a woman who willingly allows herself to be sexually abused, is pop culture humoring those bored housewives too much?

While the majority of Fifty Shades fans are typical middle-aged marrieds dissatisfied with their partners (or even themselves), anywhere from 5-25% of Americans “show affinity” for BDSM (Bondage/Domination-Discipline/Sadism/Masochism) in the bedroom. On an issue that poses a particular sexual threat to women, feminists are split 50-50 between being against sexual abuse and for a narcissistic “if it feels good, do it” sexual ethos. Hence, a pervert who trolls Fanfiction.net (the original home of Hobbit-inspired Elvish/Dwarf porn) can turn her twisted sexual fantasies into an overnight sensation. After all, it’s all about love in the end. Or is it?

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How Can Students Fight Back Against Oppressive Schools?

Monday, February 9th, 2015 - by Helen Smith

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I was happy and pleased to see at NetGalley that a new book focusing on how to fight back at school had been released called The Student Resistance Handbook. I was intrigued and ordered it after taking a look at the Amazon description:

The Student Resistance Handbook provides children with information on how they can effectively fight back against their school and work towards abolishing this abusive and oppressive institution. Legal non-violent tactics are presented that are designed to: disrupt the operation of school, substantially increase the costs involved in its operation, and make those who work for and support schools as miserable as they make the students who are forced to attend. The text was conceived to empower youth to struggle against the helplessness, passivity, and despair that schools were designed to instill. John F. Kennedy accurately claimed that “learning without liberty is always in vain.” This Handbook provides students with tools to fight for their liberty in order to attain a real education.

There was also an excerpt that looked good:

If you are looking to be warehoused in a more comfortable prison, this book is not for you. If you think getting a longer break for lunch or recess is a meaningful concession, this book is not for you. If you think better food in the lunchroom, more respectful teachers, and the end of standardized testing is what victory looks like, this book is not for you. There are no demands that can be issued or met short of ending the tyranny of compulsory schooling. If teachers or administrators want to reach out and negotiate with you, it will be based on a lie.They will only want to negotiate the terms of your surrender. Victory is when no one has to go to school and there are no consequences to not going. Given the rise of viable alternatives to school, this endgame is not completely far-fetched.

The book definitely looks worth a read, I look forward to getting my copy!

*****
Cross-posted from Dr. Helen

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No Olympus In Sight

Monday, February 9th, 2015 - by Sarah Hoyt and Charlie Martin
Does he look like a writer to you?

Does he look like a writer to you?

This is Sarah and this week I’ve been busy with the local (relatively) to me Superstars Writing Seminar.

During a time when I could talk to my publisher, we had a long talk about things that help writers (with plot, particularly.)  For which I want to recommend, yet again, Dwight Swain.

Another thing that works well for learning to plot is to take your favorite novels and diagram them. This consists of reading each chapter carefully and writing down which characters were introduced, and which events happened in that chapter.  At the end, go over what you’ve written, identify theme and plot, and then diagram how each chapter moved theme/plot forward. This can be very useful, as you’ll often think that a novel is introspective and doesn’t have much of action or plot, and then find, on diagraming, that you were completely wrong.

There was a time when I thought real, “pro” writers sat around in their Olympian heights and drank the ambrosia of fan adulation and enjoyed having arrived.

Now, thirteen years and 30 or so books into a writing career I have not yet glimpsed even the tippy end of mount Olympus, and as for ambrosia, it’s not on the menu.  Instead, I seem to be busy running after myself, forever conscious of what I’m lacking, what I need to improve, and the things I’d really, really would love to be able to do.

For instance, a recent re-read of Larry Correia’s Monster Hunter International series left me with an inferiority complex about my foreshadowing.

And I take at least two craft-improvement classes a year, as well as holding discussions with my sons and husband (otherwise known as the Hoyt Family Writers’ Workshop) about how to do this and how to evoke that and how to express this or that character.

It never ends. Nor does the doubt.

Once, at a panel, Connie Willis said that in the dark of night, in the secret of your own heart, you knew exactly how good or bad you were. To be fair to her, she said it mostly as a way of depressing the pretensions of newbie writers who think they are the best thing since sliced bread.

However, I hope she’s wrong.  In the dead of night, in the secret of my own heart, I know I sucketh mightily in a way not unakin to a Hoover. Which is why I keep striving to learn.

The balance between knowing where my flaws are and trying to improve is where I keep writing.  I think either certainty of eternal suckage, or certainty of having reached those ambrosia-sipping heights of writing Olympus would both guarantee I never wrote another word.

Fortunately neither seems like a likely conviction to take hold of my mind.

And so I write.  And I study.  And I write.


We’re running with some plugs for Sarah’s books again this week, as well on one new book, because Mercury is retrograde and that apparently affects people’s ability to follow guidelines.

Remember, tell all your writer friends to send the AUTHOR, TITLE, a SHORT BLURB, and an AMAZON LINK AMAZON LINK AMAZON LINK to book.plug.friday@gmail.com to be plugged here on PJ Media.

It really helps if you don’t bother with HTML magic at all, because we just have to parse it apart to put it into the template. The ideal submission is like

TITLE

My Book

AUTHOR

My name as it's on the book cover.

AMAZON LINK

http://www.amazon.com/My-Book-By-Me/dp/B00ABCDEFG/

BLURB

no more than about 100 words. 

I might fudge it a little more.  

If I'm feeling friendly. 

Which last happened in about 2004.


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Seven Days in September
By Valerie Plum and Brett Moss

“Seven Days in September” is a political satire that chronicles the seven days in Washington, around Sept. 11, 2012 – the time when the U.S. consulate in Benghazi was assaulted. It is told by Valerie “Val” Plum, from her perspective as the CIA liaison to the White House.

Readers will meet President Obama, his advisers, Secretary of State Clinton and her advisers.

We watch as the crisis arises, the characters deal with it and the aftermath – all while avoiding responsibility, culpability and poor performance reviews.

The first installment of Val Plum’s long-anticipated memoirs.


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Ill Met By Moonlight (Magical Shakespeare Book 1)
By Sarah A. Hoyt

Young Will Shakespeare is a humble school master who arrives home to find his wife and infant daughter, Susannah are missing, kidnapped by the fairies of Arden Woods, the children of Titania and Oberon. His attempts at rescue are interrupted and complicated by a feud over throne of fairyland, between Sylvanus, king regnant, and his younger brother Quicksilver who is both more and less than he seems. Amid treachery, murder, duel and seduction, Shakespeare discovers the enchantment of fairyland, which will always remain with him, for good and ill. (This book was originally published by Ace/Berkley 10/2001)


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All Night Awake (Magical Shakespeare Book 2)
By Sarah A. Hoyt

Touched by the magic of fairyland, unable to forget Lady Silver, Shakespeare goes to London to seek his fortune. But there, the elf will follow, on the trail of a creature so deadly that, unless Shakespeare and the king of Elves stop it, it might very well consume London and all of England. (This book was originally published by Ace/Berkley 10/2002)
Praise for All Night Awake:
“Ingenious… fans of the first book won’t be disappointed.” – Publishers Weekly
“Hoyt sustains her intriguing premise with a soaring, lyrical style. A most enchanting novel” – Booklist


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Any Man So Daring (Magical Shakespeare Book 3)
By Sarah A. Hoyt

William Shakespeare, successful playwright, receives word that his only son has died. Reality is far more complex. The young Hamnet is a hostage in fairyland, where a war rages, and where a young princess waits a Prince Charming who might never come.

Can an all too human playwright stop the magical war that threatens both worlds?
(This book was originally published by Ace/Berkley 10/2003)


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No Will But His
By Sarah A. Hoyt

Kathryn Howard belongs to a wealthy and powerful family, the same family that Anne Boleyn, Henry VIII’s great love originated from. From a young age, her ambitious relatives maneuver to make her queen. Brought up in a careless manner, ignorant of the ways of the court, Kathryn falls victim to her kind heart, all the while wishing she could be the wife of Thomas Culpepper.


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Witchfinder (Magical Empires Book 1)
By Sarah A. Hoyt

In Avalon, where the world runs on magic, the king of Britannia appoints a witchfinder to rescue unfortunates with magical power from lands where magic is a capital crime. Or he did. But after the royal princess was kidnapped from her cradle twenty years ago, all travel to other universes has been forbidden, and the position of witchfinder abolished. Seraphim Ainsling, Duke of Darkwater, son of the last witchfinder, breaks the edict. He can’t simply let people die for lack of rescue. His stubborn compassion will bring him trouble and disgrace, turmoil and danger — and maybe, just maybe, the greatest reward of all.

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President Me: Adam Carolla Vs. the Scourge of Narcissism

Friday, February 6th, 2015 - by Mark Ellis

In President Me, Adam Carolla takes the pulse of the social contract, a pulse that is slackening. Narcissism is the sapping beast.

Carolla sees an insidious minority that has turned out to be “assholes.” Predictably, the trait has infiltrated what is now known anachronistically as “the fabric of society.”

The death of God, absent fathers, subversive pop culture, unassimilated immigration, and infantilizing, cradle/grave government all factor as threats to destroy from within America’s exceptionalist sovereignty.

Carolla’s admonition is about a stratum of quasi-pathological narcissism breeding within our culture.

The following formulization often comes up in discussions about Islamic extremism: even if only one percent of Muslims are radicalized, that means 16 million people are in solidarity on some level with jihad.

In Carolla’s equation, even if only one per cent of our nation’s population is at least borderline pathologically narcissistic, that’s approximately three million, one hundred and sixty thousand assholes.

Unfortunately, these figures are probably low.

PJ Lifestyle’s Kathy Shaidle previously laid out Carolla’s organizational outline for the book, a collection of indictments handed down for each department of the federal government, plus random, related take-downs of entities like the United Nations. Shaidle’s mention of the explicit language that peppers the narrative will serve here as well.

President Me serves as both grand thesis and field guide. The comedian and author, who started funny and grows ever more trenchant in his observations, brings to the phenomenon of narcissism on the march a noteworthy specificity; readers will find themselves adding personal worsts to his gallery of self-centered rogues and counterintuitively manifested government entities.

Narcissism is not the only target of Carolla’s brawling cultural assessment, but it’s the metastasizing thread that holds the book together. Often laugh out loud, the larger context of the work has humorless implications for Western societies under threat from virulent ideologies and belief systems, and the madness inherent in a refracted society disassociated from rigorous self-appraisal.

In his third book, Carolla—though scarcely the first to call out cultural narcissism—makes narcissism his bitch, pardon the vernacular, roughing-up by decree everything from big-boxes to the airline industry, bumper stickers to the Department of Homeland Security.

The question becomes, how best can conservative counterculture counter the galloping solipsism of our times?

One answer may be to join the rugged individualism of American conservatism with conservative valuation of the social contract. These components of an individual and/or group ethos must oppose on all fronts an electronics-generated, nanny-statist, broken home-enabled reanimation of the “Me Decade.”

Reading Carolla suggests that contemporary narcissism’s sweep makes the ’70s Me Decade look like the “Mother Teresa Decade.”

A culture beset by multitudes afflicted with narcissistic personality disorders is weakened by over-association with the “me” orientation, and a disassociation from the “we.”  Such a flaccid culture is threatened by cultures in which the “we” construct is established, and the guiding motivation is negative.

In Islamic extremism and its terror component, ideas of self esteem and individual rights are violently abrogated.

In the United States, untrammeled immigration breeds narcissism both from the standpoint of the trespassers who think the laws don’t apply to them and come expecting to share the benefits of a nation for which they hold no modern claim, and from the standpoint of progressive segments of we the people, who are so narcissistic as to think that we can absorb the globe’s unwashed masses, that we’ve got it under control enough to pick up a gigantic tab in perpetuity. We can’t.

Country clubbers and chambers of commerce who want to open the floodgates to cheap labor out of greed are among the most virulent progenitors of the narcissism plague.

It is a counterculture’s job to be vigilant.

Narcissism reflected reveals the triumph of equalitarianism over merit, entitlement over responsibility, immigration (both cultural and quantitative) over sovereignty, and raises the chillingly retrograde specter of globally administered social justice.

Our current administration propagates the idea that America is no better or worse than any other country, a position that would seem to be the opposite of nationalized narcissism. Dig deeper and the truth is that for those who loathe our capitalist republic and everything it stands for, dismantlement becomes the ultimate objective. For any person, administration, or movement to think they have the right to transform the country by any other means than the consensus of the governed represents narcissism gone over the edge.

If traditionalists and conservatives don’t adamantly conceptualize and defend who we are as a culture, our children and grandchildren will absorb the message that narcissistic obsession, and a corollary disregard for the principle of societal cohesion—a disregard clothed in shallow adherence to political correctness and empty homilies about inclusiveness and diversity—is the stuff of post-millennial life.

However micro his targets, or amusing his characterizations, Carolla’s prognosis might best be distilled by appropriating an infamous lyric which surfaced in 1999’s debut by the heavy rock band Disturbed.

Our culture may be “Down with the Sickness,” but conservatives must not be.

It is the job of the conservative counterculture’s rugged individualists to indentify rends in a social contract that upholds freedom, independence, and personal responsibility, and ride into the breach wherever and however they appear.

To join societal critics like Carolla in calling out the corrosive influence of individuals and entities which threaten our way of life with the whirlwind of self, and the vortex of decadence.

*****

This essay is part of an ongoing dialogue between the writers of PJ Lifestyle and Liberty Island regarding the future of conservatism and the role of emerging counter-cultures in restoring American exceptionalism. See the previous installments in the series and join the discussion (email DaveSwindlePJM AT Gmail.com if you would like to respond):

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Will Legal Zoom Level the Playing Field for Men?

Wednesday, February 4th, 2015 - by Helen Smith

I thought about this question as I read an advance copy of Law Professor Ben Barton’s new book Glass Half Full: The Decline and Rebirth of the Legal Profession. The book describes how technology can help make law more accessible to middle class consumers:

Modern technology can now handle routine legal tasks like drafting incorporation papers and wills, reducing the need to hire lawyers; tort reform and other regulations on litigation have had the same effect. As in all areas of today’s economy, there are some big winners; the rest struggle to find work, or decide to leave the field altogether, which leaves fewer options for consumers who cannot afford to pay for Big Law.

It would be easy to look at these enormous challenges and see only a bleak future, but Ben Barton instead sees cause for optimism. Taking the long view, from the legal Wild West of the mid-nineteenth century to the post-lawyer bubble society of the future, he offers a close analysis of the legal market to predict how lawyerly creativity and entrepreneurialism can save the profession. In every seemingly negative development, there is an upside. The trend towards depressed wages and computerized legal work is good for middle class consumers who have not been able to afford a lawyer for years.

The book discusses how sites like Legal Zoom make law more accessible to people. At Legal Zoom, they even handle divorce, though the site mainly seems to handle those divorces that are uncontested for the low fee of $299.00 but if you have more complex questions and needs, you can get help from a lawyer for “an affordable price.” Barton noted in the book that it is not that easy for low income people to get help from Legal Aid in a divorce unless there are domestic violence issues. But face it, how many men are going to be referred to legal aid for a pro bono lawyer due to domestic violence? Very few, is the way to bet.

I wonder if technology and entrepreneurialism will help men to gain equal footing in divorce and custody proceedings as law becomes more accessible through these legal sites? Right now, men with little income have no where to turn whereas the VAWA, and legal aid through the government are more likely to help women with free legal help. Technology and some creativity may just level the playing field for men who need legal help and don’t have the means to pay a lot for it. I hope these sites continue to grow and hire the excess of lawyers who may do well serving the under-served population of men who do not have equal access under the law.

******

Cross-posted from Dr. Helen

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Chewing the Straw

Sunday, February 1st, 2015 - by Sarah Hoyt and Charlie Martin
Don't be fooled by their smiles.  Straw writers are racist, sexist, homophobic, hate kittens and puppies, and give people herpes with a glance.

Don’t be fooled by their smiles. Straw writers are racist, sexist, homophobic, hate kittens and puppies, and give people herpes with a glance.

It has become a cliché of political arguments that when someone on the conservative-libertarian axis gets even mildly heated, the call for civility goes up. It goes up not only from the left but from our fellows on the right (I still protest libertarians being on the right, but never mind) who say that we have to stay civil to be taken seriously.

Well and good, and in principle I agree. I was taught to wipe my feet before entering someone’s living room, not to talk with my mouth full and not to slander people unless I’m absolutely sure of the charges and/or the charges matter to the discussion at hand.

However there are times when the most decent and professionally-minded woman in the world [which I’m not -- I’m just Sarah] feels like hoisting down the lacy handkerchief and running the jolly roger up the mast.

There have been many of these in the last two years or so since I came out of the political closet. My kids at cons where people don’t know who they are will be told that I’m racist, homophobic, a prude, and countless other things that make them wonder about whom, exactly, these people are talking.

Larry Correia, faced with the same dichotomy, found himself talking about THAT Larry, you know, the one who is racist and sexist and hates women and gays. He calls him Straw-Larry, and we all agree that guy is a d*ck. What precisely he has to do with the gentle, mild mannered and brilliant Larry Correia, though no one knows.

I suspect straw-Sarah (who is a b*tch) hangs out with straw Larry and they go out at night and beat up on people because there’s nothing good on the telly.

I wouldn’t know. I’ve never met her.

The latest of these moments was when our piece on editing was picked up by the Passive Voice, which, for those who don’t know, is one of the best resources for indie publishing around. (I so badly want their t-shirt that says “BezelBezos is my dark god.”)

The comments immediately sprouted a bunch of people talking trash about me.

Let’s take someone on the left of whose intellect I think less than… less than of the intellect of my cat Havelock who routinely gets lost in the hallway outside my room. If one of them, say, Damien Walter who is good for pronouncing himself on things he knows little about, did an article on editing, or covers, or how to start a book.

I might make raspberry sounds and say “well, when he has a book published, I’ll pay attention.” But I wouldn’t say that he was the worst person in the world. That would just be silly. He comes in a solid thousand, two hundred and tenth among the living. (What? Little list? My dears, it ain’t little.)

However the left can invent calumnies, destroy characters, repeat baseless accusations often enough that they become “everyone knows” without the slightest shred of truth.

And there’s no calls for civility, particularly not from other people on the left.

The right doesn’t act that way (well, not usually.) Not only do I read writers who are solidly on the left and also wobbly on the left, I still have friends who are so far to the left of me that we’d best not discuss politics.  On the other hand, any number of “friends” on the left of me dropped me like a stone when I came out of the political closet. And Straw Sarah goes rampaging through gossip from con to con.

There are reasons for this imbalance, and it’s not because libertarians and conservatives are better people (in general) or possessed of the milk of human kindness. No. It’s because of the power imbalance in the field.

For my entire conscious life, let alone my entire publishing life, the power in the field has been in the hands of the people on the left. The way to get promoted and hailed as the greatest genius since Shakespeare was to parrot leftist shibboleths.

In a field where writers were treated as supplicants and had to beg hat in hand for the chance to sell their product to a limited number of markets, almost every editor and publisher was a man (or more often a woman) of the hard left.

A rumor that an author was a heretic or even (gasp) an apostate in the church of Marxism-Leninism was enough to get a promising career stalled if not outright shut down.

So, of course, the left could call names, and accusing someone of being right wing became a weapon in fights among writers.

Also, in a field where everything was controlled by a small and not very open-minded minority, it was important to be in with the right people and rumor and innuendo ran rife.

In other words, it was middle grades in the parochial school of Our Red Lady of Eternal Redistribution.  Forever.

Now… well, now it’s not like that, and I’ll note several people came to my defense when the crazy people attacked me on… a technical article about editing!

And that, my dears, is the cure to the disease of rumor and innuendo.

We can’t have all these straw writers running around. For one, I’m sure they’d write very bad straw books, which would be flammable and stuff.

If you hear rumors, innuendo and insanity spoken about a writer you know, speak up.

If you see something, say something.

Rumor has a cure and it’s the truth.  And it’s time our colleagues on the left learned some civility.  Before the field goes up in flames.


I’m starting the links this week (this is Charlie) with a special mention. Rolf Nelson’s book The Stars Came Back, plugged here a year ago, has been nominated for a Prometheus Award.

And yeah, this is late. I had a really bad hardware weekend.


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The Stars Came Back
By Rolf Nelson

THE STARS CAME BACK is part space-western, the story of folks just trying stay alive, seeking work to earn money for repairs to get to the next job, with no shortage of action and adventure along the way. It is part military sci-fi, with a company of mercenaries, spaceship combat, mortar and rifle combat, spear-and-shield battle, and PTSD. And it is part philosophical investigation, pondering the lessons of Achilles, if a computer can have a soul, what freedom means, and how one stops a bar fight with earplugs.Written in a format similar to a screenplay, the book includes various graphics, including the blueprints of the ship.


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What Consumers Need To Know About Mortgages (A Guide About What Really Happens From A Mortgage Insider)
By Dan Melson 

After funding well over a thousand loans as a loan officer, and running a consumer education website for ten years, Dan Melson has written a coherent guide that gives consumers insight into how people qualify for mortgages, how not to sabotage their application, and how to stop wasting thousands of dollars making poor choices on your mortgage.

[Ed -- Notice this is reference, not fiction. We are more than happy to get indie-published non-fiction!]


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Take The Star Road
By Peter Grant

Nineteen-year-old Steve Maxwell just wants to find a better homeworld. By facing down Lotus Tong thugs, he earns an opportunity to become a spacer apprentice on a merchant spaceship, leaving the corruption and crime of Earth behind. Sure, he needs to prove himself to an older, tight-knit crew, but how bad can it be if he keeps his head down and the decks clean?

He never counted on the interstellar trade routes having their own problems, including wars and pirates – and the jade in his luggage is hotter than a neutron star. Steve’s left a world of troubles behind, only to find a galaxy of them ahead…


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The Troll’s Belt
By J.M. Ney-Grimm

Young deceit sprouts timeless trouble.

Motherless Brys Arnsson digs himself into trouble. Bad trouble. Tricked by a troll in J.M. Ney-Grimm’s richly imagined North-lands, Brys must dig himself and his best friend back out of danger. But that requires courage . . . and self-honesty. Traits Brys lacks at depth.

A twist on a classic, THE TROLL’S BELT builds from humor-threaded conflict to white-knuckle suspense.


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Crossing the Naiad
By J.M. Ney-Grimm

Ancient, cold, and perilous.

Its truth forgotten in the mists of time, the old bridge harbors a lethal secret. Neither marble statues awakened for battle nor an ancient roadbed grown hungry, something darker and more primal haunts the stones and the wild river below.

Kimmer knows the stories, but she doesn’t know why the crumbling span feels so fraught with menace. Her way home lies across the ruin. Dare she take it? Or will horror from the lost past rise up to claim her, when she does?

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The Most Important, Visionary Science Fiction Stories of the 1930s

Saturday, January 31st, 2015 - by Pierre Comtois

The 1930s was a decade in which older, established, non-science fiction specific novelists ran neck in neck with rising young pulpsters who, for the first time, began to challenge their elders in originality and seriousness.

In past decades, writers like Jules Verne, Arthur Conan Doyle, and H.G. Wells dominated the public consciousness with their novels of science and the fantastic. They proved to others that the nascent genre of science fiction could be used to good effect both to warn against social ills and the pitfalls of a rising scientific culture.

At the same time, a completely different set of readers, mostly young and whose view of the future and science was less gloomy and more optimistic than their elders, began to coalesce around the science fiction genre.

Isolated by an ocean or by the vast landscapes of the United States, some of those young people hunkered down at typewriters working long, lonely hours writing, their imaginations fueled by the early pulp magazines of the 1920s which brought science fiction for the first time to a mass audience.

Murray Leinster, Doc Smith, Edmond Hamilton, Ray Cummings, Stanton A. Coblentz, Harl Vincent, and Jack Williamson all made their first appearances in such magazines as Amazing Stories, Argosy, Weird Tales, and Air Wonder Stories.

Clearly, like interstellar gasses concentrating into stars, the genre of science fiction was coming together with increasing rapidity with the 1930s being the decade when it all finally seemed to come together. In no other decade did so many classic tales of SF appear and so many authors make their initial debuts in print: “The Red Plague” by P. Schuyler Miller and “Marooned on Andromeda” by Clark Ashton Smith in 1930; “The First Martian” by Eando Binder in 1932; “A Matter of Size” by Harry Bates in 1934; “The Faithful” by Lester Del Rey in 1938; “Marooned off Vesta” by Isaac Asimov, “Ether Breather” by Theodore Sturgeon, and “Lifeline” by Robert Heinlein all in 1939.

In addition, readers of science fiction began to organize themselves. Letters pages in the magazines brought them together and made them realize that living in their small towns or feeling isolated in big cities, they were not alone. The first fanzines were launched right at the very start of the decade which became known as First Fandom (the first of many fan “eras”), amateur magazines publishing their own fan fiction proliferated, and fan clubs such as the Los Angeles Science Fiction League Chapter and the Futurians would become breeding grounds for some of the biggest SF authors of the 1940s.

The first SF convention between New York and New Jersey fans was held in 1936.

But most of this activity was happening “underground” so to speak. The larger world of letters still mostly ignored science fiction, only taking notice when an established author used the genre as a platform to address larger philosophical concerns. The 1930s would be the last major effort by these kinds of writers. For decades afterward, SF would retreat further underground or be considered primarily as juvenile literature until being rediscovered by the mass media following the huge success of the Star Wars films in the 1970s.

But as things stood in 1930, the field was still considered ripe for exploration by serious writers such as Olaf Stapledon, a professor of philosophy whose first book, A Modern Theory of Ethics, lacked a popular audience. Hoping to reach a wider public Stapledon decided to use science fiction as his vehicle and ended up writing Last and First Men (1930).

In it, the author tells the history of mankind extending two billion years into the future. Nothing like its terrible sweep of time and history was ever attempted before and it caused a sensation in literary circles and especially SF fans whose vistas had been broadened. Stapledon followed up that first success with a number of other groundbreaking novels including Odd John in 1936 about a super-human’s attempt to live in a world of ordinary men and Star Maker, published in 1937, that goes far beyond even the scope of Last and First Men to tell the history of the whole universe while exploring themes of life, death, eternity, and God.

By comparison, peers such as Aldous Huxley covered very limited subjects though no less important and prophetic in Brave New World, his controversial novel published in 1932. In it, the author describes a future society of 2540, one governed by a politically correct world state that strictly limits personal freedoms while keeping the masses content with recreational drug use and sex.

In response to the secular humanist values explored in the work of such contemporaries as Stapledon and H.G. Wells, C.S. Lewis wrote Out of the Silent Planet. Published in 1938, it became the first in a celebrated trilogy that posited alien worlds where original sin never took place (Mars) or was still in an Edenic state (Venus).

Contemporaneous with the British writers, American Philip Wylie anticipated the concept of the super-hero with Gladiator, a novel published in 1930. In it, the author tells the tale of Hugo Danner who’s endowed with super-strength and invulnerability. Through a number of adventures, Danner seeks a purpose in life until, asking God for help, he’s struck down by lightning and killed!

Meanwhile, the rising stars on the American pulp scene concerned themselves mostly with less weighty subjects than the novelists, although John W. Campbell made the attempt with a dramatic shift in his writing style beginning with the 1934 short story “Twilight.” Writing under the pseudonym Don A. Stuart, the author assumes a somber yet elegiac style to tell the story of an Earth where mankind is dying out with machines preparing to take over and continue his legacy.

The same year that Campbell embarked on his new literary trajectory, Stanley G. Weinbaum was revolutionizing SF with “A Martian Odyssey.” It told the story of a man lost on Mars who befriends one of the natives, a birdlike creature named Tweel whom the author creates as a fully rounded personality with a completely alien perspective. It was the beginning of the end of the stereotypical Bug Eyed Monster of the kind popularized by Edmond Hamilton.

Still riding high in the 1930s was E.E. Doc Smith who proved to fans that he still had what it took with the Galactic Patrol, published in 1937. In it, the author introduces the concept of the Lensmen, law enforcers armed with a device that gives them special powers to combat criminals who threatened the spaceways. Perhaps representative of an aspect of SF that was waning even as the story was being serialized in Astounding, it was influential on later iterations of space opera and in present day comic books.

Based on the outrageous theories of Charles Fort, Eric Frank Russell crafted the novel Sinister Barrier which first appeared in Unknown Worlds magazine in 1939. In it, Russell popularizes the concept that the Earth is the “property” of a race of beings that remain forever hidden behind a invisible, uncrossable barrier.

Taken together, the science fiction of the 1930s presented a vastly diverse field for a growing number of enthusiastic readers to explore. A field that would only grow more fantastic in the next decade, the so-called “golden age of science fiction,” when the serious novelists mostly disappeared and writers who began as fans took over, regularized the genre and matured it into a fascinating exploration of future possibilities.

****

See the previous installments in this series:

The 10 Most Influential Science Fiction Stories of the 1910s

The 10 Most Influential Science Fiction Stories of the 1920s

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A Kindle of Kittens

Saturday, January 24th, 2015 - by Sarah Hoyt and Charlie Martin
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So it’s Book Plug Friday time (past time again, it’s Saturday, dammit! And this is Charlie btw. Sarah is having connectivity problems. And if Peyton Manning had blocking like my recent writer’s block, he wouldn’t have needed neck surgery and the Broncos would be undefeated going into the Superbowl.)

(And insert some deflated ball jokes here, I got nothing.)

In any case, I’ve been thinking about the e-Book Revolution. You all realize it’s only a few years old, right? I wrote a review of the first Kindle only about 6 years ago. And while we’ve had several generations of Kindles, what we haven’t had is any real progress in the capabilities of e-readers and associated devices.

Well, it’s time. At this point, I’ve got thousands of books in my Kindle library, and I doubt I’ve got the biggest library. But when I look at my library on my Kindle, I’ve got three choices: I can list them according to what I read most recently on that device, I can list them in alphabetical order by title, and I can list them in alphabetical order by author.

Then I can scroll through those lists. Good luck if I’m looking for books by Roger Zelazny — I can scroll for a long long time to get to the bottom of a 3000 bool long listing.

I think it’s time for the next generation of actual thought about e-books and what should be done.

To start with, we need lots better ways to manage our own collections. This ought to be easy: Amazon already has keywords, reviews, and ISBNs as well as their own numbers — not to mention the collaborative filtering algorithms that let them cluster books so they can make suggestions. And if they don’t already store Library of Congress and Dewey Decimal numbers for the books, I’m sure there are APIs that can let someone access them.

Second, the e-book standards — and e-book publishers — need to provide better typography. Computer and math books in particular suffer, with math being just about the worst — often the only way to put complicated math into an ebook is by making an image of it. They mostly manage all right with European languages — I’ve got books in German and French and Spanish that look perfectly reasonable, but the Chinese and Sanskrit doesn’t make it at all. (My Esperanto books I figure are just the usual fannish incompetence, Esperanto doesn’t use any characters French doesn’t have.)

Aside: It’s not just the readers, though. Baen Books (sorry, Toni) are my particular annoyance here. For some reason, most Baen books are set up in such a way that they have a leeeetle tiny typeface on the Kindle. I just randomly picked Beyond This Horizon. At scale 7, it’s still uncomfortably small; most every other book at scale 7 can barely fit 100 words on the screen. C’mon, folks, this was all worked out by Ben Franklin’s time.

This leads to a third point: better e-book apps. It’s not instantly obvious to the reader, but all e-book apps are basically the rendering part of a web browser: all the ebook standards are based on storing HTML with some metadata, like a table of contents.

The fourth thing to come, I think, is to be able to access all your notes in one collection. When I’m researching something, I end up resorting to handwritten notes, because while I can make notes in the book, I can’t remember which book I made the notes in.

So that’s my wish list. What’s yours?


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Troll-magic
By J.M. Ney-Grimm 

North-land spellcasters who wield excessive power transform into trolls – potent, twisted, and hungry for dominance.

Prince Kellor, cursed by a troll-witch to live as a north-bear, wrestles with the challenges of a beast’s form. He sees his childhood friend Elle as the key to his escape.

But charming Elle will be no easy task. Traversing that delicate passage between adolescence and adulthood, she struggles to balance family loyalty against her passion for music.

In this epic adventure across a stunning landscape, from cool pine forests to an icy pinnacle of basalt so real it leaves you shivering, Elle and Kellor must summon essential wisdom and grit to prevail against a troll-witch’s malice in a lethal battle of wills.

Fighting against a nightmare pales beside fighting for a dream.


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Perilous Chance
By J.M. Ney-Grimm 

If only Mama were well. If only Papa were . . . not like this.

Clary needs a miracle, but wonders rarely step forth to solve life’s problems. While her mama lies wearily abed and her papa spends the day . . . elsewhere, Clary struggles to look after her younger sister and their baby brother. And longs for more than making do. If only.

Then, one spring morning, Clary and Elspeth visit the old bramble-grown quarry to pick wild cabbage leaves. Hidden within the rock’s cleft, Clary’s miracle awaits. But this miracle sports razor-sharp talons, world-shaking power, ravenous hunger, and a troll-witch to guard its sleep. When it cracks the egg, will Clary survive?

Something wondrous this way comes!

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13 Key Ideas You Need For Defeating Marxist Evil

Saturday, January 24th, 2015 - by Ronald R. Cherry

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Editor’s Note: This is a much longer-than-usual essay than we normally publish, but it’s a very thorough dissection of Marxist ideology well-worth your time. To make it more accessible we’ve decided to experiment with publishing it “Netflix style,” meaning as the streaming internet TV service has developed the practice of releasing whole seasons of its new shows at once, allowing viewers to consumer at their own pace, we’ll publish this first as one long article before serializing its points daily over the next 2 weeks.

1. In its essence Marxism, the core ideology of modern Socialism, is an irrational, utopian and coercive perversion of human equality.

Marxism seeks equality where equality does not exist, demanding legal enforcement of equal social outcomes, including those related to economics, higher education, athletics, religion and human sexuality. This ideology even extends to international relationships whereby no nation is allowed to excessively prosper or achieve greatness, i.e.: all nations must be “equal.” Never mind that when people are free their human nature leads to inequality of outcomes – some are hard-working and some are lazy – some are more intelligent and some are less intelligent – some are stronger and some are weaker – some are tall and some are short. Unequal results occur naturally without force when people possess rightful liberty. Based on their degree of truly Free Enterprise nations similarly divide themselves unequally into various degrees of prosperity or depravity.

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Learn These Secrets on How to Survive Aggressive People

Wednesday, January 21st, 2015 - by Helen Smith

From the description:

Whether an aggressor is a seasoned predator or an irate individual, hostility is almost always preceded by warning signs–if we know what to look for. Surviving Aggressive People dissects the psychology of aggression. It exposes the subtle cues of impending violence and offers timeless methods for transforming a potential disaster into a peaceful victory. Using time-tested methods for conflict management and crisis intervention, this book offers persuasion and peacemaking skills that historically have been reserved for law enforcement, psychologists, and other professionals working the front lines of emotionally charged situations. In today’s world, these skills are a must for everyone. Newly updated, with a special appendix for healthcare workers, the enduring knowledge in Surviving Aggressive People can help deter hostility before it spins out of control. It might even save your life.

The book has some good advice that I have used myself on occasion. For example, the golden rule of violence prevention is “an adversary is less dangerous when he perceives you as similar to himself.” Smith gives some tips on how to reduce this “psychological distance”: Use humor, and employ politeness as a preemptive strike. When I used to see clients for disability claims, some would be angry and distrustful when they walked through the door. I stocked the fridge with Pepsi, Mountain Dew and other drinks that people seemed to like and when someone got upset, I would say, “Would you like a Pepsi or Mountain Dew? Then we can talk about your concerns.” It made people feel welcome and as if they were in a safe environment. I guess the caffeine wasn’t always the best idea but “would you like bottled water or caffeine-free herbal tea?” didn’t have the same ring to it and sounded haughty.

Anyway, you get the idea. The book is full of these helpful hints that may help you to reduce your chance of being a victim of violence and provides a framework for how to avoid it. I recommend the sections for healthcare workers on how to respond to neuro-behavioral aggression. It is surprising how few of them get training on how to respond when a patient gets aggressive. This book will help.

******
Cross-posted from Dr. Helen

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What if Red Dawn Happened, But It Was Islamic Terrorists Instead of Communists?

Tuesday, January 20th, 2015 - by Frank J. Fleming

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Now, I’ll just get this out of the way: I know some of you are going to say, “Hey, Liberty Island is also publishing your first novel, Superego, so you might just be saying this to help yourself.” Well, I don’t have time for your insane conspiracy theories. Why don’t you go back to disproving the moon landing. Besides, you know you can trust me. Remember that time in 2008 when I said I thought Barack Obama might not be that great of a president? I was mainly right about that. I never lead you wrong.

Anyway, The Big Bang is about an alternate history where Islamic extremists actually take over the U.S. after 9/11. As you might imagine, we end up with a lot more problems than which cartoons we’re allowed to publish. Now, you might wonder how in the world those idiots could accomplish taking over our country, but the title of the book gives you a bit of a clue to that. Not to reveal too much, but a lot goes wrong, worldwide, all at once.

The story jumps between a number of characters at different points in time — before, during, and after the titular tragedy. I was absolutely riveted trying to find out more about what had happened and thinking about how we really would react in such a situation (it made me very thankful that our country is awash in guns).

A number of the main characters are real people. I was a little unsure how that would play out, but Griffis fleshed them out very well and didn’t turn them into caricatures. All the details in the book are really well done, and Griffis makes the devastation and invasion frighteningly real.

I’ll definitely read the next book, as it’s pretty obvious from the ending that this is the first part of a series (it’s also obvious because the subtitle of the book is “Lonesome George Chronicles Book 1″ — sort of like how you knew there’d be another war when they named the first one World War I). The Big Bang is a thrilling story, and I highly recommend it. With such a great start, I’m really excited to see what other books Liberty Island publishes… whether or not they were written by me.

******

Editor’s Note: This post is part of an ongoing dialogue between the writers of PJ Lifestyle and Liberty Island regarding the future of conservatism and the role of emerging counter-cultures in restoring American exceptionalism. See the previous installments in the series and join the discussion:

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Newsweek Throws the First Stone

Sunday, January 18th, 2015 - by Chris Queen

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In the Gospel of John, we read a story where a group of Jewish Torah teachers and Pharisees (members of a legalistic sect of Judaism) bring to Jesus a woman whom they caught in adultery, asking Him what punishment He thinks the woman deserves. Masterfully — as He always did — Jesus answers the scholars with a simple, yet profound statement:  “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her” (John 8:7, NIV).

Recently, Newsweek featured a cover article on the Bible in which author Kurt Eichenwald — not a Biblical scholar but a business writer with a clear agenda — lets forth on how Christians misinterpret the Bible. In his piece, Eichenwald throws the first stone, not even pretending to mask an agenda against conservative Biblical scholarship:

They wave their Bibles at passersby, screaming their condemnations of homosexuals. They fall on their knees, worshipping at the base of granite monuments to the Ten Commandments while demanding prayer in school. They appeal to God to save America from their political opponents, mostly Democrats. They gather in football stadiums by the thousands to pray for the country’s salvation.

They are God’s frauds, cafeteria Christians who pick and choose which Bible verses they heed with less care than they exercise in selecting side orders for lunch. They are joined by religious rationalizers—fundamentalists who, unable to find Scripture supporting their biases and beliefs, twist phrases and modify translations to prove they are honoring the Bible’s words.

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In Defense of Editing

Saturday, January 17th, 2015 - by Sarah Hoyt and Charlie Martin

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Hi, this is Sarah and I think I’ve covered the topic of editing before.  However, Charlie suggested it’s time to hit it again, and he’s probably right.  I know I’ve hit the topic of covers a million times give or take ten thousand, and still people who are contemplating going indie tell me they could never afford it because covers are so expensive.  The short answer to that, again, is here.

The other point is editing, as in “I can’t afford to pay an editor, and editing is so important.”  Then you talk to them and you find out what they really mean is copy editing, which, yes, is important, but it’s also cheap and that they have no clue what other kinds of editing there could be or why it’s important.

And no matter how many times I explain, they come back to the same.

I think it’s because indie publishing is so new that it’s getting infusions of new blood all the time, so that, like Young Adult literature it needs to repeat itself because no matter how often you’ve said it, it’s always brand new for a significant number of newly-interested people.

So for those who are newcomers to the field, I will explain editing once again.

First of all, the first editing, that must happen, is your own.  Yes, you’ll sometimes hear of writers who publish their first drafts.  If their books are worth spit one of two things is happening: either they are lying (not necessarily on purpose.  What I consider first draft has undergone significant editing because I back-edit while writing, even though I know I shouldn’t), or they are so experienced that the writing is almost flawless outright.

Even so, I guarantee no one publishes first drafts without copy-editing. What is copyediting?

This is where you go in and fix words and punctuation.  Most of the time it means catching typos your spellchecker won’t catch. “Ours” for “hours,” for instance.  Ears for years. But it also means catching the “word of the day” (everyone has one.  Some days you repeat a word without noticing.  Could be something simple like “extraordinary,” or a really odd one like “counterproductive.” But your brain becomes enamored of the word and goes to it by preference if even remotely applicable.  When you’re copy-editing, you’ll find these patches, and you should fix them.

So copy-editing is the minimum level of editing you should have done.  You can do it, but if you do it you have to find a way to break the eye-glaze that comes with editing your own stuff.  Reading aloud or reading backward work for some people.  [Like me. Nothing better for technical writing.--Charlie] I can’t do reading aloud, because my training was in poetry, and I become obsessed by the sound of the words, and edit in such a way that the books read artificial, as though you should be declaiming.

However, I recommend you have someone else copy-edit your manuscript.  This should be someone you know has a grasp on basic grammar and preferably on the lingo of the time-period you’re writing in. (I had a lot of readers send me in “typos” in Witchfinder, that were actually Regency lingo.)

Now copyedits are the cheapest form of editing too. I’ve paid $10 for 10k words for it, though I suspect I got a discount.  It’s still not prohibitive.

You can also swap with another writer. We have a group of us who does that.

Next level up from copy-editing, sometimes included in it but often not, is “Continuity and fact-checking editing.”  This is where your copyeditor verifies that Henry the VIII really did have six wives.  Or that your character only has two arms in that action scene, not seven.  Good ones go further than that and will verify minutia in your books.  My favorite editor whom I used for my indie novel once got up on my case because I had the wrong kind of taper in an Elizabethan tavern scene.  He’s expensive and worth every penny. (And the publishing houses are bad at this, particularly for historical, because their copyeditors think they should do this and lack the ability.  This is how I had a copy editor tell me to capitalize Terra Firma because it was a country.)

For this, expect to pay more like $40 for 10k words. Or find your most obsessive friend and rope him into doing it.  (Or my older son.  No, seriously.  He chases every rabbit down the hole and all the way to China.)

The highest level of editing is structural editing and it is almost book doctoring. The line between the two blurs. Here the editor will tell you that your story lacks a climax. That you need to rewrite the ending.  That your male character should be female to enhance the impact of chapter 27.

Most of the time my advice on that level of editing is “don’t. Just don’t.”

Why do I say that?  Is it because I think it’s not necessary?  Oh, heck no.  At least once that type of editing – from Baen – saved the book. I had two climaxes of equal weight in the same book, and so it left you feeling strangely like it hadn’t ended.

Now, for those keeping score at home that was my 22nd published book, my thirtieth written book. Which means you can make these mistakes even with a ton of experience, and that editing absolutely saved my sorry behind.  So… why do I say don’t have it done?

Because it’s a d*mn difficult skill, an art really, and most of the people willing/offering to do this aren’t any better at it than you are and might be markedly worse. I’ve seen enough books botched by this type of edit, and the poor writer paying a mint for the privilege, to say “better not do it.”

If you absolutely must do it:

Make sure the editor is someone whose work you know and admire. Whether that work is writing or editing. If it’s editing, not only talk to the client and ask what the editor had them change, but read the book with an eye for how it worked.

Make sure the editor works in your genre/subgenre. As with covers, if they don’t, they’re likely to give you something that won’t work at all. For instance, having a Romance editor do SF or vice versa will mess up the book.

Make sure the editor is experienced.  Yeah, I know.  It’s unfair.  But editing is like writing something you learn b doing.  Not enough experience means bad, no matter how much book learning you have.

Make sure your personalities are compatible.  My indie editor has a snide, acerbic sense of humor.  Before I got used to it, I thought he hated my work.  (And no, Mister, if you read this, you shall never be forgiven for that cat picture. ;))

The reason it’s so important to make sure you get what you pay for, is that Structural editing is expensive.  I would expect to pay somewhere North of 1k for a normal size novel, supposing you don’t get special-friend discounts.

However, finding a good Structural editor is almost as hard as finding a good artist. In the meantime, you can sort of roll your own with Self Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King. I recommend it in any case if you write novels.  It helped me get fluent in novel writing.

And whatever you choose to do, good luck.  Remember the goal is to create the best product you can, not to make it perfect. It will never be perfect. If you read traditionally published books, you’ll find some glitches too.  Your goal is for your indie work to be no worse.


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Quantum Zoo
Edited By J.M. Ney-Grimm

From a haunted old zoo filled with ghosts to a dying starship on its way to a new home – humanity’s final gasp, QUANTUM ZOO presents a dozen compelling stories featuring a dozen exotic and unusual menageries.

Jack the Ripper arrives for one last murder, while a dinosaur – out of place and out of time – bridges the gap between two poignant lovers in the wonderfully atmospheric England of Hugo-­ and Nebula-­nominated Bridget McKenna.

QUANTUM ZOO propels you on an enthralling journey through awe and emotion, highs and lows, with tender romance following hair-­raising action.

Join some of the hottest independent science-­fiction and fantasy authors writing today in the fascinating worlds they create from the zoo!


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Devouring Light
By J.M. Ney-Grimm

Can one good deed offset ultimate destruction?

Mercurio guards the first planet, guiding it through the perils of the void. Part messenger, part prankster, he cocks an eye for danger.

When a beautiful celestial wanderer seeks refuge at his domicile, will he recognize his role as cat’s paw? Or will a looming menace – more lethal than Mercurio imagines – threaten the solar system’s very existence?


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Peaks of Grace: Book Five in the Colplatschki Chronicles
By Alma T.C. Boykin 

A hundred fifty years after the Great Fires, only a few small enclaves west of the Triangle Mountains remain free of Frankonian control. The deSarm family’s valley is one of them. When Marta deSarm’s father makes a desperate offer to Phillip of Frankonia, his daughter must deal with the results. But the valley holds two secrets: a young woman with a terrible burden and a glorious gift, and the mountain called Godown’s Grace.

And the Sarm Valley guards its secrets.

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Legendary Batman Artist Suffers Stroke

Saturday, January 17th, 2015 - by Stephen McDonald

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Some of the happiest afternoons of my childhood were passed in the company of a guy named Norm Breyfogle.

Norm was the artist on Detective Comics back in the late ‘80s. But it might be more accurate to say he was the window through which I got to see Batman patrolling the rooftops of Gotham, beating the ever-loving hell out of drug dealers and triumphing over crazed killers.  For me and many other late-Generation Xers, Norm was the definitive Batman artist.  It was his version of the character (along with writer Alan Grant) that my generation grew up with.

It’s probably hard to appreciate now how innovative Norm’s style was at the time.  I couldn’t have explained back then, of course—I just liked the artwork’s energy and story-telling—but looking back his style was much more expressionistic than his contemporaries’.  Perspective and shadow were distorted to amplify every panel’s mood.

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But it wasn’t just a scene’s feel that he cared about.  There was so much energy in Norm’s action scenes as he showed heartbeat-by-heartbeat how Batman defeated a given bad guy:

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Long after I’d stopped reading comics, Christopher Nolan’s Batman movies would occasionally make me nostalgic for the version I grew up with.  It was a pleasant surprise to discover online that I was just one of many impressed, and grateful, for Norm’s years on the character.  It made me happy to know that, even decades later, his work on Batman was remembered as one of the best runs in comics history.

My generation’s Batman, still one of the best.  Cool.

So it came as a shock to learn that Norm Breyfogle, just 54 years old, suffered a stroke in mid-December.

He’s expected to recover eventually, but in the meantime the stroke has paralyzed his left side which is especially heartbreaking considering Norm is a left-handed artist. It’s also put him in the hole for $200K on medical expenses. His family has turned to crowdfunding to help with the costs, and has set up a contribution site here.

I gave, and have since been watching the funds-raised bar, hoping it will make it to $200K. It hovers at $70K as of this writing. There’s only 7 days left in the drive.

The comic book blogosphere has covered it, trying to spread word about the crowdfunding effort. But the guys reading those sites will probably skew younger. They’re not of the generation that grew up reading Norm’s Batman. They don’t owe childhood memories to him like I do.

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Most guys my age don’t follow comic book news anymore. I only learned about what happened to Norm myself because a friend who has kept a hand in the comics posted it on Facebook. With the clock ticking down, it’s time to get word out to other corners of the internet where his old fans may now be.

Which is why I’m here now. To get word out that a man who brought a lot of happiness to a generation of kids needs help. To let all the people that grew up enjoying Norm’s work know that he could use some of your help now.

If you’re able to, please consider contributing.

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This Graphic Novel Has Tremendous Potential In the Culture War

Sunday, January 11th, 2015 - by Andrew Klavan

I don’t know Anthony Gonzales-Clark, but he brought this Kickstarter crowd-funding project to my attention, and it genuinely looks cool and worth supporting. Gonzales-Clark wants to create a graphic novel called “City On A Hill,” about the history and ideas behind the American founding.

To have such a graphic novel produced by a guy who reads Thomas Sowell (featured prominently in the appeal) would be no small strike in the culture war, so if you have a couple of bucks, try to help Gonzales-Clark reach his 11K plus goal.

*****

Cross-posted from Klavan on the Culture

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Gadflies and Offense

Friday, January 9th, 2015 - by Sarah Hoyt and Charlie Martin

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Je Suis Charlie. Actually I’m not Charlie.  I’m Sarah.  But for the purposes of this disquisition, I wanted to indicate that I stand with Charlie Hebdo, the magazine in Paris where people were murdered for drawing cartoons of the prophet Mohammad.

In the wake of this dreadful event, we were treated to a spectacle of frothing at the mouth, whining and screaming – no, not in support, though heaven knows quite a few brave souls rallied to support – about the people who refuse to give in to the head-slicers.

People on Facebook, before the blood stains dried on the floor of the magazine headquarters, were whining about how the “right wing” would take “advantage” of this, and claiming that the magazine “really was very bad” and that they knew what they were risking and therefore had it coming.

Crazier fringes of social media, for instance, my colleagues, either claimed that it is still easier to be a cartoonist in France than a Muslim. (Question for the class: if it’s so difficult to be a Muslim in France, why do they immigrate there? Oh, wait, because it’s more difficult to be a Muslim – or alive – in the majority Muslim countries they came from.) Or that the “right wing” was demanding all Muslims apologize – this from a leading light who then apologized to Muslims for this – or that the right wing was filling Facebook with negativity. This last, the precious flower who claimed this, countered by posting pictures of baby animals.

A particular jewel of preciousness residing in California tweeted the following:

@SofiaSamatar when you live under white supremacy & Islamophobic paranoia, the line between supporting free speech & bolstering hatred is so thin.

I’m not a hundred percent sure what they think white supremacy is, or what race they think the Muslims in France are. However, let me clarify that for them: France is while a bit more xenophobic than the States not in any sense white-supremacist. And the Muslims in France are mostly of Mediterranean origin, that is about the same color I am.  Or, you know, the same as Portuguese, Greeks, and Italians who also immigrated to France.  I don’t see any of those being driven mad by “white supremacy” and killing cartoonists.

And if this precious flower thinks that the US is a white supremacy regime after electing a black president twice, she might need therapy. Whatever she’s seeing is not reality.

Then there are the people who say that Charlie Hebdo had it coming because they were “nasty” and “disrespectful” to everyone, not just Muslims, that they were a polluting element in society, which “upset” people.

I have for years now decried the nonsense of trigger warnings and people who confused PTSD with “being mildly inconvenienced.” I’m not doubting the existence of PTSD, mind, I’m saying that when you get to trigger warning for “holes” or “spiders” for people READING a text, you’ve gone well beyond sanity.

I suspect half the people who say Charlie Hebdo courted their fate are people who believe they have a right to be protected from unpleasantness.

To them I say: Grow up. (Actually I say something more forthright, Anglo-Saxon and four letter, but PJMedia would cut it out.)

Oh, sure, you’re free to say whatever you want – see, our side recognizes that – but I’m also free to tell you to make the sign of the double emu with an umbrella up in that part of your anatomy where the sun don’t shine.

You don’t have a right to never be offended. You don’t have a right to never be questioned. You certainly don’t have a right to never be made uncomfortable.

This is not only because giving you that right would cause other people to be uncomfortable.  No.  This is because giving you that right is actively detrimental to civilization.

First of all, people can find offense and things to upset them in just about everything, regardless of content. I recently talked to a young lady whose parents forbid music with a rhythm – even classical music – because they deem that sexual. I know people who consider fiction – all fiction – offensive, because it creates something that doesn’t exist. I know people – and for those who’ve read me and know the most sex in my books is a kiss this will be great fun – who think my books are pornographic. I’ve simultaneously been accused of proselytizing Christianity and of being anti-Christian for the exact same book.

People can find offense wherever. Give the pointing finger the right to decide what anyone can do and no one will do anything. Some people will object to chipping flint, as it violates the rocks of Mother Earth.

Second of all, civilization needs reality checks.  Most people like the cartoonists at Charlie Hebdo are gadflies.  They will attack everyone equally and most of their attacks will be somewhere between fart jokes and armpit noises.

But sometimes the gadflies are needed to point out what’s wrong with things that have gotten entrenched in society to the point no one analyses them anymore.  Take Marxism. (Please! I’ll give you a free barf bag as an additional prize!) Most people aren’t aware of the extent to which it has penetrated their thoughts, and it takes a joke juxtaposing, say, equality of results and the town drunk for them to see what is wrong with it.

And sometimes the gadflies expose the amount to which the “reasonable people” are cowards who have allowed themselves to be cowed.  Their silly bravery in the face of physical attacks and eventually death stands in contrast to the fear at CNN which immediately banned all non-respectful references to “the prophet” as though there were only one.

They definitely expose the hypocrisy of those who constantly chide others for “victim blaming” but who would blame these most hapless victims who were killed over some lines drawn on paper?

Je suis Charlie, even though this is Sarah – but Charlie is 100% with me on this – we will not shut up, we will not be cowed, we will not kowtow to desert hillbillies who critique art with machine guns.

We will write and say what we want to, and we will defend the right of free speech of everyone else. Even of Ms. “White Supremacy Believer” above, and of CNN.

Even as we think they should do the sign of the double emu with an umbrella up in the part of their anatomy where the sun don’t shine. And THEN open the umbrella.


Je suis Charlie, C’est vrai — mon prénom est Charlie. But for the purposes of this article, my point, as with Sarah’s, is to indicate my support for free expression against the people who want to tell me what to think or what to say.

All of them.


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Wisdom From My Internet
By Michael Z. Williamson

You learn some amazing things on the internet. The War of 1812 was just a dispute over labor and hiring practices. Pico de Gallo was not a conquistadore. Hugo Chavez is not a line of clothing. There was no medieval siege engine called the Battering Lamb. Americans apparently like debt–they keep voting for more of it.

Join SF writer and satirist Michael Z. Williamson for a collection of snark, comments, random typings and alcohol-fueled puns that is worth at least half the cover price.


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Nocturnal Lives (boxed set)
By Amanda S. Green

This “box set” includes the first three novels in the Nocturnal Lives series.


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Duty from Ashes
By Sam Schall

Major Ashlyn Shaw has survived false accusations and a brutal military prison. Now free, she finds her homeworld once again at war with an enemy that will stop at nothing to destroy everything she holds dear. Duty has Ashlyn once again answering the call to serve. She has seen what the enemy is capable of and will do everything she can to prevent it from happening to the home she loves and the people she took an oath to protect.

But something has changed. It goes beyond the fact that the enemy has changed tactics they never wavered from during the previous war. It even goes beyond the fact that there is still a nagging doubt in the back of Ashlyn’s mind that those who betrayed her once before might do so again. No, there is more to the resumption of hostilities, something that seems to point at a new player in the game. But who and what are they playing at?

Will Ashlyn be able to unmask the real enemy before it is too late?


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One-Eyed Dragon
By Cedar Sanderson

One-Eyed Dragon is a story of medieval Japan, a man retired from war, and the quiet village he set up shop in. When a strange woman comes to him for a tattoo, he reluctantly takes her money, and tries to unravel her mystery. Meanwhile, savage men threaten his newfound peace. Can there be friendship in exile, for a man who is so scarred and cast out?


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Rainbow’s Lodestone
By J.M. Ney-Grimm

A lost birthright and unending agony.

On a whim, the rainbow’s child falls to earth, where a cruel adversary takes advantage of her innocence. Can she reclaim her thunder-swept heavens? Must she dwindle and die? This transcendent short story of J.M. Ney-Grimm’s troll-ridden North-lands explores how inner freedom creates outer opportunities.

Earth trumps heaven until ancient music plays.


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Star-drake
By J.M. Ney-Grimm

Gefnen – troll-herald and hound for Koschey the Deathless – hunts life across the moors of the far north.

Not deer, not pheasant, not meat for the table. His master eats choicer fruits. When the piercing scent of youth tingles his senses, Gefnen focuses his chase. The prey – a boy – lacks guardians strong enough to best a troll. Swift triumph awaits.

But other seekers tilt the chances of this game. Spirit of storm, poignant memories of a sea-prince, and something more ancient than memory or the wind shape the looming tumult.

Gefnen hunts victory, but a darker victory hunts him.

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Killing Hitler: Tom Cruise Paid Proper Respect to the Catholic Hero Bill O’Reilly Dismisses

Wednesday, January 7th, 2015 - by David Forsmark

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First, let me say that I come here to mostly praise Bill O’Reilly’s Killing series, not to bury it. This is not another history snob sniffing that there is “nothing new” in the books. While I can’t say that I have learned any Major New Truths of history from reading the books—and it is a fair statement to say that the heavy lifting of original research has been done by others—I am still very happy these books exist, and the history snobs should be, too.

Why? Because these books all contain Big Truths that those of us who love history all sit around and say, “What your high school history teacher should have told you is…”

Nor am I going to snipe that the books are filled with little details—like the pattern of the tablecloth at Potsdam—that scream “look at all my cool research”? If you really are a history buff that makes them kind of fun.

I actually picked up Killing Patton, because this is the one time that O’Reilly and his coauthor Martin Dugard (whose books on David Livingstone and Captain Cook are among my all-time favorites) propose to make a Big Revelation in their new book: That General George S. Patton was killed by the NKVD at Stalin’s orders.

Early in the book, O’Reilly and Dugard bring up the forced suicide of Field Marshall Erwin Rommel, Patton’s famed nemesis. The German commander of the defense of Normandy was a sympathizer of the German Resistance that nearly killed Hitler.

But while the authors inform us of the color of Rommel’s mucous after he ingests cyanide, this dismissive sentence of an actual Big Truth drove me nuts.

The book states that the attempted assassination of July 20, 1944 was, “engineered by members of the German military who no longer believed Hitler was fit to rule Germany.”

While this might be true of Rommel, to blow off the rest of the heroic circle of conspirators — which included labor leaders and clergy — in this way would be like saying the Founding Fathers “thought British taxes on tea were cutting too far into their profits.”

Good grief, Bill, even Tom Cruise got this one right.

Next: Why FDR Wanted Hitler Alive

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How Conservatives Can Counter the Likable Liberal

Monday, January 5th, 2015 - by Mark Ellis

I-Must-Say-My-Life-Humble-Comedy-Legend

It’s understandable when conservatives go on offense against leftist celebrities who get nasty with blanket disparagement of conservatism. Names like Rosie O’Donnell, Janeane Garofalo, and David Letterman at his most pointed come to mind, but there are ubiquitous instances and individuals.

When the attacks are mean-spirited, it’s easy to respond in kind. But what about the likable liberal? The entertainment icon we know is a committed progressive Democrat, but whose contribution to the arts objectively transcends the unceasing wrangle of a divided country?

In the comedy of Martin Short, an occasionally outspoken Hollywood-by-way-of-Canada liberal, we experience an evocation of the heartbreak and joyfulness of show business. Though an obvious prodigy talent, the comedian has always walked between the dichotomous pillars of persevering success and flop-sweat failure. It’s part of what makes him so hysterically funny.

He steers clear of overt political ideology in I Must Say, but in the past has made known his affiliations, which raises the question: Should there always be a socio-political angle when conservative cultural arbiters review or analyze a mainstream culture permeated with progressive ideology?

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Did the 1960s Really Happen? (Part One)

Sunday, January 4th, 2015 - by Kathy Shaidle

Jimi-Hendrix

Last year I read three books that challenged the mainstream view of the 1960s.

(Herewith I’m employing the folk definition of “The Sixties” as that stretch between the Kennedy assassination in November 1963 and the May 1975 fall of Saigon.)

I say “mainstream” because I haven’t entertained many illusions about what really happened during that overlong Baby Boomer idyl since I was a kid.

In the first place, I grew up “soaking in it,” in the dishwashing liquid commercial catchphrase of the era, and I hated almost every minute.

In the second, as an adult, I discerned certain disruptions in the official “peace and love” narrative.

Being a bratty pest by temperament, I’ve made a minor career out of helping debunking the myth of the selfless hippie, the noble white liberal, the enlightened radical, the powerless housewife and the era’s other stock characters.

(I’m also rather fond of rehabilitating the laughingstocks of the age.)

This year, I read three books that, to various degrees, reinforced my view that what we call The Sixties — an allegedly Edenic era that canny progressives continue to evoke when crafting 21st century policy — was a Potemkin village of the imagination, or, in the words of the narrator below, “a mass hallucination”:

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Two Sides of the Mind

Friday, January 2nd, 2015 - by Sarah Hoyt and Charlie Martin

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Hi, this is Sarah, and I know that I’ve mentioned before that I have this small problem: when I’m writing, I can’t edit, clean up and put books up for sale.

In the same way, when I was working for the traditional short story markets, which involved  a lot of making spreadsheets and keeping track not just of where things had been sent, but where things might be acceptable, where similar things had gotten a sale or a “close but no cigar.”  I could and did this highly rational and logical task, but I couldn’t do it at the same time that I was writing.

Charlie pointed me to this article this week, which explains why, no matter how many decisions I made, no matter how much I tried to write and submit the same week, I could never do it. Instead I’d go through months and months of writing stories, and then through a month or two when I submitted.

Turns out that while you’re engaging the rational part of your brain, you can’t engage the emotional area of your brain, and vice versa:

The new study shows that adults presented with social or analytical problems — all external stimuli — consistently engaged the appropriate neural pathway to solve the problem, while repressing the other pathway. The see-sawing brain activity was recorded using functional magnetic resonance imaging. 

(There’s a lot more to it, and you should read the whole thing, but that’s the gist of the article.)

It also solved another problem for me, to wit why so many of my colleagues, who are otherwise smart and logical people think that the purpose of writing is to engage in “social justice” issues, and are both completely unable to see that “social justice” is an oxymoron which would punish people for crimes they didn’t commit and circumstances in which they had no choice, while elevating other people for similar circumstances, but also that their stories, conceived for the purposes of “social justice” fail not only on logical sense, but also on emotional engagement with the public.  These very intelligent people, be they writers or editors will engage in all manner of explanation for why the print-runs and sales keep falling, but never the obvious reason.

This is because the part they are engaging when writing these tales is purely emotional. Now, as illustrated by my dilemma above, we all engage different parts of the brain when writing and when considering how to present our work to the world.

Normally the emotional part of the brain is engaged by the story itself. I grieve with my characters, and live with them through their challenges. That is a difficult and not particularly rational process – I often spend the rewrite process making my story more logical and closing up plot holes – but here is the thing: those reasons and emotions are essential to the story, and at some level, there is always a certain amount of following the journey the way the reader will. Part of this is built on our own experience as readers and writers (and it’s why experience at both is essential to making a good writer.)

But the authors who write for “social justice” and who seem to market as though they are on a religious crusade which promises them victory if they’re pure enough, write from a narrative that gives them feelings and emotions in exchange for believing the right beliefs and saying the thing they were convinced – emotionally – need to be said.

Their emotion comes from saying those things, not from creating a story that can pull others along with the story. At the same time their marketing comes from the certainty that they’re “on the right side of history” and other such quasi-religious beliefs.

And there you have it why the publishing business got itself so backward and sideways. This is not unique to this time and place, but happens any time that the arts establishment are under the sway of a strong faith. This is how establishment art always ends up losing popularity and being open to takeover by rebels and outsiders.


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The Hammer Commission
By John Van Stry 

To most people, Mark’s job seems dull, he investigates crimes committed against Church property; theft, vandalism, the occasional robbery.

But that’s just window dressing. Mark is actually an elite member of a thousand year old secret society that hunts down devils, demons, and other evils. His job is to find them, remove, dispel, or kill them. He’s on the front lines of the secret ongoing war between Heaven and Hell. However as wars go, this one seems to be finally winding down.

Unfortunately for Mark, all of that is about to change…


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Skies of Navarys (Lodestone Tales 1)
By J.M. Ney-Grimm 

A royal geomancer announces that the goddess Evaia shrugs, and every citizen on the island springs to action. Amidst the uproar, the aeromancer Palujon steals unique and magical lodestones.

Mago discovers the theft and vows to retrieve the stones. His friend Liliyah questions Palujon’s motives. Why would a man of his stature break the law? Is he truly a rogue? Life and death hang on her answers.


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Resonant Bronze (Lodestone Tales 2)
By AUTHOR 

The warriors of Torbellai brought back a prize in the night, and young Paitra wants to see it. Even hidden away in the armory, the artifact changed the whole mood of their mountain citadel from dread foreboding to hope.

But the warlord hid the fighters’ plunder for good reason. Forged by trolls and radiating magic, it presents grave risk to any who approach it. Will Paitra survive his curiosity?

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New Year, New Page

Monday, December 29th, 2014 - by Sarah Hoyt and Charlie Martin
In the New Year, control the popcorn kittens!

In the New Year, control the popcorn kittens!

All right.  It’s time to start preparing for the new year.  No, this doesn’t mean you should make a whole slew of resolutions.  Why not? Because if you’re a writer, but particularly if you’re an indie writer, you no longer have a governor for your efforts.  There is no publisher saying “only one book a year.”  Heck, there isn’t even a publisher saying “only a book a month.”  And so, you feel so free and will over-resolution yourself to death.

So, instead of new year’s resolutions, the friendly staff at your Book Plug Friday headquarters, high on the side of the mighty Rocky Mountains would like to offer you…

New Year’s Suggestions:

1-      Don’t overbook yourself.  Not only us, but all our friends who have gone indie, the moment we write in hard and fast “A novel a month” or whatever, our muse decamps to Southern climes to watch scantily dressed strangers and drink fruity alcoholic drinks, leaving us high and dry and blocked. Popcorn kittens are the perennial problem of the indie writer.  Give them a valium.

2-      Pencil those deadlines in as “would like to” but don’t kill yourself  if you don’t. Just because you work for yourself, there’s no reason to abuse your employee.  Make sure you pencil in a free month now and then, so if you blow one month, it can take that one.  Otherwise you’ll suffer a tsunami of deadlines.

3-      Pencil in time for all your other work, too. Remember you’re not only writer, but also publisher and at the very least art director, if not art designer.

4-      Consider different computers for writing, publishing and whatever else you do on the net.  (In my case, catering to my political news obsession.) If you can’t afford that many computers, have a laptop and change the location. Your brain is a creature of habit.

5-      If you can, designate a day “publishing day.”  It’s something Dean Wesley Smith told us to do three years ago, and we still haven’t done, because… time and things interfering.  But if you can, it will keep production more steady than our habit of writing for months at a stretch then publishing for one month, then…

6-      Make time to research the market, the marketing, the covers, the tags.  Yes, I know, you researched it all years ago.  It’s probably outdated.  It changes very fast.

7-      Make contact with other indie writers. The most valuable information has come to me via a friend saying “Hey, did you notice that—” And for things like KULL, not to mention mutual publicity, friends are invaluable.

8-      Remember it’s all about the writing.  It’s always about the writing.  If your other stuff is stealing from the writing, find a way to minimize it. Trade editing and cover design with friends; let the house go without cleaning every other week.  Whatever.  Just keep writing.

And if you’re a reader of Book Plug Friday and JUST a reader, I have just one New Year’s suggestion for you:

Read more.  We’re counting on you!


[Charlie here:] Yeah, it’s late again. Look, I’m really not a big fan of the holidays.

In the mean time, I want to announce a mild change in the submission guidelines — which you can, as always, get by emailing book.blug.friday@gmail.com — because there’s one point in them that is nearly uniformly being missed. That would be the desire for short blurbs.

Last week there were a half dozen submissions with excessively long blurbs, up to 400–500 words. Some of them were very nice words, but there were too damn many of them. So here’s the revision:

Blurbs should be 100 words or less. If a blurb is long enough to make me wonder, it will be word-counted (using the UNIX command wc(1)). Anything in excess of 125 words will be rejected automatically. Between 100 and 125 words, you’re in the lap of the Gods.


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Broken Eden
By Wesley Morrison 

After seeing his entire unit die in a failed black op, Brahm Tanner retreats from the military and even his family. Now running a freelance hostage retrieval unit, life—and business—are good. At least until the President of the United States insists on hiring him.

A covert, underground facility has gone dark, apparently taken over by its own commander. Why the military of the most powerful nation on Earth is now standing down, however, and who the partners in this “shared” facility truly are, the President refuses to say.

Every instinct tells Brahm to walk. And every experience says that he and his current team are being set up as scapegoats.

Then the President names the commander of the base: General Benjamin Tanner.

Brahm’s father.

A Screenplay for a Film That Never Was…


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The Lost Book of Anggird
By Kyra Halland 

Stodgy Professor Roric Rossony and his free-spirited assistant Perarre Tabrano have been asked to find a way to stop the deterioration of the powerful magica. When the professor delves too deeply into lost and forbidden books, magical disaster strikes, and he and Perarre are forced to flee from the authorities on a dangerous journey to discover the origins of magic.


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The Alecto Initiative
By Jordan Leah Hunter and Owen R. O’Neill 

Life was never easy in the Methuselah Cluster, but when her alcoholic father found her a ‘job’ so he could look for ‘work’ off-planet, 11-year-old Loralynn Kennakris began to learn how ugly it could get. Within months, she was sold to a brutal slaver, who took the last thing she owned: her name.

Most slaves last a year or two. Kris survived eight before she was rescued.

Unfortunately, eight years in hell prepared Kris for everything but freedom, and her new life isn’t what she imagined: the authorities think she’s a terrorist plant, a beautiful celebrity is complicating matters in more ways than one . . . and someone is trying to kill her.

So now she’s mad. Game On.


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Livli’s Gift
By J.M. Ney-Grimm 

In Kaunis-spa′s magical spring, Livli achieves spectacular cures. A born pioneer, she hopes to match new ways for healing with new ways of living. But the Kaunis-sisters fear rapid change. While Livli pushes forward the new, one influential foe pushes back. Home will keep its ancient customs, even if Livli loses everything. Must surrender spell defeat? Or could letting go harness real power?


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A Knot of Trolls
By J.M. Ney-Grimm 

North-lands spellcasters who reach too boldly for power transform into trolls – grotesque villains wielding a potent magic and destined for madness. A KNOT OF TROLLS features seven of these evildoers, each pursuing a unique design for troubling their neighbors. Across the ages of the world, ordinary youths must rise to the challenges laid down by trolls. Destiny and hope lie in the balance.


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Beverly Hills Is Burning
By Neil Russell 

Rail Black, a former Delta Force operator, is rich and lives in Beverly Hills. But unlike many wealthy people in the world’s entertainment capital, Rail is not in show business. In fact, he avoids it at all costs. Until now.

From ninety years in the past, a time when gangsters and tycoons roamed Hollywood and scratched each other’s wallets–Rail is thrust into a labyrinth of murder, duplicity, money, sex and power.RB


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Starship’s Mage: Omnibus
By Glynn Stewart 

In a galaxy tied together by the magic of the elite Jump Magi, Damien Montgomery is a newly graduated member of their number.

With no family or connections to find a ship, he is forced to service on an interstellar freighter known to be hunted by pirates.

When he takes drastic action to save the Blue Jay from their pursuers, he sets in motion a sequence of events beyond his control – and attracts enemies on both sides of the law!

(The first episode is now free, and can be found here.)


On special from Sarah!


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Ill Met By Moonlight (Magical Shakespeare Book 1)
By Sarah A. Hoyt 

On limited time sale from 4.99!!!

Young Will Shakespeare is a humble school master who arrives home to find his wife and infant daughter, Susannah are missing, kidnapped by the fairies of Arden Woods, the children of Titania and Oberon. His attempts at rescue are interrupted and complicated by a feud over throne of fairyland, between Sylvanus, king regnant, and his younger brother Quicksilver who is both more and less than he seems. Amid treachery, murder, duel and seduction, Shakespeare discovers the enchantment of fairyland, which will always remain with him, for good and ill. (This book was originally published by Ace/Berkley 10/2001)


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All Night Awake (Magical Shakespeare Book 2)
By Sarah A. Hoyt 

On limited time sale from 4.99!!!

Touched by the magic of fairyland, unable to forget Lady Silver, Shakespeare goes to London to seek his fortune. But there, the elf will follow, on the trail of a creature so deadly that, unless Shakespeare and the king of Elves stop it, it might very well consume London and all of England. (This book was originally published by Ace/Berkley 10/2002)
Praise for All Night Awake:
“Ingenious… fans of the first book won’t be disappointed.” – Publishers Weekly
“Hoyt sustains her intriguing premise with a soaring, lyrical style. A most enchanting novel” – Booklist


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Any Man So Daring (Magical Shakespeare Book 3)
By Sarah A. Hoyt 

On limited time sale from 4.99!!!

William Shakespeare, successful playwright, receives word that his only son has died. Reality is far more complex. The young Hamnet is a hostage in fairyland, where a war rages, and where a young princess waits a Prince Charming who might never come.

Can an all too human playwright stop the magical war that threatens both worlds?
(This book was originally published by Ace/Berkley 10/2003)


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No Will But His
By Sarah A. Hoyt 

On limited time sale from 5.99!!!

Kathryn Howard belongs to a wealthy and powerful family, the same family that Anne Boleyn, Henry VIII’s great love originated from. From a young age, her ambitious relatives maneuver to make her queen. Brought up in a careless manner, ignorant of the ways of the court, Kathryn falls victim to her kind heart, all the while wishing she could be the wife of Thomas Culpepper.


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Witchfinder (Magical Empires Book 1)
By Sarah A. Hoyt 

ON SALE FROM 6.99 for a limited time!!!

In Avalon, where the world runs on magic, the king of Britannia appoints a witchfinder to rescue unfortunates with magical power from lands where magic is a capital crime. Or he did. But after the royal princess was kidnapped from her cradle twenty years ago, all travel to other universes has been forbidden, and the position of witchfinder abolished. Seraphim Ainsling, Duke of Darkwater, son of the last witchfinder, breaks the edict. He can’t simply let people die for lack of rescue. His stubborn compassion will bring him trouble and disgrace, turmoil and danger — and maybe, just maybe, the greatest reward of all.

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7 Good Books I Read in 2014

Monday, December 29th, 2014 - by Andrew Klavan

Here’s some books I read this year that are worth looking into.

For one reason or another, most relating to work projects, I did a lot of re-reading this year. Here are three good old good ones that stood out:

From Dawn to Decadence by Jacques Barzun is a book I found life-changing the first time out. It’s a look at modern western culture from the Reformation (the dawn) to the modern world (the decadence). Barzun was a genius of vast learning and this was his masterpiece, published when he was 93. The book is not easy, but to my mind it’s a must read for anyone who cares about where we came from and where we’re going.

I first read Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov decades ago. For me, it paled in comparison to Crime and Punishment which had utterly rocked my world when I was 19. But since then, I’ve read it again and again and each reading opens up new layers of emotion and meaning. In my life, it will never match C&P, which marked me indelibly, but it is clearly greater in scope and depth and — not to belabor the obvious but — a masterpiece of world literature. This is a wonderful new translation.

The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler also marked me for life. I read it as a boy and it made me want to write crime fiction. Returning to it now was a Proustian experience — if that’s not too big a literary stretch. Reading it on my e-reader, I could practically feel the old paperback in my hands. A brilliant piece of American writing about the weary business of being an honest man in a corrupt world. Again, it’s obvious, but must be said: the writing, the characters, the setting and the attitude make it a classic in the field beyond question. More of my take on Chandler is here.

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8 Books That Make Great Christmas Gifts for Children

Wednesday, December 24th, 2014 - by J. Christian Adams

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Editor’s Note: This article was first published as “8 Great Last Minute Christmas Gifts for Children“ in 2012 and is now resurrected and republished as part of the Ghost-Lists of Christmas Past Series.

It’s late in the holiday shopping season, and you are short on ideas for that child, nephew, niece or grandchild who loves to read. As someone who has perused quite a number of books for kids, I can tell you that there are good ones and bad ones – and I don’t mean quality. While some of the bad ones are obviously bad, sometimes it is not so clear. So here are eight PJ-approved gifts for kids, while there is still time to get them:

1. The Keeping Quilt by Patricia Polacco.

This is probably the most beautiful children’s book I have ever read. It is the story of Jewish immigrants to the United States and tells the tale of an article of clothing owned by those immigrants turned into a quilt passed down one generation to the next. It is a story of traditions, family, goodness, celebration and America.

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These Are A Few Of My Favorite Things

Sunday, December 21st, 2014 - by Sarah Hoyt and Charlie Martin

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Yesterday [for some value of today -- this is Charlie, and I am once again way behind, and it's not Sarah's fault]  I (hi guys, this is Sarah) was looking for information on writers of SF/F.  Long story short, my novels in science fiction started out having chapter titles from pulp shorts/novels I remembered reading (the trick is they’re sometimes not the English titles, as Portuguese translators changed them.) In the fourth book, now, I’ve run out of easy titles and had a choice of changing the system or finding more titles.

So I was trolling the least savory corners of the net and finding bibliographies. (Well, not the least savory. That would be Dino-on-girl or beastie-on-boy.)

I came across about 20 lists of “the best women writers” and the “best female writers” of science fiction and fantasy. Weirdly, none for men. Geesh, for an oppressed minority, female writers sure get a lot of attention.

I’m not on any of these lists – duh – which brings me to when I was asked to produce a list of “best female writers” of SF and was unable to come up with ten. It’s not that there aren’t ten good female writers, it’s that I don’t READ that way – who does? – and therefore don’t remember my authors that way. And when I asked for help, what I got was “lists of female authors I heard were important because they were the “first” – actually just “the most talked about” or “the first of the right (left) political persuasion” female writer to do/be/whatever.”

Most of the most ballyhooed first or best are demonstrably false, but beyond that this bothered me beneath the skin, as it were, because they weren’t lists of best ANYTHING. They were lists with training wheels.

For instance, my friend Kevin J. Anderson, often jokes by introducing me as “the best Portuguese-born female science fiction writer published originally in America.” (If he just threw in “libertarian” I think he’d have a list of one, if he doesn’t already.) He gets away with this because it’s obviously a joke. I know where I stand. I’m mid-mid to high mid-list. That’s where I belong for now, not in “best” anything. But see, I have plans.

If someone did this seriously it would be the equivalent of telling me “You’re pretty good for a Portuguese chick writing in English as a second language. We don’t think you’ll ever get any further, so we’re pinning a medal on you now.” Do that, in seriousness, and you’ll withdraw a bloody stump.  Who are you to patronize me?  I might never get any further than I am, but trying is my prerogative. (Oh, and buy my books.)

So I’ve been thinking on this concept of lists and “best” writers, and I discussed it with Charlie. As usual, we are but two minds that fester as a single one. Most of the lists of “bests” go by awards or what someone said was first or important.

That’s, pardon me, the end product of a bovine digestive tract. There’s only one real measure of what is best: “What stays with you.” And there’s only a real measure of what is classic: “What stays with a lot of people.”

So, below is a – non-gender-segregated, because no one gets prizes for having a vagina – list of writers that stayed with me or that I return to time and again.  In no particular order, IMHO, YMMV, TANSTAAFL and BBQ also OIMMBLTTA*.

Robert A. Heinlein – Duh. I named my first son after him, not after any other writer.  (Beyond the fact that my husband wouldn’t let me name him Clifford, and Ray wasn’t even in the running.)  Widely credited as inspiring more scientists than any other science fiction writer.  The opinion of which works people like varies, some people (deviationists in the Church of Heinlein, which my fans and I have – ridiculously – been accused of being) excluding the later ones, some the earlier ones.  I like them all, but my favorites that get read every year are The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress, Starship Troopers, Puppet Masters and The Door Into Summer. When you talk to someone and they say they no longer read science fiction, they inevitably end with “no one writes like Heinlein anymore.” I concur, though some of us try.

Isaac Asimov – is here because he was prolific and popularized science fiction. I remember him and reading a ton of his books when I was little. What I don’t remember is the books. I remember a short story “Liar“, mostly because I was afraid I was on track to be the female character. [Charlie: I liked Asimov although a lot of his stuff hasn't worn well for me. But still, the I, Robot stories, and the Lije Bailey books, like The Caves of Steel and The Naked Sun, are worth the time.]

Ray Bradbury – Yes, I know.  Possibly an acquired taste, but if so, I acquired him.  Part of it is that he translates magnificently to Portuguese, but the other part is that he’s just a good writer, period.  Unorthodox for Science Fiction, but very good.

The first book I read in English for Americans was Dandelion Wine.  I was 14, and I still have the book, with all the difficult words with a translation penciled over it in Portuguese.  Towards the end of the book, the “explanation” is in English, as I’d graduated to an English-English dictionary.  I bought both my sons’ copies at 12, but they say Bradbury is depressing.  Don’t care.  Fahrenheit 451 remains and will always be a favorite of mine. [Charlie: Ray was pretty much the first person to encourage my own writing.  I'd recommend his later novels, like Death is a Lonely Business and Green Shadows, White Whale, and of course his short stories.]

Clifford Simak – In Portugal he is considered one of the “great three” – Asimov is often dropped from the list – and I used to get up really early to snag a copy of his books when they were released in Portuguese.  Portuguese books rarely go back to press, so that was my one and only chance. I love particularly Werewolf Principle and They Walked Like Men.  They Walked Like Men used to bother me as I thought it was anti-money.  Re-reading it, I realized it was anti-fiat-currency.  Fine.  I’m okay with that. [Charlie: I'm not a Simak fan for no reason I can explain.  But I will note that an awful lot of Simak is now available in Kindle collections, being out of copyright.]

Anne McCaffrey – okay, fine, she’s not to everyone’s taste, and when I tried to re-read her recently, I couldn’t.  But the reason I couldn’t was that so many things kept kicking me out because they’re tired tropes of fantasy.  The thing to remember though was that they weren’t, until she made them so.  (And also that she was writing science fiction.)  I’m going to recommend all the Dragon books through White Dragon. Though my favorite when I first read them was Moretta.

Ursula LeGuin – Why is she beneath Anne McCaffrey? Don’t I know she was way more “relevant.”  Well, yes, I do know that. Pfui.  She was relevant because at some point she flipped over into female supremacy.  She was also, more or less explicitly more left than other women writing at the time. However, recently, when introducing someone to fantasy I recommended the Tombs of Atuan [Earthsea] trilogy.  (What do you mean there are four books?  Pfui.  I can’t hear you!) I remember that one because for a kid who read all sorts of weird religious stuff, it struck a chord.

Then there’s The Left Hand of Darkness. I tried re-reading it recently and couldn’t because the narrative technique is SO seventies. (And the best thing about getting older is that each decade takes me farther away from the seventies.) BUT for better or worse, this is the book that got me into writing. As a biology-geek (in my spare time) I was offended by the design of her hermaphrodites. As a history-geek I was offended by the society derived from it. So I said to myself, I said, “Sarah, you can write hermaphrodites better than that.” I couldn’t.  But now I think I can and it’s on the slate for when the other stuff is done.  (Could be twenty years, of course.)

[Charlie: I liked LHoD and The Dispossessed. On the other hand, if someone hands you LeGuin's translation of the Tao Te Ching, drop it quickly and wash your hands. And, look, Ursula, if you wanted to call it "poetry inspired by..." then I'd have no trouble, but passing this off as a translation is a travesty.]

Terry Pratchett – Appears this late only because he’s rather recent.  His disk world is a creation of genius, which allows him to do anything he wants to, historical or not.

I have a little crush on Captain Vimes, which is shameful for a libertarian.  And I think older son IS Captain Carrot.

If you’re reading Pratchett and you think he’s just “funny, ah ah” you’re missing layers and layers of meaning. Pratchett writes characters that LIVE which considering their background is amazing.

He also falls into the category of artists whose art can go against his own explicit beliefs to touch something eternal about the human condition. Highly recommended. I revisit him regularly.  Off the top of my head: Night Watch, Witches Abroad, Thief of Time, Small Gods, Monstrous Regiment.

Diana Wynne Jones – Okay, I’m going to admit right now that the woman could never write a satisfying ending and that her last books were… uh… odd. (She died of brain cancer, so I don’t think we can hold it against her.)  However, I recommend the Chrestomanci series and also The Merlin Conspiracy.)

Jerry Pournelle – why is he so far down? No reason except I only discovered him when I came to America. Also, that he is a personal friend, and one always feels a little guilty about recommending a personal friend. Read everything he ever wrote, alone or with Larry Niven.  Favorites are Footfall and Lucifer’s Hammer.

Jerry has been a great influence on fans – particularly not-on-the-left fans – about ten years younger than I.  As big as Heinlein for me and my generation.  He was also one of Mr. Heinlein’s protégés and has some great Heinlein stories, if you can sit down with him.

BTW it has reached my ears that he had a stroke this weekend, and I’m praying, so hard. He’s one of my favorite colleagues.

There are a lot of other writers I enjoy and remember, some of them contemporary and my friends, but if I get into that, I’ll be here all day. Quickly: A. E. Van Vogt; Philip Jose Farmer, Larry Correia, Dave Freer, John Ringo, about a million and a half writers whose names refuse to come to mind right now (including some of my own) and a bunch of indies you can find if you follow my blog, or even check out the announcements here regularly.

So, go forth, happy holidays and happy reading.

*Objects in Mirror might be larger than they appear.


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Sarvet’s Wanderyar
By J.M. Ney-Grimm 

Running away leads right back home – or does it?

Sarvet walks with a grinding limp, and her mountain culture keeps girls close to home. Worse, her mother emphasizes all the things Sarvet can’t do. No matter how gutsy her spirit or bold her defiance, staying put means growing weaker. Yet only boys get wanderyars. Lacking their supplies and training, how can Sarvet escape?

Can dreams – even big dreams – and inner certainty transform impossible barricades into a way out?


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Worlds Apart Book 10: Eventide
By James Wittenbach 

The 10th Book in the Worlds Apart series finds the badly damaged Pathfinder Ship Pegasus limping into the Eventide system, hoping to make repairs. Instead, they find an undeveloped, backwater colony with limited technology and scant resources. And worse, Eventide has drawn the attention of the Kariad: Alien busybodies who meddle in human civilizations that fail to meet their standards. Commander Keeler has seen other colonies ruined by their misguided social engineering. He makes a wager with the Kariad; if he can fix the civilization on Eventide, the Kariad must never meddle in human affairs again.


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Manx Prize
By Laura Montgomery 

In the second half of the twenty-first century, orbital debris takes its first large-scale human casualties from an orbiting tourist habitat. Haunted by visions of destruction, Charlotte Fisher, a young engineer, determines to win a prize offered by a consortium of satellite and orbitat operators for the first successful de-orbiting of space junk. Her employer backs these efforts until the reentry of a piece of debris kills two people, and she and her team are spun off. With limited resources and the unwanted gift of a lawyer who, regardless of his appeal, she doesn’t need, she faces daunting odds.


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A Cat for Christmas: A Cat Among Dragons Short Story
By Alma T.C. Boykin 

Major Rahoul P. Khan returns to the 58th Regiment of Foot. The holiday season calls up memories he’d rather have left in Afghanistan. Can the Cat help him keep Christmas?

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