Thursday, February 21, 2013

The Dork Review: Food For The Gods

I've always thought the world needs more comedy/mystery books set in the time of mythic Greece, and Food For The Gods handily fills that need.

What's that you say? The world didn't need that? Hmm...guess we get a bonus then.

The best way to describe Food For The Gods is it's a detective story/comedy set in mythic Greece with the main character as an aspiring chef who needs to solve a horrible crime in order to put his life back on track. It has all the tropes you expect from a mystery but cunningly skewered, much like a roast lamb, and seasoned with comedy and divine appearances.

Food For The Gods is exactly the kind of book I love coming out of smaller presses. It's inventive, irreverent, and gleefully mashes genres together. It's the third book in a row I've read recently that I've really enjoyed.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

The Dork Review: Shades Of Milk and Honey + Glamour In Glass

It's been awhile since I've done a review of any sort, so I thought I'd make up for that by posting a mega-double review of two books by the lovely Mary Robinette Kowal. Mrs. Kowal is the third member of the Writing Excuses team I've had the pleasure of meeting in person.

Have you ever wanted to read a Jane Austen Regency romance with magic added in? Then Shades of Milk and Honey and Glamour In Glass are for you. No, really, that is the best way to describe them. Well, to describes Shades at least. Allow me to explain.

Shades of Milk and Honey, if you drop the magic called "glamour", fits perfectly in Jane Austen's world. It can be favorably compared to Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice. In fact, I would place it above the other two because I find Mrs. Kowals writing style eminently readable.

I was never a huge fan of Jane Austen or Regency romances, and therefore resisted picking up these books for a very long time. That was my own misfortune. Both Shades and Glamour move along at a quick pace, the characters are well developed and believable, and there are many hidden gems for Austen fans and history geeks alike.

As stated earlier, Shades conforms tightly to the Jane Austen style of domestic drama, but Glamour busts out of that and sees the alpha couple formed in Shades traveling to France just before some major historical events take place. Without giving too much away I'll say that the major bit of history that does take place affects the characters without being the complete focus, which is a nice piece of storytelling on Mrs. Kowal's part. It's nice sometimes to see characters affected by history without it becoming the main focus of their lives.

I'd highly recommend picking up both Shades of Milk and Honey and Glamour In Glass, especially if you're planning a trip somewhere warm and need a good beach read.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The Marines Of Space and The Gamma Rabbit

     Sergeant-Brother Atticus’ mikel-ceramite encased foot crunched a skull into powder as he and Attendent-But-Well-Armed-Brother Ficus of the Rampant Bloodspiller Legion stepped out of the drop-pod’s boarding tube. The pod was clamped like a lamprey to a hulking structure their cruiser’s sensor-slaves had detected emerging into normal space. The lights on the end of their holy grenadier rifles cut through the darkness, revealing a grimy metal hallway full of green plants and dripping moisture.
     Atticus wiped away the sudden condensation the covered the compu-auspext screen hidden amongst the baroque decorations on his clunky and oversized power armour’s left forearm. It showed a breathable atmosphere with the Terran norm concentration of gases and no known bio-agents. A grime covered sign caught Atticus’ attention. He walked over to it.
      “It’s just as I feared,” vox-cast to Ficus after he’d freed the sign it from it’s layers of dust. “The Tradem Ark.”
     “But it was lost centuries ago,” Ficus said, his voice tinny and flat coming the ancient speakers in Atticus’ helmet. “How can there still be air, moisture, or even enough energy available to explain this.” He gestured at the verdant life growing all around them.
     Atticus resisted the urge to shrug his oversized armoured shoulders and instead held up a finger, looked at Ficus, and said, “The ancients built many terrible and wonderful things. Then they sent them out into the universe and the spaces between dimensions. We can only guess at their motives and the terrors hidden inside.”
      If he didn’t know for a fact that it was impossible for the antediluvian lenses of their power armour to move, Atticus would have sworn Ficus managed to roll his armour’s eyes. The Attendent-But-Well-Armed-Brother’s verbal response was the appropriate, “As the Corpse-King wills,” expected of every well-heeled warrior-priest superhuman in a Marines of Space Legion and especially of a Rampant Bloodspiller.
     “Good,” Atticus said before switching to the wide-net vox-caster. “Alpha team has penetrated the structure. Confirmed this is the Tradem Ark. Priority is recovering and protecting the IP database.” The five other teams scattered across the hulk via drop-pods acknowledged. Atticus switched back to a narrow cast and said to Ficus, “Let’s move out.”
     As they trudged through the narrow and weed-choked corridors, Atticus tried to rein in his imagination of what they’d find in the Tradem Ark’s IP database. It was hard. After all, the right Informatical Productionus (IP) template would equip his Legion with something unseen for millennia. It could give them the edge in a universe filled with the armies of the mutated traitor Disorder Legions, the Munching Hordes of the Tyrannasars, and the feral green Borks.
     It also wouldn’t hurt the Rampant Bloodspillers’ prestige amongst the other legions of the Grand Kingdom of Humanity Resplendent, making the Drunken Wolves’ recent acquisition of a rotary plasma cannon look like yesterday’s protein gruel.
     In an effort to quash his imaginings at getting one over the Drunken Wolves, Atticus focused on the proper quiet reverence for the Corspe-King a Marines of Space should maintain while remaining alert to the world around him. He was almost in the proper state of divine insanity when screams invaded his vox-caster.
     “Sweet Corspe-Of-Earth and Sparkly-Throne!”
     “Get it! Kill it!”
     “Arrrgh! My leg!”
     “Not the face! Not the face!”
     Before Atticus could cut in the line went dead. “All teams report!” he called out. Three teams reported back. Atticus consulted his compu-auspext. Both of the missing teams had been in the southern section of the Ark.
     “Brave Attendent-But-Well-Armed-Brothers of the Rampant Bloodspillers Legion, the enemy has shown himself,” Atticus said, doing his best to make his voice sound resplendent over the tinny vox-caster. “We must not fail to meet him with our utmost hate and firepower. Go forth to the southern section of the Ark, root out the foe, and let him taste our holy grenades!”
     The other teams acknowledged his command with a hearty “For the Corpse-King!”. Atticus motioned for Ficus to increase his pace and they were off running.
      “Very motivational speech, Sergeant-Brother,” Ficus said on the narrow vox-cast.
     “Yes, thank you, Attendent-But-Well-Armed-Brother,” Atticus said, unsure if Ficus’ tone was reverent or sarcastic. He hoped it was the former, but with the poor quality of his helmet’s speakers and Ficus’ flat delivery it was hard to tell. It also didn’t help that Ficus was new to Atticus’ section. The Sergeant-Brother hadn’t had the time needed to get to know him before the Ark had been discovered.
     “So…do we have any idea of what we’re getting into?” Ficus asked.
     “Whatever it is I’m sure six of the Corpse-King’s Marines of Space can handle it,” Atticus said.
     “Oh, of course,” Ficus said. “I know there is nothing we can’t handle, but wouldn’t it help if we knew what killed four of our fellow brothers in under a minute before we go charging in guns blazing?”
     “Attendent-But-Well-Armed-Brother Ficus, I do believe you are lacking in faith and hate. You are not showing the proper blood-thirsty attitude expected of Marines of Space!”
     “My apologies, Sergeant-Brother,” Ficus said with his high-protein pancake flat delivery. “I wish merely to know what I must hate.”
     “Better, Attendent-But-Well-Armed-Brother,” Atticus said as he nodded. “We must have faith in the Corpse-King and move forward, trusting him to show us the object of our hate.”
     It was good thing that increased lung capacity was one of the first enhancements made to all Marine of Space recruits.
     Atticus’ helmet’s external audio sensors picked up the sound of grenade-fire. The compu-auspext provided a vector and he and Ficus altered course. Fresh screams echoed through the vox-cast.
     “Report! Who’s screaming?” Atticus broadcast. “All remaining Attendent-But-Well-Armed-Brothers sound off!”
     The vox-caster remained dead.
Atticus and Ficus turned a corner to find the remains of four of their fellow Brothers splattered across the floor, walls, and ceiling. Amongst the shredded piles of power armour, muscle, and tissue, sat a tiny purple bunny licking its paw clean.
     “What the…how the…?” Ficus said while Atticus’ blood ran cold. “It’s a bunny.”
     “That’s no bunny!” Atticus said, slowly backing away as he brought his grenaider to bear. “That is the dreaded Gamma Rabbit.”
     “The what now?” Ficus said.
     “Scourge of the spaceways, demon from the space between dimensions, fluffy destroyer of worlds.” He held up a hand to stop Ficus from moving forward. “Walk away slowly. We need to get back to the ship and perform the rite of Purificus Nuclearas on the Ark from a safe distance. It’s the only way to be sure.”
     “So to be clear, we’re running from a fluffy bunny?” Ficus said with that damnable flat tone of his. Atticus had to resist the urge to grind his adamantium reinforced molars.
     “Yes, Attendent-But-Well-Armed-Brother, but slowly and carefully so that we don’t provoke it.”
At that moment Ficus stepped on a bloody shard of mikel-ceramite armour and sent it skittering across the floor. It struck the Gamma Rabbit’s midsection.
     The Rabbit looked up.
     “Uh, Sergeant-Brother, it’s looking at me,” Ficus said with genuine emotion for the first time. “Its eyes are glowing. Why are it’s eyes glowing?”
     “It was nice knowing you Ficus,” Atticus said before he turned and ran.

Let Me Explain. No Is Too Much. Let Me Sum Up.

I normally hate the idea of explaining a joke, but in this case it's kind of important. What I'm about to do needs context, otherwise people are going to think I'm not all there. (I'm not all there, but that's beside the point.)

Right after this post I'm putting up a story on my blog. This is the second time I've done this, and this time it's not because I failed to win a story contest. No, this is being done in protest of Games Workshop's recent actions in regards to self-published author M.C.A. Hogarth. They had Amazon pull her book Spots the Space Marine, claiming that they had exclusive rights/trademark on the words "Space Marine".

Now I'm not going to go off on a rant or in-depth commentary about this. That has been done by much bigger names elsewhere. No, what I'm going to do is post my own parody/protest story and invite you to read it and write one of your own. I'm a writer and this is my way of fighting against a gaming giant. Hopefully I'm not just tilting at windmills.

I'm also going to admit the story is a lot funnier if you're familiar with Warhammer 40K, the game system and miniature line put out by Games Workshop and their basis for attempting to claim domain over the term "Space Marine". To quote a friend, "It’s the marriage of Monty Python and Space Hulk, and quite honestly that’s a mash up that has been a long time in the making."

So please stay tuned for "The Marines Of Space and The Gamma Rabbit".

Friday, February 1, 2013

The Five Stages of Literary Rejection

Stage 1: Fear

Upon logging into your email:
"Oh, I just got a response from the editors of X about that piece I submitted."

Stage 2: Confirmation

Upon opening said email:
"And they rejected it."

Stage 3: Anger


Stage 4: Depression

 "I'm a hack who will never sell anything! I should stop writing and move to Outer Mongolia to herd yaks!"

Stage Five: Acceptance, Rewrites, and Resubmiting

"Wait, this one actually has some feedback. I could totally fix this story up, and I haven't put anything in with Y in awhile..."