Solar by Ian McEwan (Goodreads Review)

SolarSolar by Ian McEwan

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Perhaps it’s schadenfreude, or simple voyeurism, but only Ian McEwan and Margaret Atwood can make unlikeable characters so engaging. McEwan is also a master at believable immersion in the technical aspects of the characters’ world, in a way that myself, a former scientist, is totally engrossed. McEwan nails how scientists think, interact, and the hypocrisies and benefits, habits and mannerisms, as well as the unique demands on the mind and “real lives” of scientists. Reading this book was like being back as a professional scientists. The conversations were realistic, the thoughts and judgments of the characters were completely like the people I’ve worked with. Continue reading “Solar by Ian McEwan (Goodreads Review)”

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Is Solo a Star Wars Story?

Or can we boldly explore some new worlds?

solo_a_star_wars_story_posterI saw Solo: A Star Wars Story on Sunday, and I was impressed.  It was a fun movie, not as dreadfully serious as the other three new films, and had some nice surprises.  Spoilers: you actually get to see Warwick Davis’ face on screen.  There is no Boba Fett, no Jabba the Hutt, and there is little about The Force, the Jedi, the Republic, and I didn’t see many stormtroopers.  Come to think of it, there was an entire fighting force devoid of stormtroopers, something never-before-seen (not counting Clone Wars).  The ships, the droids, the planets, the villains, and the primary conflict are all completely new.

Continue reading “Is Solo a Star Wars Story?”

How not to piss off your readers, or “Have you driven a Ford lately, Terry Goodkind?”

The rise of social media has given many readers new ways to cross authors off the list.

andre-norton
Recognize this author?  Me, neither.

The internet is great, but it’s a double-edged sword, especially when it comes to authors.  When I was a kid, authors lived in far off worlds whose locations were rarely hinted at by About The Author passages.  If I passed Dan Simmons or C.J. Cherryh on the street when I was growing up in Boulder, Colorado, I never would have known it.  Everyone knows Stephen King lived in Maine (and for a while he lived in Boulder, and set one of his books there), but King is not only a superstar, he’s a down-to-earth guy who most readers find accessible (even if his books aren’t; although sales suggest they are).  One can believe he not only lives in a house, but he coaches Little League.  The details of Arthur C. Clarke’s personal life came out pretty well in his later books, but for most authors, they might have been dead and I wouldn’t have known it.

Continue reading “How not to piss off your readers, or “Have you driven a Ford lately, Terry Goodkind?””

Aristotle Says “Pitch Your Book”

Western literature’s oldest critic tells us why critique partners help us avoid the idiot plot… .

marathea
Cool fantasy maps make inconsistent stories totally okay, right?

I finished revising The Last Omen last week, and have moved on to trying a new approach to short story writing.  The novel came up in conversation with my wife two nights ago and I discovered, yet again, that telling the events of the story does wonders for ironing out the plot.

My wife is not a fantasy reader, in fact, she reads very little fiction, and since discovering audiobooks has gotten most of her “literature” from Audible.  She does love a good supernatural story, but mostly in contemporary form, and on TV or a movie.  I think fantasy readers are especially forgiving when it comes to certain elements of plot as long as there is cool stuff going on.  As an example of this attitude, Brandon Sanderson’s most important law of magic is “err on the side of awesome.”  We write and read fantasy because it’s fun, and because it satisfies our craving for the stupendous, but someone really into that side of things is not the best critic when it comes to plot. Continue reading “Aristotle Says “Pitch Your Book””

A Veil of Spears by Bradley P. Beaulieu (Goodreads Review)


veil-of-spears-front-cover-smA Veil of Spears
by Bradley P. Beaulieu

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A Veil of Spears is the third full-length novel in the Song of Shattered Sands series by author Bradley P. Beaulieu, which began with Twelve Kings in Sharakhai. The author has created a setting for the ages, akin to Hogwart’s, Randland, and Middle Earth, but I would argue Sharakhai is even better because at the heart of this series is a central character who is deeper and more complex than Harry, Rand al’Thor, or Frodo. There is a supporting cast of nobles, “gutter wrens,” Blade Maidens, revolutionaries, monsters, and various mentors, but Ceda and her quest to understand her origins remains the central driving force behind this series. If this book disappoints in any way, it’s that there is not enough time with Ceda.

Continue reading “A Veil of Spears by Bradley P. Beaulieu (Goodreads Review)”

New Look, New Short Story, and Other News

Howdy there: I have been playing around with GIMP and have found some cool ways to make my own artwork, so I gave the blog a new look.  Tell me what you think.  I created the new banner just by playing around and trying to create something related to the themes of my books.

To end all questions: yes, I and the family are moving to Colorado in June.  I will miss New England and the writing scene here, but I’m looking forward to being close to my extended family and old friends in Colorado.  I haven’t been blogging or writing short stories lately because we’re getting our house ready to sell and I have to focus on the novel.  This is not an apology.  I like writing this blog, and I have plenty of stuff I want to write about and discuss, but it’s a lower priority.

Continue reading “New Look, New Short Story, and Other News”

A Wrinkle in Time

Should you go see the new adaptation of the classic book? Maybe…

Here is my Goodreads review (follow me on Goodreads), or scroll down for what I thought of the film.

A Wrinkle in Time (A Wrinkle in Time Quintet, #1)A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Why ask me? This book is a classic that goes beyond all internet reviews. School librarians and teachers will forever be recommending this book, and with good reason. If you’re going to read it as an adult, don’t expect too much, but kids will remember it forever. I just read it to my children and we went to see the movie. It’s a cerebral, magical, wonder-filled book that is great for children from 8-12. I highly recommend it for reading aloud or reading solo. The kids loved it. It’s imaginative and adventurous, with plenty of laughs and cries. The thing I liked most about it was reading a children’s book that quotes Shakespeare, Dante, Goethe, and Cervantes in their original languages. That’s the kind of book I want to read to my kids. Continue reading “A Wrinkle in Time”

How to Tune a Banjo

In which I alienate readers by talking about music… .

I’ve posted a brief video on a new channel, with a few tips on how to tune a 5-string banjo. If you’ve come here via search, enjoy the video and check out my other posts on books, movies, storytelling, and the writing process.

The take-away from the video is that if your banjo is too difficult to tune to itself then it needs to see a professional luthier experienced with banjos.

Superior Readability

An exploration of what makes a book readable and hooks readers, in which I alienate beer drinkers… .

Readability is not a joke.  Of course, this is how I treated it a few weeks ago when I first noticed the readability of Peter V. Brett’s debut novel The Warded Man.  The speed at which I read the first book of Brett’s Demon Cycle series and the way I kept going back to reading it–and actually enjoying it–left me thinking it was just really easy to read.  This was funny because a book should be easy to read, and if it’s a pain to read, and you have to drag yourself into reading it, then why are you reading it?  It reminded me of a billboard for Bud Light that hung over the entrance to the O’Neill Tunnel in Boston: “Superior Drinkability.”  If you’re selling a drink it really ought to be drinkable, or else something is wrong. Continue reading “Superior Readability”