Sunday 29 November 2015

Shout-Out: The Shards of Heaven by Michael Livingston

Julius Caesar is dead, assassinated on the senate floor, and the glory that is Rome has been torn in two. Octavian, Caesar's ambitious great-nephew and adopted son, vies with Marc Antony and Cleopatra for control of Caesar's legacy. As civil war rages from Rome to Alexandria, and vast armies and navies battle for supremacy, a secret conflict may shape the course of history.

Juba, Numidian prince and adopted brother of Octavian, has embarked on a ruthless quest for the Shards of Heaven, lost treasures said to possess the very power of the gods-or the one God. Driven by vengeance, Juba has already attained the fabled Trident of Poseidon, which may also be the staff once wielded by Moses. Now he will stop at nothing to obtain the other Shards, even if it means burning the entire world to the ground.

Caught up in these cataclysmic events, and the hunt for the Shards, are a pair of exiled Roman legionnaires, a Greek librarian of uncertain loyalties, assassins, spies, slaves . . . and the ten-year-old daughter of Cleopatra herself.

Friday 27 November 2015

Fewer Friday Posts

I just want to apologize for the reduced content on the site at the moment.  I've had several time consuming projects to complete.  It's at the point where I've been struggling to get books read each week so I can post reviews on Tuesdays.  As a result, I've have reduced content on Fridays because I haven't had time to put together the more comprehensive posts I prefer to use for Fridays.  I suspect this will continue through to the new year, though I'll try to post a few good articles or fun filler content as my schedule eases up.

Thursday 26 November 2015

Shout-Out: Skyborn by David Dalglish

Six islands float high above the Endless Ocean, where humanity's final remnants are locked in brutal civil war.
Their parents slain in battle, twins Kael and Brenna Skyborn are training to be Seraphim, elite soldiers of aerial combat who wield elements of ice, fire, stone and lightning.

When the invasion comes, they will take to the skies, and claim their vengeance.

Wednesday 25 November 2015

Video: Civil War Trailer

If you haven't seen it yet, the trailer for the next Captain America movie, Civil War, has dropped. And it looks goooood.  I was never a fan of Cap in the comics (I was more of an X-Men rather than Avengers girl), but I love what the films have done with his character.

Tuesday 24 November 2015

Book Review: First Lensman by E. E. ‘Doc’ Smith

Pros: interesting plot

Cons: often problematic portrayal of women, surprisingly violent good guys 

Note: The edition I’m quoting is the Science Fiction Book Club Chronicles of the Lensmen Vol. 1, which includes Triplanetary, First Lensman, and Galactic PatrolFirst Lensman starts on page 241. 

Virgil Samms has an idea to create a Galactic Patrol that will monitor the galaxy and keep it safe.  When he and several of his men are given Lenses by the alien Arisians, which allows them to speak mind to mind and read the worthiness of others, he knows the time for his Patrol has come.  But first he must confront the corrupt politics of North America, space pirates and a powerful illegal drug. 

This novel has ADHD.  It can’t decide what it wants to do so it does a bit of everything.  First published in 1950, it’s the second novel in the Lensmen Chronicles.  The story jumps from storyline to storyline, character to character.  While Samms and his friend Rod Kinnison are the main players, their children and several peers are also important.  Be prepared for some interesting leaps of logic that lead to actualities (basically if one of the good guys things something may have happened, it has).  

The book starts slowly, with a chapter of backstory on the two alien races that manipulated things in the first novel, Triplanetary.  The further into the book I got, the less certain things bothered me and the more I was able to enjoy the story.  Things get more action oriented and fast paced later on as well.  When several Lensmen go undercover to discover the full operation of the drug trade, I found myself engrossed.  The final chapters, regarding the US election, were also highly entertaining.

There were a lot of things earlier on in the book that made those chapters challenging for me to get through.  The treatment of Jill Samms was a big one.  I was somewhat horrified by how she and Jack Kinnison treat each other when we first meet them.  They’re casually cruel to each other, constantly threatening to physically beat the other in some way or another.  For example, Jack, tells to a friend who’s shown interest in Jill, “You won’t fall for her either, Mase; you’ll want to pull one of her legs off and beat the rest of her to death with it inside of a week…” (p258).  Jill’s no pushover and gives as good as she gets.  When Jack gets mad at her for not playing her best in a tennis match she tells him, “I’d like to smash this racket over your head!” (p257).  She also accuses him of liking women who are, “little, cuddly baby-talkers, who pretend to be utterly spineless and completely brainless…” (p259).  I was overjoyed when she was considered Lensman material by her male peers - and crushed (not to mention peeved) when it was revealed you had to be male to use the devices.  Her acceptance of the idea Lenses can’t be used by women and subsequent trash talk about the one woman in the future who’d be able to wear the device was rage inducing.  “I gather that she is going to be some kind of a freak.  She’ll have to be, practically, because of the sex-based fundamental nature of the Lens.” (p279).

Jack isn’t the only Kinnison who threatens to beat Jill.  His father mentions a potential spanking several times, something that seems highly inappropriate from the father of her friend.  A similar thing happened between a different Lensman and his wife, that I wasn’t quite sure how to take.  Costigan had just gotten back from a long assignment and told his wife he’d be working late again.  She quips that she’s just happy he’s back.  “Costigan looked at her, decided she was taking him for a ride, and smacked her a couple of times where it would do the most good.  He then kissed her thoroughly and left.” (p.449-450)  I’m not sure if this is meant to show Costigan beating his wife, or merely giving her a playful swat for her cheeky answer.  The tone of the scene makes me think it’s a joke, but if so, it’s a creepy joke that wouldn’t be allowed today.

Yet, throughout the book Jill is portrayed as a strong woman - wearing revealing clothing and not taking any gruff from the men.  It also becomes clear as the book goes on that she’d have done well to have a Lens.  On more than one occasion she has urgent information to impart to the lensmen and has to hope one of them contacts her so she can share it.  I did appreciate that she had a roll in the book that went beyond love interest or disappointed potential Lensman.  Though the book’s use of the term psychology seems to imply things the modern term doesn’t.  She’s able to read people’s intentions by touching them (based on the patterns and speed of their blood flow, which she’s apparently learned to feel through clothing and skin using minimal contact).  Like many things in the book this isn’t particularly well explained.

The book has some other jabs a women, like Rod Kinnison’s complaint that he, “stood by, as innocent as a three-year-old girl baby,” (p319) when something bad almost happened.  I’m not sure how a 3 year old boy would have reacted differently, or less obliviously than a girl of that age.  So it’s a bizarre comment.

All of the alien races, even allies, are described as monstrous, horrible to look at and in most cases, with none worthy to wield Lenses.

I was left questioning how good the ‘good guys’ were when you get the Second Lensman saying things like, “In emergencies, it is of course permissible to kill a few dozen innocent bystanders.  In such a crowd as this though [rich politicians], it is much better technique to kill only the one you are aiming at.” (p305).  Though the Lensmen do have a strange sense of chivalry that doesn’t allow them to kill women, even if those women are dangerous and could pose a future threat to them.

The author uses some weird expressions, like ‘developing a mouse under his eye’ (for black eye) and ‘popping off’.  Some of the words and expressions were easier to figure out from context than others, like Mase calling Jill ‘a regular twelve-nineteen!’.  I’m not sure if some (or all) of these are 50s terms, or if he made them all up.

There’s also lots of techno babble, some with definitions, some without.  A detet, for example, is the distance at which spaceships can detect each other.  Battle scenes were full of made up words, with sentences like this: “All of the Patrol ships had, of course, the standard equipment of so-called “violet,” “green,” and “red” fields, as well as duodecaplylatomate and ordinary atomic bombs, dirigible torpedoes and transporters, slicers, polycyclic drills, and so on;” (pp466-467).  Some of the sentences were really cringeworthy.

The end result is that the story is worth reading, but remember when this was written and accept that it has some problematic elements. 

Friday 20 November 2015

Shout-Out: The Dark North

This is a kickstarter project that recently met its funding goals.  There's still 11 days left on the campaign, if you're interested.

The Dark North is a coffee table art book telling five myths illustrated by 100 original paintings by five Scandinavian illustrators/artists: Peter Bergting, Henrik Pettersson, Joakim Ericsson, Lukas Thelin, and Magnus "Mojo" Olsson.

Here's some of the interior artwork for the book.

It looks like a beautiful book for dark fantasy lovers.

Wednesday 18 November 2015

Video: Texas Chainsaw B&B

Barely Productions (formerly Barely Political) posted this for Halloween, and I thought it was great.  I forgot to post it then, so I'm posting it now. :)  It is based on a horror movie, so expect some... unsavory moments.

Tuesday 17 November 2015

Book Review: Ancillary Mercy by Ann Leckie

Pros: fast paced, shows results of addiction and mental illness, interesting story

Cons: surprised Seivarden kept her position

New problems regarding the undergarden on Athoek Station and Queter’s interrogation on the planet occupy Breq, fleet captain, commander of Mercy of Kalr, last ancillary of Justice of Toren, One Esk Nineteen.  When she gets word of four ships entering the system she suspects they’ve been sent by the enemy version of the Radchaai’s split ruler, Anaander Mianaai.

Picking up immediately where Ancillary Sword left off, this book begins with Breq trying to clean-up the loose ends of the previous book.  When the enemy ships arrive in the system, things heat up fast, with several desperate plots to even the odds and take out this clone of the Lord of the Radch.

While the opening’s a bit slow, reminding you of the events of the previous book, things pick up quickly and propel you through the rest of the story.  It’s a fast read.

I was impressed that the author dealt with more repercussions of Seivarden’s addiction and depression and the results of Tisarwat’s manipulations.  It’s great to see a book show that traumas leave scars that take years to heal, and that someone can have good and bad times, depending on circumstances.  Having said that, I’m surprised Seivarden was able to keep her position, considering the breakdown she has.  It’s obvious she’s not capable of dealing with the pressures of command.

While this book can’t wrap up everything going on in the universe, it does give a sense of resolution for the primary characters of the series.   

Monday 16 November 2015

Shout-Out: Licence Expired: The Unauthorized James Bond + Book Launch

In Paris, James Bond meets his match over appetizers and cocktails—with an aperitif of industrial espionage and chilly sadism. Off the coast of Australia, he learns about a whole new level of betrayal under the scorching light of a ball of thunder. In Siberia, he dreams of endless carnage while his fate is decided by one of his most cunning enemies and perhaps the greatest of his many loves.

And in Canada, James Bond finds freedom.

In January 2015, the world’s most famous secret agent entered the public domain in Canada—one of the few remaining countries in the world that subscribe to the Berne Convention and allow copyright to extend not 70 but just 50 years past the death of the work’s creator. Licence Expired: The Unauthorized James Bond, lives in this shadow space of copyright law: a collection of 19 new, exciting, transformative James Bond stories by a diverse crew of 21st-century authors.

Collected herein are new stories about Secret Agent 007, as the late Ian Fleming imagined and described him: a psychically wounded veteran of the Second World War and soldier of the Cold War, who treated his accumulated injuries with sex, alcohol, nicotine, and adrenaline. He was a good lover but a terrible prospect.

He was James Bond.

And in Licence Expired, James Bond is back.

Licence Expired is a collection of 19 short stories edited by Madeline Ashby and David Nickle.  And if you're in the Toronto area, ChiDunnit and ChiZine Publications are having a launch party for the book tomorrow.  From their facebook page:

ChiDunnit and ChiZine Publications are thrilled to invite you to the launch party for LICENCE EXPIRED: THE UNAUTHORIZED JAMES BOND at 7:30pm on Tuesday, November 17 at Pravda Vodka House (44 Wellington St. East). Costumes and Bond-themed dress is highly encouraged, and there will be prizes for the best costumes.

Come try our signature Bond cocktail, and don't forget to ask for your martini shaken, not stirred. And yes, there will be food.
Editors and authors will be there for readings and book signings.
Prizes and surpises are coming from our generous friends at Grand Touring Automobiles (Aston-Martin), Surmesur, Doll Factory by Damzels, BMB Image Consulting, B's Truly Couture Cupcakes, DJ Wondah (Gorilla Beats), Bakka-Phoenix Books, Flying Monkeys Craft Brewery, and Bicycle Playing Cards. Thank you to all our sponsors!

Sunday 15 November 2015

Shout-Out: A Princess of the Chameln by Cherry Wilder

When her royal parents are killed during a coup, Princess Aidris Am Firn of the Chameln flees for her life. Constantly on the run from unseen enemies of the crown, she poses as a commoner and joins a cadre of women warriors so she can fight those who assassinated her parents and continue to hunt her. While cultivating allies, Aidris learns that two pretenders have ascended to the dual thrones of Chameln. Having discovered their true queen is still alive, counselors from Chameln rally to her side and convince the queen that the time has come for her to reclaim her birthright. But before she can do this, she must discover who her enemy really is, lest the unknown assassins strike her down too.

Note: This is an ebook reprint, out November 17th.

Friday 13 November 2015

Review: The Great Courses: Dante’s Divine Comedy

Professors: William Cook and Ronald Herzman

The professors work in tandem to impart their extensive knowledge of the Divine Comedy.  The set consists of 24 lectures, with four lectures of set up (one going over editions, one on Dante the poet and two on his literary influences), seven on Inferno, five on Purgatory, and seven on Paradiso.

Given the complexity of the poem, the lectures focus more on the skills you need to puzzle out the meanings of the various cantos on your own.  In some cases they show you how to read the poem so that you get the most out of it.  For some of the most important and/or difficult cantos, they look in more depth, sometimes spending the entire lecture on one or two cantos.

There’s a lot more regional politics in the poem than I expected, and the poem itself is much more interconnected and complex than I understood.  This is a series to watch, and rewatch, numerous times - before, during and after you read them poem - so you can get the most out of the poem and better understand what Dante was saying.

I started reading Inferno before I watched the first lectures and was amazed at how much I missed, even with the fantastic end notes of the translation I used.  There’s just so much there. 

Thursday 12 November 2015

Shout-Out: Planetfall by Emma Newman

Renata Ghali believed in Lee Suh-Mi’s vision of a world far beyond Earth, calling to humanity. A planet promising to reveal the truth about our place in the cosmos, untainted by overpopulation, pollution, and war. Ren believed in that vision enough to give up everything to follow Suh-Mi into the unknown.
More than twenty-two years have passed since Ren and the rest of the faithful braved the starry abyss and established a colony at the base of an enigmatic alien structure where Suh-Mi has since resided, alone. All that time, Ren has worked hard as the colony's 3-D printer engineer, creating the tools necessary for human survival in an alien environment, and harboring a devastating secret.
Ren continues to perpetuate the lie forming the foundation of the colony for the good of her fellow colonists, despite the personal cost. Then a stranger appears, far too young to have been part of the first planetfall, a man who bears a remarkable resemblance to Suh-Mi.
The truth Ren has concealed since planetfall can no longer be hidden. And its revelation might tear the colony apart…

Wednesday 11 November 2015

Video: You Suck at Cooking - Grilled Cheese

Not the usual kind of video I post here, but I saw one of these on facebook a while back and watched a bunch of them.  This one shows 2 'robot' hands cooking a grilled cheese sandwich.  There's some swearing.  If you like this, then check out 7 ways to chop an onion as well.

Tuesday 10 November 2015

Book Review: Black Dog Summer by Miranda Sherry

Pros: interesting characters, beautiful writing, heartwrenching story

Cons: will make you cry - a lot

When Sally, aka Monkey, was killed on the animal rescue farm where she was living with her daughter, she expected that to be the end of her story.  But the ongoing stories of her estranged sister, curious niece, brother-in-law she was in love with, and catatonic daughter, prevent her from leaving.

Set in South Africa, the book has some speculative elements (the spirit watching over its family and the Sangoma that lives next door), but is essentially a story about family and dealing with loss.  Sally’s spirit follows several characters, allowing you to really get to know them.  The family dynamics become more clear as time goes on, and you see how mistakes of the past compound and form emotional trials in the present.  It’s also highly effective that a lot of the story is told from the perspective of the 11 year old niece, who doesn’t know what the word ‘genocide’ means and has to look it up on her brother’s computer and whose curiosity and nosiness subsequently gains her knowledge she’s not ready for.

The writing is beautifully descriptive, with a lot of sensory information telling you how things look, smell and feel.  The metaphors used are unique, but work within the context of the story.  For example, “The morning sun beats through the muslin blinds of the bedroom window, making the room look as if it’s been pumped full of golden gas”.

The ending, where you finally learn the extent of what happened at the farm when Sally dies, is gut-wrenching, but don’t think that’s the only sad part of the book.  Books have made me cry in the past - for a chapter or two, when a character I loved died or something else irrevocably sad happened to them, but I haven’t cried this hard in years.  From the first few pages this book grabbed my heart strings and then kept pulling them over and over again.

I loved the portrayal of the Sangoma and how her story was resolved.  I’m less sure about the massacre and the ‘black men are coming with machetes’ message of the main story.  I don’t know enough about South Africa to know if this is still a modern fear or if the book plays on a remembrance of apartheid (which, though it feels like it happened a long time ago really didn’t).  But the book was written by a South African woman.

I loved this book.  I loved the descriptive language.  I loved the characters.  I loved the setting.  If you’re looking for something different, give this a try.

Friday 6 November 2015

Books Received in October 2015

My apologies for being late with this post.  It's been a busy month and I have to admit I forgot about it.  But I greatly appreciate the books I'm sent.

Against A Brightening Sky by Jaime Lee Moyer - This is the third, and for now final, volume of Moyer's Delia Martin books.  I love the setting (1910s San Francisco), the protagonists, and the mysteries the stories resolve around.  You can read my reviews of all three, Delia's Shadow, A Barricade in Hell, and Against a Brightening Sky.

By 1919 the Great War has ended, peace talks are under way in Paris, and the world has been forever changed. Delia Martin, apprentice practitioner of magical arts, and her husband, Police Captain Gabriel Ryan, face the greatest challenge of their lives when fragments from the war descend on San Francisco.

As Delia prepares to meet friends at a St. Patrick's Day parade, the strange ghost of a European princess appears in her mirror. Her pleasant outing becomes a nightmare as the ghost reappears moments after a riot starts, warning her as a rooftop gunman begins shooting into the crowd. Delia rushes to get her friends to safety, and Gabe struggles to stop the killing-and to save himself.

Delia and Gabe realize all the chaos and bloodshed had one purpose-to flush Alina from hiding, a young woman with no memory of anything but her name.

As Delia works to discover how the princess ghost's secrets connect to this mysterious young woman, and Gabe tracks a ruthless killer around his city, they find all the answers hinge on two questions: Who is Alina...and why can't she remember?

City of Blades by Robert Jackson Bennett - I absolutely loved City of Stairs.  So I'm overjoyed Bennett has written another book in that world.

A generation ago, the city of Voortyashtan was the stronghold of the god of war and death, the birthplace of fearsome supernatural sentinels who killed and subjugated millions.

Now, the city’s god is dead. The city itself lies in ruins. And to its new military occupiers, the once-powerful capital is a wasteland of sectarian violence and bloody uprisings.

So it makes perfect sense that General Turyin Mulaghesh— foul-mouthed hero of the battle of Bulikov, rumored war criminal, ally of an embattled Prime Minister—has been exiled there to count down the days until she can draw her pension and be forgotten.

At least, it makes the perfect cover story.

The truth is that the general has been pressed into service one last time, dispatched to investigate a discovery with the potential to change the world--or destroy it.

The trouble is that this old soldier isn't sure she's still got what it takes to be the hero.

Thursday 5 November 2015

Shout-Out: Swords and Scoundrels by Julia Knight

Two siblings.
Outcasts for life.... together.
What could possibly go wrong?

Vocho and Kacha are champion duelists: a brother and sister known for the finest swordplay in the city of Reyes. Or at least they used to be-until they were thrown out of the Duelist's Guild.

As a last resort, they turn reluctant highwaymen. But when they pick the wrong carriage to rob, their simple plans to win back fame and fortune go south fast.

After barely besting three armed men and a powerful magician, Vocho and Kacha make off with an immense locked chest. But the contents will bring them much more than they've bargained for when they find themselves embroiled in a dangerous plot to return an angry king to power....

Wednesday 4 November 2015

Video: Authors Reading Mean Reviews

Open Road Media filmed some of their authors reading negative reviews of their books.  It's easy to forget at times that someone spent hours and hours and hours working on the novel you didn't like. And not all books fit all tastes.  That book you hated, could be someone else's favourite.  Sometimes a book you couldn't stand at one point in life becomes a treasure if you read it again later on. Similarly, a book you used to love can, on rereading it, turn out to not be so great after all.

Tuesday 3 November 2015

Book Review: 172 Hours on the Moon by Johan Harstad, Translated by Tara Chace

Pros: some tense scenes, hard SF, tense climax 

Cons: confusing ending, lots of unanswered questions including some contradictions 

In an attempt to raise funds for another manned mission to the moon in order to investigate strange occurrences recorded there from the 1970s, NASA holds a contest for three teenagers to win a place on the trip.

Mia is a Norwegian singer in a band she hopes will make it big.  She has no interest in the moon.  Nor does Midori, a clothes loving Japanese girl.  Antoine signs up for the contest so he can get as far away from his ex-girlfriend as he can.  None of them know what awaits them on the moon.

While the teens get a lot of pages devoted to them, I never connected with them or felt they developed much as characters.  Perhaps that’s because I’m no longer a teen, though I did understand and sympathize with their problems (parents, relationships, trying to find yourself).  It seemed that some important things were left out of the story, like why Simone broke up with Antoine.  While I didn’t find the kids irritating, I also didn’t find them so interesting I wanted to spend the first half of the book learning about them.  I wanted them to get to the moon faster - and the action there to be more drawn out and suspenseful.

The adults get very little introduction, so when things start happening the action slowed while some backstory was quickly doled out.  The horror elements, when they showed up, were quick and brutal with little opportunity to build tension.  The climax was quite tense though, which I appreciated.

I found the ending very confusing, with several plot holes exposed.  More on this in the spoiler section.

The story used actual science (astronaut training, takes four days to get to the moon, the signal code used).

It was a quick read, even if the ending left me with more questions than I started with.  Ultimately I found the book unsatisfying.

*** SPOILERS ***

I’m basically asking a bunch of questions I would love answers to.  It is a horror novel, and there doesn’t necessarily need to be logic to a horror story (especially a SF one where the bad guys aren’t human), but it is nice when a story makes sense and this one left me seriously scratching my head over several things.

The report at the end explains that Mia’s body is on the moon, which means she wasn’t on the capsule at all (she either died outside DARLAH 2, or she died at DARLAH 1 and her body was moved - like those of others - to that location).  So were two dopplegangers fighting over the escape capsule?  Are the dopplegangers unaware of what they are?  Similarly, we’re told the NASA people didn’t find anyone in the capsule when they recovered it, yet the news story clearly states they found a survivor.  Was this an error or was there a second doppleganger (one in the capsule and one outside)?  

How did Coleman not notice the black in Midori’s eyes as he explained what the dopplegangers were?  And why was he the only crew member who knew about the dopplegangers?  I thought their part of the mission was to set up equipment to conduct research on them.  Or were they just setting up preliminary stuff for the second mission’s team to work with?

Did the dopplegangers send the second signal?  If so, were they trying to get to earth?  They seemed pretty adamant on the moon that no one leave, but were quite happy to start taking people over once they arrived on earth.

Who sent the warnings to the teens before their trip?  I thought it was the dopplegangers warning them not to come, but if they didn’t want them to come that badly, why send the signal that encouraged NASA’s mission in the first place?  Unless the messages came from different sources.

I find it odd that no one at NASA questioned whether DARLAH 2 would still work and its supplies be adequate.  Even without human interaction or wind, etc. other things could have gone wrong in the 40 years it was dormant.

Monday 2 November 2015

Shout-Out: Solar Express by L. E. Modesitt, Jr.

You can't militarize space. This one rule has led to decades of peaceful development of space programs worldwide. However, increasing resource scarcity and a changing climate on Earth's surface is causing some interested parties to militarize, namely India, the North American Union, and the Sinese Federation.

The discovery of a strange artifact by Dr. Alayna Wong precipitates a crisis. What appears to be a hitherto undiscovered comet is soon revealed to be an alien structure on a cometary trajectory toward the sun. Now there is a race between countries to see who can study and control the artifact dubbed the "Solar Express" before it perhaps destroys itself.

Leading the way for the North American Union is Alayna's friend, Captain Christopher Tavoian, one of the first shuttle pilots to be trained for combat in space. But, as the alien craft gets closer to its destination, it begins to alter the surface of the sun in strange new ways, ways that could lead Alayna to revolutionary discoveries-provided Chris can prevent war from breaking out as he navigates among the escalating tensions between nations.
A few years back Tor partnered with NASA to create a series of books that focused on concepts that were important to the current and future work of the space agency.  Solar Express is one of those NASA-Inspired Works of Fiction (NIWoF).

Out November 3rd.

Sunday 1 November 2015

One Lovely Blog Award: 7 Interesting Facts About Me

I was given a One Lovely Blog Award by S. C. Flynn.  It's one of the awards that goes around the internet as half introduction, half chain letter (where you nominate other blogs to do the same).  This one asks the recipient to tell 7 interesting facts about themselves.  While there are rules to do so, I won't be passing this on.

So, here are 7 - hopefully - interesting facts about me.

1. I taught English as a foreign language in Japan for 2 years at a private conversation school.  The school I worked for encouraged us to hang out with our (mostly) adult students, so I got to know a lot about Japan, Japanese culture, and interesting places to visit.  I lived several hours North of Tokyo, so I got to see a lot of areas most tourists don't generally go.

2. When I came back from Japan I used some of the money I saved to travel around Europe for 4 months.  I used it as a research trip to supplement my medieval studies BA.  I saw an amazing number of castles and cathedrals, gardens and towns.

3. I've completed 2 novels that aren't worth publishing, but which taught me a lot about the craft of writing and the dedication and drive necessary to be an author.  I spend my time reading, rather than writing nowadays.  It's much easier.

4. I was lucky enough to work Ad Astra (a small Toronto sf conference that's focused on the art and business of writing) the year Terry Brooks was a guest of honour.  He's the author that got me hooked on fantasy and I had the privilege of selling him a copy of his own Elfstones of Shannara.

5. I started interviewing authors for displays at the bookstore (and then published them on this blog) to show customers how much time and effort went into writing a book.  The Canadian dollar was high at the time and we were getting a lot of complaints about the high cost of books in Canada when compared with their US prices (both of which are printed on the backs of the books).  Things got so bad I actually had one customer throw books at me when I was working cash.  Aren't people wonderful?

6. I love travelling and have an ever expanding list of places I want to visit.  I love learning about new cultures and trying new foods.

7. My non SF/Fantasy hobbies include photography, cooking, and making my own greeting cards.  I was pretty crafty/artsy as a kid.  I taught myself how to draw, but need a model to do it well (aside from faces).  My hobbies are all time consuming, so I don't get to do as much artsy stuff as I'd like especially since I started reviewing a book a week for this blog.