Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The Further Adventures of STEAMDUCK!


From the creator's of Her Majesty's Explorer: a Steampunk bedtime story comes word that Steamduck is getting his own book, Steamduck Learns To Fly !!

Here's the press release:

"Author Emilie P. Bush and illustrator William Kevin Petty are proud to announce the release date of the follow up to their bestselling children's book Her Majesty's Explorer: a Steampunk bedtime story.  On October 10, 2012, the waddling hero of HME - Steamduck - returns with another adventure in Steamduck Learns to Fly! 

In this new tale, the plucky mechanical duck discovers that REAL birds do more than swim. He turns to his old friend and maker - the Otter - to learn a few things about flying. They try and fail with propeller contraptions, hot air balloons and more. Despite all the mishaps, the pair eventually defy gravity and take to the sky. 

“With the success of Her Majesty’s Explorer, we thought long and hard about where we wanted to go with our darling characters. Steamduck has quite a following, and we wanted to make sure he was true to his heroic nature. Kevin is a pilot, and a huge fan of flight history, so we went with those ideas for our second Steamduck story,” says Emilie P. Bush.  “So, as he tries and fails with many different types of flight, he never gives up, and he never stops learning.”

Fans wanting to keep up with details and sneak peek images from Steamduck Learns to Fly! can follow the project on Facebook – as Steamduck has his own fan page. "

I enjoyed Her Majesty's Explorer very much and especially the character of Steamduck, so this was great news!  I'm very much looking forward to the new adventure!

Short Fiction Month: GREEN THUMB by Tom Cardamone (BrazenHead)

About the book:

Mutability blooms in the Florida Keys after the Red War. The genie boxes created King Pelicans with single human hands to rule the ruins of half-drowned Miami…and other, stranger persons. Slavers roam the deep waters offshore, taking captives to feed the voracious Kudzu Army and the human aqueduct bearing fresh water from Lake Okeechobee. On the last stretch of the Overseas Highway still standing, an albino seeress prophesies: “You will reach for the sun while staying rooted to the ground. But I fear your shadow will be much too long.”

Misunderstanding time, Leaf has lived for decades alone in a collapsing Victorian house on a desolate sandy key, feeding on sunlight and dew. When at last he meets a boy like—but so unlike!—himself, Leaf’s startling journey begins.

And what an journey it is!  What Tom Cardamone has achieved with Green Thumb is create a unique, post-apocalyptic world unlike anything that I've ever read before and populated it with a cast of characters that I was immediately taken with; by the end of the book, I was reading at hyper speed so I could find out what happened to Leaf and his companions!

I could not help but become totally immersed in Green Thumb; Cardamone writes beautifully and his world building here is amazing.   With every step that Leaf and his companion Scallop take, Cardamone exposes more of the drowned world they journey through, letting it unfold like a poisonous flower.  And danger lurks around every corner!  Slavers, pirates, dive boys; they all want a piece of the innocent Leaf and when his friends are unable to protect him, he has to grow up and in the process learns more about himself than even he knew lay within him.

And let's talk about the boys!  Leaf, Scallop and Hardy are characters I became quite engaged with.  I thrilled to their adventures, despaired when they were in trouble and even became disappointed in them at times.  These are young men that have had to grow up too soon in this harsh world, especially in the case of Leaf, but even in making the wrong decisions,  they can own their fate and keep going.  For better or worse, each one is changed and there is renewal and hope.

I absolutely loved Tom Cardamone's Green Thumb.  In it he creates a world that leaps off the page and that I long for him to explore further, as I believe there are many, many more tales to be told.  The lush language and escalating pace kept me hooked til the end and again, I was so engaged with the characters that I needed to know what happened to them and was both satisfied and surprised by the ending.

I heartily recommend Green Thumb to anyone who enjoys a well written story, alive with vivid imagery and told in a strong, clear voice.  I applaud Tom Cardamone on what he's achieved with Green Thumb and also BrazenHead for giving this wonderful work of speculative fiction a home, so the rest of us might also be cast under its spell!  Happy reading!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Short Fiction Month: Stories from EMPIRE STATE (Angry Robot Worldbuilder)

When the robotic publishing geniuses at Angry Robot released the mind bending book Empire State (see review here) by Adam Christopher, they also launched the collaborative project website WorldBuilder.  Here any and all fan creators who could write, paint, draw, sculpt or what have you, were invited to play in Christopher's noir alternate New York and create other, new works based on his novel, all with the blessing of Christopher and Angry Robot.

As I am such a fan of author AND book, I thought it would be fun and interesting to read and review the short fiction pieces that other artists have created in Empire State.  If you are wondering what it would be like to stretch your own creative muscles in the Empire State, you can find out how here and can also check out what other artists have done.

Now on to the stories!

First up is "The Biggest" by Hugo, Nebula and Locus award winning author James Patrick Kelly.  In his first ever superhero story, Kelly introduces us to Filbrick Van Loon, or "The Stilt", an earnest young man traveling to New York City to try to find his fortune in the big city after the loss of his mother.  What he finds is indeed the chance of a lifetime, but fame comes with a high price.  Kelly seems to be enjoying himself here and even ties in a well known event in NYC "history" with Van Loon's story.  "The Biggest" fits very nicely into the Empire State universe.

"This Here Empire State Ain't Mine" by Renee Parker is a short piece that works more as an introduction to her characters Emma Weston and Wilma Easton; I'd love to see more of their adventures together.  Again, it's a short piece but such is Parker's writing that her characters and their history are very intriguing.  They also seem to have living in the Empire State down pat, so you find yourself wanting to know how they manage and what happens next...more please, Renee!

"The Alienist and the Showgirl" by Keith Harvey is a darker entry into the Empire State universe.  It tells the story of Dr Josef Kleinthaler, chief psychiatrist at New York City's Bellevue Hospital and a strange young woman he becomes fascinated with, one Dorothea Stern, who claims to be from somewhere called...the Empire State?  With cameo appearances from Albert Einstein, a certain trio from L Frank Baum's classic Oz books and the War of the Worlds broadcast by Orson Welles, Harvey expertly plays up the paranoia of shadowy government agencies trying to cover up the existence of another world.  My favorite of the bunch!

"When Her Ship Came In" by Jeff Macfee deals with bootlegging and Prohibition in the Empire State; with nowhere to source its liquor from, the Empire State is dry as a bone and an desperate woman named  Pauline Tulley takes a bad situation and turns into her advantage, becoming a force to be reckoned with...but would her hard won position be enough to keep her safe from the reach of her criminal husband?  I enjoyed Macfee's story very much, and liked that Pauline was a woman who wasn't afraid to do what she had to survive in the strange new world of the Empire State; very entertaining!

This group of stories set in Empire State are all very different, yet very engaging takes on the world Adam Christopher has created.  Each author did their homework and stayed true to the tone and style of the original work and are worthy additions to Christopher's alternate New York.  I hope other, equally talented writers also take pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) and continue to play in the Empire State.  After all, it's a big, wide world to play in...

Or is it?

Monday, June 11, 2012

Short Fiction Month: 8 POUNDS: Eight Tales of Crime, Horror & Suspense by Chris F Holm (Poisonville Press)

Chris Holm first came to my attention as the author of the acclaimed noir fantasy Dead Harvest, from Angry Robot Books.  And now having completed his short story collection 8 Pounds: Eight Tales of Crime, Horror & Suspense, I can see what all the hubbub is about!

First off, let me say that 8 Pounds is an outstanding collection of stories.  Yes, these are tales of crime, horror and suspense but Holm infuses each piece with such atmosphere that it flows effortlessly from one story into another without jarring the reader from their experience.  It is a collection that needs to be read and reread often.

As always, I like to try to talk about each story individually, so let's go:

Both "Seven Days of Rain" and "The World Behind" have the flavor of vintage Stephen King, each blending the past with the present as the protagonists recall childhood memories and things better left undisturbed come to light. Holm expertly layers the atmosphere in these tales, keeping the reader engaged until the climax comes and hits them between the eyes.  Well done.

In "A Better Life" what I first thought of as a predictable new-couple-moving-to-the-country story really threw me for a loop at the end.  The increasing sense of foreboding builds and builds and the ending is both gruesome and horrific.

"A Simple Life" is a prime example of Holm's mastery of writing a great pulp story.  It follows a very unsympathetic character getting himself deeper and deeper into a very sticky situation for the affections of the very pretty femme fatale.  Again, a great story.

"The Toll Collectors" takes a hit-man from a classic noir yarn and drops him into a ghost story that turns into a revenge tale where his past sins come back to haunt him he finally gets his just desserts.

My favorite piece in the collection is the title cut, "8 Pounds".  And I hesitate to say anything as I don't want to give too much away but this story here is worth the price of admission alone.  Holm slowly (agonizingly) ratchets the tension up, up and just when you think you can breath again-BAM!! he lets you have it!  LOVED IT!

"The Well" is the little sister to "8 Pounds".  I definitely place them both squarely in the horror set of these tales but "The Well" is a much shorter, moody piece but the ending is just as satisfying.

And finally "The Big Score" is a story of double and triple crosses that I read through at light speed, so engrossed was I in lobsterman Mike Mallory and the trouble he finds himself in when he is mistaken for another fisherman who has something that two very unscrupulous treasure hunters want.  Again, Holm stages this story nicely and it is the most action packed of the set.

I cannot recommend this collection highly enough.  Usually I seek out short story collections as an introduction to an author's work but with 8 Pounds Chris Holm has made me want to try an entire new genre on for size.  My crime/noir/pulp reading is very infrequent but if there are writers out there producing stuff like this, stuff like Chris Holm, then I may have to take a longer, keener look at what's out there.  Thank you Chris Holm, for not only entertaining me with 8 Pounds but for showing me that dark, well written fiction can come in many, many forms.

(Book 2/10 toward the Horror/Thriller Reading Challenge 2012 hosted by Sweeping Me ).

Monday, June 4, 2012

Short Fiction Month: LOVECRAFT EZINE #14 edited by Mike Davis

The Lovecraft eZine is a monthly online magazine devoted to publishing Lovecraftian horror.  Publisher and editor Mike Davis says the goal of the magazine is and always will be to publish free, quality Lovecraftian fiction every bit as good as in print anthologies.  As a newcomer to Lovecraft and his work, I have found Davis and his magazine an invaluable source and inspiration.  So when I decided to feature a "Short Fiction Month" on the blog, it was a no brainer for me to include Issue #14, a special issue with stories written by women and featuring female protagonists.

As Silvia Moreno-Garcia states in the introduction, women have not had a huge place in Lovecraftian fiction, although this is changing.  She points out that writers and artists like Caitlin R. KiernanAnn K. Schwader and Galen Dara are exploring and reshaping Lovecraftian fiction, expanding its fan base and ensuring that it will be relevant far into the 21st century.

Issue #14 opens with "A Beer and Tentacles" by Holliann Kim, a pretty straight forward urban fantasy where an ex lover's revenge is slowly driving a man to question his sanity and the woman scorned is quite more than what she seems; it is the most light hearted of the pieces here but I did feel bad for the poor chap, knowing what kind of end he was coming to...

"Now She Preys Through Endless Days" by Jenna M Pitman is my favorite story of the issue; the author picks through all the usual Lovecraft tropes and comes up with a tale that utilizes the best of them.  Pitman gives us an ageless cosmic entity that is biding her time amongst puny humans, being worshipped by them,  and gathering her strength for the day when she shall escape her prison and strike back at those that set her adrift...

"Fiesta of Our Lady" by Ann K Schwader is a gorgeous poem that conjured such vivid images for me; it is also another favorite of mine. After reading and rereading it, I kept wishing it was a much longer piece so I could lose myself more deeply in this story of an ancient "serpent-skirted" Lady from before the time of Man.  Ms Schwader's poem packs a big punch with just a small amount of words and I found myself online right away, looking to get more of her stories so I might continue to be transported...

"God Serum" by Wendy N Wagner takes the Lovecraft Mythos into a post-apocalyptic future and Ms Wagner's world building is impressive; so much so that I hope she explores it further and gives us more of the history of this world and of "The Unraveling".  

"Drive, She Said" by Tracie McBride brings the special issue of the Lovecraft eZine full circle with another story that takes the Mythos to the streets; an unsuspecting taxi cab driver picks up a very strange fare and what happens after will wind up haunting him for the rest of his days.  A very satisfactory close to a wonderful collection of stories!

I want to congratulate Mike Davis on what he's done with Issue #14; he's assembled varied and entertaining stories by some great writers here and shown that women do have a place in Lovecraftian fiction that they more than deserve. Mission accomplished, sir!

*And if you're looking for an introduction to Lovecraft and his Mythos, I would encourage you to seek out and support the magazine!  Yes, it is free to read online but it does cost money to produce it.  You can learn more about supporting the magazine here and even how to get past issues for your Kindle, Nook or iPad here.  Each month, reading the eZine is something that I and many others look forward to, so let's keep it going!

Happy reading!

Friday, June 1, 2012

Short Fiction Month: BALANCE by Peter Giglio (Evil Jester Press)

"...and with the Blast came a bug."

And so begins "Balance" by Peter Giglio.

I believe I've mentioned here on the blog that I am a big fan of zombies; in fiction, in movies, in television-you name it and I love it.  So when I came across "Balance" I dug right in, ready to jump into some exciting zombie action!

What I got was a novella that yes, has plenty of the zombie action one would expect, but also a story that has a surprising amount of heart and emotion.  "Balance" is a very unique, well written tale that easily stands head and shoulders above the rest of the moaning, shambling crowd.

Giglio's world building is detailed but he doesn't spend a lot of time with info dumping on his readers, instead keeping the pace brisk; this is a zombie apocalypse, after all.  But it with his characterization that Giglio makes "Balance" really shine.  There are six main characters in "Balance" and we get to see the story unfold from all their individual viewpoints.  Yet none of the characters are generic, uninteresting stereotypes; Giglio gives us fully realized people that we come to care about and whose outcomes we are totally invested in.  Then he takes it yet another step further and  applies a twist at the end that really slams home the emotional heart of the story (to say more would be to spoil it!).

I thoroughly enjoyed reading "Balance" by Peter Giglio and you will, too.  It is a fast paced tale that offers a fresh take on some well trod zombie territory.

(This book counts towards the Zombie Reading Challenge 2012 hosted by Book Chick City AND the Horror/Thriller Reading Challenge 2012 hosted by Sweeping Me.)