NaNoReMo Opening Lines

grahamewindwillowsI am reading two books again for National Novel Reading Month again.

The reason I’m reading two is because if one goes sour on me, I have a back-up…if not, I will have read two wonderful, classic books in February.

I also like to at least have a book to read on my Kindle app, to read when I’m on the bus or when I’m waiting in doctor’s offices or before I go to sleep at night.

My two books this year are The Martian Chronicles, by Ray Bradbury, in paperback and The Wind in the Willows, by Kenneth Grahame in eBook form. I decided to go with Wind in the Willows because I opened it up and was struck by the opening lines and kept on reading. It begins:

“The Mole had been working very hard all the morning, spring-cleaning his little home. First with brooms, then with dusters; then on ladders and steps and chairs, with a brush and a pail of whitewash; till he had dust in his throat and eyes, and splashes of whitewash all over his black fur, and an aching back and weary arms. Spring was moving in the air above and in the earth below and around him, penetrating even his dark and lowly little house with its spirit of divine discontent and longing…”

I like that…divine discontent. I can identify with little Mole, tired of winter and longing for spring. So I’m reading on with that same spirit of hopefulness.

I started reading The Martian Chronicles on the bus yesterday afterbradbury2 class. I had a trip to make to one of the main stations to purchase a bus pass, since I’ve been sick and haven’t felt much like doing anything. So I had a bit of time on my hands on the buses and waiting for buses to read. It’s got an interesting start, too:

“One minute it was Ohio winter, with doors closed, windows locked, the panes blind with frost, icicles fringing every roof, children skiing on slopes, housewives lumbering like great black bears in their furs along the icy streets.”

A strange Earthly opening vision for a novel about the Red Planet, but it gets there soon enough.

I’m enjoying both books so far. I hope wherever you are, you are reading something enjoyable.

What are you reading right now?

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The Martian Chronicles for NaNoReMo

Life sometimes throws you curve balls.

I wrote a blog post awhile back asking my friends and readers to help me pick a book to read for National Novel Reading Month coming up in February.

I had four books to choose from: Don Quixote, by Cervantes; The Island of Doctor Moreau, by H.G. Wells; The Wind in the Willows, by Kenneth Grahame and David Copperfield, by Charles Dickens.

I’d nearly made up my mind (with the help of the advice given by those who read the original post) to go with Wells. Then I found a book I’d lost awhile back. It seems to me that when I find a book after it’s been lost for some time, it’s like that book is begging to be read.

Who am I to argue with fate? Especially since the author recently passed away and I’ve been wanting to get into some of his works that I haven’t read, including this one.

So that settles it.

For my NaNoReM0 2013 read, I’m going to the Red Planet with Mr. Bradbury.

Look for my tweets and Facebook statuses as I go along.

Happy reading, everyone!

bradbury2

February is National Novel Reading Month

As my friend John Wiswell recently pointed out, National Novel Reading Month, or NaNoReMo, is almost upon us.

National Novel Reading Month is when we look to the sad state of our reading lives, the classics that we have shamefully avoided or haven’t had the time to enjoy. Excuses, excuses. I am so poor in my classical reading that it’s not funny, it’s tragic. There are hundreds of classic books that I’ve yet to read. NaNoReMo is when I get a chance to help rectify that pitiful condition.

Last year, I read these two wonderful books. But before I read them, I downloaded a huge pile of free Kindle classics to my iPhone. I have a lot to choose from this year. I’m going in circles trying to decide what book to read.

I made a list of those that I would consider “classics” and filtered that into a shortlist of four books I thought I might be able to choose from. Now, I need your help. Let me know what you think of any, or all, of these books in the comments. You’re opinion may be the one that leads me to my new favorite classic.

Thank you.

#NaNoReMo 2013 Shortlist:

grahamewindwillowsThe Wind in the Willows, by Kenneth Grahame. How my childhood missed this classic fantasy, I don’t know. As a fan of fantasy, and animal fables (Chronicles of Narnia; Watership Down; One for Sorrow, Two for Joy, etc…) I have always hungered to delve into this tale of forest creatures.

Don-QuixoteDon Quixote, by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra. I’m taking Spanish 2 and have this book on my Kindle app in both English and Spanish. Wondering if reading it and comparing the two would help me get through the class a little better. I’d like to read this at some point in my life, but not sure now is the time.

The Island of Dr MoreauThe Island of Doctor Moreau, by H.G. Wells. I loved War of the Worlds, and this sounds like a really cool book. I’ve also never entirely read The Time Machine. I’m not listing it because I read about a third of it and then got sidetracked. I would like to finish that book someday. But the Island of Doctor Moreau has always appealed to me. It sounds like a cool, mad scientist story. I’d like to find out someday if I’ve judged the book by it’s title correctly.

copperfield-01Last book I’m considering is David Copperfield, by Charles Dickens. I’ve read (and dearly love) A Tale of Two Cities. It’s one of my favorite classics. I have not read another Dickens book and I need to remedy that. Soon. Not sure if this is the next Dickens book I need to read or not. I’ve considered others, Oliver Twist and Great Expectations. Would love to hear what my reader/writer friends think on the matter.

So, friends, what classic book do you think I should tackle for National Novel Reading Month?

NOTE: Read John Wiswell’s post for more information, if you’d like to participate in National Novel Reading Month yourself.

“Nothing But Flowers” KINDLE FREE Promotion

Received an email message from eMergent Publishing editor Jodi Cleghorn about a deal going on at the Kindle Store that’s way too good for anyone to pass up. EMergent Publishing is having a Kindle promotion for the anthology Nothing But Flowers.  Jodi says:

The promotion runs from Wednesday 23rd until Friday 25th, US (pacific) midnight to midnight, UK 9:00am – 9:00am, Australia 6:00pm – 6:00pm. It is a free download, and you don’t have to be signed up to any special program – you do need an Amazon account though. You also don’t need a dedicated Kindle eReader. The anthology can be read on a variety of devices using the Kindle App http://www.amazon.com/gp/feature.html?ie=UTF8&docId=1000493771 including smart phones, tablets and desk top computers.

KINDLE LINKS

USA http://www.amazon.com/Nothing-But-Flowers-Post-Apocalyptic-ebook/dp/B0073G2FRU/ref=sr_1_3?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1337733639&sr=1-3

UK http://www.amazon.co.uk/Nothing-But-Flowers-Post-Apocalyptic-ebook/dp/B0073G2FRU/ref=sr_1_3?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1337733686&sr=1-3

ABOUT LITERARY MIX TAPES

Inspired by the practice of recording music mix tapes, Literary Mix Tapes combines a love of music and short stories with a unique blend of creative crowd sourcing, collective submission and old-fashioned editorial grunt to create concept anthologies showcasing the freshest voices in speculative fiction.

ABOUT NOTHING BUT FLOWERS

Nothing But Flowers editor, Jodi Cleghorn despairing for musical inspiration for a Valentines Day anthology with a difference, had The Best of Talking Heads playing in the car at the end of a six hour drive from country New South Wales to Brisbane in January 2011. Fifteen minutes from home (Nothing But) Flowers came on and she seized on the concept of post-apocalyptic love stories using the song as a starting point. Always intrigued by the idea of daisies reclaiming Pizza Huts and yearning for a lawn mower, Cleghorn gave authors free reign over how they used the song, rather than assigning lyrics as individual prompts.

BLURB

In a devastated world, a voice calls out through the darkness of space, a young woman embraces Darwin, a man lays flowers in a shattered doorway, a two-dimensional wedding feast awaits guests, a Dodge Challenger roars down the deserted highway…and that’s just the beginning.

Inspired by the Talking Heads’ song of the same name, Nothing but Flowers explores the complexities and challenges of love in a post-apocalyptic landscape; from a take-away coffee mug to a gun to the head, a fortune cookie to a guitar, the open road and beyond. Poignant, funny, horrifying and sensual, this collection of short fiction leaves an indelible mark on ideas of what it means to love and be loved.

The History

Nothing But Flowers was released on Valentines Day, each story available free on the web for a period of 48 hours. In the 72 hours which spanned all stories being available, there were more than 3000 views of the stories, equivalent of selling around 60 books!

Three months later the paperback launched online with sister charity anthology 100 Stories for Queensland. Within hours of being released the anthology went to #1 in all four categories it was listed in on Amazon UK (Sci-Fi Anthology, Sci-Fi Short Stories, Fantasy Anthology, Fantasy Short Stories) and reached #13 in the general anthology charts there. It also reached #1 in Canada’s Amazon store (in its given categories) and as high as #13 in the US Amazon charts.

The anthology remained in the top 100 for a month in Sci-Fi and Fantasy Anthologies categories in both the UK and Canada.

The authors of Nothing But Flowers went on to provide the 26 song prompts for Literary Mix Tapes follow up anthology Eighty Nine.

Ten stories from the anthology were chosen in March 2012 for adaptation to screen in eMergent Publishing’s first joint movie project, co-produced by Jodi Cleghorn and Devin Watson.

Stories and Authors

Sound of Silence Laura Eno 
Scarecrow Man Jodi Cleghorn
Daisy’s Cafe Sam Adamson
On the Corner of Clerk Street Rebecca Emin
Sophie Solitaire: Confessions of an End Time Girl Maria Kelly
Diana the Phoenix Christopher Chartrand
Headlines and Post-It Notes Adam Byatt
Escape from Paradise Rob Diaz
Nothing Else Matters Carrie Clevenger
Grey, Like Stone Lily Mulholland
I Dream of Cherry Pies Jen Brubacher
There But For Fortune Dale Challener Roe
Click Annie Evett
Two Fools in Love Graham Storrs
Golden Opportunity P.J. Kaiser
Warrior Rebecca Dobbie
Deux Sots Paul Servini
Alone Janette Dalgliesh
The Rose Garden Jim Bronyaur
Empty Shelves Benjamin Solah
The Gift Emma Newman
This was Paradise Icy Sedgwick
Absent Jason Coggins
Dinner in Paphos Susan May James
Driver and the Beautiful Highway Dan Powell

So go get a copy of Nothing But Flowers while it’s free and enjoy yourself some post-apocalyptic love!


Bad Day at Bull Funk’s, excerpt from Kill the Crow #1

I’m going to be posting a few excerpts from my upcoming short story collection, beginning with this one:

He threw his cigarette down and was about to squash it under his heel when two vehicles pulled up. A Chevy cargo van and a classic red T-bird. Six elderly people got out. One woman and five men. A seventh man remained behind the wheel of the van, scowling.

Shit! thought Brent. Six customers? And all of them older than blame.

So much for an easy morning. He stomped his cigarette out and returned inside the store. He waited behind the counter as the old farts filed in with their canes and walkers. The last one in the door (a gent with a limp and a bushy iron-gray beard) turned and shut the door. He flipped the sign in the window over from “OPEN” to “CLOSED.”

Brent watched with mild amusement. “Waddidya do that for?”

The old woman went behind the counter. She pulled a Colt .45 Automatic out of her handbag and jammed it between Brent’s eyes.

“Oh, you gotta be shitting me!” Brent cried. “You’re fucking robbing us?”

“Yes and no,” said the woman.

Brent laughed. Grandma pressed the gun harder into his skull.

“Hey, that hurts!” Brent said.

“It’s supposed to,” Granny said. She watched her accomplices. They were rummaging through the section where the tequila display was. “Hurry up and get it together. Jimmy, you get the boxes from the back.”

“Okay, Bev. We’re on it.” Jimmy propped his cane against the shelves.

“What? You’re stealing liquor?” Brent asked incredulously.

“Just what we need,” replied Bev.

Brent made a move to subdue the old woman, but she grabbed the arm he was trying to strong-arm her with and twisted it behind his back. Brent yelped in pain. Christ, the old bitch is STRONG! Bev walloped him on the back of the head with the butt of the gun. He swayed, but didn’t pass out. He ceased struggling. Bev leaned in close to him.

“There’s a smart boy,” she whispered. She licked his earlobe. Brent shivered, frightened and grossed out at the same time. He twisted around and looked up at the security camera. Fake, but still…

“We know it doesn’t work,” said Ironbeard from the door.

Brent didn’t ask how they knew. He watched silently as the others began loading up the boxes with bottles of tequila.

“Why tequila?”

“Nosy little jerk, ‘aint he?” Jimmy said. “And brave. Last punk didn’t say or do a fricking thing.”

“Didn’t help him in the end, though, did it? He was still…” said one of the other men loading boxes. What did he say? It sounded like exyunitch.What the hell was that? Brent wondered. Did the old bitch damage his hearing when she hit him?

“Now, Rocky. It’s okay,” said Bev. She still had a hammer-lock on Brent. The business end of the gun was once more against his forehead. She leaned in to whisper. “We have a craving for fermented agave.” She was licking his ear again. “Among other things.”

Stay tuned for more excerpt goodness…

Books and Reading: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

Image from Amazon

At the beginning of the year I set myself a reading goal of 75 books for 2012 through the Goodreads Reading Challenge. Ambitious of me, you might think, and you could be right…75 books is quite a lot of reading for one year (approximately 1.44 books per week if you do the math). At first, I was ahead by two books…then, I fell behind. 😦 Currently, I’m 3 books behind, but should be able to add a book this week when I finish Game of Thrones. 

I don’t know if I’ll be able to read all 75 books, but I’m having a blast. And I’ve decided that when I read a really good book that might not be getting the kind of attention as, say, the Hunger Games trilogy, I ought to blog about it.

The first thing I love about Ransom Rigg’s young adult book Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is that it’s hard to pigeonhole. I’ll call it speculative fiction. If you wanted me to elaborate on that, I’d have to say that it’s a huge helping of fantasy, with some gothic horror/scare factor and a little science fiction/time travel sprinkled in for good measure. It also has some moments that are downright hilarious.

The second thing I love about it: the story begins in Florida. West coast Florida…my neck of the woods.

The third thing I love about this book is the way it incorporates the weird and creepy photographs (most of which are real photographs or are based on real photographs with not too many Photoshop enhancements) scattered between its pages. Riggs tells his story around the photographs. It gives the story a very unique flavor.

The story’s protagonist, Jacob, travels to a creepy island off the coast of Wales to discover the meaning of his grandfather’s life and mysterious death: what the authorities have officially deemed a mauling from a wild animal in the Florida scrub. But deep down Jacob knows better…because he saw the creature that murdered his grandfather.

While on the island, Jacob encounters the peculiar children of his grandfather’s stories. Jacob thought the stories his grandfather told him were just fairy tales. But he finds them on the island. The same children…and they haven’t aged a day from when his grandfather knew them.

The books is listed as young adult, but adults should also enjoy this quirky, gothic novel. I count it as one of the most fun reads I’ve had in awhile. And Tim Burton loves it so much he is reportedly going to make it his next film project. 

To whet your appetite for more, I’ve included the link to the YouTube book trailer, which was done by the author himself.

NaNoReMo: Reviews of Frankenstein & The Book of Dragons

Get your paws on a good book!

I participated in this NaNoReMo (National Novel Reading Month) thing where a bunch of us writers read some classic books for the month of January, a great idea that writer John Wiswell came up with.

I decided to read Frankenstein by Mary Shelley and The Book of Dragons by Edith Nesbit. Both books were free downloads from Amazon’s Kindle store, and I have the Kindle app on my iPhone. It charges on the stand by my bed at night, and I have the habit of reading from it before going to sleep.

Frankenstein: I’ve seen the different movie versions, from Boris Karloff to Gene Wilder’s comic performance, but I’d never read the book. I was very surprised by it. It’s told through the vehicle of letter-writing. A man exploring the Arctic by ship, Robert Walton, begins writing letters to his sister home in England, telling her the tale of the strange man they encounter, emaciated and ill on the ice: Dr. Victor Frankenstein.

Walton relates Frankenstein’s tale of horror to his sister: The doctor became fascinated with a new branch of science involving the animation of flesh. He created a hideous creature. This is the part of the story that’s familiar to us.

But what surprised me was that unlike the films, the monster is intelligent. He begins his life with an aesthetic outlook that the cruelty of mankind (and especially the rejection of his creator) obliterates within him until he becomes increasingly bitter and violent. He tries to reason with Frankenstein, asks him to create another being, an Eve, if you will. Frankenstein’s refusal and the subsequent losses he endures at the hands of the monster, his resolution to pursue his creature in order to end it’s existence makes the story an exciting read.

I’ll end my summation of it with this: Either you will be put off by the format and disparity between the book the films and hate it; or you will enjoy comparing and contrasting it to the films. The latter is the experience I had.

E. Nesbit 1858-1924

The Book of Dragons: Edith Nesbit was an English author and poet who wrote over 60 books for children. I wanted to read this book because I’ve been reading (and writing) a lot about dragons lately and I’d heard about Nesbit’s dragon stories for children.

The Book of Dragons was compiled and published in 1900. There are a total of eight short stories. Here are my favorites, with a brief summary:

The first story, The Book of Beasts, tells of a young king who finds a magical book of creatures. When he opens the book to a picture of any creature, it escapes from the book. Naturally, the boy king Lionel accidentally lets loose a dragon on his kingdom.

Uncle James, or The Purple Stranger is a charming tale of a place called Rotundia where elephants are the size of puppies and rabbits the size of elephants. And there is a purple dragon, but he’s not friendly like you’d think a purple dragon ought to be.

The Island of the Nine Whirlpools. I loved this story. It has a princess locked in a tower, under a curse, and guarded by a dragon. Sound familiar? Well, Nigel is no Shrek, but he may have what it takes to rescue the princess from the dragon. As someone who appreciates (but doesn’t enjoy) mathematical problem solving, I had to applaud Nigel’s brainpower.

There’s other great dragons in this book, including an ice dragon (The Ice Dragon, or Do as You Are Told) and an awesome dragon made of iron (The Dragon Tamers).

I really enjoyed these imaginative dragon tales. I think they’re great stories, for children of all ages. 🙂