Tag Archive: Tympest Books


A Couple of Thoughts

I find myself wanting to talk about a thing that feels like a trope but might have just been specific to one author. I know I’ve seen it from more than just the one guy, but I can’t for the life of me remember how common or not it is. Either way, it’s a great way to annoy me greatly in a single scene.

If it’s not a trope, I really want it to be.

Another thing, I kind of want to revisit a couple of books that I’ve previously reviewed and talk about things that I either hadn’t thought of at the time or that I don’t feel like I gave as much time to as I would have wanted.

That and I also find myself wanting to talk about series and how they work overall once I’ve reviewed all of them. It seems like fun.

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House Keeping 2/12/19

So, applying for jobs is seven kinds of a pain. I’m going to need to totally rework my resume, I think, if I want to get anything other than another retail job. All kinds of fun there in any case.

Aside from that, I’m looking at having a review done either tomorrow or Thursday. The last couple of weeks haven’t really been conducive to my reading, but I’m still working on it.

And I’ll have something fun up after the review goes live, so keep an eye out for that.

I’m also still working on figuring out my video editing software, so that box opening and other related stuff is still coming up.

That’s about it for this week. Standard stuff, if you like what I’m doing here feel free to leave a comment or a like. I feed off positive reinforcement. And, of course, if you really like what I’m doing here you can feed my caffeine addiction and buy me a ko-fi. In either case, have a great rest of the week!

Guest Post: Damien Larkin

I meant to have this up yesterday but then time escaped me badly. Badly. I’ve actually been really excited for this one too, so it’s going to be fun to see what you all think. If you like what you read here, Big Red is available this coming May and you can pre-order it from the author’s website. Big thanks to Mr. Larkin and Dancing Lemur Press. Enjoy!

When I first started writing Big Red, I had the plot clearly worked out. I knew the exact story I wanted to tell. Like most plans, it didn’t work out the way I originally intended. New ideas formed, characters changed, even some of the pivotal scenes adapted to serve a newer story. The original idea involved the soldiers in Big Red being closer to super-human Rambo types. After thinking about it and drawing on my own experiences, I rewrote it from the perspective of an average person, with an ordinary, average life pulled into an extraordinary situation.

When I was seventeen, I joined the Irish Reserve Defence Forces which ranks as one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Even today, I look back fondly at the camaraderie, life lessons and practical skills I learned. The one thing I remember more than anything though; the monotony.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Redoing foot and weapon drills on a daily basis was part of the role. Still, moving from a sudden burst of excitement (during simulated attacks on “enemy” positions in the Dublin/Wicklow mountains) to something mundane like map reading could wear out even the most enthusiastic of us.

As I rewrote Big Red, I found myself thinking more and more about those days. I wanted to capture what it was like being on the bottom rung, the lowest of the low. Set against the backdrop of a vicious war between the Mars Occupation Force, the human colonists and an aggressive indigenous alien species, the protagonist and the rest of the 2nd Battalion are mere observers at the start. Relegated to guard duty, they watch from the sidelines as the “real” soldiers do the fighting. Many are even grateful for the opportunity to sit the conflict out.

But as events unfold closer to home, average, normal everyday people have to make a choice. Will they rise to the occasion or run away from it?

I drew inspiration for Big Red from Robert A. Heinlein’s “Starship Troopers” and Joe Haldeman’s “The Forever War. Both are excellent reads with some fascinating points, philosophies and outlooks. I enjoyed them both greatly, but rather than espousing an ideal or political message, I wanted to focus on how the lines between good and evil can very easily be blurred in wartime.

These average, ordinary people become products of their environment. They soak up the prejudices of their fellow soldiers against the colonists, in some cases viewing them as on par with the enemy. In their simulated training environments, they begin to not only learn how to kill their enemy effectively, they learn how to loathe and despise them too.

Without making any judgements, I let the protagonist and his friends tell this story. It was a unique opportunity to explore if doing good can cancel out an evil act and vice versa. I’m extremely grateful for the opportunity to share this story with (hopefully) plenty more to follow soon.

Big Red cover

Damien Larkin is a full-time stay-at-home father of two loud (but happy) young children. When not tinkering with apps as a side project, you can find him reading everything and anything to do with psychology, history and science fiction. He enjoys turning terrifying nightmares into novels and currently resides in Dublin, Ireland.

https://www.damienlarkinbooks.com/

House Keeping 2/6/19

Things have fallen a little bit apart. Nothing I can’t handle at the moment, but it might be a concern later on.

Mostly that means I haven’t been reading as much as I’d like. I kind of stress shut down and just spent the weekend hanging out and working on not as much as I’d have liked the past couple of days. I’m also going to be sorting things out for a little while yet, so I am definitely running behind. Apologies for that.

I should have another guest post up for you all this Friday and I’m still working on figuring out the editing software to post that box opening video for the January Second Star Books box. A review of the contents will follow that, so I’m hoping to have it up sooner rather than later. Or, at least I’m hoping to have it up before the February box gets here.

That’s about it for now. As always, if you like what I’m doing here feel free to leave a comment or a like. Let me know if there’s anything you want to hear more about or if there’s a particular review you liked. And, of course, if you really like what I’m doing here, massive schedule slip aside, you can always feed my caffeine addiction and buy me a ko-fi. In any case, have a great rest of the week!

And I’m back with another guest post for you all. This one’s an excerpt, but I’m going to leave the framing up to the author. It’s actually a really interesting thing that I’m going to have to check out the next time I’m book shopping. Enjoy!

arasmith certainty principle cover

Excerpt from The Arasmith Certainty Principle

Thank you, Lauren, for the invitation to share a bit of my new science fiction adventure, The Arasmith Certainty Principle with your readers.  Like many of the adventure stories that I most like to read, The Arasmith Certainty Principle is about ordinary people coming face to face with extraordinary events.  As the book begins, three young scientists early in their careers are trying to piece together an explanation for a series of unexpected observations.  However, they soon find themselves caught up in the extraordinary implications of their observations and have to choose whether to put their lives and loves at risk to save the world from the disrupted reality that their discovery unleashes.

It’s always hard for an author to get a ‘feel’ for his or her own writing, so, in an effort to measure my own story, I recently played the Marshall McLuhan Page 69 game.  Marshall McLuhan was a Canadian intellectual who supposedly said that if you want to find out what a book is like before you read it, turn to page 69 and read that page.  I was somewhat surprised to find that page 69 (from the print version of The Arasmith Certainty Principle) faithfully captures some of the story’s juxtaposition of ordinary and extraordinary.  Check out the excerpt below and see if you agree!

Page 69 (Print Version)

Susan enjoyed her monthly bowling outing with Cynthia and Mike more than she had for a long time.  Perhaps her frequent and pleasant outings with Jonathan the past couple of weeks had mellowed her.  The kids were absent today, and so she couldn’t hide from Mike by talking to them.  As a consequence, she and Mike even enjoyed a short chat, without much disagreement.

Tonight, Susan found the familiar sights and sounds of the bowling alley particularly enjoyable.  She liked the clattering noise of falling pins and the shouts of patrons elated or disappointed with their bowling.  And she enjoyed the companionship without expectation.

A perfect evening.

Susan watched as Cynthia rose to pick her ball from the return rack, a light-weight purple one.  Cynthia glanced over her shoulder to the horseshoe benches that wrapped around the end of their lane where Susan and Mike sat.  Cynthia’s eyes went first to Susan, a faint smile warming her lips, no doubt pleased that she and Mike were getting along so well.  Susan returned the smile.  When Cynthia’s eyes went to Mike they warmed a bit more, and her smile changed, almost as if to say to Mike, “See, I told you she’d do ok in the end.”

Cynthia stepped to her spot in the lane and began her throw, but another motion caught Susan’s attention, two lanes over, half-way down toward the pins.  At first it was just a hint of moving color, shimmering in the empty lane, a few feet above the polished hardwood.  It flickered like an image from an old, failing film projector, blinking in and out as though not quite sure whether to exist or not.  As she watched, the image began to resolve into something like the shape of a person.

Susan might have wondered if she were seeing things, an hallucination, except she noticed that everyone else was watching too, eyes riveted on the shimmering being now hovering in mid-air.

russ colson author pic

Russ Colson is a scientist, teacher, author, gardener, and grandfather living in northwest Minnesota, far enough from city lights to see the Milky Way and the Aurora Borealis. During the dark northern winters, he teaches planetary science, meteorology, and geology at Minnesota State University Moorhead. In summers, he writes, gardens, and collaborates with undergraduate students on research projects in experimental planetary geochemistry. In 2010, he was selected by CASE and the Carnegie Foundation as US Professor of the Year.

Before coming to Minnesota, he worked at the Johnson Space Center in Texas and at Washington University in St. Louis where, among other things, he studied how a lunar colony might mine oxygen from the local rock. He has published a variety of technical papers, science-fiction stories, and essays on earth science education. His non-fiction science book Learning to Read the Earth and Sky, published by NSTA Press, offers a story-filled exploration of the nature of scientific investigation and how that investigation can be brought into the classroom. His sequel to The Arasmith Certainty Principle, A Light in the Sky, will be coming out in . He is currently working on a new trilogy (The Kilns of Jupiter, A People Joined Asunder, and Ancient and Future Gods) about a self-taught planetary scientist who finds herself caught up in an inter-planetary mystery and war after her best friend tries to blow her up with a car bomb.

You can find his author website here as well as Double Dragon Publishing’s listing for The Arasmith Certainty Principle here.

House Keeping 1/29/19

Hey, guess what didn’t happen over the weekend?

Anything really. It was a sleepy weekend full of nothing, I’m finding myself feeling better for having taken it, but that still leaves me a bit behind on things.

There is a fun thing though. Recently a previous guest author, Henry Quense, contacted me about a fiction writing workshop he’s written and done some videos for. It’s mainly aimed at helping kids in grades four to seven learn more about fiction writing. You can find out more here, it definitely feels worth a look see.

I do have video done for the Second Start Books box opening. I’m just going to need to figure out what I’m doing with my video editing software so that I can cut out some rough bits and a couple places where I accidentally turned the camera off. All in good fun.

Likewise with that, I’m going to have the review for the box done soon. That should be fun.

I’m a little behind on the book for review tomorrow, so that might go up a bit late. I might have to postpone it until Thursday. It is being a solid book though and once I get another chance to sit down and just read the remaining pages should fly by.

Related, I’ve got an announcement for after that review goes up. Something to look forward to there, I hope.

And, last thing, I’ve got another guest post coming up for you all on Friday.

So, yeah, standard stuff. If you like what I’m doing here and want to support my grand and glorious return feel free to leave a comment or a like. And if you really like what I’m doing here, feel free to follow or feed my caffeine addiction and buy me a ko-fi. In any case, have a great rest of the week!

Guest Post: Robert Gryn

Here’s to returning to the internet and a nifty guest post from Robert Gryn. Not much in the way of wording just now. So, enjoy!
In a city that crosses all realities, everything is possible, and everything is complicated. A murder of two lovers seems simple, but when the man is from Above and the woman from Below it’s anything but.
Detective Lang hunts for the killer. The chase takes him from the decrepit neighborhoods of Below to the highest towers of Above. And somewhere in between, he finds himself in a game between ambition and betrayal, whose stakes are not life or death, but only his soul.
two-skies-before-night cover

The Love and Hate Framework for the People in My Head

When I first began studying fiction writing, I remember reading that you have to both love and hate the characters you create. I didn’t understand this at first. Why would you write about characters you hate? How do you show fictional characters that only exist in your head love and hate in the first place? And how can you do both? This aphorism seemed a little too simple to the younger me. But over the years I’ve come back to it time and again, using it as a framework for thinking about the treatment of characters in fiction. Inventing people with real feelings is not an easy thing, after all, and being mindful of how we can fully engage with the characters we write can make them seem more present and more true to life.

Let’s begin with examining the most obvious question: why would you write about characters you hate? I’ve come to think of this in two ways. First, and this may seem obvious, but every hero needs a villain. We are all just as fascinated by psychopaths as we are by saints and so, as writers, we must learn to write them well. There’s something intriguing about people who act against one moral code or another. Maybe we wish we could have the freedom these characters seem to have or maybe we’re just drawn to something we can’t imagine ourselves doing. Whatever the reason, we love to read about characters we hate.

Second, as writers, we have to learn to “hate” the characters we love. It’s not that we have to hate the protagonists of our stories but sometimes we have to act as if we do. It’s an easy impulse to spare our cherished protagonists “the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.” But without the suffering, like that of the poor prince who spoke the words above, our stories would hardly be interesting.

I like to think that the drive to see characters suffer has more to do with our capacity for empathy than from some sadistic impulse. Then again, perhaps seeing characters suffer fits into our subconscious understanding of a reality that lies somewhere past the borders of optimism. There’s a certain comfort in seeing fiction fall in line with the unfair ways we expect life to treat us. A third possibility is our innate understanding of delayed gratification. We are willing to experience the “slings and arrows” because somewhere in the back our minds we expect some sort of relief or resolution.

But stories can’t be all about the trials we put our characters through. At some point, we have to show them some love. I’ve come to think of this in two ways as well. First, and perhaps the easier of the two, we should bask in the love we show the characters for whom we genuinely care. One of my favorite things to write is a scene in which a beloved character wins out. This could be a small personal victory, something as simple as a shared smile or one-upping a bully, and is especially meaningful if the character had little chance to succeed.

There’s something affirming about the underdog beating the odds that makes me hopeful for the human spirit. As I stated above, we naturally expect the world to be unfair and look for fiction to match that reality. But we also want the characters we care about to succeed regardless of those poor odds, and when they happen to fail, we feel their fall all the more keenly. Our capacity for empathy is so deep it seems to shape the narrative structures of all our stories.

And empathy is key for us as writers. This brings me to my second point about love. In order to portray the characters we write as people and not just narrative devices, we need to show them a level of empathy we might not be comfortable with if they were real people, especially if we present them as immoral or as performing “evil” acts. This is not to say that we shouldn’t write pure villains for whom we feel nothing and disavow their choices whether explicitly or implicitly. But rather, it’s that we experience more as readers when we see things from many perspectives. It’s one thing to see the faceless monster chase the protagonist. But it can be much more interesting to see the story from the monster’s point of view. Why do they act this way? What brought them to this place where they feel they must play such an awful part? And perhaps, in the process of giving insight into the villains in our stories, we learn to enhance our own general empathy for real people.

So do I finally understand what it means to both love and hate the characters I write? To sum up, my framework for love and hate as it relates to the people I write is as follows:

To love the people I write means to be present in the moment with them, especially if I genuinely love them as characters. It also means to see what they see in the way they see it, especially if I hate them as characters. This expressed empathy is crucial not only to make stories more well-rounded but to give us broader perspectives on our world in general.

Likewise, to hate the people I write means to use their sometimes immoral natures and acts to evoke curiosity and emotion from readers, especially if I hate them as characters. It also means that however much I may love certain characters, I must expose them to the pitfalls of our imperfect and often unfair existence. I must step back far enough to show them how cruel and uncaring life is.

This is by no means a complete formula for the treatment of characters in fiction. Whether these ideas sharpen my writing and make it more interesting is up to readers to decide. What I get from this framework is a path that helps me transition from inventing characters to realizing them as people, at least as people who only live in my head.

robert-gryn author pic

Robert Gryn was born in Poland during the latter years of the communist regime. His parents recognized that the socialist experiment was doomed to fail and set out for the more hopeful shores of America. Robert spent his youth moving from one school to another, winding up in one of the worst high schools in New Jersey. After graduating, Robert spent years working odd jobs in warehouses and construction sites. Like his parents before him, Robert soon realized that the personal experiment of his own life was doomed to fail.
Determined to find a better path, Robert decided to attend Columbia University where he studied everything from Psychology to Japanese, as well as Creative Writing. Unfortunately, even graduating with highest honors didn’t put him on a path that spoke to him. He drifted again, and accidentally wound up becoming a successful technology consultant, primarily because he knew how to turn on a computer.
It was a beach vacation to St. Martin that changed his life once again. Bored with the bright sunlight and the pristine beaches he sat down to begin writing the books that had always been in the back of his mind. He soon found that he was not so much a writer but a chronicler, as if the words had drifted into his mind from all those future centuries. What could he do but tell the stories of all those people who may never exist?
Robert has written a number of novels of impossible futures and unbelievable dreams. And as long as he knows how to turn on a computer, or how to commune with the thinking machines of tomorrow, he will continue to do so.
To learn more about Robert and his books, visit www.robertgrynbooks.com
You can also find Two Skies Before Night here.

House Keeping 1/23/19

So, I’ve been gone for awhile.

Stating the obvious as an opener, which is great, but I kind of feel like I need to talk about that. Because it kind of happens like this at some point every year these past few years. This time just happens to have started around the holidays and hit hard for the start of the year. It’s kind of a getting overwhelmed and just stopping thing, kind of a depression thing, and kind of a thing of meaning to take a short pause to catch up on a specific thing and winding up a month or more behind myself. It isn’t something I ever intend to do, but once I’m behind it’s hard to pull myself back to it.

Good news is, due to hours getting cut at work, I’m going to have more time for blog stuff. Bad news is, due to hours getting cut at work, I’m going to be more ramble-y and self concerned than usual for at least a couple weeks.

On to happier things.

I’ve got a guest post coming up for you all on Friday, so that should be fun.

I’m also mostly done with the book I was planning to have as my first of the year, I’m hoping to have the review for that posted some time this weekend. Following that, I’ve got a couple of reviews I have notes on that need writing but should be good to go shortly.

Related, I’m going to give another giveaway a shot. More on that when the post goes up.

As the weekly World of Darkness posts have sort of fallen through, I’m thinking I want to try for one or two posts on it as a wrap up and a work up of the story. Then, I’m planning on trying for a weekly post on the next campaign. I’m going to be playing in that one, rather than DMing it, so I should be able to take notes and get a good write up done post session.

Plus, I was lucky enough that my folks got me a video camera for Christmas, so I can start working on video stuff. That’s probably mostly going to be videos of my roommate’s dog eating treats for a little bit, but I’m also planning on filming a box opening for this month’s Second Star Books box tomorrow night. I’m super excited to experiment with this stuff, so this should be fun.

That’s about it for this week though. I’m not promising that I’m back back, but I’m going to do my best to get things squared away so that I can have things running smoothly sooner rather than later.

But, yeah, standard stuff. If you like what I’m doing here, feel free to leave a comment or a like. Have a great rest of the week!

2018 Books I Dig

I’ve put off posting this for two days, but there weren’t any entries for the giveaway.

Unfortunate, but I might could have planned a better time for it. And it isn’t like that’s going to stop me from trying again at the end of this year, so I’m going to try and make 2019 better than 2018.

That starts with planning things out and figuring what I can do, what needs to be postponed, and how to make a schedule of some stripe work for me.

In any case, everyone have a great rest of the week! Posts will resume next week.

Last Call

It’s the last day for entries in the 2018 Books I Dig Giveaway. Remember, entries end at midnight central time tonight.

One last time, the books up for giveaway are:

K. C. Alexander’s Necrotech: A gut punch of solid writing and a really interesting read.

Necrotech cover

Edgar Cantero’s Meddling Kids: The meeting of Lovecraftian horror and Mystery’s Inc. that hits a ton of nostalgia points.

Meddling Kids cover

And, of course, Seanan McGuire’s Sparrow Hill Road: A series of stories about a ghost, the Phantom Prom Date, in her own words.

Sparrow Hill Road cover

All three books have been five star reads for me as well as being books that I would talk about ad infinitum if prompted. They’re also all three signed by the author.

So, if you want the chance to win one of these books, follow this blog and either hit the link up above and answer the question there or answer the question here. Dealer’s choice on that.

Question is, what’s your favorite end of the year tradition? Alternatively, what did you most enjoy reading this year?

Winners will be picked using random.com and announced tomorrow, January 1st.

I’m also only able to ship to winners in the United States.