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Book Review: G.M. Nair's Duckett & Dyer: Dicks for Hire

I picked up a copy of G.M. Nair’s Duckett & Dyer: Dicks for Hire because I met him on Twitter, and he seemed very funny! Also, I happen to love scifi/fantasy comedies like Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and anything by Terry Pratchett, so I was excited to read one by a new author. I’m so glad I did, because Nair’s book is a joy to read. It’s funny, but it also has moments of great drama and pathos, and I loved the characters.

It took Michael and Stephanie nearly an hour of walking before they spotted a lone cab searching the edge of suburbia for a fare like a grandparent canvassing a toy store for a "Nintendo Playstation."

Michael Duckett and Stephanie Dyer seem at first like the most hilariously awkward/incompetent duo to ever fumble their way through a cosmos spanning mystery. But one of the things I loved about the book was how they grew and developed as the story progressed. They both come to reevaluate their lives and their friendship in meaningful ways, Even side characters, ones we barely meet, seem to grow over the course of the book. What’s more, while the story has plenty of moments of zany comedy, there are moments of poignancy and depth that I loved. As the book progressed, Nair gave both Duckett & Dyer a level of self-awareness that lead to some very thoughtful, sweet moments.

Overall, I really loved this book. If I had any criticism, it’s that the set up was a little long, but the payoff was so great it was totally worth it. Like the best comedies, it has a kind and compassionate heart, and like the best scifi, it has a fascinating and engaging world. I can only hope that G.M. Nair is working on a sequel, because I can’t wait to read what happens next!

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Review: The Goblin Emperor

I'd heard about Katherine Addison's new book, The Goblin Emperor, and since it seemed like a story I might enjoy, I decided to give it a try. I'm happy I did, since it's one of the most refreshing and wonderful fantasy stories I've read in a while. Addison's main character, Maia, the half-goblin fourth son of an Elven emperor, is one of the most likable, sympathetic characters I've read in fantasy since Samwise Gamgee.  

Unlike much of the fantasy released today, The Goblin Emperor has very little darkness or dramatic action. It's a novel about how Maia, a neglected, exhiled fourth son, becomes emperor after the murder of his father and brothers and learns to navigate the treacherous, complex intrigue of his court. Yet the book has a profound emotional resonance, considering it's the story of a young man thrust into a new world were he struggles to find friends and allies, while worrying that people's lives depend on his every decision.

Maia grew up untrained in the skills he needs to rule, but he throws himself into learning everything about his court with enormous dedication. His compassion, sensitivity and willingness to defy traditions at first seem like terrible weaknesses in a place more used to the impassive, often cruel reign of his cold-hearted father. But as Maia grows into his role, his kind heart wins him the loyalty and love of his servants and some of his family. Although there's an intriguing mystery that unfolds as Maia searches for the people responsible for the airship crash that killed his family, the book on the whole is a domestic drama. Indeed, while the assassination and coup attempts against Maia give the book moments of intense drama, the true story feels more like a Bildungsroman (a coming of age story). 

While I enjoy Game of Thrones and other dark fantasy, I'll admit it was a huge relief to read this somewhat light-hearted, optimistic book about courtly intrigue. It shows how much real drama and emotion can revolved around the fear of public embarrassment or the longing for acceptance and friendship. I nearly cried in the last few pages when Maia ultimately rejects cruel, if well-intentioned advice to avoid friendship. The book's warm, positive message was a healthy reminder that while cruelty exists, there are far more Maias out there than Ramsey Boltons. Indeed, in The Goblin Emperor, Addison shows how love and loyalty can ultimately defeat ambition and cruelty. I'd recommend this book to anyone interested in the lighter side of fantasy, especially intrigues. 

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StoryTime Read Aloud of "The Last Bird"

One of the things I signed up for during OWSCyCon 2019 was Timothy Bateson’s Storytime. Timothy and a few other volunteers agreed to record some of our stories and put them up on youtube! Storytime ended up being so popular that poor Tim got inundated with requests, but he kept going and is going to finish them all! I loved the audio for this story so much, I got tears in my eyes when I heard it. “The Last Bird” was one of my favorite stories from Sapience, and it’s been pretty popular with reviewers as well. So check it out, in audio form! Thank you so much, Timothy and Phoebe Darqueling, who did the voice recording.

Your Listen

News, Events, and a Guest Post!

I’m very excited for June because my newest book, Saints and Curses, will be coming out this month on June 5, 2019! It is available in ebook and paperback, and it will be free on Kindle Unlimited. Here’s the blurb and the cover:

Explore worlds of light and dark, where magical whimsy and grim tidings alike are painted across the tapestry of human experience.
Indulge in tales of the fantastical where enchantments are bought and sold at the local corner store, your morning latte gives you special abilities, and you might just adopt a murderous, vampiric cat. Your child might be stolen away in the night and replaced with an ancient, evil creature of the fae, waves of plague-ridden vermin consume everything, and only a saint could hope to turn the tide.
These stories and more await you, if you dare to turn the page...

I’ll also have a table at ArlingCon 2019, on June 15, 2019 from 10am to 6pm. I’ll have copies of both my books to sign and sell. I had a great time at Dallas Fan Expo this year, and I’m looking forward to attending ArlingCon as well! You can find out more information about the event here, and I’ll be posting plenty of pictures and video from the Con on my Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter accounts.

In more exciting news, one of my short stories is in the May issue of Kzine (#24). It’s one of my favorite stories, and I’d highly recommend you check it out!

Last but not least, you can read a flash fiction horror story I wrote on K. T. Rose’s blog as a guest post!

The Newest Reviews/Book Mentions/Spotlights for Sapience!

I’m very happy at how Sapience has continued to get excellent reviews on Amazon and Goodreads! Recently, Sapience also received a lovely review from Shari Sakurai on her blog. My favorite quote:

I think what I loved most about the stories was that as dark as they were, there was very often hope amongst the darkness and the characters had resolve to prevail no matter what difficulties they faced. Each one was beautifully written and are the kinds of tales that will stay with you.

Several blogs and websites have also spotlighted Sapience recently, including on Jennifer' Perkins’ Author Esquire #IndieApril Booklist, A. Woodley’s Random Stuff and Books, Chris Morton’s New Adventures in Sci-fi, and Book of the Day. Thank you to everyone who’s helped get the word out about Sapience!

Also, as a part of OWS CyCon 2019, Sapience will be a part of a rafflecopter giveaway! It’s free to enter, so check it out and you could have the chance to win an Amazon gift card as well as a selection of books from the science fiction writers of the CyCon! For more chances to win, you can subscribe to my newsletter using the form below! Make sure you put OWS CyCon 2019 in the subject!

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Odin Oxthorn Shares Their Greatest SciFi Gadget for OWS CyCon 2019

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Welcome to another fantastic stop in our Greatest Gadgets blog hop! On this stop, we’re highlighting awesome Scifi tech, and you can find a full list of participating authors and topics for this hop on the OWS Cycon Website. Let’s dive in!

Welcome Odin!

Hi there! Thanks so much for having me!

Before we dive in to the nitty gritty, what is Sleepless Flame about?

Sleepless Flame is a fast-paced mission style cyberpunk thriller featuring a nonbinary protagonist. You follow the exploits of Nara, an alien war criminal that made a new life for herself as a mercenary in the Undercity of Arcadia.

Things get interesting for her when the unconscious body of the heir of the largest Biotech conglomerate lands at her feet. The same company that also has the largest price on her head. Oh what to do?

What can you tell us about the piece of SciFi tech you’re featuring today?

Let me introduce you to the InSpec Araknyd Visualization Assistant. Ranked number 1 in reconnaissance and user experience.

This tiny AI will give you the power of sight from another camera’s eyes! Just switch it on then drop it, and  this ingenious piece of machinery will do the work for you! No more depending on open wireless ports to risky security systems.

The Araknyd will automatically seek out the nearest surveillance device and infiltrate its systems, handing off the device’s visuals directly into your Augmented HUD in YOUR preferred platform. Its eight output connectors are not only its mode of transportation, it is also guaranteed to interface with every type of port on the market! (And some off market too.)

Don’t be cornered on your information gathering excursions without taking one of these with you!

NOTE: InSpec is not held liable for actions that violate trade agreements and local law. The Araknyd is used for in-house corporate surveillance and not to be used to gain access to unauthorized property.

Here is an excerpt from Sleepless Flame describing it in action:

She extracted a tiny mechanical spider from a pocket, turning it on its back to reveal a switch on its abdomen. With a gentle push, the critter twitched to life, flailing its tiny needle-like limbs excitedly as she set it on the ground.

           The critter darted over the floor, racing up to the ceiling with an eager tempest of pointy feet. Consumed by its hunting instinct, the creature accelerated toward its hapless victim, stalking a vigilant surveillance unit monitoring the corridor. The predator encircled the base of the camera, rearing back on its hind legs as it sized up its foe. Having uncovered the device’s weak point, it lunged onto its prey, ramming two of its wiry projections into the base of the camera. After a moment, it let off a victorious chirp, alerting Nara of a successful connection.

           Proud of its achievements, the critter summoned a display into Nara’s screen, showing off the perspective of the conquered camera. As she zoomed in on the screen, she reached her hand out past the elevator door, watching her fingers disappear in a hazy mist of warping light as the bug worked its illusory magic.

Where can people find you on the web?

Thanks for having me! I have a booth over at OWSCyCon where you can check out my work and come chat with me:

https://owscycon.ourwriteside.com/forums/topic/odin-oxthorn-author-booth/

As well as my Books here:

https://www.amazon.com/Odin-Oxthorn/e/B07B546XXR

But you can also follow me around the internet here:

https://www.odinsmusings.com/

https://www.facebook.com/OdinsMusings/

https://twitter.com/OdinsMusings

https://www.youtube.com/user/odinsmusings

https://www.instagram.com/odinsmusings/

Hope to see you there!


For more stops on our World-building Showcase, visit the tour page on the OWS CyCon website. You can also find more great SciFi authors and books on our main Sci Fi event page.

Also, if you’re visiting from OWS CyCon, don’t forget to subscribe to my Lunarian Press newsletter using the Subscribe box below!

Review: Tales from Alternate Earths

In honor of Indy April, I decided to read and review several books by independent authors or small presses. I chose Tales from Alternate Earths form Inklings Press to review because I’d read an enjoyed some of the Leo McBride’s Altered Instinct. Full disclosure: Altered Instinct gave a great review to a story I contributed to Red Sun Magazine.

Once I started reading this, I actually tore through many of the stories pretty quickly. I thought that the theme of the anthology, which was imagining alternative events or outcomes in human history, was quite interesting. That said, like many multi-author anthologies, the styles and interpretations of the authors included were wildly variable. In fact, if I had a criticism, it’s that it was actually too variable. Every time I felt I had a grasp of the events and alternate history in one story, I’d move on to another one that was incredibly different in time period, characters, and theme. Sometimes that worked, as I found the new story as interesting as the one I’d left. Sometimes, not quite so much.

A few stories stood out as particular good. I liked the subtle tension set against the domestic calm of Terri Pray’s “One More Dawn,” and the interesting twists of history in Jessica Holmes’ “September 26th, 1983.” My favorite stories, though, were the last three. I liked Leo McBride’s “The Secret War” because its shell-shocked and traumatized main character really spoke to me, and I enjoyed twist at the end. Daniel Bensen’s “Treasure Fleet” had a richly imagined world and interesting characters. I think more science fiction and fantasy writers should look at 14th century China’s domination of the seas!

But if I had to choose one favorite, I’d have to pick Maria Haskins’ “Tunguska, 1987.” Haskins’ characters had great depth, and her world had some fantastic science fiction elements—the mysterious metal invaders, their incredible powers, and the fact that some people could sense the alterations that time travel produced, all of it made a good story. What’s more, her reveals at the end were as subtle and fascinating as her earlier writing, and left me with as many questions as she’d answered.

A couple of the stories really weren’t to my taste. I felt that while “Twilight of the Mesozoic Moon” had an interesting premise, the story felt like it had too many elements, some of which didn’t feel like they went together. The story had two authors, so I almost wondered if it was a “too many cooks” problem. I didn’t care for “One World,” because honestly it read a little like a conspiracy theory gone amok, and I just couldn’t relate or sympathize with the main character (for most of the story, he seemed more like an observer than a protagonist). “Stargazing on Oxford Street” had an interesting setting and a good premise, but I felt that the main characters didn’t really accomplish anything or do much.

Overall, I felt that Tales from Alternate Earths was a good indie anthology and a good way to discover lots of new sci-fi authors. I’d recommend it to anyone interested in alternate history or science fiction.

Review: Black Swan, White Raven

Black Swan, White Raven is a collection of fairy tales retold by modern fantasy writers. The stories are alternately dazzling, psychological, dark, and powerful. While a few fell flat, several stood out as brilliant re-imaginings of familiar stories.

In particular, I enjoyed Anne Bishop's retelling of Rapunzel, where the heroine learns true wisdom from her suffering. Don Webb's Three Dwarves and 2,000 Maniacs had an energetic and compelling voice, and captured the madcap insanity of magic run amok. Pat Murphy's The True Story turns the story of Snow White completely on its head, and raises some hard questions about why stepmothers are so reviled in stories, while fathers are excused. Likewise, Karen Fowler's The Black Fairy's Curse plays with our expectations about what makes a truly happy ending and a healthy relationship. Yet, perhaps the most eerie and unique story is Bruce Glassco's True Thomas, which seamlessly blends science fiction and fantasy into one of the most compelling versions of faeries I've ever read. This book is worth reading for that story alone.

A few of the stories were disappointing. I didn't care for The Flounder's Kiss--the main character seems likeable enough until the end of the story, when he becomes completely monstrous. It felt like an out of character transformation, and made the story feel uncomfortable and misogynistic. I also didn't care for the The Breadcrumb Trail, a poem included in the stories. It just didn't seem to work for me--it seemed to obvious.
Overall, I'd highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys fairytales, fantasy, or even science fiction. The stories are so diverse that each one feels new and exciting, even when they're retelling familiar stories. It's fascinating to read so many entirely new perspectives on fairy tales.

Short Stories: Why I Write Them

Over the last few years, I’ve written tons of short stories! I started writing them soon after I had my first child. As a new mother, I found it difficult to get the focused, sustained time and attention I needed to write a full length novel, so instead I started writing something short. I ended up really liking short stories, both to read and to write, because they can pack such an emotional punch in such a quick period of time.

Short stories are also good way for writers to explore different genres or writing styles without committing to an intense project. If you normally write serious, dramatic novels, you could try writing something light-hearted or funny in a short story. I've written short stories about minor characters or aspects of a world I might later use in a novel. That allows me to flesh out these side characters and give them more depth, and it can help with world-building.

It can be tricky with science fiction or fantasy stories because often the worlds we create in speculative fiction are unique to our imaginations. This is why many fantasy writers spend so much time "world-building," or writing about the setting of their stories or novels. For short stories, our world-building needs to be economized as much as possible. We need to suggest the nature of our world in a few words, or else our "short story" quickly swells into a novel with a limited, short-story plot. I handle this by trying to keep the world entirely within one character's perspective. If that character knows little about the nature of magic or a scientific discovery, then I don't give the reader an explanation either. It's often more dramatic and emotional if characters don't completely understand what's happening to them, or how things work. Life is often bewildering.

While writing short stories is a fun challenge, reading them wonderful too! I love many short stories by writers such as Connie Willis and Neil Gaiman. I also like reading multi-author anthologies such as Black Swan, White Raven, edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling, or the Nebula Awards Showcase books, which have some really excellent science fiction. Books like these can also help you find new authors whose writing and story telling you admire.

Of course, if you enjoy short stories, I hope you’ll read my book, Sapience, as well!