Thursday, April 21, 2016

Prince (June 7, 1958 – April 21, 2016)

In Memory

Tom Petty, Jeff Lynne, Steve Winwood, Dhani Harrison, and Prince
perform "While My Guitar Gently Weeps"
at the 2004 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Inductions.

You must watch until the very end: Prince and his guitar....

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Book Received: Old Records Never Die by Eric Spitznagel

Old Records Never Die: One Man's Quest for His Vinyl and His PastA little less than a year ago I got my turntable and record collection out of storage, had the turntable serviced, and have been playing records since. I've even added a few new titles to the collection.[1]

However, as I went through my records, cleaning them (using the Spin-Clean Record Washer System) and then cataloging them via, I discovered, much to my dismay, that dozens of titles were simply missing. My wife said that maybe, in my misguided youth, I sold the records for cash and simply forgot that I had done so. But I ask you: Who sells an original pressing of Led Zeppelin II, or Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon, or Zappa's Ruben and the Jets? Hmmm? Who, I ask you?

Somewhen, probably while I was traveling (I had hitchhiked across the United States in my youth), and/or attending college (UCLA, UMass/Amherst, Sonoma State, UofO/Eugene, and back to Sonoma), and/or living in different areas and states, my record collection was pilfered. I won't name names, but I have a fairly good idea what may have happened to them, but I won't talk about my family here.

I've searched online for some of these albums, but most are too pricey and/or in too poor a shape, for the original pressing, or else all that I can find are reissues, and more reissues. During one of these searches, I came upon a review for a book entitled Old Records Never Die: One Man's Quest for His Vinyl and His Past by Eric Spitznagel. The premise is that Eric sold/traded in, over time, his massive record collection, mostly for spare change (gas money, fast food, movies, etc. -- his John Mellencamp Scarecrow album garnered a whole ten cents!). And now, in his 40s, he's feeling the loss -- and decides he's going to return to the scenes of the crimes and try to track down some of those records. Not replacement copies, mind you -- but the exact same copy of the record that he once owned! Crazy? I'll have to wait to see, as I'm only on chapter two.

The introduction is by Jeff Tweedy, singer, songwriter, and producer, whose bands include Uncle Tupelo, Son Volt, and Wilco. Here's Tweedy's and Spitznagel's four-and-a-half-minute trailer for Old Records Never Die:

I don't know that I could search for the exact copies of my missing records, since I don't know where and when they went missing, but I'll still have to find a VG+ or better replacement copy of the original pressing at an affordable price. Forget the reissues; worse case I'll just settle for the CD. Here's an excerpt from Old Records Never Die:

As I browsed Reckless, there were albums that were entirely foreign to me, and albums that were instantly familiar. But the old friends, they'd all been given an upgrade. Fugazi's Repeater? A reissue. The Smiths' The Queen Is Dead? Another reissue. Anything by the Replacements? Only one Tim and two Pleased to Meet Mes, both reissues. Even the crown jewel of my collection, the record I bought solely because a guy with Elvis Costello glasses and a nose ring behind the counter at Record Swap recommended it, Screeching Weasel's How to Make Enemies and Irritate People, was only available as a reissue.

Everything was a deluxe edition, remastered on 180-gram vinyl, now with original artwork. The stickers that used to read FEATURING THE RADIO HIT . . . now promised things like INCLUDES A DOWNLOAD CODE AND HIGH-RES DIGITAL AUDIO EDITIONS IN 2.8 MHZ, 12 KHZ / 24-BIT, AND 96 KHZ / 24-BIT! I recognized the covers, but the albums felt different. It's not just that they were new; there was something too slick in the design, too high-definition in the packaging.

...[I] drifted toward the used section, which was actually labeled LAST-CHANCE SALOON.

This was more promising. Here were the records that might've come from my personal library. Not the titles, necessarily, but the general poor condition. They smelled like something that'd been left in the basement during a Chicago winter. If you grabbed them with too much force, the sleeves folded back. I spent almost a full minute cradling albums like Bryan Adams's Cuts Like a Knife and the Greg Kihn Band's Kihnspiracy, not because they were records I particularly cherished, but because they had the physical battle scars of music from my era. Also, it didn't hurt that the average price for a bargain bin record—fifty-nine cents on the high end—meant I could probably buy back my entire collection for about a hundred dollars.

I'm all for superior sound quality, but vinyl made after 2000 is fundamentally different from vinyl made in the twentieth century. It smells different, it feels different. The vinyl copy of the Pixies' Doolittle I purchased at Reckless in 1990 is only tangentially related to the reissue vinyl copy, ticket price $19.99, currently for sale at Reckless. I don't give a shit about rare test pressings. Or when new albums come with free download coupons. Or colored vinyl. Or goddamn picture discs. I want the records I recognize. The records that feel like a part of my double helix.

You can read more about this book on the author's website: In fact, the website has a special section, Lost Found, where people can post photos of the records they have found, that were all marked up by the original owner, along with the original owner's name, if it was written on the album. Check it out.



[1] As I wrote in my December 15, 2015, blog post entitled "And Now for Something Completely Different: Vinyl," I begrudgingly gave up on buying LPs when the recording industry moved, in earnest, toward the CD. Finally, on July 13, 1990, I broke down and purchased a CD player and my first stack of CDs. I still have my CD library and, in fact, many of the LPs I'm missing are in my CD collection, or bits and pieces of those LPs are included in box sets. But vinyl...vinyl is the true love of music listening.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Editing in Process: What Dreams Shadows Cast by Barbara J. Webb

What Dreams Shadows CastThis blog post has been in "draft" for quite a number of weeks... I didn't want to post my editorial work on this self-published novel until I had access to the final cover art. And then I learned that the author was going to be part of a "story bundle" of fantasy novels, and I wanted to share that with readers as well....

A bit more than two years ago, in my January 12, 2014, blog post, I wrote of my work on Barbara J. Webb's self-published novel City of Burning Shadows, book one in her Apocrypha: The Dying World Series.

City of Burning ShadowsEarlier this year, City of Burning Shadows was selected, among hundreds of entries, as one of the ten best self-published fantasy novels. Those ten novels are now part of a story bundle, which I urge you to take advantage of if ebooks are your preferred format. The ebooks are all DRM free and can be read on pretty much any computer, laptop, tablet, or phone. Note: the story bundle ends on May 5 -- so act now before you forget and time has run out. You can read more on the "self-published fantasy blog-off" that yielded these ten fantasy novels in my December 29, 2015, blog post. And here's a direct link to the story bundle details and ordering: SPFBO Story Bundle.

But let's get back to the current book at hand: What Dreams Shadows Cast, the second book in Apocrypha: The Dying World Series.

In book two, author Barbara J. Webb continues the tale of Ash Drake, former priest of Kaifail, and currently an employee of Price & Breckenridge, Legal and Investigative Services. Events in book one take place after the Abandon, when all the gods departed the land, never to be heard from again. Our protagonist, along with his fellow team members, have saved their city, Miroc, from devastation. And now, in book two, the city is quiet...too quiet....
Amelia [Price] was at her desk, staring at her computer screen, a frown on her beautiful face. In her perfectly tailored suit, with her perfectly styled hair, and perfectly manicured nails, no one could guess the truth. No one would ever see the creature that now lived inside her skin.

I waited in the doorway. She knew I was there. This new Amelia was aware of everything around her every moment. Nothing escaped her notice. But that didn't mean she was going to allow me to interrupt whatever thought-process she was working through.

"What do you need, Ash?" she finally asked. The irritation in her voice was one hundred percent Amelia. Her own mother wouldn't know that she'd changed. Some days—most of them—I wished that I didn't.

"We've finished with the train tunnels," I said from the doorway. "Nothing's sneaking up on us from below the city. I think it's time to redirect our attention. Iris has been telling me about an influx of refugees. A lot of people coming in, and also a lot of people going out."

That got Amelia's attention. We were starved for news from the outside. And she wouldn't have missed the most obvious question about the people who were leaving—where would they go? She looked up, tapping her fingers on the desk in the steady rhythm that had always meant Amelia thinking.

Some days I could almost forget that it was Syed moving those fingers, looking at me through Amelia's eyes. That it was Syed's mind and Syed's decisions now guiding Price & Breckenridge. For six months I'd been braced for some dramatic moment, some drastic change that had never happened. As far as I could tell, Syed had done nothing that Amelia wouldn't have done, had made no decision Amelia wouldn't have made. He lived in her body with the same perfect mimicry I'd seen the rest of his people capable of.

It was creepy. It was wrong. But it was a lesser evil, compared to everything else that had gone wrong in the world. And the truth was, we needed him. And he needed us. Which led to this awkward state of truce and a thin layer of pretense and no one was all the way happy with any of it.

Full wrap-around cover art for What Dreams Shadows Cast

Plots within plots, conspiracies, gangs, battles, tech-magic, giant spiders, and beings thousands of years old [read: Syed] -- the Apocrypha series has it all. But don't forget to check out the story bundle, which expires on May 5. And while you're at it, you may as well snag volume two: What Dreams Shadows Cast ebook, from either Amazon or iTunes.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Jeffrey Ford's The Empire of Ice Cream Ebook Now $1.99 [ENDED]

Ver3-EmpireThis is the original cover for Jeffrey Ford's second short story collection, The Empire of Ice Cream. Artwork by the inestimable John Picacio.

I acquired and edited this short story collection during my tenure with Golden Gryphon Press. I don't believe I ever blogged about this book -- it was published in early 2006 and I didn't begin my blog until early 2009. But, I did write a lengthy blog post reminiscing about the 2000 World Fantasy Convention in Corpus Christi, Texas, which is where I met Jeffrey Ford and John Picacio, so you might want to give that a read to see how Jeff's first short story collection, The Fantasy Writer's Assistant and Other Stories, came to be.

In the meantime, if you don't own a physical copy of The Empire of Ice Cream and you do read ebooks, then get yourself over to, or B&N, or Google Play, or wherever you purchase your ebooks, and pick up the digital version of this wondrous book NOW, for only $1.99. I don't know how long this offer will last so don't hesitate. It's only a buck-99 and the title story (a Nebula Award winner) is worth that price alone. And then there's "Botch Town," a 40,000-word novella that won the World Fantasy Award.

Here's the ad copy from

Magic is everywhere—
for those who know where to look

Few writers can extract as much enchantment from the mundane as award-winning author Jeffrey Ford. His talent for storytelling is readily evident in The Empire of Ice Cream, his collection of ordinary and extraordinary juxtapositions.

The bittersweet Nebula Award–winning title story introduces a composer with synesthesia who finds the sound—and woman—of his dreams through a cup of coffee. Then there are the fairies that inhabit sandcastles in the fleeting moments before the inevitable rise of the tide. Ford populates this charmed collection with stories taken from his own life as well, including "Botch Town," which finds him as a schoolboy, and "The Trentino Kid," which recalls his experience digging for clams.

Jeffery Ford can take the mundane, the everyday, and, with the skill of an adept, mold these into brilliantly realized visions, wondrous yet elusive.

"Ford's visions are elusive, tantalizing the reader with hidden implications yet raw with autobiographical pain. Ford's sentimental, exalted prose demands more than one reading."
The Washington Post Book World

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Courtney Schafer Wins the r/Fantasy Stabby Award

So, how cool is that engraved dagger?

Recently, author Courtney Schafer received the Reddit r/Fantasy "Best Self-Published/Independent Novel of 2015" Stabby Award for her novel The Labyrinth of Flame, book III in the Shattered Sigil trilogy.

I worked on The Labyrinth of Flame, which I wrote about in my November 10, 2015, blog post. And I also wrote a blog post this past January 5 when I received my print copy of the novel.

The Labyrinth of Flame was the product of a very successful Kickstarter campaign (284% funded!). If you missed out on the Kickstarter, you can now purchase both print and ebook editions of the novel from Amazon. And if you are unfamiliar with this trilogy, then you can also purchase print and/or ebook editions of both The Whitefire Crossing (book I) and The Tainted City (book II) as well.

Of course, you can always click on over to, where the author has sample chapters available for all three volumes for your reading pleasure. But you don't have to take my word for it on the quality of volume three, or the entire trilogy: just check out this award:

Thursday, March 24, 2016

At the beginning...

I get asked, quite often, how I got started as an editor -- but to tell that story (for another time), I have to start at the beginning....

I would have to blame two teachers as initially responsible for getting me into this mess: my seventh-grade English teacher, whose name, sadly, I have unfortunately forgotten (give me a break, it was 3,000 years miles away, in Pennsylvania, and many (many) years ago....), and my twelfth-grade Journalism teacher, Mrs. Doris L. (I'm using only the initial of her last name, to protect the guilty, of course....).

In seventh grade English we learned -- studied -- had hammered into our very being -- sentence diagramming: complex sentences, over and over and over again, such that I could diagram entire paragraphs in my sleep. This taught me to spot misplaced modifiers, incorrectly referenced pronouns, etc., etc. with the eye of a sniper siting through a scope. Unbeknownst to me at the time -- one doesn't think beyond the present moment when one is being hammered! -- she taught me the beauty, the rhythm, of an elegantly written complex sentence.

Mrs. L, on the other hand, was more of a facilitator, a mentor, but more on that shortly. One of my fellow staff members on the school newspaper was Mike W. He had the responsibility each issue to share with readers the goings-on at other high schools. So Mike traded copies of our school newspaper with dozens of other schools throughout the U.S. He came up with a name for his column: "The Lid's Off." You and I know, of course, the double meaning of that title, but not so the faculty of our high school at that time. When each issue of the school newspaper was published, we all got a bit of a high-school chuckle seeing that column title. Yes, I know, it's very sophomoric, but then again, we were all sophomores.... (Actually, we were seniors, but you get my point.)

For whatever reason, Mike W. quit high school about the halfway point and enlisted in the U.S. Navy. We weren't best friends, so I never learned his rationale for such a decision, just one day he was at school, and the next day he was gone, and Mrs. L. informed us of his actions.[1]

Once Mike was no longer on the newspaper staff, Mrs. L picked me to take over his column. I liked the name of the column, but the content was BORING. Imagine reading dozens of high school newspapers each week, and selecting the most exciting news to share with your fellow students. It was probably what drove Mike to enlist in the Navy! This school in Utah is hosting their annual spelling bee. And this school in North Dakota had to cancel their father-daughter event because white-out snow conditions resulted in road closures. Like I said, BORING.

So, I approached Mrs. L with a suggestion for a change in subject matter (but keeping the column title, of course!) -- content that would be of more interest to students given the current climate: a music review column. Thankfully she agreed, and I was issued official school press credentials.

And let me tell you, those credentials got me in free to so many concerts, and the occasional backstage pass, too -- and one-on-one interviews with many of the performers... I truly never minded having newspaper "homework" on evenings and weekends.

But I digress.... Mrs. L taught us that, because a newspaper has limited space, each word must count, each word must be critical to the content: there is no room for luxury. We edited our own writing, and then we edited each other's writing. After which, Mrs. L would review our work and show us what poor editors (and often writers) we really were.

The newspaper class, at least for me, was an escape from the reality of the rest of high school. Because I went to a lot of concerts in the evenings and during weekends, I often used my time in newspaper class to study and catch up on homework for other classes. I guess as long as I was working, regardless of what I was working on, Mrs. L never hassled me. I found her class a sanctuary.

At the end of my senior year, she signed my yearbook:
Martin -

You may have felt imprisoned in school this past year, but in reality you've been "growing" in a very visible, if gradual, manner. You are one of my most "memorable" students.

~ Mrs. L


1. All of which made no sense in the overall scheme of things because a few months later, I read a brief article in the newspaper (the Orange County Register), with the headline "Sailor Jumps Ship in Japan" -- about two column inches worth of text -- stating that one Mike W. from Anaheim, California, along with a fellow seaman, jumped ship in Japan and was currently AWOL. After that, I never heard, or read, anything further about Mike W. -- so Mike, if you're out there reading this, post a comment, will you?


I'm choosing to keep the name of my high school confidential as well. But if you do your homework, you can figure it out: Singer/songwriter Tim Buckley (who passed away in 1975) graduated from my high school, as did the co-writer on most of his songs, Larry Beckett; they were, in fact, classmates. Singer Gwen Stefani (with the band No Doubt, and currently a judge on The Voice) graduated from my high school as well. And lastly, bassist Jim Fielder also graduated from my high school. Jim played with the original Blood, Sweat & Tears; he also did stints with the Buffalo Springfield and the Mothers of Invention.

Speaking of which, the background music while I'm writing this post is Frank Zappa's You Can't Do That on Stage Anymore 12-CD box set (literally, a wooden box!).  Never could get enough of the song "My Guitar Wants to Kill Your Mama."

Friday, March 11, 2016

Forthcoming from Tachyon Publications in 2016: Pirate Utopia by Bruce Sterling

Now available for preorder at Amazon and other booksellers.

Pirate Utopia

(More on this novella once I begin my editing work.)

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Up and Coming: Stories by the 2016 Campbell-Eligible Authors

Each year, as part of the Hugo Award voting process, readers and fans also vote for the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer.

To be eligible for the Campbell Award, an author must have made his or her first professional sale within the previous two years.

If you want to read new, cutting edge, and possibly the next wave-of-the-future fiction, these are the people -- and stories -- to read.

And you can do that, now, and for free! Up and Coming is an anthology of stories from the 120 Campbell-eligible authors for this year's award. These authors have contributed 230 works of fiction totaling approximatly 1.1 million words. The anthology is available as a free download in both epub and mobi formats for your reading -- and voting (if you are a member of this year's WorldCon) -- pleasure.

On BoingBoing, author Cory Doctorow writes:
It's a very broad and deep survey of the next generation of SF/F writers. I won the Campbell in 2000; other winners since then include Seanan McGuire, Jay Lake, Naomi Novik, John Scalzi, Jo Walton, Elizabeth Bear, Mary Robinette Kowal, Lev Grossman, Mur Lafferty and many, many other exciting writers.

And from the Up and Coming website:
...These pieces all originally appeared in 2014, 2015, or 2016 from writers who are new professionals to the SFF field, and they represent a breathtaking range of work from the next generation of speculative storytelling.

All of these authors are eligible for the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer in 2016. We hope you'll use this anthology as a guide in nominating for that award as well as a way of exploring many vibrant new voices in the genre.

But let me remind you once again that these free downloads will only be available through March 31, 2016.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

IF Science Fiction Magazine: The Entire Run Now Available Online

Heinlein's The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress:
serialized Dec. '65 through Mar. '66
Courtesy of the Internet Archive, the entire run of IF magazine -- 176 issues from March 1952 through December 1974 -- is now avilable online.

Here's an excerpt from the magazine's Wikipedia entry:
[If] achieved its greatest success under editor Frederik Pohl, winning the Hugo Award for best professional magazine three years running from 1966 to 1968. If published many award-winning stories over its 22 years, including Robert A. Heinlein's novel The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress, and Harlan Ellison's short story "I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream." Several well-known writers sold their first story to If; the most successful was Larry Niven, whose story "The Coldest Place" appeared in the December 1964 issue.

If (no pun intended) you have a desire to read some Golden Age science fiction -- online and for free -- then the If archive is awaiting your reading pleasure.

[Thanks to io9 and boingboing for the link.]

Monday, February 29, 2016

Print Edition: The Labyrinth of the Flame by Courtney Schafer

The Labyrinth of Flame IIILet's see...I need to recap a few past blog posts on Courtney Schafer's Shattered Sigil Trilogy.

In my April 29, 2015, blog post I was reading mobi editions of the first two volumes of Ms. Schafer's trilogy: The Whitefire Crossing and The Tainted City. All of this in preparation for working on volume three, The Labyrinth of Flame, as Ms. Schafer had hired me to do a full line and copy edit on the 219,000-word manuscript. (Just an FYI, that's 756 manuscript pages! Whew....)

As I stated in the blog post, Courtney launched a Kickstarter campaign in support of The Labyrinth of Flame, the first two volumes having been published by Night Shade Books. The Kickstarter was fully funded (funded by 284%, to be exact) -- and by my November 10, 2015, blog post, all Kickstarter contributors had received their maps and ebook editions of The Labyrinth of Flame. Since the Kickstarter print editions were still in process, the author shared with her readers the interior illustrations that would be included in the print edition.

By my January 5, 2016, blog post, all Kickstarter contributors had received their signed trade paperback copies of The Labyrinth of Flame -- and I had received my signed comp copy as well. So the Kickstarter campaign was officially complete.

Though the ebook edition of Labyrinth has been available these past few months to the reading public, what has (pleasantly) surprised Courtney has been the demand for print copies of the book beyond those she had printed specifically for the Kickstarter. Back to the drawing board, so to speak.

She again contracted with Thomson-Shore, the same printer who had provided the Kickstarter print editions. In her recent blog post announcing the general availability of print copies, Courtney explains why she again went with Thomson-Shore (quality, quality, and...quality) rather than self-publishing the books via Create Space or Ingram Spark.

So, if a print edition of The Labyrinth of Flame, book three in the Shattered Sigil Trilogy, is what you so desire, then make your way to or the Seattle Book Company to purchase a copy.

If you are not familiar with Courtney Schafer's Shattered Sigil Trilogy, then get ye to, where the author has posted multiple sample chapters of each of the three books. Check it out, sample the samples, then go buy all three volumes of the Shattered Sigil Trilogy.

And enjoy the read.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Redux: The Record Store of the Mind by Josh Rosenthal

RosenthalCOVERIn my January 7, 2016, blog post I wrote that I had received a copy of Josh Rosenthal's memoir The Record Store of the Mind -- and I included a bit about the author himself, and that he started his own record label, Tompkins Square, in 2005.

On Monday, I finished my current editing project (Barbara J. Webb's What Dreams Shadows Cast, book 2 in her Apocrypha: The Dying World series; more on this soon) -- so I was able to pick up The Record Store of the Mind and continue reading. In fact, just this morning I finished the book, but TRSOTM is the type of book -- actually a reference -- one goes back to repeatedly: What was that Tia Blake album Josh recommended? And that list of obscure acoustic guitarists? What were those two special Charlie Louvin albums, and the duets he did with Lucinda Williams... And then there are the nine pages at the end of the book entitled "Listen Up!" in which Josh recommends album after album of "old-time" music for your listening pleasure.

But what I wanted to share with you is the closing paragraph of Josh Rosenthal's memoir. Whether you are a book collector and reader, or a music lover and listener, you will (unfortunately) be able to relate to what Josh has written. Following Hurricane Sandy, in which Rosenthal lost some 500-plus albums, many autographed, due to flood damage...
I did learn from the experience. I look at my collection differently. It used to seem like some indestructible totem, a shrine I had built in honor of my own good taste. After the flood, I realized that I could lose it all at any time. Once you get to a certain age, you realize there are records you own that you'll likely never play again before you die. Probably quite a few of them. Whereas when you're in your twenties, you don't think about your time being limited, how many more Mays and Septembers you might get to experience. Realizing this, you become haunted by your own possessions. You realize a certain portion of your used LP collection belonged to dead people with similar tastes as you. And all your records will someday belong to someone else.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Glenn Frey 1948-2016

Singer, songwriter, and actor Glenn Frey passed away on January 18.

Now, I've never been a huge Eagles fan, but how can you not sing along with such tunes as "Take It Easy," "Lyin' Eyes," and "Tequila Sunrise," to name but three. Pictured here is the cover to my Desperado album, the original 1973 LP release from Asylum Records (catalog number SD 5068).

I was motivated to write this blog post because of my relationship, as it were, with one of the Eagles' songs: "Take It Easy," co-written by Glenn Frey and a singer/songwriter by the name of Jackson Browne.

Let's see...when was that...oh, yeah.... I was enrolled in a graduate program in Humanistic Psychology at Camp Sonoma (sorry, you had to be there). For those not privy to the inside student community, "Camp Sonoma" is the local name given to the California State University campus in Rohnert Park, located in beautiful Sonoma County, about an hour or so north of San Francisco.

In one of my classes, taught by George Jackson (who eventually became my graduate advisor), I wrote a paper on existentialism and rock music lyrics. I recall quoting a phrase from the Eagles' song "Take It Easy":

We may lose and we may win
though we will never be here again
so open up, I'm climbin' in,
so take it easy.

So when I learned of Glenn Frey's passing, it brought to mind this song, and this paper, and the Sonoma experience (and it really was an "experience") -- things I haven't thought about in a very long time.

Here's Glenn Frey and his bandmates performing "Take It Easy" in 1977:

"Take It Easy" was originally released on the Eagles' self-titled debut album, but I always preferred Desperado, the band's second studio album; the songs supported a core theme, and were much darker, and thus more to my liking.

Wherever rock musicians go when they pass away, there must be one helluva jam session going on there.

Rest in Peace, Glenn Frey.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

ArmadilloCon 25 in 2003

I was sorting through stuff[1] in my study, specifically a couple stacks of convention books (all of which have now been discarded), when I came upon the program book for ArmadilloCon 25, August 8-10, 2003. The Author Guest of Honor was Kage Baker and the Artist Guest of Honor was John Picacio. The program book brought to mind one of the panels I participated in at the con.

As an editor at the time for indie publisher Golden Gryphon Press, I had acquired and edited Kage Baker's first short story collection, Black Projects, White Knights: The Company Dossiers, which was published the previous year in time for the World Science Fiction Convention in San Jose, California.[2] Also, I had acquired and edited Jeffrey Ford's first short story collection, The Fantasy Writer's Assistant and Other Stories, published in 2002 as well, which featured cover art by John Picacio[3] -- the first of many covers John did for Golden Gryphon titles. In fact, the ArmadilloCon 25 program book, pictured above, features that very same cover art from The Fantasy Writer's Assistant.

Other Golden Gryphon Press authors were regular ArmadilloCon attendees in those days: Neal Barrett, Jr., Joe R. Lansdale, and Howard Waldrop. And when I learned that Lucius Shepard[4] would also be in attendance, I knew that I had to attend the convention as well.

So I contacted the programming staff and asked that they plan a panel discussion with me as the moderator, and include all the Golden Gryphon Press authors as well as artist John Picacio. They complied with my request, to a degree. The panel, entitled "The Golden Gryphon Experience," held at 11:00 a.m on Saturday, featured, in addition to myself, Kage Baker, Neal Barrett, Jr., Joe R. Lansdale, and John Picacio. Unfortunately, both Lucius Shepard and Howard Waldrop were on a competing panel at the same time entitled "Cool SF/F Movies."

I arrived at the meeting room prior to the start of the panel and taped dust jacket flats along the front edge of the panelists' table, and along the left and right walls: dust jackets for books by the participating authors, and a few dust jackets with John Picacio art.

To tell you the truth, now that it's nearly thirteen years later, I don't really recall any of the specifics of that panel, other than a memory of quite a bit of laughter from the sharing of anecdotes. But I know I had a grand time -- how could I not, sitting alongside the likes of Neal Barrett, Joe Lansdale, Kage Baker, and John Picacio!

Sadly, some of these authors are no longer with us: Kage passed away in January 2010; Neal and Lucius both passed away in 2014, in January and March respectively. So I remember those eight years with Golden Gryphon with equal amounts joy and sadness: joy at having met, and known, and worked with such fine authors and artists, and sadness over those we have now lost, as well as sadness at what could have been regarding Golden Gryphon Press. Excluding reprints, Golden Gryphon published nine books in 2003 -- I did say it was a small indie press! -- but of those nine books, six of them made Locus magazine's recommended reading list. In 2002, five of the six published titles made the recommended reading list, and five out of seven books in 2004. But all that's for another day (though I doubt that day will ever come).

So, cheers to ArmadilloCon, which celebrates its 38th convention in July -- and may you see many, many more such gatherings![5]


[1] And I mean "stuff" -- my wall-to-wall bookshelves are double-stacked, I have boxes of books piled upon boxes of books on the floor, and here and there where I can find a smidgen of floor space, books simply stacked upon books: that's my workspace!

[2] I wrote about the making of Black Projects, White Knights in a blog post entitled "In the Company of Kage Baker," published here on January 27, 2010. It's the third most read blog post since I began More Red Ink in 2009.

[3] In a blog post entitled "Reflections on the 2000 World Fantasy Convention," published on October 27, 2010, I wrote about my first encounters with both Jeffrey Ford and John Picacio, which led to the publication of The Fantasy Writer's Assistant and Other Stories with the Picacio cover art.

[4] In my October 20, 2015, blog post "On Lucius Shepard," I wrote about the man and author.

[5] I attended my first ArmadilloCon in 1998 -- ArmadilloCon 10 -- which I wrote a wee bit about in my blog post of August 30, 2010, entitled "Philip K. Dick & Rudy Rucker's Warez."

Monday, January 11, 2016

Editing in Process: The Nightmare Stacks by Charles Stross

The Nightmare Stacks US
American Edition Cover
In my November 11, 2015, blog post I was reading Charles Stross's The Nightmare Stacks, the next volume (#7) in the Laundry Files series, in preparation for actually working on the manuscript. That time has (had) come.

If you are new (seriously?) to the Laundry Files: Officially known as "Q-Division" (at least for now), the Laundry was part of the Strategic Operations Executive (SOE), a World War II British organization responsible for espionage and sabotage in occupied Europe. The Q-Division was a supersecret black group formed to counter Hitler's research and experiments in the occult. At the end of WWII, the SOE was disbanded, but the Q-Division secretly remained intact. The new headquarters was then located above a Chinese Laundry, and thus the nickname. These days, the Laundry's primary objective is to protect the citizens of Her Majesty's Government from incursions from beyond spacetime. But the Laundry must also defend against one who attempts to take over the world (The Jennifer Morgue), the cultlike church who tries to force the Second Coming (The Apocalypse Codex), individuals with V syndrome (The Rhesus Chart), and individuals with superpowers (The Annihilation Score).

Now, as revealed in The Atrocity Archives, the first volume in the series, shortly before the end of the war in Europe, members of the Ahnenerbe-SS used occult measures to open a gateway to a nitrogen-based planet, to which they escaped, to bide their time until they were ready to return to Earth -- and the termination of that return fell upon the Laundry.

In fact, if you look at the graphic above of the American edition of The Nightmare Stacks you'll see a Kettenkrad on the cover -- a German motorized half-track, small enough to be steered like a motorcycle. The Kettenkrad was salvaged from the Ahnenerbe-SS by the Laundry, and rebuilt by Pinky and Brains (readers of the series will recognize this pair of R&D tech geeks from previous volumes), and both Pinky and Brains, and the Kettenkrad, are integral parts of the story in this forthcoming novel, scheduled to be published in June. (And yes, the driver of the Kettenkrad is wearing seventeenth-century cavalry plate, and that is a dragon flying above the building on the cover. But you'll just have to wait for the novel....)

British Edition Cover
Through the first five volumes of the Laundry Files, we've been following agent Bob Howard: officemate, IT geek, and occult mathematician -- and now Eater of Souls. (Volume five, The Apocalypse Codex, being the exception, in which we were also treated to the POVs of external assets Persephone Hazard, aka agent Bashful Incendiary, and Jonathan McTavish, aka agent Johnny Prince.) Volume six was completely from the viewpoint of Dr. Dominique "Mo" O’Brien (aka agent Candid), a professor and combat epistemologist, who just happens to be married to Bob Howard. But this new volume, The Nightmare Stacks, is neither a Bob novel, nor a Mo novel, but rather "a Laundry novel," as the author Charles Stross states in his November 4, 2015, blog post. Rather, the new novel features operative-in-training Alex Schwartz, who was "drafted" by the Laundry "after stumbling upon the algorithm that turned him and his fellow merchant bankers into vampires." (see The Rhesus Chart)

I spent the majority of December working on the manuscript -- and with the start of the new year, my editing was complete, and the marked-up manuscript is now in the hands of the author. I just checked my email, and counted 108 emails (though there could be a few more that I may have simply overlooked) between the two of us as I worked on this project, far fewer than is typical, based on prevous volumes. However, this time, I didn't confer with Charlie on every major content change -- with seven volumes now, I have to hope that I know what I'm doing (!) and will leave the final decisions to the author when he reviews my edits.

You'll want to read the Stross interview on The Nightmare Stacks, courtesy of io9 -- but I suggest you read the version posted on the author's blog: the interview is the same, but it's Charlie's comments and notes, plus the 79 comments at the end (including the author's responses) that are the most revealing about the book.

As I mentioned in my blog post on editing The Annihilation Score, which was published last July, the most difficult task is maintaining consistency from one volume to the next, and with seven volumes of the Laundry Files now, the task certainly isn't getting any easier. In fact, you would be surprised were I to tell you the email discussion Charlie and I had over the Laundry's official name -- Q-Division -- and what that entailed and what it will lead to, most likely in the next novel (volume eight, 2017's The Delirium Brief).

But for the sake of consistency and understanding, let me share a set of words with readers: a geas (plural: geases) is a magical compulsion to obedience. Readers of the Laundry files series will have come upon this word in nearly every volume. However, in The Nightmare Stacks, we encounter a new race, the alfär, or the unseelie, and in their Low Tongue, the word for a magical compulsion to obedience is also geas, but the plural form is geasa. Something to keep in mind when you read the novel...You never know when this kind of trivia may prove useful!

The Nightmare Stacks is forthcoming from Ace in the U.S. and Orbit in the U.K. and is currently available for preorder.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Book Received: The Record Store of the Mind by Josh Rosenthal

RosenthalCOVERAs a followup to my "different" blog post of December 14 on vinyl, I recently received a copy of Josh Rosenthal's The Record Store of the Mind, published by his own Tompkins Square Press (and record label).

So who is Josh Rosenthal? A budding music geek, he worked at his high school and college radio stations. He eventually landed a gig working for Sony Music (Columbia Records), and his publicity campaign on 1990's Robert Johnson The Complete Recordings is most likely why I learned of RJ and have a copy of this box set in my CD library.

In 2005, Rosenthal launched his own Tompkins Square music label in New York City; and in 2011, he moved the business to San Francisco. Rosenthal is a master of the reissue and a proponent of forgotten musicians (e.g. country music legend Charlie Louvin), bringing them back into the studio to record new music.

Now, in celebration of Tompkins Square's 10th Anniversary, Rosenthal has released The Record Store of the Mind. At the end of the introduction to the book, he writes...but first, let me set the scene: Rosenthal is with his older daughter Emma at a record store in Campbell, California, as he's rifling through the stacks of records...
Emma asked, "How do you know what you're looking for?" I guess I've spent my whole life figuring that out. It's great that I still can't fully answer her question. In this book, I write about some stuff I've done in and around music over the past thirty years; records that I've found or that found me; and records, people, and live music experiences that have forever changed the way I listen. I hope you'll be inspired.
Rosenthal and Tompkins Square have also created a free/public "Record Store of the Mind" Spotify playlist. Songs range from Ron Davies and Harvey Mandel, to Eric Clapton and Charlie Louvin, to Bill Fey and Essra Mohawk. So whilst reading the book, be sure to cue up the appropriate track!

Here's an excerpt from Joseph Neff's review of The Record Store of the Mind on The Vinyl District (but please be sure to read the entire review):
Given some of the idiosyncratic characters inhabiting record collecting and releasing, Rosenthal's music biz story, peppered as it is with Kate Bush, Psychedelic Furs, and Public Enemy, is pretty refreshing and enhanced by a true music lover's sense of detail...

The book's memoir portions are a treat, but the energy devoted to spotlighting underheard records is even more satisfying; the chapter covering The Youngbloods' Warner Brothers-funded custom imprint Raccoon Records provides major insight into a true bygone era and justifies The Record Store of the Mind's purchase price all by its lonesome. And the lengthy list of old-time releases is about as handy a resource for the upstart and veteran collector as I've yet to stumble across.

The Record Store of the Mind may seem a modest endeavor, but Josh Rosenthal furthers the eternal discussion with class and solid prose. Additionally, he pulls-off an impressive trick, casually dishing a wealth of knowledge in a manner that's non-intimidating to information-thirsty novices while also retaining appeal for more weathered record hunters. In short, it'll make a worthy addition to one's music-related bookshelf (or for that matter, a fine gift), holding enough recommendations in its pages to insure frequent consultations.

~ Joseph Neff, The Vinyl District

"Josh Rosenthal is a record man's record man. He is also a musician's record man. He is in the line of Samuel Charters and Harry Smith. In this age where we have access to everything and know the value of nothing, musicians need people like Josh to hear them when no one else can."
~ T Bone Burnett

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Book Received: Tarzan in Kentucky: Poems by Judith Moffett

Tarzan in KentuckyOkay, I'll be the first to admit that I'm not a poetry kind of guy. But Tarzan in Kentucky really isn't poetry...well, actually, it is poetry but not what I typically think of as poetry, if that makes any sense.

I know Judith Moffett as a science fiction writer. We worked together in 2014 to turn her Hugo and Nebula award-nominated story, "Tiny Tango," into a Kindle ebook, which I detailed in a four-part series of blog posts.

But Judith (though she prefers "Judy") isn't your typical science fiction writer: She has received three Ingram Merrill Foundation grants in poetry, in 1976, 1980, and 1991. In 1998, she presented at the Nobel Symposium on Translation of Poetry and Poetic Prose, and, most recently (2015), she presented at the James Merrill Symposium, held at Washington University in St. Louis. Indeed, not your typical sf writer.[1]

But getting back to Tarzan in Kentucky, from publisher David Robert Books: The cover photograph (taken by the author herself) is of Judy's farm in Kentucky, and from other pics I've seen, it really is that beautiful and lush. And obviously the ideal setting for writing.

But like I said, I'm not a poetry kind of guy, so I'm going to leave you with an excerpt of a review by Meredith Sue Willis on her Books for Readers blog; but do read the complete review:
Tarzan in Kentucky: Poems by Judith Moffett is a chewy, sinuous collection of poems by a living poet who went many years without writing poetry, but is—to our great benefit—writing again. Called "An effortless" virtuoso by James Merrill and "among the most accomplished of her generation" by Daniel Hoffman, Moffett writes brilliantly lucid everyday language contained—and freed—by tight forms like tercets and sonnets. You only notice the form if you are looking—you feel the emotion, see the picture, hear the voice and the story. The forms are certainly there, though, giving her poems a musculature that makes much of the free verse we are used to seem flaccid.

...a number of [the poems] are about her farm, and there is a long section called "Grief" in which she writes about the aftermath of her husband's death. The poet speaks to herself in one called "Broken Couplet":
Solutions, none. No cures.
This task alone is yours:

to make each day a quest
for getting through it best

when "best" cannot mean "well..."
You feel here what rhyme is about: an arbitrary way of linking things that then makes meaning of what started out as arbitrary.

Tarzan in Kentucky: Poems is available in print form only from your bookstore of choice...even if, like me, you're not a poetry kind of person.


1. You can read more of Judy's awards, honors, and recognitions on her Wikipedia entry.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Book Received: Courtney Schafer's The Labyrinth of Flame

The Labyrinth of Flame IIII wrote about my work on The Labyrinth of Flame -- Book III in the Shattered Sigil Trilogy by Courtney Schafer -- in my November 10, 2015, blog post.

The Labyrinth of Flame is the product of a fully funded Kickstarter (284% funded, actually) -- and when I wrote that blog post in November, Kickstarter contributors had already received their maps and ebook edition of the novel. In fact, the ebook edition is available for purchase at this time.

And now, as I write this, all Kickstarter contributors have received their signed trade paperback print edition of the novel as well. (And I've received my signed copy of the book, too!)

Ms. Schafer is currently working on a distribution agreement with Thomson-Shore, and once that is finalized, readers will hopefully be able to order the print edition. As soon as the book becomes available, I'll post an update on More Red Ink -- but in the meantime, whatever process you use to make notes to yourself: Evernote, OneNote, Keep, Pocket, or even the old-fashioned handwritten Post-It note, make a note to read The Labyrinth of Flame. Correction: make a note to read the entire Shattered Sigil Trilogy!

As you may, or may not, know, the first two volumes of the trilogy -- The Whitefire Crossing and The Tainted City -- were originally published by Night Shade Books. Upon the publisher's demise, and sale, Courtney Schafer decided to self-publish volume three via Kickstarter. Fortunately, the author knows her readers, her audience, and how finicky we book collectors can be. (To paraphrase Ross E. Lockhart from his Facebook post:) Production-wise, Ms. Schafer did the literary equivalent of getting the old band back together: cover artist David Palumbo, cover designer Martha Wade, and Ross E. Lockhart on interior design. So even though the book was self-published, book three perfectly matches the previous two volumes in the series. Readers and fans of Courtney Schafer will not be disappointed in the quality -- both in design and content editing -- of this final volume in the series.

Bibliotropic has a lengthy review of The Labyrinth of Flame, and here's the conclusion to that review (but please do read the review in its entirety):
...the ending of The Labyrinth of Flame is quite possibly the most satisfying ending to a series I've ever read. It ties up everything wonderfully, leaves room for the future, and left me with flailing around like an idiot over what happens to the people I ship. Seriously, I don’t think there's any possible better way for this book and this series to have ended. It closed on a high note, filled with hope and optimism even for difficult tasks ahead, and I'm going to be honest with you all — I actually just went and reread the last chapter again while writing this, because I love the ending that much. It left me with the first book hangover I've ever experienced, and despite having just reread the first two books in the series in preparation for reading this one, all I wanted to do when it was over was pick up The Whitefire Crossing and start over, so that I didn't have to leave the world and characters behind.

Fantasy just doesn't get much better than this!
~Ria, Bibliotropic

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Stephen King's On Writing

"If you intend to write as truthfully as you can, your days as a member of polite society are numbered."

(via @Chiara_Micheli)

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Barbara J. Webb's Apocrypha: The Dying World Series

City of Burning ShadowsTwo years ago (and it's hard to believe that much time has passed already!) I was working on a manuscript for City of Burning Shadows, book one in a new series from author Barbara J. Webb.

Ms. Webb is among a growing number of savvy, professional, self-published writers who understand that to have a successful career in self-publishing one must invest in professional editing: developmental editing, line and copy editing, and final proof editing.

I'm now reading the mobi edition of City of Burning Shadows to refresh in my mind the story line and characters in preparation for my next project, which will be book two in this series: What Dreams Shadows Cast. I will begin work on this manuscript in January.

You can read my previous blog posts on City of Burning Shadows, but what would be even more revealing would be Ms. Webb's recent guest blog post on Bibliotropic in which she wrote:
I wanted to write about hulking lizard warriors. And bird-people. And people so made of magic that they don't have a true shape. I couldn't do that in the real world. So I built a city—a dying city in the desert—and into that city I placed a hero.

Ash is bruised and broken. He's lost his family, his faith, his purpose. He's watching his world collapse around him and feels powerless to stop it. But when he's faced with an old friend in need and a new friend who holds the key to saving Ash's dying city, he can't turn away. That one act of humanity drags him into a world of lies and plots and monsters he never imagined.

A secret world.
If you've read this far then you are most likely a reader of fantasy fiction, and urban fantasy in particular -- so I wanted to make sure that you were aware of "The Great Self-published Fantasy Blog-off!" hosted by author Mark Lawrence (@mark__lawrence [2 underscores!]).

Let's see if I can sum up: Mark published a blog post on self-promotion that was so well-received that he decided to take the self-promotion one step further: a self-published blogger challenge.

Mark asked for volunteers from the well-respected book-reviewing blogger community. He then asked writers to submit their self-published fantasy novels. He selected 10 bloggers and 250 fantasy novels. Each blogger was randomly assigned 25 novels. From those 25 novels, each blogger selected the best novel. So he now had 10 bloggers and 10 novels.

Then each blogger had to read and rate each of the 10 novels. When all was said and done, the novel that came in first place would then be reviewed by all 10 bloggers (aka free publicity, free promotion). The readings and ratings are still ongoing, and can be tracked here. The deadline for reading and rating the 10 novels is March 1, 2016.

So, why am I telling you this? First, if you enjoy reading excellent quality self-published fantasy, Mark's list would be a great place to start. And second, one of the 10 finalist novels is Barbara J. Webb's City of Burning Shadows.

In fact, if I understand correctly, a story bundle of the 10 finalist novels will also be made available in March. So you'll want to stay connected to Mark's blogger challenge in order to take advantage of that offer.