On Deborah Elliott-Upton

This is a true story of an almost-assassination: mine. When I was just setting out on my journey, I apprenticed myself to a professional king-killer. For someone purported to move unseen in the shadows, she had a glamorous air about her. But since she used the same black ink for a weapon that I did, we got along rather well and I learned much about the trade from her.

Early on in my apprenticeship, I (perhaps foolishly) revealed to her my weakness: a nut allergy. I’m not sure if it was before or after that when she regaled me with a story of how she had impersonated a king’s wife—hired because the queen in question wanted to be freed of her dreadful husband. He too had a nut allergy and the assassin proceeded to poison him with airline peanuts in his chocolate cake.

It was a clever execution, I thought, and a fate which I took steps to avoid.

But time passed after I completed my training with her. Many years later, she invited me back to her home kingdom, to attend her second wedding to the only king who could ever hold her heart (and remain alive). I was standing right next to her as I munched on the wedding cake after the ceremony and it was only when my teeth crunched down on a tree nut that I realized my mistake.

I spluttered and choked in surprise. With a single raised eyebrow, she slipped me the antidote to her poison, one she had taught me how to make. One I should have been carrying with me all along.

As I took a swallow of the life-saving liquid, I asked, “Was this a test?”

Smiling, she leaned close to me and whispered, “You still have a lot to learn.

Pre-Ordered Books of 2017

I’ve waited all year to read both of these.

I’ve waited all year to read both of these and they each arrived in the mail at the same time today. 

All the Crooked Saints by Maggie Stiefvater and What the Hell Did I Just Read? by David Wong

Reviews will be forthcoming. (Happy, spazzy dance!)

On Nydia Brandstatt

Before I met her, she was something of a ghost. I would sometimes get mail to my department at work addressed to her, but I, in my position as the center of the company’s neural network, knew that no one by her name worked there. So I shrugged and disposed of it. But then one day, my co-workers kept telling me, “she’s back. She’s come back.” Not only did my ghost come to work with me, she transferred right into my department.

Here are the ways in which she was a spook: Often muttered just outside of my hearing range and when I said “what” she said “nothing” or nothing at all. Had an addiction to warmth- and life-giving substances like coffee. (That’s where the list ends. With coffee.) Was fascinated with horror stories, which I think must have reminded her of her home circle of hell, where everyone bleeds coffee when you cut them open. Took precisely no crap from terrible customers, because, as an ephemeral being, she was immune to threats of physical harm on this mortal plane. Also, because our boss liked her.

Eventually, she grew tired of haunting my department and floated on to someplace else. Sometimes I still get her mail.

When I grew up, I turned out just like her.

Book Review: Un Lun Dun

The story itself mockingly dodged predictable hero’s journey tropes, twisting around and jumping the curb every chance it got, as if to say, “you just thought you knew what was coming next.”

Capture
Un Lun Dun by China Miéville

Synopsis:

What is Un Lun Dun?

It is London through the looking glass, an urban Wonderland of strange delights where all the lost and broken things of London end up . . . and some of its lost and broken people, too–including Brokkenbroll, boss of the broken umbrellas; Obaday Fing, a tailor whose head is an enormous pin-cushion, and an empty milk carton called Curdle. Un Lun Dun is a place where words are alive, a jungle lurks behind the door of an ordinary house, carnivorous giraffes stalk the streets, and a dark cloud dreams of burning the world. It is a city awaiting its hero, whose coming was prophesied long ago, set down for all time in the pages of a talking book.

When twelve-year-old Zanna and her friend Deeba find a secret entrance leading out of London and into this strange city, it seems that the ancient prophecy is coming true at last. But then things begin to go shockingly wrong.

(Via Book Depository)

My Impressions:

Un Lun Dun, by New York Times bestselling author China Miéville, sets the typical hero’s journey on its side. Or perhaps inside out. For a city that’s London but very much not London, both familiar and strange, no destined chosen one will do. The very opposite, in fact. Just a girl with the stubborn courage to act, a girl who could be any of us, undestined, unchosen, but still capable of changing an entire world.

The tone of Un Lun Dun is a marvelous, whimsical cross between Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland and Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere, two of my favorite stories, the likes of which I rarely find elsewhere. It shows the heart of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobethe main character perhaps being a tribute to C. S. Lewis’s wonderful character Lucy Pevensie. (If not, I know Lucy would get right along with Deeba Resham.) Throughout the course of Un Lun Dun, Miéville masterfully weaves in descriptions of his curious and complicated UnLondon without losing the momentum of the narrative. I won’t forget Wraithtown or the binjas, moil houses made from random objects, or the unbrellas (because I may be stuck thinking of my umbrella as an unbrella from now on). Also, carnivorous giraffes.

The story itself mockingly dodged predictable hero’s journey tropes, twisting around and jumping the curb every chance it got, as if to say, “you just thought you knew what was coming next.” The characters as a group become a powerful force, strong individually by the end, but mighty when brought together. The close of the story left me with the impression that not all problems are solved over the course of one book, but that the characters who took me across Unlondon and back can now face up to any challenge with the trust they have in each other.

Goodreads rating: 3.81 stars
My rating: 4/5 stars

On Valerie Hendon

I met a wizard on the corner of an unassuming street in the middle of a bustling city. It was right in front of her glass-paned studio—what passed for her wizard’s tower—as I exited a trolley, one that had turned in a direction I didn’t wish to take. I should say, rather, that I met a blinding flash of light and, just after, my past self.

Let me fast forward.

Glancing over my shoulder, I witnessed a frozen moment in time. It was a black and white version of the second I had stepped off that trolley, my foot just touching the sidewalk, my expression thoughtful. All had gone quiet. When I turned back, she was just lowering a sleek camera from in front of her face, revealing a rosy grin and keen eyes.

“*There* you are,” she said to me. Or, maybe, to the snapshot behind me.

Blinking, I asked, “Have we met?”

“We will,” she replied.

Through the windows behind her, I could see many such moments of stopped time, all lovingly arranged in cute frames along the studio walls. Shadowy patrons stood about admiring them. Somehow there was mine, too, though I had missed the moment of its appearance.

When I focused back on the present, the mysterious photographer had gone, as had her studio. Traffic roared by the empty corner, forever leaving me behind. Scratching my head, I made my way alongside the street, recalling then that I had a future appointment with a time wizard.

Road Kill Available on Amazon

As of this morning, Road Kill: Texas Horror by Texas Writers, Vol 2, featuring my short-story “Thirsty Ground,” is now available for purchase on Amazon!

This Halloween season, embrace the creeping dread of Texas living with a copy of Road Kill for your very own. For those of you who can’t make it to any of the book signing events in October, you now have the option to purchase Road Kill online. Check out the chilling synopsis below:

RK2_FRONT_COVER

Road Kill: Texas Horror by Texas Writers, Vol 2 edited by E.R. Bills & Bret McCormick

 

A hanging tree takes the law into its own limbs in “The Tree Servant.” A mother’s love is tested by the walking, crawling and thumb-sucking dead in “Mama’s Babies.” A famous author lays his process bare in “A Writer’s Lot.” Not for the faint of heart, this terrifying batch of Texas horror fiction delivers a host of literary demons who will be hard to shake once they get comfortable.

The second volume of the critically acclaimed Road Kill Series from Eakin Press, featuring seventeen Texas writers. Some of the writers are established and have been published in a variety of mediums, while others are upcoming writers who bring a wealth of talent and imagination. Edited by E.R. Bills and Bret McCormick, this collection of horror stories is sure to bring chills and make the imagination run wild. Writers include Jacklyn Baker, Andrew Kozma, Ralph Robert Moore, Jeremy Hepler, R. J. Joseph, James H. Longmore, Mario E. Martinez, E. R. Bills, Summer Baker, Dennis Pitts, Keith West, S. Kay Nash, Bryce Wilson, Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam, Stephen Patrick, Crystal Brinkerhoff and Hayden Gilbert.

(Via Amazon)

Available in paperback for $19.95 at amazon.com.

On Laci McGee

The quiet life was not for her. She had a seeking, searching quality about her, a desire to forge ahead farther and farther. In a bygone era, she might have been an intrepid explorer—leading an expedition to chart vast seas and map hidden lands. In this time, she was a traveler. Every time I turned around, she was off on another trip or returning from a distant planet, happy to bring friends along or to go on alone. Just because others had already discovered the unknown didn’t mean she wouldn’t see the world with her own eyes.

If you witness her passing on your way to somewhere else, her receding back might be your only view of her. She has places to be, my friend. But should she pause to talk to you, know that you have drawn the attention of someone only captivated by the most stunning of vistas. It’s possible, even, that she was looking for you to join her all along.

Don’t miss your chance to follow her on her next grand adventure.