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Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Recent Reading Thoughts

It's ridiculous how difficult I find it to update this blog. The only excuse I can offer is being far too busy, and that (while true) sounds lame even to me. Still, one of the things I have been working on this past year is getting my annual reading back up to my own standards. I like to clear between 125 and 150 books a year, and I'm closing in on that pace once again.

So, without further ado, I thought I'd share some very brief thoughts on some of the books I've read recently - and no, I don't mention books I didn't like. Authors have a tough enough go of it without me piling on. These are presented in no particular order or sequence.

THE BROKEN EMPIRE TRILOGY by Mark Lawrence (Prince of Thorns, King of Thorns, and Emperor of Thorns): Aside from the fact that long before Mr. Lawrence published his series, I had a short story with the title "King of Thorns", there's a lot to like about this series. I read the first two titles, waited for the third, and then reread all of them at one go. The story of Jorg Ancrath as he rises from the ruins of his youth to the top of a massive empire is one that will stay with me a long time. Time and again, Lawrence delivers on multiple levels, especially in terms of character and world-building. This is primarily a fantasy series, but there's also a touch of science fiction. I don't want to ruin it for you, so let me just say this: go forth and buy it. You won't be disappointed.

THE DRESDEN FILES by Jim Butcher (Storm Front, Fool Moon, Grave Peril, and Summer Knight): Obviously, if you follow this series at all, you'll immediately recognize that this isn't even close to all of them. I stopped after four because I needed a break. Butcher's popularity is well deserved, though I actually like his Codex Alera series a tiny bit better. In any case, smooth writing and plotting make for enjoyable reading in the urban fantasy arena and following the harrowing adventures of wizard Harry Dresden is a good time.

THE LINE by J.D. Horn (Book 1 of the Witching Savannah series): An enjoyable, fast read about a witching family in Savannah, Georgia. At times, it suffered from a bit too much deus ex machina, but it made up for this with its genuine charm and engaging main character - Mercy Taylor - the only one in her family who isn't a witch.

CINDER by Marissa Meyer (Book 1 of the Lunar Chronicles): A futuristic riff on Cinderella, featuring a cyborg mechanic and a world where class is everything, I was quite intrigued by this novel. It's a little slow at the beginning, but more than makes up for it as the story moves along and introduces more and more complexities as Cinder gets caught up in the intrigue of international politics and a plague that could kills thousands.

THRONE OF GLASS and CROWN OF MIDNIGHT by Sarah J. Maas (Throne of Glass series): A fantasy novel featuring an 18-year-old assassin named Celaena Sardothien in a contest to become the royal assassin, and what keeping up the charade of serving an evil king will ultimately cost. I really like this series so far, and look forward to reading the next installment.

In addition to those listed above, I've read a number of other enjoyable books recently, including: Legacy: The Arthurian Saga by Mary Stewart, Odd Apocalypse by Dean Koontz, The Warded Man by Peter V. Brett, the first two installments in the Vampire Academy series by Rachel Mead, a couple of Richard Castle novels, The Winter Witch by Paula Brackston, the first three books in Kim Harrison's Hollow's series, and the most recent Sandman Slim novel by Richard Kadrey.

Back in the days when I was a full-time editor, I found that reading for pleasure - just for the joy of finding a story to get lost in - was being slowly sapped away. Now that I don't edit full time, I've been able to resume reading for just that reason, and I must say I've missed it quite a bit.

And with that, let me encourage you to read on and share your own recent reads in the comments below.

Write on,
Russell

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The End of a Long Road

It's been far too long since I've had the time to update this blog. One of the stranger things I've noted about growing older and busier, with teenagers in the house, is that it's entirely possible to feel like you've blinked your eyes and six months have passed. I'll try to do better in updating things here.

As it's been such a long time, here are some updates from my life, in no particular order that may or may not be of interest to the handful of people reading along:

1. My daughter, Morgan, is a senior this year and heading off to college next year. We've had many, many household discussions on this topic, ranging from excitement to frustration to tears and recriminations. I suspect this happens more than I thought to other parents, too. When I did my undergraduate work, I picked the nearest college with a creative writing program, which happened to be the University of Wisconsin - Green Bay. I got lucky and studied under the fabulous poet Denise Sweet, among others. There was no angst. For my daughter, there seems to be a lot of angst. As she now appears to have narrowed it down to three or four schools, I'm hopeful the end of the angst is in sight.

2. I finally finished and turned in my very last Don Pendeleton's The Executioner (Mack Bolan) novel this month. I believe I wrote nine or ten of them. That was the end of a very long road, indeed, since I started writing them in 2007. Ol' Mack has appeared in more than 600 books, and there were times when I enjoyed the ride very much, but by the end, I was more than ready to let him go. For the first time since 2000, I'm not under contract to write any novels. (There was a brief, panic-inducing blip in 2006, where I was without a contract for perhaps four months or so.) This time, there's no panic. I'm turning (most of) my attention away from work-for-hire projects and back to my own work... after a break to wrap up a short story, do some editing projects, and breathe a little bit.

3. I've been quite busy teaching for Western State Colorado University, with a really excellent crop of students. I've also been working away for Excelsior College, teaching and developing a new course for them.

4. What's that, you say? What have I been reading? I've been reading a lot over the past year, and damn you Amazon and Kindle for making it so easy to buy books. Here's a super quick list of some of the titles that I've read recently: Books 1-3 of Kim Harrison's THE HOLLOWS series, THE ATLANTIS GENE by A.G. Riddle, GUARDS OF THE SHADOWLANDS (Books 1 & 2) by by Sarah Fine, WOOL, DUST, and SHIFT by Hugh Howey, plus keeping up with some of my current favorite series by Richard Kadrey (Sandman Slim), Larry Correia (Monster Hunters), and Brent Weeks (the Night Angel trilogy). That's not all of them, of course, but a nice sampling. I try to read at least 100 books a year. If time permits, I'm going to try and do at least one or two short reviews a month on this blog, but no promises. What's in your to-be-read pile that I should take a look at?

5. Oh, and in case you've been wondering, winter this year has been like living north of the Wall in a George R.R. Martin novel. There have been times when I've looked out the window and expected to see white walkers... They say spring is coming, but I'm not holding my breath.

And that's about all the news that's fit to share. I hope you and yours are well, that wherever you are, spring has started to show signs of appearing, and that if you are a writer, you do your best to...

Write on,
Russell

Friday, August 2, 2013

Back in the Land of Oxygen

Once again, I survived the WSCU MFA Summer Residency, though I admit that in spite of clear, convincing evidence otherwise, I would swear these things get longer every year. I was quite a bit busier this year, between teaching the first year students, panels, meeting with fall students, meeting with new thesis-level students, introducing outgoing thesis student presentations, and even doing a couple of panels at Writing the Rockies.

As anyone who travels in that part of the world can tell you, altitude sickness is a real thing, and I generally avoid it without any problems. This year, I thought I avoided it, but I suspect that the altitude affected me more than usual. First, I don't think I ever managed to catch my breath. A short walk was enough to have me huffing and puffing - and not in a good, wholesome, I love Marlboro's kind of way. Second, with only two drug-induced exceptions, I don't think I slept more than a few hours a night. And third, as an added bonus, the above and the extra work combined to kick my MS into very high gear on a couple of days.

All that said, and while I'm happy to be back in the land of oxygen, and I still had a great time meeting new students, visiting with continuing students and congratulating the outgoing graduates. Plus, it's always nice to get together with the other faculty and residency/conference guests. I think the classes went very well, and I'm hopeful the students felt the same. At Writing the Rockies, Jim Minz and I were able to catch up over a few evenings out, and I got to know literary agent Andy Zack a bit better, too. (My biggest disappointment of the whole month was that I only got to say howdy in passing to W.C. Jameson and totally missed seeing his lovely wife, Laurie.)

Now that I'm almost back to normal, I've got a very long list of things to do before the end of the month, ranging from writing projects to prepping for fall classes to getting the kids ready for the school year. Like most reasonable parents, I'm very much in favor of year round education, so I can't wait for summer to end so they can be gone all day. We are going to sneak down to Six Flags - Chicago for a day, and I may try to sneak in a little fishing before they head back to classes, but otherwise, it's work-work-and more work from now until the Thanksgiving break.

And speaking of work, it's time for me to sign off from this blog and...

Write on,
Russell Davis