The 2021 Reading List: September

Since one of my writing goals was to read more, I thought it would help to keep track of what I knocked off Mount Tsundoku. Here’s as good a place as any to post what I’ve read and what I thought of each book immediately after finishing.

Back in 2020 I decided to be a little more systematic about my reading plans. I started putting an actual to-read pile to stack on the nightstand and limited the stack to five books, which seemed doable for the month. Occasionally comics and graphic novels or roleplaying games jump the queue, but I typically tried to get through the pile in the order I stacked them. I also used this strategy to try and diversify my reading. The goal was for each to-read pile to contain at least one book by a BIPOC or LGBTQ2S+ author, one book by a woman, one non-fiction book, and one book by an author I know personally.

Creating these piles is getting a little trickier, as I’m having a bit of trouble filling all of my criteria from stack to stack, and I’m never precisely sure when a library book will arrive. Despite all of the library reading I’ve been doing I still plan on trying to read through the books on my own shelves as much as possible and reading beyond my typical fantasy proclivities.

A collection of gaming books, The Vast in the Dark, a Mörk Borg ‘zine, Feretory, Mörk Borg, Acid Death Fantasy, John Carter of Mars, Agon, and the Savage Worlds Super Powers Companion.

Velvet Was the Night by Silvia Moreno-Garcia: Fantastic neo-noir by one of my favourite authors. I do prefer her speculative fiction to her crime fiction, I think, but that’s not the novel’s fault, I just prefer spec fic to crime fic in general. I loved the comic book subplot, and Maite as narrator in particular. Highly recommended!

Savage Worlds Super Powers Companion by Pinnacle Entertainment: A fun add-on to the Savage Worlds game. I think it’s technically from a different edition of the game than the rules set I own, but it seems pretty compatible. I think Savage Worlds would do an awesome job of emulating a supers game.

The Vast in the Dark by Charlie Ferguson-Avery: I loved this little ‘zine. A cool setting, and rules for dealing with exploration and megadungeons without a ton of prep. Highly recommended! I’ll be using this in all of my D&D style games going forward.

Mörk Borg by Pelle Nilsson, Johan Nohr, and dead people: A really cool, but super-nihilistic game that I think I’d prefer playing to running. The book’s art is all gorgeous, but for me the wild layout and design, while totally fitting with the black metal sensibility of the game, took away from the experience of digesting the actual rules and setting.

Masquerades by Kate Novak and Jeff Grubb: A nostalgia reread of an old Forgotten Realms novel. I really dig Alias and Dragonbait. Not my favourite in the series, but I still enjoyed it. Bonus points for being set in one of my favourite cities in the Realms, Westgate!

Mörk Borg: Feretory by Mörk Borg Cult: A ‘zine with a bunch of additional rules and assets, and adventure for Mörk Borg. A cool supplement. Design and layout not quite as wild as the core book.

Agon by John Harper and Sean Nittner: A very cool Greek mythology inspired game, with a lot of interesting rules, but I don’t think it’s my jam as a player or GM.

Paper & Blood by Kevin Hearne: Book two of Hearne’s new series set in the world of his Iron Druid novels. I laughed out loud so often during the reading of this one (thanks Buck Foi)! I enjoy Al as a narrator which is why I was a little disappointed by the appearance of characters from the previous series (but not disappointed enough to ruin my enjoyment of the book!) I’m looking forward to more in this series.

Death in Castle Dark by Veronica Bond: A fun little cozy mystery set in a castle featuring a dinner theatre style murder mystery. I grabbed it from the library on a whim and I might read more if the plot of the second book grabs me.

The current to-read stack: Masquerades by Kate Novak & Jeff Grubb, Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton, Death Bee Comes Her by Nancy Coco, The Virago Book of Erotic Myths and Legends by Shahrukh Husain, and Witch Please by Ann Aguirre.

Here’s what I read in January.

Here’s what I read in February

Here’s what I read in March.

Here’s what I read in April.

Here’s what I read in May.

Here’s what I read in June.

Here’s what I read in July.

Here’s what I read in August.

Also, check out the roundup of my 2020 reading here.

The 2021 Reading List: August

Since one of my writing goals was to read more, I thought it would help to keep track of what I knocked off Mount Tsundoku. Here’s as good a place as any to post what I’ve read to keep me honest, and what I thought of each book immediately after finishing.

Back in 2020 I decided to be a little more systematic about my reading plans. I started putting an actual to-read pile to stack on the nightstand and limited the stack to five books, which seemed doable for the month. Occasionally comics and graphic novels or roleplaying games jump the queue, but I typically tried to get through the pile in the order I stacked them. I also used this strategy to try and diversify my reading. The goal was for each to-read pile to contain at least one book by a BIPOC or LGBTQ2S+ author, one book by a woman, one non-fiction book, and one book by an author I know personally.

Creating the piles is getting a little trickier, as I’m having a bit of trouble filling all if my criteria from stack to stack off my own shelves, and I’m never sure when a library book will arrive. Despite all of the library reading I’ve been doing I still plan on trying to read through the books on my own shelves as much as possible.

The Curse of Black Teeth Keetes by Perry Grosshans: A module written for Call of Cthulhu (Pulp Cthulhu in particular). I was offered a free copy in exchange for a blurb. Perry’s a longtime friend and we’ve gamed together for years, so I was thrilled to take a look. It looks like a lot of fun and perfectly captures The Goonies/Indiana Jones pulp spirit Perry was going for.

Fall from Grace by Wayne Arthurson: I’ve read some of Arthurson’s articles but this is my first experience with his fiction. Good for a first novel. I’d be interested in reading some of his more recent work. It took me a long time to warm up to Leo Desroches, but I liked the character by the end.

The Survival of Molly Southbourne by Tade Thompson: First time I’ve read anything by Thompson. This was fantastic.

Plastic Man by Gail Simone and Adriana Melo: Not my favourite character but Simone made it a fun read and Melo’s art really suited the character.

Heroine’s Journey by Sarah Kuhn: Another volume in Kuhn’s superhero flavoured urban fantasy series. We have a new narrator, Evie’s younger sister Bea takes over POV duties. I still thing Evie is my favourite of the series narrators so far, but I’ve enjoyed every book, and will definitely try to keep up with the series.

On Spec #113 vol 30 no 3: Part of my goal to read more short fiction. I’ll always have a soft spot for On Spec, as they published my first short story (and a couple more since). Stand out stories in this volume for me were “The Back-Off” by Aeryn Rudely, “Remember Madame Hercules” by Kate Heartfield, and “The Laughing Folk” by Steve DuBois.

Eternity Girl by Mags Vissaggio, Sonny Liew, and Chris Chuckry: A fun, trippy, and meta miniseries. My first experience with Mags’ writing. I remember Liew’s art from the Doctor Fate book a few years back. Also a shoutout to Winnipeg artist, Chris Chuckry, who did the colours.

Artificial Condition by Martha Wells: A book in the Murderbot Diaries. I really enjoyed the first book and the series continues to be great.

witchbody by Sabrina Scott: Did not finish. I liked the art but the book itself just didn’t hold me. It had an interesting aesthetic, just not my cup of tea.

On the Ice by Gretchen Legler: An interesting memoir of an author in Antarctica. I’d like to read some more recent books on living/working at the South Pole.

Deep Dark Secret by Sierra Dean: Book 3 of the Secret McQueen series. A fun urban fantasy/paranormal romance series. It’s been a while since I read books 1 and 2, so some of the backstory details were a little soft in my brain, but there was enough context for it to all make sense.

Into the Drowning Deep by Mira Grant: I’ve read tons of Seanan McGuire books, but until this one I’d never read anything under her Mira Grant pen name. An absolutely pitch perfect thriller, and a surprisingly different voice than any of her other work I’ve read. That said, I think I prefer her October Daye and InCryptid series style, but I might read another Mira Grant if the right story comes around.

The Well by Shoeless Pete Games: A recent Kickstarter reward. I really enjoyed reading the game and it has some cool rules I’d like to test out at the table. I especially enjoyed how it built its world around the concept of the dungeoncrawl and gave just enough worldbuilding details to feel like you have a handle on the setting without it being a burden of lore. A couple short stories by Cat Rambo and Bruce R. Cordell give a bit of the flavour of the world.

Late Eclipses by Seanan McGuire: Continuing my October Daye series reread. I’m digging all the foreshadowing that now makes sense in the context of the entire series.

The Murders of Molly Southbourne by Tade Thompson: I accidentally read this novella series out of order, but reading book 2 first didn’t seem to spoil much for me. I quite enjoyed it, and will probably seek out more of Thompson’s writing.

Witchmark by C.L. Polk: Book one in Polk’s Kingston Cycle series. It took me a while to get into this one, but after I did, I really enjoyed it, and want to read the rest of the series.

Hard Reboot by Django Wexler: I loved this giant robot smash ’em up novella. It’s much more than giant robots fighting, and Wexler nails every part of the story, but giant robot fights was what drew me to it.

Sundowner Ubuntu by Anthony Bidulka: Another book in the Russell Quant detective series. This one has Quant pursuing a missing person from Saskatoon to South Africa.

Here’s what I read in January.

Here’s what I read in February

Here’s what I read in March.

Here’s what I read in April.

Here’s what I read in May.

Here’s what I read in June.

Here’s what I read in July.

Also, check out the roundup of my 2020 reading here.

The 2020 Reading List: June

Since one of my writing goals for 2020 was also to read more, I thought it would help to keep track of what I knocked off Mount Tsundoku. Here’s as good a place as any to post what I’ve read in 2020 to keep me honest, and what I thought of each book immediately after finishing.

June: 

Domino: Hotshots by Gail Simone, David Baldeón, Michael Shelfer, Jim Charalampidis: Read as single issues, not a collected trade, like last month’s War of the Realms. I initially picked up Gail Simone’s prior Domino series because of  the Baldeón cover. I’ve never been a huge fan of the character, but I hadn’t kept up with her really since her debut back in the New Mutants/X-Force days. Simone’s Birds of Prey run was tons of fun though, so I took a chance, and really dug it. (Not gonna lie, Simone using Diamondback, one of my all time fav lesser known Marvel characters didn’t hurt.) I think the Hotshots series came out around my move last year which is why it took so long to get to it. Lots of fun! The art was as kinetic as ever, even though I found Baldeón’s art more suited to the story than the pages done by Shelfer. I missed the tighter dynamic of Domino, Diamondback and Outlaw from the previous series, and the generally more personal stakes, but it was fun to see Domino interacting with Black Widow, and with some of the more cosmic elements of the Marvel universe.

Criminal: Bad Weekend by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips: The kickoff of the lastest run of Criminal monthly comics. Also reading these as single issues (#1-4). One sweet thing about the Criminal single issues, is each one contains a noir essay in the back. This one has some great comic convention references and a stolen original art plot. Loved it!

Criminal: Cruel Summer by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips: I read this volume as single issues (#5-12). Obsessed private detective, femme fatale, broken down gangster looking for a big job. Lots of noir tropes (tropes I love, to be honest) that Brubaker and Phillips make work and feel fresh. Phillips’ expressions are so fantastic.

Thor Vol. 1 God of Thunder Reborn by Jason Aaron, Mike Del Mundo, Christian Ward, and Tony Moore: I read this volume as single issues (#1-7). This takes place before the War of the Realms limited series that I read previously. Reading through this run on Thor might’ve helped my enjoyment of that series, but such is life. I preferred the issues with Mike Del Mundo’s art, as I loved his work on Weirdworld back in Marvel’s Secret Wars days, but I also loved Christian Ward’s art on Black Bolt. The Tony Moore issue was a fun flashback to the days of a young Thor, before he earned Mjolnir. Moore’s style felt more suited to a modern book like Walking Dead than a viking-era fantasy to me.

The Peripheral by William Gibson: It’s been a while since I’ve checked out anything by Gibson…Spook Country, I think. This was a great read. I don’t know what I was expecting, but it wasn’t what I got, and yet, the book felt both entirely prescient and completely reflecting its time, which is typical Gibson. Every time I read one of his books there’s a bare minimum one line that makes me put down the book and go, “Hmm. Nobody else would’ve said that this way.” Apparently Gibson’s most recent novel, Agency, is both a sequel and a prequel to this one. I’ll probably check it out down the road, when I feel up to reading anything that touches on the 2016 U.S. election.

Next on deck for the reading pile: City of Broken Magic by Mariah Bolender and A Once Crowded Sky by Tom King.

Here’s what I read in January.

Here’s what I read in February.

Here’s what I read in March.

Here’s what I read in April.

Here’s what I read in May.

The 2020 Reading List: May

Since one of my writing goals for 2020 was also to read more, I thought it would help to keep track of what I knocked off Mount Tsundoku. Here’s as good a place as any to post what I’ve read in 2020 to keep me honest, and what I thought of each book immediately after finishing.

May:

Tiny Gunslingers by Gallant Knight Games: A minimalist western game. I’ve loved all the Tiny D6 games I’ve picked up so far, even if I haven’t played them as much as I’d like. I have a plan for this one though (Sigh. I have a plan for all of them). I especially like the shootout mechanic which uses playing cards and Blackjack rules to resolve, which feels like the iaijutsu duel mechanic from early editions of Legend of the Five Rings.

Beak, Feather, & Bone by Tyler Crumrine, Austin Breed, and Jonathan Yee: This is another Kickstarter game, a ‘zine-length competitive map labeling RPG and worldbuilding tool. I’ll probably be using it more for the later than the former, but it looks great, the rules read well, and it should be a fun way to spend an evening regardless of motive for playing. Also, loved the ravenfolk art by Austin Breed.

The City We Became by N.K. Jemisin: I started this one back in March and was loving it up until about a quarter of the way through, and then the everything happened with the real world and wouldn’t let up. I set it down meaning to get back to it, and it took me a while to regain my focus–my issue, no fault with Jemisin’s writing, which was superb–but once I did pick it up again, it was a race to the finish. What a goddamned great book. I’ve never been to New York but The City We Became felt both true to the New York that I’ve seen dramatized and at the same time so much deeper. I hope I get to see the real place some day.

War of the Realms by Jason Aaron, Russell Dauterman, Matthew Wilson: I loved most of Jason Aaron’s run on Marvel’s Thor comics, but this book wasn’t to my taste. Dauterman’s art is as gorgeous as it ever was. Maybe if I’d read more of the ancillary issues tie-in issues my opinion might’ve changed, but I’m never a fan of Marvel’s big crossover events, and a book needs to stand on its own.

Forbidden Lands Player’s Guide by Free League: This was a reread. I’d missed a bunch of game sessions in a friend’s ongoing campaign, and now that I’ve been back a bit more regularly, I decided to refresh myself on the rules. Found a bunch of stuff I’d forgotten. Still love this game. A great, but deadly, hex-crawler with swift and deadly combat.

Here’s what I read in January.

Here’s what I read in February.

Here’s what I read in March.

Here’s what I read in April.

Feline Friday

So here’s a fine looking feline from my story “Cats Go to Valhalla.”

I really dig how this turned out! The artist, Katie Glauber, totally captured the essence of the kitty named Fairweather. I won’t say more about why I love this smirking cat for spoiler-rific reasons, but I’m so glad Swashbuckling Cats editor Rhonda Parrish commissioned illustrations for the anthology launch.

Check out Swashbuckling Cats: Nine Lives on the Seven Seas available now from Tyche Books!

Write on!

Workshop And Reading In Thompson

Huge thanks to the City of Thompson, The Manitoba Writers’ Guild and Calm Air for inviting me to present a fantasy and horror writing workshop, and for making this trip possible! It’s some auspicious timing also, what with the 22nd being the 20th anniversary of the first Hellboy comic!

I’ll also be doing a reading and Q & A at the City of Thompson Public Library, Friday March 21st at 6pm. Thank you, Thompson Public for the invitation.

writingworkshop_poster_proof2

Northern Manitoba was a huge inspiration in the writing of Thunder Road, and so while I’m heading up north to teach, I’m also hoping to come home with some more stories. I promised one of my Twitter followers that I’d write something set in her home town some day…

Write on!

C4 Lit Fest Roundup

C4 Lit Fest was a blast. For a first year festival, it ran very smoothly.

Odin love G.M.B. Chomichuk, when he introduced himself at the Opening Ceremonies, he told the attendees that if they were going to buy only one book on the weekend, they should by Thunder Road. I tried to return the favour when ever I saw someone linger by his table (not that he needs my help, check out his art, Raygun Gothic is AMAZING).

Author alley was a lot of fun, as our tables were in close proximity, and I had the pleasure of being next to awesome Winnipeg YA author, Samantha Beiko  and directly across from awesome Winnipeg urban fantasy author, Sierra Dean. Fun was had. Great to see other familiar faces, G.M.B. Chomichuk, Ronald Hore, Rhiannon Paille, Craig Russell and Susan Rocan. It was also great to meet Jodi Carmichael, The Chapter by Chapter book bloggers: MaryAnn and Gabby, A.P. Fuchs, Gabrielle Goldstone, and Shaylinn Wilbon.

My first panel of the day was Plotting versus Pantsing, with Guest of Honour, Kelley Armstrong and fellow local authors A.P. Fuchs and Ronald Hore. Most of us tended to write on the seat of our pants, but Kelley ably held up the plotting end of the spectrum.

Sadly, How Can I Support My Local Authors (with Samantha Beiko) had the lowest attendance of any of my panels, not that it wasn’t expected. Making people care about the writers in their home town is always tricky. I think that the group that did attend got something out of what Samantha and I had to offer.

We were paired together again on a panel about the Traditional Publishing Process. Sam brought reams of experience as Managing Editor at ChiZine Publications and Marketing/Promotions diva for Signature Editions and I chimed in from the bookseller/book buyer side. Good turn out and good questions.

Sunday got off to a rough start as I woke up to more snow. However, by the end of the day the sun was out and looking back now and seeing grass (dead, brown, snow-mould encrusted grass, but grass all the same) I’m able to forgive that.

My first panel of the day was Fairytales, Folklore and Myths, Oh My! which I shared with Kelley Armstrong and local YA author, Susan Rocan (who was kind enough to interview me, and to review Thunder Road when the book first came out). This was a packed house. We talked about Werewolves, Vampires, Norse Myth (Kelley’s got a Middle Grade novel, Loki’s Wolves, co-authored with Melissa Marr, coming out that looks amazing), Aboriginal spirituality, the dangers of cultural appropriation, and a bit on avoiding inherent sexism and racism in modern takes on the tales. When the audience ran out of questions, I started picking on them and asking questions of them (Sorry, Perry and Craig). Tons of fun.

My final panel of the festival was What is a Beta Reader? with C4 Lit Fest organizer, Rhiannon Paille, and Ronald Hore. As with most panels on publishing or writing advice this quickly veered into territory of every writer is different and everyone’s path is different. I think we covered a lot of the bases on critique groups, first readers and beta readers, though.

Big thanks to Rhiannon and all the volunteers who made C4 Lit Fest such a great experience! I met a bunch of great people–I even sold some books! I’m very happy to hear that C4 Lit Fest will be back again next year.

 

Magic, Czerneda Style: A Guest Post By Julie E. Czerneda

Many of you know Canadian author Julie E. Czerneda as the former biologist turned science fiction novelist published by DAW Books NY. You may have read her Clan Chronicles series, or be a fan of Mac or Esen from her other work. Maybe you’ve heard she’s an editor. Also true. This spring, however, prepare to meet the Julie you don’t know. After three years of work, she’s letting out her whimsical side with the release of her first fantasy novel, A Turn of Light, also from DAW. The setting, Marrowdell, is based on pioneer settlements in Ontario. There are toads. And dragons. The magic? All her own. For more about Julie’s work, including book excerpts and upcoming events, please visit www.czerneda.com.

A Turn of Light Cover

Art Credit: Matt Stawicki

To say I’m not known — yet — for magic is an understatement. There’s not a whiff of it in my previous novels; for good reason, since those were science fiction. But I knew there’d be magic in A Turn of Light. The first paragraph I wrote of this story, decades ago, told me what kind I wanted. My kind.

Jenn laughed. The sparkling sound brought up the nose of a curious digger, crowned with a moist dab of soil. Nearer the forest, a rabbit paused, ears flat back to listen for the swoop of an early-hunting owl, and found the strength to jump into the safety of a thorn bush. While on the Northward Road, a weary stranger lifted his head and caught the scent of sunwarmed pine.

Magic innate, yet without guile. Magic of extraordinary consequence, often unexpected. Magic both carefree and wild.

I don’t write magic as tech. To me, that’s too close to science fiction, which I do write very differently and adore for itself. If I had boxes in my brain, tech would be in lovely organized rows and magic would spill throughout and betwixt as lush green vines and ancient silvered spiderwebs. With toads peering between.

I prefer not to do magic as spells. Here’s another bit from that very first paragraph.

The shimmering spot beside her on the hill began to whirl, the long rays of late afternoon sun picking out confused motes of dust caught by its frenzy, yellow pollen spiraling up in streaks of gold.

This introduces my dragon to readers (and to me). Magic again innate. Magic that belongs, as bone or breath belongs, to particular shapes of life. Magic as power is a potent theme in fantasy but in mine, including Turn, I give it away. To beings who are magic, for magic is what they can’t help but do. Here be wonders.

Or monsters. It depends on you. I’m more interested in our reaction to magic than in magic itself. How open to different are we? How willing to give respect instead of fear? If magic is the embodiment of imagination, who embraces it? Who walks away, oblivious? Who flees?

By lamplight, the roses were blood red and black, trailing over the lines of roof and wall, nodding overhead. She’d need a ladder to reach one; not that flowers would let themselves be picked. “I’m here for Poppa,” Jenn whispered. She lifted her hands. “He needs you.” There was a snap somewhere in the darkness overhead, then a single bloom tumbled down. It landed, dew-damp flower and stem, across her palms, and had not a single thorn.

There’s earth-rending magic in Turn as well as dire peril, because there are consequences not to ignore. There’s Bannan, with his truth-seeing eyes, and Jenn Nalynn, on a journey that will change everything she knows. Looking back, however, I find the smallest bits of magic are what I love best. The talents of  house toads and efflet. The ability of a horse to express opinion. The courage of a dragon.

Hurried, his body creaked and strained and tried to fail. The turn slid over and passed him as he pushed his way between neyet. Ylings trilled warnings. Nyphrit slipped into their holes. His useless foot snagged in a root and he pulled if free with a jerk that snapped bone. The road at last. He flung a breeze outward, “RUN!”

Before writing A Turn of Light, I worried if I could set aside, for the time required, my science and science fiction self, the one that demanded rigour and explanations and would never let anything of magic slip by. (Wonder, yes.) I used all sorts of tricks, a topic for another blog, to ensure I changed whatever I could of my work environment and my craft. When I sat to write that first day (October 2nd, 2009, if you’re curious), none of them mattered. I literally trembled.

I thought, then, of how very much I loved imagining my kind of magic. How, if there’s anything I’ve learned over the years, it’s that readers respond best to what I care about most. Write from the heart, I told myself. It’s always the right advice, even when it’s terrifying. Just like that, my fingers flew over the keys and A Turn of Light came to life.

Magic. Czerneda-style.

Julie Czerneda author photo credit Roger Czerneda Photography

Photo Credit: Roger Czerneda Photography

(All quotes from A Turn of Light, DAW Books, used with permission.)

Last Recommended Reading Post For A While…

Aside

My previous recommended reading post featured all Canadian authors, but I did read a bit outside of my nation in 2012. In the spirit of fairness, here is some work I really enjoyed by American and U.K. writers.

  • Folly of the World, Jesse Bullington. Orbit Books, December 2012
  • The Steel Seraglio, Mike Carey, Linda Carey, Louise Carey. CZP, April 2012
  • Silver, Rhiannon Held. Tor Books, June 2012
  • Libriomancer, Jim C. Hines. DAW, August 2012
  • The Warlock’s Curse, M.K. Hobson. Tesla, October 2012
  • Soul Trade, Caitlin Kittredge. St. Martin’s Press, September 2012
  • Greatshadow, James Maxey. Solaris Books, January 2012.
  • Discount Armageddon, Seanan McGuire. DAW Books, March 2012
  • Forged in Fire, J.A. Pitts. Tor Books, June 2012
  • This is Why You Fear Me, Robert Shearman. CZP, November 2012
  • A Pretty Mouth, Molly Tanzer. Lazy Fascist September 2012

Most of the short fiction I read in 2012 was Canadian, but here’s a couple of American standouts from Fungi:

  • “Last Bloom on the Sage”, Andrew Penn Romine, Fungi, Silvia Moreno-Garcia & Orrin Grey eds., Innsmouth Free Press, December 2012
  • “Tubby McMungus, Fat From Fungus”, Molly Tanzer & Jesse Bullington, Fungi, Silvia Moreno-Garcia & Orrin Grey eds., Innsmouth Free Press, December 2012