Monday, July 21, 2014

At Union published in Postscripts to Darkness, vol. 5

My dark speculative fiction short, At Union, appears in volume 5 of Postscripts to Darkness this month.

cover art by
Cherry Valance

The story is about a train a father meets at Toronto's Union Station, hoping to find his daughter who died of leukemia.

The gang at PstDarkness are hosting a launch on July 31, which happens to be the day after my birthday, in Ottawa, at the Raw Sugar Cafe.  Some of the authors appearing in this issue will be there to do readings: Evelyn Deshane, Alexander Polkki, and Matt Moore, along with cover artist, Cherry Valance.

Copies can be purchased here, although I see the good folks at the mag haven't yet added volume 5 to the offerings.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Review: Dreaming the Serpent Spear, by Manda Scott

Dreaming the Serpent Spear (Boudica, #4)Dreaming the Serpent Spear by Manda Scott
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

In this the final novel in Manda Scott's Boudica series, the entire historical credibility of the novels falls apart for this reader. Scott seemingly abandons research in favour of complete immersion into lucid-dreaming and its alleged effects upon the physical world.

Her portrayal of pre-pubescent Grainne, who was raped by half a century of Roman troops, goes beyond any hope of credibility. If the child lived after such brutality, it is highly likely she would have been so traumatized both physically and emotionally as to be incapable of functioning, yet Scott has Grainne discussing military tactics and strategy with her elders, a discussion a healthy, functioning child would be hard-pressed to conduct, let alone one as brutalized as Grainne.

Scott further weaves the not very subtle threads for a possible Arthurian link here, which she admits in her author's epilogue, a literary device perfectly acceptable if one were writing fantasy, but certainly not for any kind of credible historical fiction.

Character point of view looses any coherence in the final novel, so that within any chapter the reader might first be presented with Grainne's point of view, then switch to Breaca's, or Valerius', or any number of others. Where the editor was leaves me wondering.

There is a substantial scene Scott has woven into the denouement which seems of little relevance to the story arc other than the author's own fascination with the Iron Age peat bog find of the Lindow Man. This scene completely arrests the tension and action, and again one has to wonder about the editor assigned to this novel.

For me, a disappointing end to a middling series.

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Review: Dreaming the Hound, by Manda Scott

Dreaming the Hound (Boudica, #3)Dreaming the Hound by Manda Scott
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Certainly Manda Scott must be applauded for her research into the era and subject matter, as her surrounding details are vibrant and for the most part credible. Characters are larger than life. Were this marketed as historical fantasy, certainly many of my criticisms would disappear. However, the entire Boudica series is, alas, not marketed as historical fantasy, rather as historical fiction, and it is there I find fault. Why? There are several reasons, however foremost of these is the overarching neo-pagan, fringe spiritualism in the guise of lucid dreaming which forms the backbone of much of the series.

While the concept of seeking dreams and spirit guides certainly is prevalent throughout many indigenous societies, the physicality and causality of the dream-sequence has never been given any scientific, credible corroboration, and so to credit Eceni and other native British tribes with the ability to manipulate weather and events through the act of lucid dreaming stretches the bounds of what might be considered historical fiction.

And in this, the third book of the series, Scott very much relies upon lucid dreaming and the effects this has upon her main characters.

An entertaining read, especially if the reader sets aside the question of credibility in historical fiction.

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Saturday, June 21, 2014

Review: Dreaming the Bull, by Manda Scott

Dreaming the Bull (Boudica, #2)Dreaming the Bull by Manda Scott
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Competent writing, a talented story-teller, and excellent research all contribute to the entertainment value of this, the second book of Manda Scott's Boudica series.

My only quibble is purely personal taste in that with such a remarkable, historical backdrop I'm wondering why Scott had to wander so deeply into neo-pagan spiritualism and magic. The result, for this reader, diminishes the quality of the story and the skill of a writer otherwise comfortable with her craft.

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Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Sorrel Soup

This time of year one of the early delights of the herb garden is sorrel, that wonderful perennial green, salty and savoury, a spring delight.

It occurred to me sorrel would make a delicious cold soup, a variation on watercress soup and vichyssoise.

  • 4 medium white potatoes, scrubbed and cut into about 1" cubes
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1/2 medium onion, peeled and roughly chopped
  • a few grinds of fresh black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 900 ml vegetable stock
  • about 3 cups well washed and drained sorrel leaves
In a large microwavable covered casserole dish combine the potatoes, garlic, onion, and seasonings. Microwave at full power for about 10 minutes or until potatoes are tender.

Remove from microwave. Add a little of the stock to the potatoes, and with a hand blender gently and carefully begin to purée the potato mixture, adding a more stock as you go. When all the stock has been added, and the mixture is a smooth purée, add the sorrel and handful at a time, and purée until smooth.

Chill well and serve cold with curls of lemon or garnished with chive flowers.

Makes a wonderful, colourful starter for a fish entrée. 

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Review: Three Day Road, by Joseph Boyden

Three Day RoadThree Day Road by Joseph Boyden
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

An astonishing novel. An even more astonishing first novel. There can be no disputing Joseph Boyden is not only an accomplished story-teller, but a significant Canadian voice in the 21st century.

Three Day Road, drawn from real people and real history, is an impeccably researched, and skilfully wrought tale of two Cree soldiers who fight in the nightmare of WWI. It is a story about the terror of residential schools, the descent into madness, and the arduous journey back to peace of mind and body.

A singularly great novel and great read. Highly recommended.

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Monday, May 19, 2014

Progress report: The Rose Guardian

After many long months of cogitation, I have finally touched fingers to keyboard again and finished one of the narratives for my current work-in-progress, The Rose Guardian. 

This section was especially difficult for me, as the narrative is constructed entirely of journal entries, and so carrying plot and tension through a very focused voice took a great deal of restraint. I think, however, I have the bones of it done, am pleased with the overall tone, enough I can now move on to the dream-time narrative of the story, the dark fantasy.

I must be honest and admit I have never struggled so hard with a work as I have with this. Sometimes I've thought I'm perhaps being too caught up in technique and device. At others I've known my instinct to write this story through three distinct narratives is the right choice, albeit challenging.

But we'll see, won't we?

Still and all, I'm pleased.