A blog for people who don't want to spend all their free time in the real world. After all, we live and work there. Escape the mundane with books, travel, and writing.

Friday, July 13, 2018

My short story on Pseudopod!

PseudoPod

For those of you who aren't familiar with EscapePod, Pseudopod, PodCastle, and Cast of Wonders, they're part of a family of well-respected literary podcasts that were among the first and now longest-running shows of their kind.  Escape Pod does science fiction, PodCastle does fantasy, Cast of Wonders is aimed at the young adult who like speculative fiction, and my story appears in Pseudopod, the horror podcast. 

Now, I don't write a lot of horror, and this story, "A Learned Man," is not a gruesome slash-em-up.  The host of the episode, Alasdair Stuart, calls my story "Horror of the rarest, subtlest vintage.  Expertly, chillingly done."

"A Learned Man" appeared a while back at Electric Spec, but now it has new life (and voice) with Pseudopod.  The reader, Wilson Fowlie, does and excellent job making it come to life.

Listen (or read) for free here:  Episode 602 of Pseudopod:  A Learned Man

If you like to encourage the arts, please leave a comment in the forum or share on social media.  Thanks!


Thursday, July 12, 2018

Five Stars for A Perfect Universe by Scott O'Connor


Amazing.  I read this because it was on a list of books for a reading challenge.  I'd never heard of the author, but from the first few pages I was hooked.  The stories just blew me away.  I'm not even sure why they were so good, but the writing pulled me in and didn't let go.  The emotions were powerful, the characters compelling, the subject matter unusual.  Many of them took some strange small thing and made it central in such a beautiful way that I just kept thinking, "I wish I'd written this."  The settings and microcultures were real.  Everything…just a masterpiece. 

None of the stories wrapped us as much as I like.  They all left me hanging, hungering for more, wanting these characters to find more peace, more definite solutions, more answers.  Yet despite my preference for conclusions that are…well…conclusive…I loved these.  There was always just enough…just a bit of hope or a bit of closure.  Yet they kept me thinking about them afterward. 

I enjoyed the common thread that wove through most of the stories—a movie that was important in different ways to different people.  However, it did seem strange that this common thread was missing in only a couple of stories.  However, maybe I just missed it because I wasn't watching for it in the beginning.  I'll have to read the whole collection again.  And for the first time in a long while, I look forward to re-reading a book.

Five stars, no question--and I do not give five stars lightly.  In fact, I just looked back and for the last 50 novels or short story collections I've read, this is only the second one I've given 5 stars.

I will absolutely read more by Scott O'Connor

Warning:  a bit more profanity than I like, but not excessive.  And it's not exactly a light and happy read. 

Check it out from your local library or buy on Amazon:  A Perfect Universe; Ten Stories

Sunday, July 8, 2018

My Short Story in Ember; a Journal of Luminous Things

My short story, "The Curse," about a woman haunted by a decision she made years ago, is out in <i>Ember; a Journal of Luminous Things</i>.

The cover art is beautiful, and there's more artwork throughout, so I'm excited to get my contributor's copies and see how it all looks in print.   

If you're interested, use this link to get a 35% discount:   https://go.egjpress.org/e31-brasher  There's a fancy limited-time edition and a trade paperback. 





Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Heard Museum, Phoenix


I went to the Heard Museum in Phoenix for the first time a few days ago (I know, I know...I should have explored this well-respected museum much sooner). 

I was a bit surprised by its focus.  I was expecting more ethnographic, historical, and archaeological displays, and not quite so much art, but I enjoyed the mix.  And, if you look at the website, it clearly states "Heard Museum; Advancing American Indian Art."

Temporary Exhibits

The museum has a lot of temporary exhibits, so you can go multiple times and always see something new.  My favorite of the temporary exhibits was "Symmetry in Stone:  The Jewelry of Richard I. Chavez."  He's an amazing jewelry maker, often cutting coral, turquoise, jade, and other stones into small pieces that he then fits together like perfect mosaics.  Beautiful stuff.

Permanent Exhibits

The most interesting permanent exhibit to me (and the most heart-breaking) was "Remembering our Indian School Days:  The Boarding School Experience."   I also enjoyed the "Home" display with information, pottery, baskets, katsina (AKA kachina) dolls, clothing, jewelry, etc. from the different Arizona tribes, along with cultural information about each one.  I just wished they'd had better maps that showed where each lived at different times in history.

Some of the sculptures scattered around and in the courtyards were really cool.

My Favorite Exhibit

My absolute favorite part (I'm such a kid), was "It's Your Turn; a Home Studio."  It's a hand-on, interactive exhibit about the daily home art of various tribes.  You can build a hogan with giant legos, put together puzzles, and make crafts!!!  Totally cool.  And it gave me lots of inspiration for activities I can do with my kids at the library.     

If you go...

Remember that they're one of the museums that participates in the Culture Pass program, where you can get two FREE tickets by checking out a Culture Pass at your local Phoenix-area library!  They also have discounts for seniors,children, AAA members,  FREE entry to Native Americans, FREE entry to active-duty military and their families during summer, and FREE first Fridays in the evening.  They also participate in Bank of America's "Museums on Us" program.  These special free and discounted entries may not apply during special events. 

Various daily tours are free.

We spent about 5 hours there.  You can leave in the middle and have a picnic on their pretty grounds or go to a nearby restaurant and come back.  Alternately, you can spend a LOT of money on sandwiches and such at their cafe.

The bookshop and museum store are open to the public without paying admission.

The library (for reading and studying there but not, I believe, for checking out books) is open Monday-Friday. 

They also have programs such as hoop dances (I LOVE hoop dances), lectures, and other special events, sometimes for additional fees. 


For more information and pictures:

https://heard.org/


Friday, June 29, 2018

Last Day on Mars (the book), by Kevin Emerson

NOTE:  this review is for the book by Kevin Emerson, not the unrelated movie with the same title

I enjoyed this book a lot. The setting and conflict are awesome. The technology's cool. The pacing for the last 2/3 is really good. Things keep going from bad to worse in a very edge-of-your-seat way. The voice in the prelude is fantastic.

I did think the tiny bit of "romance" is completely unnecessary and felt forced, like it was added after some editor said, "Hey, Kevin, you need romance. Every book needs romance." But every book doesn't. This would have been stronger without.

I personally don't like science fiction with time travel / time manipulation. I know, I know: any sufficiently developed technology looks like magic. But...I just don't like even the appearance of magic in my sci fi. However, it's very popular lately to add time travel / non-linear time / time manipulation in your sci fi, so if you don't mind it you'll love this book.

Even if you hate the time travel element, you'll still enjoy the book. It's well written and exciting and a great off-Earth adventure. It does end on cliff-hanger, so be prepared to read the next book (or wait for it to come out, as I must now) 

I certainly plan on reading more by Kevin Emerson.

More accurate rating: 4.5

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

How to Win Games and Beat People by Tom Whipple


This is a really interesting book, with information about--and quotes from the experts in--each discipline.  Some of this is rather tongue-in-cheek, especially about things like apple bobbing and stone skipping.  

I love the "how it ends" section for each game—most quite funny.  Good humor, but also physics, math, strategy, logic, and lots on strange tidbits.  Great book if you like games as much as I do. 

Oh, and thanks to this, I spent entirely too much time alternately laughing at and being amazed by 20Q.net, the AI internet program that can play twenty questions with you.  Go look it up. 

A very strong 4.5 stars.   


And just in case you can't read the subtitle, here's the whole thing:  "How to Win Game and Beat People; Demolish your family and friends at over 30 classic games with advice from an international array of experts."

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Old Dominion Park in Globe, Arizona

Cool old mining equipment at Old Dominion Park in Globe.  It's at the site of an old mine and you can see old ruins and read a lot of really interesting information about the history of the place and the industry.  There are also picnic tables, short hiking trails, a cool playground, and a frisbee golf course.