Saturday, November 28, 2015

Vote for Shakebags & Co. on Kindle Scout!

Amazon has a new contest running where authors can submit never-before-published novels and have readers nominate them for publication. Books with the most nominations will get a contract with Amazon and considerable marketing support as well. So I've thrown my first novel into the ring, the only one of my 4 novels I've never published (constantly tinkering with it), which got a good deal of notice on Inkitt a few months back. However, I've renamed it Shakebags & Co. and hope some people will find it interesting: it's a humorous fantasy novel about three hapless thieves trying to make their name in the world. You can read the first 3 chapters here and nominate it if you find it worthy. Thanks!

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Composing With a Russian Accent: The Orchestral Music of Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov

 In some ways, the most “Russian” of all Russian composers is Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov (the name alone would place him high on the list!), as he not only jumpstarted Russian orchestral music and opera, but he was deeply connected to the wellsprings of Russian folklore and literature. Rimsky-Korsakov’s work can be seen on some level as an attempt to translate the Russian spirit into purely musical terms, and his innovations have been followed by generations of Russian composers, not to mention film composers in Hollywood. It’s hard to truly pin down Rimsky’s compositional persona, as his greatest achievements—his 15 operas, on a range of fairy tale and historical subjects—are almost completely unknown in the West, while his memory lives on in a handful of orchestral gems which often disguise his Russian heritage, such as Capriccio Espagnol, Scheherazde, and the infamous Flight of the Bumblebee. Ultimately, what distinguishes Rimsky-Korsakov’s art is his masterful orchestration and sense of musical color: he believed strongly in the idea that notes represented colors, and clothed his music in the most lavish tonal raiment. Rachmaninov once said that with Rimsky-Korsakov’s music you could ‘hear’ the seasons, with the right combination of notes and instruments creating snowflakes, driving winds, budding trees, and falling leaves. He saved his greatest orchestral effects for his operas, where sadly few listeners are able to find them, though a few orchestral works betray this talent, even though his heart wasn’t always in ‘absolute’ music. However, even a lollipop of a piece like The Flight of the Bumblebee (a little interlude in his opera, The Tale of Tsar Saltan) is a masterful tone poem of sound and fury, suggesting how with the simplest of means he could conjure up an entire world, large or small.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Free Gothic/Fantasy Novel, Academic Satire, and More!

An Ad for my story made by the editors at Inkitt

Here's a few quick updates about my published novels and stories for those interested:

My third novel, The Winged Turban, published this September is FREE to download on Amazon for the Halloween week. It's a humorous Gothic Fantasy novel and I (think) is the best of my three books. It's been slow getting people to notice it, because there's just so much out there in the Kindle-sphere. Please download it if you get a chance, and if you don't have a Kindle, you can download the free app on Amazon and read it wherever you want. The link follows where you can read a sample:

I also posted my satire of college life, "The Textbook Confessions" on Inkitt to give it an airing as well. It's about the "confessions" of a textbook abandoned in a students' car over the Winter break,  including its laments on life, love, and the state of higher education. It's really short and you can read the whole thing for free here:

And as always, my other two novels, The Count of the Living Death and The Astrologer's Portrait, both fantasy novels, are available to download for 99 cents on Amazon. You can find links to them on my Amazon author page:

Thanks and hope you find some of these works worth your while! 

Thursday, October 15, 2015

A Look Back at Wells' The Invisible Man (1897)

Strangely enough, Penguin Classics didn’t elect H.G. Wells to the status of “classics” until 2005, when most of his novels entered the fold, including the four early classics, The Time Machine, The Island of Dr. Moreau, The Invisible Man, and The War of the Worlds.  The reason for this is the lasting stigma of “science fiction,” which is still seen as somewhat sensational, genre-specific, and of little literary value.  In the same way, the great science fiction novels of Pierre Boulle (Planet of the Apes, etc.) and Asimov (I, Robot, etc.) remain stapes of fantasy and science fiction imprints rather than mainstream classics.  So I was delighted to see Wells get the treatment his novels so richly deserve, particularly with the cool, somewhat retro designs which grace each Penguin volume.  Of all of his books, perhaps The Invisible Man is my favorite, as it is not simply a “science fiction” book, but a book that heralds in a completely new genre of literature in general: the superhero/villain narrative.  Every superhero comic owes something to The Invisible Man, and in every supervillain’s DNA we recognize the familiar pattern of Griffin, the infamous “Invisible Man.”  Of course, the book is not entirely original, as it develops a familiar theme found both in Frankenstein (1818) and the much later Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1886)—that we all have something within us that can be unleashed, call it our “id” or our primal self, which can do deeds of unspeakable good or evil.  The sense of a dark other haunts all of 19th century literature, but Wells adds a crucial ingredient to lift it out of the realm of Gothic literature: science.  The veneer of scientific possibility that hovers over the book, along with its by-the-minute, journalistic detail, makes us believe in the work in a way that Mary Shelley could neither accomplish or cared to attempt.  In short, it’s hard to read this book and not imagine the terror which its original audience most have experienced when first cutting open its pages (a sense that Orson Wells famously captured in his radio broadcast of The War of the Worlds).  

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

The Unfamiliar Familiar: A Review of Leisl Kaberry's Titanian Chronicles: Journey of Destiny (Book 1)

You are a part of us and our culture because you came to us at such an early age. However your soul and instincts are human. If I were to take a baby leopard and raise him with a flock of sheep he would become like the sheep. He would be placid, maybe timid, would stay with the flock and perhaps eat grass but eventually he would feel the call of the wild and desire to wander away from the flock in pursuit of something more. It is only nature Afeclin, and there is no point in trying to deny it.”

Titanian Chronicles, Journey of Destiny is the Hero’s Journey writ large, using the building blocks of myth and folklore at their deepest roots. All the great stories you’ve half-heard and half-remembered are here, though perhaps in their “natural” form. Reading this work gives you the distinct feeling that you’re turning back the pages of time, or glimpsing between the cracks of so much ancient literature to the ur-story at their source. Clearly the author has done her homework, and asked the most important question a novelist can ask him/herself: how does my story fit into the grand tapestry of literature? Without trying to reinvent the wheel, Leisl Kaberry manages to emulate the great works of fantasy from the past (both the recent and distant past) without telling the same story twice. You don’t know these characters, and can only guess at some of the twists and turns of this story, and yet it all exists in a world that feels familiar and habitable. Indeed, you’ll want to set up camp and prolong your stay in this exotic yet dangerous least long enough to figure out what a “lawfabex” is.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Translating Shakespeare for English Speakers: An Act of Cultural Survival?

RSC Production of As You Like It

No playwright is more translated and adapted than Shakespeare, as (almost) every culture seems to have an insatiable need to meet his work half-way, inspiring many of the great writers and poets (and directors) to coin their own Shakespearean language. Given this, you would think that English speakers praise their lucky stars to be have this amazing literature born from their mother tongue, which requires no artful translation or extravagant staging. You can simply crack open King Lear or The Tempest and have at it. And yet, so many English-speakers, and chief among them students, groan at the very mention of Shakespeare and his all-but-unreadable language, which they often claim is “old English.” A Shakespeare play no longer draws throngs of eager pilgrims as it once did, as many claim the plays are too remote, too obscure, and require someone explaining all the business on stage. If only he could just speak “English” so it would all make sense! Indeed, many audiences find themselves lost in a labyrinth of language which leads them in circles, at least until they grasp at the coattails of a plot. This has inspired many theater companies to severely edit the plays, removing strange references and shortening lengthy speeches of verse. Some go even further and attempt a complete translation, making Shakespeare’s characters speak “our” language (wherever “we” are at the moment), so the audience can enjoy a simple night’s entertainment without having to pull up Spark Notes on their cell phones.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Read My Book: The Winged Turban is published

In previous posts I talked about my novel-in-progress, The Winged Turban, which I've posted in installments on Inkitt and which won second place in one of their contests. After much revising and hemming and hawing, I decided to publish it today so it can join my other two books on Amazon. It's very much in the high-fantasy vein, though without excessive swordfighting (hell, there isn't any) or battles; it's a quiet, humorous fantasy novel about magic, love, and whether or not any of us are living the "right" lives. I dedicated the book to my Spring 2015 British Science Fiction and Fantasy class, which spent the entire semester reading so many great works--Tolkein, White, Dunsany, etc.-all of which inspired me to finish the book and respond to the great, on-going conversation of fantasy literature. 

Here's the blurb from Amazon: Beatrice is the victim of an arranged match to the Duke of Saffredento, who hastily abandons her to an estate full of forgotten traditions and curses. When the portrait of a strange woman begins turning up in the house, she summons the great sorcerer, Hildigrim Blackbeard, to investigate. The portrait, it seems, has traveled through time to find her—and bring her back by any means necessary. For she can no longer be Beatrice of Saffredento, but a young woman who died two-hundred years ago and must be reborn through the magic of an Enchanted Circle. But no one in recorded history has ever conjured such a Circle, though quite a few have gone mad in the attempt...

You can buy the book here for 99 cents:

Also, my other books, The Astrologer's Portrait and The Count of the Living Death are free to download from Wednesday to Friday: