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April 1st, 2013

12:28 am - Money Run, by Jack Heath (Scholastic, 2013)

Originally published at Schrodinger's Bookshelf. Please leave any comments there.

Ashley Arthur is calm, cool, and collected. She can pick locks, steal cars, rewire alarms, and scale fences like a champion. She’s one of the best thieves in the world…and she’s only fifteen. With her partner Benjamin running tech support and remote backup, Ash is ready to tackle any challenge.  But now the pair have set their sights on one of the richest targets alive. They have solid information that Hammond Buckland, billionaire CEO of HBS, has a whopping $200,000,000 hidden somewhere in his corporate headquarters.

And they’re going to steal it.

However, the job goes horribly awry when Michael Peachey, reportedly the third best hitman in the business, shows up to terminate Buckland on secret orders from the government. Now the teenage thief is trapped in the same building as a ruthless assassin. Ash isn’t leaving without the money. Peachey’s not leaving any witnesses alive.

Things rapidly snowball out of control. Buckland’s had time to prepare for his potential assassination, and soon he has Peachey jumping through hoops of his own, one step ahead of the killer. But the three way struggle attracts the attention of both the police and the Terrorism Risk Assessment agency, and soon Ash is running from killers and the law.  Will she get her payday, or is this job doomed to failure?

Money Run is an absurdly entertaining, over-the-top, adventure that may be just a little too hard to swallow if taken seriously. Heath is adept at putting his characters into adrenaline-charged, life-and-death situations, constantly upping the stakes and the action appeal. By the time Ash has “borrowed” a Bugatti Veyron, one of the world’s most exclusive and expensive cars, and driven it off the top of the building only to crash it into the apartment building next door, you know this is no run-of-the-mill romp.  And believe me, that’s not even the most outrageous stunt to grace these pages.

Ash is a great protagonist, a skilled thief who does it for the kicks rather than the loot, adept at thinking on the fly and making her lunatic plans somehow work. I’d love to see a situation where she ran into Ally Carter’s tband of teenage grifters and thieves from Heist Society.

However, I’m not sure what to think about some of the other characters. Hammond Buckland would make a perfect supervillain: his elaborate plans, Wile E. Coyote deathtraps, penchant for monologuing, and ability to remain one step ahead of everyone place him somewhere between Lex Luthor and Ernst Blofeld on the level of accomplishment, and yet he remains vaguely sympathetic.  Peachey, on the other hand, is introduced as a competent, skilled, experienced assassin with the quirky habit of internally narrating his story like he’s going to sell it to the movies. But for someone so good as his job, he’s…not very good. Ash runs rings around him, and Buckland treats him like Bugs treats Yosemite Sam or Elmer Fudd.  It’s almost sad, watching this guy so completely off his game.

An interesting quirk of the book is that it seems to go out of its way to be set in a specific location. It was originally released in 2008 in Heath’s native Australia, but honestly, this book could take place in Australia, America, or possibly Canada. Currency is given in dollars, but the TRA is, as far as I can tell, entirely fictitious. There’s references to “this state” and “this country” without trying very hard to ground the story in a real location.

Now, Heath has already gone on record addressing the similarities between this book and the 2011 movie, Tower Heist. (Spoilers of a sort to be found at that link). All I can say is that while there are definitely parallels, I’m pretty sure it’s mostly just coincidental. Your mileage may vary. 

In the end, I’d definitely say I enjoyed this story. Sure, it’s almost ludicrously over-the-top at points, with the initial heist turned into something approaching slapstick levels of comedy, coincidence, bad timing and Rule of Cool, but it’s no harder to accept than, say, Catch That Kid! If you want a fast-paced romp that reads like a mashup of Heist Society and Die Hard, a teen adventure with a cinematic feel, this is a worthy offering.


12:22 am - Out of Sync, by Amanda Humann (Lerner, 2013)

Originally published at Schrodinger's Bookshelf. Please leave any comments there.

Madison “Maddie” Wong plays soccer for the Fraser Hugh Copperheads.  A talented midfielder, she dreams of playing for a Division 1 college like Stanford or Duke, but she’s overly reliant on the “sick soccer sync” she shares with her best friend Dayton.  Together, they’re unbeatable on the field. Unfortunately, the more intense Maddie becomes, determined to show off her skills to the college scouts starting to come by, the less dedicated Dayton is. In fact, Dayton’s more interested in partying and boys, leaving her “sync sister to founder and flail on her own.  Will Maddie be seduced by her best friend, and abandon the game for a chance at a social life? Or will she find her own path, one that doesn’t rely so heavily on a single other person?

Out of Sync, part of the Counterattack series of quick reads for “reluctant readers,” focuses on the intense pressures facing many student-athletes. Maddie, the very picture of the driven player, must find the right balance between her athletic ambitions and her friends, between striving for perfection and accepting when she needs help. When she realizes just how much she depends upon Dayton, it forces her to reassess her skills, her rapport with her fellow players, and her own inner strength. She struggles with the temptation to let it all slide, to relax, and it almost costs her more than she can stand. 

Like all of the books in this series, it’s rather short and to the point, with little room for extraneous plots.  Out of Sync is a fun story, with realistic characters and believable situations, featuring the sort of problems teens can undoubtedly relate to. While the storyline revolves around high school varsity girls’ soccer, detail-rich and featuring numerous scenes set on and off the field, it still touches on universal themes.  At just over 100 pages long, it’s little more than an appetizer for some readers, but it might just be the right size to read on the bus after a game. The diverse characters and positive message, straight-forward without being heavy-handed, make this a worthwhile read.


12:18 am - Offside, by M.G. Higgins (Lerner, 2013)

Originally published at Schrodinger's Bookshelf. Please leave any comments there.

Faith Patel may only be an average soccer player—practically a benchwarmer for the Fraser High Copperheads—but it’s something she loves.  More importantly, it’s one of her few refuges from the constant pressure of family and academics. Torn between her responsibilities to her younger siblings, and her mother’s insistence that she get the grades needed to get into a good school, she has to fight for the chance to play soccer, to take a little something just for herself.  Worse, her obligations prevent her from having a social life, and she afford the time and money needed to pay on club teams like many of her teammates, further setting her apart.

Things get complicated when she develops a crush on her coach after he shows an interest in her wellbeing. Now Faith has to worry about what to do, how to approach the older man. Is it all in her head, or is there a real spark?  And when one of her teammates finds out, will everything come tumbling down?

Offside is a strong, if fairly to-the-point, story about warring obligations and inappropriate crushes.  Faith’s predicament is honest, believable, and just a little painful, as we see the desperate-for-a-break, stressed-from-all-sides young woman get caught between dutiful daughter and sister, and teenager in need of stress relief.  It’s easy to identify with her yearnings, confusion, and desires.

However, the short nature of this book seems to keep the storylines from really going anywhere. What could have been a powerful way to explore the power dynamics between teen and adult, athlete and coach, fizzles, primarily present only in Faith’s mind.  Coach Berg is pretty much an unknowing participant in the plotline, and we never get to see just what he thinks, or how he’d react.  Likewise, the issue with Faith’s teammate and the potential blackmail/troublemaking also stays fairly mild, never going anywhere.  While I’m definitely not advocating that the author take up what could be an intensely controversial or volatile issue, the fact remains that the storyline seemed ready to steam right into those troubled waters, before veering off into safe territory. Sadly, this book just doesn’t seem to reach its full potential, possibly due to its relative brevity, or an inability or unwillingness to push the boundaries.

Despite these shortcomings, Offside is a well-written story, with realistic characters and believable situations, featuring the sort of problems teens can undoubtedly relate to. While the storyline revolves around high school varsity girls’ soccer, detail-rich and featuring numerous scenes set on and off the field, it still touches on universal themes.  At just over 100 pages long, it’s little more than an appetizer for some readers, but it might just be the right size to read on the bus after a game. The diverse characters and positive message, straight-forward without being heavy-handed, make this a worthwhile read. While not as strong as others I’ve seen in the series, it definitely has an appeal and a charm unto itself.


12:08 am - This is What Happy Looks Like, by Jennifer E. Smith (Little, Brown and Co, 2013)

Originally published at Schrodinger's Bookshelf. Please leave any comments there.

He’s a teen movie star with a pet pig and a severe case of the sort of loneliness only the famous can know. 

She’s a small town girl with daddy issues and her own reasons for keeping out of the spotlight.

When an email goes to the wrong address, it sparks a conversation and unlikely friendship between Ellie O’Neill and Graham Larkin. Despite the simmering chemistry found in their electronic exchanges, they hesitate to reveal actual names, giving their relationship an air of mystery and anonymity. 

That all changes when Graham’s newest movie chooses Ellie’s home town of Henley, Maine, to do some local shooting. Soon enough, the two have met face to face, and they finally have the opportunity to take things to the next level. But can they embark on a relationship without the whole world knowing? How will Ellie’s friends, or worse, her overprotective mother, handle her dating a movie star? Is Graham the sort of guy to settle for a girl like Ellie?

For the most part, This Is What Happy Looks Like is a fairly standard romantic drama/comedy, albeit an entertaining, wholly satisfying one. As I read it, I made certain predictions about how things would go wrong, and at what point (since, as we know, things always go wrong…) To my pleased surprise, I was generally wrong.  Smith manages to avoid most of the obvious pitfalls and stumbling blocks, and steers clear of the usual sort of awkward miscommunications which are standard romcom fodder.  In a sense, my enjoyment of this book stemmed not from what happened, but from what didn’t happen.

The initial email exchange between Ellie and Graham is both cute and a perfect insight into their characters; it’s hilarious that a seventeen-year-old movie star stays up late emailing random people because he’s got nothing better to do…and yet it’s totally fitting in Graham’s case. (Though a Hotmail address?  Really? People still use Hotmail?)

The only part of the story that didn’t quite work for me was when Graham and Ellie took the time out to go find her father, who she hasn’t seen in years. It’s not that it was a bad sequence—in fact, it was a perfect opportunity to see both of the characters out of their natural elements, giving them a chance to, well, just be themselves—but it felt like a whole different story altogether. Sometimes a road trip element works, sometimes not, and this was a case where it felt out of place and could have been handled in a different fashion.  (I can just imagine circumstances where Ellie’s father, a U.S. Senator, decides to visit Henley to meet with Graham to bolster his image among the younger audiences…)

I really did enjoy this book. Ellie and Graham’s romance is believable and sweet, and they overcome all the various obstacles with a minimum of effort, mostly stemming from Ellie’s own issues.  Graham, it must be said, felt almost too good to be true, unspoiled by fame and fortune and Hollywood success, a teenager struggling with loneliness as his career alienates him from friends and family. Is it possible to remain that normal when you’re one of the hottest teen actors on the market? (Okay, he has a pet pig named Wilbur, how normal is that?)

In short: a lovely story that works wonders from a slightly improbable premise, starring likeable characters and a satisfying romance. This may not be ground-breaking, but it’s definitely what happy looks like.


February 15th, 2013

06:43 pm - A Grab Bag of Updates & A Plea to SFWA Members

Originally published at Schrodinger's Bookshelf. You can comment here or there.

I’ll keep this brief and to the point…well, as mch as I ever keep anything brief and to the point.

1) New reviews posted on Tor.com include Breaking Point, by Kristen Simmons, which is the sequel to Article 5, and Impulse, by Steven Gould, which is the latest in the Jumper series.  I also “eDiscovered” the classic space opera, The Price of the Stars, by Debra Doyle and James D. MacDonald.

2) Just about all copies of Scheherazade’s Facade, both digital and physical, have been sent out to appropriately happy Kickstarter backers. I’m poking the office to make sure we didn’t have any stragglers.  Just remember, if you didn’t back the anthology through Kickstarter, you can buy it through Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Circlet, and other fine online retailers. If you read it and like it, reviews are greatly encouraged, on any of the above places, or Goodreads, or your personal blogs.

3) This one’s for all the SFWA members out there who are eligible to nominate for awards like the Nebulas. While all of the stories in Scheherazade’s Facade are worthy of recognition, David Sklar’s been trying extra hard to get his brilliant “Lady Marmalade” noticed. That story can be found in the SFWA forums as a standalone PDF.  The forums are password protected, but if you’re SFWA, you should have no problem getting in. The deadline is today (how time flies!) but it’s worth 10 minutes of your time.  Honest!

That’s it for the moment, although I’m sure I’m forgetting something…











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January 31st, 2013

10:42 pm - Now SHIPPING: Scheherazade’s Facade

Originally published at Schrodinger's Bookshelf. You can comment here or there.

Facebook friends and Kickstarter backers already know this, but at long last, the trade paperback edition of Scheherazade’s Facade has finally escaped into the wild.  My lovely colleagues at Circlet Press shipped out the first batch of several dozen copies to U.S. backers early this week, and they’re already starting to reach their destinations.  (First confirmed sighting was Terry, the wonderful owner and operator of B&D Comics, here in Roanoke.  Or, as my wife refers to her, my crack dealer.  (It’s not my fault I have an addiction to comics, and every week, after getting my fix, go outside to shoot up in the parking lot.  I mean, read them funny books…))

Here’s what I sent to the Kickstarter backers:

It’s been a long time coming, longest of all for Yours Truly, but we really are in the final stage of fulfillment, and the end is in sight. See? There may have been a few twists, turns, delays and mishaps of chance along the way, but here we are.

I hope you enjoy your books when you get them. I hope that whatever you find in these books resonates with you, makes you happy, makes you think.

Here’s what I do know: the first batch to go out was to American backers. That’s nothing against you lovely, lovely international backers, it was just how the order got structured at the office. They’ve assured me that the rest of the books are slated to go out early next week. Obviously, the shipping will take time depending on how they go out and how much the mail system likes you. (My suggestion: make sacrifices to the Book Faeries.)

We’ll do our very best to stay on top of things, so if you ordered the physical copy and it doesn’t show in a reasonable time, please do get in touch so we can rectify sooner rather than later. (And I promise you, any address changes you sent me were promptly forward to the Circlet office for updating, even if I didn’t remember to reply to you at the time.)

As always, I encourage you to leave comments, ratings, and reviews for Scheherazade’s Facade online. Especially on our Amazon listing, Barnes and Noble, Barnes and Noble Nook, and Goodreads. We could use the love and honest feedback.

(And yes, I welcome and encourage all honest reviews about the quality, content, and style of the anthology. If the stories rock, say so. If they suck, say so. If you would recommend this book to your best friend or your worst enemy, do so. If you have a complaint about the delivery or fulfillment, or if something goes wrong or missing, take that up with me or Circlet directly. Amazon and B&N have nothing to do with shipping backer rewards, that’s a joint effort between Circlet and myself, depending on what aspect of the project you’re looking at.)

Now then, I still have a few details to handle, and more people to nag, so I’ll close out without further ado.



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January 30th, 2013

03:54 am - Speechless, by Hannah Harrington (Harlequin/Mira INK, 2012)

Originally published at Schrodinger's Bookshelf. You can comment here or there.

What happens when a mean girl goes a step too far through carelessness, not malevolence, and ends up experiencing a self-imposed penance?

Just ask Chelsea Knot, generally regarded as a major blabbermouth who’ll do anything to stay in the good graces of her best friend, Kristin, the ruthless queen bee of the school. She’s not even above the occasional spot of blackmail, to help the cause. But things go horribly wrong when she attends a party and accidentally discovers that one of her classmates, Noah Beckett, is gay. Naturally, she immediately announces the news to Kristin and friends.

That same night, Noah and his boyfriend are the subjects of a brutal gay-bashing, courtesy of several jocks, including Kristin’s boyfriend. Racked with guilt, Chelsea immediately tells her parents, who tell the cops. Result: the perpetrators are arrested and expelled.

Result: Chelsea is personal non grata with Kristin, and by extension, everyone who wants to stay in the queen of mean’s good graces. From popular girl to outcast. From harmless gossip to snitch.

(Oh, and lest we forget. Result: Noah Beckett, in hospital after being savagely beaten just for being gay. But this is not his story.)

Chelsea decides that since her mouth got her in trouble, it’s time to take speech out of the equation, and she adopts a vow of silence. Her classmates can mock and ignore and pick on her all they want. She’ll keep quiet. Her teachers can give her detention for not participating. She’ll hold her tongue. Her parents can despair. She’ll zip her lips.

And thus begins Chelsea’s slow but inevitable redemption, as she’s befriended by the school’s outcasts and loners, the sort of people she’d never even have given the time of day before everything happened. One is Asha, a freshman who seems to take on Chelsea as her own personal project, part math tutor and part sympathetic shoulder. Another is Sam Weston, Noah’s best friend, and Chelsea’s new partner in art class.

As Chelsea gets to know these new friends, she gains a better understanding of her true nature and experiences a great deal of personal growth, both academically and emotionally. Free of the toxic influence of her former friends, she’s able to grow into a decent person striving to make up for past mistakes. Sure, she has to deal with persistent bullying from those who refuse to give her a break, and yeah, there are those who still don’t trust that she’s changed (like Noah’s boyfriend, who totally blames her), but at least she’s on the right path. The big question is: what will she say when she finally chooses to speak again? Will it be a slip of the tongue? A profession of love towards the increasingly irresistible Sam? An apology to those she accidentally wronged? Or will the right moment come at an unexpected time?

Speechless is a fascinating study of the high school ecosystem. When she voluntarily tanks her own reputation and social standing in order to make good on something she knows is wrong, Chelsea undergoes a powerful journey. It’s only after she becomes a loner that she realizes how badly she’d been influenced by Kristin. (“For instances, why is there so much pink here? I don’t like the color pink. I don’t look good in the color pink. But a third of my closest is devoted to pink sweaters and blouses and skirts. All because Kristin always insisted it was “my color.””) Now an outsider looking in, Chelsea can recognize how poisonous her previous circle of friends was, even as they bully or ignore her. She’s free to make friends with more interesting, more genuine people, like Asha and Sam, the sort who accept her and encourage her to be an individual.

And yet, we’ve seen this story before in a hundred different ways. The mighty brought low, forced to associate with freaks and geeks, only to accept the change in status quo and come out of the ordeal as a better person. It’s a popular story.

Luckily, Chelsea is a fairly sympathetic character. Misguided at first, careless, short-sighted, but not intentionally mean. And it’s her willingness to do the right thing and make amends which propels her particular story, as she hits rock bottom and claws back out as a changed individual. She’s surrounded by those who are, if not always understanding, at least sympathetic and willing to extend a measure of benefit of the doubt. That helps cushion her during the worst times.

Now, you may have noticed that I haven’t spent much time talking about poor Noah, who’s been stuck in the hospital for most of the book. Like I said, it’s not his story. It’s about the girl who accidentally brought trouble down upon him. It’s about his best friend, who’s afraid to go visit him. It’s about his boyfriend, who has his own issues of guilt to work through. And if you ask me, there’s something offputting about a story that uses a gay bashing to fuel the redemptive journey for a thoughtless straight girl. It’s bothersome that the person who suffered the most, from being inadvertently outted to being beaten within an inch of his life, has such a little part to play. There’s a lovely scene near the end involving Noah which made me choke up a little, a moment of victory which I didn’t see coming, but it’s still incidental compared to Chelsea’s story.

I guess that, in an era where authors and readers are striving to give queer characters ever more voice and exposure, it feels backwards to use an event like this as a catalyst. It may have fueled Chelsea’s rise and fall, and given Asha and Sam and Andy (the boyfriend) things to do and worry about, but still….

Speechless is a lovely book, with a valid and powerful message. Words hurt. Carelessness can do a lot of damage. It’s never okay to out someone without their permission, and obviously, it’s never acceptable to attack someone for their sexual preferences. Actions have consequences. Bullying and harassment are wrong. And staying silent isn’t always the best answer. But the catalyst at the heart of the plot still bugs me, for all that Harrington presents her queer characters as sympathetic, vibrant people. The book could have been just that much better if Harrington had chosen a different incident with less subtext at play. Or maybe if she’d given Noah a little more agency of his own.

I’ll still recommend this book, but with those mild reservations, as otherwise, Harrington’s story is solid and provocative.

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02:31 am - Virtuosity, by Jessica Martinez (Simon & Schuster, 2011)

Originally published at Schrodinger's Bookshelf. You can comment here or there.


Seventeen-year-old Carmen Bianchi is a violin prodigy, a world-class, Grammy-winning, Stradivarius-wielding musician at the top of her game. She’s on track to compete in, and quite possibly win, the prestigious Guarneri competition, which would catapult her to a new level of fame and fortune. Her life should be perfect.

It’s not. Her mother is a control freak, a former singer now living vicariously through her daughter’s career. Carmen’s stage fright is so bad, she’s now hooked on anti-anxiety meds. She’s seventeen but has never had a “real life.” And she’s obsessed with her competition, the flamboyant, handsome Jeremy King.

As the Guarneri draws closer, Carmen’s life takes an unpredictable turn. She meets Jeremy King face-to-face, and unexpectedly finds a kindred spirit. They should be enemies, but they develop a friendship blossoming into romance over stolen moments of baseball and Chicago pizza. But can two people competing for the same prize also be in a relationship?

To be honest, Virtuosity is fairly standard romantic fare in how it’s structured. It hits most of the usual beats like it’s playing from a music sheet: girl meets guy, they bond over their similarities, quarrel over the differences, have a huge fight when the tension gets to them both, and ultimately find a resolution. Furthermore, we’ve seen Carmen’s character arc numerous times before. Of course she’s going to yearn for a normal life, and break training to find a measure of happiness, and find out what it’s like to be a teenage girl in love. It’s a common arc for Character Driven To Excel In A Field, and she plays her part to perfection.

When prompted to make a moral choice near the end of the book, Carmen again plays along without missing a beat. It’s the dramatic twist that puts her entire life into perspective and we’d almost be disappointed if she didn’t take that course of action.

So we’ve established that Virtuosity is, regrettably, a fairly predictable coming-of-age romance. However, it’s a beautifully-written one. It starts off with, “Everything before me was perfectly still: a black starless sky over Lake Michigan, my bare arm jutting out between metal bars, and the burnt-orange scroll of my violin rising out of my clenched fist.” The entire book is full of these little bits of evocative imagery, which help to sell this as a story in a lovely evening gown, all gussied up for a more discerning crowd.

Martinez, herself a former student of the violin and classical music, uses that experience to good effect, bringing the performance scenes to life, balancing detail with suggestion. Few readers want to slog through the intricate specifics of performing a violin solo, they just want to understand why it was good, and so she obliges. “Tentative at first, the music began to flow, and then rush, and then soar. I was free, and everything else melted away.”

The romantic chemistry between Carmen and Jeremy is genuine and sweet, exactly what you’d expect from a pair of musical prodigies trying to carve out space for themselves against a backdrop of practices, performances, and high expectations.

So while Virtuosity may be a new iteration of an oft-played song, a YA romance that we’ve seen in dozens of other circumstances, it’s still a well-played one, done by a promising author. You could do a lot worse if you want a feel-good story set in the high-stakes, high-strung world of classical music.

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January 23rd, 2013

07:36 pm - In Memoriam: Gabriel LeFluff (1996-2013)

Originally published at Schrodinger's Bookshelf. Please leave any comments there.

It is with great sadness, that I announce the passing of one of our cats.  Today, Gabriel LeFluff, the Drag Queen of Elfland, the Warmer of Cat Beds, the King of Owls, departed his current life due to kidney failure.  He was 16 going on 17, and will be greatly missed.

We originally adopted Gabriel as a kitten from the local animal shelter.  He was tiny, fluffy, sweet, and loving. He got over being tiny, eventually growing into a 20+ pound mass of fur and purr, thanks to his predominantly Maine Coon heritage. As a younger cat, he was prone to charging down hallways and into doors and cabinets with his signature “suicide trill.”  As he aged, he settled down to a luxurious life of sleeping, eating, and loving everyone. Nothing fazed him; he could sleep through any racket, ignore any ruckus, and greet any visitor with equal style and grace.  His headbutts could bruise shins, and he was capable of dragging an adult down to his level if he wrapped his dinner plate sized paws around you.

He loved the ‘nip.  When offered the container, he’d reach a paw in, and scoop out a huge pile, then roll in it. He was something of a paranoid, possessive, twitchy nip fiend, but he never lost his cool.  He was an amazing headwarmer when he was still capable of leaping onto the bed, and spent many hours while I was trying to sleep grooming my forehead.  Later, he became an equally amazing footwarmer when I was trying to work. He was fond of cat beds, to the point where he would sleep on a cat bed made entirely out of a stack of cat beds, like a pretty pretty princess.

Gabriel was an expert in telling us all about the owls.  ”Owls, Gabe?”  ”OWLS!  OWL-WOWLSS!” “You said it, brother.”  He also spoke fluent bird and squirrel.

Gabriel also leaves behind several significant contributions to the literary field. He inspired author Seanan McGuire to get Maine Coons, and I’m told they’re doing quite well.  More importantly, he was the protagonist of my very first published short story, “The Spellweaver’s Tale.” Thus having achieved immortality in print, he was assured of a long and happy life.

He is survived by assorted other cats, and two owners who will miss him very much. However, he wouldn’t want anyone to be sad for long. That simply wouldn’t do with his philosophy of “shut up and pet me some more.”

Take care, Gabe.  May your next life be even better.

















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January 3rd, 2013

08:14 pm - Now Even MORE On Sale: Scheherazade’s Facade!

Originally published at Schrodinger's Bookshelf. Please leave any comments there.


I know, it’s been a while since I’ve posted anything here.  What can I say?  It was the holidays.  Things happened.  There was family.  There was food. There were books. There were memories, and we will not speak of the things which make my in-laws point and laugh at me.

So then.  I have this anthology.  You might have heard of it.  Scheherazade’s Facade: Fantastical Tales of Gender Bending, Cross-Dressing, and Transformation.  It’s a little something I put together a few years back, and which then went through an epic freaking struggle to actually get published.  You know, the time-honored tale of “guy gets publisher, guy loses publisher, guy hits on every publisher in town, guy finds new publisher, guy gets crowd-funded, guy and publisher live happily ever after.”

Aaaaanyway.  Here it is.  Several months ago, Scheherazade’s Facade came out in its ebook format.  But now, at long last, after an epic journey of almost 4 years from the first proposal write-up until now, it is possible to buy the PRINT version of this anthology.  That’s right, it’s an actual, physical, hold-in-your-hands, put-on-your-bookshelves, use-as-paperweight, throw-at-the-cats, put-under-your-pillow, cuddle-it-and-call-it-George, BOOK.

(Brief pause while I Kermit flail.  I mean, holy crap, you guys.  I made an anthology.  An actual book.  Which people can buy and read and nominate for awards and review and show off to strangers and even though HUNDREDS of people were involved in the final outcome, my name is on the cover which means I DID THIS and I’m actually an editor and DUDE.)

(Sorry about that.  It’s been a long time coming.  My wife is amused, the cats are dismissive, but I have the spirit in me.)

Where was I?  Oh yes.  This book.  This beautiful anthology with words by Tanith Lee, Sarah Rees Brennan, Tiffany Trent, Alma Alexander, David Sklar, Aliette de Bodard, and so many other EXCELLENT authors.  You can buy it for real from Amazon, Barnes and Noble,and probably other places.  The trade paperback doesn’t seem to be on sale at Circlet yet, but give it a little time to update.

So order it. Read it. Love it. Review it. If you have the power to do so, feel free to nominate individual stories for awards. Nominate the whole anthology, I won’t mind.  (Keep in mind that the book totally came out in 2012 and is thus eligible for all such things.)  Spread the word.

But most importantly, enjoy it.  This has been a long time in the making, and I’m so thrilled to finally, officially, completely, thoroughly, share it with the world.  And the better it does, the more chance that publishers will trust me to commit anthology in the future, and that would be an awesome thing.

(And please, rest assured, all you Kickstarter backers who didn’t see the last update: your copies are coming as soon as Circlet’s office’s reopen next week. They need to recapture the office elves, who are allowed one week a year to run for their lives.)


I’ll close out with several reviews of the book.

Publishers Weekly

Jarla Tangh

Kellan Sparver


November 6th, 2012

10:54 pm - Now On Sale: Scheherazade’s Facade

Originally published at Schrodinger's Bookshelf. You can comment here or there.

I am pleased,nay, honored and thrilled, to announce the official release of Scheherazade’s Facade: Fantastical Tales of Gender Bending, Cross-Dressing, and Transformation.

An anthology nearly 4 years in the making, it features all new fantasy and urban fantasy stories by Tanith Lee, Alma Alexander, Aliette de Bodard, David Sklar, Tiffany Trent, Sarah Rees Brennan, and more!

Scheherazade’s Facade is currently available as an ebook from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, Circlet,  and will be available from other online retailers as they process it.  The print version will be available as a trade paperback from all the usual places in a matter of days, if all goes well.  (We had to fix a last minute error before uploading the files, and Yours Truly, along with the Beloved Publisher and several of the authors, were away for the weekend at World Fantasy Con, making sure everyone knew about this fabulous anthology…)

So there we are: it’s out and available.  Go forth and buy the book!  For those who backed the Kickstarter project, your rewards will be delivered as soon as humanly possible, given that it’s a big job and I’m a very sleepy man.

And yes, I will entertain requests for review copies, provided you can handle ebooks, and provided you’re actually serious about leaving reviews on Amazon, B&N, Goodreads, Facebook, Livejournal, Google+, your own blog, or whatever.  If you want a review copy, let me know and we’ll see what we can do.


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October 17th, 2012

05:11 pm - Anthologies and Updates

Originally published at Schrodinger's Bookshelf. Please leave any comments there.

Sorry I haven’t been around here much.  The sad truth is that so much of what I’ve been doing is behind the scenes or boring, that I haven’t really felt the pressure to post.  But I do have a few things to note.

1) Scheherazade’s Facade is approximately 99.99% done and ready to go.  Our release date has been slated for October 30th, which means ebooks might be ready before that, and print books will be ready around that.  And except for one spectacularly last-second catch by a sharp-eyed member of the Circlet editorial team regarding a small typo which slipped under EVERYONE’S radar for MONTHS, and oh god, I owe this person so much, it’s been a quiet and peaceful process.  Almost home, folks!

2) Like Fortune’s Fool, my new anthology of erotic tales of luck and serendipity, has a month to go on its reading period. Guidelines are here. In the month I’ve been open to submissions, I’ve gotten exactly three stories, all of which were splendidly inappropriate and not even close to what I want. I’m desperately praying that all the good writers I know are just biding their time to taunt me and I’ll get slammed at the last minute.  Please, authors, slam me with the good stuff.  I beg you.

3) Like A Cunning Plan, my first anthology of erotic trickster tales, has been out for several months, and has yet to garner any reviews or mentions or, well, anything as far as I can tell. If you love me, and you bought this anthology and didn’t tell me, leave a Amazon review. Or Barnes and Noble review. Or rate it on Goodreads. Or something. It makes me sad that this project has flown under the radar, which it’s awesome and entertaining. (Oh, the irony, that I should be at the mercy of reviewers…)

4)  My most recent review for Tor.com is The Raven Boys, by Maggie Stiefvater, a YA which I absolutely loved.

5) I’ll be at World Fantasy Con in Toronto at the beginning of November.  If you’re there, find me. I’ll be the one with a stack of copies of Scheherazade’s Facade strapped to my chest in one of those chest-mounted baby carriers.  Unless my wife talks me out of it.  Again.

That’s it for now, folks. I’ve got deadlines to fulfill, and all that other jazz.





September 21st, 2012

07:42 pm - Update Roundup – Anthologies and Microfictions

Originally published at Schrodinger's Bookshelf. You can comment here or there.

I’ll keep this post short and sweet, as it’s basically just a roundup of various interesting tidbits.

1) I’m chortled pink to announce that my story, “The Secret Life of Ramona Lee,” was accepted for publication in the upcoming anthology, Geek Love.  You may have heard of this project; it’s been doing phenomenally on Kickstarter, and still has just under a week left to run.  There’s still time to join in and pre-order what may be one of the most interestingly sexy, geeky, wild books of the year.  Artists take note: they’re still accepting submissions for art, photos, comics, and stuff until September 30th.  I’ll be sure to release more details as they become available.

2) I am now taking submissions for my next erotica anthology.  Like Fortune’s Fool: Erotic Tales of Serendipity and Luck will be published by Circlet Press.  The submission period will run until November 15th.  Details and guidelines may be found here.  You may post questions to the original guidelines page, or send questions, queries, and submissions to fortunesfoolantho@gmail.com

3) I am also the Microfiction Editor for Circlet’s online presence.  Every Friday, we run erotic sf/f short-shorts.  I’m looking for sexy, weird, tantalizing sf/f stories which run around 250-1000 words. Full guidelines may be found here.  Previous and current microfictions may be found here. It barely pays anything, but some microfiction authors have gone on to bigger and better things with Circlet.  I’d love to see some stuff by new and different writers!

4) I just turned in the PDF proof of Sheherazade’s Facade to Circlet for final corrections.  This is essentially the end-run before publication, since what I just sent back will be, after everything is taken care of, turned into the actual book which will be sent out as an ebook or a trade paperback.  This is it, folks. So close to the end of the line, I can almost taste the victory.

And that’s it for the moment!

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September 19th, 2012

01:40 pm - Call for Submissions: Like Fortune’s Fool: Erotic Tales of Serendipity and Luck
Call for Submissions: Like Fortune’s Fool: Erotic Tales of Serendipity and Luck
edited by Michael M. Jones

Deadline: November 15, 2012

One of the most enduring factors in human existence, yet one of the most mysterious and least domesticated, is the concept of luck. Call it fate, fortune, chance, serendipity, karma, or superstition. We have a thousand rituals to ward off bad luck and bring on good luck, not to mention that "getting lucky" is an idiom for having sex. How often do we unthinkingly say “It must be my lucky day?” or “As Fate would have it…” or even “Better luck next time?” For good or bad, this intangible force surrounds and influences us, often in ways we can’t explain. Whether we’re talking about lucky pennies or Lady Luck, black cats or Friday the 13th, we know something out there is trying to keep things…interesting. In this anthology explore the sexy side of fortune and fate. Was it happenstance that brought two lovers together, or a carefully manipulated skein of probability? Did that winning lottery ticket come by accident, or design? Did a miscast spell or whimsical genie alter the course of some poor sap’s life? Is our hero a coin flip away from the hottest encounter of his life?


All stories must have three central components:
1) The element of chance, fate, fortune, karma, serendipity, luck, or what-have-you. It can be good, it can be bad, it can be indifferent, but the element must be present and visible.
2) A science fiction or fantasy element that is essential to the story. Lady Luck could be real, or a machine designed to affect probability. Spells could be cast, or magical creatures involved. I want stories where a coin flip has actual consequences, where there’s a mystical rationale at play, where the real becomes unreal, and the natural becomes supernatural.
3) Hot, explicit, intelligent, mind-blowing sex. If the characters can’t thank their lucky stars afterwards, something’s gone horribly wrong.

This is a wide-open concept with a great deal of abstraction at play, and that means writers will have to really have to stretch their imaginations. We're looking for stories which embody serendipity--that is, they truly are “pleasant surprises.”

Length: Our preferred length is approximately 3500 to 7500 words, but we will consider the range from 2000 to 10,000 words.

How to submit: Send plain text, .rtf, or .doc to Michael M. Jones at fortunesfoolantho@gmail.com

About the editor: Michael M. Jones is a frequent contributor to Circlet Press's anthologies, is Circlet's microfictions editor, and has edited a few previous anthologies, including Scheherazade's Facade and the book of erotic trickster tales, Like a Cunning Plan.

Only email submissions are accepted. Submissions sent to other addresses/other editors at Circlet Press will not be considered. Standard manuscript formatting rules apply even though sending as an attachment (MS Word .doc or .rtf preferred). Please note that this means your name, address, and email contact must appear on the manuscript itself and not simply in your email message. (If you’re not sure what a standard short story submission format should look like, Google is your friend.)

No simultaneous submissions (that is, don’t also send your story elsewhere at the same time, and don’t send it to multiple Circlet editors, either), and no multiple submissions to the same book. One story per author per anthology, thanks.

All stories must include explicit sexuality and erotic focus. Romantic content is welcome, but in a short story remember to keep the details on the action and its effects on the main character’s internal point of view. We favor a strong, singular narrative voice (no ‘head hopping’ or swapping between different character’s points of view within a scene). For more details on our editorial preferences, see the general submission guidelines on circlet.com. We highly recommend reading the guidelines, especially the “do not send” list, to increase your chances of sending us something we’ll love. Try to avoid cliches. Fresh and direct language is preferred to overly euphemistic. Sex-positive, please, no rape/nonconsensuality/necrophilia or other purposefully gross topics. We do not publish horror.

Originals only, no reprints. We purchase first rights for inclusion in the ebook anthology for $25, with the additional rights to a print edition later which would also be paid $25 if a print edition happens. Authors retain the rights to the individual stories; Circlet exercises rights to the anthology as a whole.

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July 19th, 2012

08:00 pm - Michael vs Nature

Originally published at Schrodinger's Bookshelf. You can comment here or there.

My friends, I am not a proud man.  Nor am I always the smartest of people.  Or the bravest.  Which is why I have to tell you of my amazing brush with death.  Or at the very least, my brush with almost potential pain.

I was putting away the laundry in our walk-in closet, when I heard an ominous buzzing coming from somewhere all too nearby.  I peered around.  I poked.  I checked behind the window blinds. And there they were: several…buzzing things. Black and yellow and elongated and evil as can be, glaring at me and suggesting, in their strange buzzing way, that they were here for me and all that is mine.  Had I maintained my house defenses properly, this wouldn’t have been a problem. But the window was slightly open at the bottom for ventilation, and somewhat ajar at the top, where the storm window provided inadequate protection. These suckers? Were one bold move away from invading my sanctum.

Like a rational person, I reacted calmly,  shutting the top and bottom parts of the window. Except somehow I erred. These three terrorists of the insect world were suddenly in the closet with me. Crawling on the window. Buzzing madly.  Giving me the stinkeye. They buzzed.  I backed up and considered my options.

And then my reinforcements arrived.  Molly, the fierce orange cat of doom.  Virgil, the little black cat of not-so-doom. Mighty hunters, both of them. I knew they’d eagerly take on my foes…but I feared for their safety.  Molly’s smart but not sensible. Virgil’s enthusiastic, but has the foresight of a drunken frat boy. The things buzzed.  The cats went “Hmmmm.”  I went “Oh God.”

And then the wasps–for that’s what they were, let’s not linger on the mystery– made the first move. One flew through the air, in what was clearly an attack pattern.  I screamed, dove for cover. It flew in my direction.  I flew right out of the closet, and was halfway through the bedroom before I came to rest, hiding behind the bed.  Clearly, my primordial instincts had kicked in.  In “fight or flight,” I was “flight.”

I considered my options.  We have an all-natural flying insect killer, made from some kind of lemongrass or mint or essence of nature.  My beloved wife says it smells like “a Thai whorehouse.”  No, she won’t explain how she knows what one smells like, and it’s really starting to worry me.  That trip to Vegas last year?  I’m on to you, my love….  But anyway, I  went downstairs and got the spray.  I marched upstairs with it.  I readied myself.  I girded my loins. I put on pants.  That sort of thing.

I then threw myself into the closet, screaming “DEATH BY WHOREHOUSE” as I liberally sprayed the window and the wasps.  They buzzed.  The cats fled.  The wasps died. The closet…reeked. I stood my ground and watched as my opponents choked, fell, and stopped twitching.  And then I cleaned up.

My cats are disgusted with me.  My wife won’t even talk to me now that the bedroom smells of eau de lemongrass oil. I only found two wasp corpses out of the original three. For all I know, the last one is still out there, half-dead and crazed, mutated from a toxic overdose of lemongrass oil. I’ll be sleeping down the hall in the guest room with one eye open for a while to come.

But I won.  Didn’t I?


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July 10th, 2012

01:23 pm - New Reviews Online at Tor.com

Originally published at Schrödinger's Bookshelf. You can comment here or there.

Like the headline says, I have three new reviews up at Tor.com.

The first review looks at the second in Diana Rowland’s new urban fantasy series, Even White Trash Zombies Get the Blues.

The second looks at DC Comics’ latest attempt to reinvent Batman for a new generation, Batman: Earth One, written by Geoff Johns with art by Gary Frank.

The third is the sixth in Simon R. Green’s urban fantasy-meets-James Bond Secret Histories, Live and Let Drood.

Go check ‘em out!

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July 6th, 2012

12:11 pm - New Reviews Online at Tor.com and Green Man Review

Originally published at Schrödinger's Bookshelf. You can comment here or there.

I know, I know, it’s been a pretty busy week for me.  Two more reviews have gone live in various parts of the Internet.

Over at Tor.com, I look at John Barnes‘ new YA science fiction adventure, Losers in Space.  What happens when the children of celebrities stop being polite, and start getting real…while trapped in an out-of-control spaceship headed for Mars?  Nothing pleasant!

Over at the Green Man Review,  I conduct an in-depth, slightly rambling, extensive look at Graphic Audio, an audiobook publisher specializing in full cast adaptations with music, sound effects, spectacular voice acting and an excellent catalog of exciting books. Come see why they keep getting my money and why it’s hard for me to go back to the traditional style of audiobooks.

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July 5th, 2012

12:45 pm - Assorted Reviews and Updates

Originally published at Schrödinger's Bookshelf. You can comment here or there.

This is sort of a hodgepodge of updates, because today has been versatile.

1) My new review of Monument 14 by Emmy Laybourne is now live over at Tor.com.  Check out my coverage of this new apocalyptic YA and see why I liked it and why certain bits disturbed me.

2)I just received my contributor copy of the July 2 issue of Publishers Weekly.  In it, as part of the Flying Starts theme, I interview YA author Leigh Bardugo, whose Russian-themed debut, Shadow and Bone,  came out  last month. I had a lovely time chatting with Leigh, and I had a blast writing this up for PW. I’m thrilled that this even has my name on the byline, so I can actually take public credit for it. :)

3) Backer Surveys have gone out for Scheherazade’s Facade via the Kickstarter platform, so everyone who pledged should get the alert telling them to respond.  The book is currently scheduled to come out on September 1st ot thereabouts.  I’ll keep an eye on responses to make sure we don’t miss anyone.

4) Just as a reminder, I’m still looking for reviews for my new anthology, Like A Cunning Plan: Erotic Trickster Tales.  If interested and willing to post a review on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Goodreads, your blog, or elsewhere, please contact me.

5)As an additional thing, I’m also going to need reviews for Scheherazade’s Facade.  If interested and willing to review it, let me know and I’ll see what we can do when the time comes.

That is all!  For now, anyway.

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July 4th, 2012

09:41 am - New Reviews Online at Tor.com and SF Site

Originally published at Schrödinger's Bookshelf. You can comment here or there.

I just wanted to let everyone know that I’ve had several reviews posted on Tor.com in recent weeks.

The first is of the YA mermaid-themed Of Poseidon, by Anna Banks.

The second is a two-fer look at the second two books in Mira Grant’s zombie apocalypse/conspiracy thriller trilogy, Deadline and Blackout.  (The former a Hugo nominee, FYI)

Finally, my review of Jack Campbell’s latest military SF adventure, The Lost Fleet: Beyond the Frontier: Invincible, has gone live up on SF Site.

So take a break from drinking, setting off fireworks, celebrating freedom, or mocking us silly Americans for celebrating freedom, or whatever it is you’re doing today, and go check out these reviews.  Maybe you’ll find something worth reading!

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July 2nd, 2012

02:18 pm - New Excerpt Available: Thwarting The Spirits

Originally published at Schrödinger's Bookshelf. You can comment here or there.

As you may recall from my previous post, my lesbian shapeshifter piece, “Thwarting the Spirits” is now available in the Cleis Press anthology, She Shifters, edited by Delilah Devlin.

An excerpt from that story is now available over at the She Shifters site.  Warning: Not entirely safe for work.

A review of the anthology can now be found over at Erotica Revealed.

As mentioned earlier, I’m really quite fond of this story, and pleased with how it turned out.  When I originally saw the call for submissions, I racked my brain for some kind of shapeshifter dyamic which would keep me interested. No wolves or cats for me! If I was going to go with were-creatures, I was going to go as far off the grid as I could manage.  And so the idea of a were-cobra and a were-mongoose, fighting, entangled by emotion and magic, was born.  From there, I worked backwards, to determine just who my lucky protagonists would be.  There had to be a reason for their animal affinities, a reason why these two people were related to these specific beasts.  Many hours of research later, and I had it.

Meet Hala Laghari: Pakistani-American, Muslim, research librarian, mongoose.  And meet Purnima Gurtu: Indian-American, graphics designer, cobra.  They’d love each other, if they weren’t cursed to fight one another in their animal forms….

I’m also pleased because I was able to throw in some other characters who either have, or will, show up in my other works. Isobel Sparks: were-raven and solver of problems. Raoul, one half of the infamous Coyote Brothers, causer of problems. And Phoebe Masters…mystery woman.  I had fun letting these characters interact, and I can’t wait to revisit them all in future escapades.  Some might even be the sort of story you can take home to meet the family. (Though don’t tell the Coyote Brothers, they pride themselves on a lack of respectability.)

So hey, check out She Shifters and see why the editor said, “Michael’s story struck me due to its fairy tale quality, quiet dignity and beauty.”  (Talk about a nice ego boost!)

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