Saturday, March 26, 2016

The Holiday of Purim: a Storytelling Perspective

Purim is a lesser of the two Jewish spring celebrations. It has minimum requirements for observance and is mostly unknown to outsiders. Passover gets all the glory, and deservedly so. And yet, the story of Purim is as compelling as it is universal, and frankly deserves a better movie than this obscure production.

Think of the characters alone. A tyrannical King? Check. Evil advisor? Yep. Poor, beautiful and virtuous young woman, tasked with saving her people from certain doom? You got it. A kindly older man, a hero in his own right, giving said woman advice and inspiration? Absolutely. Add a magic wand and you have an old-fashioned Disney film. Ah, but here's the thing. There is no magic. Of course, you already knew that since we're talking a religious tale, but there is also no voice from above, no visible miracles, not even a mention of G-d. The heroes pray for wisdom and strength, but the actions are solely their own, even if in retrospect some of the coincidences must have been divinely guided. This, to me, is the central lesson of this Holiday. In dark times, we might wish for superheroes and extraordinary powers (as we certainly do now, considering our entertainment preferences), but they are not necessary. Often the only quality that separates the heroes from the rest is the will to make the right choices and persevere, no matter the cost.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Interview by Mercedes Fox

Mercedes Fox, a fellow Goodreads author and lover of all things werewolf, was nice enough to interview me on her blog (even though my novel is remarkably werewolf-free). I talk writing process, indie publishing and, oh yes, more about my novel. This is probably the longest blog interview I have done, so it definitely has some information I haven't covered before.


Do you have a special time to write or how is your day structured? 

Generally speaking, my ideas and even specific scenes come to me early in the morning. Since I have a day job and family obligations, I usually don’t get to actually sit down and write until about 10 PM or so. It’s not necessarily a bad thing because often my subconscious will work the idea over all day, and by the time I’m at my computer it has evolved into something different. This can be either very frustrating of a lot of fun (usually both!), but I think in the end it makes for a more interesting result.

How do you think you’ve evolved creatively? 

The biggest challenge for me has been to learn to accept that no matter how well I might have planned the scene or a whole chapter, my characters might decide to do something different, and I will have to adjust my plotlines accordingly. I am generally a very controlling person and like everything to be predictable, but when it comes down to writing, I now realize that I need to go with the flow.

Read the rest of the interview here.


Thursday, March 17, 2016

Guest Promotion: No Horns on These Helmets, ed. by Erin Lale

Erin Lale is a fellow author, with both sci-fi and non-fiction titles to her name, an editor and a chock-full of coolness you'll just have to discover for yourself in the links at the end of the post. (Future note: most of my friends are cooler than me, which is why I'm making an effort to share their voices here on my blog.)

I asked Erin to prepare a short post about her latest project, an anthology called No Horns on These Helmets. Enjoy!


Vikings in history hailing the heroes,
Vikings in fantasy vexing the villains,
Old gods in the urban age,
Folktale and fairytale, future and past,
Twenty tales this tome encloses,
All should own them, all should read them:
No Horns on These Helmets.
Buy this book, for I boast it is good.

I edited this anthology, and also have one of my own stories in it, Woodencloak, a retold folktale. The 20 short stories include fantasy, science fiction, urban fantasy, humor, romance, and even mystery. Some of the short stories are extracts or outtakes from longer works. The story The Legend of Delbel the Butzemann by Robert Lusch Schreiwer is a retold folktale, published here for the first time in English. It was previously published only in Pennsylvania Deitsch. As you can see, it’s not all Vikings. The theme is Vikings and Norse and Germanic mythology and culture. I’m an expert on the theme, and the author of Asatru For Beginners, as well as other books.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

DVD Review: Olympus Has Fallen

With London Has Fallen, the new entry into the franchise, stirring up controversy with the easily offended, I decided to check out the original. I was told the movie is similar to Die Hard, which for me is possibly the highest praise an actioner can get, so it was Action Movie Night in the Fontaine household.

First, the short version.

Good news: the movie is indeed extremely similar to Dies Hard.
Bad news: except for possibly our hero, not one character in the move had seen Die Hard.
Bottom line: if you like dumb action movies, bring on the popcorn.

Still reading? OK, then.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Guest Blog: Pop-Geek Revolution in 140 Characters or Less

Kyle Andrews is an online friend, a self-admitted geek and a fellow author. When he complained of having a lot to say and currently no place to say it, I offered him space on this blog. I think you will be pleased with the results.

My new book, Freedom/Hate deals with the dual nature of a culture. On the one hand, you have the commonly accepted norm, which keeps everyone feeling safe and secure in their righteousness. On the other hand, you have all of the stuff that people don't want to hear. The thoughts they don't want to think. The questions that they don't want to ask.

The book takes these ideas to extremes, but they already exist in our world. Though it's usually not illegal to voice an opinion (in the US), it can get you into a lot of trouble at times. Voicing the wrong opinion makes you a “hater” because for many people it's easier to use a catch phrase than to make a counter-argument. The projection of irrational hatred becomes their security blanket.

At this point in the discussion, I could go into real world politics for my examples. However, instead I am going to steer toward a much less threatening topic, which will be easier for people to look at without triggering the “hater” reaction.

The science fiction/fantasy community has always been made up of “geeks” who get very involved in not only watching or reading their favorite titles, but debating the various aspects of those titles. Who writes Batman better? Who played Superman better? Which Star Trek was the best? There are far muddier waters to get into, but you get the idea. For as long as this geek culture has existed, part of the fun has been to nitpick and debate. It makes the experience more interactive.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Book Review: Fugitive From Asteron by Gen LaGreca

"This was to be the day I ended my life."

So begins the story of a young man, who, having lost everything, must re-discover both the reason and the will to keep on going. While the setup is far from original, it is timely for our overly depressive cultural environment. In fact, it just might be a perfect antidote to the barrage of so-called respectable fiction that essentially spends thousands of beautiful words to tell us to give up.

OR it could just be a fast-paced, highly entertaining space opera with a balanced combination of dystopian and utopian elements and a healthy dose of romance. Either way, it is worthy of your consideration.

The narrator-protagonist is introduced to us at the lowest point of his life. He is injured, imprisoned, and, as the first sentence indicates, suicidal. Our dominant emotion during those first paragraphs is pity, for we meet him as a victim. However, only a few pages in, we find out that in the dreary world of victims and brutes, he is neither. His heart longs for freedom even if the concept is unknown. He enjoys achievement even if it brings pain rather than reward. He values knowledge even if it is forbidden. Not quite a hero, not yet at least, but someone who strives in that direction as we, the readers, cheer him on.

The middle chunk of the novel, while lower on action, is impressive nevertheless in its own right. The author, a native born American, shows instinctive understanding of how someone who had only ever known oppression might behave if unexpectedly thrown into a free society. At several points in the story, where most American readers would simply get a light chuckle, I was thinking back to my own culture shock upon arriving in the U.S. from the former Soviet Union more than two decades ago. Simple acts, like smiling to passer-by and having small talk with strangers, took getting used to. Anything beyond, like engaging in political arguments, while intellectually accepted, took a while to internalize. And so a scene where the protagonist expects a woman to be arrested for criticizing the mayor in public, for me goes somewhat beyond simple amusement. I also appreciated references to speech patterns. Yes, even using the same language, free people speak differently. If the language of the novel at times feels stilted, you will notice that it gets less so over time, and I thought it was both subtle and brilliant as an artistic choice by the author.

The Big Reveal at the end is not particularly shocking for anyone paying attention, but is played for all it's worth both emotionally and in terms of dramatic suspense. A thriller reader in me wished for some parts towards the end to be tighter, with less talk and more 'splosions, but the pacing remained decent enough. The last line of the novel is as satisfying as the first line was hooky, and it's really hard to complain of minor details when the novel leaves you in such high spirits once you turn the last page. With freedom under attack all over the world, this book is a gift and an inspiration to liberty loving readers everywhere.

  Purchase Fugitive From Asteron on Amazon