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2010 in Books

When I went through my journal to log this year’s books, I learned I’d been a bit lazy and had completely failed to record five of this year’s reads. Fixed.

So, here’s what I read in 2010:

The Hunger Games and Catching Fire – Suzanne Collins. My first daughter-recommended science fiction reads. Proud parenting moment.

The God Engines – John Scalzi. Dark. Bizarre. Innards-tangling. Not for the faint of heart, and a real deviation from Scalzi’s usual writing paths. I liked it.

Sailing to Byzantium – Robert Silverberg. I’ve liked Silverberg since I read Revolt on Alpha C as a kid, and when Kelsey was little, we read Lost Race of Mars together. This collection’s much more for the grown-up science fiction fan, and his take on Joseph Conrad’s The Secret Sharer is fantastic.

Zoe’s Tale – John Scalzi (re-read)

Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows – J.K. Rowling (re-read)

The Gone-Away World – Nick Harkaway. The 100 Stories for Haiti anthology reminded me that I had been meaning to read this, and I loved it. Post-apocalyptic and mind-bendy and still human. Plus it has both Pirates AND Ninjas.

Math, Science and Unix Underpants – Bill Amend

Mainspring – Jay Lake

Cleveland’s Greatest Disasters – John Stark Bellamy II

The Sagan Diary - John Scalzi. Listened to this one on the drive back from Providence in March.

PvP Levels Up – Scott Kurtz. Bought from the man himself at PAX East, signed & Scratch Fury-ed.

Fantasy Freaks & Gaming Geeks – Ethan Gilsdorf. Couldn’t put this one down: gaming and nostalgia and adventures and explorations galore.

The City & The City – China Mieville. For me, this was 2010′s equivalent to last year’s Anathem by Neal Stephenson. It’s a mental workout to read, especially in the beginning, but absolutely worth the effort.

FoxTrot: The Works – Bill Amend

Wildly FoxTrot – Bill Amend

Quixote: A Novel – Bryan J.L. Glass. Adam introduced me to Bryan at the Pittsburgh Comicon in April. ‘Cause I’m a sucker for tilting at windmills and all.

Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition Player’s Handbook – Rob Heinsoo, Andy Collins, James Wyatt

The Specific Gravity of Grief – Jay Lake. Reviewed this one for GeekDad, though I would have read it regardless.

Goblin Quest – Jim C. Hines

Daemons Are Forever – Simon R. Green. This is the second book in a series – it was a freebie from the author’s lit agency – so I started a bit behind the curve, but it was so unlike just about anything I’ve read that I got hooked pretty quickly. And James Bond references tend to go over well with me.

Found – Margaret Peterson Haddix

Scenting the Dark and Other Stories – Mary Robinette Kowal. The only thing I didn’t like about this book? Too damned short. And I wish it could have included “Evil Robot Monkey”.

Red Hood’s Revenge – Jim C. Hines. The subject of another GeekDad review, and my favorite in his Princess series so far.

Locke & Key: Vol. I, Welcome to Lovecraft – Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez

My Best Friend Is A Wookiee – Tony Pacitti. A Star Wars memoir from a younger fan’s perspective, growing up when the originals could only be seen on TV or videotape, and coming of age in the prequel era.

Mockingjay – Suzanne Collins. The kick-ass conclusion to the Hunger Games trilogy. Reviewing it for GeekDad earned me some serious bonus parenting points because it meant my daughter had it waiting for her when she got home from school on release day.

Dreadnought – Cherie Priest

Clementine – Cherie Priest. Both of these are set in the world Priest created for Boneshaker, though neither is really a sequel in the strict sense. I like this universe.

The Odious Ogre – Norton Juster. With illustrations by Jules Feiffer, this reunited the Phantom Tollbooth words-and-pictures team for the first time in almost 50 years.

Oddball Ohio: A Guide to Some Really Strange Places – Jerome Pohlen

A Western Journal – Thomas Wolfe. Inspiring me to revisit my cross-country road trip in journal form.

Little Fuzzy – H. Beam Piper. A classic of which I had no knowledge until Scalzi announced his upcoming take on the book.

Brody’s Ghost, Book 1 – Mark Crilley

Armor – John Steakley. A different, brain-cramping (in a good way) angle on the space-trooper genre tale.

Silly Rhymes for Belligerent Children – Trace Beaulieu (Illustrated by Len Peralta)

Bloom County: The Complete Library Vol. 3 1984-1986 – Berkeley Breathed

Dungeons & Dragons Essentials – Dungeon Master’s Book – James Wyatt. As someone who only recently returned to D&D, I hadn’t really begun to think about taking on the DM’s role yet. This book, though, made for a great and encouraging read in that vein – thanks Kato and Wendy! – but I also got an awful lot out of it as a new player still kind of learning the finer points of the game mechanics and structure.

December 22, 2010 Posted by | Books, Fiction, geek, Ohio, science fiction, Travel | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“100 Stories for Haiti” – just a reminder

It’s been awhile since I’ve mentioned 100 Stories for Haiti, but just because I’ve been a slacker about that doesn’t mean the need for Red Cross aid – even three months after the earthquake – has let up, so here’s some news and a few reminders about the book:

BBC Audiobooks America has produced an abridged version – the list of the 20 stories included is here, although the release date has been pushed back to May 1.

The no-seriously-really-name-your-own-price electronic edition at Smashwords still comes in the .lrf, .mobi and .epub formats which mean you can load it in an eyeblink onto your Kindle or your Sony Reader or the portable Apple device of your choosing, and >poof!< you’ve got a hundred short reads all queued up for whenever you have a spare minute or three.

April 15, 2010 Posted by | Books, Current Affairs, Fiction, Web/Tech, writing | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A hundred awesome things arrived in the mail today.

100 Stories for Haiti

290 pages from around the world.

Yes, I’ve written about 100 Stories for Haiti a lot over the last month-and-a-half, from hearing about the project in late January to teasers from the first 34 stories last week.  (I was going to link to all the entries individually, but you know what? Here – I’ve made it easy to catch up by doing the blog search for you.) But I’m humbled and amazed and proud to be a part of it, and if Ive babbled and badgered even one person in to buying a copy – electronic or paperback – choose your own! – then the Red Cross relief effort wins.

So even though I’ve been reading my e-version, I was thrilled to find the actual paperback in my mailbox this afternoon.

And it turns out there are way more than a hundred awesome things in here.

You figure the stories for starters, even though I’m not counting my own  – not because I’m not proud of it but because I don’t want to go around saying it’s “awesome,” especially in light of the stunning work I’ve encountered so far, and I’m only on page 135. Then there’s the introduction, which is easily worth a point on its own, and the dedication, and the special thanks page, which again reminds me that I’m in the company of many incredibly talented and generous people. And again, there’s the reminder of why all this was done in the first place, right there on the cover: “All proceeds go to helping the victims of the Haiti earthquake.”

That is a lot of good stuff packed into a little package from Liverpool.

March 15, 2010 Posted by | Books, Current Affairs, Fiction, Web/Tech, writing | , , , , , | 1 Comment

One-third of a hundred: Glimpses into 100 Stories for Haiti

You’ll find some slice-of -life, some meta, some science fiction, some fantasy, and a whole bunch of good quick reads in 100 Stories for Haiti. I’m just over a third of the way through my electronic edition, and already I’ve gotten way more than my money’s worth.

Rather randomly in some cases, I’ve picked out one sentence from each of the first stories, plus, because it worked out well, exactly one-third of a sentence from the thirty-fourth story, hoping to pique your interest and give a little idea of what a tremendous variety of writing is in here. Enjoy – and then go buy your own!

Thirty-three and one-third sentences from contributions 1-34 in 100 Stories for Haiti:

There was a memorial garden in Latimer, and a park in Trenchard, and people said if you touched the earth in either place, you could feel the exothermic heat of decomposing fools and thugs who’d been slow to show respect. (All-or-Nothing Day by Nick Harkaway)

She’ll go to hell for adding one untruth to another. (About Time by Mo Fanning)

You used to have this little yellow duffle coat with a big hood – you thought it made you look like a fireman – and I swear I lost count of the times I had to grab onto that hood and pull you clear of the road, or next door’s pitbull, or the duckpond in the park. (Amplified Distance by Sian Harris)

Sometimes they stood on one another, sometimes they would laugh and sometimes they would take a rest. (And the First Note Sang by Catriona Gunn)

Nineteen’s heart leapt as Anna passed by the veranda where he sat working. (Anna and Nineteen by Claudia Boers)

Emma walked her fingers across the table, closer to the boy, a spider stealing a cookie. (Apple Pie and Sunshine by Mary Walkden)

Once, though, during a lull in conversation, he brought a bone from his pocket, held it above the centre of the table and said, ‘I think he was a pilgrim.’ (The Archaeologist by Andy Parrott)

It was in the shape of some poor animal with its mouth open which was appropriate for Mrs Blake never let an opportunity pass to tell you what she thought. (Attachments by Jack O’Donnell)

The kitten scratches me but I am unhurt for it is a symbolic kitten representing my compassion. (Authority by Katy Darby)

Once met, the fog rolled easily in again. (The Baby by Rachel Shukert)

‘I escaped for the sake of my children – they’ll not be dragged back to the bogs and the busybodies.’ (Back to the Land by Nicola Taylor)

Her brother didn’t say anything and I didn’t like to ask. (The Beautiful Game by Jean Blackwell)

I snuck a look at my brother’s Code Book for some inspiration (Toby is a secret agent in his spare time). (Betsy Fudge & the Big Silence by Maureen Vincent-Northam)

The members were ruthless when a badge was at stake. (Birds of a Feather by Lauri Kubuitsile)

Knowing still that theirs was a marriage of enemies not allies they marched to the registrar hand in hand. (Blow by Blow by Jane Thomas)

But his were not gentle ways. (Call Centre by Elizabeth Reeder)

The language police hadn’t cracked that code yet or all his clientele would be lost by now, in translation. (Channelling Blues by Sylvia Petter)

‘Noodles.’ (Chatting in the Closet by Tim Maguire)

His left eye twinkled and kept the bad dreams away. (The Cloud Dragon by Sarah Ann Watts)

Her face is shiny and her hair is parted in a funny way from where she’s been running her fingers through it. (Clubs and Societies by Deborah Fielding)

The memory sticks. (Coming, Ready or Not by Jac Cattaneo)

And one time I got a text not to ride home with Alan Pierce, you know, on that Wednesday when he had the accident. (Contact by Jason E. Thummel)

You don’t want him to catch you looking. (Dinner for Two by Trevor Belshaw)

The dragons of the land looked upon her with greed. (Dragons by Fionnuala Murphy)

The second thing he noticed were the boots floating in puddles. (Emergency Response by MCM)

Something red. (Emily’s Stone by Julia Bohanna)

He knows that she is watching him the whole time he’s at the counter. (The Encounter by Francesca Burgess)

He’s out at sea most of the time, riding the flurries and swirls of the Atlantic, but when there’s enough storm heading our way, he’ll find passage back to Cornwall. (Enohn Jarrow, a Warning by Emily George)

‘Stop bugging me about them wings,’ her Momma said. (Escape from Crete by Ozzie Nogg)

For the past few days there has been rawness to the air that makes smiling easier than usual. (Eve by Billy O’Callaghan)

Just a yellow taxi, nothing worth remembering. (Fleeting Thoughts by Nadene Carter)

‘But it felt real,’ he’d said. (Folding Paper by Debz Hobbs-Wyatt)

Over Harold’s Cross Bridge. (The Forgetting by Layla O’Mara)

The problem was, Sharon couldn’t sleep. (The Garden by Gwen Grant)

Nineteen hours later, (Going, Going … Still Going by Danny Gillan)

March 10, 2010 Posted by | Books, Current Affairs, Fiction, science fiction, Web/Tech, Weblogs, writing | , , , , | 1 Comment

Read an E-Book Week

No, I don’t own an electronic book reader, and yes, I prefer my reading in dead-tree editions, and I don’t see that changing in the near future for many reasons. But today is apparently the beginning of something called Read an E-Book Week , brought to my attention through my involvement with the 100 Stories for Haiti project, so it’s pixelpages of which I’ll speak today.

I’ve read two Wil Wheaton books electronically -  Memories of the Future Vol. 1 and Sunken Treasure – as well as Jon Paul Fiorentino’s Asthmatica, all three of which break up similarly and fit that entertain-me-for-a-couple-minutes-at-a-time need that pops up every so often during my day. (You can only unwind with so much Yahtzee clone, you know?) I have downloaded longer works – Cory Doctorow’s Little Brother is on my desktop as of late last week – but I have yet to read one of them entirely here at my computer.

I am, in fact, currently reading 100 Stories for Haiti‘s electronic edition because while the Bridge House paperback is available, I expect it will be awhile before my copy arrives from overseas. Being far too eager to dive into the collection to wait, I went to Smashwords and picked my own price for the download, which in case I haven’t said it an even 1,138 times yet, still means all the proceeds to to the Red Cross relief effort in Haiti and you get a very cool book besides. (And hey, do the book and the Red Cross a favor, and if you do download it or buy the hardcopy, go to its Amazon page – yes, the UK version works for Amazon.com members just fine – and leave a quick rating or a review and click on the book’s tagged terms (anthology, short stories, fiction, etc.), and help boost its profile a bit.)

With its 1,000-words-or-fewer pieces 100 stories for Haiti fits my own ebook bill perfectly. They’re arranged alphabetically and I’m only in the Ds right now, but I’ve always been a fan of short fiction and I’m really enjoying the variety of styles and moods and approaches, and there’s just some flat-out good writing in here.

It also seems somehow appropriate that since technology made it possible for dozens of people to come together for a project like this in just six weeks, I should sit here in a room in Ohio on a sunny March morning, and with a few quick clicks and keystrokes, hear voices from Australia,  Botswana, Finland, Germany, the UK…

March 7, 2010 Posted by | Books, Current Affairs, Fiction, Web/Tech, Weblogs, writing | , , , , | Leave a comment

“100 Stories for Haiti” ebook available now: Pay what you want.

Officially, 100 Stories for Haiti launches tomorrow, but the electronic edition is already available on Smashwords, and there’s just no reason in the world you shouldn’t give it a shot because, listen: You can pay whatever you want. (Okay, technically, you’re limited to the options of “I’ll take it for free” and “I’ll pay anything more than 99 cents” because that’s what it takes to cover money-handling fees.) As a reminder, this whole project has been done with donated time and stories and resources and all the proceeds go to the Red Cross disaster relief in Haiti. (Tons of information on the originator, Greg McQueen, and the authors and editors and all sorts of other stuff at the website – 100storiesforhaiti.org .)

It took me all of about three minutes this morning to sign up for Smashwords and download the book – also cool: it’ s in 10, count ‘em TEN formats, and once you’ve bought it, you can download whichever ones you want over and over, so if you want a PDF for your desktop or a .mobi for your Kindle or a plain old .txt file , you go ahead and grab what you need.

This is an 80,000-word book and it’s chock full of a wildly-varied assortment of tales, and yes, having just finished The Gone-Away World, I did, in fact, open my e-copy of 100 Stories for Haiti and immediately treat myself to Nick Harkaway’s opening contribution, and let me tell you: guy can write.

As a contributing author, I can tell you it’s pretty cool to realize I’ve got some of my own words in the same collection as some awfully damn fine writers, in a project which has been overseen by some extremely talented and established editors. But I’m even more excited about what this book means, the possibilities it illustrates and the differences it can make.

March 3, 2010 Posted by | Books, Current Affairs, Fiction, Web/Tech, writing | , , , | Leave a comment

Geeky reasons to buy “100 Stories for Haiti”

Go check out some of the nerdcentric contributors to the book as noted on my post at GeekDad. I’m not going to name them here, so you’ll just have to click.

February 25, 2010 Posted by | Books, Current Affairs, Fiction, geek, Weblogs, writing | , , , , | Leave a comment

Guest post: “100 Stories for Haiti” creator Greg McQueen

Today – meaning Feb. 25, because even though it’s before midnight here, it’s already Thursday over in Europe -  I’m turning Cornfield Meet over to the inspired and ambitious Greg McQueen, whose brainspark got the “100 Stories for Haiti” fire going in the first place. And because he clearly has no need for sleep, the guy’s in the midst of “blog tour,” writing about the book for various sites and talking about different angles of the project, to which I contributed a story called “The Painting.”

Read on for a glimpse into the process of bringing an 80,000-word book from concept to finalized reality in just a few weeks:

Thanks for letting me graffiti your blog, John.

If you’re just joining this blog tour, you can catch up HERE and HERE … Oh, and HERE.

Today I want to talk a little about how we handled submissions and chose the 100 stories for the book. As you can imagine, it was a huge task, and I have to admit that I didn’t have as much to do with it as I’d wished.

To give you a rough idea how big a task it was … We had 420 submissions within about a week. Each submission, on average, was at least 800 words, so that’s about 336,000 words that needed to be read within a matter of days.

When I started the project, I fully expected to be hands-on with the story selections. However coordinating everything — answering emails, arranging stuff with the publishers, sorting out agreements for the authors, plus a million things that I never expected would be part of producing a book — took up most of my time. I read as many of the stories as I could, but the real credit for making sure that each and every submission was read goes to Amy Burns and the team of volunteer editors.

So, I want you to get up now and give them a standing ovation. They deserve it. They all worked their wobbly bits off to make this book happen.

Okay. Thanks. Be seated and read on.

We started out with about 25 readers and editors. Everyone gave as much time as they could spare. I set up a special web forum for everyone to work in. For the geek-a-trons among you, we used Basecamp from 37 Signals. I chose Basecamp because 37 Signals like to create products that don’t need a manual (and they come pretty darn close!). They also have a system called Writeboards, which are amazing for writers because they save every version of a document. So, it made it easy to encourage readers to correct typos as they found them because we could always rollback to a previous version of the story if needed.

The way we initially vetted submissions was simple. I described it to one of the editors as the literary equivalent to a wrestle-mania smackdown. Each story had to be read three times, and each person had to vote, Yes, No, or Maybe.

2 x Yes = Stays for the next round.

2 x No = Knock out.

2 x Maybe = Stays for the next round.

There were disagreements and discussions over pieces, which was where I stepped in. The original spec for submissions was 1000 words, any genre, no massive death-destruction-violence, feel good stories – the kind that makes you tell grumpy old men that life really ain’t that bad. We had to compromise on the specs a bit, not too much, though.

As the submissions dwindled to about 150, Amy volunteered as Head Editor, and whip-cracked to get those submissions down to 100.

This was where encouraging readers to make corrections as they found them really paid off because we ended up with stories that needed little or no corrections. Amy and a team of about five core editors then re-read and re-edited the remaining 100 stories to get them close to publishing standards.

I’d be lying if I said that I’d planned the whole thing. I started the 100 Stories for Haiti project because I wanted to help. I didn’t sit down and think it through at all … If anything, my plan was that I had no plan. I felt that many of the people involved in the editing process were experienced writers and editors. I told them from the start that I had this crazy notion that they’d be able to just roll up sleeves, knowing the kind of stories that we were looking for, and do what they do best — read and edit, choose stories that resonated with them, and fight to have them included in the book.

Odd thing is … Turned out I was right.

You’re going to read/hear me say this a lot during this blog tour. It’s because I am proud of the book. I want people to read it. More importantly, I want people to buy it. Not because I want a best-seller of some sort, simply because I think it’s a cracking read, made by a talented and dedicated team of writers and editors who want nothing more than to raise money for the Haiti Earthquake and Disaster Recovery appeals. Here goes …

100 Stories for Haiti comes out as an ebook and paperback on March 4th, 2010. The paperback costs £11.99 + P&P. It is available to pre-order here: http://www.100storiesforhaiti.org/buy-the-book

Tomorrow, the blog tour takes me  HERE and will feature a few more extracts from the book.

…..

Thanks for stopping by, Greg!

Okay, so, to sum up: Buy a book that The Gone-Away World author Nick Harkaway describes with the phrase “the sheer weight of unrefined awesome contained within these covers,” and all the proceeds go to the Red Cross relief efforts in Haiti, because every bit of time and work going into 100 Stories has been donated. (And yes, for those of us living outside the United Kingdom, the shipping costs don’t come cheap: If that’s an issue – which I totally understand – buy the electronic version: It’ll be coming out via Smashwords the same day as Bridge House releases the paperback, March 4.)

February 24, 2010 Posted by | Books, Current Affairs, Fiction, science fiction, Web/Tech, Weblogs, writing | , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Pre-order “100 Stories for Haiti”

Thanks to the timely arrival of some funds in my PayPal account, I just ordered my paperback copy of  100 Stories for Haiti.

100 Stories for Haiti

The paperback edition from Bridge House Publishing in the UK is set for a March 4 release, and there’s a Smashwords electronic edition on the way, too.

This is such an amazingly cool worldwide effort, and if you don’t believe me, check the list of author bios, which is not only jaw-dropping in its diversity but has introduced several new writers and books to my own must-read list.

Still on the fence? Consider this bit from Nick Harkaway, author of The Gone-Away World:

“Of course, while giving is, according to a recent scientific study, more pleasurable and healthy than receiving, it can become a bit burdensome after a while — especially if you can’t see the real time effects of your gifts. That’s where this book comes in. The writers and publishers will do the actual giving, and you just have to buy some really great stories which you would, of course, have rushed to buy anyway because of the sheer weight of unrefined awesome contained within these covers.”

So you get 80,000-plus words of good book, and all the proceeds go to the Red Cross’ relief efforts in Haiti.

Now, here’s what you do: You can go to the 100 Stories for Haiti site and order from there, or to the Bridge House site and order from there. If, like me, you’re ordering from the U.S., since the book project is UK-based, you’ll need to buy through that little button/option marked “Rest of World” or “ROW” (a note of caution: I very nearly ordered an extra UK-shipped edition due to a default setting somewhere that put both an ROW order and a standard order in my PayPal cart, so play close attention). And PayPal automatically handled the pounds-to-dollars conversion swimmingly, I say.

Also, tell a lot of people about it.

February 16, 2010 Posted by | Books, Current Affairs, science fiction, Travel, writing | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

100 Stories for Haiti

Check out the 100 Stories for Haiti anthology project, sparked and organized by writer Greg McQueen in Denmark, and all sales of which will benefit the Red Cross and its relief efforts in Haiti. Nick Harkaway, who wrote The Gone-Away World, contributed a story and the introduction (and no, nobody’s getting paid for this – the stories are all donated); Smashwords is producing the e-book version, and Bridge House Publishing will handle the paperback.  (On Facebook? Here’s the project’s page – spread the word!)

I read about the effort on John Scalzi’s blog the same day as the initial submission deadline and managed to get a story in under the wire. Pretty much forgot about it over the weekend, but Monday’s email brought me word that my piece was selected!

The entire 100-story list is here, and it’s a crazy-global roster, from Harkaway to The White Road and Other Stories author Tania Hershman to Botswana writer Lauri Kubuitsile. And  Alasdair Stuart, the host of Pseudopod is on there, too. (Edited to reflect the fact that Alasdair popped in to confirm that’s him.)

With so many voices and styles, it should be an interesting read, which, yes, I realize is hardly the point here, but I’m awfully excited about playing even a small part in a project which has the potential to do a lot of good.

February 3, 2010 Posted by | Books, Current Affairs, Fiction, science fiction, Weblogs, writing | , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

   

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