Archive Introduction

A brief note on how I’ve set up my reviews archive:

The tags represent where a review ran the first time around, whether online, or in print. This includes defunct magazines such as Absolute Magnitude, Science Fiction Chronicle, and Realms of Fantasy.  All reviews that appeared in those magazines can now be found here, with the exception of a very few that were lost along the way. Reviews originally posted at The Green Man Review (and its sister site, The Sleeping Hedgehog), SF Site, and Tor.com remain on those sites indefinitely.  They are uploaded here at irregular intervals after their original publication, and are reprinted for my archives with all due credit and permission.

The categories, obviously, represent where a particular item falls into the grand scheme of things. This is pretty obvious, but a few things bear a little further explanation. Historical means that the book is set in the past of a world either meant to be ours, or pretty darned close. I’ve applied the Fairy Tales/Folklore/Mythology label to anything which I feel takes inspiration or influence from those themes, and as such, this is both a specific and nebulous category, applied at my whim and discretion. The Zombies, Shapeshifters, Vampires and Superheroes are in place simply because it amuses me to do so. Lastly, I’ve also marked some books as being of greater than usual interest because of LGBTQ themes – featuring a gay or lesbian character, for instance, or dealing with gender issues, or addressing matters of alternate sexuality. In all cases, this is a work in progress, to be fine-tuned and adjusted until I’m satisfied…whenever that might be. More categories may appear, some may vanish. I welcome feedback, suggestions, and comments, especially if you feel a certain book deserves (or doesn’t!) a specific, existing, category that I’ve overlooked.

Enjoy.

Introducing: Max and Jack

The Feline Supervisory Committee is pleased to introduce you to its newest permanent members.

Maximinius (Max) and Jackeronimous (Jack), aka the Tiny Tabby Terror Twins, aka Fuzzy Pains in the Ass, came to us by way of a long-term foster program in late August. At the time, these wee babies were accompanied by their adoptive mother (Priss), and adoptive big brother (Juan–later big sister Nita after the vet happily told us all about how to determine cat gender by looking at their butts…)

At the time, we were under a strict hiring freeze, for various reasons, and had no intention of acquiring new personnel, even though we were down following the tragic losses of Molly and Diana earlier this year. But right from the start, Max and Jack (who we initially called Tiny, for rather obvious reasons) made a strong bid for permanent residency, utilizing every manner of charm and trick in the book to tug at our hearts. It didn’t help when our Voidpoof, Gremlin, decided these were his babies, and needed his supervision and attention. We never knew he had it in him.

A week after we took them into our care, Jack had a severe medical emergency, and made as it as far as the Rainbow Bridge before he was sent back for another go-around. Following several days of intense love and care, he bounced back to become as fierce and mighty a kitten as possible.

We’d made the decision to send all of the fosters back when their trial period was up. Priss and Nita was happy to go–they knew we weren’t the right place for them. But Max and Jack were just a wee bit underweight, and got sent back to us for two more weeks for fattening up. And well, that’s when they made one last dedicated push for permanency, the jerks. They split up. Jack bonded with Mary, while Max worked his wiles on me. We realized that they had all of the qualities we were looking for personality-wise, and had already made themselves quite at home, and assimilated into the household whether the older cats liked it or not. And when we took them back for their surgery, they were sent back for ANOTHER two weeks because one of them had picked up a little bug and they needed a run of meds. So hey, we took the hint from the universe. These kittens were meant for us, and vice versa.)

So please give a warm welcome to Max and Jack.

And no, half the time we’re not sure which is which either. It’s all in the spots and stripes…

(Pictured:  Max and Jack hunting the red dot of doom with Blaze; Jack hard at work;  Max and Jack celebrating their official status as resident cats; Max telling us what he thinks of the Sebastian the Elder Tabby; Max and Jack annoyed I interrupted them…)

 

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In Memoriam: Diana (2004-2020)

It is with great sorrow that we announce the passing of Diana–Princess of Peep, Empress of Voids, Devourer of Meat, Biter of Fingers, First of Her Name.

Diana, who also answered to “Brat” and “Di-an-naaaaaa” (said in the most resigned and frustrated tone imaginable) and the sound of food in general, came into our lives in the summer of 2004, and was a rescue from one of the local shelters. She’d spent some time as a feral cat, and never really got over that, nor did she let us forget it. She was a wild child from the start, and gave the others Hell when they messed with her. (Hell hath no fury like a little black cat, after all…) In her younger days, she was an adventurer, a would-be mighty huntress, and an escape artist who found her own way off the screened-in porch time and again, until we finally replaced the entire screen with something impenetrable and rated for large dogs.

One time, she brought a vole home. Just brought it inside and released it for our convenience.

No, we don’t know how or where she managed that.

Throughout her long career, her favorite place was on top of my chair, where she could mug me for my food and aggressively demand a share of whatever I had. We never did find a form of meat she didn’t like at one point or another. She was bossy, opinionated, demanding, stubborn, fearless, reckless, feisty–heck, she was downright volatile. And those were her good points.

She was also fluffy and sweet. When she wanted to be.

In her later years, she developed hyperthyroid along with some related intestinal issues which made life more challenging (and stinky…) But no matter what, she always insisted on her share of the food. Especially the grilled chicken. But she never stopped being sweet, loving, and a dominant personality. Depending on who you asked, she was named for a princess, a goddess, or a superhero-goddess-princess… and she knew it.

She passed peacefully in her sleep, with her humans and several other cats in attendance–which surprised us because Diana was never quiet or peaceful. Just like her to challenge expectations right to the end.

Farewell, Diana. We shall never see the likes of you again… and Sandwich o’Clock won’t be the same without you.

(Pictures in no particular order. You can judge the passing of time by the increasing number of white whiskers… The one with laser eyes is one of the earliest, chronologically, we think.)

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In Memoriam: Molly (2006-2020)

It is with great regret and sorrow that I announce the permanent retirement of a senior member of the Feline Advisory Committee.

Molly, aka Smudgepaw Stubbytail, aka Murmur, aka Olly-Molly, aka Pain in the Ass, aka Little Red Cat, aka the Scarlet Harlot, aka the Red Queen, aka Graceling, aka Disgraceling, passed on after a lengthy and annoying chronic illness, which she bore with her usual mixture of disgruntlement and resignation. She went peacefully, surrounded by the humans she loved and the other cats she tolerated.

Molly was an extraordinarily intelligent cat, possessed of a perverse evil streak, a distinct tendency towards self-isolation, the ability to open and close boxes, and of course the talent of hiding in plain sight. She always had a way of making you feel special even as she threatened your life (just ask about her special throat hugs!) and a quiet, determined purr. We never trained her–instead, she trained us to bend to her indomitable will. In her younger years, she spent many fine hours in the front rooms of the house, where no other cats could bother her, where, we assume, she was reading my comic books or something.

In later years, she served admirably as female alpha and youngest member of the Old Ladies contingent of the Feline Advisory Committee.  Her responsibilities included disapproving of everything I did, throwing books at me when I wasn’t working, getting us out of bed at breakfast time, smacking the boys when they got out of line, and generally being a cat.

She was brilliant, bold, beautiful, stubborn, loving, mercurial, and an excellent companion right up to the very end. She will be missed greatly.

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New Stories Available and Other Updates

Hello, everyone! It’s time for another roundup of my latest fiction releases. Since my last post, I’ve actually seen a few things escape into the wild, so let’s get caught up, shall we?

First up, I have not one, but two pieces available at Enchanted Conversation, the online fairy tale magazine.

Happily Never After” is a flash piece I wrote about fairy godmothers. Where do they come from? What do they get out of the whole deal? And what’s the hidden cost in accepting their aid?

The Midnight Market” is a YA piece set in the Gaslight District of Puxhill. On the nights of the full moon, the Midnight Market, where you can find just about anything for sale, appears. Herein is the tale of one of its many mysterious merchants. What is the story of the girl on the blanket, and what’s her secret?

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Meanwhile, if you pop over to check out the first issue of the new online magazine Constellary Tales, you can find “The Tears of Bourbon Street.” It’s an urban fantasy set in New Orleans, and it’s about love, loss, grief, Mardi Gras, ghosts, and the spirit of the Big Easy’s most famous street. Come, join Gideon Grace as he investigates the reason why Bourbon Street is infested by ghosts… I’m truly excited to see this story published, and I hope you like it also. Tangent Online says, “Jones creates an interesting world and leaves enough elements to explore to merit a return to it.”

 

Maybe you want something a little weirder and wickeder? I also have a pair of erotic flash pieces available over at Circlet.com.

In “The Muse’s Music,” Diana, who once upon a time was Euterpe, the Muse of music, now spends her time mentoring and seducing mortal musicians. Witness one such encounter…

In “The Children of the Forest,” we travel to the Brambles, that part of Faerie which perpetually exists in a state of autumn glory (last seen in “Who Killed the Pumpkin King?” This time around, we discover the erotic revels which take place when the last leaf drops from the Skeleton Tree, and the Wicker King comes out to pay his respects.

 

In the mood for non-fiction? I also have a pair of Q&As with authors available over at Publishers Weekly! That’s right, they let me talk with people far more interesting than myself… and I had a blast.

First, I spoke with Daniel Jose Older about his newest release, the delightful MG alternate history, Dactyl Hill Squad. Orphans of color riding dinosaurs in Civil War-era New York City!

Second, I spoke with Brandon Sanderson about his YA science fiction adventure, Skyward. A teenage girl dreams of becoming a pilot, to help defend her colony from alien attackers, but she must overcome her father’s legacy as a coward…

 

In my next update, I promise to put on my editor hat and touch base on my other outstanding projects. But hopefully, you’ll go check out the stuff linked above. If you like it, let me know! Feel free to leave comments, write reviews, or visit me on Facebook or Twitter...

New Release: E is for Evil Anthology

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My latest story has been released!

In the newest installment of Rhonda Parrish’s Alphabet Anthology series, E is for Evil, 26 authors examine and explore the many ways in which the nature and theme of evil manifest. For this anthology, I was given the letter “Z” and told to do my best. And so, in “Z is for Zaltu,” Masuma, a teenage Muslim girl living in the city of Puxhill, is forced to deal with a very real evil: racism and hatred in today’s America. One of her classmates, a vicious bully, has targeted Masuma for particular persecution… but is there something beyond simple ignorance and bigotry at play?

Yeah. I was really nervous about tackling this topic for a number of reasons, as it’s both timely and complicated. There are no easy answers, and no easy solutions. But when I read the news every day, it terrifies me that we live in such chaotic, troubled, tumultuous times. I believe in tolerance and acceptance, and I dream of a world where we don’t have to fight for such things on a daily–hell, an hourly–basis. And so I decided to take a chance and tell a story of a young woman of faith, who must confront this kind of evil lest it destroy both her -and- her tormentor.

Maybe I did okay with this story. Maybe I got it all wrong. I honestly don’t know. But I’d dearly love it if people actually read “Z is for Zaltu” and let me know, one way or another, how it turned out. Maybe we’ll get to see Masuma again. After all, Puxhill is a strange and wonderful city, and there’s always room for more adventures…

Introducing Blaze

Much belatedly, I’d like to officially introduce the most recent member of the Feline Supervisory Committee… Blaze.

Like her brother Gremlin, Blaze came to us at the tender age of 5 days old, as part of a foster program which also included her mother and siblings. This promising young tortie was opinionated, forceful, vocal and personable right from the start, but we had to evaluate whether or not there was room for yet another member of the FSC, so when we adopted Gremlin as a permanent member, we allowed Blaze and her sister Roxie to return to the shelter for the time being.

One month later, we went back for Blaze, and haven’t regretted it in the least. Since she joined us, she has indeed become a valued and active member of the FSC. Although her time in “juvie” taught her bad habits and bad language, she’s nevertheless a delicate lady who will kick anyone’s rear should they insist otherwise. So please welcome Blaze to the family as she hits her six month birthday…

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Schoolbooks & Sorcery: The Final Lineup

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It is with great pleasure that I announce the final lineup for the Schoolbooks & Sorcery Table of Contents.

After sorting through a great many wonderful submissions, thanks to our open reading period following the Kickstarter, I was able to winnow them down to a mere handful and make my final choices. It wasn’t easy, mind you. Thanks to budget contraints and other limitations, I could only take a few to expand upon our ideals of representation and diversity. Hopefully, these new additions to the lineup will entertain and satisfy readers…

First up, the established stories, in no particular order.

“Finals” by Seanan McGuire
“Protection” by Cheryl Rainfield
“The Grimoire Girls” by E.C. Myers
“Where We Come From” by David Sklar
“Bad Roommates” by Nina Kiriki Hoffman
“Dirty Deeds” by Kelly Swails
“Heart of a Fox” by Aaron Canton
“The Delicate Work of Bees” by Emily Horner
“Awaken” by Rain Fletcher
“All That Matters” by Elizabeth Shack
“The Chosen One” by Katrina Nicholson
“Fishing for the Dead” by Eric Esser

And joining them are…
“The Two Cities” by Rajan Khanna
“Honest Tea” by Sara Fox
“The Man of the Mist” by Evelyn Deshane
“The Cost of Being Caelan” by Scarlett Ward
“Quick-Change Pupa” by Vrai Kaiser
“Puppies and Piglets and Tricksters, Oh My!” by C.M. Smith
“The Magical Miseducation of Kyle and Frost” by Cecilia Tan (Title not finalized…)

Later on, I figure I’ll start sharing blurbs about the various stories, but I wanted to let everyone know about these fantastic newcomers to the project, and assure you all that progress is being made. This has been a long time in the works, but that light at the end of the tunnel is almost certainly not a train…

Update the Third: Introducing Gremlin

And now on a personal note… I’d like to introduce the newest and by far youngest member of the Feline Supervisory Committee.

Gremlin came to us at a mere five days old, along with his mother and sibling, for an 8-week foster period. However, as we spent many, many hours raising Tammy and the Squeakers, as we dubbed them, we realized that Gremlin was definitely a stand-out, and worthy of consideration for permanent residential status. So when the time came to give the fosters back… we adopted him.

As he hits twelve weeks old, he has become fearless, majestic, and utterly adorable. He is truly the best of kittens, and we look forward to watching him develop, and seeing where he fits in with the Feline Supervisory Committee…

Pictured: Gremlin with his sisters, Roxie and Blaze.  Gremlin in various sexy poses for your appreciation.

 

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Update the Second: New Stories Now Available

Now that we’ve gotten the editorial stuff out of the way, I’d like to talk for a moment about myself as a writer. It so happens that I’ve had several absolutely fantastic stories come out in magazines and anthologies since my last update, and I’m woefully behind on shamelessly begging you to check them out.

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First up, we have “The High Cost of Answers,” appearing in Utter Fabrication: Historical Accounts of Unusual Buildings and Structures, produced by Mad Scientist Journal. In this sequel to “The Strange Case of Rebecca Rice,” private detective Nat MacDonald is once again on the case. This time, she’s looking for a number of people who’ve gone missing in Puxhill’s mysterious Gaslight District. With some help from her ghostly girlfriend Rebecca, and some costly advice from the capricious Jay Willoughby, Nat has to venture deep into the heart of Puxhill to confront an ancient evil…

 

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Next, we have “An Afternoon in the Park with the Coyote Brothers,” which appears in Dark Luminous Wings, by Pole to Pole Publishing. In this YA-aimed story, 17-year-old Suzume’s afternoon is disrupted when the unpredictable Coyote Brothers wander into her after-school place of employment. But when they sense something weird about her, their efforts to bring out her hidden supernatural side turn both comic and philosophical… I happen to love this story: it’s one of the first pieces I wrote in class at Hollins, and the Coyote Brothers are personal favorites of mine, just because they provide so much room for mischief and mayhem.

 

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After that, there’s my short piece, “Saint Urban and the Peril of the Predatory Pontiff” – Crimson Streets Magazine, currently available for free online. It’s one of the strangest, most literal interpretations of “urban fantasy” you’ll see all week. As the world waits for a new Pope to be announced, a supernatural battle between good and evil rages under the Vatican, between its secret defender and its great shame. I wrote this as a response to a double dog dare, and I’m still amazed I got away with it. And that my Catholic in-laws, bless their hearts, are still talking to me…

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But wait! There’s more! There’s also “The Mermaid’s Knife” in Distressing Damsels out of Fantasia Divinity Magazine. Also written for one of my Hollins classes, this YA piece is an unofficial sequel to the Little Mermaid fairy tale. What happens if the nameless mermaid in question falls out of myth and becomes a real girl in modern-day Puxhill? And what if the sea witch’s knife, thought lost forever, turns up one day… and demands that she use it to fulfill its purpose. It wants blood, and she can’t resist forever. I owe the existence of this story to the fabulous Delia Sherman and the rest of my Genre Fantasy class for making it awesome and weird.

 

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Finally, if you’re in the mood for one of my erotic stories, there’s “The Hateful Chime” in Like a Spell: Earth, from Circlet Press. This was my reaction to dealing with grad school, by writing about the stresses and challenges of dealing with -magical- grad school. Come see what it’s like in the secret Arcane Arts department at Puxhill’s Tuesday University, and find out how one young woman specializing in dance and movement magic helps an alchemist overcome certain scholastic hangups…

 

Whew! That’s about it. Please, go pick these anthologies up, or check my stories out. Every purchase, and especially every review, is greatly appreciated. More so if you mention me specifically. :)

 

Update the First: Schoolbooks & Sorcery

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Hello, everyone! I just wanted to let you all know where we stand with the Schoolbooks & Sorcery anthology.

Following our wonderfully successful Kickstarter campaign, we enjoyed a several month open submission period, so we could add several more stories to the already-established Table of Contents. And let me just say, I’ve gotten some amazing stuff, and I have some very hard decisions ahead of me. After weeding out a great many inappropriate submissions, I’m still left with some 50 or so, all competing for a mere handful of spots. So in the next few weeks, I’ll be reading through what’s left as I attempt to winnow them down even further to the final contenders.

For those who are curious, I will, of course, be looking to find stories which balance and complement what I already have, which hit certain aspects of diversity and representation, which grab me and make me think or laugh or feel. I may or may not have to enlist the aid of trusted advisers and secondary readers to help me make informed judgments. So I’ll be doing this as quickly as possible while still giving every story its due consideration. After all, they wouldn’t still be in the running if they didn’t have potential…

Meanwhile, I’ll be in touch with other folks as needed to ensure the production of our backer rewards, and I’ll be working on the manuscript itself. I don’t have a specific timeline for that, but I’ll do my very best to keep things moving right along.  Believe me, I want to see this done and published as much as anyone else!

Thanks for your patience, everyone, and I appreciate you all for being part of this.