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.

Tasty Tuesday: Chocolate Chip Cookies

Welcome to Tasty Tuesday, an experimental new feature here at Schrodinger’s Bookshelf.

I figured that since, at the moment, I don’t have anything exciting to report, I might as well share some of the stuff I love, in the hopes that it’ll brighten your days. And while you may already know I love books and cats, fewer people know I love to cook and bake. It’s a form of relaxation, a way to let the mind clear out, and a source of fun for me. There’s just something magical about the art of throwing together all sorts of ingredients and performing alchemical reactions to produce tasty treats.

And when it comes to kitchen hijinks, I love making cookies. And since so many people seem to love my cookies in return, I figured what the hey, have a recipe. Keep in mind, all recipes have come from the net and been adjusted by me to suit my tastes and needs. Original credit will be given if I still remember where it came from.

First up, what I consider to be the simplest and most representative of my repertoire: chocolate chip cookies.

INGREDIENTS:

3/4 cup unsalted butter

2/3 cup brown suger

2/3 cup granulated (white) sugar

2 tablespoons light corn syrup

1 tablespoon dark chocolate balsamic vinegar (available at certain specialty shops, such as Oliveto in Roanoke)

2 eggs

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

2 1/4 cups all purpose flour

1 1/2 cups chocolate chips (milk, semi-sweet, dark, mint, this is the part where you can go wild!)

 

THE MAGIC PART:

Cream together butter, sugars, corn syrup and vinegar.

Beat in eggs, Beat in vanilla, salt, baking soda, baking powder.

Stir in flour and chips.

Here, I like to chill the resultant mixture in the refrigerator for a few hours or overnight.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees

Drop by tablespoons (or cookie scoop, or bare hand and rolled into little balls) on cookie sheets (I line mine with parchment paper)

Bake for 10 minutes.

Batch makes around 4 dozen, give or take.

Enjoy!

I’ll add a picture of the final result as soon as I make some more. My last batch got vaccuumed by the recipients, leaving only crumbs.

Trans Day of Visibility

So today is Trans Day of Visibility. It’s an occasion for everyone who’s trans, non-binary, genderfluid–everyone whose gender identity doesn’t necessarily play by established rules, everyone who challenges the binary norm, everyone who’s had to fight and struggle for acceptance, everyone who’s come into their own self despite all of the confusion and heartbreak and doubt, to stand up and take pride in who they are.

I think you all rock, and I support you.

I have friends and colleagues, coworkers and acquaintances, people I consider family, who identify as trans or non-binary or genderqueer, and I salute them for being awesome and brave and strong enough to show their true selves to the world, no matter how hard or scary it might be.

Be safe, my friends. Be happy. Be healthy. Be yourselves. I’ll be back here waving the pom-poms and cheering you on.

And yes, on this day, I will once again point out that I have an anthology which explores and defies gender in a collection of truly excellent fantasy stories. Scheherazade’s Facade features brilliant work by Tanith Lee, David Sklar, Tiffany Trent, Sarah Rees Brennan, C.S. MacCath, Shanna Germain, Alkiette de Bodard, Sunny Moraine, and more.  It’s something I’m proud to be associated with.SFacade_cover_1400

But this isn’t about me. This is about everyone else. This is about -you-. So I’m making two offers, right here, right now.

1) If you buy Scheherazade’s Facade, and send me proof via email to facadeantho@gmail.com or via Twitter to @oneminutemonkey, I’ll make a donation to an appropriate organization (in addition to what I already plan to donate.) This offier is open until April 7th.

2) If you’re interested but don’t think you can afford the anthology, I’ll send you an electronic copy. Just email to the address above, and give me a reason or tell me a story. Again, this offer is limited and will expire April 7th.  Depending on how many requests I get, I do reserve the right to cut it off early.  (And if you like it and want to write a review or mention it on social media, that would be awesome.)

The Long-Overdue Update: Books on Sale, Books for Review

So it seems I don’t update this thing nearly as often as I should. I apologize. I’ve been busy. With things. Yeah, that’s it…things. But I figured I should come by with an update and to remind people of certain ongoing offers.like_a_mystery_cover_510

1) First up, I have a new erotic story out. You can find “The Strange Case of Rebecca Rice” in Like a Mystery Uncovered, edited by Nikola Klaus, out from Circlet Press. Available through Circlet or other online retailers. This is a fun little tale of Puxhill’s Gaslight District. What happens when a ghost hires a private detective to solve her murder? The answers may surprise you.

 

2) Schoolbooks & Sorcery continues to trudge along at its own inexorably frustrating pace. The Table of Contents is finalized, and we’re just waiting on the last contract to be signed. I’m trying to keep one author’s agent from claiming one of my cats as part of the payment. Even I have my sticking points. So hey, watch this space for exciting news about this project soon!like-fortune's-fool-cover-draft-3

3) My most recent erotica anthology, Like Fortune’s Fool: Erotic Tales of Luck and Serendipity, is still available via Circlet or other online retailers.  While I would dearly love it if people actually bought the book, read it, and enjoyed it, but I’m happy to send out electronic copies for review, in exchange for honest write-ups at Amazon, Goodreads, Barnes and Noble, or on personal blogs. Email me at highpornomancer@gmail.com to claim a review copy now.

4) Same thing goes for my first erotica anthology, Like a Cunning Plan: Erotic Trickster Tales. If you don’t want to shell out good money for great stories, email me for a review copy. First come, first served.

4a) That’s right: FREE EROTICA IN EXCHANGE FOR REVIEWS. Good deal!

5) Last but not least, I’m ALSO happy to send people electronic review copies of Scheherazade’s Facade: Fantastical Tales of Gender Bending, Cross-Dressing, and Transformation. For that offer, email me at facadeantho@gmail.com. Again, first come, first served. This is NOT erotica, these are mainstream stories of fantasy and urban fantasy which challenge and defy gender expectations. And all I want from you are reviews and comments on Amazon, Goodreads, Barnes and Noble, or your own blogs. like-a-cunning-plan-cover-FW

6) I lied, there’s one more thing: My YA urban fantasy story, “Sea of Strangers” remains available to read, online, for free, at Inscription magazine. If you like YA, if you like urban fantasy, if you like stories about psychic teenage lesbians and their totally awesome trans girlfriends, if you like -me- then check this out. And maybe, juuuuust maybe, consider talking about it elsewhere online. Or nominating it for awards.  I hear the World Fantasy Awards ballot is still open…

In Memoriam: Pepper (2001-2015)

As always, it is with great sorrow that I announce that yet another of the Feline Advisory Committee has selected for retirement after a long and successful career.IMG_0739

Pepper, or as she was known around the office, Peppercorn Spitfire, came to us when she was but a kitten, along with her brother Salt. They were an odd pair: he was large, sweet, fearful, and dumb as a brick. She, on the other hand, was small, shrill, sociopathic, and swift. She was not gifted with people skills; if you tried to pick her up, she could rabbit-paw and shred you like a psychotic blender. She never did socialize completely…but she learned to put up with us humans and our weird ways. She formed a tight-knit yet confused bond with the elder members of the cat tribe, and spent many fine hours cuddled up to them. IMG_0030

She was the sort of cat who demanded love on her own terms. She loved to be petted and would shriek happily, but the belly–oh, that belly was a TRAP. A trap filled with fish hooks and bear traps, and some of our finest scars come from getting to close to her…like, for her annual checkup at the vet. (“Break out the riot gear,” we’d advise them. “Pepper doesn’t do ‘friendly’.”)

But she was sweet, in her own way. A constant presence. Those big blue eyes, that lovely singing voice, those beautiful winter colors… we were convinced that her ancestry held both Siamese and mountain lion. She came from the hills of SW Virginia, and was almost certainly a little inbred, as strange things go on down in that part of the country. While she wasn’t the most active of participants, we always knew she was around somewhere, watching us and probably not approving.IMG_0213

And with the rest of that older generation moved on, it was hardly surprising when she just sort of started to fade away. She went quietly, peacefully, and in the manner of her own choosing, with as little muss, fuss, and bother as possible. No final vet visit for her, just a night of cuddles. She waited until we’d gone to sleep, and then excused herself without so much as a note.

So long, Pepper. Give our regards to Salt, Stucco, Jane and Gabriel when you see them.

 

 

New Release: Like Fortune’s Fool: Erotic Tales of Luck and Serendipity

like-fortune's-fool-cover-draft-3

It is with great joy and no small pride that I belatedly announce the release of my newest erotic anthology, Like Fortune’s Fool, now out from Circlet Press and available in all the finest (and less finest) online stores.

In six sexy stories, gods and mortals alike “get lucky,” in more ways than one. Fortune favors the bold and people take a chance at love and lust. In Like Fortune’s Fool, Monique Poirer, Jaymi Noa, Eric del Carlo, Dame Bodacious, T.C. Mills and Kathleen Tudor reveal the playful, sensual, mind-blowing secrets of those who traffic in luck, fate, karma, and serendipity. From a card game that leads to a night of unbelievable pleasure, to a raven whose spate of “crow luck” leads him to a helpful witch, to a woman who acquires a “lucky” rabbit’s foot, these stories are surprising and satisfying.

You can find it at this places, among others:

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

Smashwords

iTunes

A limited number of electronic review copies are available as well. Please contact me at fortunesfoolantho@gmail.com if you’re interested in receiving a free copy in exchange for an honest, unbiased review on Amazon, B&N, Goodreads, and/or your personal blog. First come, first served.

 

A Quick Schoolbooks & Sorcery Update

Please forgive the brevity of this update, but I wanted to give the curious and concerned a quick update regarding the Schoolbooks & Sorcery anthology.

At this time, I have read every story, and sent out many rejections. I still have another batch of rejections to write, and a number of stories which have either made it into the “Definitely” pile or the “Final Round: Fight!” pile. Everything in those latter two piles is currently in the hands of a second reader to help me make the hard decisions.

Why the slowness?

Because Yours Truly made the mistake of trying to juggle multiple jobs and an online grad school class, and as a result, sleep schedules, coherence, and spare time have suffered. This weekend, in fact, is a perfect storm of Things Which Will Either Kill Me or Make Me Stronger, and I’m not sure which is more desirable at the moment.

I do anticipate finishing the first round of rejections in the next week (so by the end of October) and then it’s just a case of figuring out what makes the final cut. Cue weeping, wailing, mad bargains with perverse trickster deities, cockamamie juggling of word count and synergistic themes, and so on. Trust me, folks, the inner nuts and bolts of the anthology business aren’t pretty.

So if you haven’t heard yet, it’s either because I haven’t written a rejection, or I haven’t trapped my second reader in a corner and made them share their opinions… or because I’m hiding under the bed, weeping, mind melted from dealing with real life people.

Feel free to query in the meantime, but results may vary.

Thanks for your patience and understanding!

 

New Short Story Online – Sea of Strangers

gideon3

I am absolutely thrilled to announce that I have a new short story available to read online, for free.

You can find “Sea of Strangers” over at Inscription Magazine. I’m especially interested because this marks my very first Young Adult publication. (While one of my previous stories, “Keys,” which saw publication in A Chimerical World: Tales of the Seelie Court, can be considered YA, this is the first one marketed as such.)

“Sea of Strangers” is an urban fantasy story, and it takes place, as so many of my stories do, in the city of Puxhill. Strange things are afoot at Elijah Morrison High, and it’s up to Aud Martinez and her girlfriend Charm to figure out the problem and save the day.

Please go read it. And if you like it, feel free to let me know. Definitely consider checking out Inscription’s other fine YA offerings and leaving comments in their discussion threads as well.

I hope you like it….

The Black Fire Concerto by Mike Allen (Haunted Stars Publishing, 2013)

black fire concerto

For several years now, twelve-year-old Erzelle has been the prisoner of the cannibal clan of the Red Empress, a riverboat full of death, misery, and degenerate ghouls, forced to play the harp during their infernal meals. This changes when the mysterious piper Olyssa comes aboard, in search of her long-missing sister. Olyssa and Erzelle leave a pile of corpses in their wake, the Famile decimated by terrible magic, and begin their journey together. As they quest for Olyssa’s sister, Erzelle becomes her apprentice in both music and magic.

But their travels are anything but quiet. They must fight cultists, charm the capricious vulpines (fox-people, basically), and invade the treacherous lair of the Grey Ones, who build terrible machines out of the walking dead. The more Erzelle learns of her new companion, the more she fears for their safety. For to find Olyssa’s sister is to delve into the origin of the Storms which ruined and transformed the planet, to unleash bizarre forces, and to go up against overwhelming odds.

In The Black Fire Concerto, Mike Allen (editor of Mythic Delirium magazine and the Clockwork Phoenix anthology series) invokes the weird pulp fantasy of old, spinning a series of inter-related adventures which would be right at home in old-school Weird Tales. His world is a very much changed post-apocalyptic Earth, full of magic and strange creatures, where danger lurks around every corner. This is dark fantasy, manifested in body horror and visceral imagery, flesh-eating ghouls and unsettling visions. His traveling duo, the seemingly ageless Olyssa and the young Erzelle, are a mismatched pair as fitting as those who once strode the pages of sword and sorcery novels and pulp magazines. It’s an almost refreshingly retro feel; though the modern sensibilities can be seen, this is the sort of eldritch nightmare H.P. Lovecraft, Robert E. Howard, or Clark Ashton Smith might have appreciated. Allen spins scenes of obscenely-repurposed mobile body parts, unholy constructions built of still-living flesh, armies of the shambling dead. He threads it all together with a musical motif that further pushes this away from the comfortable and familiar.

One of the things I appreciate about this book is that it lacks romance; the most powerful thread here is the love Olyssa has for her missing sister. Even after the enigmatic Lilla’s fate is discovered, that familial bond never wavers. It’s almost unsettling for something as pure and basic as family duty and connect to be the underlying core of such a bizarre story.

Honestly, this book isn’t my usual thing. While I’ve always been able to appreciate the Weird Tales mold of story, I’m not naturally drawn to such strange deviations. (For all that I love Simon R. Green, who gets pretty intensely weird at times). Were Mike Allen not a friend of mine (for full disclosure) I’d probably never have gotten too far into this. Dark fantasy isn’t my standard go-to genre. But I know a well-written tale when I spot one, and this is a strong effort, particularly for a first full-length book.  (Though split as it is into three sections, with the first having been written as a short story in its own right, there’s a slightly episodic feel to things.)

The main weakness is that Allen tends to overwhelm the reader with imagery and immaterial creations, leading to a certain lack of grounding. The opening sequence in the Red Empress is extremely strong, the battle scene in the town later on is likewise well-done, but once the characters head off into the wilds, things get nebulous. There’s not as strong a sense of place and time. Furthermore, there’s a lot left to be revealed about the post-apocalyptic world our heroes travel through. What technology remains? What people exist? How are things structured? How prevalent and reliable is magic? How much resemblance does the greater world have to what came before, and what was lost? These are all questions that arise as Olyssa and Erzelle fight their way through ghoul-infested caves and towards the final confrontation with their enemy.

If Allen continues to follow these characters, he has a ready-made hook, setting and all, for a modern revival of an old genre tradition that’s mostly fallen out of favor in recent years. Certainly, he’s laid the groundwork and delivered their inaugural adventure with style and appeal. If you’ve been craving dark fantasy, post-apocalyptic sword and sorcery with a female cast, weird stories that may or may not turn your stomach, then I have just the book for you.

In Memoriam: Janeway Yowlin (1999-2014…or so)

The queen hard at work.

The queen hard at work.

It's a trap.

It’s a trap.

Jane and Stucco: a meeting of 2/3rds of the Elder Countil

Jane and Stucco: a meeting of 2/3rds of the Elder Countil. Now with LASER EYES.

It is with great sadness that I announce the permanent retirement of the senior member of the Feline Supervisory Committee, Jane, AKA Janeway Yowlin of Puxhill, AKA “The Tabby.” At the dignified age of 14 or 15 (a lady never tells her true age), Jane chose to move on to her next life, rather than hang around and put up with lymphosarcoma any longer. She is survived by the rest of the Feline Supervisory Committee, who have already announced their intention to uphold her tradition of sleeping on things, shedding, and looking faintly disapproving at whatever it is we did.

Jane came to us as little more than a kitten, via the local shelter, when we announced an opening for a tabby. She quickly proved ideal at the role, and soon settled into a life of leisure and doing cat things. As she gained seniority, she was promoted to the Elder Council, of which she was the surviving member, following last year’s retirements of Stucco and Gabriel. (The Elder Council has been effectively disbanded, and a new grouping will be announced at a later date.) Also, with her passing, the informal “Family Unit” is likewise disbanded due to attrition; its only remaining member is Pepper, who has been promoted to Chief Shrieky-Beast.

Jane was born old–she was always a little grumpy, enjoyed her solitude and deep thoughts, and became extremely prickly when picked up. She enjoyed singing jazz and the blues, and would have won numerous prizes for math and science if only she had the opposable thumbs to communicate her findings. We may never know exactly what she discovered during her many hours of contemplation.

She was greatly loved, and goes to her next life with the highest of recommendations and references. Should you encounter a grey/brown tabby with a slightly sour manner, a rusty motor purr, and deep thoughts, know that she served long, well, and honorably.

The Feline Supervisory Committee and her silly, sentimental owners, thank her for many years of excellent service, and wish her all the best. She will be missed immensely.

 

 

Call for Submissions: Schoolbooks & Sorcery

CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS

SCHOOLBOOKS & SORCERY: A YA URBAN FANTASY ANTHOLOGY

 

Take high school. It’s weird, confusing, complicated, and frustrating. It’s a time of growth and change, when teens start discovering what they’re made of and who they want to be. Now throw in magic. What happens? That’s the premise of this new YA anthology. Schoolbooks & Sorcery is what happens when you take all the normal ups and downs of high school, inject a healthy dose of magic, shake, stir, and serve.

Editor Michael M. Jones (Scheherazade’s Façade) is looking for YA urban fantasy stories which incorporate the themes of sorcery, magic, and enchantment. The magic can come from within, as an intrinsic ability or a family trait, or from without, in the form of talismans, training, or teaching. Protagonists can be wizards, witches, sorcerers, magicians, shamans, apprentices, or practitioners of more esoteric traditions. Whether they pick it up on their own (accidentally or on purpose), learn from a master, or go to school for institutionalized training, they’ll be involved with magic to some degree. Or, of course, the protagonist could be without magic, and stumble into a world beyond their immediate knowledge. If authors wish to set something in a magical school of their own devising, or in a previously-established setting, that’s perfectly fine. But it doesn’t necessarily need to be set at a school, magical or otherwise, so long as the main characters are of the right age set.

Just about every culture has some sort of tradition involving people who dabble in the supernatural to one end or another, and there’s a vast amount of potential left to be tapped in this genre, especially with teenage protagonists. Whether they’re wizards-in-training, voodoo princesses, the last descendant of an infamous historical figure, the newest apprentice in the family business, or just someone in the wrong place at the right time, the stories are endless.

Schoolbooks & Sorcery is also designed to be a queer-friendly YA anthology, embracing the full spectrum of sexuality and gender identification, while offering a wide selection of satisfying, entertaining, fascinating, powerful stories in which the mundane and the magical overlap and interact. Stories are encouraged to take place in the overlapping area between urban fantasy, high school, and LGBTQ issues and themes. Stories should send the message that it’s not just okay to be gay, it’s okay to be gay and to have the same crazy, wicked, scary, seductive, exciting, magical, strange, funny, romantic, dark adventures as everyone else. We’re looking for stories which are all-inclusive, with the characters writers have been dying to write and readers clearly want to see, diverse and interesting, with an underlying current of tolerance and acceptance. Obviously, we’re looking for a wide range of themes, tones, and voices.

 

TECHNICAL DETAILS:

All stories should be between 2000-7000 words.

All stories must involve magic, and those who practice magic. This covers wizards, witches, sorcerers, magicians, shamans, and other traditions not specifically mentioned. This covers self-taught characters, those whose power is intrinsic or passed down through a family, those who find objects of power or books of spells, those who study with a teacher, those who go to school for magic, and so on. Other paranormal elements, such as vampires, werewolves, ghosts, or fairies, are welcome, as long as they don’t overshadow the primary theme.

Paranormal romance elements are also welcome, but this is not specifically intended as a romance anthology. Romance is good, but not necessary.

All stories must be considered YA.

Stories should be set in modern times/on Earth, but authors are encouraged to use a variety of settings, cultures, and influences to flesh out their characters and world building. Again, one of the primary goals here is to explore diversity.

While LGBTQ elements are not required, they are highly encouraged, as are protagonists who defy traditional roles and labels. (As in “girls doing boy things” and “boys doing girl things”.) More importantly: no story will be turned away for containing LGBTQ characters or elements, unless it violates the other guidelines.

Stories will not be censored for language, drinking, drugs or sexual situations; however, such things must be in moderation, appropriate to the circumstances, and tastefully handled. In movie rating terms, stories would thus fall into the PG-13 range. (To be handled as necessary. We’re not afraid of some bad words now and again…)

All stories will maintain a positive atmosphere concerning sexuality, gender, race, religion, and so on. While individual characters (most likely antagonists) may express biased, prejudiced, or phobic sentiments, or characters may deal with negative situations, the ultimate goal is to promote tolerance, acceptance, and positivity.

PLEASE NOTE: I have already seen a number of stories which address bullying. While I’m still open to considering stories incorporating this theme, I’d like to see some more variety to help round things out.

DEADLINE: August 15, 2014

SUBMISSION ADDRESS: All submissions may be sent to Facadeantho@gmail.com. Please address any questions or queries to that address as well.Submissions should be sent as an attachment, as .rtf or .doc.

PAYMENT: Payment will start out at 2 cents a word. However, this is just the minimum. Once the anthology is completed and the Table of Contents either finalized or close to finalized, we will be running a Kickstarter campaign to boost sales, create pre-release buzz, attract pre-sales, and to acquire the funds to pay 5 cents a word. So while at this moment in time we can promise 2 cents a word, our end goal (one which is entirely within the realm of possibility) is 5 cents a word, or professional rate. If you have any questions about how this can work, or need more information on how Kickstarter works, please feel free to talk to the editor. Again: you are not being asked to do something for nothing. You’re not being asked for money or freebies. All we ask of you is a little patience and flexibility for this stage of the project, and the use of your name as a contributing author to attract fans and potential backers. Payment will be made after the end of the Kickstarter period, before the actual publication date. (Because the SFWA pro rate increases to 6 cents a word as of July 1, 2014, we may end up shooting for this goal instead. This has not been finalized.)

FORMATS: Schoolbooks & Sorcery will be released simultaneously as a trade paperback and an ebook, by Gressive Press, an imprint of Circlet Press.

ABOUT THE EDITOR

Michael M. Jones was the YA reviewer for Science Fiction Chronicle and Realms of Fantasy. These days, he reviews YA for Publishers Weekly and Tor.com. He is also the editor of Scheherazade’s Façade: Fantastical Tales of Gender Bending, Cross-Dressing, and Transformation (Gressive Press, 2012). His fiction has appeared in anthologies from DAW, Baen, Raven Electrick Ink, Norilana, Circlet, and Cleis Press. He can be found online at www.michaelmjones.com