Saturday, January 21, 2012

REVIEW: Thank You, Countess Bats!

From the witty and charming Countess Bats (@bats0711) comes this make-me-blush review of my Tales from the Hotel Central, from her blog, The She Chronicles:

Keep It Simple Saturday

Today is Saturday so you know what that means, I’m trying to move as little as possible and I’m reading. Check out this book I found, it’s called Tales from the Hotel Central by Gil C. Schmidt and it’s so good it has a book trailer:

Mr. Schmidt is a superb author even though he’s a Pittsburgh Steelers fan. Check out some of his writing here: Gil The Jenius and here: Gil Schmidt At Work. I promise you won’t be sorry.

Enjoy YOUR Simple Saturday!

Countess, in your honor--and despite the severe burden of doing this for an Eagles fan--I am providing a FREE code to get a copy of Tales from the Hotel Central, valid until next Simple Saturday!!

Go to the Tales from the Hotel Central page, click to purchase the format you wish and enter this code: RA24J  Your copy of my book will be FREE!

Thank you, Countess. And thank all of you who grab a copy and make your Simple day one to share with me.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Review: In Legend Born, by Laura Resnick

I read this novel twice, both times moving from "This is okay, I'll go for this ride," to "Forget it: scan and put aside."

I have a good memory, even an excellent one, but I read about 135 books a year and unless the book is well above-average, I won't have a clear sense of its details. In Legend Born, when I read it the second time (not sure I'd read it before ), passed the test for its first 294 pages: I could recall the details and enjoyed the story.

[Small spoilers ahead.]

The novel unfolds in an alternate world, where a despotic kingdom is crushing its inhabitants, especially attacking the mountain folk, long known for being independent-minded, though still subject to fear and trepidation of the Valdani. Josarian is a rebel leader, a young man who reaches the point of openly defying the Valdani. Tansen is a highly-trained samurai-type warrior who was sent to kill Josarian, but ends up becoming his blood-brother.

The world Resnick creates is solid, with a sense of power versus despair, characters that have clear motivations and characteristics and an overlay of magic (water- and fire-based) that serves the story well. There is the over-used cliché of "the chosen one" or the "the presaged one" (so very, very tiresome now), but the rest of the novel holds up beyond that.

Still, on the second go-around, I told my wife, "I know I've read this before, but something's wrong that I don't remember it all." Not two pages later, it happened: Josarian scowled at him. "What part of no don't you understand?"

"What part of no don't you understand?"

To quote everybody: Really? In a novel set in a world that isn't our own, in a time that is obviously not our own, Resnick chose to have a character use a phrase associated with late 20th century TV, movies and cheap dialogue?

And at that point--again--I scanned the final 430 pages of the book (Tor Fantasy, 1998 edition) and set it aside.

In The Language of the Night, the marvelous Ursula K. Le Guin explores how fantasy has a rhythm and metric to its language, a sense of poesy, of values, that the truly great writers can use. Le Guin points out that fantasy characters don't need to speak like stilted actors, but for the fantasy setting to truly rise above the mundane, the words must avoid the commonplace--our commonplace. Resnick's use of a colloquial, flippant retort for our times simply shreds the fantasy construction she tried to create.

Going back through the novel, after noticing this "break" in writing, it becomes more obvious that Resnick's use of language is less than "fantastical," that it could easily be placed in any sit-com or TV movie setting post-1975 and thus her novel falls into the trap of being a "modern tale told now" with Medieval poverty and magic tossed in to give it a veneer of "fantasy."

Le Guin also says that heroic fantasy, the most common form of fantasy, simply cannot have a hero or heroine who says "I told you so." No true hero or heroine would ever say that, for it is not in the nature of heroism to look back or need self-aggrandizement. Guess what Resnick's "heroes" say several times throughout the novel?

Another aspect of Resnick's novel is the sense that love makes a person a victim. I thought she would turn out to be a writer of romantic novels and--bingo--there it was. The sense that love shackles and confines, that it literally makes a person weaker, is the cult of victimization and distortion that makes the romantic sub-genre of "Love is killing me" so very popular. It also drives the "Men are bastards" sub-genre, with its boob-tube bastion being the Lifetime channel.

I don't agree with this view of love and don't care for it. Yes, love hurts, but it isn't an excuse for weakness and uselessness (Twilight, anyone?), and shouldn't be used as a cover-up for sloppy characterization, as it appears in this novel, where enamored characters behave as if they oly had two options: confess or flee.

Resnick is a very good writer, a Best New Science Fiction Writer winner in 1993 and amply-recognized for her works. She can convey a plot deftly, create a compelling story and can often portray characters that have intriguing depth. But in this fantasy novel, she fails to rise above her faults, flaws that might have been easily addressed by a closer look at her work, whether her own or an editor's. Based on what I read with the first novel, In Legend Born made it clear I should look elsewhere for the level of fantasy quality I wanted.

Monday, January 2, 2012


[Wouldn't this make a great silent movie? Or music video?]

One Night in a Laundromat

Someone had spelled “Nadir” wrong and the sign said “Laundromat.”

Four loads of laundry stuffed into a denim duffel bag that also needed washing. Almost 11 PM and the place looked like it had been frozen in the 60s and smelled like it had been dipped in the sweat of greasy men with hairy backs and flabby women with hairy chins.

Usually, only a few machines rumbled, twitched and twirled. Paper signs decorated surfaces in never a discernible pattern. Tiny boxes, empty and gaping, dotted the floor and other horizontal surfaces like dead cartoon mice. Hangers were cast about like sprung snares. In a corner, ashamed, lay an article of clothing that could have been a towel, a shirt or a throw-rug. It wasn’t.

Next to Nadir was a small apartment complex boasting a menagerie of more than the usual oddballs: the guy who washed only jeans and blue T-shirts (I grokked); the gal who brought all her clothes, but pulled out underwear and socks and took them back; the guy that washed everything together and wore gray, except for his colorful bandannas, washed separately, and the gal that sat on her washer and leaned against her dryer’s door during the entire process. I asked her if the door got hot. She told me to mind my own business. I told her she had lipstick on her tooth.

That night, the menagerie had spilled over. Every available washer was churning its guts, the dryers were roasting and one had its temporary owner standing guard. A wasted trip was not an option. I actually started thinking about dumping the laundry and buying new clothes. As I calculated how much that would dent my budget, Hortense-at-the-Dryer yanked her clothes out and after giving me—or the wall next to me—a dirty look, I was alone.

With lots and lots of clothes.

I was moving even before the decision was made. I flung open every washer and dryer. With production line efficiency that would have made Henry Ford, Sr. weep with joy, I carried clothes from one washer to another, from dryer to dryer, then from washer to dryer and dryer to washer. I danced, twirled and whistled, a busy dwarf named “Bubbly.” First lineal, then skipping every other, then as random as can be, I tossed clothes around with merry abandon until I was sure I had been generous to everybody. I even placed quarters in every machine, to keep the party rolling.

My duffel bag felt weightless. The night had cooled for everybody but me. I was free from Nadir, my heart was pure and all was right in Prankville.

I switched my laundry drag to another place, one called “Doldrums.” It too had its sign misspelled as “Laundromat.”

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