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I just typed the words "The End."

It's been a long time.

Book four, Alexandra Quick and Stars Above, was completed in 2011, and posted at the end of that year. I began work on book five, Alexadra Quick and the World Away, early in 2012.

Things got in the way. Some of it was life. Some of it was, I guess, what you could call "writer's block," but which I'd call just an ever-growing, ever-heavier set of excuses which eventually resulted in months, and then years going by in which I wrote little or nothing.

Always, always, it was in the back of my mind. Whatever I did, especially when I had a free evening or weekend, I'd think "Why don't you sit down and write?"

I was ready to give up more than once. I even told you that I might never finish this.

For whatever reason, something happened this year. The spark reignited. I could write again. The closer to the end I got, the more motivated I was to finish.

And now the first draft is done.

Right now, it's 56 chapters, and 281,900 words. That makes it by far the largest volume so far.

This is a very, very rough draft. I've been working on this thing for over six years now. Never mind forgetting my previous books, I've forgotten some of what I wrote in early chapters of this book! So it's going to need a lot of revision. I expect multiple chapters to be rewritten, moved, and deleted, and possibly entire subplots to disappear. There are plot holes to be paved over, characters who drop in and then never serve a purpose, and oh so much bad writing.

I am happy to say that my two regular beta-readers for my previous books reported they are still willing and available, so I don't have to go on a search for new betas. I am hoping to have a semi-readable revised manuscript ready to turn over to them early next year. Then there will be more rewriting... So, I do not have a target date yet, but I can finally say with reasonable confidence that Alexandra Quick and the World Away will be published in 2019.

Thanks for your patience. Thanks to everyone who never gave up hope. And for those of you who did give up hope, I don't blame you, but I hope you'll still be interested enough to read the next volume.

(Will there be a volume six? And seven? Well, I know the names and general course of the plot for both. Yes, I still really, truly want to finish the series someday. But book five took over six years. Lemme wrap this up before I start thinking about book six.)

And here's a word cloud, since I haven't done one in a while. (In fact, in the time since I last created one, web technology has changed so much that most of the tools I used to use to create them are no longer available...)

AQATWA word cloud

Book Review: Hex, by Thomas Olde Heuvelt

The Blair Witch in the age of YouTube.


Tor, 2016 (originally published 2013 in Dutch), 384 pages

Whoever is born here is doomed to stay 'til death. Whoever settles never leaves.

Welcome to Black Spring, the seemingly picturesque Hudson Valley town haunted by the Black Rock Witch, a 17th-century woman whose eyes and mouth are sewn shut. Muzzled, she walks the streets and enters homes at will. She stands next to children's beds for nights on end. Everybody knows that her eyes may never be opened, or the consequences will be too terrible to bear.

The elders of Black Spring have virtually quarantined the town by using high-tech surveillance to prevent their curse from spreading. Frustrated with being kept in lockdown, the town's teenagers decide to break their strict regulations and go viral with the haunting. But, in so doing, they send the town spiraling into dark, medieval practices of the distant past.

Small town mob rule meets the modern police state, thanks to a 350-year-old witch.Collapse )

Also by Thomas Olde Heuvelt: my review of The Ink Readers of Doi Saket.

My complete list of book reviews.
Making an exorcism the subject of a reality TV show does not go well.

A Head Full of Ghosts

William Morrow, 2015, 286 pages

The lives of the Barretts, a normal suburban New England family, are torn apart when 14-year-old Marjorie begins to display signs of acute schizophrenia.

To her parents' despair, the doctors are unable to stop Marjorie's descent into madness. As their stable home devolves into a house of horrors, they reluctantly turn to a local Catholic priest for help. Father Wanderly suggests an exorcism; he believes the vulnerable teenager is the victim of demonic possession. He also contacts a production company that is eager to document the Barretts' plight. With John, Marjorie's father, out of work for more than a year and the medical bills looming, the family agrees to be filmed and soon find themselves the unwitting stars of The Possession, a hit reality television show. When events in the Barrett household explode in tragedy, the show and the shocking incidents it captures become the stuff of urban legend.

Fifteen years later a best-selling writer interviews Marjorie's younger sister, Merry. As she recalls those long-ago events that took place when she was just eight years old, long-buried secrets and painful memories that clash with what was broadcast on television begin to surface - and a mind-bending tale of psychological horror is unleashed, raising vexing questions about memory and reality, science and religion, and the very nature of evil.

Shamelessly using pop culture to tell a post-modern possession story.Collapse )

My complete list of book reviews.
A fantastically dysfunctional Southern family drama with added supernatural horror.

Blackwater: The Complete Caskey Family Saga

Avon Books, 1983, 895 pages

Blackwater is the saga of a small town, Perdido, Alabama, and Elinor Dammert, the stranger who arrives there under mysterious circumstances on Easter Sunday, 1919. On the surface, Elinor is gracious, charming, anxious to belong in Perdido, and eager to marry Oscar Caskey, the eldest son of Perdido's first family. But her beautiful exterior hides a shocking secret. Beneath the waters of the Perdido River, she turns into something terrifying, a creature whispered about in stories that have chilled the residents of Perdido for generations. Some of those who observe her rituals in the river will never be seen again....

Southern Gothic, with Deep Ones.Collapse )

Also by Michael McDowell: My review of The Elementals.

My complete list of book reviews.
A comet miner chases an alien spaceship on an epic interstellar journey across millennia.

Pushing Ice

Ace, 2005, 458 pages

2057. Humanity has raised exploiting the solar system to an art form. Bella Lind and the crew of her nuclear-powered ship, the Rockhopper, push ice. They mine comets. And they're good at it.

The Rockhopper is nearing the end of its current mission cycle, and everyone is desperate for some much-needed R & R, when startling news arrives from Saturn: Janus, one of Saturn's ice moons, has inexplicably left its natural orbit and is now heading out of the solar system at high speed. As layers of camouflage fall away, it becomes clear that Janus was never a moon in the first place. It's some kind of machine - and it is now headed toward a fuzzily glimpsed artifact 260 light-years away. The Rockhopper is the only ship anywhere near Janus, and Bella Lind is ordered to shadow it for the few vital days before it falls forever out of reach. In accepting this mission, she sets her ship and her crew on a collision course with destiny - for Janus has more surprises in store, and not all of them are welcome.

That's no moon!Collapse )

Also by Alastair Reynolds: My reviews of House of Suns, Revelation Space, and Terminal World.

My complete list of book reviews.
A classic collection of dark fairy tales retold.

The Bloody Chamber and other Stories

Penguin Books, 1979, 128 pages

The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories is a titillating series of dark, sensual and fantastical stories, inspired by well-known fairy tales and folklore.

Dissatisfied with the unrealistic portrayal of women in these legendary fables, Carter turns them on their head, introducing subversively dark, sensual and gothic narratives.

Breathing new and unexpected life into favorite childhood characters such as Red Riding Hood, Bluebeard and Beauty and the Beast, Carter shocks, seduces and amuses the reader with her unique, iconic and surrealist reimagining.

Bluebeard gets bearded, Beauty p0wns the Beast, Little Red Riding Hood has something special for the Big Bad Wolf.Collapse )

My complete list of book reviews.

AQATWA: Winter is Coming

And so is this book.... slowly.

I promised a progress report soon, so here it is: I have been writing lately, and doing better than I have in months, though nowhere near my peak output of several years ago.

The manuscript stands at about 230K words, and 47 chapters. I estimate it's about 80-85% done. I've begun writing the final arc, the events leading up to the climax.

Knowing what a mistake it is to talk about deadlines, I'll say I've set myself the goal of actually finishing the first draft by the end of this year. That's not a promise, but I know it's doable if I buckle down just a little bit.

This book is really, really messy right now. After I finish the draft, it's going to take some major editing, hacking and slashing before I'd even think of letting a beta-reader look at it. There are probably entire chapters that need to go, and others that are terrible and need to be rewritten. Also, embarrassingly, I find so much time has passed that sometimes I can't remember my own continuity, which means I keep having to refer back to earlier volumes. (I really need to do a complete reread of my own series soon. I sometimes suspect JKR didn't do this before she finished Deathly Hallows...)

Maybe I'll put up another one of those word clouds when I get closer to the end.

Thanks everyone for your patience. I still get emails, PMs, and reviews, and I do read and appreciate all of them. I try to answer everyone, but please don't feel ignored if your message somehow slipped past me, or I left it in my inbox and forgot about it. It is nice to know that even with GRRM and Patrick Rothfuss levels of procrastination, there are still people willing to read the next book of this series that I started over 10 years ago.

Book Review: Heart-Shaped Box, by Joe Hill

An aging rock star versus a vengeful ghost.

Heart-Shaped Box

William Morrow, 2007, 376 pages

Judas Coyne is a collector of the macabre: a cookbook for cannibals...a used hangman's noose...a snuff film. An aging death-metal rock god, his taste for the unnatural is widely known. But nothing he possesses is as unlikely or as dreadful as his latest discovery, a thing so terrible-strange, Jude can't help but reach for his wallet.

I will sell my stepfather's ghost to the highest bidder.

For a thousand dollars, Jude will become the proud owner of a dead man's suit, said to be haunted by a restless spirit. He isn't afraid. He has spent a lifetime coping with ghosts: of an abusive father, of the lovers he callously abandoned, of the bandmates he betrayed. What's one more? But what UPS delivers to his door in a black heart-shaped box is no imaginary or metaphorical ghost. It's the real thing.

And suddenly the suit's previous owner is everywhere: behind the bedroom door...seated in Jude's restored vintage Mustang...standing outside his window...staring out from his widescreen TV. Waiting - with a gleaming razor blade on a chain dangling from one hand.

He's a knock-off of his old man, but that's not a bad place to start.Collapse )

Also by Joe Hill: My review of NOS4A2.

My complete list of book reviews.
A creepy Southern Gothic haunted house story from the golden age of horror.

The Elementals

Avon Books, 1981, 292 pages

After a bizarre and disturbing incident at the funeral of matriarch Marian Savage, the McCray and Savage families look forward to a restful and relaxing summer at Beldame, on Alabama's Gulf Coast, where three Victorian houses loom over the shimmering beach. Two of the houses are habitable, while the third is slowly and mysteriously being buried beneath an enormous dune of blindingly white sand. But though long uninhabited, the third house is not empty. Inside, something deadly lies in wait. Something that has terrified Dauphin Savage and Luker McCray since they were boys and which still haunts their nightmares. Something horrific that may be responsible for several terrible and unexplained deaths years earlier - and is now ready to kill again....

A haunted house story unlike any other, Michael McDowell's The Elementals (1981) was one of the finest novels to come out of the horror publishing explosion of the 1970s and '80s. Though best known for his screenplays for Tim Burton's Beetlejuice and The Nightmare Before Christmas, McDowell is now being rediscovered as one of the best modern horror writers and a master of Southern Gothic literature.

Another house that's gonna get ya.Collapse )

My complete list of book reviews.
An authorized sequel to Edgar Rice Burroughs' planetary romance, Beyond the Farthest Star.

A Soldier of Poloda

Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc., 2017, 326 pages

Like fellow Earthman, Tangor from the story Beyond the Farthest Star, American OSS officer Thomas Randolph is mysteriously teleported to a foreign planet where he lands in the center of a 100-year war that mirrors the Allied Powers’ struggle against Adolph Hitler’s Third Reich.

Unlike Tangor, Randolph – now Tomas Ran – finds himself behind enemy lines where he gains a first-hand view of the inner workings of the corrupt Kapar empire. Will Tomas, using his OSS skills, be able to devise a plan to escape with the beautiful Unisan prisoner, Loris Kiri, that will allow them to join her countrymen in their struggle against the Kapars?

American novelist Edgar Rice Burroughs debuted the world of Poloda in the pulp story Beyond the Farthest Star in 1940 just as Hitler’s Nazis marched across Europe and the Imperial Japanese extended their reach across the South Pacific. Burroughs’ youthful idealism regarding the nobility of America’s previous war efforts had given way to a mature perspective of the savagery of combat that stains every battlefield. Burroughs’ deeply-held views are reflected in this tale about a planet ravaged by 100 years of conflict as the nation of Unis devotes its entire existence to the struggle of freedom against tyranny.

Author Lee Strong created this second adventure on the planet Poloda, which lies beyond the Globular Cluster NGC 7006 ‘ 450,000 light years away from earth. Join Tomas Ran as he explores Poloda, battles Kapars, and finds love Beyond the Farthest Star.

Pulpy adventure that shows its (imitated) age.Collapse )

My complete list of book reviews.

My Book Reviews



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