October 2008

My hard drive went belly up again last night.  The second time in three months.  *sigh*  I hope I haven’t lost any work, but that remains to be seen.  I was a lot more careful about backing things up after the last debacle, but even so, there would be a whole days worth of revision of Beyond the Gyre gone.  BTG is supposed to be coming out mid-November, and hopefully having to reinstall everything on my hard drive isn’t going to change that.

Not making a lot of progress with my new book.  I can’t really blame the computer for that one.  Sometimes getting that first chapter in the can is difficult.  But I will get there.

Book Title: Main Chancers by Warren Karno

Available from Whiskey Creek Press

Warren Karno has created an authentic but light-hearted thriller that will keep the pages turning.  Obviously a cruise aficionado, Mr. Karno uses his knowledge of exotic destinations to good effect, allowing the reader some fun armchair travel while solving the complicated mystery.  Pay attention to the listing of characters at the beginning of the book–there are a lot of movers and each has his or her own agenda.  Some may surprise you!


Just lately, life has given Miles Graham a pretty rough ride.  A cheating spouse, a messy divorce, financial ruin–he is ready for fresh start somewhere.  He chooses New Zealand and a slow boat to get there.  Once on board, he finds himself unwinding into shipboard life in the company of his fellow passengers.  There is the delectable Miss Penny Merrylees.  The equally stunning Rachael Pliesing.  Sir Charles and Lady Lavender Greville, and a host of others.

Though life on the ship seems idyllic, Miles is soon convinced that there is more to the Grevilles than meets the eye.  Why are they so eager to get others involved in a seemingly simple financial transaction for their son David?  Joseph Silverman, another passenger, is helping them with the details, but is he really on their side?  Meanwhile Miles tries to get something started with Rachael who is alternately attentive and then mysteriously absent.

Miss Merrylees has her own assignment on board–to find a rich husband.  She attaches herself to Joseph, and he falls into her trap.  Or does he?  Belowdecks, the crew also have a mission.  Harvey, the first class cabin steward, has been keeping a close eye on the Grevilles for some time, and he has a trap of his own to spring.

After a costume party, the story takes a more macabre turn, with murder and intrigue taking place both on ship and shore.  Miles has lost half of his remaining money in a swindle and he teams with Penny to chase the scammers through Singapore, Manila and Mindanao.  Along the way, he is kidnapped and beaten, but after another shipboard acquaintance lends a hand, he finally tracks down the con artists.


This book was an entertaining read, and I was never sure which way the plot would turn next.  Each of the characters had a public and private face, and the author used many point of view changes to keep the reader abreast of the action.  From the wily Grevilles to the money-grubbing Miss Merrylees, I felt I had gotten to know each character personally by the end of the book.  I was cheering on Miles as he chased the scammers, and hoping at least one of the women would reward him by the end.

I have never been on a cruise and so I found the descriptions of life aboard ship especially enjoyable.  The author cleverly brought an upstairs/downstairs element into the plot, with the crewmembers scheming right alongside the passengers, while presenting a supremely professional facade.  The off-shore locations were brightly exotic or sometimes dark and disturbing, but Karno is a deft hand at painting the backdrops and incidental characters, as this excerpt shows:

The stewardess led me towards the tail to a seat on the left.  The passengers were definitely not your usual lot.  The women all wore yashmaks.  The men wore scars.  Spielberg couldn’t have arranged a more unsavory selection.

I was the only white person aboard and I tried a smile as I walked down the aisle but it didn’t work.  We were more than halfway when the hostess pointed to a seat.  The seating was in threes on either side of the aisle and my three had a very large man on the aisle side and a thin, rat-faced man at the window, to whom I gave away another smile, but he didn’t want it either.

I lowered myself into the narrow metal-framed seat.  Obviously the big fellow wanted the armrest as nothing in his body yielded as I sat down.  I decided I could sit with my left arm across my chest, no problem.  As for the rat at the window, I felt instinctively it would be good to let him have the armrest too.

Garlic and sour body odors came off him in waves; it was clearly not going to be a fun flight.  Still I’d found a plane that would take me to the Island of Mindanao, something the hotel staff said couldn’t be done.

My only complaint would be that the coincidences that drive the story seemed a little, well, coincidental at some points, but that is a common plot device in mysteries and did not detract from my enjoyment of the book.  Main Chancers is a fun, light-hearted read, full of intrigue, without taking itself too seriously.

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Well, I have been taking it easy for the last month, but it is time to get back to writing.  Actually, for me, not writing is much harder than writing, and I’ve only been taking a break because everyone in my family demanded it!  🙂

But enough, already!  I’m ready to start Summermoon Fire, the second book in the Sons of the Mariner…

So–I’ve refreshed my widget, sharpened my keyboard, and poured a fresh, steaming hot cup of words.  Let the fun begin!

Posts may be spotty over the next few weeks as I am both judging and coordinating judges for the EPPIE awards. This is my first time to do either, so it is a steep learning curve. (No, I don’t get to evaluate my own entries, in case anyone was wondering… 🙂 )

A lazy post today–just a repeat of an article I wrote last week for the group “No Whine, Just Champagne” on Gather.  The article engendered little discussion, possibly due to the Vice-Presidential debates happening at the same time.

The comments I received indicated that most of the authors that belong to the group aren’t dealing with language in their works.  A few mentioned accents as a way to indicate “foreignness” but there wasn’t as much interest in the idea of using either genuine or made-up dialects.  Several people said they found it pointless and annoying to include non-English words in a text.  I found that a little discouraging, since SOTA has words in four different tongues, all created by yours truly.  I can only hope others are a little more sympathetic.

Anyway, here is the article:
We live in a world where there are 266 unique languages, each spoken by over a million people. It is commonplace to meet people in our home countries for whom English is not their first language–who speak hesitantly, or use the wrong word at times. When we travel, we might find ourselves in the same position. The problems of communication between different native speakers can create tension within relationships, lead to business failures or even outright warfare. It is a fact of life, and an important one. So, in the pursuit of realism within our fiction, should we give our characters different languages?

Authors have approached this conundrum in differing ways. In the His Dark Materiels trilogy, Philip Pullman does not make any mention of or concession to the variety of spoken languages. Everyone in his books–whether from Earth, alternative London, witch, harpy or wheelie–speaks the same tongue and can easily understand one another. That is the easiest and probably the most common way to deal with the issue; simply to ignore that it exists.

Douglas Adams, in the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy books, takes a different route. He circumvents the problem. Early on, after Arthur and Ford have left Earth, Arthur receives a singular aid to understanding–the Babel fish that Ford sticks in his ear. By this clever invention, Adams acknowledges that there are a Universe full of different lingos, but he doesn’t have to deal with writing about them, because Arthur can now magically understand everything that is said to him.

The third option is to embrace multiple languages within the plot, with all the difficulties that entails. C J Cherryh, in her Foreigner Universe books, does this very successfully. Her protagonist, Bren Cameron, is a representative of the human race thrust into a alien world, where words like love and loyalty, even when directly translated, do not mean the same thing. Cherryh creates tension through mistranslation and misunderstanding, and that adds to the “foreignness” of Bren’s experience amongst the Atevi.

I also chose the third option for Song of the Arkafina. My world, Yrth, is home to many languages, and when the characters travel from one part to another they have difficulties in making themselves understood. Sometimes it is important to the plot, other times it is just something that they have to deal with–as do we, in normal life. It made the writing more difficult, especially when there were several languages being spoken in a group at the same time. On some occasions, I did employ my own sort of “Babel fish,” but other times I had my characters lost and confused because they could not understand what others were saying. I think it adds realism–others might find it pointlessly distracting.

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Author: H. Beam Piper

Title: Four Day Planet

Genre: Science Fiction (Pulp)

Synopsis: Residents of the lawless frontier planet Fenris must cope with days that each last a quarter of a year.   One young man, Walt Boyd, a cub reporter for the local paper, courageously tries to unravel the truth behind a price-fixing scheme for the one commodity that Fenris exports, tallow wax.

Review: Piper is not well known as an author, but his influence can be found in the works of Jerry Pournelle, Charles Stross, Elizabeth Moon and Ursula le Guin.  Though he has been consigned to the “pulp” stack by modern reviewers, his works are in no way hurried or poorly developed.  Four-Day Planet is an adventure story peopled with memorable characters, a gripping story and believable action.  It is a perfect introduction to the works of H Beam Piper.

Rating:  7 out of 10

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Today I entered Heart of Hythea and Ketha’s Daughter in the running for the Eppie awards. Eppies, for those of you who are unfamiliar, are handed out each year by EPIC, the Electronically Published Internet Connection. The last day to submit your book is October 4th.

From their website, in case you wonder if you qualify:

Any e-book published in English and released for sale between October 1, 2007 and September 30, 2008 inclusively, including self- and subsidy-published books, are encouraged to enter the 2009 EPPIE Contest.

Membership in EPIC is not required, but the entry is cheaper if you are. There are thirty categories, and the hardest part for me was deciding which one my books belonged in!

Winners will be announced next March. Wish me luck!

On an unrelated note–
Because it is school holidays, my son and I went to see WALL-E, the latest animated offering from Pixar. I have seen most of the movies made by Pixar at one time or another, and I have to say that WALL-E was a big disappointment. It has been criticized for being boring, because there is no dialog for the first thirty minutes. This didn’t bother me. The amazing animation in the future-Earth scenes made that part of the story entrancing. But when WALL-E, the title character, goes into space to rescue his love, then the movie just falls apart. The plot is thin, and terribly, terribly preachy.

I can’t be the only person who thinks that Disney/Pixar are hypocritical in portraying an world ruined by rampant consumerism. How many Buzz Lightyear toys do you think are clogging the landfills?

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