Category Archives: Recommendations

Reading Recommendation: Blogroll #2

Reading Recommendation: Blogroll #2

Last time I did this, it was 2013. So it’s been a ridiculously long time between posts. A lot has changed since those carefree halcyon days of yore. Blogs have fallen off my RSS reader, others have been abandoned, and new ones have risen to take their rightful place. Since it has been internet eons, I thought it was high-time to take a moment and share five blogs I’ve been enjoying over the last few years.


File 770

Mike Glyer’s Hugo Award-winning fanzine is a reliable resource for those who want to stay in touch with the comings and goings in science-fiction and fantasy. If you write speculative fiction, or if you’re just a fan I highly recommend making File 770 a part of your day. (In particular pay close attention to their daily Pixel Scroll.)


Pornokitsch

Don’t let the name fool you, Anne C. Perry and Jared Shurin run a solid fanzine. While you’ll find the more standard book reviews and opinion articles among their content, Pornokitsch also focuses on sharing longer-format articles. Well written and often thought-provoking these posts make Pornokitsch stand out.


Mythcreants

A blog about RPGs and writing with a focus on gaming and worldbuilding, Mythcreants goes out of their way to be a resource for the creator. There’s a lot of content, from podcasts and how-to articles, all work towards making your work the best it can be.


MONSTER BRAINS

Those who have been reading my blog (and books) for any length of time know that I am a big fan of old art—epsecially the weird stuff. (Heck, the engravings of Gustave Doré features prominently on the covers of The Bell Forging Cycle.) MONSTER BRAINS celebrates the weird old creations and highlights the strange. It’s an excellent resource and a must-follow for monster fans.


Fantasy Book Critic

The good folks at Fantasy Book Critic focus on—as one would expect from their name—reviewing fantasy books. But, unlike many other sites of their size, they’re also active in the indie community and go out of their way to feature articles from newcomers. It’s a great community and a phenomenal blog.


Hopefully, it doesn’t take me four more years before I  serve up another blog roll. In the meantime, I hope you find these five blogs handy. Perhaps they will become regular reading for you as well.

How about you? What are your go-to daily blogs? Leave a comment below and let me know!

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Reading Recommendation: Join by Steve Toutonghi

Join by Steve Toutonghi

“Join is a searing, ballistic plunge into the mysteries of identity and mortality. Its ingenious core is revealed and amplified by high voltage suspense and murder. Delicious.”

Katherine Dunn, Geek Love

If that quote doesn’t make you want to read this book, you’re probably dead. I’m happy to say that today is the launch of Join by author Steve Toutonghi. Now before I continue, full disclosure: Steve is a friend of mine, a former co-worker (and boss), and I was lucky enough to be an early a beta reader of the manuscript that became Join.

Join is good, it’s real good, and you should buy and read it. As I mentioned in my review on Goodreads, Join reminds me of the work of Philip K. Dick, Kurt Vonnegut, or, more recently, Jeff VanderMeer. A strange and cerebral tale that is both intimate and engaging. The story is set on a familiar near-future Earth that has been ravaged by extreme weather events. In this setting, we find ourselves confronted with the technology of Join: the merging of individual’s consciousnesses (and bodies) into a single person with the memories comprised of each former individual. The Join technology is the crux of the story, the partial cause of tragic events on a personal and, ultimately, global scale. Throughout the novel, Steve takes us on a journey into the ramifications of Join, masterfully weaving beautiful prose with his dark humor, while examining ideas of individualism, mortality, gender, and consciousness.

A great novel doesn’t have to provide answers, often all it needs to do to achieve greatness is asks the right questions. The thing I like—and this is something a lot of authors can glean from this book—is Steve’s use of restraint. This was something that was present even in early drafts. Steve goes just far enough, poking and prodding at ideas and asking difficult questions. Ultimately this tactic challenges us the reader to provide the final answers. As a result, the story left me dwelling on Join’s themes long after it had ended.

Join a beautiful first book, and one I am happy and excited to recommend. It arrives today from Soho Press, and you can purchase it pretty much everywhere: Amazon, Barnes & NobleIndieBound, and more. I’m sure you local library or independent bookstore can get it as well. Make sure to follow Steve on Twitter and check out his website at stevetoutonghi.com. When you’ve finished, make sure to leave a review on Goodreads.

Reading Recommendations: Art & Fear

Read This: Art & Fear

“Look at your work and it tells you how it is when you hold back or when you embrace. When you are lazy, your art is lazy; when you hold back, it holds back; when you hesitate, it stands there staring, hands in its pockets. But when you commit, it comes on like blazes.”

As any creative there are times where I struggle. There are moments when I’m plagued with self-doubt, and there are instances where I grow frustrated. For many, being a creative can be particularly lonely. Thankfully, I am lucky enough to be married to an artist, and having Kari-Lise as my partner in this life has been an excellent balance for the two of us. For months (maybe years) whenever I have slumped into one of these holes, she has hounded me to read David Bayles and Ted Orland’s books, Art & Fear: Observations On the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking. In the past, I have shrugged off her suggestion for various (and in retrospect: dumb) reasons.

Art & Fear: Observations On the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking

Recently, while wallowing in the midst of an especially dismal time, I finally gave in. I took Kari-Lise’s advice and decided to settle down to read this book. As she guessed, it was exactly what I needed. I finished it in two sitting, plowing through each page and finding myself nodding along.

If you’re a writer, painter, musician, crafter, whatever and you have struggled then you need to read this book. It’s not your typical self-help book. It is unpretentious and honest. It doesn’t shy away from the realities inherent in the struggle of creation and it presents the journey candidly. It also pushes any creator to continue the journey no matter what obstacles for reasons we somehow all know and often choose to forget. It’s a straightforward look at the art of making.

It’s very much worth the nine dollars to add this to your library. I know it’ll be something I often reference in the future. After finishing it, it was a no-brainer to add it to my list of recommendations.

Gran Text Auto

Go Play Gran Text Auto

I’m not much of a gamer these days. Between editing Red Litten World, working on finishing up my new manuscript, and starting the research and planning phase for book four of The Bell Forging Cycle, I don’t have very much time. It’s probably no surprise that I love short play games. They’re the perfect gaming fix while I commute on the train or find myself in a waiting room.

Gran Text Auto

Yesterday, a good friend of mine, Kevin Mangan, released his first iOS game: Gran Text Auto. I absolutely love it. You play as a sassy octogenarian emoji named Gran. Your goal is to do your best answering text messages while trying to dodge obstacles at the same time. Sounds simple enough but it’s much harder than it seems. So often as I am trying to respond to one of the game’s many characters I find myself over-correcting and ending up in a horrific crash.

Gran Text AutoWhile the gameplay is challenging and fun and provides that right balance that leaves you craving for another go around what really sold me was the writing. The dialog, provided in the form of text messages, is witty and sharp. The jokes are layered sometimes subtle but always hilarious. Another friend of mine recently posted that he often gets in wrecks because he’s laughing at the texts. I know those feelings. Oh boy, do I know those feelings.

If you’re looking for a fun game to play for the upcoming weekend, give Gran Text Auto a shot. It’s perfectly polished. The music is incredible. The voice acting is spot on. The gameplay is addicting. Also, it’s FREE (supported by ads, which you can turn off for only 99¢). It’s a great mobile game with a tremendous sense of humor and very much worth your time.

Download Gran Text Auto →
Follow Gran on Twitter →
Follow Gran on Facebook →

So far my high score is 24. Can you beat me?

Imaginary Worlds by Eric Molinsky

Imaginary Worlds

My last recommendation post was for Device 6, and it’s been awhile since I’ve done one of these. Like over a year. So let’s rectify that!

Today, I have a podcast recommendation for you: Imaginary Worlds is a free podcast from Eric Molinsky focusing on the worlds of science-fiction and fantasy. Coming at it from a fan perspective Molinsky explores why we as fans love these worlds, what draws us to them, and why they resonate with us. Unlike a lot of other podcasts, Imaginary Worlds is quite deep. Molinsky takes a candid and fresh approach to subjects like: the origin stories of heroes, the tale of the mysterious author James Tiptree, the real history of Salem, Massachusetts, the canon of Star Trek and its relationship to the Torah, and even how modern politics is reflected in Game of Thrones. I found each episode quite engaging and before I knew it I quickly binge-listened my way through the series. You can listen to one of my favorite episodes below:

Subscribe to Imaginary Worlds at iTunes or from Stitcher. The episodes are usually less than twenty-minutes in length making it really easy to fly through these. I recommend starting at the beginning. If you like the podcast leave a review on iTunes as well, it’s a great way to spread the word to other potential fans of Imaginary Worlds.

Device 6

Device6

Too many cocktails? No. Something else.

Every once in a while you stumble across something that transcends the sum of its parts. It grips you, sends you on a wild ride, and when it’s over you’re left in awe. It has taken me a while to process Simogo’s Device 6. When I started it I had not idea what I was getting into, and when it was over I couldn’t stop thinking about it. A few of you might find it odd that I am recommending an app in my “reading recommendations” section but that’s just it, calling Device 6 just another “app” or even a “game” would be doing it a serious disservice. No. Device 6 is something else.

It’s, well… it’s hard to really pin down: Device 6 is a book, you read it like a book. It tells a story over chapters like a book, but it’s more than just a book, it’s also a puzzle game, an audio journey, an exploration in typography, and a 1960-esque spy thriller. Too often interactive fiction either feels more like a book or more like a game. Device 6 does such a good job straddling the fence between book, game, and interactive fiction that I think its appeal extends to anyone interested in storytelling. It’s immersive and engaging like a great novel, but at the same time it’s immersive and engaging like a good game. The fact that it does both of these things so well and so seamlessly is what makes it such an achievement.

With tablets becoming a dominate force in the marketplace it’s no surprise we’re starting to see these sorts of explorations. However, unlike a lot of forays into interactive storytelling Device 6 isn’t a branching weave of multiple endings, complex paths, and dead ends. Instead its perfection lies in its simplicity: it’s an imaginative, tightly-executed, well-written, liner story that pulls you into its world.

When it comes to emergent interactive fiction Device 6 is at the top of its game and its small yet rich world is worth any gamer, writer, or readers time. Device 6 is currently available on the Apple App Store and if you’re still not convinced watch the trailer below: