Book Review · reading

Book Review: The Hammer of Darkness by L.E. Modesit

Blurb From GoodReads: Martin Martel is an exile in trouble with the gods in this SF novel by the bestselling writer L. E, Modesitt, Jr, now back in a new trade paperback edition from Tor.

After finding out that he has unusual powers, he is banished from the planet Karnak. Martin is thrust into the tranquil world of Aurore, vacation paradise for the galaxy. There he finds that the reality of Aurore is much different from its serene veneer. The gods are wantonly cruel and indifferent to the chaos they cause: are they really gods or just men and woman with larger-than-life powers? Whatever the answer Martin Martel must challenge their supremacy to defend his life, love, and the fate of all mankind.

I’ve read a lot of L.E. Modesitt’s books and enjoyed all of them. Except for this one. The Hammer of Darkness just confused me. I don’t understand the main character, one Martin Martel. I don’t understand his motivations or his goals.

Okay. So. There are gods and demi-gods and terrified worshipers. Odd, for a sci-fi novel. They have really mental powers, I get that. But the mental powers, the energy field they use, their god-like immortality, none of that is explained. It bothered me.

It’s also pretty clear from the writing this is an early book. I don’t know how early, but one of his earliest books. I mean, there is a big difference between this one and his latest book from this year.

What I liked: the main character does some sort of documentary of the religions of the planet. It was pretty fascinating. I would have liked to see more on this aspect of the world.

I think my biggest problem with the book is that the main character never really seemed to connect emotionally with others. He gets woman after woman. I mean, he says he loves this one, than the other one and he really lusts after these two. Another god kills the woman he says he loves, but he does nothing.

Then, later, he goes to another planet and destroys half the world. I never really understand why. He never really gave any reason for going to the other world in the first place. Afterward, the other gods see an opportunity – seeing as how he was away from his power base – to kill him. They fail and that fight that destroys a lot, too, but at least I understand destruction during a fight.

Than he comes back and takes one of the other goddesses back in time and places her as the daughter of a powerful lord in his world. It turns out she was the love of his life. But I don’t get why he took he back to the past. I just don’t.

The last scene is sweet and romantic. Apparently after destroying her rule and figuring out he wiped her memory and placed her as the daughter of a powerful noble, she decides she loves him after all.

I don’t get this book. I just don’t get it.


Teaser Tuesday: Servant of the Underworld

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers! 

It seemed an ordinary place, a room like any other in the city: an entrance curtain set with bells, gently tinkling in the evening breeze, walls adorned with frescoes of gods – and, in the centre, a simple reed sleeping mat framed by two wooden chests. Copal incense burnt in a clay brazier, bathing the room in a soft, fragrant light that stung my eyes. And everything, from the chests to the mat, reeked of a magic: a pungent, acrid smell that clung to the walls and to the beaten-earth floor like a miasma.

– Servant of the Underworld (Obsidian and Blood, book 1) by Aliette De Bodard


NYT Rules on Writing


So the NYT published a How To Write article recently. There are 11 rules:

  1. Show and Tell.
  2. Don’t go searching for a subject, let your subject find you.
  3. Write what you know.
  4. Never use three words when one will do. Be concise.
  5. Keep a dream diary.
  6. What isn’t said is as important as what is said.
  7. Writer’s block is a tool — use it.
  8. Is secret.
  9. Have adventures.
  10. Revise, revise, revise.
  11. There are no rules.

I especially love rule number 8. Also, rule number 11. The rules are secret and there are no rules. LOL

I have heard of most of these before. Show and Tell is a classic. Be Concise is a classic, too. Revise, Revise, Revise is also an often repeated bit of advice.

Write What You Know is less often repeated, but when it is, people usually add good research will let you know everything you need to know. But the writer seems to be talking about emotional truths instead of factual, which is always good to have.

I don’t think I’ve ever heard of Have Adventures before. And I don’t think I’ve heard of Don’t Go Searching For A Subject before, either. That’s like saying you need to wait for the muse to show up, but I’ve heard the opposite more often. That you should write anyway and sooner or later you will have a subject, and the muse will show up. The muse is trainable.



flash friday · Short Story

Friday Flash: Storm

This flash was inspired by memories of a recent storm. Wind, hail, rain. Watching it was pretty damn glorious.

A storm raged through the mountains, slashing at the lone peaks like a claws slashed at flesh.

The god was upset. She stood under the open skies, soaked to the bone, hair clinging to her skull and crowed.

She’d told him, hadn’t she? She’d told him.

Disobeying the god did no good. Even if the rules were wrong, unjust and hateful. Opposing him was like carrying water in cupped hands. Impossible.

Her brother was stupid stubborn. He wanted to protect his daughter. It wasn’t her fault the boy died, he said. She had to defend herself.

They’d both die now.


An Odd, Random Dream

I had an odd, random dream the other day. There was a man, scruffy brown hair, bent over a table, scribbling madly in a dimly lit room.

Then there is someone on TV, saying, this writer hasn’t written anything good in years. His first few novels were good, but now he just writes the same tired old story because his publisher won’t let him write anything else. And then they guy says:  he used the money to buy a farm in the middle of no where and shouldn’t be writing anymore anyway.

I wake up and think, what does buying a farm have to do with writing? Than I wonder: why did I have this dream?

But no, probably it’s just a dream. It has to be. I don’t want to own a farm.

It’s just my odd, random dreams are usually more exciting, and generally, do not involve writing in any way.


Book Review: Celebrity In Death by JD Robb

From GoodReads: Lieutenant Eve Dallas is no party girl, but she’s managing to have a reasonably good time at the celebrity-packed bash  celebrating “The Icove Agenda,” a film based on one of her famous cases. It’s a little spooky seeing the actress playing her, who looks almost like her long-lost twin. Not as unsettling, though, as seeing the actress who plays Peabody drowned in the lap pool on the roof of the director’s luxury building. Now she’s at the center of a crime scene-and Eve is more than ready to get out of her high heels and strap on her holster and step into the role she was born to play: cop.

IMO, Celebrity In Death is as enjoyable as all the other In Death books. Slower paced – there is a dearth of stabbings, shootings, chase scenes and other mayhem. There is no drama between Eve and Roark (I do so enjoy the drama.) Still fun to read though. It’s quite a bit funnier than previous books.

The murder victim in not very sympathetic at all. Her death is unsettling, because she’s looks so much like Peabody and it’s like a preview of what Peabody would like in death. Unsettling, but not really sympathetic because the victim is mean and no one likes her. (She basically tells Peabody she is a weak, pathetic cop. Which Peabody isn’t. Very insulting. I am insulted on Peabody’s behalf.)

Still. She is murdered, to celebrate the movie made from a previous case, and Eve investigates. She talks to people, figures out timelines, the placement of everyone who had reason to want the actress dead. Nora Roberts throws out the usual red herrings, nothing major there.

For someone like me, who has read all of the previous books, there are no earth shattering revelations. It’s a good fun read. That’s enough.


Friday Flash: Ivory Ring

 This story was inspired by a wiki commons picture.

This school field trip would be the very definition of tedium but for one thing. He scanned the ground, fingers clenched around his sister’s precious elephant bone ring. Poor thing. So sick, she couldn’t come down to view this planet’s marvelous flora.

The teacher droned on ahead of them. “Look. The fel flower devours flesh and bones.”

Enclosed by meter of wide mesh wiring, there was a bright red plant. It looked like his sister’s red-lipsticked mouth. He smiled at the memory of it.

“The gale here – ”

He ignored the teacher. Instead he slipped the ring through the exhibit’s mesh cage. It fell directly inside flower’s mouth. He watched it digest the ring.

The last trace of his sister. Gone.

He followed his class to the next exhibit with a spring in his step. Marvelous flora indeed.


Discovered the British cop show called Luther


Luther is a British cop show Wiswell recommended to me on Twitter.

I’ve only watched the first episode, but I loved it. The actor’s accents are delicious. He’s got anger-management issues, he steps over the law sometimes, but they keep him on because he’s so good at his job.

There are hints he did something illegal to a criminal at the beginning, but he gets reinstated.

The detective’s marriage is ending, because he couldn’t separate his personal life and police life. The wife got tired of him thinking about work even when he’s with her; the new man in her life is with her when he’s with her.

I feel sorry for them both, but I have little sympathy for her. She knew he was a cop when she married him, she had to know how obsessive he could be about work. Deciding later she can’t live with that is just silly. But probably realistic. Also, dramatic. Very, door-destroying dramatic.

The villain is very villain-like, pretty, psychopathy and murderous. I am sure she was always pretty and a psychopath, but I think the murdering thing probably came later.

She killed her parents. At the end, they show her in a hospital, watching some guy in a hospital bed. You have to wonder if she put him in the hospital or is going to do something to him. She’s fascinating. Hypnotic, even. One episode is not enough to judge (a reason to watch more episodes!), but I suspect they will slowly add to her character arc.

I think maybe the show’s overall arc will come from this and the detective’s story.

He never arrests her; she doesn’t leave behind any evidence.

So  . . . unlike a lot of cop shows, where the cop wins because they’re smart and law-abiding, Luther stops her by a spot of breaking & entering. He throws the pot of her dog’s ashes into the river and is all: this is what I’ll do to you if you go after my wife again. (The ashes have the trophy psychopaths are always supposed to need of their murders.)

I will admit, that’s not the ending I was expecting. Even if they weren’t going to arrest her in the first episode, I still expected something else. Something less likely to have the trial thrown out on its ear. Makes me wonder if she’ll live to have a trial.



Friday Flash: Food

I got a Friday flash! This one was inspired by Madison’s image prompt:

She stared at the copse of dead trees and the single raven perched on blackened branches.

The spell was supposed to bring her food. Despairing, she gazed down at the yellowed paper. The master had written Food Spell in his typical, cramped writing across the top of the page.

She sighed, gathered her empty satchel and scrambled over the hot sands to rest against the tree bark.

The raven made an odd sound above her. She looked up. It opened its beak, dropping a mouse into her lap.

She yelped. The mouse ran, probably soon to die in the desert.

General · science fiction · Writing

Craft of Writing Science Fiction That Sells: You Are A Writer

I was reading The Craft of Writing Science Fiction That Sells by Ben Bova and this quote from Ernest Hemingway jumped out at me:

All good books are alike in that they are truer than if they really happened and after you are finished reading one you will feel that it all happened to you and afterwards it all belongs to you: the good and the bad, the ecstasy, the remorse and sorrow, the people and the places and how the weather was. If you can get so that you can give that to people, then you are a writer.

I think this is the best idea of what makes a writer that I have ever seen. That it comes from a writer whose works I don’t usually enjoy strikes me as odd.

I think this is the ideal. You want all that, you want the reader to feel the story so deeply that they don’t forgot, so deeply that they come back to the story over and over again.You want the reader to get lost in the story and never want to leave. You want the reader to care deeply about the character’s sorrow and joy.

I also think it’s incredibly rare and that stories that do this won’t be the same from everyone. It’s too subjective.

Even so. I think to feel that way, you need a character you really connect to. I mean, as a reader I know I do. If a book doesn’t have a character I like, it’s very hard for me to read it. (This is why Game of Thrones remains unread on my kindle.)

And by connecting, I don’t mean the reader has to see themselves in the character. I really, really don’t see myself in Eve Dallas, Jaenelle Angelline or Miles Vorkosigan – three characters I love most and series I reread frequently. But I still connect, I still sympathize with them and I still like spending time with them.