A bit of humor. . .

It's not porn. It's HBO!!! :P

Tad Williams: Authors at Google

Tad Williams talks about his latest novel, Happy Hour in Hell, and a variety of other stuff!

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now dowload Peter V. Brett's New York Times bestselling The Daylight War for only 3.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

With The Warded Man and The Desert Spear, Peter V. Brett surged to the front rank of contemporary fantasy, standing alongside giants in the field like George R. R. Martin, Robert Jordan, and Terry Brooks. The Daylight War, the eagerly anticipated third volume in Brett’s internationally bestselling Demon Cycle, continues the epic tale of humanity’s last stand against an army of demons that rise each night to prey on mankind.

On the night of the new moon, the demons rise in force, seeking the deaths of two men both of whom have the potential to become the fabled Deliverer, the man prophesied to reunite the scattered remnants of humanity in a final push to destroy the demon corelings once and for all.

Arlen Bales was once an ordinary man, but now he has become something more—the Warded Man, tattooed with eldritch wards so powerful they make him a match for any demon. Arlen denies he is the Deliverer at every turn, but the more he tries to be one with the common folk, the more fervently they believe. Many would follow him, but Arlen’s path threatens to lead him to a dark place he alone can travel to, and from which there may be no returning.

The only one with hope of keeping Arlen in the world of men, or joining him in his descent into the world of demons, is Renna Tanner, a fierce young woman in danger of losing herself to the power of demon magic.

Ahmann Jardir has forged the warlike desert tribes of Krasia into a demon-killing army and proclaimed himself Shar’Dama Ka, the Deliverer. He carries ancient weapons—a spear and a crown—that give credence to his claim, and already vast swaths of the green lands bow to his control.

But Jardir did not come to power on his own. His rise was engineered by his First Wife, Inevera, a cunning and powerful priestess whose formidable demon bone magic gives her the ability to glimpse the future. Inevera’s motives and past are shrouded in mystery, and even Jardir does not entirely trust her.

Once Arlen and Jardir were as close as brothers. Now they are the bitterest of rivals. As humanity’s enemies rise, the only two men capable of defeating them are divided against each other by the most deadly demons of all—those lurking in the human heart.

The 7 Most Common Misconceptions About Science Fiction Publishing

This from io9.com:

Science fiction book publishers sail the multiverse like a fleet of unstoppable hyper-cruisers. And many of us dream of being beamed up to one of these motherships. But at the same time, a lot of people don't understand how the system works. Here are the seven most common mistaken ideas about science fiction book publishers.

Even in the days of self-publishing success, a lot of us still dream of a contract with one of the big publishers — but people also have a lot of weird ideas about the system. We asked some top editors in science fiction, and they told us the biggest misconceptions people have about the science fiction book field.

Follow this link to read the article.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download Ernest Cline's bestselling Ready Player One for only 4.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

It’s the year 2044, and the real world is an ugly place.

Like most of humanity, Wade Watts escapes his grim surroundings by spending his waking hours jacked into the OASIS, a sprawling virtual utopia that lets you be anything you want to be, a place where you can live and play and fall in love on any of ten thousand planets.

And like most of humanity, Wade dreams of being the one to discover the ultimate lottery ticket that lies concealed within this virtual world. For somewhere inside this giant networked playground, OASIS creator James Halliday has hidden a series of fiendish puzzles that will yield massive fortune—and remarkable power—to whoever can unlock them.

For years, millions have struggled fruitlessly to attain this prize, knowing only that Halliday’s riddles are based in the pop culture he loved—that of the late twentieth century. And for years, millions have found in this quest another means of escape, retreating into happy, obsessive study of Halliday’s icons. Like many of his contemporaries, Wade is as comfortable debating the finer points of John Hughes’s oeuvre, playing Pac-Man, or reciting Devo lyrics as he is scrounging power to run his OASIS rig.

And then Wade stumbles upon the first puzzle.

Suddenly the whole world is watching, and thousands of competitors join the hunt—among them certain powerful players who are willing to commit very real murder to beat Wade to this prize. Now the only way for Wade to survive and preserve everything he knows is to win. But to do so, he may have to leave behind his oh-so-perfect virtual existence and face up to life—and love—in the real world he’s always been so desperate to escape.

At once wildly original and stuffed with irresistible nostalgia, Ready Player One is a spectacularly genre-busting, ambitious, and charming debut—part quest novel, part love story, and part virtual space opera set in a universe where spell-slinging mages battle giant Japanese robots, entire planets are inspired by Blade Runner, and flying DeLoreans achieve light speed.

Scott Lynch contest winner + Extract

This lucky gal will receive my ARC of Scott Lynch's upcoming The Republic of Thieves! For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

The winner is:

- Sydney Cassidy, from Kansas City, Kansas, USA

Many thanks to all the participants!

In addition, you can now read the first 50 pages of the book here.

More inexpensive ebook goodies

I'm not sure how long this offer will last (and right now it only works in the USA), but you can download Brandon Sanderson's Steelheart for only 4.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

There are no heroes.

Every single person who manifested powers—we call them Epics—turned out to be evil. Here, in the city once known as Chicago, an extraordinarily powerful Epic declared himself Emperor. Steelheart has the strength of ten men and can control the elements. It is said no bullet can harm him, no sword can split his skin, no explosion can burn him. He is invincible.

It has been ten years. We live our lives as best we can. Nobody fights back . . . nobody but the Reckoners. A shadowy group of ordinary humans who spend their lives studying powerful Epics, finding their weaknesses, then assassinating them.

My name is David Charleston. I’m not one of the Reckoners, but I intend to join them. I have something they need. Something precious, something incredible. Not an object, but an experience. I know his secret.

I’ve seen Steelheart bleed.

This week's New York Times Bestsellers (September 23rd)

In hardcover:

Margaret Atwood’s MaddAddam is down seven positions, ending the week at number 15.

Sherrilyn Kenyon’s Styxx is down twelve spots, finishing the week at number 16.

Neil Gaiman's The Ocean at the End of the Lane is up two positions, ending the week at number 17. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Samantha Shannon's The Bone Season is down ten spots, finishing the week at number 23.

George R. R. Martin's A Dance With Dragons is down seven positions, ending the week at number 24. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

In paperback:

Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game maintains its position at number 4.

George R. R. Martin's A Game of Thrones is up two positions, ending the week at number 9.

Jim Butcher's Cold Days debuts at number 11.

Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game is up one spot, finishing the week at number 13 (trade paperback).

Stephen King's Joyland is down one position, ending the week at number 14 (trade paperback).

Stephen King's Under the Dome maintains its position at number 18 (trade paperback).

George R. R. Martin's A Feast for Crows is down one spot, finishing the week at number 20.

George R. R. Martin's A Clash of Kings is down one position, ending the week at number 22.

George R. R. Martin's A Storm of Swords maintains its position at number 24.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download Justin Cronin's international bestseller, The Passage, for only 3.99$ here.

Here's a blurb:

'It happened fast. Thirty-two minutes for one world to die, another to be born.'

First, the unthinkable: a security breach at a secret U.S. government facility unleashes the monstrous product of a chilling military experiment. Then, the unspeakable: a night of chaos and carnage gives way to sunrise on a nation, and ultimately a world, forever altered. All that remains for the stunned survivors is the long fight ahead and a future ruled by fear - of darkness, of death, of a fate far worse.

As civilization swiftly crumbles into a primal landscape of predators and prey, two people flee in search of sanctuary. FBI agent Brad Wolgast is a good man haunted by what he's done in the line of duty. Six-year-old orphan Amy Harper Bellafonte is a refugee from the doomed scientific project that has triggered apocalypse. He is determined to protect her from the horror set loose by her captors. But for Amy, escaping the bloody fallout is only the beginning of a much longer odyssey - spanning miles and decades - towards the time and place where she must finish what should never have begun.

With The Passage, award-winning author Justin Cronin has written both a relentlessly suspenseful adventure and an epic chronicle of human endurance in the face of unprecedented catastrophe and unimaginable danger. Its inventive storytelling, masterful prose, and depth of human insight mark it as a crucial and transcendent work of modern fiction.

James Gunn contest winners!

Thanks to the generosity of the folks at Tor Books, our winners will get their hands on a copy of James Gunn's Transcendental! For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

The winners are:

- Henry Stokes, from Austin, Texas, USA

- Sara Chamama, from Brooklyn, New York, USA

Many thanks to all the participants!

The Republic of Thieves

I'm a big Scott Lynch fan. Been one since before The Lies of Locke Lamora was ever published, as I was one of the first bloggers to read and review it. To this day, I still consider The Lies of Locke Lamora to be one of the very best fantasy debuts to ever see the light. No one could know that the wait between Red Seas Under Red Skies and the series' third installment would be this long. And at last, after so many years, when the it was confirmed that The Republic of Thieves would be released this fall, I don't think that anyone could be happier than me.

Understandably, fans' expectations are through the roof regarding this title. And the quality of its two predecessors seemed to all but guarantee that this eagerly anticipated third volume would be nothing short of awesome. True, the bar has been set pretty high. And yet, in the past Scott Lynch was always able to rise to the occasion and kick some serious literary butt. The Republic of Thieves was the most highly expected novel of the last few years for me. Only Martin's A Dance With Dragons and Erikson's The Crippled God made me more giddy with excitement at the thought of reading a book.

Could my expectations have been too lofty? Possibly. Unfortunately, I'm sad to report that The Republic of Thieves was pretty much a failure to launch that was unable to deliver on basically all fronts. Truth to tell, it took everything I've got to get to the end of the novel. Had it been anyone but Lynch, I would have quit reading before even reaching the halfway point. After a strong start, the book rapidly loses steam and becomes kind of a chore to go through. By the time you reach the middle, the absence of depth, the silliness of the plotlines, and the snail's pace all but killed it for me. I kept hoping, keeping my fingers crossed as I plodded on, because you know, it's Scott Lynch after all. But alas, the ending is by no means spectacular, thus making The Republic of Thieves the weakest volume by far in The Gentleman Bastards sequence to date. I waited nearly three weeks to finally write this review, hoping that my disappointment would somehow abate to a certain extent in the meantime. But no. . . It doesn't matter from which angle I approach this SFF title. It remains a major disappointment for me. . .

Here's the blurb:

With what should have been the greatest heist of their career gone spectacularly sour, Locke and his trusted partner, Jean, have barely escaped with their lives. Or at least Jean has. But Locke is slowly succumbing to a deadly poison that no alchemist or physiker can cure. Yet just as the end is near, a mysterious Bondsmage offers Locke an opportunity that will either save him or finish him off once and for all.

Magi political elections are imminent, and the factions are in need of a pawn. If Locke agrees to play the role, sorcery will be used to purge the venom from his body—though the process will be so excruciating he may well wish for death. Locke is opposed, but two factors cause his will to crumble: Jean’s imploring—and the Bondsmage’s mention of a woman from Locke’s past: Sabetha. She is the love of his life, his equal in skill and wit, and now, his greatest rival.

Locke was smitten with Sabetha from his first glimpse of her as a young fellow orphan and thief-in-training. But after a tumultuous courtship, Sabetha broke away. Now they will reunite in yet another clash of wills. For faced with his one and only match in both love and trickery, Locke must choose whether to fight Sabetha—or to woo her. It is a decision on which both their lives may depend.

As was the case with its two predecessors, worldbuilding doesn't play much of a role in The Republic of Thieves. Even though the action was more or less restricted to the city of Camorr in Lynch's debut, the author created a veritable living and breathing locale as the backdrop for his story. As such, Camorr sort of became a character in and of itself. The imagery wasn't quite the same with Karthain and the other locations where the action takes place in this third installment. Revelations about the Bondsmagi, as well as some hints that a force/race which may have destroyed or made the Eldren flee this world could be part of a bigger overall story arc which could play an important role in future volumes of The Gentleman Bastards series were quite interesting in an of themselves. Sadly, the entire premise upon which the Karthani election is founded doesn't make a whole lot of sense, nor does the troupe of actors's plotline in Espara.

The structure of the book is the same as that of its two predecessors. Indeed, it's split into "real time" action and flashback scences, with a number of interludes thrown into the mix along the way. The Republic of Thieves begins where Red Seas Under Red Skies ended, and for about one hundred page it is as good as what Lynch has accustomed to in the past. Patience's identity and the Bondsmage's offer keep things rolling smoothly. Going back into time, the genesis of Locke's infatuation for Sabetha should satisfy all Lynch fans out there. And then, everything abruptly goes downhill. As I mentioned, the entire premise behind the election and its factions in Karthain is a bucket that doesn't hold any water. For the better part of the book, it becomes an ensemble of silly pranks and dirty tricks as Locke and Jean attempt to thwart Sabetha's own attempts to undermine them, and vice versa. These chapters are devoid of any depth and at times it feels as though the action takes place in a Benny Hill or a Mr. Bean episode. Meanwhile, the flashback sequences offer more of the same, with the Boulidazi-Moncraine Company storyline just petering on on its merry way. It is at times funny, I suppose, and Locke and Jean will make you chuckle from time to time. But the absence of a compelling and multilayered plot makes it well nigh impossible to ever get into this novel.

The characterization is uneven throughout the book. As a matter of course, the back-and-forth between Locke and Jean remains a highlight of this work. Once more, the relationship between both characters is further fleshed out, making them even more endearing. It was nice to see the Sanzas in the chapters occurring in the past, yet the supporting cast is particularly weak. Understandably, I must elaborate a bit about Sabetha. To be honest, I believe that us Lynch fans have built her up to such a degree that this character never truly had a chance to live up to those expectations. I believe that the long gap between books hasn't helped either. In light of all this, perhaps that's why she failed so miserably to make an impression on me. Maybe she was meant to be a some sort of craftier version of Arya Stark, but in the end she's more of a Nynaeve al'Meara, if that braid-tugging girl had elected to become a thief instead of a village wisdom. I kept hoping for her to die, to no avail. She's kind of a female version of Locke, in many ways. I also feel that the pathetic/lovesick puppy Locke angle may have been overdone. Overall, I've always felt that characterization was Scott Lynch's bread and butter. But even though the witty dialogue and the entertaining misadventures are there, the absence of an absorbing story arc sort of puts a damper on everything.

The pace is atrocious. I'd like to be able to put a more positive spin on this aspect of the novel, but it is just awful. The first hundred pages or so flow quite well. But as soon as the Karthani election and the Espara acting gig take center stage, the rhythm slows to a crawl and The Republic of Thieves becomes a veritable chore to go through. Both past and present plotlines end in lackluster fashion that can be nothing but a major letdown. Even the revelation of Locke Lamora's true identity at the end can't save this book. It does set the stage for what could be an interesting fourth volume, yet only time will tell. Robert Jordan had Crossroads of Twilight, George R. R. Martin had A Feast for Crows, and Steven Erikson had Toll the Hounds (which at least had an unbelievable ending), and Scott Lynch now has The Republic of Thieves. Which proves that he is human after all. Still, based on the quality of both The Lies of Locke Lamora and Red Seas Under Red Skies, I'm persuaded that he can bounce back and that The Thorn of Emberlain will be a return to form for the author.

I'm well aware that this is not what most of you wanted to hear. As I said above, no one wanted to love this book as much as I did. And sadly, most of the facets of this novel didn't work for me at all. The revelations about the Bondsmagi, the political situation in Emberlain, what may have led to the Eldren's disappearance, Locke's secret identity, and the never-ending back-and-forth between Locke and Jean were all positive points in the book's favor. Unfortunately, the better part of the novel turned out to be a failure to launch.

A major disappointment. . .

The final verdict: 5/10

For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe

Quote of the Day

Adults follow paths. Children explore. Adults are content to walk the same way, hundreds of times, or thousands; perhaps it never occurs to adults to step off the paths, to creep beneath rhododendrons, to find the spaces between fences.

- NEIL GAIMAN, The Ocean at the End of the Lane (Canada, USA, Europe)

Win a copy of Jacqueline Carey's AUTUMN BONES

Thanks to the generosity of the folks at Roc, I have two copies of Jacqueline Carey's Autumn Bones for you to win. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Here's the extract:

New York Times bestselling author Jacqueline Carey returns to the curious Midwest tourist community where normal and paranormal worlds co-exist—however tenuously—under the watchful eye of a female hellspawn…

Fathered by an incubus, raised by a mortal mother, and liaison to the Pemkowet Police Department, Daisy Johanssen pulled the community together after a summer tragedy befell the resort town she calls home. Things are back to normal—as normal as it gets for a town famous for its supernatural tourism, and presided over by the reclusive Norse goddess Hel.

Not only has Daisy now gained respect as Hel’s enforcer, she’s dating Sinclair Palmer, a nice, seemingly normal human guy. Not too shabby for the daughter of a demon. Unfortunately, Sinclair has a secret. And it’s a big one.

He’s descended from Obeah sorcerers and they want him back. If he doesn’t return to Jamaica to take up his rightful role in the family, they’ll unleash spirit magic that could have dire consequences for the town. It’s Daisy’s job to stop it, and she’s going to need a lot of help. But time is running out, the dead are growing restless, and one mistake could cost Daisy everything…

The rules are the same as usual. You need to send an email at reviews@(no-spam)gryphonwood.net with the header "BONES." Remember to remove the "no spam" thingy.

Second, your email must contain your full mailing address (that's snail mail!), otherwise your message will be deleted.

Lastly, multiple entries will disqualify whoever sends them. And please include your screen name and the message boards that you frequent using it, if you do hang out on a particular MB.

Good luck to all the participants!

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

For today only, you can download Chris Bunch's The Empire Stone for only 0.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

It could light a path in the dead of night. Fashioned by gods—or demons—it could bring power and untold riches to any who possessed it. But it was lost with the destruction of the fabled city of Thyone.

And now . . . it may have been found.

Follow Peirol of the Moorlands on an epic adventure across oceans and strange lands filled with mystery and magic. There he will find his true calling - and the Stone!

David Hair contest winner!

Our winner will receive a complimentary copy of David Hair's Mage's Blood, the first volume in The Moontide Quartet, courtesy of the folks at Jo Fletcher Books! For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

The winner is:

- Parto Barkhordari, from Leesburg, Virginia, USA

Many thanks to all the participants!

Win a copy of Brandon Sanderson's STEELHEART

I'm giving away my copy of Brandon Sanderson's Steelheart to one lucky winner! For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Here's the blurb:

There are no heroes.

Every single person who manifested powers—we call them Epics—turned out to be evil. Here, in the city once known as Chicago, an extraordinarily powerful Epic declared himself Emperor. Steelheart has the strength of ten men and can control the elements. It is said no bullet can harm him, no sword can split his skin, no explosion can burn him. He is invincible.

It has been ten years. We live our lives as best we can. Nobody fights back . . . nobody but the Reckoners. A shadowy group of ordinary humans who spend their lives studying powerful Epics, finding their weaknesses, then assassinating them.

My name is David Charleston. I’m not one of the Reckoners, but I intend to join them. I have something they need. Something precious, something incredible. Not an object, but an experience. I know his secret.

I’ve seen Steelheart bleed.

The rules are the same as usual. You need to send an email at reviews@(no-spam)gryphonwood.net with the header "STEELHEART." Remember to remove the "no spam" thingy.

Second, your email must contain your full mailing address (that's snail mail!), otherwise your message will be deleted.

Lastly, multiple entries will disqualify whoever sends them. And please include your screen name and the message boards that you frequent using it, if you do hang out on a particular MB.

Good luck to all the participants!

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download Jennifer Roberson's Lady of the Forest for only 2.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

With her king a captive and her coffers drained, England is left in turmoil during the Crusades. After the death of her father in the Holy Land, Lady Marian of Ravenskeep finds herself alone--and at the mercy of men vying for her lands and her beauty. Thrust into games of political intrigue, the sheltered knight's daughter soon learns to trust no one. . .

Afforded a hero's homecoming, Sir Robert of Locksley returns from the Crusades a shattered man. In a country he barely recognizes, one torn apart by treachery and betrayal, he finds in Marian a kindred soul. Their quest for justice will take them into the depths of Sherwood Forest, where the dream of a new England will be born. . .

Win a copy of Paula Brackston's THE WINTER WITCH

I have three copies of Paula Brackston's The Winter Witch for you to win, courtesy of the folks at Corsair. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Here's the blurb:

In her small early nineteenth century Welsh town, there is no one quite like Morgana. She is small and quick and pretty enough to attract a suitor, but there are things that set her apart from other girls. Though her mind is sharp she has not spoken since she was a young girl. Her silence is a mystery, as well as her magic—the household objects that seem to move at her command, the bad luck that visits those who do her ill. Concerned for her safety, her mother is anxious to see Morgana married, and Cai Jenkins, the widowed drover from the far hills who knows nothing of the rumors that swirl around her, seems the best choice.

After her wedding, Morgana is heartbroken at leaving her mother, and wary of this man, whom she does not know, and who will take her away to begin a new life. But she soon falls in love with Cai’s farm and the wild mountains that surround it. Here, where frail humans are at the mercy of the elements, she thrives, her wild nature and her magic blossoming. Cai works to understand the beautiful, half-tamed creature he has chosen for a bride, and slowly, he begins to win Morgana’s affections. It’s not long, however, before her strangeness begins to be remarked upon in her new village. A dark force is at work there—a person who will stop at nothing to turn the townspeople against Morgana, even at the expense of those closest to her. Forced to defend her home, her man, and herself from all comers, Morgana must learn to harness her power, or she will lose everything in this beautifully written, enchanting novel.

The rules are the same as usual. You need to send an email at reviews@(no-spam)gryphonwood.net with the header "WINTER." Remember to remove the "no spam" thingy.

Second, your email must contain your full mailing address (that's snail mail!), otherwise your message will be deleted.

Lastly, multiple entries will disqualify whoever sends them. And please include your screen name and the message boards that you frequent using it, if you do hang out on a particular MB.

Good luck to all the participants!

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download H.P. Lovecraft: The Complete Collection for only 2.99$ here. That's about 1105 pages for less than 3$!

Here's the blurb:

Signature Edition and Miskatonic University Press are proud to present: H.P. Lovecraft The Complete Collection.

Included in this collection are all of Lovecraft's prominent works and a plethora of his rare works and collaborations.

Table of Contents


At the Mountains of Madness
The Case of Charles Dexter Ward
The Colour Out of Space
The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath
The Dreams in the Witch House
The Dunwich Horror
Herbert West — Reanimator
The Horror at Red Hook
The Shadow out of Time
The Shadow Over Innsmouth
The Shunned House
The Whisperer in Darkness

Short Stories

The Alchemist
The Beast in the Cave
Beyond the Wall of Sleep
The Book
The Call of Cthulhu
The Cats of Ulthar
Cool Air
The Descendant
The Doom That Came to Sarnath
The Evil Clergyman
Ex Oblivione
Facts Concerning the Late Arthur Jermyn and His Family
The Festival
From Beyond
The Haunter of the Dark
The History of the Necronomicon
The Hound
In the Vault
The Little Glass Bottle
The Lurking Fear
The Moon-Bog
The Music of Erich Zann
The Mysterious Ship
The Mystery of the Grave-Yard
The Nameless City
Old Bugs
The Other Gods
The Outsider
Pickman's Model
The Picture in the House
The Quest of Iranon
The Rats in the Walls
A Reminiscence of Dr. Samuel Johnson
The Secret Cave
The Silver Key
The Statement of Randolph Carter
The Strange High House in the Mist
The Street
Sweet Ermengarde
The Temple
The Terrible Old Man
The Thing on the Doorstep
The Tomb
The Transition of Juan Romero
The Tree
The Unnamable
The Very Old Folk
What the Moon Brings
The White Ship

Collaborations and Rare Stories

The Battle That Ended the Century
The Challenge from Beyond
Collapsing Cosmoses
The Crawling Chaos
The Curse of Yig
The Diary of Alonzo Typer
The Disinterment
The Electric Executioner
The Green Meadow
The Hoard of the Wizard Beast
The Horror at Martin's Beach
The Horror in the Burying-Ground
The Horror in the Museum
In the Walls of Eryx
The Last Test
The Man of Stone
Medusa’s Coil
The Mound
The Night Ocean
Out of the Aeons
Poetry and the Gods
The Slaying of the Monster
The Thing in the Moonlight
Through the Gates of the Silver Key
“Till A’ the Seas”
The Trap
The Tree on the Hill
Two Black Bottles
Under the Pyramids
Winged Death

Extract from OLD MARS, edited by George R. R. Martin and Gardner Dozois + Giveaway

Thanks to the generosity of the folks at Bantam Dell, I have three copies of Old Mars, a new science fiction anthology edited by George R. R. Martin and Gardner Dozois, up for grabs! For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Here's the blurb:

Fifteen all-new stories by science fiction’s top talents, collected by bestselling author George R. R. Martin and multiple-award winning editor Gardner Dozois.

Burroughs’s A Princess of Mars. Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles. Heinlein’s Red Planet. These and so many more inspired generations of readers with a sense that science fiction’s greatest wonders did not necessarily lie far in the future or light-years across the galaxy but were to be found right now on a nearby world tantalizingly similar to our own—a red planet that burned like an ember in our night sky . . . and in our imaginations.

This new anthology of fifteen all-original science fiction stories, edited by George R. R. Martin and Gardner Dozois, celebrates the Golden Age of Science Fiction, an era filled with tales of interplanetary colonization and derring-do. Before the advent of powerful telescopes and space probes, our solar system could be imagined as teeming with strange life-forms and ancient civilizations—by no means always friendly to the dominant species of Earth. And of all the planets orbiting that G-class star we call the Sun, none was so steeped in an aura of romantic decadence, thrilling mystery, and gung-ho adventure as Mars.

Join such seminal contributors as Michael Moorcock, Mike Resnick, Joe R. Lansdale, S. M. Stirling, Mary Rosenblum, Ian McDonald, Liz Williams, James S. A. Corey, and others in this brilliant retro anthology that turns its back on the cold, all-but-airless Mars of the Mariner probes and instead embraces an older, more welcoming, more exotic Mars: a planet of ancient canals cutting through red deserts studded with the ruined cities of dying races.

The rules are the same as usual. You need to send an email at reviews@(no-spam)gryphonwood.net with the header "MARS." Remember to remove the "no spam" thingy.

Second, your email must contain your full mailing address (that's snail mail!), otherwise your message will be deleted.

Lastly, multiple entries will disqualify whoever sends them. And please include your screen name and the message boards that you frequent using it, if you do hang out on a particular MB.

Good luck to all the participants!

Even better, here's a teaser extract from the anthology!


Martian Blood


Allen M. Steele

The most dangerous man on Mars was Omar al-Baz, and the first time I saw him, he was throwing up at the Rio Zephyria spaceport.

This happens more frequently than you might think. People coming here for the first time often don’t realize just how thin the air really is. The cold surprises them, too, but I’m told the atmospheric pressure is about same as you’d find in the Himalayas. So they come trooping down the ramp of the shuttle that transported them from Deimos Station, and if the ride down didn’t make them puke, then the shortness of breath, headaches, and nausea that comes with altitude sickness will.

I didn’t know for sure that the middle-aged gent who’d doubled over and vomited was Dr. al-Baz, but I suspected that he was; I hadn’t seen any other Middle Eastern men on his flight. There was nothing I could do for him, though, so I waited patiently on the other side of the chain-link security fence while one of the flight attendants came down the ramp to help him. Dr. al-Baz waved her away; he didn’t need any assistance, thank you. He straightened up, pulled a handkerchief from his overcoat pocket, and wiped his mouth, then picked up the handle of the rolling bag he’d dropped when his stomach revolted. Nice to know that he wasn’t entirely helpless.

He was one of the last passengers to step through the gate. He paused on the other side of the fence, looked around, and spotted the cardboard sign I was holding. A brief smile of relief, then he walked over to me.

“I’m Omar al-Baz,” he said, holding out his hand. “You must be Mr. Ramsey.”

“Yes, I’m your guide. Call me Jim.” Not wanting to shake a hand that just wiped a mouth which had just spilled yuck all over nice clean concrete, I reached forward to relieve him of his bag.

“I can carry this myself, thank you,” he said, not letting me take his bag from him. “But if you could help me with the rest of my luggage, I’d appreciate it.”

“Sure. No problem.” He hadn’t hired me to be his porter, and if he’d been the jerk variety of tourist some of my former clients had been, I would’ve made him carry his own stuff. But I was already beginning to like the guy: early 50’s, skinny but with the beginnings of a pot belly, coarse black hair going grey at the temples. He wore round spectacles and had a bushy mustache beneath a hooked aquiline nose, and looked a little like an Arab Groucho Marx. Omar al-Baz couldn’t have been anything but what he was, an Egyptian-American professor from the University of Arizona.

I led him toward the terminal, stepping around the tourists and business travelers who had also disembarked from the 3 p.m. shuttle. “Are you by yourself, or did someone come with you?”

“Unfortunately, I come alone. The university provided grant money sufficient for only one fare, even though I requested that I bring a grad student as an assistant.” He frowned. “This may hinder my work, but I hope that what I intend to do will be simple enough that I may accomplish it on my own.”

I had only the vaguest idea of why he’d hired me to his guide, but the noise and bustle of the terminal was too much for a conversation. Passenger bags were beginning to come down the conveyer belt, but Dr. al-Baz didn’t join the crowd waiting to pick up suitcases and duffel bags. Instead, he went straight to the PanMars cargo window, where he presented a handful of receipts to the clerk. I began to regret my offer to help carry his bags when a cart was pushed through a side door. Stacked upon it were a half-dozen aluminum cases; even in Martian gravity, none small enough to be carried two at a time.

“You gotta be kidding,” I murmured.

“My apologies, but for the work I need to do, I had to bring specialized equipment.” He signed a form, then turned to me again. “Now … do you have a means of taking all this to my hotel, or will I have to get a cab?”

I looked over the stack of cases and decided that there weren’t so many that I couldn’t fit them all in the back of my jeep. So we pushed the cart out to where I’d parked beside the front entrance, and managed to get everything tied down with elastic cords I carried with me. Dr. al-Baz climbed into the passenger seat and put his suitcase on the floor between his feet.

“Hotel first?” I asked as I took my place behind the wheel.

“Yes, please …and then I wouldn’t mind getting a drink.” He caught the questioning look in my eye and gave me a knowing smile. “No, I am not a devout follower of the Prophet.”

“Glad to hear it.” I was liking him better all the time; I don’t trust people who won’t have a beer with me. I started up the jeep and pulled away from the curb. “So … you said in your email you’d like to visit an aboriginal settlement. Is that still what you want to do?”

“Yes, I do.” He hesitated. “But now that we’ve met, I think it’s only fair to tell you that this is not all that I mean to do. The trip here involves more than just meeting the natives.”

“How so? What else do you want?”

He peered at me over the top of his glasses. “The blood of a Martian.”

* * *

When I was a kid, one of my favorite movies was The War of the Worlds – the 1953 version, made about twelve years before the first probes went to Mars. Even back then, people knew that Mars had an Earthlike environment; spectroscopes had revealed the presence of an oxygen-nitrogen atmosphere, and strong telescopes made visible the seas and canals. But no one knew for sure whether the planet was inhabited until Ares I landed there in 1977, so George Pal had a lot of latitude when he and his film crew tried to imagine what a Martian would look like.

Anyway, there’s a scene in the movie where Gene Barry and Ann Robinson have made their way to L.A. after escaping the collapsed farmhouse where they’d been pinned down by the alien invaders. Barry meets with his fellow scientists at the Pacific Tech and presents them with a ruined camera-eye he managed to grab while fighting off the attackers. The camera-eye is wrapped in Ann Robinson’s scarf, which was splattered with gore when Gene clobbered a little green monster with a broken pipe.

“And this --” he says melodramatically, showing the scarf to the other scientists “-- blood of a Martian!”

I’ve always loved that part. So when Dr. al-Baz said much the same thing, I wondered if he was being clever, copping a line from a classic movie that he figured most colonists might have seen. But there was no wink, no ironic smile. So far as I could tell, he was as serious as he could be.

I decided to let it wait until we had that drink together, so I held my tongue as I drove him into Rio Zephyria. The professor’s reservation was at the John Carter Casino Resort, located on the strip near the Mare Cimmerium beach. No surprise there: it’s the most famous hotel in Rio, so most tourists try to book rooms there. Edgar Rice Burroughs was having a literary renaissance around the time it was built, so someone decided that A Princess of Mars and its sequels would be a great theme for a casino. Since then it’s become the place most people think of when they daydream about taking a vacation trip to Mars.

Good for them, but I want to throw a rock through its gold-tinted windows every time I drive by. It’s a 10-story monument to every stupid thing humans have done since coming here. And if I feel that way, as someone who was born and raised on Mars, then you can well imagine what the shatan think of it … when they come close enough to see it, that is.

It was hard to gauge Dr. al-Baz’s reaction when we pulled up in front of the hotel lobby. I was beginning to learn that his normal expression was stoical. But as a bellhop was unloading his stuff and putting it on a cart, the professor spotted the casino entrance. The doorman was dark-skinned and a little more than two meters in height; he wore the burnoose robes of an aborigine, with a saber in the scabbard on his belt.

Dr. al-Baz stared at him. “That’s not a Martian, is he?”

“Not unless he used to play center for the Blue Devils.” Dr. al-Baz raised an eyebrow and I smiled “That’s Tito Jones, star of the Duke basketball team … or at least until he came here.” I shook my head. “Poor guy. He didn’t know why the casino hired him to be their celebrity greeter until they put him in that outfit.”

Dr. al-Baz had already lost interest. “I was hoping he might be a Martian,” he said softly. “It would have made things easier.”

“They wouldn’t be caught dead here … or anywhere near the colonies, for that matter.” I turned to follow the bellhop through the revolving door. “And by the way … we don’t call them ‘Martians’. ‘Aborigines’ is the preferred term.”

“I’ll keep that in mind. And what do the Mar … the aborigines call themselves?”

“They call themselves shatan … which means ‘people’ in their language.” Before he could ask the obvious next question, I added, “Their word for us is nashatan, or ‘not-people’, but that’s only when they’re being polite. They call us a lot of things, most of them pretty nasty.”

The professor nodded and was quiet for a little while.

The University of Arizona might not have sprung for a grad student’s marsliner ticket, but they made up for it by reserving a two-room suite. After the bellhop unloaded his cart and left, Dr. al-Baz explained that he’d need the main room—a large parlor complete with a bar—for the temporary lab he intended to set up. He didn’t unpack right away, though; he was ready for that drink I’d promised him. So we left everything in the room and caught the elevator back downstairs.

The hotel bar is located in the casino, but I didn’t want to drink in a place where the bartender is decked out like a Barsoomian warlord and the waitresses are dolled up as princesses of Helium. The John Carter is the only place on Mars where anyone looks like that; no one in their right mind would wear so few clothes outside, not even in the middle of summer. So we returned to the jeep and I got away from the strip, heading into the old part of town that the tourists seldom visit.

There’s a good watering hole about three blocks from my apartment. It was still late afternoon, so the place wasn’t crowded yet. The bar was quiet and dark, perfect for conversation. The owner knew me; he brought over a pitcher of ale as soon as the professor and I sat down at a table in the back.

“Take it easy with this,” I told Dr. al-Baz as I poured beer into a tallneck and pushed it across the table to him. “Until you get acclimated, it might hit you pretty hard.”

This week's New York Times Bestsellers (September 16th)

In hardcover:

Sherrilyn Kenyon’s Styxx debuts at number 4.

Margaret Atwood’s MaddAddam debuts at number 8.

Samantha Shannon's The Bone Season is down three spots, finishing the week at number 13.

George R. R. Martin's A Dance With Dragons is down one position, ending the week at number 17. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Neil Gaiman's The Ocean at the End of the Lane is down two positions, ending the week at number 19. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

S.M. Stirling’s The Given Sacrifice debuts at number 22.

Terry Goodkind's The Third Kingdom is down ten spots, finishing the week at number 24. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

In paperback:

Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game is up two positions, ending the week at number 4.

George R. R. Martin's A Game of Thrones is up one position, ending the week at number 11.

Stephen King's Joyland maintains its position at number 13 (trade paperback).

Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game returns at number 14 (trade paperback).

Stephen King's Under the Dome returns at number 18 (trade paperback).

George R. R. Martin's A Feast for Crows is down one spot, finishing the week at number 19.

Seanan McGuire’s Chimes at Midnight debuts at number 20.

George R. R. Martin's A Clash of Kings is down four positions, ending the week at number 21.

George R. R. Martin's A Storm of Swords is down three positions, ending the week at number 24.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download Robert E. Howard's Conan the Barbarian: 20 Adventure Tales of Conan for only 1.99$ here. 1339 pages featuring Conan the Cimmerian for less than 2$, it doesn't get much better than this!

Here's the blurb:

Conan The Barbarian is the original stories about adventure stories of conan the cimmerian written by Robert E. Howard in 1934-1936. In this book contains 20 stories of Conan The Cimmerian.

1.The Hyborian Age, first published in The Phantagraph, February-November 1936.
2.Shadows In the Moonlight, first published in Weird Tales, April 1934.
3.Queen Of the Black Coast, first published in Weird Tales, May 1934.
4.The Devil In Iron, first published in Weird Tales, August 1934.
5.The People Of the Black Circle, first published in Weird Tales, September, October and November 1934.
6.A Witch Shall Be Born, first published in Weird Tales in 1934.
7.The Jewels Of Gwahlur, first published in Weird Tales, March 1935.
8.Beyond the Black River, first published in Weird Tales magazine circa 1935.
9.Shadows In Zamboula, first published in Weird Tales, November 1935.
10.The Hour Of the Dragon, first published in Weird Tales, December 1935-April 1936.
11.Gods Of the North, first published in Fantasy Fan, March 1934.
12.Red Nails, First Published in Weird Tales, July, August-September, October 1936.
13. The Shadow of the Vulture, First published in the pulp magazine Magic Carpet Magazine, January 1934.
14.The Phoenix on the Sword, First published in 1932.
15.The Scarlet Citadel, First published in 1933.
16.The Tower of the Elephant, First published in 1933.
17.Black Colossus, First published in 1934.
18.The Slithering Shadow, First published in 1934.
19.The Pool of the Black One, First published in 1934.
20.Rogues in the House, First published in 1935.

Win a copy of L. E. Modesitt, Jr.'s THE ONE-EYED MAN

I have three copies of L. E. Modesitt, Jr.'s The One-Eyed Man for you to win, courtesy of the folks at Tor Books. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Here's the blurb:

The colony world of Stittara is no ordinary planet. For the interstellar Unity of the Ceylesian Arm, Stittara is the primary source of anagathics: drugs that have more than doubled the human life span. But the ecological balance that makes anagathics possible on Stittara is fragile, and the Unity government has a vital interest in making sure the flow of longevity drugs remains uninterrupted, even if it means uprooting the human settlements.

Offered the job of assessing the ecological impact of the human presence on Stittara, freelance consultant Dr. Paulo Verano jumps at the chance to escape the ruin of his personal life. He gets far more than he bargained for: Stittara’s atmosphere is populated with skytubes—gigantic, mysterious airborne organisms that drift like clouds above the surface of the planet. Their exact nature has eluded humanity for centuries, but Verano believes his conclusions about Stittara may hinge on understanding the skytubes’ role in the planet’s ecology—if he survives the hurricane winds, distrustful settlers, and secret agendas that impede his investigation at every turn.

The rules are the same as usual. You need to send an email at reviews@(no-spam)gryphonwood.net with the header "ONE-EYED MAN." Remember to remove the "no spam" thingy.

Second, your email must contain your full mailing address (that's snail mail!), otherwise your message will be deleted.

Lastly, multiple entries will disqualify whoever sends them. And please include your screen name and the message boards that you frequent using it, if you do hang out on a particular MB.

Good luck to all the participants!

Balfour and Meriwether in The Incident of the Harrowmoor Dogs

It's no secret that Daniel Abraham is a very versatile writer whose imagination knows no bounds. Hence, when the ARC for Balfour and Meriwether in the Incident of the Harrowmoor Dogs showed up in a Subpress package, the premise immediately intrigued me. And since it was something brand new and a work of short fiction to boot, I decided to give it a shot.

Here's the blurb:

When a private envoy of the queen and member of Lord Carmichael's discreet service goes missing, Balfour and Meriwether are asked to look into the affair. They will find a labyrinth of dreams, horrors risen from hell, prophecy, sexual perversion, and an abandoned farmhouse on the moors outside Harrowmoor Sanitarium. The earth itself will bare its secrets and the Empire itself will tremble in the face of the hidden dangers they discover, but the greatest peril is the one they have brought with them.

Balfour and Meriwether in the Incident of the Harrowmoor Dogs is the first novella length work in the Balfour and Meriwether stories by Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy Award nominated author Daniel Abraham.

The story takes place in late 1800s England and I feel that Abraham's eye for historical details captured the minutiae of that era well. This is the first in a number of novellas which will likely occur over a period of thirty years or so, as the Last Notebook of Mr. Meriwether dates from 1920. It remains to be seen whether or not these tales will go beyond the boundaries of the UK. But insofar as this novella is concerned, the protagonists have piqued my curiosity and I'm looking forward to more stories chronicling their adventures/misadventures.

The tone of this novella is decidedly more witty and cynical than what the author has accustomed us to in the past. And as such, it showed a different side of Abraham, one that I truly enjoyed.

In terms of characterization, Balfour and Meriwether are a disparate, quirky, and interesting pair. These strange agents of the Queen are endearing protagonists. And although the novella-length project doesn't allow readers to really get to know them, one really wants to discover more about them. Here's to hoping that future installments won't be too long in coming. . .

I loved how the religious perception of homosexuality as an abomination was deftly woven into the storyline. It definitely adds another layer to the tale and it bodes well for things to come. Whether you are a fan of the author, or whether you have never read anything by Daniel Abraham, Balfour and Meriwether in the Incident of the Harrowmoor Dogs makes for a short but satisfying read!

The final verdict: 7.5/10

For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe, and Subpress

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

For today only, you can download five of Terry Pratchett's Discworld novels for 1.99$ each:

- The Color of Magic
- The Light Fantastic
- Mort
- Equal Rites
- Sourcery

What could be Hayao Miyazaki's final film gets a North American release date!

This from vulture.com:

Earlier this month, we learned that animation legend Hayao Miyazaki was thinking of retiring, making us even more excited to see his most recent effort, The Wind Rises. Well, we finally know when we'll be able to. Disney announced last night that the film will get its wide, dubbed release on February 21. However, to be eligible for the Oscars, a subtitled version will get a one-week, Los Angeles– and New York–only run, November 8 through 14. You hear that? It's the sound of a Pixar acceptance speech getting thrown into the trash.

Here's the trailer (with subtitles):

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

Just realized that what I consider to be one of the very best fantasy debuts of all time, Scott Lynch's The Lies of Locke Lamora, can be downloaded for only 0.99$ here!

Here's the blurb:

An orphan’s life is harsh—and often short—in the mysterious island city of Camorr. But young Locke Lamora dodges death and slavery, becoming a thief under the tutelage of a gifted con artist. As leader of the band of light-fingered brothers known as the Gentleman Bastards, Locke is soon infamous, fooling even the underworld’s most feared ruler. But in the shadows lurks someone still more ambitious and deadly. Faced with a bloody coup that threatens to destroy everyone and everything that holds meaning in his mercenary life, Locke vows to beat the enemy at his own brutal game—or die trying.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download the new and improved English translation of Stanislaw Lem's Solaris for only 3.69$ here.

Here's the blurb:

New 2011 English Translation.

The cult-classic by Stanislaw Lem that spawned the movie is now available for your Kindle! Until NOW the only English edition was a 1970 version, which was translated from French and which Lem himself described as a "poor translation." This wonderful new English translation (by Bill Johnston) of Lem's classic Solaris is a must-have for fans of Lem's classic novel.

Telling of humanity's encounter with an alien intelligence on the planet Solaris, the 1961 novel is a cult classic, exploring the ultimate futility of attempting to communicate with extra-terrestrial life.

When Kris Kelvin arrives at the planet Solaris to study the ocean that covers its surface, he finds a painful, hitherto unconscious memory embodied in the living physical likeness of a long-dead lover. Others examining the planet, Kelvin learns, are plagued with their own repressed and newly corporeal memories. The Solaris ocean may be a massive brain that creates these incarnate memories, though its purpose in doing so is unknown, forcing the scientists to shift the focus of their quest and wonder if they can truly understand the universe without first understanding what lies within their hearts.

Extract from Alison Littlewood's A COLD SEASON

Thanks to the folks at Jo Fletcher Books, here's an extract from Alison Littlewood's A Cold Season. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Here's the blurb:

Cass is building a new life for herself and her young son after the loss of her soldier husband. But their idyllic new home is not what she expected: the other flats are all empty, there’s sinister graffiti on the walls, and the villagers are a little strange. When a heavy snowstorm maroons the village, things become even harder.

The cold season has begun. . .


Cass was engrossed in her work when she heard knocking, so involved that she wasn’t sure she’d heard anything at all. She raised her head, waiting; then the sound came again and Cass got up, wondering if she was about to meet her mysterious neighbor at last. She went to the door, remembered at the last moment that she was alone in a new place, and looked through the peephole to see a male figure in a dark coat. She only had time to register that his shoulders were flecked with snow when he knocked again, almost as if he knew she was standing there. She reached out automatically and pulled the door open.

It was Mr. Remick. Cass blinked at him. Ben. “Is there a problem?” she blurted. She must have gotten the days mixed up—Sally had meant she’d take Ben tomorrow, not today, and Cass should have picked him up from school after all. But if that was the case, where was he? She peered around Mr. Remick, half expecting to see Ben standing behind him, lost and unhappy because his mother hadn’t come to fetch him.

Instead she saw that Mr. Remick had something under his arm. “No problem,” he said. “I just thought . . . Well, you only just moved in, and Sally mentioned Ben was going to their house after school, so . . .”

Was he blushing? His words tailed away and he held out the thing he had been carrying. Cass blinked at it. It was a loaf of bread. “I thought you might be lonely. I also know what it’s like around here when the snow starts to fall—fresh bread’s the new currency.”

He grinned.

Cass took it. “That’s so thoughtful of you. Thank you.” She led the way into the kitchen. “You must have been quick. I tried the shop this morning; I was beginning to think we’d be living on cans of Spam.”

“It’s a survival situation, all right. Although, truth be told, I wasn’t that quick. Mrs. Bentley at the shop has a soft spot for me, I think. She keeps things back for her special customers.”

“Lucky you.” Cass laughed. It made her feel lighter, just talking and laughing. It was almost like being back at Aldershot, sur- rounded by her friends, friends who weren’t yet afraid of being tainted by her loss.

“I don’t know about that. I’m a bit worried about what she wants in return.” He laughed too, his blue eyes flashing, and Cass had a sudden image of the surly Mrs. Bentley pursing up her tight thin lips and closing her eyes.

She found herself suppressing a grin. “Coffee?” “If it’s not rationed.”

“I think I can manage.”

“I need one after today. Those kids . . . so much energy.”

“I thought that was a nice touch this morning.” Cass remembered the way he’d donated his scarf to Ben’s snowman. He wasn’t wearing it now and she wondered if it was still there, soaked through and freezing in the playing field.

“Purely selfish.” He sipped his coffee. “It’s a good way of getting to know the kids. And for the new ones to settle in, of course.” His smile faded. “Actually, I wonder if I might ask you something.”

“What is it?”

He sighed. “I’m a little concerned. It’s probably nothing, but . . . Well, you noticed we’ve been doing a lot of fun activities with the kids. It’s only fair when half their classmates are out sledding. We had an art session today.” He took something from the inside pocket of his jacket, a piece of paper.

As he unfolded it Cass saw colored scribbles, primary colors: sun- shine yellow, blue, red. Something inside her froze. Was he saying Ben had a problem? The picture looked bright and colorful. She’d heard that unhappy kids, depressed kids, drew everything in black.

Mr. Remick held the picture out. “It’s probably nothing,” he started, but Cass wasn’t listening anymore. The main color was yellow. It was the desert, stretching on and on. In the foreground was a soldier with sandy hair and a sandy uniform. His face was scribbled out. Cass could see where the pencil had punched and ripped its way through the paper. A black pencil.

One of the figure’s limbs was bent backward, a broken, puppet thing. Red spray spouted from his chest. The ground, though, was littered with specks of brilliant blue.

Cass closed her eyes and remembered the stones Pete had held out to her in her dream. The ones that fell to the ground and disappeared. She reached out and touched the edge of the paper, but she didn’t take it from Mr. Remick’s hands. So angry, she thought. She’d never suspected her son was so angry.

“Forgive me,” he said. “I thought you’d have seen similar things before. Obviously not.”

Cass shook her head, sucked in a deep breath. “He lost his father.” It was the first time she’d managed those words without her voice breaking. “He was in Afghanistan.”

“I’m sorry.”

Cass’s lips formed the word No, but she didn’t speak.

Blue stones. A yellow sky, the same color as the earth. And red, all that red.

“Well, there’s no wonder in that case. Expressing his feelings in some way is probably good for him under the circumstances.”

Cass nodded, remembering the way Ben had sat in front of his video game the last time he’d tried to play, letting the controller slide from his hands. It had once been his favorite, but really that had been because of Pete.

He might simply have drawn something he’d seen on the screen.

Cass wondered what her son was doing now. He’d gone to play Damon’s video games, hadn’t he? She bit her lip, and felt Mr. Remick’s hand gently resting on her arm.

“He’ll be fine. He’s a great kid, a credit to you. He’s finding his feet already.”

She turned, and found Mr. Remick’s face inches from her own, his eyes full of concern. She drew back. She hadn’t sensed he was so close.

He straightened up and Cass found herself wanting to apologize. She bit her lip instead. She didn’t trust herself to say anything. It was my loss too, she thought.

As if he could read her, Mr. Remick said, “You’ll both be fine. It’ll be like you belong here in no time.”

Cass frowned.

“Hoarding bread, building a bunker, burying cans . . .”

She flashed him a startled look and they both burst into laughter. Cass’s lasted longer than Mr. Remick’s. She felt that lightness again, something lifting from her shoulders.

“I’d better go,” he said.

“You could stay for something to eat, if you like.” Cass glanced at the clock. How had it gotten so late so quickly? “I could do . . .” She paused.

“Toast?” He smiled, glanced at the loaf of bread.

“I think I can rustle up something better than that.” “Really, I’d better get back. I have essays to mark.”

When Cass walked him out and closed the door behind him, the apartment felt too quiet. She stared around at the hallway. There were still boxes waiting to be unpacked, pushed under the stairs. Her eyes fell on the telephone that was fixed to the wall.

It was an intercom—visitors would call her apartment from the main doorway, and she would press a button to let them in. She frowned. Mr. Remick had come straight to her door—she hadn’t thought anything of it until now, but how had he done that She remembered the door down the hall with the papers pushed underneath. Maybe whoever lived there had let him in. Mr. Remick was new in Darnshaw, wasn’t he? There was no way he could have the code—unless he’d come and looked around the mill himself, considered moving here before finding somewhere else. The code was 1234Z, which wasn’t difficult to remember.

Still, she wished she’d asked him if he knew who was living down the hall. And how long he’d been in Darnshaw, exactly, to be Mrs. Bentley’s special customer, even to know her name. Cass found herself wishing she’d asked him lots of things.

It was a shame he’d had to go so soon. Time had passed more quickly when Mr. Remick was there. Now she was alone, and with no Ben filling the place with noise, it was too quiet in Foxdene Mill. Cass remembered the empty windows in the apartment below hers and shivered. It was a pity more people hadn’t moved in. Mr. Remick might even have been a neighbor. She had a sudden picture of him climbing in through an empty window frame down- stairs and smiled.

Cass went to her own window and saw the snow drifting silently down, smothering everything. The light was failing and the hilltops appeared paler than the sky. She felt anxious about Ben. He would have to walk back later, through the dark and the snow. Still, with a friend he’d enjoy it, kicking a new trail and throwing snowballs all the way.

She unpacked the last of their boxes, crushed them and sat looking at the pile of cardboard. It was good to have that finished—the place felt more like a home—but it also meant that she was staying. Before, she had been half settled in, half ready to walk out of the door again. She thought about the people she’d met: Mrs. Bentley, with her surly glare, slamming Cass’s shopping down on the counter. Loud, brassy Sally—and Mr. Remick. When she thought of him he was smiling, and his blue eyes looked directly into her own. He saw into people, she thought. She imagined reaching out a hand and touching the teacher’s slightly hollowed cheek, the stubble under her fingers. Him wrapping those arms, thin but sure, around her.

She pushed the thought away, remembered Pete. Her husband had been taller, stronger, nothing like Mr. Remick, and yet she thought that she could find the teacher attractive. Mostly it was in the way he looked at her, those clear, appraising eyes.

Cass glanced at the clock. It was past six. Sally hadn’t said how long they’d be, and she hadn’t thought to ask. We’ll call when we’re setting off. Hadn’t she said that? At least Cass knew where she lived. It was lucky they’d picked her up on the moor. She wondered if Ben would come home complaining about her smell again, and tried not to smile.

He’d be enjoying himself; they all would, Sally and Damon and


Cass noticed that Mr. Remick had left Ben’s drawing on the sofa. She picked it up, straightened it out, and ran a finger over the paper where his pencil had punched through. She imagined his face while he was doing it, his head bent over the page, his eyes fixed in a glare while he scribbled, over and over, and then taking the most brilliant blue he could find and adding those stones, if that was what they were, across the yellow sand. She frowned, wondering what had made him think of it.

Cass looked at the clock again, wishing her son would come home. The night grew darker, the snow kept falling, and still Sally didn’t call. Cass sat back on the sofa and closed her eyes, letting the picture fall to her side.

Male nudity on HBO

Hilarious!! And all too true. . .

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

Just discovered that you can still download The Robert E. Howard Omnibus: 99 Collected Stories (Halcyon Classics) for only 1.99$ here. That's 2032 pages for less than 2$!!

Here's the blurb:

This Halcyon Classics ebook contains 99 short stories and novellas by 1930s pulp writer Robert Ervin Howard. Howard (1906-1936) is best known today for creating the sword-and-sorcery hero Conan, subject of two movies and dozens of books. However, during his short life Howard also published stories in a number of other genres.

In addition to fantasy, Howard wrote boxing stories, westerns, detective stories, horror, and created an number of compelling characters such as Solomon Kane, Bran Mak Morn, El Borak, Steve Costigan, Pike Bearfield, King Kull, and Conan the Cimmerian.

This ebook is DRM free and includes an active table of contents for easy navigation.

Conan Stories

Gods of the North
Queen of the Black Coast
Shadows in the Moonlight
A Witch Shall be Born
Shadows in Zamboula
The Devil in Iron
The People of the Black Circle
Red Nails
Jewels of Gwahlur
Beyond the Black River
The Hour of the Dragon
The Hyborian Age

Boxing Stories

Alleys of Peril
Blow the Chinks Down!
Breed of Battle
Champ of the Forecastle
Circus Fists
Cupid vs. Pollux
Dark Shanghai
Fist and Fang
General Ironfist
Night of Battle
Sailors’ Grudge
Sluggers on the Beach
Texas Fists
The Bull Dog Breed
The Iron Man
The Pit of the Serpent
The Sign of the Snake
The Slugger’s Game
The TNT Punch
Vikings of the Gloves
Waterfront Fists
Winner Take All
Alleys of Darkness
Apparition in the Prize Ring

Detective Stories

Graveyard Rats
Fangs of Gold
Names in the Black Book
The Tomb’s Secret
Aha! or The Mystery of the Queen's Necklace
Halt! Who Goes There?
Unhand Me, Villain!

Fantasy Adventure Stories

Almuric The Treasures of Tartary
The Voice of El-Lil
The Valley of the Worm
The Garden of Fear
Witch from Hell's Kitchen

Kull Stories

The Shadow Kingdom
The Mirrors of Tuzun Thune

Bran Mak Morn Stories

The Lost Race

Cormac Fitzgeoffrey Stories

Hawks of Outremer
The Blood of Belshazzar

Wild Bill Clanton Stories

She Devil
The Purple Heart of Erlik

Historical Adventure Stories

Lord of Samarcand
Gates of Empire
The Lion of Tiberias
The Shadow of the Vulture
The Sowers of the Thunder
Red Blades of Black Cathay

Horror Stories

People of the Dark
Black Canaan
Moon of Zambebwei
Black Talons
Black Vulmea’s Revenge
The Cairn on the Headland
The Fearsome Touch of Death
The Haunter of the Ring
The Hyena
The Fire of Asshurbanipal

Solomon Kane Stories

Solomon Kane
Skulls in the Stars
Rattle of Bones

Western Stories

A Gent from Bear Creek
Cupid from Bear Creek
Evil Deeds at Red Cougar
Guns of the Mountains
High Horse Rampage
No Cowherders Wanted
Pilgrims to the Pecos
Pistol Politics
Sharp’s Gun Serenade
Texas John Alden
The Apache Mountain War
The Conquerin’ Hero of the Humbolts
The Feud Buster
The Haunted Mountain
The Riot at Cougar Paw
The Road to Bear Creek
The Scalp Hunter
War on Bear Creek
The Vultures of Whapeton
While Smoke Rolled
Boot-Hill Payoff
"Golden Hope" Christmas
Mountain Man