Mark Terry

Friday, April 03, 2015

What I've Been Reading

The last 10 books...

1. 50 Shades of Alice in Wonderland by Melinda Duchamp
Yeah, erotica. Melinda Duchamp is a pseudonym for Joe Konrath and Ann Voss Peterson. Cashing in on the spree of erotica left by the 50 Shades of Grey books. I haven't read much erotica and I read this one because, well, like Joe and Ann, I was interesting in cashing in on 50 Shades of Grey and I thought I might try my hand at writing erotica (that's my story and I'm sticking with it). I may get around to writing some eventually, but I have noticed that all my ideas for erotica have, well, plots. Anyway, this is pretty well done, it succeeds at what it's trying to accomplish, which is to say, it is arousing and entertaining. It's also quite funny, which was unexpected, although given Joe had a hand in it, maybe I shouldn't have been surprised. So, if you're into erotica, especially kinky erotica, you might enjoy this. If you don't, you probably won't.

2. A Dance With Dragons by George RR Martin
What is this, the 5th book in the series? It's enormous and complicated and brilliant and frustrating, but he does seem, to some extent, after extending his characters and locations around the world, to be contracting his story lines in anticipation of the remaining 500,000 or so words in the series. I enjoyed it, but the first two books, to date, are my favorites. And it's long.

3. The Empty Quarter by David L. Robbins
Robbins got reasonably well known for writing historical thrillers and a year or so ago made a shift to thrillers featuring a team of Air Force Pararescue officers. (Yeah, same branch as Falcon in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, only no flying wings). On the plus side, it's very exciting and deals with a kidnapping/rescue of a Saudi princess. On the negative side, the PJs (that's what the pararescue teams are called) have a lot of characters and they're pretty broadly drawn and hard to tell apart. On the other hand, the portrayal of the jihadist in the book is pretty brilliant.

4. The Golem of Hollywood by Jonathan Kellerman & Jesse Kellerman
I love Jonathan Kellerman, so my hopes for this book were really high. It's kind of a mix of police procedural and Hasidic mysticism and at some levels makes no sense whatsoever. It's all rather compelling in its own way--both Kellermans can write, that's for sure--but it's a very, very weird mix that also includes an alternating narrative from Biblical times (Cain and Abel) and the 1800s Vienna.

5. Twelve Days by Alex Berenson
I would not recommend reading this book unless you had read the prior book, The Counterfeit Agent. His series follows a former CIA agent, John Wells. In The Counterfeit Agent he's tracking some mysterious deaths that leads him to a sort of private intelligence network run by a billionaire who's intentions are to start a war between the US and Iran (topical, huh?). In Twelve Days, Wells, who has identified the billionaire and the head of the network, has 12 days to try and stop the US from going to war with Iran that's pretty much started by an antiaircraft missile shooting down a jet. Both books are brilliant and I highly recommend them.

6. Hit by Ann Voss Peterson & Joe Konrath
In talking to Joe about these books, the Codename: Chandler series, (because I was (and am) considering writing something in the series) featuring a sexy female spy, Joe describes them pretty much as alternating between action and sex scenes. It's sort of accurate, although there was a lot more action than sex (there was plenty) in this book. The main character is given the assignment of assassinating a sleazy mogul, but she ends up in a massive chase scene in Chicago, then Vegas, while otherwise having a LOT of foreplay with the mogul's sexy bodyguard who is also, apparently, a spy. The book isn't exactly deep, but it was a lot of fun. Very light, almost campy.

7. The Lost Starship by Vaughn Heppner
Way in the future, Earth and its extended grouping of planets, is having encounters with a seemingly superior race of humans dubbed the New Men. Captain Maddox, of Earth Watch Intelligence, is given the mission of going into a very dangerous part of space to try and find a mythic lost starship that may still be functional with technology that could help battle the New Men. In order to do so he has to pull together a team (whether they want to or not) and stay at least one step ahead of the New Men and corrupt parts of Earth's military to find the ship and bring it back to life. It was fun. Not great SF and I don't particularly find Maddox that interesting a character, but Heppner brings a lot of military SF tropes together in a reasonably entertaining way, as long as you don't think about it too much. I bought the second book in the series and will get around to reading it eventually.

8. Kenobi by John Jackson Miller
Several times, over the years, I mentioned that if I had an opportunity to write a movie or TV tie-in, I would want to write one about what Obi-Wan Kenobi did on Tattooine (and Magnum PI, but that'll probably never happen). Well, that chance is gone, John Jackson Miller did it already, and the way it's set up, he probably didn't have too many other adventures afterwards. It takes place very soon after Palpatine overthrows the government and slaughters the Jedi. Obi-Wan, now going by Ben Kenobi, is trying to get settled and figured out a way to keep an eye on the baby Luke Skywalker without annoying the child's aunt and uncle, who really don't want him around. Also, he's afraid that if he stays too close, someone will associate him with the child and word will get back to the Emperor. Meanwhile, he keeps getting into trouble bailing people out of problems at a trading post at the nearest oasis. No matter how hard he tries, he keeps getting sucked back in. There's also something of a love interest, at least on her part. The book is terribly well done, feels a little bit like a western, and is rather sad and melancholy. If I had written the book, at least 10 or 15 years ago, there would have been more adventure (there's plenty), but probably less melancholy. Miller gave a lot of thought to what happened to Obi-Wan--all his friends and colleagues and everybody he ever regarded as family in his life killed--and how he was dealing with it. I'd recommend this book.

9. Rusch to Glory: Adventure, Risk & Triumph on the Path Less Traveled by Rebecca Rusch with Selene Yeager
Nonfiction, a memoir. Rebecca Rusch is currently a mountain bike champion, 4-time winner of the Leadville Mountain Bike Race, and before that, a lot of adventure races. On the one hand, she's crazy. On the other, she's quite inspiring, taking on physical and mental and emotional challenges. Selene Yeager is better known as a freelance writer writing about bicycling and fitness, which is partly why I bought the book. I liked it a lot.

10. Inside Man by Jeff Abbott
Another book in the Sam Capra series. Once a CIA agent, Sam's wife was a traitor, and in the earlier books he managed to sort of clear his name and then become affiliated with a mysterious intelligence group calling itself The Round Table. Mostly they want Sam to own and operate a series of bars around the world (good gig if you can get it) that act as safe houses for their group. While working in a bar in Miami, a friend gets shot and Sam digs into why, which tangles him up in all sorts of intrigues and trouble. As usual, Abbott's a good writer and the action scenes are terrific. The problem with this particular books is there are many, many opportunities for Sam to say, "Screw it, not my problem," and go back to running the bar and seeing to the welfare of his infant son. So Abbott has his work cut out for him on that front. I enjoyed the book overall, although there are a lot of plot threads that Abbott apparently felt needed wrapping up that, perhaps, were better left dangling. I don't want to give too much away, but it seems to me that if one of the things motivating a character is a tragedy in his past, it's okay to leave it as a tragedy rather than to tie it into the ongoing conspiracy. Otherwise, good book.

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Derek Stillwater Visits JA Konrath's Universe

A while back, JA Konrath, who I relentlessly refer to as "Joe" because, well, that's his name, offered writers the opportunity to write a short story, novella or novel with one of his own characters. He provided guidelines and approaches.

I was interested, but busy doing other things. I'm a full-time freelance writer as well as a novelist. I'm also a ghostwriter and during the period that Joe first made this offer I was pretty tied up with a big historical fiction ghostwriting project and barely got work done on my own novels. One of my writer friends, Jude Hardin, had written a novel, Lady 52, that features his own series character, Nicholas Colt, and Joe's best known series character, Lt. Jacqueline "Jack" Daniels.

Jude suggested I do the same. So I dithered. Then I started in on a novel that would feature my best known series character, Derek Stillwater, with Lt. Jack Daniels. As soon as Joe had made the offer, I knew when I wanted the story to be and what it would be connected to. When I read Joe's novel, Dirty Martini, I always knew Derek would be there in Chicago in some way. So why not have Derek and Jack work together immediately after those events?

I started working on the novel.

The problem is I don't pay much attention to rules, I guess.

Somewhere along the way Jude asked me how I was doing and I mentioned I was working on a novel with Derek and Jack. He said, "Yeah, but, did you write a short story first?"

"No, why?"

Well, it turns out that Joe had a kind of preliminary testing period for writers to do this, and he wanted to make sure they didn't waste a lot of time on a novel that might not work, so he wanted any of us to write a short story first.

Well. So I stalled around for a while, then I wrote a short story, "Black Russian." Then I sent "Black Russian" and the part of the novel I had completed to Joe and I went off and did other things, including finishing my own more recent Derek Stillwater novel, Vengeance.

Eventually Joe and I went back and forth over "Black Russian," then Joe changed the way these projects were going to get done. Rather than Joe being the manager of these projects, Amazon was going to include it in its Kindle Worlds program. But after checking this program, I and quite a few other writers had some issues with it, primarily revolving around owning our own creations shared with Joe's. Joe very generously got his people at Amazon to rewrite their contract agreements and here we go.

This is all rather inside baseball, so to speak.

But what about Black Russian? Well, here are a couple things I knew in writing this short story.

I wanted it to have the name of a cocktail.

I wanted it to be more or less current with the timeline of my latest Derek Stillwater novel, more or less just before or just after the events of Vengeance. That would be very different from the Stillwater-Daniels novel I'm working on, which would be several years earlier, a prequel, if you will. So in this short story, Derek and Jack know each other and are kind of friends. That left me with the dilemma of how to get Derek involved in the story. I figured, since he was headquartered in Washington, D.C., somehow Jack would need to get out there and need his help. And once I got the name of the story, it all pretty much came together. I was also quite pleased to be able to bring in the character of Austin Davis, who is the hero of my novel Hot Money. I plan to revisit Austin again as well and there's a big chunk of a novel done featuring him.

So here we are, BLACK RUSSIAN. I hope you enjoy it. 

And with any luck, later this year you'll get to read about Derek and Jack's first adventure.

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Dumbledore Talks To The Sorting Hat

December 2, 2014
A little something I've been fooling around with that I thought you all might enjoy.

Mark Terry

Dumbledore Talks To The Sorting Hat
By Mark Terry

            Professor Dumbledore, Headmaster of Hogwarts School for Witchcraft & Wizardry, approached the entrance to his office, which was just down Gargoyle Corridor in the Headmaster’s Tower. An enormous ugly gargoyle hid the entrance. Under his arm he carried an ancient, tattered and patched black hat.
            “Fizzing Whizzbees,” he murmured.
            The gargoyle moved aside to reveal a stone staircase guarded by a statue of a phoenix. The staircase spiraled upward.
            Stepping onto the stairs, Dumbledore rode it upward, gathering his midnight blue robe around his legs so as not to get caught in the door.
            Dumbledore’s office was a large circular room. Filled with bookcases and books, and a vast assortment of magical instruments on spindle-legged tables, they twirled and whirled, creaked and cranked, and puffed small clouds of steam and smoke into the air. Along the walls hung portraits of previous headmasters. Most of them were currently asleep, gentle snores filling the room.
            Dumbledore set the hat on the edge of his desk and seated himself behind it in his large high-backed chair. With a wave of his wand, he conjured a cut-glass goblet of scotch. Studying the hat, he took a sip.
            A slit in the hat appeared and it spoke. “Ah, Professor Dumbledore. Want a word, do you?”
            “You are very astute,” Dumbledore said with a nod toward the hat.
            “Thank you, sir. I am, although I am but a hat.”
            Eyes twinkling, a small smile twitched at the corners of Dumbledore’s mouth. “I assume you know what I wish to discuss.”
            “Harry Potter, would be my guess.”
            “Yes, indeed.”
            “And his sorting.”
            “You are, after all, the Sorting Hat.”
            Bestowed with ancient magic by the founders of Hogwarts, Godric Gryffindor, Helga Hufflepuff, Rowena Ravenclaw, and Salazar Slytherin, the Sorting Hat was able to peer into the minds and souls of students, recognize their greatest talents and tendencies, and sorted them into the school’s four houses, based on the traits the four founders of the schools valued most.
            “Indeed I am.”
            “You sorted him into Gryffindor House,” Dumbledore said, watching the hat closely.
            “I did. “
            “It was very difficult. Plenty of courage. Not a bad mind. Talent. And a thirst to prove himself.”
            Peering at the hat over his glasses, Dumbledore said, “You appeared to have a lengthy conversation with the boy during his sorting. Usually you make decisions quickly.”
            “Many choices are obvious.”
            “Are they?” Dumbledore asked idly. “I would not think so. They are, after all, only eleven years old. Hardly fully formed. Many will change over the course of their years here at Hogwarts. Their experiences, their friendships, their successes, their failures … all will mold them into who they will become.”
            “Are you questioning my abilities, Dumbledore?”
            “No one, myself included, completely understands how you do what you do.”
            “Magic. Magic created by four of the greatest magicians who ever existed.”
            “Indeed. So, perhaps, we can discuss Harry Potter.”
            One of the former Headmasters, Phineas Nigellus, in one of the portraits, woke up with a start and leaned forward to listen closer. 
            “Of course. As is your want.”
            “Why Griffindor? Why was it difficult?”
            “Why not, perhaps, Slytherin?” the hat said slyly.
            Phineas Nigellus coughed discreetly.
            “Quite right,” Dumbledore said, taking another sip of scotch. “Directly to the point.”
            “I think he would do very well in Slytherin.”
            “Do you? Then why did you not place him there?”
            “Do you remember your own sorting, Dumbledore?”
            “Like it was yesterday,” Dumbledore said, the tips of his mouth curving slightly upward in a smile once more.
            “Your intellect is considerable.”
            “Thank you.”
            “You are acting modest about your intellect, Dumbledore, when we both know you are one of the most brilliant wizards who ever lived.”
            “And you’ve evaluated most of them.”
            “I have. And yet I sorted you into Griffindor. Not Ravenclaw.”
            “Ah,” said Dumbledore. “There is that. Have we not discussed this before?”
            “Perhaps,” the hat said, “you placed that memory in the pensieve and wish to evaluate it again before we continue our chat?”
            “No, no, I don’t believe so. Go on.” He thought to himself, And somehow the founders gave the Sorting Hat a wry sense of humor. He wondered which of them introduced that element.
            “You understand, Dumbledore, that the sorting takes into consideration more than talents and abilities.”
            “Just so.”
            “Yes. So although by your intellect, Ravenclaw would have made a great deal of sense, I was aware of other things battling with your brains, so to speak. Your courage. Your arrogance—yes, you would have done well in Slytherin at that age, were it not for your kindness.”
            A derisive cough from the portrait.
            “Perhaps,” Dumbledore said, gaze far off.
            “Yes,” the Hat said. “Would you care to place me on your head and re-sort you?”
            “I don’t believe so, no.”
            The Sorting Hat let out a soft chuckle.  “Few would, ultimately. Their identities often become linked to their House.”
            Dumbledore looked sharply at the Sorting Hat. “Yes, you’re right. Surely you don’t mean—“
            “In fact, I do mean exactly that, Dumbledore. Part of what the founders—not all of them certainly, but Rowena Ravenclaw, Helga Hufflepuff and Godric Gryffindor, yes—imparted to me is the possibility of seeing how their Houses will influence the extraordinary gifts they have.” And the Sorting Hat let out another low chuckle.
            “Something amusing?” Dumbledore asked. He raised the goblet and swallowed half the scotch. He considered refilling it, but no, it was rather early in the school year for that.
            “I considered putting you into Hufflepuff to take some of the starch out of that ego of yours, Dumbledore. Yes, yes. That would have been interesting.”
            Dumbledore’s eyes narrowed.
            The Sorting Hat said, “Never you mind, Dumbledore. You went where you belonged. As did Tom Riddle.”
            Leaning back in the large chair, Dumbledore tapped his fingers together in front of him. “And why do you bring up Tom Riddle?”
            “You know quite well why I bring up Tom Riddle,” the Hat said. “Because you wish to discuss Harry Potter. And it is Tom Riddle who tried to kill him as a baby. And who was … diverted as a result.”
            “And do Tom Riddle and Harry Potter share other things?”
            “I told Potter he would do well in Slytherin.”
            “And yet you placed him Gryffindor.”
            “He was difficult. Talent and a thirst to prove himself.”
            “Common traits in all our Houses, in many ways.”
            “Talent, of course. Some more than others. That thirst, that ambition, Dumbledore, that takes many forms. Slytherins, of course, want to dominate.”
            “Yes, often at any costs.”
            A grunt from Phineas Nigellus. Dumbledore ignored the portrait. His clever devices puffed and twirled and clanked. A quick glance around the room showed Dumbledore that many more of the former Headmasters in the portraits had awoken and were listening to the conversation.
            “Indeed. Your ethical mind and your kindness kept you out of Slytherin.”
            “Oh, please,” muttered Phineas Nigellus.
            “But not Tom Riddle,” Dumbledore said, long finger stroking the goblet.
            “There was no doubt whatsoever where Tom Riddle belonged. No more than when a Weasley shows up.”
            “All in Griffindor.”
            “Never underestimate a Weasley, Dumbledore. You have a new one.”
            “Ronald, yes. He was sitting next to Potter.”
            “Together I believe they will go far. Oh yes.”
            “I’m glad to hear it. But what did you see—“
            “Potter did not want to be in Slytherin.”
            Picking up the goblet, Dumbledore finished off his scotch. He continued to hold the empty goblet.
            “He was quite adamant on that, kept whispering ‘not Slytherin, not Slytherin.’”
            “Did he?”
            “Would I lie, Dumbledore?”
            “I do not believe so. So Young Mister Potter made the choice to be in Gryffindor.”
            “No,” the Sorting Hat said. “He made the choice not to be in Slytherin. He would not have been appropriate in either Ravenclaw or Hufflepuff. He does not have that keen intellect for Ravenclaw and mark my words, he would not fit in Hufflepuff. He has a fine mind, certainly, and plenty of ability, but he is not the scholarly type one expects in Ravenclaw. It was either Slytherin or Gryffindor.”
            “And had he not been insistent on exclusion from Slytherin?”
            “Ah. A toss-up, I believe. He has been abused, Dumbledore. With that kind of neglect and abuse, he could have gone either way. He could have become a victim or an abuser, but I do not think he will. No,” the Hat said musingly. “I think we can expect great things of Mr. Potter. Terrible things, perhaps. He has that potential in him. But I think not. I think Gryffindor will be best for him.”
            “And it was what he wanted.”
            “Great and courageous.”
            Phineas Nigellus let out a loud, not-quite-believable snore.
            “Thank you,” Dumbledore said. “You have been insightful.”
            Dumbledore reached to take the Sorting Hat off his desk and place it on its shelf, when he thought, “This question of where to sort students. Do you often run into students who you strongly feel would go into one House, but for a mix of reasons choose another?”
            “Happened twice today, Dumbledore. It’s common, but not that common. Malfoy, he was instantly Slytherin. Weasley, just as easily into Gryffindor.”
            “Who was the questionable student?” Dumbledore asked, curiosity, one of his great strengths and weaknesses, getting the better of him.
            “Hermione Granger.”
            “Indeed. Her parents are Muggles.”
            “Dentists, I believe. But she has an intellect that would have rivaled yours back in the day, Dumbledore.”
            “And yet…”
            “Not Ravenclaw,” the Hat said. “Yes, I thought she would fit there. But like you, there was something else…” the Hat trailed off.
            “Sometimes I hear their voices,” the Sorting Hat said.
            “Whose voices?” Dumbledore asked, leaning forward. In all his many discussions with the Sorting Hat over the years, the Sorting Hat had never mentioned voices.
            “The founders. Slytherin, Gryffindor, Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff.”
            “And you heard their voices?”
            “I heard Godric Gryffindor speak briefly when I was placed on the Granger girl’s head.”
            “And what did he say?” Dumbledore asked, curious, perplexed, and a little surprised. And very, very intrigued.
            “He said, ‘She is a true Gryffindor.’”
            “And most unusual.”
            “Was there more?”
            “No, Dumbledore. That is all.”
            “Good night then.”
            “Adieu,” the Hat said, as Dumbledore flashed his wand, levitating the hat off his desk and onto its shelf.
            Dumbledore studied the empty goblet for a moment, then twirled his wand. It refilled with scotch. To Fawkes, his phoenix, Dumbledore said, “What do you think, Fawkes?”
            But the bird had nothing to say.


Sunday, November 23, 2014

What I've Been Reading

Been a while. Here's my latest list of reading.

Arctic Rising by Tobias S. Buckell
Good near-future SF about what happens when Climate Change opens up the Northwest Passage and countries fight over suddenly open resources and Canada, because of its oil, becomes one of the most powerful countries in the world.

Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth by Reza Aslan
I found this to be fascinating and thought-provoking. Essentially a scholar's look at the historical Jesus.

The Way of Kata: A Comprehensive Guide for Deciphering Martial Applications by Lawrence A. Kane and Kris Wilder
Although their primary martial art is Goju-Ryu, almost everything, if not everything, applies to Sanchin-Ryu and any other Okinowan and Japanese martial art that relies on katas and forms.

Cibola Burn by James S.A. Corey
SF, 3rd or 4th book in a trilogy. This one involves one of the first colonies running amuck after a gate is opened up allowing humanity access to the stars. Very political.

Sanchin: My Caffeine-Induced Endeavors Into Super Secret Karate Sh*t by David "Shinzen" Nelson
Well, fairly odd.

Dorothy's Derby Chronicles: Rise of the Undead Redhead by Meghan Dougherty & Alece Birnbach
Middle-grade book aimed primarily at girls. Yes, there was a reason I was reading this related to work.

The Heist by Daniel Silva
Another espionage novel featuring Gabriel Allon. And excellent, as usual.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by JK Rowling

Rewinder by Brett Battles
A time travel/alternate history novel, highly recommended.

Field Notes from a Catastrophe: Man, Nature, and Climate Change by Elizabeth Kolbert
An update to her 2004 book, looking at climate change from numerous sciences, including archaeology, meteorology, biology, zoology, and other fields of study. Rather depressing, but it'll probably make a believer out of you.

Uncaged by John Sandford & Michele Cook
Supposedly aimed at Young Adults, although pretty sophisticated ones. Very enjoyable, although it has a cliffhanger ending that irritated me.

Anatomy of a Spy: A Guide for Writers, Dilettantes, and Spooks by Stephen Parrish
Exactly what is says it is. In this case my friend Steve actually worked alongside a spy while he was in the army, so he provides a lot of insight into what makes them tick.

The Blood of Olympus by Rick Riordan
The final book in his latest series featuring Greek and Roman demigods. Loved it.

Deadline by John Sandford
A Virgil Flowers thriller. A good one, but probably not the best.

Locked In by John Scalzi
SF. Noting that Scalzi has a theme going with his SF when people, in the future, have their consciousness placed into either other bodies or devices. In this novel, a meningitis-like virus sweeps the world. In a small percentage of people they become "locked in," i.e., paralyzed but fully conscious. Technology was developed to allow those people to function in society using "Threeps," which are robots into which they get interact via neural networks. On top of that, it involves a complicated murder mystery. Very good, very entertaining, very thought-provoking.

Robert B. Parker's Blind Spot by Reed Farrel Coleman
Taking over the writing of the Jesse Stone novels. I liked the first couple of Stone novels by Parker, then got lukewarm on them. Actively disliked the ones ghosted by Brandman. In this one I like Coleman's writing a lot except for his omniscient, shifting viewpoint, so I liked the book reasonably well.

Dick Francis's Damage by Felix Francis
A good, solid mystery featuring an investigator for the organization that oversees British racing. It's got a number of subplots, but the overall plot involves someone blackmailing the organization. He writes much like his father did and overall I'd say it was good.

Counterspy: A Spycatcher Novella by Matthew Dunn
Good enough to make me want to pick up his novels. An MI6 agent in the U.S. being stalked by a Pakistani assassin.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

What I've Been Reading - July 2014 Edition

The Staff of Serapis by Rick Riordan
Actually a short story. Rick's setting up a crossover book with his two series, the one featuring Greek demigods and the one featuring Egyptian, er, demigods (Too long to explain). This is the second short story doing this and it was a lot of fun, featuring Annabeth from the Olympians and Sadie from the Egyptian series. The two characters mix really well and it was a lot of fun.

Field of Prey by John Sandford
Our most reliable and consistent thriller writer. A little bit of a return to his earlier books, which is to say, grim and disturbing. When a couple teenagers go out into an abandoned farm to get laid, they accidentally uncover a well that's pretty much filled with the bodies of missing women.

Robert B. Parker's Cheap Shot by Ace Atkins
I'm not in love with Atkins' Spenser novels, but I think he probably does it as well as anybody could. The voice is just different enough that it sets my alarm bells. On the plus side, the plots are generally better than Parker's were, and he's developing some new schtick between Spenser and Hawk. Recommended.

Unlocked: An Oral History of Haden's Syndrome by John Scalzi
Okay. Wow. John has a book coming out, I believe in a could weeks, Locked In, that involves a near-future world that has been ravaged by a virus. But this virus causes, in some cases, the person to eventually go into a physically locked-in state, they're essentially paralyzed, unable to talk and move, but are fully conscious. In Unlocked, he presents a somewhat epistolary version of the spread of the virus and how things changed technologically and culturally as a result. The gist of it is that someone developed, basically, avatars—neural networks that could operate robots, and then the various cultural things that came out of it. It's an amazing, thought-provoking and occasionally disturbing novella and I'm looking forward to the novel.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by JK Rowling
Needs no explanation.

Frozen Solid by James M Tabor
A research scientist goes to South Pole Station to do a Antarctic-water dive to collect some unknown bacteria that were found growing in the frigid water. Meanwhile, there have been a series of odd deaths, seemingly accidental or medical, of some of the women on the station. It's enjoyable, has some strange off-kilter behavior, and a little too closely resembles one of my WIPs, CRYSTAL STORM, which may or may not someday get finished and published, but I thought it was good.

The Churn: An Expanse Novella by James S.A. Corey
The Expanse series is terrific space opera. This takes us down to Earth, Baltimore basically, to give us some backstory about one of the characters in the novella. I'm not so sure how it fit into the Expanse series (in terms of how accurate the character's backstory seemed), but I thought it was a pretty fascinating look at the Earth of that series.

The Cuckoo's Calling by JK Rowling
Her first crime novel featuring Cormoran Strike, a PI in London. It's very British, very slow and textured, but the character of Cormoran is terrific. It's also very, very different from the Harry Potter novels, and if I hadn't known they were written by the same person I wouldn't have guessed she wrote them both. I do find that there are significant thematic material concerning the nature of fame. I imagine I will read the second one eventually.

Saga, Volume 1 by Brian K Vaughan & Fiona Staples
This is an SF graphic novel my oldest son wanted me to read. It ain't a comic book. It's very adult with a fair amount of nudity, sex, and, of course, violence. It takes place in some galactic area with an ongoing war between a couple species and two of them have fallen in love and had a baby, and as a result, they are being hunted by the various governments and bounty hunters. Weird. Graphic. Engaging. Strange.

Bone Deep by Randy Wayne White
I have a lot of respect for Randy and his Doc Ford novels. Just not this one. I'll stop there.