July 21, 2017

Underwater, Under Pressure: a review of Brian Keene's "Pressure"

Pressure
by Brian Keene
Thomas Dunne Books (2016)
276 pages

I haven't read all of Brian Keene's books, but of the ones I have I am invariably transported to some grizzled patch of Americana and I always walk away satisfied. So when I heard Pressure, Keene's latest novel from last year, featured a sea-faring thrill ride in the picturesque Indian Ocean, my curiosity got the better of me and I just had to see what he might try to pull off with this one.

Carrie Anderson, an ambitious young diver/oceanographer, is among the many who are investigating a strange natural phenomenon occurring off the coast of Mauritius. The ocean floor is collapsing beneath the wondrous "underwater waterfall." The tourist trap is now just that, sinking into the sea, and a full-scale evacuation is imminent if they can't figure out what's going on and how to stop it.

Kind of like a Lincoln & Child novel, Pressure embraces the cryptozoological discoveries without bogging itself down in the scientific minutia. A crisp pace keeps everything moving along, and Keene still manages to squeeze in some wonderful fleshing out of his characters, such as Carrie's obsessiveness to be the best. And the first. Plus there is the salty sea dog assisting her, Abhi, whose brokenhearted isolation drives him further out to sea every year. As for the creature they discover beneath the unusually icy depths, it is the scene stealer every time and one of Keene's more memorable monstrosities. And he's had a few.

Where things take a turn though is when the initial encounter with the monster is over and a new threat emerges, that in the form of a biotech company with an intense desire to gain exclusive knowledge and advancements from the newly discovered creature. The pressure, as it were, comes when Carrie finds herself caught in the middle of a creature seemingly bent on the destruction of all life and a corporation that seems bent on domination of all life.

Outside of a personal annoyance with how the third act transpired, which I found out of tune with nearly everything preceding it, Pressure was an exciting bit of monster mayhem. If there is ever a followup to be written to this novel, I'll certainly check it out, along with just about anything else Keene writes in the meantime.

July 17, 2017

Bonding Over Death: a review of Donald E. Westlake's "Forever and a Death"

Forever and a Death
by Donald E. Westlake
Hard Case Crime (2017)

Donald E. Westlake is responsible for penning a couple of my absolute favorite novels, so when I saw Hard Case Crime was set to publish one of his as-yet-unseen novels, which happened to be inspired by a treatment he once did for the James Bond franchise, I just had to check it out.

Now, if you're expecting this novel to be a James Bond type of story, with hi-tech gadgets and femme fatales and a lead character who kicks all kinds of ass without mussing his hair, then you can put those expectations to bed right now. This isn't that kind of novel. This is pure Westlake. That said, you can pretty easily pick up the echoes of a Bond story that Westlake refashioned into his own brand of story.

Right from the get-go, Forever and a Death presents itself as a villain's tale. Oh sure, we have our plucky hero in the form of a conscientious engineer who happens to throw a pretty good punch, but the lion's share of the story, and where it shines, is with the inner machinations of the lead villain and his henchmen. Industrialist Richard Curtis has a score to settle with Hong Kong where he was kicked out after it was handed back China in the 90s, and his engineer's prized invention of a soliton wave, which transforms seaside landfill and everything built on top of it into a giant mud puddle, is just how Curtis intends to do it.

Curtis' best laid plans are undermined at every turn, most of all it seems by his own hubris. He considers himself superior to everyone around him both in stature and in intellect, which quickly bites him in the ass when an environmentalist watchdog attempts to stop his soliton wave experiment off the coast of Australia. A young activist named ??? dives into the water and is swept up by the powerful artificial current that levels a small island. And when her body is recovered and found to have survived, albeit barely, Curtis realizes his plans could go up in smoke if she lives. Enter George Manville.

Manville, his engineer, feels responsible for the woman's condition, and when propositioned by Curtis to aide him in disposing of her, managing a daring escape back to Australia. From there, it is a cat-and-mouse chase of sorts between Curtis and Manville. Manville needs to alert the authorities to Curtis' ill deeds while evading capture and/or extermination, while Curtis needs to silence Manville by any means necessary long enough for him to see his ultimate plan come to fruition.

On the one hand, Westlake's attention to detail is something to behold. Nearly every supporting character is fleshed out to the fullest. We see why Curtis has earned a sworn enemy by a famed environmentalist. We see the desperation to regain lost status by one of Curtis' former employers turned freelance goon. But with all of these characters given the spotlight, the pacing of the novel takes a hit. A couple sections of the book even become downright plodding as "will he or won't he" questions of conscience are hung over one character's or another's head. The third act is breakneck, however, and offers an ending that one may find ill fitting for something Bond inspired, but it is perfectly suited to Westlake's style.

All things considered, it's a good read that stopped short of being great, which may be why Westlake never saw it published before his death. A thoughtfully imagined plot with some forgettable heroes and one damned good villain. It may not be the makings of a franchise like James Bond, but it's a satisfying summer read for those looking for a taut thriller.

July 15, 2017

Little Heaven, Lotta Horror: a review of Nick Cutter's "Little Heaven"

Little Heaven
by Nick Cutter
Simon & Schuster Canada (2017)
496 pages

A story about a cult based in the middle of the woods is a frightening enough premise, if you ask me, but Nick Cutter decided that wasn’t near enough and threw in a trio of assassins and a supernatural juggernaut for good measure in Little Heaven, his third outing through Simon & Schuster.

The novel starts with the emergence (actually, re-emergence we come to learn) of an evil spirit that takes the shape of a hideous amalgamation of wildlife, which then seeks out and abducts a little girl from her home. The imagery in this opening scene is the kind of stomach-queezing fare that Cutter made himself known for in his two previous novels, The Troop and The Deep. The girl is to be used as bait to lure three killers, one of whom the girl's father, with whom the entity has unfinished business. But before we see our three killers, Micah (the father), Ebenezer, and Minerva, head out on their return trek, we witness their pivotal meeting and their first foray into the wilds of the southwest where they encounter the doomed cult and the malevolent spirits that surround them.

The alliance between the three killers grows through what starts off as a bullet-ridden threeway dance of sorts, as each has initially been set against the other, but in their lack of success in offing each other, they settle on a truce of sorts and are eventually enlisted by a concerned woman desperate to find and save her young nephew who has been whisked away to the woods by a cult. Beyond that, they come to rely on one another as more and more odds are set against them.

Along the way, some supporting characters manage to add some much-needed flavor to what might otherwise be a one-note horror story. The ramshackle compound is populated by a cult driven by fear and frayed nerves. Amos Flesher, the leader, quickly reveals himself to the outsiders as a conniving and unstable figurehead buffeted and precariously aligned with two other hired killers who increasingly see the compound as a place to go into business for themselves. Then there's the young boy the gang has been tasked with finding, one of the only people in the camp seemingly unaffected by the influence of the cult leader inside the compounds walls or the entity lurking outside its walls. It didn't take long actually for him to become the most engaging and sympathetic character of the bunch and an easy one to root for getting out of there alive, though the book offers zero assurances such a feat is possible. And after all that brouhaha is settled, the horrors are begun anew many years later with the reckoning they all knew would come sooner or later in those woods.

At the end of the day, Little Heaven feels like a bit of a mish-mash, kind of like the creatures lurking within its pages. Cutter plays with quite a few hallmarks of the horror genre, particularly the earlier works of Stephen King, but nothing really stands out as its own and feels more like an echo of what's come before. Still, it's done with enough flair and fierceness to make it an enjoyable read and downright hair-raising at moments. I'm not sure what Cutter has up his sleave for the next horror novel, but I look forward to it and hope he can carve out more of his own style amid what this decade has shown to be a great one for horror fiction.

June 2, 2017

a guest post by Ty Arthur, author of "Light Dawning"

Following his debut sci-fi novella “Empty” from 2016, Ty Arthur returns with new full-length horror novel “Light Dawning.” Pivoting away from the emptiness of space, the book dives headlong into the waters of fantasy, but with a seriously grimdark twist. This next foray into the bleaker corners of human existence is officially slated for release on Friday, May 26th, 2017. Kindle pre-orders are now online at https://www.amazon.com/Light-Dawning-Ty-Arthur-ebook/dp/B0722FJ3ZB/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8 




a guest post by Ty Arthur

After short stories set on modern day Earth and a far future space novella, for Light Dawning I wanted to shift focus yet again to a different style. Even though its absolutely a horror story, this time around I wanted to explore a fantasy world.


The fantasy genre doesn't need another epic tale where a rag tag group of unexpected heroes rises to the occasion and defeats the dark lord after discovering the magical MacGuffin. There's already enough of those. Likewise, there's already enough epics with dwarves mining for gold in their mountain homes and graceful, pointy eared elves living in tree cities. It was clear when I started writing Light Dawning that high fantasy wouldn't be a viable option for the kind of story being told.


Fantasy as a genre is a form of wish fulfillment – its right there in the name. The genre offers a glimpse of the sort of world people wish existed rather than the one that actually does. It provides the escapism of noble men and women standing fast against the tide of evil no matter the odds, of the powerful using their resources in the name of good, and of people being celebrated for breaking the rules if it they do it for the right reasons.

Who knows, maybe one day grimdark will become the equivalent of the zombie novel, with review sites having to list a disclaimer that “no, yours isn't different from all the others, please don't submit,” but for now, its a genre full of possibilities still to be explored. Light Dawning and the tale of Cestia's final hours is just the beginning of my exploration of this style, as there's no shortage of grim material to mine from the real world to transplant into a fantasy setting.








“Grimdark” then is the injection of unpleasant reality into that fantasy. Going even further than low fantasy, where the focus is primarily on humans and the things they do, grimdark reminds the audience that all is not well in the world, and that the addition of elements like magic and gods wouldn't actually make the world any better.


Fantasy is a genre ripe with possibilities for horror that aren't utilized nearly often enough. When I think of what people in the real world would do if supernatural abilities suddenly became available, the first scenarios that come to mind most definitely aren't “feed the hungry” or “provide housing for the poor” or “set the wrongfully convicted free.” There's no question that magic – were it to exist on Earth – would be used for war and enforcing religious dominance and keeping the elite wealthy few at the top of the proverbial totem pole.


With Light Dawning I've gone a step further even, with the supernatural abilities wielded by a handful of characters in this book all rooted in a cosmic horror source. Not only are they not being used for altruistic reasons, they come with the danger of insanity and extremely unexpected consequences. Magic is more a curse than a gift here, and those who choose to wield it will frequently wish that they hadn't.


Reversing all the standard fantasy tropes was a strong impetus while writing this book, and that included the priests and pantheons so typical of the style. The clergy in this book's universe are quite incorrect in assuming the gods they worship actually care about them, or that these infinite beings who entirely embody some cosmic principle would even have comprehensible desires.


After all, what does the sun really want? Who can say that they truly understand the goals of the darkness in the night sky, even if it even has goals at all? Any human desires attributed to these beings are more a reflection of the character bestowing them than on the actual “god” itself. Does a star have an opinion on how the planets orbiting closest to it are burned to a crisp while those farther away might be in just the right spot for life to flourish?


With no altruistic priests or heroes to rescue them from an invading army, the focus on Light Dawning shifts from whether the characters will save the world, but to whether its even worth saving and how people will deal with harsh reality. How do the people of Cestia respond when their gods utterly fail to save them from invasion and do nothing to ease their suffering in the intervening years? At what point does survival in a brutal occupation become less trouble than its worth? When death is all around, what will these characters make of their final days and how important are their decisions?


AUTHOR BIO
Ty Arthur gets to meld his passions with his work while freelancing for the likes of Metalunderground.com and GameSkinny. His debut sci-fi / horror novella “Empty” was released in early 2016, with many more dark tales still to come. Arthur writes to exorcise his demons and lives in the cold, dark north with his amazing wife Megan and infant son Gannicus Picard.

LINKS
Amazon author page: https://www.amazon.com/Ty-Arthur/e/B0727MRVF8
Official website: https://tyarthur.wordpress.com/
Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/12585427.Ty_Arthur
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ty.g.arthur

April 21, 2017

a review of Thomas Mullen's "Darktown"

There’s no such thing as the good ol’ days and reading Thomas Mullen’s Darktown is a fair reminder of that.  In this historical crime novel, America is still patting itself on the back for a job well done in World War 2, but late-40s Atlanta offers a glimpse of home-grown intolerance and corruption that must be confronted.

Following the war, Atlanta has hired its first black police officers to serve the community known as Darktown. The eight new officers aren’t exactly held in high regard by their bosses either, as not only are they relegated to one neighborhood, but are given no firearms, can make no arrests, and cannot even enter the police department itself, instead conducting their business from a gym basement.

The novel alternates between the viewpoints of two officers, Lucius Boggs and Denny Rakestraw. Boggs, as they and their partners traverse the streets of Darktown. Boggs on the one hand is a bit disillusioned to how well he’s serving his community, while Rakestraw’s naivety is challenged at the side of a grizzled, racist cop who lords over the town as if he owned it. When a black woman is murdered and the last man she was seen with is a retired white cop, things come to a head.

Through the course of the novel, Mullen really paints a picture of how precarious a tightrope it was for the black officers in enforcing the law as best they could with what little they had in resources and support. Hell, there’s a point where just a simple drive out of the city comes with the prospect of an untimely end. Not to mention the open hostility and interference on the part of especially resentful and racist white officers in the department. Plus, the characters feel very genuine and flawed, where a lesser writer might leave them gimmicky and flat.

I enjoy crime fiction, though I don’t normally gravitate towards the police procedural, but this was such an engrossing book aided by a rich historical backdrop and some tight character development, that it felt in no way like a by-the-numbers murder mystery. Atlanta leaps off the page and may be the most interesting character of them all in this novel. And if Mullen has more stories in him revolving around the Atlanta region, I’ll be sure to check them out.

March 24, 2017

A guest post by James Walley, author of "The Fathom Flies Again"

THE FATHOM FLIES AGAIN by James Walley - It's time to wake up and smell the carnage. Just as every night gives way to dawn, all dreams yield to the break of day. For Marty, that's kind of a problem. When you've fought killer clowns, sailed the seven skies, and generally laid waste to your own dreamspace, real life can be kind of a drag. At least, until your nightmares crawl through the cracks and shadows, and take a liking to your town. When the jesters come a knocking, it's time to man up. When the unmentionables under your bed come a biting, it's time to grab your trusty, pint-sized pirate compadre and lead a charge against the night terrors. What does this mean for Marty? It means the crew of The Flying Fathom are back, surfing on rainbows, swashing their buckles, and saving the world, one sleepy little town at a time. Book one of this series, The Forty First Wink, brought you a glimpse of utter, rum-swilling madness. Now The Fathom Flies Again, pushing you over the edge and chuckling at your plummeting screams, before scuttling off to find something shiny to steal. Remember, if you hear something under your bed, don't move. Don't make a sound. Draw your cutlass and think of something devilishly witty to shout, because things, my friend, are about to get all too real.


a guest post by James Walley

When I sat down to write The Forty First Wink, there were no plans for it to be part one of a trilogy. There were no plans for anything really, I just wanted to see if I could stay the course and write a novel. That lasted about four chapters, at which point I realised that there was a lot of mileage in the unfolding story I was tentatively tapping out on my newbie-author keyboard.
Fast forward a year or so. Wink is out, and happily receiving some lovely words of praise. And so it was time to stop walking, get the jetpack out and take it for a test drive.
There were so many things that drove Wink as I was writing it. My love of absurd comedy, the unlikely, rag tag group of heroes, old school horror movies and an overriding sense of fun which I wanted to be the driving force. The story does take place in a dreamscape after all, where everything is amplified, distorted and exaggerated. That was all well and good for the whimsy side, but I felt I was selling my antagonists short a little. Only a little, because come on – Demonic clowns. Put one in a tutu and make it dance a jig and it’d still be terrifying, and a little adorable.
Being a big fan of trilogies, and particularly the dark, harrowing second acts, I saw The Fathom Flies Again as an opportunity to give my Empire its time to Strike Back. I wanted to make it bigger, bleaker, and somehow more grounded in reality, and the latter is precisely where I started with this sequel. It’s all fun and games when you’re gallivanting around your own dream, even if you do have Hell’s harlequins chasing you most of the time. With Fathom, the waking world in all its grey, mundane nine-to-fivery that plays host to hordes of everyone’s worst nightmares.
I’ve always been a fan of sleepy little towns, they always seem to be the places that are set upon in horror fiction. Something about an unreal terror descending to wreak slicey mayhem on a hamlet of unsuspecting victims makes people shudder and grin in equal measure, it seems. I’ve seen and read about that very scenario so many times, and it is so ripe with possibility, that I couldn’t help but unleash my red nosed baddies on the general public, along with a few new nasties thrown in for good measure – Hey, it’s a horror homage, and who says demons can’t bring their friends on a night out?
That’s the creepy element sorted, what now? Oh yes. BIGGER.
Whilst Wink wasn’t at any stage reluctant to throw a stick of dynamite into a store selling more sticks of dynamite, I wanted Fathom to blow the roof off what had come before it. Imagine trading in your car for a monster truck, and then fixing a P.A system to the roof that perpetually thundered out The William Tell Overture, then took it for a spin through a shopping mall. Messy? Loud? Well yes, a bit, but damn that sounds like a lot of fun. I wanted the sort of triumphant fanfare for my heroes that I’d heard from the likes of Captain Chaos in The Cannonball Run, or even Sloth as he slid down the mainsail in The Goonies. Stuff that makes you want to throw a fist and everything it’s attached to into the air in appreciation of the sheer reckless bedlam you wish you could perpetrate too.
While The Forty First Wink was undoubtedly a labour of love, The Fathom Flies Again wasn’t a labour at all. It was the world and its contents that I had written about in book one, but let off the leash, and allowed to be as big, bad and bombastic as they could possibly be. Ultimately I think that’s why I had so much fun writing The Fathom Flies Again. It was as though I had laid the foundation, and now I could go ahead and build a whopping great funhouse on top of it, clowns and all.

Of course, there are worse things than clowns out there…


Hailing from the mystical isle of Great Britain, James Walley is an author who prefers his reality banana shaped.

His debut novel, The Forty First Wink, released through Ragnarok Publications in 2014 scuttles gleefully into this bracket, with a blend of humour, fantasy and the unusual.

A clutch of follow up work, both short and long (including books two and three in the Wink trilogy) are in the offing, and have a similar demented flavour.

When not writing, James is partial to a spot of singing, the odd horror movie or ten, and is a circus trained juggler.

February 1, 2017

Hiatus

Things are going to be pretty quiet on the blog for awhile, but hopefully there will be more reviews, interviews, and such later in the year. Fingers crossed. In the meantime, enjoy 2017 by reading a good book Or try writing something yourself if you feel compelled. Oh, maybe even, if opportunity should present itself ... punch a nazi in the face.


2017, y'all.

January 30, 2017

Good Angels, Better Beasts: an interview with Jerome Stueart, author of "The Angels of Our Better Beasts"

JEROME STUEART'S THE ANGELS OF OUR BETTER BEASTS - The Lemmings are really researching the Arctic biologists, the werewolves sing sweet Christian praise songs, and the signing gorilla just wants someone back in the cage for a minute or two. The Gryphon can fight your war for you, and there isn’t really a problem when the man you’ve been online dating turns out to be a bear, is there? No worries. Those old lions in the canyon aren’t up to something, are they? The doctors in the red coats just want to cure you of a terrible blood disease. Trust them. In the forest, the sasquatch has fallen in love with the cryptozoologist who follows him, while the god of the Brazos River courts the young, pretty Texas college students.


These fifteen illustrated stories of beasts—and the beasts we sometimes become—ask us how much influence we have over each other, to bring out our beast sides or our best sides . . . and how much control the beasts already have over us.  



So how did the ball get rolling for this collection?

I approached Brett and Sandra of ChiZine with a book proposal for the collection--all my short stories which had been published in magazines, and a brief outline of what stories I wanted to write for the collection, as well as a theme and possible audiences.  I may have gone overkill to sell it, but they liked it!  They also bought, at the same time, the rights to the novelization of my short story, "One Nation Under Gods."

When putting together a collection like this, how much of a balancing act is there in choosing which stories to include?

Well, I actually had just enough stories that could form a collection.  So they made up the bulk of it.  I wrote two others for the collection--longer stories.  I tried to sneak in a novella--but I just ran out of time, and my editor, Andrew Wilmot, told me it was probably better this way.  He thought a novella at the end of a collection might throw off the balance of stories. I agree. We did try to space out the flash fiction, the poetry on the edges, the comedic stories, give a feel to reading the collection through from start to finish.  It was a lot of fun for me to arrange the stories in patterns.      

How would you gauge your progression as a writer thus far?

I'm doing okay.  I'm proud of this collection.  I took a long time to publish, I think, because I didn't know if I was ready.  So I took writing workshops in college and learned a lot, and then took Clarion and learned a lot.   I feel late to publishing, but honestly, I'm not sure I had anything to say before now.  I took a lot of time to both find myself and explore different jobs and places--a summer on Long Island as a park ranger, ten years in the Yukon as a vaudevillian, living in a remote subarctic research station, or being a trolley conductor.  In some ways, I was doing the prep work for much of what I'm working on now.  

Your debut novel is also due to be published this year by Chizine. Is there much of a gear shift for you when it comes to story length?

My first novel is a travel novel--a journey across the US modeled on Huckleberry Finn.  It's going to feel episodic within a greater story arc, so that makes chapters into story lengths which is easier for me to think about, I think.  I tend to write long anyway---often coming in at just under 20,000 unless I have a preset wordcount cutoff.  And because it's a novel, I'm kinda letting my narrator just talk right now.... he's a talker.  So, I'm looser with the narrative and where the story could go than I would be in a short story.  I'm discovering where the novel wants to go---though I have a pretty good outline too.  I allow myself to write outside of the plotlines frequently if the narrative feels more important to go there.  

Compared to a novel, say, what do you consider to be the saving grace of the short story?

Tightness of focus and action--always keeping your attention on getting through the story--and leaving you with a clear understanding of that character at that time.  Also, a moment that lingers with you.  

You've also co-edited an anthology with Sandra Kasturi, so I'm guessing the relationship with her and ChiZine has been good so far?

Yeah, they are good people.  Brett first read my "One Nation Under Gods" story back in 2009 for Tesseracts 14.  He wrote the nicest emails, wanting it.  That kind of encouragement has just kept coming from them.  Sandra also teaches me about the business of being a writer, which is very helpful.  They've become great friends.  

Who do you count among your writing influences?  

I'm a hodgepodge of influences, I think.   I feel like the kid of Ray Bradbury + Madeleine L'Engle.  They both found a way to balance adventure, wonder, ideas and message together and they were both some of my earliest reading.  In my very religious household, I was raised on CS Lewis, Fairy Tales, the Bible and Star Trek.   As a kid, I also read  lots of mid-80s Comics, especially X-Men, Spider-man, Green Lantern, Flash, and Fantastic Four.  I read everything Agatha Christie, Stephen King and Piers Anthony wrote when I was a teen, too

And then I read some very different works:  in high school i was deeply affected by Tennyson's tragic, beautiful Idylls of the King--a whole different way of thinking about heroes, about King Arthur and Merlin and Lancelot than I'd grown up with.  In college, I read Catcher in the Rye.  Peter Straub's Shadowland.  Shakespeare. James Baldwin. Ernest Hemingway.  I liked the kinds of feeling these novels gave me when I read.  I think I've always been trying to make a reader feel something in my stories and novels.  

I loved Fitzgerald, John Irving and Alice Munro too.  Today, I'm in love with Kij Johnson and Ted Chiang and Kazuo Ishiguro.  

What is the worst piece of writing advice you ever received? Or what piece of writing advice do you wish would just go away?

I think, for me as a science fiction and fantasy writer, "write what you know" has always felt limiting.  I agree that one should always try to capture every experience, every "scar" as Stephen King says, to put in our fiction.  But I think if beginning writers meet up with "write what you know" they will feel boxed in to memoir, or fiction that resembles memoir (and hey, I like that stuff too! but...).  We have to use a lot more imagination--have to think about people living in space beyond what anyone knows, imagine things that have never happened.  I just think we should read that statement as "You can use everything you've experienced" and "write what you can imagine" maybe.   Those sound more encouraging. 

What kinds of stories resonate with you as a reader?

An everyperson that struggles forced into a situation where they don't know the rules.  I also like stories that make me feel something--a little sacrifice, a little difficult choice. People striving to improve their situation, even if they fail.  I like flawed human characters.  I have to feel that the author cared about the characters so that I can care too.  I'm also a sucker for stories with siblings, or families, with a dog, for mentors who do not die in the middle of novels and who guide our hero, and for puzzle stories.  I reread The Great Gatsby, Mariette in Ecstasy, Frankenstein, Watership Down.  Their characters really push to be something more in their worlds, and often they fail.  I don't know why, but that appeals to me--seeing how they push for more, or how they deal with failure.  That's inspiring.     

What other projects are you cooking up that folks can expect in the near future, and how can folks keep up with your shenanigans?

Well, I'm finishing up two longer stories.  One is about two sisters and their rival gods and the father the sisters fight over.  The other one I'm "cooking up" is about a chef on a starship promoted to diplomat to help negotiate reparations to a society Earth badly abused.  And the bigger project is, of course, the novel One Nation Under Gods due out in June of 2018.  Till then, I have a story coming out in the Spring in a collection from Lethe Press about a retired faun forced to teach jazz clarinet lessons to the boy who now unknowingly owns the faun's ancient powerful clarinet that can work wonders in the world. It's called "Postlude to the Afternoon of the Faun" and it will appear in Friends of Hyakinthos.  You can follow me on jeromestueart.com or on twitter @bearnabas.  If shenanigans happen--they will happen there.