Review of the Silver Sickle

So, a bit more than a year ago I reviewedRebel Heart coverBlood Red Road Cover  a sensational debut fantasy novel titled Blood Red Road by Moira Young.  Fantastic read.  I learned later that it had been movie-optioned by Blade Runner/Alien/Gladiator director Ridley Scott  (can’t wait!!) and then she followed it with an equally pleasing sequel, Rebel HeartNow, you’ve got to understand, I’m a lifelong lover of the fantasy genre – all the way back to the LOTR/Hobbit books and George MacDonald, then Shannara, Thomas Covenant, Pern, Guy Gavriel Kay, and on and on.  Blood Red Road pushed all my best fantasy buttons.

Well, over the past year or so I’ve also been enthusiastically captivated by the off-the-wall humorous and weirdly creative literary style of fellow author Ellie Ann Soderstrom.  (Here’s her blog, which will also give you links to her solo and collaborative works.)  I subjectively 5-star reviewed (woot! woot!) her co-authored pulp crime thriller Breaking Steele back in January, and bottom line, this girl can wield a pen.

So, when Ellie Ann sent me an advance PDF copy of the dystopian fantasy novel she’d been working on for a few years and was finally excited to publish, I regrettably set it aside to read later.  You see, my crazy-busy life just then welcomed zero interruptions for pleasure reading — Boo, Glenn!!  Bad bad decision! – and I missed out for weeks on enjoying what turned out to be a sucked-in, couldn’t-put-it-down, two-day whirl-read of a literary gem.  The Silver Sickle is fantastic!

You’ll find a bunch of 5-star reviews on and Ellie Ann notes many other raves on her website, and believe me, each and every approbation hits the nail on the head.  Anything I say will simply echo everyone else, but I do wish to take a second to tell you what I loved about this book.

Imagine a world . . . Those of us who write contemporary fiction shudder at the thought of creating a brand new place.  Environment, terrain, weather, inhabitants, politics, buildings, municipal infrastructure, cuisine, and on and on.  Hell, I’ve literally lived my life in my books’ Seattle setting for more than 40 years.  If I want to describe a building, I drive down the street and look at it!  Ellie Ann has masterfully crafted her own imaginary land of Dyn, an intricately complicated world, roughly medieval Middle Eastern in flavor, but with a steampunk edge and a couple of wickedly cool and horrific alien races thrown into the mix.  I got a fun Aliens meets Stargate meets Aladdin meets Falling Skies kinda vibe.  (Hey, in my world that’s awesome!)  And the whole Traveler thing totally creeped me out.  Brilliant.

I need somebody to love . . . Talk to people about the last Oh Wow! book/movie/tv show/graphic novel/owner’s manual they experienced and at the root of their pleasure will be the characters.  We want to escape with someone worthy of our heart-and-soul investment, and oh my, Silver Sickle has a bunch of ‘em. 

• Our young heroine Farissa, unwillfully recruited into the “consecrated” ranks of King Koru’s concubines, but with a sassy bravery that just might set her free.  (Think Jasmine à la Lara Croft.)Jasmine à la Lara Croft

• Her childhood friend and devoted admirer Zel, a clever apprentice cogmaster who holds the key to that freedom by an impossible invention capable of destroying the godlike Amar. (Think Aladdin à la Sheldon Cooper.)Alladin Sheldon Cooper

• Gira, the evil bitch queen leader of the Amar, whose centuries-planned scheme to destroy the human race provides the ticking clock that pushes this story forward at breakneck pace. (Think Cruella de Vil à la praying mantis.)Cruella de Vil Praying Mantis

• My favorite Silver Sickle characters, though, were the cogsmen, a mysterious race of heroic cyberpunk androids with clockwork mechanisms, near-human brain chips, and a frustrating ethics code that will inevitably save or ruin everything.  Love these guys.  (Think Aragorn à la C3PO.)Aragorn C3PO

Once upon a time . . . And finally there’s the story itself.  It goes a little like this: A mid-millennial culture is descended upon by a persuasively manipulative insectoid alien race called the Amar that convinces the kingdom’s handsome and gullible monarch to put the future of his people (and unknowingly the entire human race) in its exoskeletoned hands.  A wicked bitch queen Gira heads up those Amar and she’s a total wicked bitch.  Kinda like the head wicked bitch queen Aliens critteralien in Aliens.  And she’s supposedly invincible.  Well, except maybe by the robotic steel-armored cogsmen who’ve kept the kingdom functioning for centuries, but can’t truly protect its people because they’re bound to the will of their numb-nut ruler by brain chips that will trigger immediate self-explosion should they defy him by traitorous acts such as harming the Amar.   Yeah, now you’re starting to get the picture.  Luckily, the young consecrat Farissa and her lover wannabe and genius-with-the-cogs Zel stumble upon what’s really going on and make other plans.  Until those plans are thwarted.  Crap!  So they make other plans.  Oh, wait . . . TMI, right?  I’m ruining the story.  Okay, let me just say this: an adorable root-for couple with combined brains and clever brawn, god-awful hate ’em hate ’em hate ’em creepy bad guys, a mysterious mechanical army of potential save-the-dayers, a gargantuan basement-dwelling life-sucking amorphous worm thing called Traveler (yeah, the same name as Robert E. Lee’s valiant white steed – how twisted is that?!!), and a story that dances every which way and teases you along and keeps you guessing and smiling and sighing and hand-wringing and almost wetting your pants maybe one night late ‘cuz you probably shouldn’t have started that next chapter, but you couldn’t put it down.  Just sayin’.

And the end is good, by the way, for those who worry about anticlimactic unfulfillment.

If you’re a fan of the genre, this one’s a fantasy winner.  Can’t wait for what’s next up your sleeve, Ellie Ann.

Just a thought.

Always Write Redux

So, it’s 2013.  Happy New Year!Seattle New Year's Fireworks

For the last month or so I’ve had my eyes and mind and trigger finger targeted on January 1 as the launch date of the renewed me.  Well, at least the renewed “writer” me.  When I created this blog I titled it Always Write, which I thought clever and innuendo-ish at the time, but nowadays seems disingenuous in its veracity.  Sometimes Write has been the reality of late.  Or even Write. Uh, Not So Much.  Hell, let’s admit it, I’ve been elsewhere for a while.

But don’t get me wrong — life’s been good.  Better than good most of the time.  The money job’s been incredibly satisfying, my grandkids have become the greatest gk’s on the planet, Nancy and I spent 11 days on Maui and 9 days in Prague and Vienna, I’ve read some fantastic books and articles, viewed a dozen emotion-romping movies, made new friends, enjoyed a half thousand different craft beers, and even carved a few notches in my Bucket List.

#47  Eat a Vienna sausage in Vienna – Check.

Bucket list 47

All in all, the last half year has been one of the best of my life.

But my soul has ached a bit and my days have ended all too frequently with a note of unfulfillment and dissatisfaction because I haven’t been writing.

Alas.  Those who write know of what I speak.  This writing thing — it’s a tough row to hoe sometimes.  There’s nothing quite as satisfying as pouring one’s mind and creativity and sense of humor and message into words on a page, then massaging it into exactly what you want it to be, then risking your soul by putting it out there for others to ingest and love it or hate it.  It’s scary, being a writer.  Hence, it’s all too easy to set aside for a moment, which becomes a day – week – month – season.  And for some, it never comes back.  Permanent distraction.

A while ago I wrote a piece about climbing back into the writing saddle.  What I didn’t realize at the time was some paparazzo apparently filmed me in the process, as you can see in this video.

What the foul dog didn’t stick around for, however, was this here cowpoke picking myself back up, brushing off the dirt and the cobwebs, and re-hoisting.  The pen and pad and keyboard are ready and my fingers are chomping at the bit.

2013 is gonna be a rodeo.

What are you?

So, I’m standing in my driveway the other day when the 7-year old neighbor girl four houses around the cul-de-sac comes scurrying down her driveway, tennis shoes a-fly, and banks right on to the sidewalk heading my direction.  Her little hand clutched a bright yellow personal walkie-talkie, the kind that all the moms and dads are using these days to stay in touch with their neighborhood-roving kids.  I knew she had a couple of BFFs (can 7-year olds have BFF’s?) on the street right behind ours and figured she was heading over there for a visit.  As she got closer to me the pattering of her feet abruptly slowed and she screeched to a halt.  Seriously.  I could swear I heard this little screech sound.

And then this sweet little girl and I had an exchange of words which simply and profoundly altered the next couple of hours of my life.

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