New Fiction: Boutilier House for newsletter subscribers Oct 31st!

Hey all,

This post is pretty much right what it says in the title. My newsletter will be sent out October 31st, and it’s gonna be packed full of the nonsense that is my life and writing.

Also, it will contain a new short story I’ve been working on, Boutilier House. You can have access to said short story if you sign up before October 31st 2021 (when the newsletter will be sent out).

If you’re a discerning reader, and would like to try before you buy (to be clear this is a free newsletter), you can check out the sample newsletter I posted back in July. It also had some exclusive fiction, titled Master of Secrets, set in my Egypt and Dinosaur universe. (if you’re curious what the hell that is, look no further than ICYMI: Narmer and the God Beast Live on Amazon! It not only contains a link to an already published short story, but also all the links and info you could ever need to know about what inspired this crazy idea).

But if you’re like “Hey! Halloween is coming!” and are more in the mood for haunted nonsense, you’ll definitely be more interested in Boutilier House. Essentially, it’s the story of a Victorian Age gentleman who is cajoled by his father-in-law to leave his wife and kid behind to investigate the methods of a ‘perfect house’, built by a mysterious inventor, which will see to your every need. He discovers there is more at play in Boutilier House than fancy tech, and he’ll need to unravel all of the house’s secrets in order to save himself and the family he thought safely at home . . .

I posted a preview of Boutilier House a few weeks ago, and a little glimpse into my revision process just last Friday.

But to get the full and complete story of Boutilier House, you’ll need to (of course) sign up for my newsletter before October 31st 2021!

Ok. That’s the last I’m gonna harp on that. Please let me know your thoughts in the comments. Are you intrigued? Why or why not? Thanks again and I’ll see you all next week (Or maybe Sunday if you sign up!).

Should ‘Legendborn’ win a Lodestar Award?

We’re back this week with another book review of Hugo 2021 related material. In this case, it’s my review of the book Legendborn by Tracy Deonn. It’s been nominated for the Lodestar Award, which in my mind is essentially the Hugo Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy.

I’ve already reviewed several Lodestar and Hugo nominees so far, in a variety of categories so if you’re interested in the work I’ve completed so far, go ahead and check it out.

Now, on to the matter at hand: Legendborn.

It’s already earned Deonn a John Steptoe Award for New Talent (given out by the American Library Association), as well as an Ignyte Award for Best YA Novel. It’s been a finalist in a slew of other awards, including the Locus Award, LA Times Book Prize, and the Goodreads Choice Awards (how I found out about it).

Needless to say, Legendborn is already something of a legend itself, and after reading it, I can definitely see why. It’s a pretty great book.

I think the easiest way to go about this review will be to list all of the things I like about the book, and then the (very) few things I didn’t like. Here we go:

So I think the core of this book — the part that shined the brightest for me — is its representation of grief and loss. I don’t think it’s much of a spoiler to say that the main character, Bree, opens the story after her mother has been killed in a hit and run accident. She does NOT handle it well (who would/could?) and it is her refusal to believe the reality she is given, and her quest for answers that drives nearly every aspect of the story.

This felt so real, it was often difficult to read. This fact alone speaks volumes about the quality of Deonn’s prose and the skill with which she crafted this story. Indeed my first thought as I was listening was something along the lines of: “Wow. Everything in this book just leads right into the next thing like a tightly woven fabric”. For the most part, this cohesion held throughout the entirety of book. There were no (or very few) places in which I wondered how we got to a certain part or where the story was going. Everything just flew along.

Effortless. I love it when books are like this!

The next part of the story that stood out to me, was just how difficult the world Bree inhabited was for her (even without grief making it all that much worse). Much of that work was communicated through the use of both micro and macro aggressions Bree experiences in each of the realms of her story (someone even had the nerve to pat her hair!). UNC, the lodge, and Arthur’s round table, each added another layer of resistance, not only for her quest to find answers about her mother’s death, but also just for her livelihood in general. At any given moment Bree is being told by a handful of separate influences that she does not matter, that she does not belong. That she is able to persevere against so much is truly inspiring.

In an interview with NPR: New Hampshire, Deon explains how often times young black girls are a expected to grow up quicker, and be an adult earlier than other groups of children and how she wanted to show this in her story. She explains the stereo type of the Angry Black Woman and how she wanted to irrevocably justify that anger. She talked about the trope of the Strong Black Woman and how she wanted Bree to be this as well (reading Legendborn I think we see that she is although it is more nuanced in approach than many other portrayals).

And finally, she discusses the experience of not knowing your people’s stories except for a few generations back, while we have hundreds, if not thousands of years of stories around myths like King Arthur who historians cannot even be confirm actually existed.

I’ll admit that listening to the interview put a lot of what this book is ‘about’ in perspective for me, and I think that while I may not have known exactly what I was feeling while I read, Deonn absolutely accomplished what she set out for with Legendborn. That it was so ambitious a task only makes it that much more impressive.

Now that I’ve harped about the parts of this book that I thought were so impressive, I’ll list a couple things which I didn’t enjoy as much (and recognize that everything listed hereafter is one hundred percent personal preference).

First thing: The Love Triangle. Deonn plays with many — MANY!! — tropes in Legendborn and for the most part, kicks their butt (whether by subverting them or refreshing them). But with everything else going on in the book, this part seemed completely unnecessary. At one point during the novel, Bree even says something along the lines of “I thought of all the reasons I shouldn’t go see him, yet I felt compelled by some force I could not understand to see him anyway.”

That force is the Hand of the Author Bree. Resist!! Sigh.

Perhaps this type of thing is exactly what other readers look for in a YA Fantasy, but it just didn’t work for me (I also rolled my eyes pretty hard at a reference to Twilight, not because it was Twilight per se, but because the scene quoted was by far one of the goofiest looking scenes of the movie which I hoped we could all just forget. Apparently not hahah).

Finally, while I think the contrast of King Arthur’s legend against Bree’s search for her family’s history brought an interesting dichotomy to light, I’m just not that in to Arthur and the round table.

So . . . Lodestar?

This book has certainly earned one, and I understand the hype surrounding it, however, I don’t think it will be my choice for the Lodestar Award. While Bree’s character was expertly drawn, I hardly remember much about the side-characters which were a real strong point for Cemetery Boys, and while a covertly magical UNC Chapel Hill is a unique and interesting world, it was not as immersive to me as the one built in Raybearer. I think one of those two will be my choices for the Lodestar (sorry Deadly Education) although Legendborn is an excellent book (I won’t really be all that upset if it wins).

That’s all for now. Please let me know your thoughts. Do you agree with my points? Is there something I haven’t considered? Why do you think Legendborn should get the award? Please let me know in the comments. See you next time!

Rewrites: Boutilier House

Last week, I posted a preview of October’s newsletter exclusive fiction and announced the story had been sent off to my writing group for critique (wow that is a long link).

Well the results are in, and as with every first draft, Boutilier House needs some help. This part of the process for me always seems to be the most difficult, and usually I spend large swaths of time ignoring whatever feedback I receive (and the entire piece for that matter) to either work on new ideas that have crept into my head, or catch up on reading or learning craft.

This is a dangerous time for stories . . .

It’s so easy to let them linger in this purgatory indefinitely. But my October 31st deadline is approaching quickly so there’s no time for dawdling. In an effort to try and inspire myself to actually finish the piece, and to show my work, I thought it might be fun to post some of the feedback I received, and maybe talk a little bit about my approach to fixing some of the problems.

Wish me luck!

The Feedback:

  • Had a ‘The Shining’ feel to it.
  • A little tough getting out of the gate. info dump on Page 2.
  • Choppy language in the beginning. Smooth out the language in the beginning.
  • Needed more grounding in the beginning.
  • Was confusing who all the characters were?
  • What’s the house’s motivation? Why serve Adam and then trap him. Why not trap him from the beginning?
  • Was the house collecting souls to power it?
  • Did Adam’s wife and kid die? (one reviewer thought yes; another thought no)
  • A little more backstory on the scientist maybe.
  • Ending was confusing. Vague endings are allowable but it needs to be on purpose.
  • Middle was good at building tension.
  • Shorten maybe?
  • Reviewers knew what was going on by page 6 or so.

The Stuff I’m proud of and hopefully won’t change:

(Because it’s important to celebrate your wins as well as improve upon your losses)

The Shining feel to it – Woah! This is awesome feedback. I can’t say I’ve really tried to emulate Stephen King in any way when trying to write the piece, but I can see that perhaps my plot has a similar trajectory. My critique partners also mentioned that it was different too, so I don’t think I have to worry about being a knock-off. I think I can keep this element the same.

Middle was good at building tension – This is also great as (for me) the middle of the story is always the most difficult. It’s a) usually the longest section, and b) perhaps the most critical for keeping a reader’s attention. In the beginning, the reader is intrigued by the premise, and at the end they’re (hopefully) dying to see how it all ends up. But what do they have to hold on to in the middle? It’s a hard spot, and in my opinion, where most books suffer. It seams to have worked out this time, so I don’t want to change anything there.

(This is dually good because I haven’t read a lot of horror, or scary stories/books, and have never tried to study them much — which I think I’d like to do someday now I’ve tried this piece — so I was going completely on instinct)

Stuff I need to improve:

Choppy/confusing who characters were/info dumpy beginning – Yikes. Ya hate to hear this kind of feedback, but it’s better to hear it than to never hear it and have all these problems in your final draft. What’s interesting here, is that this reaction may have stemmed from the fact that I cut an entire scene from the beginning in which Mr. Cunningham and Adam have dinner, and discuss his happiness along with Helen’s and Lexy’s, and what Adam wants for the future. Then Adam hops in a carriage to go to the house and much of the eeriness I tried to show in Mathieu’s character actually happens on the carriage ride, not in the Fourier of the house.

It was like 2,000 words and put the piece way over my word budget (I always aim for 6,000ish words for short stories because that’s what the critiquing group will be able to read). I decided to cut it and allude to the scene when I felt I needed to. Apparently I did not allude to it enough?

Hopefully I can fix this in the final draft.

As for the info dump? I totally see it, and am a little sad because it was something I knew going in might be a problem but hoped I got away with it (if there is one thing I’ve learned so far from writing it is that if you’re nervous about something, the critique group WILL mention it. Spend the time to get it to your liking before submitting).

There are no less than four paragraphs devoted to the layout of the house on page two. There is probably only six paragraphs on that entire page. In hindsight, it seems especially egregious because, for the most part, these rooms are not the rooms which most of the action takes place in (with the exception perhaps of one scene in the dining room).

And finally, the choppiness . . . It’s a little hard to know. Usually I feel like I have a pretty good ear for this sort of thing, but I’ll admit that since I only finished my draft last Friday morning, it’s possible that I don’t have enough distance from the piece for it to stand out to me. However, I can already glean a little from the opening:

“The first thing about Boutilier House which set Adam on edge were the locks. There were none.

For a house — no a palace — such as this, Adam had suspected that every porcelain dish in the China cabinets, or any gilded vase along the entry table might somehow prove under lock and key. Perhaps even the guest book was bolted upon its wood and silver pedestal.

But it was simply not the case.

Adam might have nicked the polished gold nightjars roosting on the table runner as easy as removing candy from its wrapper. In his youth, perhaps he might have, just because he could.

But Mr. Cunningham had not sent him here for larks.

https://alligatorsandaneurysms.wordpress.com/2021/10/15/october-newsletter-fiction-preview-draft-sent-our-for-critique/

There’s a kind of formula here that keeps repeating itself. Long sentence or paragraph followed by a short sentence which is its own paragraph or maybe just a single word. Repeat.

(see what I did there? I’m still doing it! haha)

Also, I use an em dash to interrupt a thought — which is a stylistic thing that I like and knowingly put in my work — then a second em dash to continue the original thought. I’ll admit that counting them in the opening section, there’s at least six (though not all paired like that). I don’t think there are any rules on how many em dashes one should use in a piece or how often, but six is probably excessive. Perhaps we can get rid of some of them for the final product.

Ending was too vague / confusing, more backstory, what were Adam’s and the House’s Motivations – Hearing your character’s (and villain’s) motivations are unclear is always a hard pill to swallow. In terms of the House itself, I think the critique has great insight and actually pointed out a spot I was blind to while writing. I didn’t really think through why the house was doing the things it was doing. Why serve them in the way that it does only to trap them later on? I’ll have to think on this and come up with something good.

I don’t want to go to far into this because SPOILERS and I want there to be some reason for y’all to read the story, but already the mind is working . . . this is the fun part 🙂

Conclusion?

Well, there’s definitely work to do. I think the things I talked about above should give me a good start at least. The rest we’ll have to see about, but hopefully I’ll be able to think through it in the same manner.

Of course the primary objective of this post was for me to think through some of what I needed to fix in the story, but I must confess there was a second objective as well. Since this piece will be published through my newsletter, I was hoping that getting a look behind the scenes might entice you to sign up for said newsletter. Do so before October 31st (when it goes out this quarter), and you’ll get the completed version of this story in your inbox. As some added incentive, I’ll also email you the first story I ever wrote when you sign up.

Thank you in advance for any that do, and no worries for those that don’t. There will be plenty more opportunities I’m sure.

In the mean time, what did y’all think of this post? Was it interesting? Would you want to see more of this type of thing in the future? Any of solutions you can think of to the problems I’ve listed above? Please let me know in the comments.

Thanks and see you next time!

Should ‘Riot Baby’ win a Hugo?

This book does not give a fuck about my review.

This book does not care about the Hugos, or the Nebulas, or the Locus (although it might nod its head in recognition at the Ignyte awards).

This book is a feeling.

Not a chip implanted in the thumb to suppress emotions when things begin getting too hard to bear, but the raw, untempered, pain and anguish of continued brutality.

This book is a reason to start googling atrocities.

It’s our past, present, and could-be-if-we’re-not-careful future.

It’s laser focused outrage.

Riot Baby is a book I would recommend to (almost) anyone, but I know it will not be for everyone. It is certainly feels like the most prescient, insightful, and powerful work of any I’ve read in preparation for Hugo voting (it is only the first work I’ve read in the novella category), but I’m honestly not sure if that will translate into a victory or not.

People come to these awards with many different ideals for what a hugo winner is. From some of the comments I’ve seen, people seem to feel that its dark tone and vignette style narration detract from its cohesion as a story. Then again, one reviewer enjoyed it so much they wished it was longer.

Personally, I enjoyed Riot Baby (as is) and would be perfectly happy if it won the award. Considering I have not yet read any of the other candidates, I can’t say for sure what my overall verdict will be, but this was a strong first venture for me.

Aside from its raw emotion, I appreciated the novella’s forecast into the future. The world Ella and Kev live in at the end of the story is different from the one they started in, technology advancing and becoming part of their lives in new and interesting (horrifying) ways. Of course, the systematic racism they’ve endured the entire novella has advanced with the tech (or used the tech to advance) and so in many respects it is still the same world they started in.

Also, the ‘Chosen One’ trope, will be familiar — if not beaten to death — to most SFF readers but I appreciated Onyebuchi’s take on this well worn cliché. In an interview with NPR, Tochi Onyebuchi talks about his use of the ‘Chosen One’ in the story:

“. . . it’s interesting to look at Ella through the lens of a Chosen One or Anointed One. Ella comes to believe that she was prayed for, that she is the answer to a beseeching, that she is the vehicle for her people’s deliverance. Which begs the question, whose Chosen One is she?”

https://www.npr.org/2020/01/26/798237707/this-isnt-new-questions-for-tochi-onyebuchi-author-of-riot-baby

Even her own brother, Kev, seems to view her in this light a few times, asking her — when he’s incarcerated for years in a prison — to simply burn it all down, because he knows she could. It brings up interesting questions. Could the nuclear option be the right answer? Could we really change by starting over? Does the injustice of such an option outweigh what’s currently being perpetrated?

Finally, from a craft perspective, I really enjoyed Onyebuchi’s ability to create living breathing characters. For the two main characters, the author is able to create distinct voices which allow us to differentiate between them despite the constant jumping back and forth between perspectives. Just their manner of speaking is enough to separate them, but we also see the differences between their thoughts and actions. Definitely something to take note of if not study (steal) outright.

And this clarity is not limited to Riot Baby‘s main characters either. The side-characters also seem to carry an individuality all their own, whether it be the slap of someone’s fist against their palm while they speak, or just the hunch of their shoulders, everyone seemed distinct. Considering the page count, this was dually impressive to me.

So . . . Hugo?

Right now (10/20/2021), after only reading this one entry, I would pick this one for my choice. However, given the negative reviews I’ve seen, I’m not optimistic that the rest of the voters are in alignment. I understand the complaints about the tone, and the jumbled nature of the narration, but ultimately for me, I felt this piece had everything a Hugo winner would need. It’s prescient, insightful, and powerful. It’s a reminder of what we’re already experiencing, how it could continue, and it considers deeply our options. Riot Baby does all of this through some of the most vivid and well realized characters I’ve read in a long time.

It also probably does not give a fuck that I think any of that . . .

Welp that’s all for now. Have you read this one yet? What are your thoughts? Please leave them in the comments. See you all next time!

October Newsletter Fiction Preview + Draft Sent out for Critique

So . . . I’m going to be about a month late on this newsletter. My goal is to have updates about my life and writing sent out every quarter as a kind of supplement to the posts I do here on the blog. I’m hoping to have things like sales and special offers (when I finally have some published works) and info about new releases. But I’m hoping the real drive will be exclusive fiction which I’ll write every quarter that will be for members of the newsletter only (if any of that sounds cool please sign up for my newsletter)

But this month, it didn’t quite go as planned. Publishing Narmer and The God Beast and the promotion I did for it took up a considerable amount of my time. I did manage to hack out a zero-draft during a writing retreat I did during Labor Day weekend, but with Pitchwars and other stuff I had not completed much by my October 1st deadline.

So, my new goal is to push the newsletter on October 31st, and have exclusive fiction for subscribers at that point. So far that seems to be going well. I finished my first draft and sent it away to be critiqued this coming Monday. Once that feedback has come through, I can make any tweaks before the 31st deadline.

Then it’s November which is a whole other thing I gotta figure out . . .

Anyway, I thought it might be cool to see a little of what I’ve been working on, and so I’ve posted the first part of the story, Boutilier House, for y’all to read and enjoy. The rest will be sent out with the newsletter on Oct 31st (so sign up!)


Boutilier House

The first thing about Boutilier House which set Adam on edge were the locks. There were none.

For a house — no a palace — such as this, Adam had suspected that every porcelain dish in the China cabinets, or any gilded vase along the entry table might somehow prove under lock and key. Perhaps even the guest book was bolted upon its wood and silver pedestal.

But it was simply not the case.

Adam might have nicked the polished gold nightjars roosting on the table runner as easy as removing candy from its wrapper. In his youth, perhaps he might have, just because he could. 

But Mr. Cunningham had not sent him here for larks. 

No, the prize Adam was to take with him when he left was far more valuable than a few gold trinkets.    

And so it was that the full seven seconds it took Mathieu to respond to his comment about the locks was actually the third thing which set Adam on edge.

“Oh, there are locks Adam — May I call you Adam?” Mathieu said abruptly.

“Oh, um. Of course.” 

Mathieu’s light-blue eyes seemed to brighten slightly as he visibly committed the name to memory. “My father thought of everything when designing the house. Why carry with you a cumbersome ring of keys — which might get lost or stolen — when the house can recognize you and welcome you inside simply by the touch of your hand upon the doorknob?”

Adam had no argument there. It was truly remarkable.

Before coming to clerk for Mr. Cunningham, Adam had fancied himself something of amateur engineer, tinkering here and there as each new trend caught his attention.

But Boutilier’s work simply defied understanding.

“But surely it can’t remember everyone,” Adam pressed. “Or what if it does remember a past tenet and accidentally lets them in while another guest is here. If the system is mechanical surely there is a way to override — ”

Mathieu held up one finger.

“You must trust us, Adam. Relax. The system works and it has never been wrong. Father has seen to everything.”

Mathieu turned slightly so that his body no longer impeded entry into the house. He gestured invitingly at the large greeting area, flanked by two enormous wooden staircases which bent around and behind a door on the first story.

“Come,” he said simply. “Let me show you around.” 

As they walked, Adam could see doorways leading to the different wings of the house along the left and right walls of the entryway, but Mathieu lead him through a center door instead.

“In here is the dining area.”

Mathieu gestured to a long and narrow room, with an equally long and slightly narrower wooden table. Cabinets lined each of the walls, filled with glass and porcelain in every shape and size of plate or cup Adam could imagine. Those automated doors must work well indeed if nothing had been taken.

“Simply let the house know what you would like to eat, and it will be served upon your request,” said Mathieu as they left the dining area, and went back the way they’d come. He picked a staircase and began climbing. 

“The master bedroom will be through that center door. The bath is at the end of the hall on your right.”

Mathieu continued to lead Adam through the house, mixing in bits of the Boutilier’s family history with the amenities Adam could expect from his stay in the mansion. Apparently, this had been Gregoire Boutilier’s first house upon coming to the new world. He’d lived there with his three children, Roseline, Joel, and Isabelle.  

But it wasn’t long before Adam began listening with only half an ear. The house was large, yes, and clearly furnished with the highest quality of accommodations, but aside from the locks, displayed nothing of the marvel Mr. Cunningham had described when they’d met for dinner last week.

Nothing that would warrant the abrupt separation from his wife and toddling daughter.

Adam felt his jaw clench as he remembered Helen’s reddened, tear-filled stare through their apartment’s front window. Lexy cried in her arms and Helen soothed her half-heartedly.

All of the arguments Adam had constructed while at dinner with Helen’s father had seemed to mean little when held up against Lexy’s anxiety at their separation, and Helen’s pleas for rest and relief at the end of a long day.

Mr. Cunningham had sent a nanny of course, to help out while Adam was away, but even Adam knew it would not be the same as having both parents at home with their child. Adam speculated briefly what discovery he might make here that might possibly absolve him his absence. 

Nothing came to mind.

Suddenly Adam had very little patience for the number of threads woven into the master bedroom’s sheets or knowing the exact temperature of his bath water when he washed.        

“I’m sorry to interrupt,” Adam finally cut Mathieu off. “All of this is very nice. Really top notch. But this is a bit of a business retreat. Is there somewhere I can work? Without being disturbed by the servants that is.” 

Mathieu got that look again, the one in which he appeared to be staring at something far off in the distance. 

“Servants? . . . Work? Ah!” Mathieu said at last. “You must mean the library. Magnificent. One of my favorite parts of the house. My own father spent many of his nights there working on his inventions. Would you like to go there now?”

“Please.”

Mathieu led Adam through a series of twists and turns which did not seem to match any layout Adam had built in his mind of Boutilier’s house, and arrived at the library within a few minutes, though the tour before that had seemed to take much longer.

It seemed nice, a large open room with a domed ceiling that reached several stories. Bookshelves climbing three of the four walls and packed full of books and mechanical devices.

The fourth wall sported two massive windows which must let in plenty of light during the morning and afternoon. 

Adam looked around, judging its fit. That table over there could serve as a workbench. Maybe the chest of drawers which seemed to be a card catalog could contain screws and nuts, bolts and small glassware. 

It would do.

He’d get his project done and then go home to Helen and Lexy before they even processed he was gone.

“Thank you, Mathieu. I think we’re quite finished with the tour now.”

“Of course, sir,” Mathieu said, courteous as ever. “If you need anything, simply ask and the house will provide. 

“You keep saying that . . . Never mind. Where are the switches for these lamps? I should like to get to work immediately, but it will be dark soon.”

Mathieu paused in his way before answering. “Ah! Sorry Adam. I’ve been remiss in my duties. You simply say the house’s name and the house will listen. Normally we would say Boutilier, but we’ve taken into account your English sensibilities, so we’ve asked the house to respond to the English equivalent. Go ahead and give it a shot. All you need do is say the name and ask for what you want.” 

“Butler . . .” Adam tried cautiously. “Please turn on the library’s lights for me.” 

Adams heart felt like it had stopped beating in his chest. 

The library’s lights came on dimly and got slowly brighter until they were bright enough to read by. 

Mr. Cunningham had been right. There was something worth discovering in this house after all. It might even be enough to absolve him.


Anyway, that was the first part of my (hopefully spooky) story. The rest will be released along with the newsletter on October 31st so be sure to sign up!

Please leave any feedback in the comments. See you next time!

The Lost Dinosaurs Of Egypt (review)

Looks like there is still one more post in my influences series for Narmer and the God Beast.

That last influence being . . . The Lost Dinosaurs of Egypt.

This book ended up being a really inspiring read although I’ll admit that I did put it down once, and did not finish it until long after I’d written both NATGB and my novel set in the same universe.

Essentially, The Lost Dinosaurs of Egypt is more about people than it is about dinosaurs. It tells the story of two discoveries within the Bahariya Formation in Egypt. The first, is the original survey of the oasis during 1910 and 1911 by a German paleontologist named Ernst Stromer. Stromer is credited with the discovery of several dinosaurs from the region, namely: Aegyptosaurus (currently the name of my novel), Bahariasaurus, Carcharodontosaurus, and the incredibly weird and bad-ass Spinosaurus aegyptiacus.

We also get the story of the ‘Bahariya Dinosaur Project’ which consisted of many paleontologists and geologists (in no particular order): Joshua Smith,  Matthew C. LamannaKenneth J. LacovaraPeter Dodson, Jennifer R. Smith, Jason Charles Poole (called Chewie by the group), Robert Giegengack and Yousri Attia. It seems they found many different fossils during their trip in the 1999 and the winter of 2000, but will mostly be remembered for their discovery of a new Sauropod named Paralititan Stromeri (the God Beast in NATGB).

Sounds Awesome, Why Put it Down?

Correct it is awesome. I learned so much reading this book, but when I first picked it up, I was simply not uncovering the types of information I was looking for. I think I came to the book hoping that it would be more dinosaur centric. I had read the wikipedia pages for each of the dinosaurs referenced above and was completely fascinated by them. I wanted to go deeper into what they were like and how they really lived. What did they eat? How did they move? Or raise their young?

And to TLDOE’s credit, it does open with a pretty speculative section about the Paralititan which the Bahariya Dinosaur Project found, but it is only a page or so long and then we move on to the tragedy of how the dinosaur fossils were lost. This section is mainly about air force pilots, and military technology. World War I things.

It just wasn’t what I came to the book for . . .

But after trying again?

Picking up the book later though, after most of the writing was complete, I found it much more enjoyable. It was cool to see the parallels between Stromer’s work, and the Bahariya Dino Project’s (they even discovered some of Stromer and Markgraf’s old dig sites with plaster still in the ground from nearly 100 years ago!). I found the history of paleontology discussed within the book fascinating. And was proud to recognize a few names I learned in Why Dinosaurs Matter (indeed the author of that book, Kenneth Lacovara, was part of the ‘Barhariya Dinosaur Project’).

Generally getting to know the team members of ‘The Bahariya Dinosaur Project’ was fun as well. Apparently two members of the team are drummers (Lacovara, and Joshua Smith) and they recounted a bit about traditional Egyptian music and drumming which, as a drummer myself, I probably could have read a whole other book on (makes me wonder if there’s some deeper connection between liking drums and liking dinosaurs?).

There was also some really interesting information about traveling in Egypt, and what to watch out for, both in terms of people and wildlife (apparently Egypt is home to the most venomous scorpion in the world, foot long poisonous centipedes and camel spiders which apply an anesthetic to their prey before eating them . . . they’ll have half your face chewed off before you even wake up from sleeping . . . nope nope nope!)

But I think what I enjoyed the most which the book also explores, is some of the science behind Geology and Paleontology. I didn’t know much about how things are named or even what the different time periods of the earth’s history were. This book found a way to describe all of that without making it a boring lecture.

Finally, there were the fossils themselves. Not everything discovered at Bahariya was a dinosaur, and this book delved into those other finds a bit as well. I learned about prehistoric marine snakes (Simoliophis), some whales (Zeuglodon Osiris or Basilosaurus), and Paleomastadon. All creatures I’d like to add to future Egypt and dino adventures (one even has Osiris in the name . . . it writes itself really).

Then, towards the end of the book, what the Oasis must have looked like 95 million years ago. THIS!! This was what I had been wanting to read the whole time. I learned about prehistoric mangrove forests which Paralititan’s long neck would have helped it eat huge swaths of without having to move much (so the general conception of sauropods having long necks to reach high branches seems debunked in Bahariya at least where the long neck would have helped them reach outward not upward). And (at least part of) the answer to the mystery of how so many theropods (the clade of which all meat eating dinos are a part of) could have existed in the same area. They were feeding on the massive Paralititans!

So . . . it was good?

Yes! The Lost Dinosaurs of Egypt was an incredible read. Packed full of information, and generally well written. The copy I’m using is from the library, but I will probably end up buying my own copy to serve as a reference going forward. Highly recommend to anyone looking for a good Dino read.

That’s all for now. Thanks for reading all of this. Please let me know what your favorite dino is in the comments. From Bahariya? Or anywhere really. See you next time!


Still here? Awesome. I hope you enjoyed The Lost Dinosaurs of Egypt (review). As mentioned at the beginning of this post, this was a major influence on my own story, Narmer and the God Beast. I revealed the story’s amazing cover art and blurb a few weeks ago, illustrated for me by Lee Eschliman and I’ve been posting a bunch about my influences for this story all last month. The story’s official launch was on October 4th. If you like anything you’ve seen so far, you can head over to Amazon and order it now.

If you want more of my writing, please check out my fiction page, or consider signing up for my newsletter at https://jdweber.news/EgyptAndDinos. It will give you access to exclusive fiction, special offers, and just my general life and nonsense (here’s a sample newsletter). Just for signing up I’ll send you an email with the very first story I ever wrote about a Warlock Doctor.

Thanks for your time, and I hope to see you around here more!

ICYMI: Narmer and the God Beast Live on Amazon!

Well, the title pretty much says it all, but I’ll still put a little bit of text here because I’d like to reward you for the click.

Monday saw the release of the first story in my ‘Egypt and Dinosaurs’ universe. Narmer and the God Beast tells the tale of a boy and his dragon, only that boy is a young king Narmer, the first Pharaoh of Egypt, and the dragon is a 30 ton dinosaur (paralititan stromeri, the Tidal Giant, to be precise). Together they can unite Egypt, but first they must endure and overcome Narmer’s brother Bahek’s cruelty . . .

I had an amazing cover done by Lee Eschliman, and have been ranting on all month about my influences for the short story and how the idea came to be. You can see the list of posts here:

Finally, if you’ve liked anything you’ve seen on this page so far and are hoping for more of this kind of thing in your life, I recommend signing up for my newsletter. It gives you access to exclusive fiction, special offers, and updates about my general life and nonsense (here’s a sample newsletter). Just for signing up I’ll send you an email with the very first story I ever wrote about a Warlock Doctor.

Anyway, thanks all for reading. This has been something I’ve waited so long to share with everyone, and a bit of a wild ride to get to this moment. I’m so thankful I was able to do this at all, and I’m hopeful there will be so much more where this came from (read as sequels and a novel! Lol).

As always, please let me know your thoughts in the comments. Thanks for reading all this and I’ll see you next time!

Should ‘Raybearer’ win a Lodestar Award?

Phew. It feels good to be doing a Hugo related post after so many posts about Narmer and the God Beast. I’m sure there will be more of those to come, but let’s break for a little while and talk about Jordan Ifueko’s incredible debut, Raybearer.

This book is amazing. I hesitate to say a masterpiece because I don’t feel like I’m qualified to make such distinctions (although honestly who cares lol), but it was definitely one of the most exciting books I’ve read in recent memory.

To me, it’s strengths lie in its consistent pacing, unique setting and the sheer power of this book’s main character.

Tarisai is quite literally a sympathy magnet. From page one, it is impossible not to connect with this lonely girl who’s been completely isolated from people her own age and a traditional family. That conflict is built right into the most basic aspect of her identity, her Hollow (unique magical power), which allows her to see other’s memories. This should allow Tarisai to build even closer connections with those around her since she can literally share their experience. Instead, it means that she cannot even be held when she’s sad, for her servants believe that she might accidently steal their memories.

Every conflict in Raybearer seems to stack against Tarisai in this similar manner. At the beginning of the story, her only purpose is to fulfill the last wish of her absent mother (who calls Tarisai ‘Made of Me’ yuck) who wishes that she befriend the crown prince of Aritsar (so he’ll invite her into his council), and then kill him. A purpose for which she must truly love this prince before being able to act out her orders (which of course she doesn’t want to do).

Of course, heroes do hard things, it’s what makes them heroes, but as I was reading the story, I found myself admiring how inventive each new conflict became as the script was flipped again and again on poor Tarisai.

And she truly just keeps doing the damn thing.

I don’t mean to mean to imply that she simply skips through each new challenge (quite the opposite), but the way she is able to continue onward despite everything is truly inspirational. This, perhaps more than anything else is what makes the book such a compelling read.

However, the setting also played a huge roll in my enjoyment of this book. Ifueko creates a rich (sorry just watch this youtuber say how rich the book is real quick) world which seems to draw from many African cultures (though I believe the author mentioned it was mainly Yoruba) yet still presents as unique and immersive.

Some of the more unique aspects of the world for me (which I think could have been explored a little more perhaps) where the magical creatures. We meet sprites, and albagato (a kind of genie type figure), shape shifters and large mythical cats. An entire underworld of spirits which we only just hear a small portion of.

But this is a small gripe, easily overlooked when considering one of my favorite aspects of the world. Its music. Song and rhythm seem to underpin our very understanding of this culture’s history and legacy. Aritsar’s myths and legends (the main one about a story telling Pelican which is weird and fun just on it’s own) are mostly passed on through children’s songs. But one of the key instruments featured in the novel are various drums. Perhaps this is not surprising as drums are important to many African cultures, however, Ifueko took the time to describe their sound — literally write out the noises they made — and the meanings behind each beat.

As a drummer myself, I was simply loving these passages. They felt so true to how the instruments can sound and the passion they can have when played. I’m not sure if Ifueko has any percussion in her background, but she was certainly convincing enough for me (I would also like to note that I listened to this book on audio, and so the voice actor also did an amazing job with these portions and I think really heightened the experience in a way that reading on the page may not have been able to accomplish).

Finally, I think it’s important to note, that this book never seemed to drag. Because of my work schedule picking up, I didn’t have as much time to listen as I have in the past (due to Covid), and so I had to give this book up several times and then wait for it to return. Each time I was as excited as the last to get started again.

This is all the more impressive considering all of the elements packed into this story. Themes such as uniqueness and diversity over homogeny (in culture), colonialism too but it was interesting because it wasn’t like a foreign power coming in that the MC’s need to fight, but instead more like just one group that kept expanding. Perhaps less like the British Empire and more like the expansion of the Mongols.

Anyway, I can feel myself beginning to ramble so I think it’s time to ask that all important question which is the reason we’re here . . .

Lodestar Award?

Yes. It seems I keep having to add this caveat, but as of 10/6/2021, I’m feeling that the Lodestar award should go to Raybearer. This was a hard decision for me, as I’ve already enjoyed two previous Lodestar contenders (Cemetery Boys and A Deadly Education), which were both amazing reads. I really thought Cemetery Boys was going to be my ride or die, but I think the deciding factor ended up coming down Raybearer’s unique setting.

For each of the other reasons I’ve outlined above — great pacing, and an incredibly powerful main character — Raybearer is an excellently written piece of art, but the thing I’m most excited about for the sequel, is simply being able to explore this world a little longer. Cemetery Boys showed us a unique setting as well, and I loved learning more and more about the Brujx. It was fun to think that their world existed just beneath our own. But the sense of immersion you experience into Raybearer’s secondary world shined a bit brighter. I guess I’m just a sucker for Secondary World fantasy . . .

Anyway, what are your thoughts? Should Raybearer win the Lodestar? What were your favorite elements of the story? The world (the answer is the drums! Lol)? Let me know in the comments, I’m excited to see what you all think.

From the Primordial Ooze: The Genesis of an Idea

In Ancient Egyptian myth, it was thought that the world rose up from the primordial waters of chaos, in the form of a mound or pyramid (known as the Benben). From here the sun rose up next, thus creating the sun god (Ra or Khepri depending), and thus allowing other gods, people, and wildlife to form upon the mound (world).

With just four more days until the release of Narmer and The God Beast, I thought it might be fun to go over NATGB’s own creation story . . . how did this somewhat crazy idea rise up from the chaos.

Full disclosure: I’m not the only person in the world to think about dinosaurs roaming Ancient Egypt. I’m not even the first.

According to World News Daily Report (who’s slogan btw is literally: “Where Facts don’t Matter”), a Dr. Nabir Ibn Al-Sammud, “…one Egyptology’s most eminent figures”, has found a series of stone palettes that prove dinosaurs helped build the pyramids. Ancient Egyptians supposedly tamed “beastly creatures” of “enormous size” which were “tamed and used to carry the large limestone blocks that compose the pyramids.”

Wut?

If this sounds ludicrous, and patently false, it’s because obviously it is. We’ve got the last dinosaurs going extinct 65 million years ago, and the first humans emerging in Africa 2 million years ago. In my mind, there seems to be no chance the two could have lived together.

However, if you’re still not convinced, No It Is Not has done a full take-down article, explaining that Nabir Ibn Al-Sammud is not even a real archeologist, and that the image of him next to a dinosaur carving is a doctored image of Dr. Don Patton, an avid creationist.

What’s perhaps the best part about all of this, is that there is so much misinformation around this one crazy idea, that even when articles try to prove it false, they still make mistakes. For instance, the blog for Michigan State’s ANP364: Pseudoarchaeology class (which I would soooo take) posted the article: Did Dinosaurs Build the Pyramids? NO! in which they give reasons for why the idea may have come about (long necked creatures on the Narmer Palette), and decrying it as “pseudo archeological insanity” (which it is). They continue on to discuss Serpopards (which I should really find a way to incorporate in my setting), and then state that despite everything they have mentioned earlier, Egypt and Dinosaurs do have a connection.

What could it be? Well apparently, “In 2014 a small raptor skeleton was uncovered in a small section deep within The Great Pyramid of Giza.” But check the date on the article they cited (the one I just linked) . . .

April 1st 2014 . . .

Are there any holidays on that day which might make us doubt the validity of something published online? The article cites a French archaeologist Avril Sap, of which I could not find any other publications for except another Egyptian Streets article about ‘Extraterrestrial Activity’ Discovered in King Tutankhamun’s Tomb . . . also published April 1st (of 2016).

I think someone is having a bit of fun 🙂

So what do we do in the face of such blind misinformation and conspiracy?

Join in obviously. (I mean heck The Dinosaur Lords exists)

Write a short story about the friendship of Narmer and his Paralititan companion, and their first step together in conquering the Two Lands and uniting this Great Egypt. Begin studying hieroglyphs in your spare time. Read about Bahariya Oasis and the dinosaurs which where discovered there back in the early 1900s and then again in the late 90s. Play a lot of Assassin’s Creed Origins and wish the next boss fight was against Spinosaurus. Post about influences on your blog. Write a novel . . .

Like the Benben mound which rose up out of the primordial ooze, this one idea has risen up from the chaos of the internet, and inspired an entire world of myth and stories I’m just brimming to tell. But it all started here, with a simple conspiracy about Narmer and his God Beast.

Thanks for reading this somewhat wild ride of a blog post. What’s the craziest conspiracy theory you’ve ever heard? Where was the most surprising place you heard is touted as fact? Please leave your answers in the comments. I’m sure there’s all kinds of stuff I haven’t even hit the surface of.


Still here? Awesome. I hope you enjoyed From the Primordial Ooze: The Genesis of an Idea. You’ve pretty much just witnessed the creation of Narmer and the God Beast. I revealed the story’s amazing cover art and blurb a few weeks ago, illustrated for me by Lee Eschliman and I’ll continue to be putting out posts about my influences for this story all month until the story’s official launch on October 4th. If you like anything you’ve seen so far, you can head over to Amazon and preorder it now.

If you want more of my writing, please check out my fiction page, or consider signing up for my newsletter at https://jdweber.news/EgyptAndDinos. It will give you access to exclusive fiction, special offers, and just my general life and nonsense (here’s a sample newsletter). Just for signing up I’ll send you an email with the very first story I ever wrote about a Warlock Doctor.

Thanks for your time, and I hope to see you around here more!