July Newsletter + New Fiction: Master of Secrets

So this post is a little wonky (and looonnngg oops), but basically, I have a newsletter which I’m going to put out quarterly. I’ve copied the July letter into a post so folks can see an example of what they’d get by signing up. Mostly it’s updates about my life and writing which I might not post on the blog. Also, each quarter I’m going to try to include a new piece of fiction, that is exclusive to the newsletter. This month’s piece is Master of Secrets which I’ll explain more about in the letter.

**Please also note that if you sign up, you’ll immediately receive the first piece of fiction I ever wrote about a Warlock Doctor. It’s kinda fun I think.

Anyway, here it is! Enjoy!


Hi all,

Welcome to my quarterly newsletter. You’re probably here because you clicked the subscribe link on my blog. I hope you did that because you’re interested in keeping up with me ‘behind the scenes’ so to speak. If not, please feel free to unsubscribe.

Still here? Awesome! So basically what you’ve signed up for by getting this newsletter, is MORE access to my random thoughts which might at first seem a little scary (unsubscribe is still just a click away), but you will also get quarterly updates on different writing projects I’m working on, how the process is going, sneak peeks and exclusive content. Ya know standard newsletter stuff. Hope it lives up to the hype! Read on to find out . . .

Announcements:

This section is pretty self-explanatory. In it I’ll cover anything that I feel needs to be announced. Right now (7/2/2021) things are chugging along pretty well but everything should be business as usual for a while. Some things are in the works which will get announced soon, but those announcements will likely be sent out over the blog, not exclusive to the newsletter (sorry).

Writing:

Another self-explanatory section. Here I’ll go over any writing projects I’m working on and what I feel my accomplishments during the quarter have been. Right now, those projects are mostly Blogging on A&A, and my novel (and associated short fiction).

Blogging on A&A:

It’s been almost five months since I reintroduced myself to blogging with I’m Baaaackkkk!, and I think it is going pretty well? I’ve certainly been enjoying it. Since my return, I’ve been trying to post book reviews on Wednesdays and short fiction and miscellaneous posts on Fridays. I’ve done 17 reviews, mostly about Hugo Award finalists, and 9 pieces of my own original flash fiction. It’s been a wild ride.

Also, during May, I participated in #WyrdAndWonder, a month-long celebration of the Fantasy genre. The post I’m most proud of is #MapMonday: Using Emerging Tech for Fictional Maps, but there’s a lot of fun posts for it, so be sure to check out my #WyrdAndWonder Wrap Up Post.

#JurassicJune was kind of a bust for me, but I did read and review a great book called Why Dinosaurs Matter by Kenneth Lacovara, and did a fun Jurassic Park Book Tag.

Two more posts I’ll mention because I enjoyed writing them are Ancient Egyptian Doggos! and On the Scholomance as a Twisted, Evil Eudaimonia Machine.

Ancient Egypt and Dinosaurs:

I won’t say a ton about this right now, as almost everything in this category is still a work in progress but considering this quarter’s “exclusive fiction” is a random scene in-world, y’all gonna know about it. The premise is simple (but hopefully fun and unique): What if there were Dinosaurs in Ancient Egypt?

I’ve written a short story in this world called Narmer and the God-Beast which I’m going to publish on Amazon. I even paid for a cover and everything, which is like 88% done and I’m sooo excited to show it because it looks great even now but it’s not done. Expect more on that coming soon!

I’ve also written a novel in this setting which will be torn to shreds, critiqued in July. I’m hoping to pitch this more traditionally once I have feedback and have done rewrites. It’s been a ton of work, and will probably be a ton more, but I’m already pretty proud of it, so hopefully I’m not delusional, and it’s alright. Look for more on this coming soon . . . but not that soon.

Finally, I’ve been working on a companion piece to the novel tentatively called The Ore of Ra Nt-ka, which will follow a merchant, Beqsu, through a similar track as the MC’s in the novel, but with different goals and motivations. I’ve posted teaser of this piece on the blog as Beqsu Takes a Leap.

Ultimately, it’s just an alternate perspective. I decided to do this because I wanted to spend more time in the world before diving into a sequel (too much work lol), and thought it might be cool to try to get it on Kindle Vella which will be live in late July. I can already tell I will not be able to make this deadline but am still going to pursue the piece and see what comes of it.

The ‘exclusive’ fiction at the bottom of this post, Master of Secrets, is a deleted scene from that work in progress. You’ve seen a preview of it on the blog as well. I hope you like it!    

Convention stuff:

Not much happening in convention world. I reserved a room for Discon III at the OMNI. I’m really looking forward to this con as I’ve never been to a Worldcon before, and am not sure how many others I’ll be able to go to (traveling to them is usually cost prohibitive). But that’s not until December so I probably won’t have much to say about it until then. But get hype! It should be fun.

Random:

Usually, I might write something here that’s been on my mind lately, about any topic, but I think this post has gone on long enough already. Future me will do better . . .

Besides, I just want you to read the fiction!  

Newsletter Exclusive Fiction:

Master of Secrets

By JD Weber

Khueninput looked into the glowing red eyes of the god-beast before her and wondered if the Lord of the Sacred Land really still protected her, or if she was being a fool to keep the dead priest’s body hidden.

Quite a bit of rumor and myth surrounded the legendary creature which stood snarling and hissing in her face, and she was horrified to say that every terrifying story she’d heard about Ra Pt-r appeared to be true.

This one stood roughly the height of a man, and walked on two sturdy legs, its head and torso leaning forward, while its tail stretched out behind it. The beast had two forelimbs which protruded from shoulders barely distinguishable from its thickly muscled neck.

But mostly she focused on its jaws, which were filled with an innumerable array of jagged teeth. Sickle shaped claws tapped ominously on the sandstone floor.

Khueninput clenched her fists and decided to direct her outrage to the very-much-still-living priest who controlled the creature.

“It does not matter how many godlings demand entrance to the embalming chamber, Ra Nt-Ka’s authority does not supersede that of The Great God Anubis. None can enter while he is here.”

The man before her curled his lips into a leer and simply raised his eyebrows as if to say “Oh really?” 

Khueninput did not let her fear of the creature weaken her stern gaze, much. If the god-beast wanted inside the embalming chamber there was little she could do to stop it. Better shore up her position before the priest grew tired of playing with her, and let the beast loose.

“A blind man can see that Ra Pt-r is controlled by your red magic. If you release it, it will not be the godling who must recite the confessions before The Court of Ahseer. Do you think the Scales of Anubis will balance for you when you’ve broken the Jackal’s own laws? None can enter while he works. None but the dead can know his mysteries.”

“There is one who may enter,” said the priest looking amused. “Hery Sesheta, the Master of Secrets.”

Real anger flared in Khueninput’s gaze now. “That is no longer my rank within his cult Setek Peribsen.”

“A shame,” the priest said with a feinted nonchalance, as if the temple storeroom where out of Bahriyan wine, and he’d have to drink something else of lower quality.

Ra Pt-r crouched as if to strike.

“Do not go against him Setek Peribsen” said Khueninput, in a hiss that would have made a cobra proud, despite her desperation. “You will not survive it. He is the Dog that Devours Millions.”

“I’m here by Chaotic God’s own decree!” burst the priest. “You do not think the Great God Set will protect me from the whims of his own son? A child no less? You truly believe your dog will be able to stand against The God of Storms himself?”

“Anubis is also known as He Who Eats his Father.”

She let the silence fall heavy between them.

The priest’s face did change, if only briefly.

So he’s heard that name as well, perhaps there is some truth to it then . . .

“Fine!” He said finally. “Let the dog play with his bones. Your only delaying the inevitable. That man was in league with The Assassin, and he will answer for it. Set will have his vengeance.”

“Then he’ll have to seek it in the Duat.” Khueninput replied cooly.

The priest was all bark now.

He huffed and made a show of whirling his black and gold vestments, as he tried to storm out the mortuary. Ra Pt-r looked at her with an almost pleading eye before stalking slowly behind him, chittering softly.

Khueninput sagged against the door behind her, her breath escaping in a long and ragged gasp. She realized with quite a bit of detachment, that her hands were shaking. She was still fighting for control of them when she felt more than heard, a voice call out from inside the embalming chamber.

You may enter . . .   

Khueninput’s heart leapt in her chest. Could it be? The Lord of the Sacred Land had just asked — no ordered her — to come into the sanctuary and share in the Mysteries of the Sky, Earth and Netherworld. He had not done so since . . .

She did not allow herself to think about the last time he had allowed her anywhere near an embalmer’s bench. She might never allow herself to think of that day again.

But neither would she allow herself to ignore his command.

She fumbled at the door, unable to work the latch correctly when suddenly, the door disappeared, a simple archway now before her.

The Keeper of Keys.

The Opener of the Ways.

She entered slowly, keeping her head bowed in respect to the great deity, but she could not help but scan the embalming chamber in search of the jackal god.

She saw much before she found him.

The room was dimly lit, shadowed so that Khueninput could just make out the shelves of herbs and animal fat used for embalming. Alabaster jars — each carved to resemble a different son of the falcon god Horus — waited to be filled on the workbench nearby. A small vat of natron salt had been rolled in, and several spoons, knives, a chisel, and spatula, rested on its unopened lid. Only the heap of linen seemed to have been disturbed by the god in his work.

It did not feel right.

The priest, Ra Nefer-Ab, or the beauty of Ra, lay wrapped and shrouded in long strips of linen on a large stone pedestal. His posture seemed tense, somehow rigid as if trying to break free of the binding of the cloth. He was contorted ever so slightly so that his face peered up at the Jackal God looming over him, and though she could not see his face, Khueninput would have guessed the man in pain.

For his part, The Lord of the Sacred Land looked just as she remembered him. In this form, he had the body of a man but wore the head of a jackal. He wore a simple white skirt which contrasted sharply with the onyx coloring of his skin. Around his neck he wore a linen scarf adorned with a double fillet of blue lotus and cornflowers woven upon strips of pith, twisted in a bow at the back of his neck. Small veins of gold pierced the dim along his arms and chest, stress fractures, as if his shape were ready to burst from the pressure of his holy blood and power as a god. Sandaled feet revealed silver toenails and when the god turned to finally acknowledge her, he looked upon Khueninput with eyes inlaid with gold, calcite, and obsidian.

Not for the first time Khueninput felt her heart drop out of her chest, and her pulse begin to race. Sweat beaded upon her brow, and her pupils dilated more than the darkness of the room should allow. To look upon the Great God Anubis was to look upon death itself.

It was to look upon eternity.

Anubis motioned for her to join him at the pedestal and then turned back to the priest lying upon it.

Khueninput heard the man’s voice in her mind as it had been during life, though his lips did not move to speak.

“Please,” Ra Nefer-Ab said. “I have not uttered lies.”

He who Sits Upon the Coffin nodded.

“I have not uttered curses.”

The jackal god nodded again.

“I have made none to weep”

Khueninput sucked in her breath in surprise as she put the pieces of the room’s puzzle together, as she realized what felt off about the scene. None of the herbs on their shelves had been removed, and the canopic jars had remained empty. The natron’s lid had not been removed and the tools were still dry and sterile. The process of embalming took seventy days of painstaking ritual and work to prepare the body for its journey through the Duat, and yet before her was a completed mummy, lying before Anubis and —

Answering the Negative Confessions . . . 

“I have not worked witchcraft” Ra Nefer-Ab continued.

The Jackal God reared back slightly and tilted his head to one side, as if trying to identify some unknown sound in the distance.

You aided the Chaotic god. Used his magic.

Ra Nefer-Ab’s voice was pleading. “I was possessed Great One! The Chaotic god forced the enchantment.”

The Great God Ahseer will not care whether you were forced, his hatred for Set is too strong. If you held his magic, Ahseer will condemn you.

“But the other Gods.” Ra Nefer-Ab begged. “Surely they can be persuaded.”

Anubis thought for a moment and then nodded for the priest to continue.

“I have not attacked any man.”

You killed two soldiers in Set’s temple . . .

Ra Nefer-Ab’s voice sounded as if his body were wracked with sobs though it lie motionless on the bench. “Please. I am not a man of deceit.”

Anubis looked thoughtful for a moment before nodding.

It is true, you are not, but as you are you will not pass The Court of God’s judgment. Take this.

Anubis opened his jet black palm to reveal a small nugget of gold, carved and shaped into the form of a scarab.

Swallow this before you speak false, and Khepri will protect your heart.

“OH! Thank you!” Ra Nefer-Ab cried. “Thank you.”

Anubis reached behind him for the embalmer’s tools and selected a golden adze Khueninput had not seen when entering. The Jackal God touched the adze to the mummy’s lips and light began to shine forth from the priest’s body. It swirled and roiled until finally it had collected into the shape of a bird with Ra Nefer-ab’s countenance. The golden scarab hung from a small chain around its neck. The priest’s Ba nodded once to the Lord of the Sacred Land and then flew towards the archway through which Khueninput had entered. She saw now that it did not lead out into the streets of Edfu, but into a shimmering field.

The Jackal cleared his throat and Khueninput turned quickly back to him in surprise, remembered who she stood before, and then dropped to the sandstone floor in a bow. With her head still lowered to the floor, the Great God spoke.

Outside, in the face of Ra Pt-r, you held your ground. Loyal, after all this time.

Yes Great One. Always,” she said, and realized that she must mean it. To speak something in The Two Lands was to make it true.

She had not looked up at the Great God when she spoke, but at her words, the shadow looming over her seemed to move. She lifted her gaze slowly and found the god’s hand proffered out to her, palm open as it had been with the priest only moments before.

A golden scarab rested in his palm.

Now it was her turn to rear back slightly in confusion.

“Great one I cannot take this, I’m not worthy of it.” She held his crystalline gaze as long as she dared, but then lowered her eyes as he wrapped her palm around the amulet.

Then find someone who is. I have faith that when you do, you will no longer need its protection.

She raised her eyes again, wanting to ask what the Lord of the Sacred Land could possibly mean by such an order, but he was gone.

Khueninput startled as a knock came at the door to the embalming chamber. The door, not the archway which had only moments ago lead unto a paradise which she could only presume had been The Fields of Aaru.

Khueninput got up off the floor, and steeled herself, expecting Set’s priest to have returned. But when she opened the door, she found a young woman in a white robe standing before her, a jackal-head mask tucked neatly under one arm.

She was one of the lower priests, ranked as W’b or maybe not yet initiated into the earliest rites.

“Are you ready Hery Sesheta? Your boat to Hardai is nearly ready to leave.” Khueninput blanched slightly at the use of her old title, but the woman did not seem to notice. She just continued on in a perky voice as if she were about to visit the market to shop for some new jewel.

“I can walk with you to the docks if you like.”

Khueninput looked at the women suspiciously for a moment, feeling the weight of the gold scarab in her palm.

Would it really be that easy?

No she decided, and told the priestess to go onward without her. She would catch up soon.

Khueninput took inventory of the things she’d need for her journey home, and quickly gathered them to her person. She elected to wear what little jewelry she had instead of packing it, and then found another W’b priest to take her luggage to the docks.

It felt strange leaving the priest’s mummy on the stone slab alone, but the other priests of his order, and whatever family he had near the temple would come soon to seal him in his tomb. She had done her job, and should be on her way to the docks.

She walked out into Ra’s light and couldn’t help but feel a bit giddy as she walked the thoroughfare to the docks.

Anubis, Lord of the Sacred Land, was giving her a second chance . . .

It was nearly impossible not to skip her step with excitement.

As she walked, she noticed the young woman from before, lingering near a merchant’s stall, eying his wares, but not daring to approach. When the woman caught site of Khueninput approaching, she quickly scurried off in the direction of the docks.

This only brought the merchant’s attention onto Khueninput, and he began lavishly heaping praise upon her beauty, complementing the jewelry she already wore, but also adding how much better she would look with one of his pieces resting gently around her neck.

She laughed slightly and was about to continue on, when she noticed he also had jars of incense to sell, and wax candles, always a commodity in the Great Jackal’s temple, or any other god’s shrine.

She knew the ship was supposed to leave soon, but she could not help but approach the merchant’s tent. He seemed slightly stunned at first that he’d actually managed to hook a customer, but he recovered quickly enough and began pull forth some of his finer wares for her to peruse. After he’d set out the leopard’s skin, and giraffe’s tails he began to launch back into his pitch.

Khueninput held up a hand to stall him.

She hefted a jar of incense, feeling its weight in her palms and judging it to be similar to that of the golden scarab within her pocket.

“Made with cypress?” she asked raising the jar of incense to her nose to smell.

“No Hery Sesheta. Pine resin.”

The merchant had a small scale on the table as well, and she placed the jar on one of its plates, declaring her intent to purchase. The merchant rubbed his hands together eagerly and began adding weight in Deben to the other side. He added many more than needed to balance the scale, and yet the jar remained firmly rooted against the merchant’s table.

“Your weights are false. I’ve already weighed the jar in my palm, will you not even try to hide your lies?”

But Khueninput found herself smiling.

This man would surely need the scarab’s protection when he finally went before the gods, perhaps she should give the amulet to him.

But that couldn’t be what the Jackal god had meant with his order could it? Simply give the amulet to some wretched street merchant who probably had cheated his own grandmother before coming to Egypt.

Khueninput thought of the Great God weighing Ra Nefer-Ab’s answers as he pleaded on the stone slab. If the man had been against Set, perhaps he was indeed a worthy spirit after all. Anubis had seemed to consider more than the literal interpretation of the man’s confessions, he’d considered the intent of the words behind them. He had protected a man who’s intent sought peace and order over the chaos of Set’s reign even though he’d needed to kill to do so.

Khueninput eyed the traveling merchant as he left her side to hawk his wears at another potential customer — somewhat rude but certainly not damning — walking by, and weighed scales in her own head.

Unfortunately, the man who’d come to hear the merchant happened to be none other than Setek Peribsen. His captive god-beast looking plaintively onward with glowing red eyes.  

“I saw him Neb,” the merchant said when Setek Peribsen finally reached the stall.

“Well? Tell me! Which way has he gone?” Setek Peribsen did not seem to notice Khueninput yet, focused as he was on the Chaotic God’s command to find this . . . Assassin.

“It all happened so fast, I can hardly remember.”

“Perhaps north?” the merchant continued looking past the great temple as if he might still be able to catch sight of the man in flight.

The priest’s hand moved to cover his mouth, but Khueninput could still see his eyes shrink with a kind of shrewdness as they searched his countenance. All the merchant’s wares may as well have been more sand among the dunes for all the interest anyone payed them now.

“I remember you,” the priest said, removing his hand to reveal a set jaw and stern bearing. “Beqsu, from back at the monument. Of course it would be you who I must bargain with. What’s your price.”

“It should not be hard to pay. It is only what you already owe.”

“Hah! What I owe. Perhaps I could give the eggs of Hunta Ari Pet back to you.”

Khueninput could feel herself startle at the mention of such a valuable item, but she quickly schooled her gaze.

The priest of the Chaotic God continued. “But then scales would again be unbalanced, and it is your life that would be required to balance them. Luckily I have Ra Pt-r here to collect the toll. Tell me which way he went.”

Khueninput felt herself beginning to shake with rage. She’d been on the other side of Ra Pt-r’s gaze, understood the terror the merchant must be feeling. To threaten someone in this manner, to control the god-beast as he did . . .

It was an abomination.

But with Ra Pt-r poised to strike, there was little she could to on exact revenge upon Setek Peribsen, nor should harming him be her purpose here. She thought of the god she served, his likeness perched atop a coffin, loyal to the dead inside. She thought of Anubis handing the golden scarab to Ra Nefer-Ab, and later to herself, protecting them from the judgment of Ahseer, and the jaws of The Devourer Ammit.   

The words left her mouth before she could think. “The man you seek went south.”

The merchant turned to glare at her, and she could tell by his expression that she’d guessed correctly. She glared back at this Beqsu. “Tell him the rest. You have nothing more with which to leverage the scales.”

The merchant looked as if he might burst he held in so much pent up anger, but eventually he sighed and the anger flowed out of him with the escape of his breath.

“He fell from the sky like the God’s ore itself and landed in the reflecting pool. When he emerged from the waters he fled south, heading towards Nile.”

Setek Peribsen looked thoughtful again, raising his hand to his chin. He turned to Khueninput. “The Chaotic God has blessed me,” he said finally. “I’ll admit that after our dealings outside the embalming chamber, I’m surprised you’ve come to my aid.”

Khueninput smiled. “You’ve not reached Aaru yet Setek Peribsen. The water from the reflecting pool must have cleared your fugitive’s scent. That is why Ra Pt-r couldn’t track him. You’ve been searching too long. He must be half way to Nubia by now if he managed to catch a boat heading that way. 

“It will break the god-beasts to try and catch him now.” Khueninput believed that this notion did not upset Setek Peribsen very much. He almost looked excited by it.

“Perhaps I can ease your journey,” Khueninput continued. “I have a ship which has not yet left the docks. I could send it south along The Great River if I had cause.”

That shrewd look came over the priest’s face. “And what is your price?”

“Give me the Hunta Ari Pet eggs and you can have the ship and everything on it. Send it whichever way you choose.”

Setek Peribsen considered for a moment.

He would be a fool not to take the deal. The sky lizard’s eggs were worth their weight — or perhaps considerably more if measured by the merchant’s false scales — in gold, but they did not come close to the price of ship. And it would certainly shorten The Assassin’s lead on the Chaotic God’s agents.

“And what need do you have for them. I pray you’re not simply going to turn them over to this vagrant.” He motioned towards Beqsu.

“I will do with them as the Lord of the Sacred Land commands me.”

Setek Peribsen did not seem appeased by this answer — a fact that probably gave Khueninput too much satisfaction — but he could not see the trick within her words and so he begrudgingly brought a linen satchel forth and handed them over. Khueninput handed over the deed to the ship, and smiled as she watched both priest and Ra Nt-ka disappear towards the docks.

“What is this?” said the merchant, unable to restrain himself any longer. “Some kind of revenge because I cheated you? Those eggs are mine!”

Khueninput looked over to him.

“You should not have cheated me merchant, but no this is not revenge.”

“Then what? Cruelty?”

Khueninput sighed. “No. Not cruelty either. If we’re counting, I believe I just saved your life from that god-beast.”

Beqsu began to look indignant so Khueninput quickly continued. “Listen. In the short time I’ve known you, you’ve tried to cheat me, and scam a priest of the Chaotic God Set. You claim these eggs are yours, but you neglect the fact that to come by them, you must have stolen them from godlings in the first place, or at the very least traded with someone who did, which will not be better in the eyes of Ahseer.”

The look that came over Beqsu’s face at her words filled Khueninput with some measure of hope and affirmed her resolve.

Grief.

“I was not always like this,” Beqsu said. “In Nubia, it was not like it is here in The Two Lands. It seems like every day I must commit some crime in order to survive. What you saw today was not even the worst of it. It does not bother me anymore.”

“Well at least repay your debt to me. I’ve saved your life.” Khueninput said. “Come with me to Hardai. Spend some time in the City of the Dog, I think you’ll find it is never too late to turn things around.”

“I thank you, Hery Sesheta, for saving my life from the god-beast but I’ve come too far. Any debt I owe you is not so great as what you’re asking me to do.”

Khueninput held forth the patted the satchel at her waist.

“Come with me. Try. If we fail, these eggs are yours.”

Beqsu looked thoughtful for a moment and then smile came across his face. “Fine.” he said then laughed “What is one more trial? Perhaps you will save me after all.”

Khueninput looked the merchant in the eye, a smile forming on her own lips.

Perhaps you will save me as well . . .


If you made it this far I’m impressed. You must like what you’re reading? If you’d like more of this coming directly to your inbox, go ahead and sign up for my newsletter.

Thanks so much for reading. Leave any comments you feel in the comments section. Until next time . . .

Work In Progress Tease: Beqsu takes a Leap

I don’t have any new fiction ready for today. The next Max story is going to unfold over three parts (though hopefully each individual part will read as a complete story like I tried to do with Teamwork (Part 1): Phase Feathers and Teamwork (Part 2): The Twelve-Eyed Starer) and so I don’t want to post anything until all three are done.

But there’s been little adventuring happening in Max’s world recently as I’ve sort of put him aside for a bit to try and flesh out some more stories in the world of my main WIP. I have a short story already finished but I’m waiting for artwork, and a first draft of a novel which I’ve finally sent to my writing group for feedback. In the meantime, I’m trying to prepare something in an episode format, maybe for Kindle Vella.

Here’s a screenshot from my Scrivener document which hopefully is tease-y but doesn’t give away too much. Please let me know in the comments if you like this kind of thing and if I should do more teasers like this in the future. Here it is:


Hey again! If somehow this tiny tease of my WIP, and general update as to my writing life happened capture your interest, please consider subscribing to my newsletter. I’ll do a post every quarter (expect the first one July 1st!) that fills you in completely on what I’ve been up to and send you the first story I ever wrote, about a Warlock Doctor. Or, check out my other fiction I’ve posted here on A&A. 

Thanks for stopping by, and see you next time!

Celebrating #DinosaurDay with a Review of Why Dinosaurs Matter

Oooh

So apparently June 1st is #DinosaurDay. I’m not really sure how one celebrates this holiday . . . but I’m going to celebrate it by posting a book review because that’s pretty much what I do here on this blog.

Anyway, moving right into then, this book was interesting to me for several reasons, the first being it was a TED Talk. I haven’t actually watched Hunting For Dinosaurs Showed Me Our Place in the Universe yet, as I didn’t want to get the book and the video confused if there were subtle differences. I’ll probably watch it after this.

The second being its author, Kenneth Lacovara. His name sounded super familiar to me, but I couldn’t figure it out. Turns out he was part of the team that discovered Paralititan Stromeri which I’d done some research on for my WIP. The story of this awesome dino is written about in a book called The Lost Dinosaurs of Egypt, which I started, but ultimately never finished and had to return. There’s apparently a documentary by the same title which is only two hours so . . . maybe I’ll watch that instead.

So was this book any good? Do Dinosaurs actually matter? The short answer to both is yes; the book was good, and dinosaurs matter, although I’m dubious that the book actually proves this.

What I enjoyed most about the book, was that it explained (in simple terms) some basic concepts that I’ve felt were necessary to understand when doing research about dinosaurs, such as what is considered a dino, and why (apparently it has something to do with their hip bones). He talks briefly about how the classification of dinosaurs works and which recognizable dinos go in each classification. Sauropods have long necks, while Therapods are the big Carnivores. Ornithischia has the duckbills, horned dinos, and armored dinos etc.

I also enjoyed the parts in which Lacovara actually discusses some of the adaptations dinosaurs had, and why they helped them survive in the environment they lived in. If you were ever curious as to why a T-Rex has such short and stubby arms, then go ahead and read this book.

Another fun part of the book was learning about how some of the first dinosaurs were thought to have looked. We’ve come a long way in our understanding of some of these creatures. Apparently, the way to go further is 3D printed Dinosaur robots! (I picked the wrong career . . .)

My only dislike, was how much time was spent talking about the history of paleontology and the importance of the “deep time” perspective. He discusses how ancient and medieval civilizations, essentially didn’t have the tool set to make the discoveries that where made later on, once Darwin had published On the Origin of Species (though it is interesting that the author seems to celebrate Charles Lyell, and James Hutton as being the true pioneers that set up the ‘headspace’ for Darwin’s theories). In general, I felt it painted ancient peoples in a bad light while trying desperately to do the opposite.

I wondered if a few things in the book were in need of updating (this is copyrighted 2017). He briefly mentions Spinosaurus Aegyptiacus, but our understanding of that weird looking fellow seems to be changing constantly. Another thing that stood out to me, was that he whole heartedly references Mary Anning being the inspiration for the ‘she sells sea shells’ tongue twister (he even cites a New Scientist article). While I’m glad he talks about perhaps the first woman paleontologist in his book, I think it’s pretty unlikely the tongue twister is a reference to her. There’s actually quite a bit of evidence it’s not. I’ve requested the article he cites from the library, so perhaps I’ll do a follow up.

Conclusion?

In general, I greatly enjoyed this book. It was a quick read, and though the author can get long winded about a few things, his writing style is generally engaging, and it’s clear he’s VERY experienced with his subject matter. Perhaps my favorite parts were the ones in which the author actually talks about dinosaurs. He’s correct to think they’re fascinating, and I think this book is strongest when he focuses on the wonder they invoke and the reason for that wonder. The title asks if dinosaurs matter, to which I would say ‘who cares?’ We don’t need a reason to enjoy them as much as we do . . .

That’s all I have for this, thanks for reading and please leave some comments below if you thought the review was useful or even if you just wanna talk about dinos . . . I’m always up for that. Happy #DinosaurDay!

#WyrdAndWonder Desert Island Reads

Photo by Jeremy Bishop on Unsplash

It would seem today’s #WyrdAndWonder challenge is Books I Can’t Wait to Read, and another photo challenge. I can’t wait to read Deadly Education by Naomi Novik, but that doesn’t really make for a very long blog post, so I’m going to throw back to last Wednesday’s Desert Island reads challenge now that I have the time. You can read all about the criteria on Desert Island Reads by There is Always Room For One More, but essentially, I choose:

  • 8 books (or audiobooks) to take with me on a desert island. They be anything, but if they’re part of a series, each on will count as on of my eight unless they are bound together. No e-readers . . .
  • 1 TV, Movie or Podcast
  • One luxury item that can be anything I want.
  • **It’s supposed to be based around Fantasy titles and things, and I’m realizing that I didn’t quite follow that. Sorry. I still like the list I came up with though so I hope you can forgive me

I’m imagining all these things will get thrown into a kind of trunk which will washup next to me on the beach, a yellow glow leaking from its seams. You know, typical treasure chest stuff. Let’s take a look inside . . .

My 8 books:

So for this, I’d probably want to take a mix of things. Some stuff I’ve been meaning to read, as well as some stuff that is just comforting to me. I’m kinda thinking I would split this up into some research type reading, and then just-for-fun type books. Of course some will be new to me and some will be well read. Here they are:

  • Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson – Simply put, this is my favorite book. I’ve read it a whole bunch of times, and I’m sure I’ll read it a whole bunch more. It goes in the trunk
  • Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie – Same idea as above, I just love this book. It’s going in the trunk.
  • A Deadly Education by Naomi Novik – As mentioned for today’s challenge, I can’t wait to read this book! Better bring it along. (update 6/16/21 – Review of A Deadly Education posted!)
  • His Majesty’s Dragon by Naomi Novik – Since it seems we’re on a Novik kick, I figure might as well.
  • David Mogo Godhunter by Suyi Davies Okungbowa – I just really want to read this one too. I had a preorder for it, but then Amazon just gave up on trying to distribute it to me and so I’m not even sure how to get a physical copy, but it looks really good and so in this fantasy scenario we’ve concocted, it’s also in the trunk.
  • The Art of Language Invention by David J Peterson – As long as I’m stranded, might as well skill up. I’ve always wanted to invent a conlang so perhaps this might be a good time to get started.
  • Manners and Customs of the Ancient Egyptians Volumes 1-3 by John Gardiner Wilkinson – I’m pretty much fascinated by ancient Egypt. I’ve been meaning to take a crack at this set for a while, but I never seem to have time. Seems like a good use of some forced reading time.
  • Egyptian Hieroglyphs for Complete Beginners by Bill Manely – I’ve made it about half way through this book in the past, but bounced off of it. If I’ve got some free time I’d definitely like to try it again
  • Structuring Your Novel by K.M. Weiland – I’d like to think I’ll have some time for writing on this crazy adventure. Every time I sit down to write something new, whether a short story or a long novel, I always seem to crack this book open as a reference in the beginning. I think I’ll need it along the journey.
  • Why Dinosaurs Matter by Kenneth Lacovara – My understanding of this book is that it’s basically a TED talk . . . About DINOSAURS!! Obviously I’m bringing it!

TV/Movie/Podcast:

Nothing too special here. I’d choose the Imaginary Worlds Podcast. It’s a great podcast which bills itself as a Sci-Fi podcast although they cover lots of Fantasy, and other genres. It’s written (produced?) by Eric Molinsky, and I just love his approach. He always seems to find some new angle on whatever topic he’s casting about, and it has a very journalistic feel which complements his passion for all things SFF really well. Highly recommend.

Luxury Item:

Baltimore BBQ Company Original sauce – The rules post said that food would be taken care of, but I’m still kinda imagining that it will not be food that I would normally eat. I’ll put bbq sauce on pretty much anything so I figure having a bottle of the good stuff along will help ease whatever interesting food choices I’ll have to endure. Even coconuts . . .

Jurassic Chronicles a bit of a bust.

jurassic-chronicles-ebookI was very excited to read this book. I was familiar with Victor Milan’s Dinosaur Lords and honestly just love dinos. Unfortunately, this book did not really deliver as advertised (or at least not how I imagined it should have / what I thought I would be reading).

There are dinosaurs in the book but that is kind of the only engagement with the theme of the anthology. I think the story that most exemplified what I felt the anthology should have been composed of was Harry Manners’ “Szcar’s Trial”. It’s POV of an actual dinosaur that comes into contact with some alien technology. While the tech is important to the plot, it is really Szcar’s battle for acceptance within the pack that composes “the story”. Very well done.

The other stories seem to just be little asides from the different authors’ other projects that they just threw dinos in to bring awareness of their other works. Didn’t feel like there were many stories written specifically for the theme of the anthology even though it is obvious that all the stories were basically commissioned

Even Milan’s story “A Spear for Allosaur” can kinda be thought of in this way, but I enjoyed it much more as I was already familiar with the Dino Lords “universe”. For anyone who is familiar with that series, we get to see a young Karyl and the story really shows how much the character has changed and developed into the Karyl we know now.

In all, I’ll be looking out for stuff from Harry Manners and will continue being a fan of Victor Milan, but otherwise, was not super impressed by this anthology. This is my first ‘Future Chronicles’ anthology so hopefully the others will prove better 🙂

The Truth About Dinosaur Lords

Great cover

Great cover

I’ve been looking around and haven’t seen a lot of negative press about Dinosaur Lords. Which honestly, I wouldn’t have expected based on the premise alone. I also haven’t really seen a lot of press at all about The Dinosaur Lords which is very surprising considering how excited it seemed like the zeitgeist was to read it. However, after reading a bit into the book, I’ve decided that something should be said. Here goes:

The Dinosaur Lords has a really cool premise. I can’t believe no one has done this before. Unfortunately, I felt there were some problems with the execution. Mostly, I found the writing style did more to obscure what was happening in each scene than show us. I recommended this book to a friend before reading it and each day we’d meet up and be like “So what happened in here?” Nine times out of ten one of us was like “OH! Now I get it”.

All of that being said, it’s still a good read. I think the sheer coolness of KNIGHTS RIDING DINOS!! will be enough for most people to enjoy it. And honestly, it should be enough.

I’d love it if someone took the time to make a map of Paradise. When I first cracked open the book and saw the Portrait of La Merced I was like “Finally, a fantasy novel that doesn’t have an overbearing map that I won’t look at”. Then as I got into the book further, I realized that is exactly what the book needed.

I guess the the last thing I’ll say is, this book is not yet “… a cross between Jurassic Park and Game of Thrones” as promised by GRRM. It is dark enough in places to be like GoT and has dinos (so Jurassic Park) but it somehow seemed to fall short of that mark. Its obvious to me that this is going to be a series, but I think this opening could have benefited from a little more closure. I feel like I watched the first part of a miniseries which just ended after 450 pages and I’m not sure what larger story each character’s plots are involved in. Or whether or not they relate at all.

I hope there is a sequel to this, but I’d like to see it carefully done. I think that is all. Don’t murder me in the comments.