Books By C. LItka

Books By C. LItka

Friday, January 28, 2022

Self-Published Science Fiction Contest Result


Woke up this morning and I realized that I had not written a blog post for this week. Luckily, or unluckily, depending upon how you look on it, a subject to write about came up in my usual morning tour of web sites. Fantasy-Faction announced their top ten self published science fiction books for the Self-Published Science Fiction Contest, and my entry, A Summer in Amber was not among them. A disappointment, but not a terrible surprise. In any contest, the odds are always against you. I was, however, doubly disappointed in the fact that all they did was announce ten titles, with three going on to the semi-finals. For the fantasy version of this contest, they had, in a series of postings, given each title a little review before eliminating it, and I was expecting the same for this contest. While it can be argued that it is for the best in this case, I still would’ve like to see what they had to say about my story.

The ten blogs that have been judging this contest have been a mixed bag. At least three of them have written little reviews for all of the 30 books they were given. On the other hand, one just made a Youtube video in his car announcing his top ten, while others have yet to be heard from. I had thought myself lucky to be on Fantasy-Faction’s list, but it turned out to be, well, a wash, at best.

Still, I’m planning on entering Beneath the Lanterns in the fantasy version of this contest, and I’ll enter The Secret of the Tzaritsa Moon in the next version of the science fiction contest. I don’t expect to win, these represent my minimal/no cost efforts to promote my work – nothing ventured, nothing gained. And it is fun waiting to see what they have to say about your work – at least until they do. If they do.

Friday, January 21, 2022

My Reading Report Card


My Reading Report Card as of 21 January 2021

My grading system:

A – Great (Very rare)

B – Good (Recommendable)

C – Okay (Average to so-so, but good enough to read to the end.)

DNF – Did not finish. I don’t bother reading books that I would grade either D or F

October 2021

Pushing Ice by Alastair Reynolds – DNF

It had a prologue that seemed to foreshadow how the story would unfold, which I didn’t appreciate. It had too many characters to follow without a cohesive focus. Said that a man died, and then spent 13 pages describing the process. I should talk, but way too wordy no one to care about.

November- December 2021

Miss Buncle’s Book by D E Stevenson – B

Miss Buncle Married – B-

The Two Mrs Abbots – C+

The Four Graces – B

Light romances and mild comedy set in what was contemporary England of 1934 through 1945. I found them entertaining, in part because it is a place and a period that I enjoy exploring in fiction. There a no doubt more realistic and darker representations of that period in fiction, but I like light novels, and these fit the bill. Complete review here:

Miss Clair Remembers – by Miss Read (Dora Saint) – B

Emily Davis – C +

Fairacre Festival – C (Novella)

Summer at Fairacre – B

Stories about school teachers and rural life in England from 1910’s to the 1970s. These are the small, slice of life stories I like, again in a time and place that I like. She writes clearly, and doesn’t shy away from talking about the darker sides of rural life and rural poverty. I had read a number of her stories years ago, and enjoyed them as well. Miss Clair and Emily Davis talk about life in pre-World War ll England, and the Fairacre books are two of “Miss Read’s” own stories set in the 1950 through the 60’s.

I have complete reviews on my blog here:

Victories Greater than Death by Charlie Jane Anders – DNF

YA/Middle school fiction. Not my thing.

Haunting of Tram Car 015 by P Djeli Clark – C

Promising setting, but the story and characters were so-so, though to be fair it was only a novella. Might try another in the series.

Tooth and Claw by Jo Walton – DNF

Fantasy with characters that are dragons. Fantasy is just not my thing these days and while using dragons as your POV characters my appeal to other readers, they didn’t do it for me.

Hammers on Bone –Cassandra Klaw – DNF

A detective story novella featuring over-the-top hardboiled detective style story writing with an unpleasant POV and secondary characters, with not much going on as far as I read.

A History of What Comes Next – by Sylvain Neuvel – DNF

Cheesy opening with narrator killing her husband of 20 years by sticking a pen up his nose because he may have read something about her he wasn’t supposed to know. An unpleasant read and I was unlikely to care for the characters going forward.

The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson – DNF

Epic fantasy; not my thing. I’m just not into the use of magic in a story.

January 2022

Network Effects by Martha Wells – C

Murder Bot is entertaining, though its schtick getting old, Supporting characters and setting are nondescript. Plot is repetitious both within the story and from one story to the next. Won’t continue on with the series Complete review here:

Leviathan Wakes by James S A Corey – C

Too long. It left me with too many questions. I have the feeling that the plot driving incidents did not make sense. Annoyingly magical ending. I might try another book in the series.

Complete review here:

The Great North Road by Peter F Hamilton – DNF (@ 10%)

Too many points of view characters, too many words, and to many and too long of scenes made it a slog to read.

A Talent for War by Jack McDevitt – C+

A SF detectives story concerning events in a war 200 years prior to the story. First person narrative to my taste, but because the mystery is in the past, it has too many disjointed flashbacks to the past. Major plot concern seemed to go missing in action – a red herring or what? It’s ending is melodramatic that I’m not sure made any internal to the story sense. However I will likely try another in the series.

Dark Run by Mike Brooks – DNF (@24%)

Bounty hunters in space, i.e. nothing original, more or less a Firefly fan fic story.

A Memory Called Empire by by Arkady Martine – B

Finally, a long, original story written using a single point of view character that you can care about together with a straight ahead narration that is set in an intricate interstellar Chinese/Aztec-like court setting. The backdrop of the story is sketched in with snippets of text at the beginning of each chapter. It is wordy, but has a well thought out world. I could nit-pick, but it was the best SF read so far, so I won’t complain.

Now reading(actually listening):

Shadow of the Torturer by Gene Wolfe (an audio book)

Thursday, January 13, 2022

A Good Day


I got some real – and very unexpected – good news today. I was reading over the birthdays on the 11 January File 770 posting and discovered that one of my favorite authors, Jasper Fforde, had been born on 11the of January, 1961. Great. I clicked on the comments as saw that some of the commentators had tried and didn’t click with perhaps my favorite SF story, his Shades of Grey. So of course, I had to comment and say how much I enjoyed it. It was published in 2010, when I was 60 years old, and was the first book in a planned trilogy which included Painting by Numbers, and The Gordini Protocals. As the years went by following its release, the second book did not appear. I found a Youtube video of him saying that he was planning to write a prequel to the book before continuing on with the series. By this time I was despairing of living long enough to read all three before I died. Later, I found an interview with Fforde where he said that the series was canceled because of the disappointing sales of Shades of Grey. Alas. So in my comment, I mentioned how sad I was that the planned sequels were never going to be written.

Today, just to see if anyone else commented on Jasper Fforde, I checked back on that comment thread and found that a SF author & poet, Nicole J LeBoeuf, commented on my post, pointing out to me that a sequel to Shades of Grey has been announced, and is scheduled to be released on August 11th 2022! I immediately punched up Amazon UK (as Fforde’s books, if they even reach the US turn up a year after they’re released in the UK) and found the listing: the sequel is called Red Side Story. I pre-ordered my copy. The listing is here:

I looked Fforde’s website and on it he mentions that he wants to wrap up his long running Thursday Next series along with Shades of Grey to move on to new stories. This means that at least some of the mysteries left hanging in Shades of Grey will be wrapped up in one book instead of two. I might actually live to know the Truth…

All in all, a good day. I’ve got something to look forward to – not just a new Jasper Fforde book, but a book that features the return of Eddie Russett and Jane Burnswick nee Grey -- a book that I never expected to be able to read.

Update: The book's release has been pushed back to April 2023 -- deju vu all over again. Early Riser was pushed back for years as he struggled to complete it. Will I live to read this?

Update of update; The current release date, as of 11 May 2023, is Feb 6 2024. Yah, right.

Saturday, January 8, 2022

Writing vs Reading


 It shouldn’t be writing vs reading, but it has been that for me. I haven’t been reading all that many books since writing has taken over my creative life.

I suspect that this isn’t the case for most writers. Most writers read a lot of books while they write. Nathan Lowell said in a recent blog post “Reading is a necessary key to writing for me. Over the years I’ve learned that if I’m not writing, I’m probably not reading.” And I know of other authors – indeed all of the ones I know, who both read books and write. But for me, it hasn’t worked out that way.

As I see sit, there are several reasons for lack of reading. The first one is that I was motivated, in part, to start writing my own stories again – after spending a decade painting pictures as my creative outlet – because I couldn’t find new books that appealed to me. There are certain modern fads in fiction writing that I simply don’t like. One is the use of multiple points of view and the other, the extensive use of flashbacks. I guess I’m old fashioned in that when I pick up a book, I want to read a narrative, not solve a jigsaw puzzle. Now, I’m sure that there are good reasons why an author might want to jump between characters and time to tell their story, and do it well. Indeed, I can think of stories where occasionally shifting focusing on the activities of different characters works –I love Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey and Maturin series and he does this. I also, barely, tolerated the alternating narrative chapters in the Leviathan Wakes, but by and large, it isn’t a technique I enjoy.

Another factor in my falling out of love with reading is that for all my reading life, I’ve considered myself a science fiction fan. But the type of stories I like were rather specific – planetary romances – which they don’t write anymore, and space opera which almost always means military science fiction these days. While I can’t enjoy the old stories that I loved as a teenager, the new stuff is no better. It seems that the sf background of so many writers and their stories come from movies and TV shows. So much so that I could envision the movie or TV show that inspired their story. In short, a lot of it is thinly disguised fan fiction, that includes all the unrealistic shortcuts that movies and TV shows take with science fiction. Of course, I’ve read in other genre – mysteries; until I got tired of them always being about murder, sea stories; but new ones are rare these days, fantasy; until I grew weary of the same basic story being recycled and magic that can do anything the author needs done. Not to mention decent series books that become repetitious after a while.

So instead of reading, I began to spend my time daydreaming up stories of my own and writing them down. Reading stories at the same time was, I felt, a distraction for me. One I didn’t need with my own stories in my head.

Still, all that said, I want to read more, and I have been making more of an effort to do so over the last several months.

Saturday, January 1, 2022

Leviathan Wakes by James S A Corey A Review


Each November I teat myself to a new tech device. This November that device was a Kobo Libre 2 ebook reader that I purchased mainly for reading ebooks from the library. Which explains the flurry of book reviews on my blog.

The reviewer’s bias: I prefer stories with well developed, pleasant characters. I like writing that is clever and witty – entertaining in itself. I prefer first person narratives, or close third person narratives. I dislike thinly disguised fanfic and stories with gaping plot holes.

Well, I finished Leviathan Wakes, so it is at least okay. I enjoyed it more than Network Effects in that its characters were more fleshed out, and relatable. It was written in close third person, which is my second favorite style of writing after first person narratives. However, jumping between two points of view at critical points in one narrative is, in my old fashioned opinion, a cheap way to keep readers involved in the story. I tolerated that aspect of the storytelling.

However, upon finishing the story, I’m clearly going to need someone to explain the story to me. since it seems to me that, upon reflection, the story has a lot of moving parts that don’t seem to really connect together, though the story seems to imply that they should. 

For instance; is the story about the war between the Outer Planets, Mars and Earth? Or is it about an evil corporation discovering an alien virus and perpetrating a horrendous experiment? And if both, how are they connected, or are they even connected? They don't need to be connected, but I got the impression that they are. Somehow.

It seems to me that the experiment on Eros could’ve been conducted much simpler without any war at all. (Just ship the alien virus in, stage or sabotage a nuclear accident to introduce the radiation, and let the zombies spread it through the asteroid. And you still could’ve had your detective story.)

And there are plenty of smaller questions that either I missed or were not answered. Questions like, who brought the alien virus to Eros? Was it the Mao gal or someone else. If it was the Mao gal, the timeline between discovering her and the outbreak seems pretty compressed. And pretty iffy.

Or why did the evil corporation’s ship attack the courier ship? Why did it set it up as a trap to lure another ship to the rescue? How could anyone be sure that the little clue in the transmitting radio pointing to the Martian navy ever be discovered, much less broadcast to the solar system, and anyone would jump to the halfcocked conclusion that the Martian Navy was behind it? And even so, that little clue would be enough to start a war? That alone seems to be a very long stretch.

What actual role in the story did the Outer Plant/Mars/Earth war actually play in the book? Was it just in the background  to set up further books, or was in somehow central to this story. If the story is about the alien virus, the war would be unnecessary. And if  it was for the eight books that have followed, why not introduce the war in the following books?

And why the stupid ending? A hard sf book suddenly changes into what? Science-fantasy? Why have an asteroid becomes a magical thing that moves, without inertia, at vast speeds with no apparent mechanism, or any apparent way that such a mechanism could’ve been developed by the organism. It seems like a half-assed way to get out of corner you’ve painted yourself into.

In conclusion – it was an okay read. I dislike grand scale stories, so that counts against this story. I'm not a fan of grimdark and what seems to me to be needles violence. But on the positive side, they did write relatable characters that balanced out the negatives. However, I do have to say that the story was overly long and it got a bit tedious at the end. All in all, I will not be continuing with the series.