Cities and suburbs, real and imaginary.

Monday, March 26, 2012

blue jay versus owl

I was helping Angela in her mother's garden this evening. It was about five o'clock and still bright light out. We were moving tomato seedlings. (I should say, Angela was moving them and I was watering them. I have a minor back injury, at the moment, and my movement ability is erratic.) Out in the center of the yard, a huge brown owl swooped down into the pine needles from the woods behind the yard. The owl looked up, suddenly, at us. It darted back into the trees.

The owl watched over us, while we were working in the yard to fertilize strawberries and preparing the beds for planting. I took pictures of the owl on my electronic devices. Our observor felt like such a good omen. This bird watching over us was ready to go after the squirrels that have been such a bane, and any rabbits that have also plagued the garden. The wise owl, scanning the world, comes back to stare down at us like a sentinel.

The blue jays were furious. It was still light enough that the owl was sluggish and not seeing so well. They darted around it, cawing their heads off. Then, they took turns swooping up behind the owl, on a higher branch, cawing and cawing. One cawed in front to distract the owl. Then, the one behind swooped down and popped the owl upside the head as hard as they could. The owl seemed more annoyed by the cawing then the pops in the head. The blue jays kept at it, trying to pop that owl hard enough to get rid of it. The blue jays worked in tandem. Then, one got spooked and gave up and the other kept at it alone.

The owl remained. The owl was patient and unconcerned.

The owl waits for darkness, looking over the garden. I took a video on my iPod, and if it comes out, I will post it.

Spring is here. When we opened the back door, the earwigs were swarming there. We poured borax down to drive the bugs away. We smashed them dead into the borax. We swept their bodies into the grass.

This morning I was working on the steampunk novel, and it is close. I have turned in the novella for the Fathomless Abyss and await editorial notes. Dogsland continues. Disintegration Visions continues.

The engines of creation are still burning a little longer.

Spring is here. I am writing.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Wherein People Post Reviews

So there's been more than a few reviews coming over the transom, for the novels NEVER KNEW ANOTHER and WHEN WE WERE EXECUTIONERS. I'm going to just link to two reviews for WHEN WE WERE EXECUTIONERS, for those that are curious.

Jesse Bullington writes in Strange Horizons, praising the second book of the trilogy, while providing a pretty spoiler-heavy take on Dogsland, so be forewarned if you haven't read the first novel of the series.

What made Never Knew Another such a remarkable read was how unexpected and fresh a read it was. With that in mind, I should have suspected that When We Were Executioners would go in a very different direction from what I might have anticipated. Down to the page count, it's exactly the same length as its predecessor, but it's so rich in detail that it feels twice as long. Yet for all its differences, the parallels McDermott weaves between the two are among the most satisfying elements, as demonstrated by how he winds down toward his finale:
There is another demon skull to claim, an old one more terrifying than any living. We will no longer be executioners chasing after a prize. We will be the fire that purifies this city for a thousand years. Let the rain come and cool the ash from our flame. We were supposed to be executioners. We were supposed to be hunters and killers of abominations. (p. 231)
The question of how McDermott will concludes the trilogy is less sure than ever now, save the certainty that it will be interesting.

So, that's kind of awesome. link to the full review:

Also, Barnes and Noble recently ran a feature on WHEN WE WERE EXECUTIONERS, as well, following up on their glowing review of the first title in the series. Paul Goat Allen writes his review at the Science Fiction and Fantasy Blog, entitled "Just Another Skull in the Wall"

There are so many remarkable elements to this saga – first and foremost is McDermott’s uncanny ability to thoroughly immerse the reader in the brutal, filthy, and dangerous city of Dogsland. His writing style is incredibly vivid, rich in imagery, and has an undeniable lyricism to it. 
Want to read more of the less-spoiler-y review?

So, thanks to all the reviewers out there! There's two things you can do to make the third book happen. First, you can purchase copies of the books in the trilogy. Second, you can tell your friends about the book, for instance, by writing reviews. Word of mouth helps!

Thanks, Jesse and Paul and everyone who have written reviews!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

[free fiction] The Jamcoi

Jason Sizemore and Apex Publications have posted a free short story from my collection, DISINTEGRATION VISIONS, that is not to be read whilst eating.

"The Jamcoi"


Sometimes I wonder how long it will be until we start eating each other again. The factory farming system will come around to it, eventually, as soon as there’s enough money to be made doing it, and there are people who would sell themselves if they could.
Morality isn’t for everyone. Some people just like a burger.
Be open-minded.
Eat something.
It’s good for you.
 The Jamcoi
by J.M. McDermott
SHARON HAD GROWN UP IN A Turkey household. Once, her mother had branched out with honeyed ham, but it was uniformly considered a disaster among Sharon’s family, and after that, it was nothing but turkey for Thanksgiving dinner, and also for Christmas. Her mother was not a talented chef. At Thanksgiving, the fact that she was actually cooking instead of ordering out was special enough. The family was just fine without jamcoi. This was fine by Sharon’s mother. Sharon’s mother was intimidated by the jamcoi, and she had no desire to cook one instead of a turkey, even if the new bird was all the rage.
Sharon didn’t mind. She liked turkey, and had no real fondness for the endorphin-rich jamcoi meat that was always a bit too soft. Jamcoi gave her a slight headache if she ate too much of it. She claimed she had a slight allergy to get out of eating it at restaurants, though it was probably just that her body was not accustomed to the rich, buttery meat.
Sharon had hoped to go her entire adult, married life without cooking either a lobster or a jamcoi. She never told this to her husband, David, because it had never come up in conversation. It wasn’t an aversion quite on par with never having a ménage à trois, or even her aversion to nagging her husband for not separating the whites and the colors in the wash, though he knew they never quite came out as clean that way. Still, her aversion to jamcoi was something she knew in a deep place inside of her. The thing was that she didn’t like the idea of shoving something still alive into the terrible fires, to baste in its blood and flood its body with natural chemicals of pleasure. The whole thing seemed quite unpalatable to Sharon.

Read the rest?

Monday, March 12, 2012

[free fiction] Nausicaa

The last temptation of Odysseus. The last hope she had of complacency with her father and king came and went when the man who would be her husband fell back into the sea.
I guess I can’t tell you anything too specific, in case you get caught.
Today, I sat in a cathedral until nightfall because people will leave me alone and it’s quiet so I can think. Cathedrals remind me of my family’s priest, and his little church on my father’s island, where I was confirmed the day that I ran away from that life.
I can’t wrap my head around this world, or the people in it. I float among trains and hostels. I am at sea. That is where I am, and where I was when I was on father’s island. I wondered if I shouldn’t kill myself, because it’s hard out here. It’s so hard. I see why my father didn’t want this for me. I guess I’m glad I’m out here, though. I’ll stay out here until the end of the world.

I dreamed about this last night, and I was thinking about this in the cathedral. On this city block, where I am right now, I live with all these strangers in a hazy window of five or ten minutes where stores open and close and clocks aren’t all synchronized. That’s kind of how the end of the world will be, I think. When the end of the world comes, two eyes will bend shut. Ten fingers will curl closed. One tongue will wilt like a dead flower, and two ears will hear nothing. When someone dies, it’s the end of the world for them. It might as well be.

Read the rest?

This is the last short story of the collection. All that remains is the epilogue, which is a trivial thing. If you enjoyed the stories, please consider passing along a donation through paypal to sankgreall (a) gmail (dot) com. Five dollars and more will get you a free eBook, in any format, for your collection.

Donations of thirteen dollars and up will also get you a copy of the book, itself, which I'll ship to you via paypal.

Donations of over fifteen dollars? I'll sign the book and personalize it before passing it along to you.

Simple, right?

Naturally, you can skip all of that, and just pick up a copy for your library, virtual or otherwise, wherever fine books are sold.

I hope you enjoyed.

Disintegration Visions officially released today!

You probably already know if you are the sort of person to whom a new short story collection by J. M. McDermott would appeal. Seeing that you are here, at my blog, you might find yourself being that person, in fact. As you are probably the person to whom a new short story collection by J. M. McDermott might appeal, I will provide for you a link.


Friday, March 2, 2012

[Free Fiction] Dear Kaijin at Atlanta WriteClub

Dear Kaijin,
So, this is the letter where I tell you that I’m leaving you. Try not to get enraged and stop reading. I want you to keep reading. You do remember how to read, right?
Here’s the thing, everyone says I still love you, and I guess I do. Love is this squishy feeling, like I just stepped in something, like every step I take I will be stepping in something, and it’s kind of terrifying because I don’t really know what it is, except every step I take, there’s something that surprises me. That’s love, right? Well, if that is love, then I love you.
Except, I’m also, actually stepping in things. Squishy things. Despite six months of constant effort against your instincts, you are still not housebroken. The peeing isn’t so bad, because I just pretend I have a renter with a massive, scary dog, and I’m trying to get rid of him. What’s worse than that is the blood everywhere. I have become the world’s leading expert on getting blood out of carpets, curtains, furniture, and clothes. The bodies you’re bringing home, half-chewed, should, at the very least, go into the fridge.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

The Opening lines of Straggletaggle, so far

The Steampunk is getting close. I've resigned myself to believing that I will never, ever like this part of it, and I'm just going to do the best I can with it, because an aesthetic distaste, not a craft problem.

Anyway, first look, and all, and I'm going to pass this on to my agent. Soon. Maybe later this month? Maybe next? I want to read over it a couple more times, anyway, and keeping poking that one section I don't like.

This is what I've been doing, mostly, with my time, for those that are interested in such things. 


1: High Upon the Royal Clocktower at the Heart of Saxonia, Prince Hollownot Lives in Solitude


Light, I can barely stand it. I can’t stop it. If I look away a moment, I will die upon this tower. I must gaze into the light, let it run through my eyes, into my skull, into me, into me, light, merge with it until I am no more and then go beyond that until I find myself again on the other side of my eyes on the other side of the light below where there is no light and the absence of light is also a kind of light.
     I came here to run away. I wasn’t planning anything. I thought I would climb up above the gear platforms, beyond the cranks and spindling wires of the tower, up past the pendulums, where the high air is cold and howls and howls enough to sing through the whole kingdom, a banshee in my ears. I thought I would climb because I was angry and I could think of nowhere else to go where I’d be alone but up. I had to escape somehow. I couldn’t stand to be among the world as it was.
     My mother was dead. For this, the kingdom had to pause in mourning. If not for this, I’d never make it this high at all. All the gears and pneumatic tubes and springs held still to mourn the queen. Time stopped, for this clock, and for all of us who obeyed it. Light, itself, seemed to pause, hanging in the air and moving to mourn her death, though I did not understand why that happened until I climbed so high to reach the light.
     I climbed. Light. I climbed.
     My mother was going to remain alive as long as I never saw her body. That is what I believed. I was a child, still. I was a child every day of my life until I reached the light. I would know nothing of her death, when she yanked my wandering sister Sapsorrow, from the path of an oliphaunt. I would not look upon the cold, white root of my mother’s death. I kept the black wig and black robes of mourning, though it tried to catch in the gears and chains I climbed like ladders. I wore them because they were warm.
     It was cold. It was so cold that I could see my breath, though it was late summer, and hot. I was higher than I ever had been. Up, where I climbed, the cold was everywhere. My hands steamed upon the gears and chains and tried to slip a little on the humid, damp metals. My bones ached with the cold. I shivered.
     I saw it above, where all the lenses of the clockfaces converged. Did we, below, even realize what this machine was built to do? The clocktower did not tell time. Not really. That was only making use of the crystalline façade, like a good clockmaker. The crystals in the face prismatically sliver raw flogistan from the air, itself, and keep it in a perfect bubble without heat or quicksilver. I saw the light. I thought it should be warm if it were a flogistan bubble. These were almost always hot enough to melt clothing. Almost always, I say, because the closer I came to this bubble of light, the colder I became. There is fire of heat warming up from absolute zero and there is fire of cold, as matter pulls away from the point of ice or melt. To minute flecks of matter or flogistan particles, there is a flame in distance from the static point of nature. This is why the ancestor clockmakers built this high up, like this, where it would capture all the
     I am not warm, not cold.
     The funeral ended below. The gears began again, and the pendulous weights that were once my ladders became my grinding prison. There is no return down unless the machine stops again. I was cold. The light was supposed to be warm. I kept climbing up, stopping to blow on my hands and rub them together. My feet were numb, and my nose and ears. I pushed my hands against my long, black wig to press some warmth down upon my ears. The light was my only hope. I climbed into the bubble, expecting heat.
     No heat. No cold.
     I have never left, I think, for many years, or maybe not many years, or maybe a hundred years, or maybe only a few years. I eat light, drink it, breathe it. It fills me up. It binds my body whole, flows over me, through me. Color has bled from me, and I see myself and I am bright white. My black wig is white. My black robe is white. All my muscles, follicles, organs and biologies are all burned into a white.
     I live, yet. I live on light.
     There is a lens. It is at the top of the clocktower of the kingdom of Saxonia. It is a huge lens that burns and bellows and becomes an essence of a soul. Not quite a soul – more protoplasmic than a soul, like the wee beasties at the bottom of the microscope lens – but the essence of one. Stand on the threshold of the soul of all light, see the possibility of a living machine – a truly conscious machine – even if nothing like intelligence could take root inside of the strictly-defined gears and channels. That is what I did. I stood on the threshold of soul.
     Light. More than light. All light touches all light. One molecule of light is all molecules of light. I see. I see centuries. I see the shape of centuries. They pour into me like light.
     This bubble is every bubble, every photon and mirror molecule. I saw my mother born. I saw her mother born, and all mothers born. I saw the sun being born, in a deep night sky. I saw it burn out. I saw everything in between, and everything that is possible in between.
     I have seen too much. The future should remain uncertain. I should not see my own mother’s face a thousand times across the centuries, as women are born, live, and die, who all carry her face, her voice, her beating heart.
     I see the teeming masses with an individual grace that belies my distance from them all. Every gesture and tick in the face of light, every tragedy and triumph. Every rotten bone in their dessicated skull.
     I was Hollownot, a Prince who would be king of Saxonia, and merge brutally when the crown of the machine would inhabit my own head.
No, this was never to be. Once I fled the palace, my future possibilities upon a throne were lost.
In every future I see, I have no place among the thrones of time.
In every future I see, I remain here, held up in the light, until my soul bleeds into it and it into me and I am no more.
Or, the machine stops. I climb down the tower, no Prince at all, and walk into the hills beyond the Great Clockwork Wall at the edge of the machine.
I shall stop the kingdom forever.
     I see it now.
My people serve the flogistan bubble, but it does not serve us. We call it a law. We call it a kingdom. It is alive, though it cannot move much from the gears and wires. There is nothing for it to do but fulfill the systems to which it has no control.
     I weep for you, mindmute Light Light Light, living thing, fungal Light pulling up the essence of the world – her minerals and biolologic life – to fuel a Light impulse misunderstood as a life, alive, but alone and unthinking, unfeeling. It is conscious the way a fungus is conscious. It is a wee beastie below the microscope glass writ large upon the world, empty and huge and hungry.
     Search, then, through the possible futures.
     We serve a machine that does not see us, a flogistan core that does not warm itself in the glow of life. It has no eyes, no ears, no tongue, just teeth and teeth grinding gears through all the minerals and coal formations of the underground, from here at the mainspring and out to the wall and beyond when the diggers find no more to build and burn. More than this, the light pours over all of us, carrying the source of the mindmute consciousness of being that is the light itself embodied in this clocktower cold fire bubble. All light is all light, all dark is all dark. That Light lives means nothing to the geographic space upon a map. Beyond the wall, they are also part of this machine, where the light touches them. The nations of the world are gears moving to a force of hidden light that burns them all slowly, in time, unto the toothgears of the machine that knows only that it must continue to devour, until it is no more. It is a thoughtless thing, with too much time and no love, no breeding.
     All possible futures, we become the stomach lining of the machine, and so it must be stopped; lest we become single cells dividing in the noise of the gears, like a slow infection until the machinery grinds us all down to glass prisms of
     The machine cannot be permitted to live.
My ancestors began this cathedral of gears to prevent war, and let people live in peace. But this is worse than war, to become mere machine parts made of flesh.

Stina Leicht's OF BLUE SKIES AND PAIN is fantastic.

Of Blood and Honey was an exceptional debut in a year marked by great debuts. It's up for all sorts of honors and things, and I agree that these honors and things are deserved. Have you read this book?

It came out last year. It's a great book. I've not plugged a lot of books around here, of late, in part because I've been disappointed with most of what I've read, lately. Not so Stina's book. When I think back over the last three months and what I've read and liked or not liked, I think of the advance copy I scored from Nightshade for the second book in this series, OF BLUE SKIES AND PAIN.

This whole series is reminiscent of a very good BBC Urban Fantasy Drama, with demons hiding out, working their nefarious plans and schemes, and intermingling their bloodlines with humanity. The Catholic Church, naturally, is the tip of the sword to protect humanity. If this sounds tiresome, hold up a moment, and let me explain a little more. During the times of trouble in Ireland, where being Catholic or Protestant meant you couldn't walk down the street in some areas at risk of death. The IRA is in full swing. Liam, our luckless protagonist, is swallowed into their fold as a young man, and finds himself a driver for a crew of IRA men. The demons and the church both have it out for our main character.

You see, his father is Fey. The Church thinks Fey are all just demons. The Fey is actually just as upset about the demons as the church, if anyone bothered to ask them about it. Both the church, and the demons, have it out for Liam. He doesn't even realize it most of his life. He doesn't understand why he seems to transform into a powerful black wolf when he's upset, killing everything in his path. He has a lot to learn about the world, and his enemies in the world, before he can find peace with the woman he loves.

That's book one. There is no peace, I assure you. 

Book two is a tenuous truce between the Fey and the Church, while they try to figure out whether either side can trust the other in a losing fight with demons and Nephilim. Everything gets harder. Everything gets more violent. And, Stina's vision is coming through, in a work that seems to step right out of the influence of good BBC serials, combining real history, with mythologies, and a fearless, unfettered way of making very likable protagonists suffer the consequences of their actions in a brutal, violent, dangerous world.

Check it out, people. You're going to like it.