Monday, December 31, 2012

From Mountains of Ice audiobook available for pre-order

Just thrilled to let my fans know my fantasy novel, From Mountains of Ice, is now available for pre-order from Iambik Audiobooks.

Diana Majlinger does a wonderful narration, with her delicious accent (at least to these Canadian ears), adding an exotic flavour to this tale of honour, loyalty and betrayal.

Once at Iambik's site you can listen to the first chapter for free, and then decide from there whether you wish to add From Mountains of Ice to your audio collection.

I'm given to understand the audiobook will be available soon from as well.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Review: The Palace Job

The Palace Job
The Palace Job by Patrick Weekes

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

The Palace Job, by Patrick Weekes, is a quick, easy read that doesn't require anything of the reader other than being awake. It's pure fantasy pulp, a sort of Ocean's Eleven meets horny unicorn, sentient war hammer, and butch-bitch disinherited baroness.

There isn't much here to grab your attention, no remarkable writing, no ingenious plotting. Weekes' attempt to write book from a black perspective is a bit laughable, with a very white-centric focus. There is a social structure and several institutions which are never fully explained or fleshed out so that this reader was unable identify with the fantasy world Weekes' attempts to build. Mostly it's just a lot of fight scenes and reads a bit like a script for an online game, complete with sexual innuendo and adolescent fulfilment.

Based upon this example, I won't be looking for any further works from Weekes, and likely not from Tyche Books either.

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Friday, December 28, 2012

Turkey Mango Curry

So the great roasted beast (turkey) happened for Christmas Day, and with only two of us that means a lot of leftovers. I don't mind leftovers. Leftovers means lots of creativity in the kitchen. I also had a mango that needed to be used, and leftover cranberry chutney. After skimming a few recipes for chicken mango curry, I decided to wing it (please pardon the pun), and voilà, this is what I came up with.

Turkey Mango Curry

Turkey Mango Curry

olive oil for cooking
1 medium onion peeled and roughly chopped
4 cloves garlic finely minced
1 tablespoon finely minced fresh ginger
4 teaspoons good quality curry powder
1 teaspoon cumin seed
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 red pepper, seeded and sliced thinly
1 mango peeled, seeded and cubed
1 cup leftover spicy cranberry relish (from Stonehouse Cooks, with 1 chilli pepper added, or just use about 1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh cranberries, 1/2 orange peeled and chopped, 1 tablespoon sugar and 1 small chilli pepper finely minced)
1/4 cup mango chutney (India House and Patak's make very good versions)
2-3 cups diced leftover turkey meat
1 cup coconut milk
juice and zest of 1 lemon
1 pint whipping cream
green onions or fresh cilantro chopped for garnish

In a large skillet heat the olive oil and sauté the first six ingredients until the onions begin to develop a little colour. Add the pepper, mango, relish, chutney and turkey, and sauté for another five minutes. Add the coconut milk and lemon juice and zest. Reduce heat and simmer until liquid reduces by about half (about 10 minutes). Add whipping cream and simmer for another five minutes.

Remove from heat. Spoon into bowls and garnish with green onions or cilantro.

Can also be served over steamed rice.

Serves 4.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Every day miracles

If there is one profound lesson I will carry forward from 2012, it is the knowledge that miracles still do exist and occur every day. Perhaps we just don't recognize them as such because we have become blinded by the abundance of amazing (yes, I'm using amazing as a noun) in mundane and expected events.

Today this knowledge created a profound and happy two hours. Our son, Adam Stephens, lives and works in Calgary, Alberta with his wonderful girlfriend, Crystal Andrushko. Our daughter, Kelly Stephens, lives and works in Toronto with her gentle man, Ulysses Viello. We are separated by 2700 kilometres. 

And yet today, through the free and amazing technology provided by Google+ Hangouts, all six of us were able to gather over coffee, spinach shakes and assorted beverages as though we were sitting together under one roof. Cats came into and out of each others' living-rooms. Porch decorations were revealed, dracena Christmas trees shared, giggles and news, thoughts and hopes all passed back and forth. 

And somehow the distance closed. It was as though we were together, and it wasn't until it was time to say our farewells and go our own ways that the ache of not being physically together became obvious. There were virtual hugs, no shared warmth of bodies. And yet for that absence a poignant and significant reminder that because of modern technologies this family, separated by enormous distances, was able to come together for a sizeable period of time in a real and tangible manner.

No longer the long wait for letters to cross countries. No longer the uncertainty of facial expression while chatting on a phone. We were together, laughing, watching silly actions while men-folk poked women-folks' noses. 

And the miracle of this technology today has become profound.

It makes me wonder what marvels there will be 30 years hence, when I am 87. Will our son and daughter's families be able to be with us as holographic images, or will some sort of animatronic temporary clone be able to press flesh? Will the globe truly shrink so that distance and time are no longer relevant?

I cannot wait. It's like being a kid again, waiting for a legendary figure in red to find his way into your home with an unimagined gift of wonder.

But for today, Google+ Hangout gave this family a gift beyond value. There are miracles. You just need to know how to see them.

Monday, December 17, 2012

From Mountains of Ice soon as audiobook

I received the proofs for Diana Majlinger's reading of From Mountains of Ice. Must say I'm delighted with the Iambik narrator's delivery; there is a delicious European accent in her voice which gives the novel a very cosmopolitan feeling.

I'm told by Gesine Kernchen at Iambik the novel should be available at Iambik's website, and at in the new year. Not sure at this point about pricing and such, but will be sure to keep my loyal fans posted here on the blog.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Review: The Indigo Pheasant

The Indigo Pheasant
The Indigo Pheasant by Daniel A. Rabuzzi

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Daniel a. Rabuzzi concludes (or does he?) the story of Yount in The Indigo Pheasant.

Overall this is a well-crafted, highly intelligent tale, drawing upon Biblical and literary sources (so many literary sources!) Yet throughout there is a distance between story and reader, perhaps because Rabuzzi chooses to narrate his story more from an impersonal third person, rather than a tightly focused, character-driven third person, which renders the tale more as a story to be read aloud to someone, than an intimate dialogue between writer and reader.

Rabuzzi also chooses to relate part of his narrative through a series of letters, broadsheet clippings and the like, which, although clever, because of the number and length of these sometimes expository passages, tend to arrest the tension of the plot arc, which is already stretched and somewhat thin.

Categorizing the novel as YA, is perhaps a bit of a stretch, given the elevated and sometimes archaic (although beautifully true to period) vocabulary, and there was, at least for this reader, some considerable confusion regarding the lengthy descriptions of the science of fulgination.

In the end, having fulfilled the mission of returning Yount to its rightful place, it would seem Maggie and the Cretched Man make for New York, just before the great stock market crash of 1929. Given the ambiguity of the ending, I suspect Rabuzzi plans to explore what choral escapades and escapes this talented and magic duo may undertake.

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Sunday, December 2, 2012

Review: Under the Hawthorn Tree

Under the Hawthorn Tree
Under the Hawthorn Tree by Ai Mi

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Perhaps one of the most disappointing factors in a reading experience is when you finish a novel that had all the potential for greatness and fell so far short. This is exactly my experience with Under the Hawthorne Tree by Ai Mi.

It is difficult to point to just one reason the novel failed. It could have been the English translation that was so very uninspiring, spare, flat. There was not one inspiring passage, one beautifully turned phrase. For me it was like reading a young child's first fiction.

The novel's failure could have been in the utter naivete of the author's story, an unrequited love like unto Romeo and Juliet, but so far short of the depth of story required to have significant emotional impact.

It could have been the characterization of the heroine, Jingqui, who swung from sympathetic waif to spoiled and self-centred idiot.

Combined, these flaws create a saccharine romance that should please lovers of Twilight, Harlequin Romances, and other novels of similar ilk.

Throughout the narrative, the author attempts to create a romantic tension between the two main protagonists, Jingqui, who is a young female student, and Sun Jianxin (known as Old Third),who is a soldier in the People's Republic of China.

Set in post-revolutionary China, Jingqui meets Old Third while working on a farm as part of her school curriculum. Jingqui then proceeds to bounce between the extremes of loving and loathing, admiring and mistrusting the handsome soldier, Old Third, who does everything in his power to ensure her happiness and safety, even unto his own destruction.

Her sexual naivete is beyond ridiculous, especially for someone who is allegedly as well-read and intelligent as she, little say someone who works among farm folk. The ridiculousness of her lack of sexual understanding extends to belief that she might become pregnant through a kiss, or sitting on a bed with a man, or even just allowing a touch. For a girl who has watched ducks mating, and likely seen other farm animals mating, this protracted lack of understanding wears thin by the denouement. And given she has knowledgeable female friends who very much indulge in gossip, and have a keen awareness of sexuality, it is only logical that some of the basic, physical facts of sex might have filtered through. Overall, Jingqui's lack of understanding of the sexual act entirely lacks credibility.

And if the author hoped to create a romantic tragedy, she only succeeded in that the character of Jingqui proves to be so selfish and uncaring of Old Third's genuine well-being, that the death-bed scene ends up a melodramatic screech of Jingqui's presence.

Now a major motion picture, I can only hope the screenwriter, Lichuan Yin, used the novel only as inspiration, and created something far more credible and memorable.

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