Writing, publishing, geekdom, and errata.

Call For Submissions: *recompose* (pro rates for poetry and flash fiction)

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With the completion of the crowdfunding campaign (and me being out of hospital), I'm pleased to announce that recompose is officially open for submissions.

We are looking for poetry and short prose works with speculative fiction elements. We are paying professional rates: $0.25/line for poetry up to 50 lines and $0.06/word for prose up to 1000 words. You may submit works that slightly exceed those limits; just be aware of the pay limits.

You can see a sample contract for Alliteration Ink at As per that template, for original works we will be asking for one-year exclusive print and digital rights (with exceptions), and five year non-exclusive print and digital rights. All other rights reside with the author.

Please note the details on the guidelines page above. Publication expected to be three issues in 2016, web publication and print annual. Free first issue available at website to see what we're looking for.


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48 Things Women Hear In A Lifetime

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So this video went up nearly a month ago. It's nothing amazing - women saying the same old sexist bullcrap that they always get.

Which is, perhaps, the most remarkable bit about it.

It's not featuring some exceptionally douchebaggy douchebro. It's not featuring something beyond the pale. It's the everyday things that just alter the experience of women in ways that they categorically do not for men.

It's as inoffensive as you can possibly get without denying sexism at all.

And yet:

 Yeah, more dislikes than likes.

I've seen videos that were total crap (hell, I've posted videos that were total crap) that didn't have more dislikes than likes.

You'd think that maybe some segment of the population feels...guilty.

If you haven't seen it yet, go check out the video.  And, y'know, maybe give it a like.  (And while you're at it, check out MRA Dilbert.  You know you want to.)

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Alliteration Ink Presents: The Kickstarter for recompose, a new journal of literary speculative fiction (and a free first issue)


You're a person who loves speculative fiction. Give you a blaster, a sword, a creature from the Outer Black any day.

You're also a person who loves literature. Works that take language seriously, that treat writing as art.

What kind of magazine is this going to be?

This project is aimed for so-called "interstitial" works - short fiction and poetry that are too literary for genre, too genre for literary. Works that push the boundaries of both.

This is not a place for pretentious self-involved literary works, nor is it a place for flat genre. This is a place where metaphors exist alongside magic, where synecdoche occurs in space, where elves pen ekphrastic poems of Pickman's paintings.

This project is set up not to get big backers (though those rewards are there!), but to bring these works to as many people as possible.  That's why as little as $3 can get you a full year's worth of stories, poems, non-fiction, and artwork.

Wait, only $3 for the full year?

That's the other special thing about this Kickstarter - the more we raise, the more content there is for all backers. The more we raise, the more issues, more stories, more poems, more art there is for you... without you spending an additional dime.

What's the catch?

There is one, small catch. To make this happen, we need lots of people to support it. We have to tell everyone.

That's why we created issue #0 - a "sample issue" - that's free for anyone and everyone. You can get the free digital issue #0 at the Kickstarter page:

Tell everyone about recompose and the free digital issue - and help us bring more art to more people today.

recompose:a journal of literary speculative poetry & fiction -- Kicktraq Mini


It wasn't fleas - it was a hypertensive crisis

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I'm posting this for three reasons:
  1. Because I spent way too much time investigating the wrong thing, and maybe someone else can get useful info from this.
  2. Because it could have been far more serious than it has been so far, and maybe someone else can get useful info from this.
  3. A bit of a status update.
There's some pics of medical things - not terribly gross, but it isn't kittens.

Cat Tax

As some of you already know, I spent a good bit of yesterday evening in Urgent Care.  And it wasn't fleas.

Let me back up.

A while back I had a mouse get into my house, then a bit after that, my cat started to get eaten up by fleas. She's an inside cat, so I figured she had to have gotten them from the mouse. I isolated and treated the cat, re-treated the dog, and after getting what I thought was some bites, treated my bedroom (the main place she is if not in the bathroom) with diachromatic earth and set out a flea trap.

The first few looked a bit like this (this is not me):

There are still no - repeat no - fleas in the trap, but the "bites" only happened that one day, so I thought I was good.

Saturday there were more "bites" on my lower legs. I checked all over for any signs of bugs - fleas, anything - and didn't see any. Still no fleas in the trap.

On Sunday morning, my legs were covered with "bites". It looked kind of like this picture below (also not me), but without the pus-filled center. Thankfully, since that's a picture of a MRSA skin infection. 
There were a few areas where I'd scratched in my sleep which seemed to be getting sore and inflamed, but my legs were just covered in this stuff. And then my lower extremities started to swell up, and red blotchy rashes appeared.

I took some benadryl, thinking it was an allergic reaction of some kind. I also raised my legs and thought that maybe if an hour or two of that helped, I'd be good. During that time I also started to freak myself out by reading everything on the internet about "bites but no fleas" (this is actually a really informative thread)... because there were still no signs of the buggers.

It didn't.

These pictures are me - at the Urgent Care last night.
You can see the infected bit on this one on my foot

Turns out it's purpura, and probably caused by the same thing that was causing my swollen legs: my blood pressure was 220/95. If you look at a blood pressure chart, that's literally off the charts. When we retook it, it was still a staggering 185/90.

My blood pressure is typically in the 120-130/80-90 range, but I was in a hypertensive crisis.

After debating sending me directly to the ER, they decided (with some urging on my part) to just give me meds (and make sure they worked before letting me go) for the night and to see my doc in the morning. My blood pressure's still surprisingly high for me - 170-180 systolic - but that was after meds had worn off. I'm about to go pick up some new ones.

So I can only presume that my blood pressure was going up (or was high) all this week, and the symptoms just spiked over the weekend. Remember, I didn't otherwise feel bad. I had no idea my blood pressure was so out of whack. I was busy thinking that it was bugs rather than checking my own health.

We still don't know why my blood pressure has gone out of sorts. The running assumption is stress - which would make sense given what happened a year ago.

Anyway, I'm still here, and will keep folks updated, especially if it can help someone else from running down the wrong path for days on end.  :)

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Always try to sell short works before putting them in your own collection

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I putz about on Reddit sometimes, and ran across this question in /r/Writing (relevant bit quoted below):

[I've written some short stories now.] I was wondering whether I should submit somewhere online, or put like 5 shorts together and submit it as a book.
I think this cannot be repeated enough times to new authors:

Always attempt to sell short stories, poems, and flash fiction to periodical and anthology markets first.

The reasons are pretty simple.

First, unless you are already a Name - and let's face it, if you've got this problem, you're probably not - it's very unlikely that a publisher is going to take a risk on publishing a collection of your work. They might - hell, I have - but that's by and far the exception, not the rule.

Their reason is the same one that it's not worth your time to start by publishing a collection on your own, either.

My experience has been that people buy short story collections of authors they know - either from reading them, or because they've met them at a convention or signing. If you don't already have that base working for you, it's a hard sell to both publishers and readers.

Second, it's that pesky "First Publication Rights" thing. Most collections - like my Kicking The Habit - are mostly or completely made up of reprints. This is reasonable - to get all the stories in Kicking you'd have to buy quite a few books and magazines, some of which you're not going to be able to find any longer. Publishers also recognize this, so if you were to sell a collection to a publisher, they wouldn't expect most (or any) of the stories to still have their first publication rights.

Magazines and periodicals and anthologies? That's a different story. They do want previously unpublished works - and even if they'll take reprints, the rate is usually far lower.

Third, by selling to other markets, you're reaching new audiences. And that is always a good thing.

So again:

Always attempt to sell short stories, poems, and flash fiction to periodical and anthology markets first.

There's plenty of places to look for where to submit: check out The Submissions Grinder, Ralan.Com,, or even things like this open subs thread on Reddit.

There's new markets popping up all the time - for example, submissions for recompose will be opening up after the Kickstarter ends Tuesday night. (You still have time to back recompose! Exclusive content starts with a pledge of as little as $3! Don't wait!)

So even if you think you've "done the rounds", set the work to the side for a little bit, re-read it to see if you're still happy with it, then start again.

It's worth it.


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The Force Awakens is a Worthy Star Wars Film Because It Knows Its Material (pretty spoiler free)

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The Force Awakens is the first movie that consistently felt like Star Wars since 1983, and it's all about knowing your tropes and using them as callbacks.

Let me explain.

As a teenager growing up, I read The Belgariad, by David Eddings. It's a great five book fantasy series which manages to fill all the tropes of a fantasy series without feeling like there was a checklist to make sure all the notes got hit.

A little while later, I discovered the sequel epic, The Malloreon. It too covers five books, and begins to hit many of the same beats as The Belgariad did.

On purpose.

It's explicitly noted at one point that there's a cyclic nature to things, and so the similarities (though, it should be noted, not duplications) are a feature, not a bug. The echoes then have the force of callbacks, rather than fan-service or sloppy writing.

The Force Awakens implies that J.J. Abrams knows this as well.

Look, we all know that Star Wars: A New Hope (yes, I'm that kind of nerd) was largely a ripoff of Hidden Fortress, Buck Rogers, and Flash Gordon. And there was a lot of homages (read: borrowed and used techniques) to prior film history in A New Hope. And Lucas got away with it/made them his own (depending on which camp you're in) and turned both the story arc and the techniques their own set of tropes for Star Wars films. With the strong influence of Lucas' ex-wife, and Lawrence Kasdan, Irvin Kershner, and Gary Kurtz in The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, these three films carved their own path across the world's psyche.

And then there were the prequels.  Y'know, where Lucas pretty much got to do whatever he wanted.

While I don't hate the prequels, I clearly remember two things from my first viewing of The Phantom Menace:

1. The midichlorians were ripped straight from Madeline L'Engle's description of mitochondria in A Wind In the Door. (Yeah, George, I preferred gobbledygook to ripping off a SF author and making the Force a purely hereditary thing you can measure with a blood test.)

2. Coruscant is directly ripped from Asimov's Trantor from the Foundation series.

And that threw me right out of the movie - even moreso than Jar-Jar. Sure, I watched them, and I enjoyed them well enough - but in the way that you enjoy seeing a re-enactment of a story you already know. But between the wincing moments of Anakin's "love" story, and that Lucas didn't even follow his own tropes - such as the opening shots of the films - these didn't feel like Star Wars movies. Instead, they were movies that had Star Wars moments within them.

So while I was excited to see The Force Awakens, I was also...worried. 

I shouldn't have been. 

Much as The Malloreon echoes The Belgariad, you'll find that The Force Awakens echoes - but does not mirror - A New Hope. Abrams treats the tropes of the series as the necessary tentpoles needed to make it feel like a Star Wars film, but does not stoop to mere fanservice. 

You will see characters you know and love - but you already knew that. I found both Finn and Rey (who is a delight!) compelling and interesting. I cared about these characters.

This story is tied to the ones we already know - in tone, theme, and rhythm - but is its own, new thing.
Highly recommended.


Of course there are plot holes (here's a good list; don't click the link if you don't want spoilers). I suspect many of the mysteries are meant to be. In general, if I'm not thinking about plot holes before the credits are over, I'm okay with it.
 Unlike Lucas' attempts with Jar-Jar, Abrams understands comic relief, and employs it well. THANK FSM.

I will be upset if trend #2 here (don't follow the link if you don't want a spoiler) continues.

Nobody mentions midichlorians. THANK FSM. At least in this film, we're back to the Force being what it was in IV-VI. PLEASE let this continue.

It is a little odd that the Jedi have already become a myth - although it could be explained somewhat by erratic communications tech and re-education and suppression by the Empire.

I don't mind at all that there are a lot of young and comparatively unskilled main characters. Thing is, it's the challenge and growth that makes the story interesting and compelling, much as it was for Luke during IV-VI.

I love how Rey is - as The Atlantic puts it - Star Wars' first feminist protagonist.

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Earth Without Art Is Eh. Support *recompose* today.

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This is really the reason behind recompose.

There's something ... different ... when you start talking about short works of art. Whether drabbles like the 100 Word Story podcast (or some of my own drabbles), flash fiction like "Safe Empathy", or poetry like "The Right of It", short works of art slam into you in a way that a longer work never can.

You do yourself a disservice if you read a book of poetry or short fictions in one sitting. You will become numb at best, the repeated blows of art becoming nothing more than background noise.

Short fiction and poetry have a special power that longer works simply cannot reproduce.

They are quick, powerful jabs. They are the slice of meathooks into your skin. They are the electric touch of the first time you touch your lover's skin. They are the first melting drop of ice cream upon your tongue.

That is what we are bringing you with recompose.  We've already funded two issues for 2016, and every cent we get will go to getting more poets and authors crafting work for you.

There's only a week left in the Kickstarter.  Don't delay.

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Here's the Two Things I'd Ask You to Do for my birthday!

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It's my birthday! There's two things I'd ask you to do to celebrate!
  • Promote or back the recompose Kickstarter
If you haven't already, get your free #0 issue of recompose and check out the Kickstarter at . And if you've already backed us, please take a moment to share it on your social networks:
  • Weekend Long Flash Fiction Contest!
Shock Totem does a flash fiction contest every so often, and I'm the flash master for this weekend! That means I post a photo prompt, and we all write on it! Go sign up at; once you register you'll be able to see the Flash Fiction contest. The prompt will go up at 8pm on the 11th of December!

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Godwin's Law Is Dead. We will not be silent. We are your bad conscience.

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How are you going to tell who the Muslims are, Donald? Have them wear an armband? Maybe you'd like to repeat one of our nation's great shames and round 'em up for "safety"?  (Yes, folks, it can happen here.)

In case you were wondering, this right here is the point where "Trump's got a few good ideas" becomes not something that gets an eyeroll, but is treated as the moral equivalent of "Hitler had a few good ideas".

This man has passed from being a buffoon to being evil.

And those who still follow him risk the same.

If everyone waits until the other man makes a start, the messengers of avenging Nemesis will come steadily closer.

...why do you allow these men who are in power to rob you step by step, openly and in secret, of one domain of your rights after another, until one day nothing, nothing at all will be left but a mechanised state system presided over by criminals and drunks? Is your spirit already so crushed by abuse that you forget it is your right - or rather, your moral duty - to eliminate this system?

We will not be silent. We are your bad conscience. 

This is one of those times that simply being visible, that simply saying "No, not here", is a good thing. That it is a powerful thing.

I have added a white rose in honor of the White Rose (from whom the above quotes come) to my social media avatars - you can too, if you want to use Twibbon. Or the raw PNG files (with transparency) are here:

Make no mistake, I feel pretentious as fuck making a Twibbon campaign.

But if there was anything that screamed that it needed a simple, visible symbol of everyone who would say "No, not here. No, not us." this is it.

I'll probably make a shirt, too, and donate those proceeds, but that's for a later time.

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Supergirl E06: "Red Faced" (or: "Please, can we have more of the B story?")

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A few quick thoughts about Supergirl, in particular, episode 6, "Red-Faced". (Yeah, there's some spoilery bits.)

First let me get this out of the way:  I like this show. After getting used to the "Let's make the worst possible emotional decisions!" stratagem used for S2 and S3 of Arrow, I have no problem with this show's so-called "soap opera" elements at all.

In fact, they were the only elements of this episode that I liked.

The "A" story - Red Tornado - just made me want to scream that's not how any of it works ... and that's from a guy who works in nuclear medicine who manages to avoid yelling at the MCU for the way they handle gamma rays.

From General Lane suddenly blaming everyone else for his scientist's weapon getting out of control (Seriously? Have the writers never heard of DARPA?) to the climatic fight "seventy miles away" (but apparently close an interstate?) and the "Oh, I resign my commission Daddy" crap... man, the A story sucked serious ass.  (And as The Mary Sue points out, wait, did Supergirl just straight up kill someone?)

But - and this is really the saving grace of this show - the emotional bits (which are usually the B story) are things that matter. Women not being able to express anger and shoving rage aside. People dealing with relationships they can't handle. Trying to do the right thing by your friends that you have crushes on. All of these are handled well and deftly. I love Callista Flockhart and Melissa Benoist in this show.

And the banter's good. I'm a sucker for banter.

Overall, I'm still with Supergirl. I just want them to keep further away from the villain of the week formula and give us more of something different - like the challenges that a female superhero has to deal with that, say, her cousin doesn't have to.

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Now you're just a CPAP mask I used to know...

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Holy crap you guys, I just had a really good night's sleep.

That doesn't sound like much, but when you've got sleep apnea, it's a big freaking deal.

I wrote about my initial experiences with a CPAP machine (and made a recording of the wave-machine like sound it typically makes now) back in 2010.  I've tried a few different masks since then, and the one I just used last night has to be my favorite so far.

Whether you're looking at this as someone who needs a CPAP mask, a significant other of someone who uses one, or just curious, I hope this quick overview of a few types of masks (and reviews) helps!

Please note: All images and links are from  They've been my go-to supplier for parts, masks, and more for years. Great people, good customer service. Highly recommended. I've also used all of these masks over the years, so these are my personal experience.

The "Profile Lite Gel" mask from Phillips is probably similar to most "default" masks that you get when you first get your machine. This is the kind of mask I was using when I made the recording of myself using a CPAP. It's a strong, durable kind of mask. While the straps slowly stretch with use, that's true of any mask. The major downsides of this kind of mask are leakage around the eyes or sides, and problems if you don't sleep on your back. The protruding front hose attachment pushes the mask to the side if you turn your head, and can cause leaks.

And the red spot on your forehead.  See that blue bit? That helps stabilize the mask so it stays straight on your head... but also means you might end up with a pressure mark on your forehead.

There are other masks - like this Aclaim 2 from Fisher and Paykel - that try to solve the problem. The forehead stabilizer is a wider design so it doesn't create as much of a mark. Both the over-the-head hose design and the sliding lower strap attachment are supposed to help keep the seal intact if you turn on your side.

The problem - and we'll see this again - is that the lighter construction of the side attachments mean that it's easier to break. And when those are broken... it's broke. That's one reason why I usually have one of the "default" masks on hand at any point, even if it's not what I usually use.

That's also the problem with what (was) my default home mask for a while - the Breeze SleepGear from Puritan Bennett.

Yup, we've lost the over-nose attachment completely for nasal pillows. This means that not only is the seal easier to maintain, but with the over-head tubing I could sleep on my side or stomach again without any difficulty. That was a huge thing for me, and made me a fan and repeat customer for years. There were two big problems with it. First, my hair is... well, thick and often longish. The strap design is less than ideal for people with thick shifting hair. I could deal with that.

The other problem is that I travel to conventions... and if you're thinking that design looks thin and not very collapsible, you'd be absolutely right. That design does not fit in bags well, and again, once it breaks... it's freaking broken. So less than ideal for travel, and requires that you have a backup mask handy.

Over head version
What is ideal for travel are the SleepWeaver series from Circadiance. (Over head strap version, side of head strap version) These are cloth masks - I think it's made from a variant of Goretex, but that's a guess.

They are super light, and are easy to stuff into a bag with your machine. They puff up against your face with the CPAP pressure, which is what makes the seal. They are okay when it comes to maintaining that seal if you turn from side to side.

Do not machine wash these. One got into the laundry by mistake, and it was completely useless afterward.

Side-strap version
There's three drawbacks to this style of mask - one of which mostly impacts the side-strap version. First, because there's no volume to the material until the pressure's on, they actually feel slightly claustrophobic until the machine is started. Once you're going, it's all good.

But if you're used to a machine that automatically turns on (mine will after three inhalations), that will not work with a cloth mask. You'll have to manually hit the button. Seems like a small thing, but it's disconcerting if you're not expecting it.

And finally, the side strap version (which maintains a better seal, IMHO) has a problem simply because it doesn't have a firm frame. Which side is up? How does this tangle of straps and material fit on my face? Folks who have roomed with me at cons have laughed more than once at my flipping it back and forth to get it right.

Which brings us to what I just tried last night - the Aloha nasal pillow mask from InnoMed/RespCare. So far, this seems to combine a lot of my favorite aspects for a home mask. The straps are light, but maintained a decent pressure despite my hair. It's a nasal pillow mask, but without the over-head plastic bit (which is what always broke for me on the Breeze), I should have fewer problems. I actually had my face buried in a pillow at one point with no problem at all.

I don't know that it's a good travel mask - the parts that cross the cheekbones are semi-rigid plastic (though nicely padded), so I'm worried about breaking those if I were to shove them in a bag. But for a home mask? I'm definitely a fan - it has all the benefits of the Breeze but without the drawbacks.

Do you (or someone you know) use a CPAP? Have you tried any of these masks, or do you have another favorite I've not tried yet?

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Publishers Will Fix Their Contracts If You Call Them On It

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There's an inherent benefit of calling people on their crap: not only might they fix their stuff, but it lets you see what's wrong with your own.

So I'm browsing /r/Writing on Reddit, and I see this post:

If you can't read it: is the new place where you can submit your short story to. They accept all genres and encourage their writers to write about some extraordinary and weird things. Also, if you sign up for their newsletter, you get the chance to win a different prize every month. Their official release is on December 7 and the current prize is Iphone 5s. So, don't miss it out! Feel free to send them your story at , but first check their submission guidelines on
A bit of a ... spirited ... exchange followed between myself and the poster, who confirmed that they were a representative of  (You can see a screencap of the entire exchange at  I quizzed them both about payment rates ("There are no rates for now. The point is that writers will receive free products and services from business who want to advertise their products on the site.") and the rights that were desired ("We're asking for the rights to publish it on our website.").

And I'll give them credit.  Their submissions page is now updated with some new information about the rights they're asking for, how long they're retaining them, and the payment (or lack thereof - but that's not my point here).

By simply asking - publicly - about what exactly they were wanting, this publisher upped their game from really sketchy to a straightforward for-the-love market that more clearly demarcates what they're asking for and what they do - and do not - own.  (Again, whether or not you should deal with FTL markets is a different question.)

While the financial (and technological) hurdles of being a publisher are significantly lower than they were a decade ago, the legal aspects are still the same. And it's all too easy for someone well-meaning to completely screw things up.

That's why I've been very up-front about my revisions about contracts, posted my experiences on this blog, and made sure that my own contract templates were publicly available.

But even I screw up. I had it pointed out to me that while I linked to the templates, I didn't make it clear what I was asking for with recompose... so that's been fixed on recompose's submissions page.

And unlike a for-the-love market, recompose is designed to pay professional rates for both flash fiction and poetry.

While we met initial funding goals, recompose still needs your support to ensure that we can produce more issues and have more content per issue. Please check out the free first issue and the Kickstarter at


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Reviews: The Ark and She Walks In Shadows

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I've got two books to recommend for you today (aside from mentioning briefly the free issue of recompose you can get at the Kickstarter).  Full disclosure: I've published both the editor of She Walks In Shadows and the author of The Ark. Neither had any idea I was writing these reviews.
When you delve into Lovecraftian territories, it's often difficult to please everyone. Perhaps you enjoy the Mythos stories, but not the Dreamlands types of tales, or vice versa. Perhaps you're reading for the language, or for the ideas, or for the horror.

It is supremely difficult to deliver on all of them.

She Walks In Shadows does a pretty good job of walking that line. 

The stories here are all creepy in a very Lovecraftian way, though some are quiet and intimate tales, while others are death and destruction.

Regardless, this book's central thesis - that the ouvre of Lovecraftian tales can, and should, include female authors - is well borne out by the book itself.  Quite recommended.
Now on to Patrick Tomlinson's The Ark.

I think you can often tell a first novel - there's some rough edges, a place or two where you can almost hear the author working out what's going on. And this first novel has some of those problems.

Luckily, it has few of those problems, and they're of the type that get resolved after the first book or so.

The central murder mystery (for it is one) of this action sci-fi novel has the wonderful twist of being a sort of closed-room murder while still having thousands of people around. The plot moves quickly and satisfyingly.

The characters aren't quite as rounded as I'd like, but have enough quirks and foibles (and have to deal with the fallout from them) to keep them engaging. And the fast-moving plot kept me going through any rough spots.

The central concept - that this is the remnants of humanity fleeing the destruction of Earth - is a clever one, and something that is not mere window dressing. The science is handled well, and not in an obsessive nuts-and-bolts way.

In all, this is a strong first novel from an author who knows how to spin an entertaining story. If you like science fiction, action, or mysteries, you should definitely check this out.

I'm definitely looking forward to the sequel.

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