Thursday, December 25, 2014

Happy Holidays!

I'm not going to do a review today. It's Christmas Day, after all, and even though I'm not Christian, I believe we ought to have at least one day a year where nobody's trying to convince us to buy anything.

Instead, I offer you words to live by, from one of my favorite holiday stories ever.

"I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach!"
-- Ebenezer Scrooge

Gods bless us, every one. See you next year.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Mix Tape No. 1 - J.D. Mader

So Christmas is only a week away, and you don't even have time to read a short story? Is that what's troubling ya, Bunky? Well, then. How about some flash fiction?

J.D. Mader does this feature on his blog on Fridays. He calls it, "Two minutes...go!" The idea is to set a timer for two minutes, open a vein, and let the words pour out of you onto the virtual paper in the comment section of the blog. Mader himself opens the festivities with his own offering, and usually contributes a few more as the day goes on. They are always intriguing and often amazing.

Here in this short volume, Mader has collected 16 flash fiction gems, at least some of which had their beginnings in "Two minutes...go!" His work is dark and often profane (the "parental advisory" sticker on the front cover is there for a reason), but it's so worth checking out. Save it, maybe, for some dark day in the winter months to come.

And feel free to stop by Unemployed Imagination some Friday and see what we're up to. Maybe even try your own hand at some flash fiction. It'll only take two minutes.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Stories of Genesis Vol. 1 - Chris James

Week 3 in my ad hoc holiday gift guide brings us to a volume of short stories. And why not? I mean, it's the holidays, for crying out loud. Who's got time to sit down and read a whole novel?

Chris James has subtitled his Stories of Genesis "A New Kind of Fan Fiction." He is not wrong. Authors have used song titles and lyrics as springboards for their own creative endeavors for generations, but I don't know of anybody else who has taken the idea to such a fascinating extreme.

The five stories in this collection all have their, uh, genesis in one or another of the songs by the prog-rock group Genesis. And each story has something to recommend it. "Mr. Magrew's Incredible Journey" is a sci-fi coming-of-age story about why, sometimes, it's better just to stay home. "The Chat Show" features a conniving talk-show host who is determined to advance his career, no matter what it costs. "One Regret" is about a dying man who contemplates going to his grave with the biggest secret of his life. "The Final Battle" is full-on weird sci-fi, set in a world where special forces battle the Eternal Sanctuary Man. But perhaps my favorite is "The Agent Lunges," a bit of metafiction in which a copyright agent harasses an author very much like James himself.

The real Chris James needn't worry about that; Genesis lead guitarist Steve Hackett has endorsed the book. So do I. And if you read these stories and enjoy them, I have good news for you: James has written two more volumes of Stories of Genesis.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

A Year with Mr. Pish 2015 - K.S. Brooks

'Tis the season, as they say. I didn't mean to do a series of reviews of publications that would make great gifts, but then I ran across this.

Mr. Pish is on a dual mission this holiday season. As usual, the adorable Jack Russell terrier on the road, educating kids about all the great things they can do outdoors -- just as he does in his popular "Postcards from Mr. Pish" series of children's books. But he also wants to help us all get organized in 2015. So his secretary-cook-chauffeur-and-who-knows-what-else, K.S. Brooks, has put together a desk-format planner featuring photos of the little guy. Each two-page spread consists of a monthly calendar on one side and shots of Mr. Pish at various U.S. national parks on the other.

The calendar squares are roomy enough for several entries apiece, and they feature important holidays, as well as some lesser-known observances. Did you know the first week of October is National Walk Your Dog Week? Neither did I, until Mr. Pish told me just now.

I had fun noting how many national parks Mr. Pish has visited -- although I was a little annoyed that he's been to some I haven't visited yet. Looks like my bucket list needs amending....

There's also a wall calendar version. If you have kids, or even if you just like little white dogs, you could do worse than keep track of your stuff next year with Mr. Pish along as your guide.