Now in print!

Just a quick post to remind you that this blog is still alive, and… oh, did I mention that I am now in print? My J. Ellington Ashton Press debut, “Bring Out the Dead”, is available now for only $10.99!

https://www.createspace.com/5315927

Also, I have a story in the “Inanna Rising” anthology from J. Ellington Ashton Press. Pick up your copy if you have not already done so – available in print and on Kindle!

The mandatory annual reflection post

JEA Convention - January 5th through 11th, 2015

JEA Convention – January 5th through 11th, 2015

Yes, this is that season again, when annual updates and reflections are customary and replete with resolutions for the upcoming year. I suppose I am no exception to the rule, so I shall keep it brief.

On the balance, 2014 was a good year for me. I reached the all-important milestone of signing my first publishing contract, and am looking forward to seeing my novel and some short stories in print in the coming year. While it has not been as productive on the literary front, it saw me complete several short stories, get some good work done on “Graveyard Empire”, write and record a decent amount of music, and learn much personally and professionally.

It was not the easiest year. I found that going back to school was more difficult than expected with a family and a job that routinely exceeds 50 and sometimes 60 hours per week. Thankfully, it is a relatively short-term commitment compared to the degrees I earned in the past, but it cut heavily into the time available for other endeavors. It was, however, a lesson to treasure and better organize the time I do have, and to make the most of it.

There is much that can be said about both accomplishments and challenges of 2014, but the past is past. And the future shall bring many, many exciting things.

In the immediate term, I am excited to participate in the online convention hosted by J Ellington Ashton Press between January 5th and 11th at http://www.jellingtonashton.com. This should be a great event for both readers and writers alike, with many authors in attendance to talk about their works, life, universe, and everything in between. I hope to see many of you there!

Later in the year, my debut novel “Bring Out the Dead” should see the light of day through J Ellington Ashton Press, and my short story “The Great Bear” will be featured in the “Altered Europa” anthology from Martinus Publishing. The long-awaited (or, rather, the long-delayed) solo album will finally see the light of day, and the fourth Midgard record should be finished and released. And who knows… there might be a few more surprises down the line!

With this, I would like to wish all of you a happy New Year. May 2015 bring you health, success in your aspirations, and, for all you fellow creative types, productivity. I cannot wait to see what you create, and to share my own creations with you. Here is to 2015, and all the great things that it will bring!

A very exciting announcement!

Certain announcements are never easy, not when they are the culmination of a dream many years in the making. So, I might as well get it over with: my supernatural horror novel “Bring Out the Dead” has been picked up by J Ellington Ashton Press, with the tentative release date in 2015.

I am extremely excited to announce this, and hope that you enjoy the novel when it is released. After all, what is there not to like about frozen Siberian mining towns with dark secrets, supernatural forces hidden beneath the permafrost, and the innocent (?) people caught between them?

Now, on to the editorial process, and to hard (but extremely fulfilling) work associated with it!

Published! (again)

More exciting news – my short story “The Great Bear” has been picked up by Martinus Publishing for inclusion in the upcoming Altered Europa anthology, due in early 2015! Per publisher website, the anthology will “feature stories of alternate history where something changed in European history as we know it.”  The short story collection will appear both in print and electronically.

Good news indeed, especially since Martinus already published works by some authors I hold in very high regard (and some of whom might also be featured in the book) – I am honored to be a part of their anthology!

Now, time to do something sufficiently celebratory.

Graveyard Empire – new (?) novel announcement

This novel is, as of right now, more than two years in the making.

A long time ago (early 2012, to be precise), I sketched out the basic idea behind Graveyard Empire here, here, and even here (a very early snippet of the prologue). For some reason or the other, the novel never got off the ground, even though I did manage to finish few other projects in between.

Well, that is about to change.

This is the last age of Man, the age of extinction. The galaxy-spanning empire is no more, and all that survives is an echo of a once-great civilization. Upon the remaining worlds of the Sphera Humanitas, the last descendants of humanity huddle closer against the coming of night, surrounded by the ruins of bygone eras and addicted to escapist dreams. Their slumber is guarded by the few Custodians with their machine armies, and the last Seraphs, irreplaceable products of forgotten science who watch over their wayward charges as the light dies. But the night brings more than mere darkness, for there are things in the dark space that are covetous and hungry. Things that are growing impatient. Thing that will not stop until the night is all that remains.

Interested? Watch this space…

 

Book review – Flashing Steel, Flashing Fire, a short story collection by Matthew Quinn

I have been introduced to Matthew Quinn’s writing some time ago through a very enjoyable Lovecraftian homage of “Beast on the Bosphorus”, and was therefore highly intrigued by this collection, which gathers ten of his short stories into a single, easily accessible package. While the stories themselves range from dystopian alternate history of “Coil Gun” to high fantasy adventure of “Lord Giovanni’s Daughter” and straightforward horror of “Melon Heads”, the standard of storytelling remains consistently high throughout. At times, the stories are nothing short of chilling, as evidenced by “Coil Gun” and its description of apocalyptic global conflict through the eyes of the participants, who are presented as having real human concerns and emotions no matter what side of the conflict they find themselves on. “Picking Up Plans in Palma” is set in the same universe, and is a thrilling spy romp through that story’s quintessential “evil empire”, again adding humanity to the characters who in the hands of a lesser author might have become one-dimensional villains. Here, the characters have depth and are interesting to read about.

The same qualities surface once again in “Nicor”, an imaginative (and quite unique) story inspired by legend of Beowulf, set in the era of Norse raids against the shores of Britain. The protagonist here is not a fantasy stereotype of all-conquering warrior, but a frightened youth on his first raid, full of doubt and fear even as he tries to present a strong façade in front of his fellow raiders. The author once again displays his gift for humanizing the characters in “Illegal Alien”, which is a peculiar play on words in the context, and a very solid story to boot.

“I am the Wendigo” stands out a bit from the other stories, as it provides the titular monster with a viewpoint, while “Lord of the Dolorous Tower” is another high fantasy story with some post-apocalyptic leanings. As the author notes, it was written as a prologue to a longer work that never got finished, and as such, the ending feels a little abrupt, but the world it created is captivating, and it made me wonder what that longer work would have been like. “The Westernmost Throne” is a different kind of a dark fantasy tale, wrapped in a modern setting, and ends the collection on a high note.

Overall, “Flashing Steel, Flashing Fire” is an imaginative collection which provides a good representation of this up-and-coming author’s writing. The stories are diverse, well written, and play well to Quinn’s strength of writing likeable, relatable characters throughout. My favorite would probably have to be “Nicor”, but all of the stories are enjoyable and worth reading. Highly recommended!

Vacation time! Which means…

…it is time to catch up on writing. At least 10,000 words is my minimum goal, and if I can go back to the “day job” with 20,000 or more words written, I will be one happy camper. More to come as this writing thing actually starts to happen!

Innovate magazine – now available in print

Innovate magazine – now available in print

That is right – the latest issue of Innovate magazine, featuring my short stories “The Great Bear” and “Exile”, is now available in print from Amazon:

http://www.amazon.com/Innovate-Issue-4-Grey-Wolf/dp/1499687664/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1402309219&sr=1-1&keywords=1499687664

UK listing:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Innovate-Issue-4-Grey-Wolf/dp/1499687664/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1402309219&sr=1-1&keywords=1499687664

CreateSpace listing:

https://www.createspace.com/4826044

You can also still get the electronic version at:

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00KKUPJO2 (Kindle version)

http://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/innovate-e-magazine-issue-4 (Kobo version)

http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/441883 (Smashwords, ePub format)

http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/Innovate-E-Magazine-issue-4-arts-and-literary-publication-/261489789805? (PDF version – will be e-mailed to you shortly after receipt of payment)

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/innovate-e-magazine-issue-4-grey-wolf/1119608680?ean=9781498919814&itm=1&usri=9781498919814 (Barnes & Noble / Nook edition)

 Check it out!

Published! Two new short stories in “Innovate” magazine

 

 

Exciting news! Two of my short science fiction stories appear in the “Innovate” magazine’s April/May issue. If you want to see what all the hoopla is about, you can get the issue for only $1.99 at the below links:

KINDLE http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00KKUPJO2

KOBO http://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/innovate-e-magazine-issue-4

EPUB at Smashwords http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/441883

PDF http://cgi.ebay.co.uk/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=261489789805

Ukraine

For several weeks now, not a day goes by without someone asking my opinion about the recent events in Ukraine. The news headlines are pretty unambiguous on what is supposedly happening, at least in this part of the world – a popular pro-democracy movement to remove corrupt and ineffective pro-Russian government in Kiev. The reality leaves the actual events open to interpretation at the very least.

The following are my thoughts on what is happening in Kiev and around the country, the background to these events, and my predictions for the future. The situation is very close to home to me – as some of my readers may know, I am a native of Ukraine, and lived there until mid-1990s. I still have close family there, and have experienced many of that nation’s divisions first-hand before emigrating. As such, I will not pretend that this is an impartial account. The recent events directly impact people I care for, and make me think both of Ukraine that once was, and of what it is turning into. It is not a cold analysis of something happening in another part of the world, and don’t expect it to be unbiased. It is what it is, for better or worse.

First of all, the backdrop to all of this. It is hard to understand the dilemma facing Ukrainians now, and the roots of modern-day problems, without knowing the history. And in this case, there is a lot of history leading up to this moment.

Ukraine is a land in turmoil, and has been for the past eight hundred or so years. Once the cradle of proto-Russian civilization (the Kievan Rus), it bore the brunt of Mongol invasions in the XIIIth century, which threw the territory into anarchy and lawlessness, devastated its infrastructure and population, and created a power vacuum which was filled alternatively by Tatars, Poland, Lithuania, Ottomans, Russia, Germany, Austria, and just about every other nation with interests in Eastern Europe. While Ukraine was recognized as a separate territory for centuries, the roots of modern Ukrainian nationalism did not come about until the XIXth century. Even then, there was little agreement on what exactly Ukrainian nationalism was supposed to be about – the imagery of Zaporozhian cossacks and distinct clothing styles and language, for example, came from Eastern and central Ukraine, which has very distinct idea of Ukrainian nationalism as opposed to mountainous Western Ukraine at the foothills of the Carpathian mountains. Many parts of Western Ukraine were assimilated into the country as a result of World War II-era Soviet expansionism, and as such even the dialect spoken there is often incomprehensible to Ukrainian speakers from the East. I remember being in the West of the country in early 1990s, and having extreme difficulty understanding people there, despite turning to Ukrainian as opposed to Russian language.

The modern Ukrainian state has precedent in the aftermath of World War I and the short-lived independent nation that existed under German aegis until the Communist-led assimilation into USSR. I vividly remember Ukraine declaring independence from USSR in 1991, the hysteria associated with establishing a new nation, a mish-mash of ideas that were espoused by political forces of the time, the uncertainty and even some optimism that brought hope to people used to dour fatalism and enduring the worst. I remember the sensationalist politics and the call of would-be Western-educated “experts” who claimed they knew how to get the nation’s moribund economy on track. I remember corruption and cronyism in the government and the impression that nothing really changed with the fall of the Soviet Union – the same people were in charge, just under different monikers, with different titles.

Most of all, I remember the first flickering signs of ethnic nationalism – knowing that having an ethnically Ukrainian last name was a boon in a country where ethnic rivalries are still alive and well; seeing more and more people from Western territories move to Kiev with expectations of paying jobs; noticing the growing divisions between the people.

When I left Ukraine in 1996, I remember many of my friends amongst the upper-middle-class Russian speakers dismissing the Western Ukrainians as vyiky, a derogatory term that is equivalent to hicks. It is easy to understand why. Not only is the Western part of the country much poorer, but it is culturally distinct, with splattering of influences from Polish, Hungarian, and other cultures and languages; the influence of Uniate and Catholic churches is very prominent, as opposed to Orthodox church elsewhere; and, during and immediately after World War II, it was the hotbed of anti-Soviet insurrection that made common cause with the invading Germans. For the people whose parents and grandparents served in the Red Army during the German invasion, the thought of anyone aligning with the invaders and considering leaders of that insurrection national heroes was insulting.

The fact that Ukrainian nationalism began to coalesce around Western Ukraine was a disturbing development for the rest of us. The fact that it took on some very questionable characters as heroes was  a sure sign of things to come. The fact that it attracted ethnic supremacists and neo-nazis by score was a harbinger of trouble. Those same people are a major part of the anti-government movement, and play a very prominent role in chaos in Kiev.

There is a joke in Central and Eastern Ukraine that if Ukrainian national ethos was distilled to its very core, only two words would remain – klyati moskali, “accursed Russians.” There are elements of the nationalist movement currently “protesting” at the Maidan Nezalezhnosti (Independence Square) who take that to the extreme. They are the people who would have threatened violence in the 1990s unless you admitted to being a khohol (slang term for ethnic Ukrainian, once used as a derogatory term, but since adopted by many Ukrainians). I am hearing stories from relatives still in Ukraine about nationalists making proclamations that they would violently enforce Ukrainian language and assault or murder anyone speaking Russian, and as much as Ukrainian politics thrive on sensationalism, I cannot dismiss those statements made as downtown Kiev burns. I fear for the safety of my family members there, for my friends who I grew up with and who I shared so many experiences of childhood and adolescence with. I am afraid that they will be swept up in a maelstrom of anarchy and violence as the revolution devours its own children, and as the extremist elements of the movement are given free reign.

But as much as the anti-government forces include some very suspect characters, Ukrainian government is not without fault. Corrupt, underhanded, and downright criminal in its tactics, Ukrainian government was often indistinguishable from organized crime operating in the country. Two decades of sensationalist polemics made for poor governance, and the role of money (both domestic and foreign) in Ukrainian politics cannot be understated. Many Ukrainian politicians made a living of being a front for shadowy business and foreign government interests, often switching allegiances on a whim depending on who was offering a bigger payroll at a given moment. This is why the Parliament’s sudden shift in mood towards the Maidan movement was not surprising. Very few Ukrainian politicians have anything resembling principles, and it was not hard to expect popular discontent.

Maybe there are some leaders in the Ukrainian government who truly believe that they stand for something. Maybe some of them are even sincere. But too many have their hands stained with others’ money and with shifting allegiances to ever be trustworthy – kleptocrats that make the worst of US politicians seem like saints. And whatever new crop of self-important political mercenaries emerges, it is unlikely to ever get better.

Ukraine has a misfortune of being at the crossroads of geopolitical interests of many major powers. Up until 1991, it seemed that Russia won the contest against its competitors, but since then, all bets were off. As Putin’s government attempts a desperate gamble to restore Russia’s power and influence, it goes contrary to the geopolitical interests of European Union and United States. Both sides poured money and resources into either keeping Ukraine in their orbit, or into denying it to their opponents. One could say that the Great Game of the XIXth and early Xxth centuries is alive and well, and the people of Ukraine are caught in the crossfire.

Let there be no illusions that the Ukrainian people would be better off under EU-aligned nationalist rule, or under Russian rule. Until the people of Ukraine figure out what exactly it means to be Ukrainian, what the Ukrainian nation is supposed to be, and what independent course they want to chart for their future, it will always remain a battleground. There seems to be little thought inside the country on what will happen next – all that comes about are promises, threats, vague hopes and little nothings that do not represent any tangible improvement for the nation’s citizens. Things have not changed for the better. The so-called “Orange Revolution” of 2007 did not make much of a difference, and the Maidan movement is so far only succeeding at deepening the divisions in the nation, not solving those problems (unless supremacist rhetoric is to be believed, in which case their “solution” sounds perilously close to what Bandera’s wartime ally espoused). The current chaos can be summed up as supremacists versus organized crime, with much of the nation caught in between and, once again, led astray by false hope, endless inflammatory rhetoric, and external geopolitical interests on both sides of the conflict who could not care less about the Ukrainian people.

And while the Great Game continues, the nation bleeds, people are afraid to leave their homes, and there is no future anywhere in sight for Ukraine.

 

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