- Geoffrey Avalon, a patent attorney (based on L. Sprague de Camp)
- Emmanuel Rubin, a mystery novelist and acquaintance of Isaac Asimov (based on Lester del Rey)
- James Drake, a chemist (based on Dr. John D. Clark)
- Thomas Trumbull, an expert in cryptography for the United States government (based on Gilbert Cant)
- Mario Gonzalo, an artist, who usually draws a portrait of the evening's guest (based on Lin Carter)
- Roger Halsted, a high school mathematics teacher, fond of jokes and limericks (based on Don Bensen)
- Henry Jackson, the club's waiter, was not based on an actual person, but according to Asimov was inspired by PG Wodehouses character Jeeves.
Saturday, February 25, 2017
Isaac Asimov is well known for his extremely numerous writing contributions to science and science fiction. But not everyone knows he was also a mystery author and regular contributor to Ellery Queen Magazine, as well as a few others. His most famous crime sleuths never actually went to a crime scene, nor did they go into police headquarters and announce they had cracked an important case.
No, these amateur sleuths, who call themselves the Black Widowers because once a month they come together for a dinner of just themselves and one invited guest, a man. Women are not allowed to attend this function, hence their nickname. For one night a month they can enjoy just the company of each other without female company, not that they object to women. It's simply their own little club. The members of this little club are based on friends from the author's own life and are listed here:
At each meeting a guest is brought by one of the members and after being served an excellent meal, are then 'grilled' by the group, usually by being asked "How do you justify your existence...?" What happens in the first story sets the stage for the rest of the tales within the pages of this excellent work.
A puzzle is presented to the Black Widowers who systematically try to help find the answer to their guest's dilemma. In the end, it is the esteemable Henry who provides the final solution to each of the twelve tales you will find here. Each story is presented fairly and the reader is supplied all the hints that the Black Widowers are given. Although Henry supplies the answer, he always credits the club members for having helped eliminate all the other options, allowing him to discover the final solution.
My personal favorite in this collection is "The Acquisitive Chuckle" which is also the 1st story. In it we learn a great deal about our hosts and even more importantly we gain keen insight into their wondrous butler Henry, a scrupulously honest man, but who is not above delivering a little payback to an old partner.
There is one puzzle that involves a death of one of the club member's sister, which is touching and bittersweet, but handled very well.
As for the rest of the tales, each has its own flavor and unique outcome. I can safely say that they are wonderful puzzles that will keep you guessing and wondering. But at the same time it is the interplay between the characters will also keep you smiling and laughing.
There are 5 books in this series and I will tell you right now, each one is a 5-Star read. I intend to review each of them as in the near future.
Wednesday, February 8, 2017
Have you ever felt like you would never fit in? Of course you have, we all have at one point or another. But for some this is not simply being awkward socially, but much more. For 10 year old Matica, the problem is a physical one. She is not growing. Despite her age and having a younger brother, Matica has the body of a much younger child which has made her life a real challenge as far as making any friends in the little village in Peru where her parents are missionaries trying to help the local tribe. The tribe finds Matica's situation strange and tend not to associate with her, making her more lonely than ever.
However, Matica does have knack for making friends. In this case its a pair of condors, which seems to fascinate the local villagers. But they are even more surprised when the bond between the undersized girl and the huge birds becomes so strong that when their egg is threatened by poachers they allow her to watch over and care for it. Soon the egg hatches and Talon is born. The villagers are more impressed than ever by the young girl as she helps raise the young condor, becoming an expert on the birds and soon Matica finds herself no longer the source of curious glances but a bit of a celebrity. But her true love for family and her condors never takes a backseat to this new status. Her dedication to both her families is unwavering and continues to grow just as quickly as Talon who is soon big enough and strong enough to take flight. But is he powerful enough to grant Matica's most secret wish?
Aimed at preteens, this is a story that can be enjoyed by any age. As I said at the beginning of this review, we've all felt out of place and thought we'd never find where we truly belong. Matica's journey is a tale that everyone can relate to. Sometimes its not finding where YOU fit in, but making a place for yourself in the world and watch it start swarming towards you.
This is such a wonderful tale, I have not problem giving it the 5-Star rating it deserves. I'm even more delighted to know that this is only the first installment. As of the writing of this review, there are four more books in the series. Needless to say, I'll be adding them to my library and more reviews will come with time.
And now I will take my hat off to the author Gigi Sedlmayer, may she, Talon, Matica and the rest of this fine cast soar high and far for many years to come.
Wednesday, February 1, 2017
Having finally gotten moved out of my old apartment at CSUMB, and into a new one, I can finally start getting back to regular postings here. I'm not taking any classes this semester either which also frees me up to do more writing in the future. And let me tell you all, I've been feeling the itch something fierce. Some days I think of myself as a parent whose been neglecting his kids, and I've hated it. But this doesn't mean I haven't been thinking and plotting like crazy. Once I get going again, which will be soon, look out. I've got plot twists and turns that will make a game of Twister played by a bunch of octopuses, look boring.
However, I haven't only been thinking about story ideas, I've been thinking about some of my recent experiences with one of my collaborations. Those who've been regular readers have already been introduced to my high school buddy and partner in crime Rich Caminiti.
We've been working on an unusual story that involves certain historic events in the 1800's and mixing mythical beings from not one but several cultures. While this may sound complicated, the way we've been working the story all of this makes sense and will take the reader on one of the wildest adventures you've ever read.
But how we've gotten this far is the real topic today. Our collaboration has been one of friendship, respect, consideration, and trust. Rich and I are able to raise questions about ideas the other has come up with, without fearing for our friendship. But how we approach these things is the key. Being the more experienced writer, I'm more used to scrapping ideas or changing things in mid-stream if it's not working for the story. However, not every idea has to be scrapped. Sometimes they just have to be approached in a different way.
Recently, Rich was designing a scene where our two male protagonist characters (he created one, while I gave life to the other) were having a heated discussion about how to tackle facing an enemy that seemed unstoppable. I was not keen on this concept at first because it seemed to be a cliche namely "Two alpha males butting heads, but their friendship will survive... yadda- yadda..."
Now as a rule, I try to avoid cliches. In fact I may set up scenes that seem like they're going down a familiar path and then stand it on its head and shock the reader with something very different. I was almost tempted to talk him out of using the scene, but held my tongue because he'd worked so hard and was so keen on the idea. So I kept my own counsel for a while and my mind kept going back to the problem. Finally, I started thinking about the situation from the point of view of the "Alpha" I had created. It occurred to me that what was troubling me with this scene was the fact that my character does not have an "Ego" per se. He's not really human so he does not always act or react the way one would expect. Yet by the same token, he has been a leader of packs before. Many times in fact. But he has also relinquished that role because he knows when the pack is relying too much on him, instead of its own kind.
With this in mind I saw the scene Rich had created with new eyes. The two alphas are surrounded by officers and soldiers who are waiting to be told how to take on their enemy. My alpha who I call "Hunter" is already held in high esteem by these men and knows they are looking towards him. But deep down he feels his cohort is better suited to lead this 'pack' and allows the tension to grow so that his comrade will be seen in a new light.
When I suggested this angle to Rich his face lit up as we Skype'd. The whole scene took on a new meaning and direction that he absolutely loved and started running with it. Hunter's decision not to be leader becomes even more poignant when it is revealed that he needs his friend to lead the charge on one front, while he takes on the enemy on another front in a battle that will literally shake the heavens.
I love working with Rich for many reasons. He's created some excellent scenes that I've been able to build upon and vice versa. Our collaboration is unusual in the fact that we each work on different sections of the story, while keeping one another posted on what's happening so the other can refer back to those events or have characters react to them.
We also discuss scenes where our characters are together and plot out how to have things unfold then one will write the scene and allow the other to make adjustments for dialogue or behavior that is more fitting for certain characters. This of course means it takes us longer to finish a story, but the results have been really impressive. We each bring certain strengths to our endeavor such as his expertise in military manuevers, weapons, chain of command, historical facts, etc. While I focus on more of the paranormal, or unusual, personalities, behaviors, and making stories go in unexpected directions. Together we are a stylish team...
Um... well sort of stylish I guess.
Anyway, the thing is with collaborations its important not to get too wedded to certain ideas. You're a team. The story is what's important. Check your egos at the door. And if there's something you don't agree on, let it simmer. Explore and examine the issue from multiple angles and take a variety of approaches. Maybe in the end it does need to go, but maybe not. Be ready to compromise without being a doormat. You're a team. Work as one and be prepared to work and rework the story, just like you would one you did completely on your own.
When I write with Rich, or my wife Helen, I want them to shine just as much if not more than me. I want their contributions and inspirations to be seen and applauded. Just because I've got more stuff out there than they have, doesn't mean I have all the answers because I don't. But I'm more than willing to be taught by them, as they are to learn from me as we continue our writing journey together.
That's all I've got to say for this entry. If you've had any experiences with collaborations and wish to share them, please put them in the comment section below. We're all here to learn from one another.
Until next time, take care and keep writing.