TMoRP Day 22 – Three Parts Dead

Today in my increasingly off-deadline daily blogging project, I’d like to shill for Three Parts Dead, a book that lies somewhere in the middle of Max Gladstone’s The Craft Sequence series.

If I sound a bit ambiguous about where a book with the word “three” in the title might fit in a five-book series, it’s because they were written out of order. You can get the details in this I09 article, though don’t read too far past the first couple of paragraphs if you want to avoid series spoilers.

Irrespective of its place in a larger narrative, Three Parts Dead is a terrific fantasy story, a murder mystery where a team of necromancers is trying to discover who killed the patron god of a city. There are implacable drone police, vampire sea captains, fire priests, gargoyles and the aforementioned practitioners of the Craft (essentially necromancy) charged with working out whodunnit.

I finished reading this one last night and would have leapt straight into the rest of the series if I’d had them available (and if I didn’t have a to-be-read pile that would make the Library of Alexandria look a bit pov). Highly entertaining fare, with cool magic, well-developed characters, and some delicious action scenes. Oh, and a gorgeous Chris McGrath cover as an added bonus.

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TMoRP Day 21 – The Men’s Ashes Series

Look, my daily blogging project is days behind and I admit this is a total cheat. But I do rather love Test cricket.

Its exquisite tedium is made all the richer and more piquant by the complaints of non-fans, those who do not appreciate that their moaning refrain – that nothing happens for five days at a stretch, resulting in a draw – is like a crisp summer wine to those of us who can stay away during the session before tea on day three, when everyone is exhausted and nobody has scored a run since Tuesday. Oh, certainly, accidents do happen – under such arduous circumstances, the concentration may wander, the blood may warm and steadfast blocking may accidentally give way to the odd adventurous swipe at a loose long hop. The scorers may be forced to stir in their darkened caves and adjust one number for another from time to time. But rest assured all will soon settle again into the warm and numbing haze of a contest fought in the mind and the commentary box as much as atop a flat track amidst an amiably green paddock.

Also I see Glenn Maxwell got his double-ton in the Shield match today, just when it counts for naught. So all is well in the state of the game.

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Friday flash fiction – Over Chosen

When Ophelia Vernon’s latest absence eventually exhausted her manager’s patience for bleeding money into studio hire fees, he sent Gina the keyboardist to look for her. Though new to the band and younger than the rest, she was sharp enough to notice they were hiding something. She started her search in the bathrooms.

She found Ophelia slumped against the mirror, pressing a chilled soft drink can to the swollen mass around her right eye. Yellow going on purple-black at the borders, the bruise looked at least a week old. It hadn’t been there an hour ago.

Gina Akenzua hadn’t known Ophelia Vernon long enough to make the transition from fan to employee to friend, but she could see she was needed. She handed tissues to the shaken singer. “Who did this to you?”

Ophelia rolled her unblemished eye toward the ceiling; Gina knew she was trying to come up with a satisfactory lie. Then Ophelia let out a long sigh and said, “It was a demonic bipedal whale from beyond time.”

That did it for Gina. This was not a matter to resolve with dabbed tears and sympathy. She messaged the manager to cancel the rest of the session and dragged her boss to the nearest pub.

When their ales were half-empty, she said in her best no-more-lies voice, “Tell me what happened.”

Ophelia nursed her drink but finally answered. “When I stepped out to go to the loo, some people were waiting for me.”

“Were they fans? Did they attack you?”

Ophelia shook her head, brushing her shoulders with the mermaid green tips of her straight black hair. The shoulder seams of her blouse were torn. “No, not fans. It was a centaur, a dragon-priest and two teenaged hedgehogs with swords and lockpicks. They wanted me to join their quest.”

“Their what did you say?” Gina gave her beer a suspicious sniff.

Ophelia began to methodically tear a cardboard beer coaster to tiny shreds. “They needed my help to recover the Sacred Teardrops of Aka-Na-Zur. Their ancient prophecy told them only I could open the Way of Plentiful Calamities and overcome the Behemoth of Myriad Woes.”

“I see.” Gina’s thick lashes blinked in slow motion while she considered this. “And did you?”

“Help them? Yeah. All they needed was for someone to solve a puzzle and sing the second A above middle C. No harder than putting the Times Crossword to music.”

“What about the behemoth?”

“Banished back to its own realms in the Dark Crevasse with the same note.” Ophelia dabbed at the bruise on her face. “Not before it socked me with its hell-fluke though.”

“You’re not flustered by all this,” observed Gina, “which means you’re either totally delusional or this sort of thing has happened to you before.”

A sudden pub-wide lull in every conversation at once let through the song playing on the PA. It was one of Ophelia’s. As her fellow drinkers listened with a glaze-eyed reverence, Ophelia coughed and put on sunglasses.

“A few times,” she admitted.

Gina raised an eyebrow. “It’s more than a few, isn’t it?”

Ophelia blushed on the side of her face that wasn’t already discoloured. “You remember that campaign last year to raise awareness of Blavatsky-Mercado Disease?”

“Of course. We met at the benefit concert. You were great, even with a bad cold.”

She shook her head. “It wasn’t a cold. The head researcher deliberately infected me with a retrovirus so I would spread the cure before the disease could become a sentient pandemic.”

“Uh, thanks, I guess?”

“Don’t thank me,” replied Ophelia grimly. “He didn’t ask my permission.”

Heads turned their way from time to time. Gina saw their wariness as they turned away. “Go on.”

The rest came out in a single breath. “Last weekend I missed my acoustic gig at the Lighthouse because some teenagers needed help exorcising the ghost of Keith Moon from a post office in Bromley. Last November, the goddess Persephone kidnapped me and tried to trick Hades into taking me for the winter while she took a holiday in Acapulco. And I spent my twenty-fifth birthday dogfighting Void Centipedes through the rings of Saturn because a handful of survivors from an alien apocalypse needed someone with good video game scores to pilot their drone fighter squadron.”

Ophelia broke a breadstick in half and bit off a piece, waiting for Gina’s reaction. The rest of the stick shattered into crumbs between her shaking fingers.

“It sounds to me,” she said, handing Ophelia another bread stick, “like you’ve got a bad case of the Chosen Ones.”

Ophelia’s undamaged eye widened. “You believe me?”

Gina laid her hands across Ophelia’s, holding them gently until the shuddering began to subside. “The way I see it, I either believe you or I’m out of a job. How long has this been going on?”

Ophelia grinned uncertainly. “When I was five, some rabbits made me have a riddle contest with an elf while they stole his magic buckle.”

“Oooookay, then,” said Gina. “That one was weird. But listen, you shouldn’t have to do this all on your own. I can help you. When you need it, I’ve got your back, okay?”

More drinks arrived. As he cleared their empties away, the waiter nodded toward a table occupied by a group of stern-faced women in habits of midnight and crimson. “Compliments of the Sisters,” he said. “They asked if you wouldn’t mind joining them for a mutually beneficial discussion.”

Ophelia sighed. “I’d better see what they want. It never does any good trying to run away from these things.” She rose from the table, smiling from ear to bruised ear. “But Gina, thank you so much. It really helps, having someone to confide in.”

As she went to hear what the dark nuns wanted, Gina raised her beer almost to her lips and opened a channel.

“Concourse,” she said, “this is Agent Nineteen. I’ve established contact with the target. Full report to follow.”


Happy Friday, everybody. Before anyone asks, I’ve no immediate plans for a sequel. I do seem to have gone out of my way to start tying all these flash stories together into some ridiculously convoluted shared continuity.  I definitely can’t back that up with promises of internal consistency, however.
I’m about to send out a newsletter which will resume my serialised kids-in-dire-peril fantasy adventure Orphans’ Moon. If you like these flash stories, you might also like stories with the same characters from one chapter to the next. Orphans’ Moon is available only to the people on my mailing list.
Click on the signup form in the column on the right to get all the latest mostly-true news and made-up fiction.
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TMoRP Day 20 – The Women’s Ashes Series

The Women’s Ashes cricket series just wrapped up with a Twenty20 match at Manuka Oval here in Canberra. Even though the English team put together an unlikely win to draw the series, I’m still ecstatic I got to watch most of the series.

It’s been an excellent series, even if the Southern Stars did let themselves down with their fielding in the tonight’s final game. Beth Mooney’s 117 from 70 balls should have been enough to secure the win, but a terrific answering century from Danni Wyatt and a heartbreaking clutch of dropped catches let the England side back in.

Bummer, but at least Australia kept the Ashes in the event of a drawn series, so the Canberra losses weren’t a total disaster.

Personally the best part was that I got to take my seven year old daughter to watch her home team play. I don’t know if she’ll stick with cricket forever, but it’s nice to know there’s an elite level for her to aspire to if she wants it. And I’m never averse to an excuse to sit in the stands and listen for the crack of willow on leather…

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TMoRP Day 19 – I Only Listen to The Mountain Goats

I’ve fallen in love with a podcast called I Only Listen to The Mountain Goats. It’s one of the only podcasts where I’ve ever gone back and listened to an episode a second time – and I’ve done it for every episode so far.

I Only Listen to The Mountain Goats is a series of conversations between Joseph Fink, the creator of Welcome to Night Vale and Alice Isn’t Dead (two other podcasts I enjoy), and John Darnielle, the singer-songwriter of the band The Mountain Goats.

Ostensibly a discussion about the process of creative work and the tension between being an artist and being a fan, the conversations range over some fascinating terrain. They get deep into the weeds on music theory and technique, as you’d expect, as well as theme, voice and other narrative devices. But they also talk about philosophy, religion, art history, the socio-political landscapes of America, and the consequences of bad life choices.

It’s great, is what I’m saying.

It’s two smart people talking about the stuff that interests them, through the lens of individual songs. The first season of the show – only four main episodes have dropped so far – is going track by track through The Mountain Goats’ 2002 album All Hail West Texas, starting with Track 1: “The Best Ever Death Metal Band in Denton”. Each episode discusses the origins, themes and composition of the song, and features both the original and a cover version of the song. The two hosts also talk to the cover artist about their artistic choices and what drew them to the song.

Here’s the thing: before I started listening to this podcast, I had no idea who Darnielle or The Mountain Goats were. I might have heard some of their songs – I hear they’re a pretty popular band – but I wouldn’t have been able to pick them out of a playlist.

Now, I’m working my way voraciously through their back catalogue. I kind of love them. They’re all I’ve been listening to lately.

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