Archive for August, 2015

This week’s challenge? To create a character. That’s it. Some total. Keeping it under 250 words.

So here you go:

Luísa de la Cruz is the only child of the famed swordsman Severo de la Cruz. Her mother, Adriana, was a minor noble. Their elopement created a fair amount of scandal, and mercenaries were dispatched to make Adriana a widow and return her to her home. By the time the mercenaries tracked the two down to a remote village, five years had passed, and little Luísa was five years old. Her father, outnumbered, managed to buy time for Adriana and Luísa to flee, but at the cost of his own life.

There weren’t many options for a young mother with no connections and a small child, but Adriana found a small village by the sea. She took up work as a seamstress, and Luísa took up with the children of sailors and merchants. She learned to fight early, the locals teaching her with fist and foot. The older men, bemused by the tomboy, taught her how to use a knife. Some of her father’s skill must have been with her, because she quickly surpassed her teachers.

Soon after Luísa turned sixteen, Adriana fell ill. On her deathbed, she informed Luísa of her birthright, and told her of the sword kept under the floorboards, the only inheritance from her father. Her teenage blood set aflame, Luísa swore to avenge her parents. The only problem? She doesn’t know where to start.

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Killing Pretty

Killing Pretty

By Richard Kadrey

In many ways, this book, the seventh in Richard Kadrey’s Sandman Slim series is a return to form, while simultaneously a step forward for James Stark, the eponymous Sandman Slim.

Gone are the world destroying powers. Gone is the ultimate escape clause. It’s a noir story in the sense that there is a mystery to be solved, powerful people to shake down, and the main character isn’t nearly as clever as he thinks he is.

Kadrey does a masterful job tapping into the California noir tradition of LA Confidential and Chinatown, and despite the supernatural elements of angels, Hellions, magic, and Death, the overall tone is kept grounded by the very real problems of managing relationships, holding a job, and dealing with local politics.

Where the book really shines, however, is in deconstructing the main characters’ usual modus operandi. Yes, going in without thinking gets results, sometimes even positive ones, but, at the end of the day it costs him more than he gains. It’s a lesson not just for life, but for other writers, in looking at the anti-hero character and seeing where it comes up short. It was also refreshing to see Kadrey spend more time on the characters surrounding Stark including Candy, his monster-girlfriend, Julia, the ex-Marshal turned private investigator, and Kasabian, the head on a robot body who runs the video store he and Stark co-own. (My biggest complaint? Not enough of the immortal French alchemist Vidoq, who probably could carry a series all by himself.)

So if you like high octane urban fantasy, if you like your heroes to come in shades of grey, and most importantly, if you enjoy noir, I highly recommend you pick up KILLING PRETTY.

This week the challenge was a pop culture mash-up, the old X meets Y of fiction. I drew Hellraiser meets Terminator, and I’ll be the first to comment that this is way more the former than the latter. And yes, this would probably get a fairly hard R rating. You’ve been warned.

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