Breaking News! Zimrothian goalie not returning

Old-newspaper-350376_1280by Greetchen Wilke-Savujer
for te Borscher Sportteelegraaf (a national sports newspaper in Borschland)

Image by Krzysztof Pluta from Pixabay

Meenesanne, Borschland, Nachtober 19 - Allegations came this week from a statement of the Zimrothian Association of Ice Hockey Clubs (ZDRT) that the young goaltender Gareth Velnath was harassed and vilified during his brief time with Meenesanne and as a result will not be returning to Borschland.

The ZDRT further stated that there would be no discussion of refunding the 40,000 schilling transfer fee that Meenesanne paid to Nurnar Limited, Mendar Nurnar’s Zimrothian goaltender development firm.

“We are not a rich club,” said Meenesanne general partner and president Mattheus Drachtenfeel in a press conference just before the game versus. “We are not like Te Staff, investing thousands upon thousands on unproven players. When we make a payment of such a sum, we expect there to be value in the exchange. The value advertised by the Zimrothian (Nurnar) was not achieved, to say the very least.”

The language in the transfer contract states that if the player so transferred is unable to meet the requirements of the team, the entire payment shall be refunded. But it is vague in the enumeration of those terms beyond the traditional interpretation of failing a physical.

“Velnath reported to Meenesanne in good faith and played as many games as he could under enormous hostility and undue pressure,” said Nurnar in a telegram. “As far as we are concerned, he has discharged his duty and more. He will be playing for the Royal Lancers second team and you will see him soon in an international tournament. He is that good.”

The “second team” mention from Nurnar inflamed Meenesanne partisans the more. “If he is so good,” said trustee Brock Gunderthaal, “why isn’t he playing with the Royal Lancers' first side?”

Players on the Meenesanne side expressed surprise at the allegations of hostility and pressure. “We were behind the kid all the way,” said captain Henrick Ujsner. “We knew it was going to be rocky for him at the start, being so young and all. But we thought he’d weather it.”

Despite Nurnar’s statement, Meenesanne have not closed the books on this situation and are considering legal action, though it is unclear how much influence Borschic law can have on Zimrothian citizens.

"We would like to avoid an international incident," commented Drachteenfeel.

Meenesanne has been limping along with one goalie, Erick Ritsche, who most recently gave up 6 goals at resurgent Tarlunz. Meenesanne hesitated to purchase the contract of Zwischellund netminder Toor Heelbeerg, as Zwischellund was playing Eahnstaff for a chance to go to the second round of the Flowering Branch Cup, but as now the Midlanders have been eliminated, Heelbeerg figures to see time on the first team.

Time, not money, the obstacle to book sales

Skater-in-a-Strange-Land-800 Cover reveal and PromotionalI used to marvel at a certain fact about the book publishing business: people are more willing to risk three dollars on a cup of coffee than they are on a full-length novel.

Why would someone be willing to pay money for a drink that takes fifteen minutes to consume, for a temporary effect, but not for a piece of art that gives hours of entertainment and has the potential to change one’s life?

Image: Skater in a Strange Land has a new e-edition!

Then I realized something. Something extremely obvious to lots of people, probably, but not to me.

I realized that the temporary effect and disposability of coffee was the whole point.

Coffee gives the drinker a guaranteed result AND doesn’t take a long time to consume.

You don’t have to think about it, either.

And a book?

A book takes a lot longer to deal with than a cup of coffee and there is no guaranteed payoff.

With a book you’re not just spending money, you’re spending time as well.

And time is in notoriously short supply nowadays.

Not only that, time to read a book—that is, unbroken time when you can concentrate on something other than work or family—is even rarer.

So an author does something potentially very demanding of readers when a book is published. “Read this book” does not just mean spend a certain amount of money. It also means invest a certain number of hours, a certain amount of energy, and depending on the book, a potentially large amount of emotion and brainpower.

Back in the day when paper books were the only option and a traditionally published hardcover book cost $19.95, there was a strong sense of the import of the buying decision. The book was substantial and so was the price. You knew what you were getting into. You had better read that book to justify the investment.

Nowadays, an e-book that costs $2.99 is like a roll of the dice. Why isn’t it more expensive? Is it just a bad book that the author is trying to palm off on unsuspecting consumers, like old fish that’s been painted with bleach?

But $2.99 is the same price as a cup of coffee, the reader says to herself. If the book’s bad, I haven’t lost anything.

Yes, she has. She's lost time.

“There’s an hour of my life I’ll never get back” goes the old saying.

How many Amazon reviews basically just say “Waste of time” or “Don’t waste your time”?

Which is why, as authors, it behooves us to write books that are as “worthwhile” ( = worth the time) as possible.

But how does a reader know a book is going to be worthwhile?

  • It has a good blurb. Writers I know hate to write blurbs, but a good one can encourage the sale of a book like nothing else. Good blurbs say, “You will be using your time wisely if you buy this book.”

  • It is written to a specific genre and audience. A cup of coffee is what it is. It delivers a guaranteed effect. So, theoretically, do romance novels, cozy mystery novels, spy thrillers, and all those other familiar categories that comfort readers. If you want a cup of coffee and you get a cup of chai, you’re never going back to that same café again. Same deal with authors. Deliver in your genre and people will return.

  • The audience knows the author. The author has built up a trust and rapport with readers on social media. They like her personally, so they will be more likely to like her book. (This can go the other way for personal friends. They don’t want to have to tell you they didn’t like your book, so they might be reluctant to read it.)

  • The book is at the proper price point--not too inexpensive. This is a tricky one, because a lot of authors have offered their books for free in order to get an audience acquainted with their writing, and it’s been an effective strategy. But in general, a book that’s $2.99 or less as a regular price automatically triggers in the consumer a question: why is it so cheap? The suspicion that a low price point is an indicator of low quality is real. That's when things like a good blurb, active social media, and genre familiarity come into play.

  • The book is at the proper price point--not too expensive. This one is tough too, but for me personally once an e-book is priced at over $4.99, I want to hold it in my hands. I will pay $16.99 for a paperback that I know is going to entertain me, and up to $30 for a hardcover. E-books? There's an obstacle there. My two cents.

Add in your own criteria to supplement these. When you know it’s time that’s the big investment for readers, not just money, it doesn’t change that you’re trying to write a good book.

But it might change your perspective on the whole thing—and give our readers a bit more benefit of the doubt if they choose to buy a cup of coffee rather than our $2.99 novels.

Half Sick of Shadows (spoilerish)

HalfsickofshadowsIt is really impossible to say anything about Half Sick of Shadows, Richard Abbott’s newest and most creative book, without giving the whole thing away.

So instead of reading this review first, go out and buy the book and read it— I promise, it’s very inexpensive— and then come back and read this.

If you have already read the book and want to know what someone else thinks about it, go ahead and keep scrolling.

Otherwise, I’ll see you in… however long it takes for you to read and come back.

In fact, if you read the book and hate it, I will treat you to another book of the same or lesser value as an apology for making you read Half Sick of Shadows.

Now that we have established I am biased towards this book, and now that everyone is gone except those who have read the book already, the way is clear to say a few spoilerish things. Spoilerish because I know there are a few lingering readers who haven’t gone away and gotten the book, and believe me, you will be disappointed.

(Shoo! Shoo!)


First, you don’t need to know that Half Sick of Shadows is taken loosely from the British legend of the Lady of Shalott best known to poetry readers in its version by Alfred Lord Tennyson. It’s a fun curiosity to map Half Sick of Shadows on to the legend-- especially the weaving and mirror parts-- but the story stands on its own.

You also don’t need to know what genre the book is in order to enjoy it. The author says it is Historical Fantasy. I would say it’s Speculative Science Fiction. But it really is its own thing.

Now, for the spoilerish stuff: lately there was a flurry of activity on the internet about alien intelligences and whether we would want them to contact us when it is somewhat more or less likely (how does one decide these things?) that they would be hostile to us.

Stephen Hawking has famously said for years, for example, that if intelligent life outside our solar system tries to contact us, we should act as if we’re not there.

"Meeting an advanced civilization could be like Native Americans encountering Columbus. That didn’t turn out so well,” he is recently quoted as saying.

Also, there's a new short film by a director I admire, Neil Blomkamp from South Africa, about a yuckfest alien invasion that is our worst nightmare. (I loved the film and I don't like yuckfests, by the way.)

But with all due respect to Stephen Hawking and rousing good stories, I think the proposition absurd that aliens advanced enough to travel through space for light years are as callous, cruel, and greedy as Christopher Columbus and the Europeans who followed him.

I find it much more likely that truly advanced aliens would have no need of exploiting worlds they found, but in fact would be more benevolent than we are, having come to the conclusion that survival depends on creating abundance rather than hoarding scarcity. 

So far in history, all human cultures that pile up resources at others’ expense have fallen hard after no more than a thousand or so years (the Byzantines did a great job for a long time, but that made the Turks really, really jealous).

But to live through the long haul— long enough to develop viable light-year space flight technology— I think you’d need to find a way to make resources abundant enough that people don’t need to fight over them and kill each other off. 

And thus, aliens traveling to earth would know to leave well enough alone.

Unless, of course, they found a way to hang around us without destroying us.

And this is a roundabout way of saying that I think Richard Abbot has that question of alien intelligence absolutely spot on. Half Sick of Shadows is an intricate, delicate story about a Lady who grows through time into something new, both physically and mentally, and how interaction with those she encounters affects that process. But it’s also a wonderfully imaginative take on how we might be-- or have been-- in touch with others outside our ken.

Now is Half Sick of Shadows as fun as Neil Blomkamp's yuckfest with the Texas flag whipping from armored trucks and people exploding and lizard men and squirty goo and methane manufacturing towers?

Yes. Make a movie of it now.

Well, maybe not.

But so few books have that quality of an engaging story that also makes you think. Half Sick of Shadows is one of those few, and it deserves widespread attention.

Throughtalking books

Bookbeer7Have you ever heard the term “throughtalking”?

I hadn’t, till the other day.

In fact, Google doesn’t seem to know the term.

But I do:

Screen Shot 2016-12-30 at 10.58.29 AM

This insight, which I love, is spliced out of a post by a Facebook friend. I tend not to have to deal with this phenomenon socially, because I don’t go to high-gloss parties where the movers and shakers move and shake, but I recognize it from my days at professional conferences.

There’s nothing more disheartening than watching the eyes of the person you’re talking to scanning the crowd for someone other than you. 

You may be good, but there’s always someone out there who’s better.

My Facebook friend thinks there may be a “throughtalking” trend for beer that’s manifesting itself in online reviews. No matter how high the quality of one craft brew, somehow there must be a better one out there. So proper attention is given to nothing. 

I think we can apply this same trend to books, but bear with me for a little on this. 

If “throughtalking” beer is a thing, I think it has to do with the sheer number of beers now available. Time was, there were about seventeen brands of beer, and if there was something new, you had plenty of time to taste it and figure out whether you liked it.  

I remember in the previous century sitting down in a restaurant near Cincinnati and asking the waitress whether they had any local beers on tap. She looked at me as if I were from Mars.  

I wasn’t talking about brewpub stuff. Back in the old days, there were some regional brands. if you were in New Orleans, you drank Dixie. Texas, Lone Star. Oregon, Henry Weinhard’s. Upstate New York, Genesee. Baltimore, Natty Bo. That’s what I was asking for. Even Bud is supposed to taste good if you order it in St. Louis.

But Cincinnati, apparently, had its Waterloo (or Beer-loo) during Prohibition, and never recovered.

Today things are different. I can get thirty kinds of beer brewed onsite in just one establishment. 

How am I going to keep up with that? 

Maybe, by “throughtalking” beers until I get to the “ultimate.” 

Except that there isn’t an ultimate. 

Now for the books part.

Independent (small-press and self-) publishing, like craft breweries, has exponentially increased the number of books available, especially novels. 

Now, instead of there being a thousand “literary” or “high quality” novels per year, of which ten to twenty were played up by publishing houses and the media, there are tens of thousands that may be good or not. But because there are so many, it’s impossible for anyone to curate them the way we used to when traditional publishing had a chokehold on supply. 

For me personally, I seldom buy books anymore. I “try” a lot of them. I will go to the Amazon page and dip into the book, effectively taking a sip. Some of them are just bad or don’t interest me, so I move on.

Others look like they might be good, but I’m not looking for “might be.”

I want that one that knocks my socks off.

So I end up not buying anything at all. 

I am guilty of “throughtalking” books. 

The last book I bought was The Bookminder by M.K. Wiseman. It’s a historical fantasy about a teenage would-be wizard set in what appears to be medieval Serbia. I was attracted by the setting and similarity to my own The Mirror and the Mage, and the sample shows that the author has respectable writing chops.

I hope to “drink it down” and give a review soon. 

So what’s the upshot of this? Am I advocating, like some, that we should turn off the taps on the book supply?

Should us authors all voluntarily stick to one book per year, to let breathless readers catch up?

Maybe we’d get less “throughtalking.” 

No. Not at all.

I’m still in the more-is-better camp. I think especially of those dedicated book devourers who have benefited the most from the independent revolution. True book lovers always want more.

And I say, give it to them.

Online book curation methods are still pretty crude, but I think they'll improve.

And we “throughtalkers” will always be around, and maybe we’ll leave snarky reviews about the few books we actually bought.

But that shouldn’t spoil the party.

So write on, authors. Your readers await.

Image taken from here.

Why I will never worry about what I write, ever again


Sometimes when I am in the valley of the shadow of self-doubt about my writing, I think, "I write ridiculous things in my novels. Who would ever believe them?"

One book has talking bears and a parallel universe, another a kind of Pez dispenser that does magic if you know Latin grammar. In my latest book, the hero defends a mystical goal against a hockey-puck-spitting pelican.

Weird, right?

But I'm here to declare that I will fear no idea that comes from my muse, ever again. That is because I have just re-read Stuart Little by E.B. White, and I'm going to tell you, he has us all beat.

E.B. White is probably more famous for Charlotte's Web, which has a talking spider and talking pig, but that type of weirdness is nothing compared to that of Stuart Little.

I don't remember reading Stuart Little all the way through as a child, though I'm pretty sure I was impressed by his toy sports car. I just went along with everyone who thought the book was adorable.

Adorable it may be, but it's just straight-up bonkers, too.

Now let me be clear that I'm not dissing the classic status that Stuart has achieved. There's a lot of whimsical fun in the book. It's charming and witty. There is much food for thought and respect and love for those who are different.

I'm just saying what happens in the book strains the boundaries of credulity in a thousand ways, small and large.

First of all, and this has been noticed before, the book claims that Stuart came to the Little family naturally:

When Mrs. Frederick C. Little's second son arrived, everybody noticed that he was not much bigger than a mouse. The truth of the matter was, the baby looked very much like a mouse in every way.

I usually read books before bed, when I'm already sleepy. But this shook me wide awake. I was sure that Stuart had been adopted and was all ready for that fact to be announced in Chapter One.

But no.

So Stuart is genetically a Little, but in substance a mouse. Right there, any New York editor would stop reading and have his or her assistant prepare a rejection notice. But E.B. White wasn't a peon from Peoria. He was in the inner circle of the New York literary world, a respected writer for the New Yorker magazine.

So he got a pass.

Now Stuart gets into a number of scrapes and has a number of charming adventures, but it is natural that a mouse have a love interest, and that love interest is a bird.

Stay with me, here.

The bird's name is Margalo, and she is one of those talking birds you see quite often in Manhattan. Margalo is responsible for a number of charming acts, including saving Stuart's life, but she flies the coop (the Littles' Manhattan apartment) when a pigeon writes her a note warning her that a cat is plotting to eat her.

This motivates the action of the book, which is Stuart's quest for Margalo. He obtains his transportation from his friend Dr. Carey, a dentist, who claims that Stuart will be less noticeable as an anthropomorphic animal driving a toy sports car when he activates the car's invisibility function.

Yes, indeed.

When Stuart tests out that function, hilarity ensues, but the author never explains whether Stuart himself will be invisible when he drives the car, or whether he will seem to others to be sitting in thin air being self-propelled, which would definitely be noticeable.

It's actually more astonishing that anyone in this book would think that anything strange would, in Stuart's words, "attract too much attention".

Are you getting the message, here?

I'm going to pass over the charming scene where Stuart takes over a one-room schoolhouse for a day, although I find it highly unusual any school district would allow such an unqualified substitute to teach children.

Then again, maybe that's not so far-fetched.

But I do have to mention the two-inch tall Harriet Ames, a tiny human equally as tiny as Stuart. How does a local storekeeper explain her presence in the world?

"...All of her clothes are specially tailored for her... Yes, Harriet's quite a girl. Her people, the Ameses, are rather prominent in this town."

Harriet almost but not quite makes Stuart forget about Margalo. Clearly, she is a more suitable partner for a mouse than a bird, but their love isn't to be, mainly because Stuart can't get over the fact that his miniature canoe, in which he was going to take Harriet for a ride, has been smashed, presumably by malicious boys, though this is never confirmed.


Finally, and most incredibly for the story, Stuart Little peters out at page 131 in my edition with this sentence:

But the sky was bright, and he somehow felt he was headed in the right direction.

In other words, Stuart never finds Margalo. Not even close. He just drives off into the sunset with the quest still unfinished.

I kept stupidly looking for more pages, as if I'd find another chapter in a hidden trap door of my paperback.


Again, I'd be the first to say, "Whatever! This is a children's book, and in children's books, anything goes. As long as the spirit of the writing is true, children (and adults) will love it."

And so that must be the case with Stuart Little, though I'm going to tell you it creeped me out when I read it this time.

But all of this has taught me a valuable lesson: if E.B. White can write from his imagination and succeed, then by golly, I'm going to write from mine. No more self-censorship, no more self-suspicion. My cup of weirdness runneth over. And I will dwell in the house of--

You get the idea.

Now go out there and write some puck-spitting pelicans into your book.

Image: my selfie with Stuart.

Borschland colonizes Amazon

Talesofborschlandcover_promotionalBig news about the Borschland Hockey Chronicles for all fans and future fans of Sherm Reinhardt.

For those familiar with Sherm's ice hockey exploits, Breakfast with Pandora Books has just released a new Tales of Borschland anthology, Sherm Reinhardt and the Black Rose, including the first story involving Sherm Reinhardt since The Skater and the Saint

Sherm journeys to Zimroth, one of Borschland's neighboring nations, to scout a new goalie for his Te Staff hockey team, but he soon finds out why, as one Borscher puts it, "Going to Zimroth is like going back in time."

There are six other tales in the anthology, each one opening up the world of Borschland in various ways: you'll learn about the Borschic way of romance and Borschic spirituality.

There's also the origin story of the Flowering Branch which is the centerpiece of The Skater and the Saint.

And there are chilling tales as well, one about the Loflins, native people of Borschland, and about why there are no movies in Borschland.

But wait, there's more.

In celebration of the new release, for a limited time the entirety of the Borschland Hockey Chronicles (Skater in a Strange Land, The Skater and the Saint, and the Tales of Borschland anthology) will be available to read for free in the Kindle Unlimited lending library.

And here's an offer for you: anyone who reads one of these three selections and leaves a review somewhere online (e.g. Amazon, Goodreads, your blog) will be among the first to receive, absolutely free, an e-copy of the third and last installment of the Borschland Hockey Chronicles, The Last Phase Shift, which with any luck will be available to give as a Christmas gift this year.

Utter fabulousness.

And if you've read this far, then you deserve further insider information, which is that the cover of the Tales of Borschland anthology shown here is actually a beta cover, and if you yourself want to or know someone who would want to design a better cover, please let us know in the comments or email us at teenage underscore heroes at yahoo dot com.

Here's to Shelley, Myst, and H.L. Burke

12557822_1148142651892799_1635258862_oA spotlight for H.L. Burke, who is, for my money, one of the coming author-personalities in indie publishing today. She writes good books, but she's also an engaging person who's fun to follow on social media, especially if you like dragons and cats.

Burke's latest is an attractive YA steampunk novella called Nyssa Glass and the House of Mirrors. The title protagonist is (according to Burke) "a reformed cat burglar turned electrician's apprentice, settled into a life repairing videophones and radio-sets. However, when her past comes calling, she finds herself framed for murder and forced into one last job."

Nyssa Glass has a lot of things going for her, as does the book itself. She's smart, tech-savvy, and tender at the proper times, and Burke has presented for her in this first book of the series a worthy set piece in the elaborately wired and booby-trapped mansion where mirrors are used in an innovative way. 

I got attracted to Nyssa Glass because of my Steampunkish series, the Borschland Hockey Chronicles, which is not what you'd call classic steampunk. In fact, I never intended it to be Steampunk, but it sort of fits in the genre.

Burke's take on the genre is similar. She told me in a recent email that she came to Steampunk in high school through the computer game Myst, which has "a definite steampunk aesthetic (gears, levers, goggles)... I'd keep detailed notebooks as I struggled to solve the complex problems and gather clues. I read the 'Myst Reader' which involved a young girl finding an advanced society living under the earth. A society with geothermal power and massive tunneling machines … I really wanted to live there. Well, not necessarily under the ground in D'ni, but in one of the ages Atrus wrote and settled."

Burke says she's read and likes three Steampunk novels that differ amongst themselves quite a bit, first "Romulus Buckle and the City of the Founders ...[which] has a lot of Steampunk trappings, but the world is post apocalyptic and added in aliens … so not completely traditional.

"Then I read Dream Eater's Carnival, because I knew the author mainly. It had some wonderful Steampunk flair, with a circus of rogues and freaks, a heroine who had amber embedded in her arm she could use to do magic, and a carnival performer who may very well be stealing the life force of those around him...

"Finally I picked up Lady of Devices. This was by far the most traditional Steampunk I'd read yet. It had Victorian social issues and a feisty heroine who rises above social mores while still managing to be very proper. 

"So between all that, I never had a real guideline for what the genre ought to be, which probably works out for the best. You give me rules and guidelines, the urge to break, bend, and twist them becomes pathological. I tend to write my books first, then find a genre box I can sort of stuff them into rather than write to the conventions of any one particular genre."

I agree.

For Nyssa Glass, Burke makes several bends in the whatever might be considered the classic Steampunk structure:

"My characters use mostly modern speech. While I appreciate an author who can hold up 'old timey' dialogue for long periods of time, my characters tend to speak to me in whatever voice they darn well want, and I just let them.

"I cheat and use electricity … my characters have computer technology that is way too advanced for your average Steampunk setting. A lot of the story-line features strongly around a character who is a computer, in fact." 

That probably would be one of my few objections to this book as Steampunk-- that there is twenty-first century tech in it without being explained by steam and gears.

But there are a lot of stories with improbable technology that people swallow whole, including original gothic works like Mary Shelley's Frankenstein.

Not coincidentally, Burke considers Nyssa "Shelley meets Verne meets Wells, but there's also a taste of the adventure games (such as Myst) that I love so very very much. I hope people can lose themselves in it, the way teenage me longed to visit the Ages of Myst. That's my goal in this series."

I'd say that is the distinctive characteristic of Nyssa, putting the story front and center without a lot of background fuss about worlds and tech. Check out all her other books as well on her website. Dragons abound.

Some other links for the inimitable Mrs. Burke:




Facebook Author Page

Amazon Author Page 


A lovely, thoughtful review of Skater and the Saint

I respect Richard Abbott's fair-minded, insightful reviews. He has recently published a string of posts on steampunk books, and he's lucidly imparted his thoughts on each one. The Skater and the Saint is (sort of) the next in line, and he gave it 5 stars.

As they say in Borschland, Ergut!

The Borschland Hockey Chronicles are sort of steampunk-y. As Richard says in his review, "[T]he book drifts somewhere out of phase between fantasy, science-fiction and steampunk..." I consider it steampunk lite. Richard goes on to say that the Chronicles demand to be read on their own merits.

This is true. I don't think I have the gene for writing genre fiction, though I respect those who can. My imagination is too all over the place for me to write to a series of expectations. At the same time, I wouldn't call the Chronicles "literary." There's too much goof in them for that. 

My friend Bob Mustin probably got close to the truth when he called the Chronicles "postmodern fantasy."

Postmodernism is sometimes thought of as a movement that tried to argue that everything is meaningless, but in its best form, it takes the conventional and stands it on its head, bringing out new possibilities and meanings.

I see the conventions of genres-- the magic sword in fantasy, the sexy man who can be improved in romance-- and I want to do something original with them, knock them about, change people's expectations.

So in Skater in a Strange Land, the romance is between a nerd hockey player and a nerd poetess. There are no dandelion fairies floating in front of a soft-focus lens. But the hero and heroine do have a waltz together.

In The Skater and the Saint, there's no magic sword. But there's a weird branch-like thing that blooms every 300 years and is shaped like and can be used as a hockey stick.

The third book, still in the planning stages, promises to be more science-fiction-y. Hopefully plausible and well-researched stuff. And full of a kind of goof, too.

Speaking of expectations, I wasn't expecting Richard to like this one better than the first. He liked it because it delved into Borschic culture and religion more deeply than the first; I thought that might be a hindrance to some readers. And it may just be.

But the one wonderful thing I've discovered since publishing these two novels is that every reader comes to every book with a unique set of eyes, and fixes on different things in those books. If a book is packed full enough-- of plot, character, world, turn of phrase-- then each reader can appreciate something different, and like the book regardless of their particular eyes. It sounds trite, but I think it's true.

Anyway, go read the review if you'd like, and check out Richard's newest, Scenes from a Life, a view into the everyday world of ancient Egypt.

In honor of the Winter Classic

In Borschland, ice hockey is an outdoor sport.

Borschlanders are used to lacing up their skates on rivers, ponds, or man-made rinks, and chasing after a puck while snow is falling. Indoor rinks exist, but are considered to be, in a way, cheating.

The following is an excerpt from Skater in a Strange Land, narrated by the greatest ice hockey journalist in Borschland, Kadmus Greningen, who describes the first Borschland Hockey League game every played in by our hero, Sherm Reinhardt:

...On this night there was much pomp and pageantry at Te Rijngk, our skating place. The river shined with the lights on the far bank, from the longshoreman's city of Natatck and the glittering suburb of Rirlver. The spit of land, Te Saandmaas, that extends between the river and Te Rijngk was full of workingmen, standing, standing, throughout the game, and not seeing very well, for that spit does not rise much above the river level, and they were standing ten and fifteen deep, but cheering none the less as our skaters waved to them under the spotlights and the bands played. 

The grandstand proper of Te Rijngk is built into the bluff that borders the river and guides it on, moves it along, saying, you shall not swamp this city. There is room for six thousand here, some of it in seating, some of it in benches, and at the very top in the grand boxes sit the dignitaries of the city, its richest and sometimes its happiest citizens. One level below sit the press, and there is where I am, humble reader, with the river lit up and the spotlights following the players as they skate the oval with grim, determined smiles. 

I know not exactly what was transpiring in the mind of Sherman Reinhardt at this time. Surely he had been in bigger rinks, for he had played in North America. And surely he had been cheered louder, for I think in America they have grandstands that seat twenty and thirty thousand fans at a time. 

But Sherman Reinhardt never would have been cheered so sincerely. Of that I am humbly confident. 

Of the game many thousand words could be written, yet it seemed to pale in significance to the historical nature of the event. To be sure, Te Staff won, by a score of 7 goals to 2, which was an impressive total, though there is no reason for us to have given up any goals at all, but that once we had gotten to 7 it seemed ungentlemanly not to let them score a couple. 

But we did not long remember the score. It was our Sherm who shone, our Sherm, our guest, our adopted son. 

Sherm lost his first faceoff. The lights off the river must have dazzled him. The venerable center of Tarlunz, Habel Baarda, who has scored a century of goals in his career, slipped the puck back to his defenseman and seemed almost to take a bow, as if to say, you were not expecting this North American to beat us Borschland boys, were you

Sherm went after that lost puck, furiously skating for it, and extended his stick as one defender attempted to pass horizontally to the other. The puck, headed for its intended target, clipped Sherm's stick and spindled high in the air. Sherm plucked it like a ripe Borschic apple, laid it at his feet, and let fly a shot on goal that went so fast it was in the net before any of us had time to pick up our field glasses. 

You have never heard such cheering. 

Lubert Veeststaff, the Tarlunz net minder of whose age we have now lost track, told us he had never seen a puck struck so hard. 

Afterwards, Sherm said through his interpreter Kevin Busby, "I apologize to the nation of Borschland for my selfishness. I was caught in the moment and my blood was up." 

It was a proper thing to say. We Borschers tend not to play the game by ourselves. But how can one apologize for a lightning bolt? It is a force of nature, an act of God. 

I believe that, by that shot, the will of the Tarlunz team was broken, like dry kindling over one's knee. Through the rest of the game it seemed as if Te Staff danced the Premujr Ball about the slow-footed Tarlunzers. Sherm took his part, but every time he got the puck he seemed to want to pass it, though the crowd begged him to shoot again. Chrujstoff, our young hothead, ended up with 2 goals to take the honor of the flowering crown that night, and Sherm was credited with 3 assists as he skillfully furnished the puck to the blades of his teammates. 

"Skater in a Strange Land" #1 book for Phil Naessens in 2013

Phil Naessens, Internet (and soon to be terrestrial) sports talk radio host has named Skater in a Strange Land his #1 book for 2013.

It's great to be #1 for anything, but for an author, it doesn't get much better. I thank Phil for his support for the Borschland Hockey Chronicles from the beginning.

I was on Phil's show today, Monday, December 30, looking back at Skater in a Strange Land and giving everyone a sense of the sequel, The Skater and the Saint. Click here to listen or on the player below.


The Skater and the Saint is available as an e-book here, as a paperback here, or pay through PayPal (button above and to the right) and you can get an autographed copy straight to your doorstep.

Phil asks me whether it was difficult to write a sequel, and among other things I told him it was easy, because readers like him were looking for more from Borschland.

But off air he clarified that he really wanted to know if I thought it was going to be difficult to "top" Skater in a Strange Land, whether I thought it was a hard act to follow since it was so good.

It's a funny thing, because I know where he's coming from. I remember waiting for the sequel to Star Wars, and being very happy with The Empire Strikes Back, so happy I yelled in the theater at the end, "Now I have to wait two years for the next one!"

I don't know about George Lucas, but I never thought Skater in a Strange Land would be hard to top because I never had the sense that it was as good a book as Phil thought it was. Authors by nature are pessimistic about their work, and I'm no exception.

However, I did think a lot about whether The Skater and the Saint would be a good book. I worked my tail off trying to make it good, and didn't worry that much about comparisons.

I hope readers like both books; they're somewhat different in that the first one spends more time on hockey and the second on relationships (though there's a lot of hockey in The Skater and the Saint, too).

And yes, there will be a third book, slated for 2015, which I also hope will be good. I'm going to try my darndest.

In the meantime, thanks again, Phil, for making Skater in a Strange Land #1. It's good to know I touched the life of at least one reader. That's what it's all about.