Rambling On

Anthony R. Cardno's Fiction and Commentary

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5 Bookish Facts About Me

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Lifted from RoofBeamReader‘s Friday blog:

Q. Inspired by the inane Twitter trend of #100factsaboutme, give us five BOOK RELATED facts about you.

1. As I’ve said before, I cannot read too many books in the same series or the same genre or even by the same author in a row. I start to burn out on the subject or style. I need to alternate things, to keep my reading fresh.

2. My Book Review Pet Peeve: I get intensely agitated reading reviews that are 90% plot synopsis. I do NOT need you to tell me every plot twist in your review — if you give me every detail of the book, why should I bother reading it? Quote the back cover or inside front flap synopsis, and then tell me what you thought of the book.

3. Like many of my reader friends, I’m a bookaholic. I have purchased far more books than I will ever get around to reading. I’m also a completionist. Once  I start collecting a series, I have a compulsion to continue purchasing the series. I haven’t read anywhere near all of the Hamish Macbeth or Sister Fidelma mysteries but I own almost all of them because of this compulsion. Likewise George RR Martin’s Song of Fire and Ice.

4.  My latest obsession? Rebuilding my collection of Perry Rhodan paperbacks from the 1970s. I had a good three-quarters of the run when I was in high school, but they were sold off at some point. Thanks to finding three books late in the series at a Half-Price Books in Fort Worth two years ago, my interest was rekindled and I’ve been picking them up as I find them. When I fill in the early installments, I plan to start rereading them in order.

5. I used to be able to read anywhere, anytime. As a kid I could read in the back of our Vega Hatchback, facing backwards; I could read on buses. Now, I get motion sick reading in any vehicle except trains (as long as I’m facing the direction the train is moving) and planes.

There we go, 5 fun bookish facts about me for this Monday blog.



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It was pointed out to me a while ago that there are two themes that seem to crop up consistently in my writing. I can’t say that either of these is a conscious choice. I don’t sit down to start a story and think “oh, the theme for this has to be…” I get intrigued by a character or an image or a piece of dialogue and the story goes from there. But in looking back over my published and unpublished work, I can see that these two themes do seem to be prominent.

One is a search for self, or an exploration of personal identity.

The other is the idea of Reunion, of people long separated encountering each other again.

In Christmas Ghosts, one of the current works-in-progress, both themes are present. Sixth grader Colin McCann is trying to figure out who is in the aftermath of his older brother’s sudden death; he also seizes upon the possibility of a Christmas Eve reunion with his brother thanks to something he reads in a book.

Despite the presence of the idea of reunion in much of my writing, I actually have attended very few reunions in my adult life that weren’t officially a part of my job. When I was a kid, every summer we’d attend a family reunion on my maternal grandmother’s side of the tree; a decade or so ago we had a string of years where my father’s side of the family held well-attended reunions of which I managed to show up at just one.  I’ve missed my high school graduating class reunions (Mahopac High School Class of 1984, coming up on 30 years now), and my college graduating class reunions (Elmira College Class of 1993, coming up on 20 years).  My former job held annual winter reunions for their summer camp program; while I enjoyed attending those, it was also part of my job so there was no chance of not knowing when or where the event was happening.

Thanks to a change in travel plans for my current job, I found myself able to attend a reunion this weekend at my old high school. Back in 1984, I was lucky enough to be chosen as a vocalist for music department’s “rock ensemble” Illusion.  Illusion had started in 1981 as part of a “jazz-rock ensemble” before splitting off to find its own identity in 1982. Thirty years later, now under the direction of an old friend (and former drama student) of mine, it is still running strong and pulling in packed high school auditorium houses. The tenor of the show has changed (in our day all 8 vocalists were on stage the entire time and background-harmonizing on most songs, and we had a horn section; now the vocalists rotate and the horn section is long gone) but the spirit and drive are still there.

The reunion itself was held before Saturday night’s performance, in the high school library. I was one of the first to arrive, but not by much. Two hours brought a lot of familiar faces, and a lot of peeling off into smaller groups to catch up or to tour the high school. I saw people I never thought would remember me (Rich Lucchese! Tracy Smith! Matt Schoenberg! Bob Huott!), the shy underclassman when they were the group’s stars. I saw several of my fellow band-members (Deb Schwartz! Joey Apicella! Tom Huott!) and a lot of folks who were involved in the plays I directed and stage-managed at the school after I graduated (Jon Lobell! Jay Dalupan! Jude-Ann Esposito! Mike Rizzuto! Michelle Laubin!).  There was a pretty clear demarcation between the “Oldsters” (circa 1992 and earlier) and the younger crowd, but there was some mingling.

I’m pretty sure there was a smile on my face the whole night.  Because of the extensive traveling for my current job, I don’t get to attend a lot of events like this, but I’m glad the forces of the universe aligned to get me to this event.

And I’ve been thinking about Rich Lucchese’s idea of putting a history of Illusion together in book form, tracing the way it morphed from ensemble to almost-Glee-like show choir to genuine rock band.

Come Sail Away, with Joe Apicella


reading habits

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I made the decision not to post book reviews here on www.anthonycardno.com anymore because I felt like it was a conflict of interest with advertising my own writing.  That doesn’t mean I can’t discuss books I’m reading, though, right?

My reading tastes are all over the map. I keep it varied for a number of reasons:

1. I burn out easily. Too much of any one author or in any one genre makes me antsy and bored. If I’ve read 5 books in the same genre back to back and I’m not enjoying the last one, I start to feel guilty that I’m not giving the book a fair shake because I’m watching for the tropes (if the titles are all the same genre) or the author’s tics (if I’m reading a lot of one author).

2. I feel the need to expand outside my comfort zone. I’ve challenged myself to read more non-fiction (and to read more non-fiction than just memoirs), and to read more fiction in genres I don’t ordinarily visit. Expanding my horizons can only help my writing, right?

3. I keep meeting interesting new authors on social media like Livejournal (Jay Lake) and Twitter (Jeremy C. Shipp, Bryan Thomas Schmidt) and that extra contact increases my urge to sample their work sooner rather than later.

4. Book Clubs. I joined my office’s book club to help me read more “literary fiction,” and I joined Shara’s book club on Livejournal to read more fantasy and SF, as I’ve largely been concentrating on mysteries and urban fantasy in the past year or so. For the office book club I just finished Robert Goolrick’s A RELIABLE WIFE, and for Shara’s book club I’m in the middle of Octavia E. Butler’s FLEDGLING.

5. Being a Paid Reviewer. Last year I sold a book review to ICARUS magazine, published by Lethe Press. They’ve offered me the opportunity to do more for them. They want reviews on books in the LGBT horror/sf/fantasy realm, an area I’m not all that well-read in. Just finished my first review for them: LYNX by Joely Skye.

I tend not to read books that sound too similar to my current WIP though. So I’m avoiding college-set mystery-thrillers at the moment so they don’t influence what I do with Ambergrin Hall.

I’m wondering, fellow writers, what you read and how far-ranging your reading is and how it influences your own writing.




2011 Writing Goals

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I think it is absolutely time to state some broad writing goals for this year.  I’ve been in a bit of a slump writing-wise since before the holidays, but am slowly coming out of it.

Part of coming out of the slump is thanks to taking Jeremy C. Shipp’s Yard Gnome Army Fiction Writing Boot Camp (Winter session).  Jeremy is a fun writer to read, and an even more fun writer to work with. He’s been encouraging to even the slowest-writing students (read: ME), and his feedback has definitely improved the story “Thumbsucker” already. I’m interested to see his feedback on the second draft, and am hopefully that a third pass through the material will have it ready to start being submitted.

The story-submission horse is one I definitely need to get back on.  My goal, in the first half of this year, is to revisit all of my existing unpublished short stories and do polishes on them with the intent of getting them back in the world.

The other big assignment for Jeremy’s class is the first chapter of a novel. I’m plugging away slowly at that. It’s due soon, and I think I have something. We’ll see just what it is.

Check out the link to Jeremy’s own website in the Links section to see his work and learn a bit more about him.

The other large motivating factor, today, was Jay Lake’s post on his blog about his writing goals for the coming year. I read it, and I realized: I need to do that. I know there’s a school of thought that insists sharing goals with the greater public actually works against accomplishing them. In this case, I disagree. I need to get these goals in front of me, and this space is one good place to do that (the other being the bulletin board above my desk).

So, the 2011 writing goals are:

Ongoing: rework the unpublished short stories and get them on the rounds again.

March 2011: finish the first draft of Ambergrin Hall, the mystery-thriller set on the Croton College campus.  The whole manuscript needs tightening, but that can only happen when the first draft is finished.

April 2011: finish the first draft of Christmas Ghosts. Not as much to do to finish this one, but I’m sure a second pass will bring plot holes and inconsistencies to light.

June 2011: Plot out and begin Tarasque, the swords-and-planets novel in the vein of John Carter Mars, Carson of Venus, and Adam Strange.

I’ve also, on the non-fiction side, embarked on writing book reviews for ICARUS magazine, which is published by Lethe Press. Paying book review gigs are always a good thing.

So, as Jay said in his post: there are my upcoming goals. What are your plans?


Musical Signal-Boost

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I haven’t signal-boosted for my musician friends in quite a while, despite all of my best intentions. (Okay, I haven’t signal-boosted for my author friends either, but that will have to be a different post.) So, because my old friends The Dalliance released something new today, here we go. Links to MUSIC YOU SHOULD BE LISTENING TO! (Because I said so, that’s why. Now stop asking why and finish your broccoli.)

The Dalliance’s new single is up on BandCamp for free this month. Darrell, Greg, Shawn and Barry are old high school friends of mine.

Singer-Songwriter Casey Stratton’s Store, where you can buy lots of great music, including his winter/holiday albums. (He’s also on livejournal as [info]caseystratton and has become a good personal friend as well.)

Singer-Songwriter Phil Putnam’s Homepage, where you can buy lots of great music, and you can download the fun “I’m No Prize” single for free. Phil is a new friend, and I see the friendship only growing.

Musical-Brothers band Kropp Circle’s video for their newest single “Can’t Stop The Rain,” because their website is in a state of flux and this way you can hear it before you go to itunes and buy it. I’ve never met Sebastian, Remington and Emerson in real life, but I very much enjoy their music and their Twitter / Youtube content.

Singer Thomas Fiss’ Website, where you can pick up his new EP in a variety of formats. Something for everyone! Another artist I don’t know in real life, but feel like I know thanks to our short Twitter conversations.

I haven’t signal-boosted for my musical friends in a while, although I always have the best intentions of doing it. So there we go.

And even though he’s not a working musician (as far as I know), I’ll once again link you to Jordan Bean’s IT GETS BETTER video because I do think it’s cool.


It Gets Better

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Sometimes, it’s not the internationally famous voices pleading for tolerance and an end to bullying that get to you. Sometimes, it’s the local kid with a digital camera and a Youtube account and creative mind who affects you more.

This is a lip-synched music video created by Jordan Bean, an every-day, normal teen who video-blogs. I think he did a great job. Check it out.


NaNoWriMo 2010

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I’ve been a bit silent around these parts for most of November. In fact, I’ve been a bit close to silence on any of my social media platforms that require any amount of thought. It’s easy enough to Tweet and to make status posts on Facebook (and to respond to tweets and wall posts on same) while I’m doing other things … but it’s hard to concentrate on making word-count for National Novel Writing Month and also write book reviews, tv episode reviews, or even just general “here’s where I am in life” blog posts at the same time. At the end of the Daye Jobbe (whether I’m on the road and slinking back to a hotel room, or back in NJ at the office and driving home to my apartment), there’s only so much time left in the day for creative pursuits, and I have been choosing to spend most of that precious time working on the novel.

I am officially what the NaNo folks call a “rebel,” using the NaNo word-count not to write a 50,000 word novel from scratch but rather (at least in my case) to make progress on / finally finish an existing work. The mystery/thriller that is tentatively titled AMBERGRIN HALL has been the love of my writing life and the thorn in its side.

The whole concept started as a writing exercise one night back in 1993, sitting on the Elmira College campus, staring at one of the oldest and most un-used buildings and just writing what felt right. That 2,000-or-so word snippet went into the “binder of lost ideas” until I was faced with having to pull something together to submit to my local writers’ group and found I had nothing really new to submit. This was in … 1998, I believe. So I pulled the “Ambergrin Hall” snippet out, polished it slightly, submitted it … and two weeks later was told by the majority of the group that if I didn’t finish the story, they’d kill me.

Honestly, I’m amazed I’m still alive. More than 10 years later, the book still isn’t done, although I won NaNo in 2007 by adding 50,ooo words to it.

So I’m making an effort. Garrett, Ezra, Thaniel, Dylan, Paddy, Dean D’Oro, Professor Quentin and especially poor Lisette, whose death kicks the whole thing off … they deserve an ending to their story. It’s taken me most of the month (and a frighteningly behind-the-pace word-count) to find their voices again, but I think this weekend I’ve clicked on it.  And the same time, I’m also a bit sick of it. I tweeted earlier tonight that I feel like I’m at the point where I’m writing just to get to the end because I want the story to be over and be able to move on to something else. I love these characters, but I’m almost hating the process right now.

So that’s how NaNoWriMo is progressing for me this year. Slow, behind the pace, pushing my way through.  As I’ve dubbed a few of us in our Northwest NJ region this year: I am feeling even more like a Rebel Without A Clause.


Harmonic Convergence

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I discovered as I was getting ready to go to dinner that there is a Half-Price Books on the other side of my hotel. Hadn’t noticed it because Sunday night I ate in the hotel restaurant, and last night I went across to the Mall where the Cheesecake Factory is and purposefully avoided going into the Borders in the Mall (my excuse was that I was carrying my hardcover IT with me, and didn’t want to deal with explaining to the bookstore staff that it was mine and that I didn’t rip the dustcover of the book off in order to steal it. Plus, I was bloated from dinner and just wanted to come back to the hotel.).

It’s no secret that I have a love affair with the HPB chain. We don’t have them in NJ or NY so the closest to my home are the three locations in Pittsburgh. I tend to end up in HPB stores when I’m in Pittsburgh and Dallas, and one of these days I will get to the locations in Cincinnati and Chicago. And hopefully we’ll keep using this hotel in Seattle and I’ll return to this store as well.

You can guess what I did tonight. Yeah. I skipped going out to dinner in order to wander HPB for an hour. Hey, I had more than half of my dinner from last night in the fridge, and that was essentially a full meal in itself.

I got a pretty decent haul for about $35.

Ever since I started getting interested in the Wold-Newton concept again, thanks to [info]winscotteckert mostly, I’ve been attempting to fill in some old series. August Derleth and Basil Copper’s SOLAR PONS books. Various Edgar Rice Burroughs series, esp. the MARS and VENUS books. Philip Jose Farmer’s various Wold-Newton-connected works. And Sax Rohmer’s FU MANCHU series.


I now have all of Gardner’s three Moriarty books, and two of Greenwood’s three Holmes books. I’m still missing 6 of Rohmer’s original FU books and every Fu Manchu book written by other folks.

So, a Half-Price Books store by my hotel when I don’t have a rental car, and my little “to buy” notebook in my luggage, and the store had stock I was looking for … definitely a harmonic convergence of some kind!


NYC Comic-Con 2010

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I usually only attend one day of NYC Comic-Con. Nothing against the Con itself, but I think I left my “go crazy in a hotel for three days” mojo behind in the early 90s, and if not then I’ve definitely lost that thrill since taking my current job where I’m in hotels a good third of the year.  I also usually go to the Con on Sunday, because as my friend Pat O’Connor constantly reminds me — that’s the day you get the best deals in the dealer room because they don’t want to take the stock home with them.

This year I had tickets with friends to see Bernadette Peters and Elaine Stritch in A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC on Sunday (an overall great show, and those two ladies were at top form). So I went to Con on Saturday. Since I really wasn’t looking to buy many comics, I wasn’t worried about getting “the best deals.” It really was all about meeting writers and artists this time around. (Although, for the record, I did finally acquire the four-issue TARZAN/JOHN CARTER: WARLORDS OF MARS mini-series Dark Horse put out a few years ago.)

I got to meet and talk to actor James Marsters and author Jim Butcher briefly, and they both signed my copy of CHANGES, the latest Harry Dresden book. Butcher’s Dresden series is perhaps my favorite of all time, and Marsters does a masterful job as Harry in the audiobooks. Now if I can track down actor Paul Blackthorne and get him to sign the same edition, it’d be a Dresden hat trick!

I also got to meet and get a picture with Joyce DeWitt, Richard Kline, and Priscilla Barnes of THREE’S COMPANY. Ask me for the whole story some time if we meet in person — it’s a funny story but needs vocal inflection and facial expressions to really work.

Other than the Butcher autograph, my main reason for going to Con was to meet up with three writer-artists.

First stop was my old acquaintance Tim Fish, creator of the graphic novels CAVALCADE OF BOYS, STRUGGLERS and the new TRUST/TRUTH. Tim is a wildly talented artist and very friendly and funny man who deserves a much wider audience than he has, and I always look forward to seeing him at Con.

Second stop was new acquaintance Gordon McAlpin, creator of the very funny workplace/relationship/entertainment comedy webcomic MULTIPLEX, the first portion of which has recently been collected into book form. It was great to finally meet Gordon and chat geekily with him in person. He is as personable in real life as he seems in print.

Last stop was Tom Siddell, the creator of the young adult fantasy webcomic GUNNERKRIGG COURT, to which I do a dis-service by saying most people call it “a female Harry Potter.” It is definitely so much more than just that. There are two print volumes of the webcomic now in print. Tom was also friendly, but by the time I got to him there was a large line and I was starting to feel the effects of 7 hours with only a diet coke and a buttered roll in terms of food intake. I’m sure I struck him as rather mono-syllabic.

I always have a great time, but this year it was great to go in with an agenda and fulfill it rather than get distracted. I look forward to seeing all three of these great writer-artists and hopefully others, at Comic-Con 2011.


It Gets Better

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Originally posted by [info]neo_prodigy at Spirit Day

It’s been decided. On October 20th, 2010, we will wear purple in honor of the 6 gay boys who committed suicide in recent weeks/months due to homophobic abuse in their homes at at their schools. Purple represents Spirit on the LGBTQ flag and that’s exactly what we’d like all of you to have with you: spirit. Please know that times will get better and that you will meet people who will love you and respect you for who you are, no matter your sexuality. Please wear purple on October 20th. Tell your friends, family, co-workers, neighbors and schools.

RIP Tyler Clementi, Seth Walsh (top)
RIP Justin Aaberg, Raymond Chase (middle)
RIP Asher Brown and Billy Lucas. (bottom)

REBLOG to spread a message of love, unity and peace.