A Tagless Dialogue

No, nothing to do with last week’s con experience. This was a writing exercise at a Trai Cartwright workshop I attended last month. We were prompted to write a scene based on a cliche, and I went a bit meta….

“It’s you. Just you.”

“What’s me?”

“Everything. It all depends on you. You’re the Chosen One.”

“‘Save the cheerleader, save the world’?”

“Yeah, sure, something like that.”

“Who the fuck are you, anyway? There hasn’t been a single damn dialogue tag this whole conversation.”

“Never mind who I am. Like I said, this is all about you.”

“Well, then, who the fuck am I? Even that hasn’t been established yet. Dialogue tags, dude, dialogue tags.”

“Hey, did you just mis-gender me on purpose? I am pretty clearly not a dude.”

“Couldn’t prove it by me. This has been nothing but dialogue without a shred of narrative, let alone any character descriptions. I don’t even know if I’m a dude. For all I know, we could both be AI programs. Poorly programmed ones, at that.”

“Speak for yourself. I bet I could pass a Turing test. Can you say that?”

“I’ll say whatever the fuck I want. I’m the Chosen One, remember?”

“Wait, I thought I was the Chosen One. Whose turn is it to talk, anyway?”

Five Seconds

Here’s one technique that author J. Rose mentioned in a panel last week: Mel Robbins’s Five-Second Rule. I watched a brief clip of Mel Robbins explaining it, and then I watched this guy, and I think he did a better job. Well, he kept it short, sweet, and to the point, which is what I need right now. I rolled my eyes at Mel and her parenting analogy, but a simple countdown I am willing to try. I still question the brain science supposedly at work, but it doesn’t seem like I will come to harm if I give it a shot.


I know, I know, it’s only been 8 hours, but I really think I gave this an honest go. And my brain is having none of it. In the span of a single second, my brain can present six different (and often opposing) ideas, sift through them, file away anything of interest for future reference, and discard the rest. It continues to do this while I’m counting down five seconds. When I get to “Go!” my brain has completely moved on and says, “Okay, whatcha got now?” So this technique, while appealing, is of no use to me.

Mind you, I’m not saying it’s garbage. I’m just saying that it and my brain are not compatible. I suspect my brain is not compatible with a lot of things. I mean, I recently learned that relaxation-induced anxiety is an actual thing, and that explains sooooo much. Like why meditation stresses me out.

Sorry, Five-Second Rule, it’s not you, it’s me.


Yes, I’m Still Here

And I’m still dithering about what to do with my virtual identities. I have started using the blog feature on Goodreads, and while it is limited, there are certain types of posts (the ones with lots of links to books) that it does very well. So I may just start dividing my blogging between there and here, since the here part has already been here for quite some time and it finds its way to there. At least that’s the plan for now. I may change my mind again once I decide where to plunk down my new domain. I was thinking WordPress, but now I don’t know. I may have to give up on the delusion that I am smart enough to run a decent WP site.

In the meantime, I have stuff to talk about. Like MALCon and Westercon, which I attended this past week. (Yes, at the same time. MALCon hosted Westercon. I’m not sure how exactly that came about. I have conjectures, but nothing I care to share, seeing as how I’m not in a position to actually know anything. And I’m a writer, so my conjectures can be wildly inaccurate, if entertaining.) In the past I’ve made attempts at blogging about cons, and I’ve never made it very far. Perhaps I was trying to cram too much into a summary format. And I’m sure nobody needs a play-by-play account of my con experience. So this time I’m going to try doing a series of daily-ish posts with each one focusing on some particular thing that caught my attention.

Later today I will post about some coping techniques that were mentioned in a few panels.

RIPxii and FrightFall Wrap-up for 2017

The month-long #FrightFall readathon came to an end Tuesday night. I finished only six books in October, but four of them were spooky or perilous in some manner (qualifying them for R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril), and I made some progress on several other books.


I have not yet reviewed any of these, but if you join my merry band of followers on Goodreads, you should be able to see the reviews when they post. In the meantime, I will say that all of these except for the Lovecraft story are ones I would recommend. You may want to read the Lovecraft story for background on the LaValle story, but don’t expect to get any pleasure or entertainment out of it.

#RIPxii actually started at the beginning of September, so here are the perilous books I finished that month:

So I handily succeeded at Peril the First (to read at least four perilous books). Again, I recommend most of these. I’m maybe not terribly enthusiastic about the two comic book volumes, but don’t let that deter you if they seem like your thing. I do have a review up for the Perona novel, so you can see why I do not recommend it. The Christie story “Sing a Song of Sixpence” polished off  the Peril of the Short Story, and for Peril on the Screen I watched My Cousin Rachel (2017).

Fall 2017 Readathons

Maybe it’s the approach of sweater weather and the need for an excuse not to rake leaves, but autumn seems to be a popular time for readathons. And Hallowe’en means it’s time for reading spooky books! Some of the readathons started on September 1st, but some don’t start till October. Here are the ones that interest me the most:

#GothicSept at Castle Macabre and #RIPxii. Both of these started yesterday, so this means you can get started early on your Hallowe’en reads. Gothic September focuses on four different Edgar Allan Poe stories. If I locate my giant book of Poe soon, I might join up. I know, I know, I could find the stories on the internet and/or borrow them from the library, but it’s just not the same. The twelfth R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril runs through the end of October and offers many options for participation, from a group read of Slade House to watching movies. In addition to Peril of the Short Story and Peril of the Screen, I will be doing Peril the First, which is a challenge to read four books of perilous content.

#FrightFall at Seasons of Reading. This one runs for the entire month of October and requires the reading of at least one scary book.

So, what will I be reading for these challenges? I will be finishing off a few Agatha Christie short story collections, including The Witness for the Prosecution and Other Stories and The Tuesday Club Murders. I hadn’t been planning to read Christie’s Peril at End House until December (for GenreLand), but how can I not read it for RIP? I also have some hope of finishing A Game of Thrones and Wuthering Heights by the end of October. Other books I plan to read that will likely count are Borderline by Mishell Baker, Poe by J Lincoln Fenn , We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson, My Cousin Rachel by Daphne du Maurier, Mapping the Interior by Stephen Graham Jones, The Conjure Woman by Charles W Chesnutt, At the Mountains of Madness by HP Lovecraft, Lovecraft Country by Matt Ruff, The Ballad of Black Tom by Victor LaValle, and Lord of the Flies by William Golding.

I have no specific movie-watching plans at this time, but this year’s My Cousin Rachel will likely be out on DVD by the time I read the book for book club, so maybe we will watch it as a group. I’m also watching Season 1 of Game of Thrones as I listen to the audiobook. So far, one DVD of the show lines up nicely with 5 CDs of the book.


Virtual Relocation

Last week, Goodreads quit automagically copying book reviews to WordPress blogs, citing an incompatibility with their new storage system. You may have noticed that this blog is composed largely of my book reviews. Since this heralds a major change in the content of the blog, and I was wanting to make some other changes anyway, I am taking this opportunity to re-brand and set up a whole new blog. I’ll be using WordPress still, but I have purchased a domain that will allow me to present my work under more than one of my pen names rather than focusing on my speculative fiction written as Chris L. Pontius. I am also planning to set up a Patreon account. Both of these are still in the conceptual phase, but I will comment here with links when they are ready.

I’m not exactly mothballing this blog, but don’t expect much in the way of future posts. I will continue to comment on and update posts of ongoing projects at least until there is a good transition point, so by all means, stay subscribed if any of that interests you. I have not decided what to do about posting copies of my book reviews going forward, but I am still reviewing regularly on the Goodreads site. I also plan to do more with my author profile there, so follow me if you haven’t already done so, and you can keep up with all of my reviews and ramblings there.

While the loss of the Goodreads copy feature was disappointing, I’m pretty stoked about moving forward with an online presence that will, I hope, be easier for me as well as for my readers. I may be quieter than usual online while I’m getting things all built and connected, but I’ll be back soon!

Review: I’m Thinking of Ending Things

I'm Thinking of Ending Things
I’m Thinking of Ending Things by Iain Reid
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Book #25 for 2017
The Legendary Book Club of Habitica’s Ultimate Reading Challenge: A book with an unreliable narrator or ambiguous ending
Personal Reading Challenge: A book about a road trip
Read Harder Challenge: A debut novel
Possible Book Bingo Square: A Book About Mental Illness
PopSugar Challenge:
– A book by or about a person who has a disability
– A book involving travel
– A book with an unreliable narrator

I’m thinking of giving this book two stars. I’m really not sure how to evaluate this book. I had the meat of the thing sussed out around page 25, and that’s the same page that clinched it for Tom, so that points to either sloppiness or an underestimation of the audience. Or both. From page 25 on, it was largely just watching the thing play out and yawning whenever Jake started getting overly philosophical. Reid has a gift for creepiness, though, because even though I already knew what was up, whenever he wanted me to be creeped out, yeah, I was well and thoroughly creeped out.

I have to be somewhat vague, or else this review would just be one big hidden spoiler, but I will try to explain my major gripes about the story.
1. The presentation of the neuroatypical person as a ticking time bomb. It’s bad enough that every time some white guy shoots up a place, the media focus is squarely on his autism or his bipolar disorder or whatever they want us to be scared of that week. But as one of those quiet loner types myself, I have to wonder, is this how the neurotypical world views me? ::sigh:: I suppose it is, and that is part of the point of the interludes of non-Jake dialogue, but it still feels like Reid’s promoting it more than not.
2. The “question” theme. It just felt too pat, and looking back post-gotcha, it was far too coherent.
3. The post-gotcha text doesn’t make sense in light of the non-Jake interludes. Unless this is some massive clue to an entirely different interpretation of the whole book — one that every review I’ve read has missed — it’s a huge plot hole.
4. The gender confusion issues. Reid broadly hinted at them being really important, but then he didn’t really do anything with them.

If I knew more about the authorial intent, I would have a better idea of how well Reid executed this. I could feel a lot of Jackson and Cormier influence, but the atmospheric manipulations were sometimes too transparent, and I found I resented them for being effective anyway. And even if it was meant to be just part of Jake’s character, the super-pretentious psychobabble got old fast. As it is, though, I have to wonder if that’s more Reid than Jake. And if so, what does that mean for the story? On the other hand, if all of this post-read rumination is what Reid was going for in the first place…. Gah. I’m getting to the point I don’t care anymore about Reid or Jake or his girlfriend or his parents. I’m giving the book two stars, and you’ll just have to decide for yourself what you think.

View all my reviews