The Joy of Listening to a Story

(Storyteller John Weaver at Menlo Park Library)

When we get older, we lose one of those wonderful joys in life: the pleasure of having someone read to you.

I remember as a child sitting on the carpet or grabbing a little mat, and taking a place near the teacher or librarian. While I did like looking at the illustrations in the books, I enjoyed watching the storyteller's expressions just as much. The way each person told the same story was always different, and that added to my love of it.

With my son, I get to experience the delight of listening to stories again. I loved when it was my day to assist in his class, and I could sit with the kids while the teacher read to them. Our local library has fantastic programs. We attended one last month called "Summer Scaries." One of the librarians even told the old window wiper tale. I'm sure you know the one!

Yes, we can listen to audiobooks or attend readings by authors of adult books, but I've found little entertainment in those. Either the author reads in a monotone or adds in their personal inflections which then interferes when I'm reading the book on my own. I like to support my fellow writers, but those readings lack something.

When people read to children, there's a lot more emotion and excitement. The storytelling never fails to be dynamic. They don't only read, they put on a show.

Do you remember listening to stories as a child? Share with us your favorite memory of dynamic storytelling.


Review of The Genehunter: The Complete Casebook


Some secrets are best left buried...

Simms is a genehunter: a detective paid to track down the DNA of the famous and infamous of history for his clients' private collections. What they do with the DNA isn't his problem - even if they are using it to create illegal clones.

He walks a line, pulled in a hundred different directions at once. The law, competing genehunters, ex-lovers, religious nuts and anti-genehunter crazies. But when he starts to work the Boneyard case he discovers that, sometimes, you have to decide which side of the line you're on.

And when he starts to uncover the truth of his own origins he begins to question everything he is and does...

A cyberpunk detective novel set on an Earth slowly going to hell. Originally published as a series of five linked novellas: The Wrong Tom Jacks, The Zombies of Death, The Clone Who Didn't Know, A Soldier of Megiddo and Boneyard.

With added bonus material: The World of Simms (characters and organisations of the Genehunter universe) and 22nd Century Genie (the original Simms short story).

Jeff's Review:

The Genehunter stories will keep you up at night. Each adventure poses a new challenge for Simms and more dangers. With each story Simms's character deepens as he approaches an existential crisis. Set in a not-to-distant future version of Earth in which information is the most prized commodity, the stories follow the exploits of a pessimistic but likable criminal, if you narrowly define a criminal as someone who breaks the law. Simms is a professional genehunter, a trade that can be practiced both above and below the law. The best paying contracts are less than legal. Simms finds the DNA of deceased persons, both famous and not so famous, whomever the client wants him to find. What the client does with the DNA, Simms does not seem to much care. Illegal cloning is rampant as the super-rich create private "zoos" populated by the talented and famous from the past.

Simms's brain is augmented with plug-ins that allow him to access public and private networks and a host of other interesting functions. Kewin manages to make all the high-tech gadgetry seem natural. Perhaps it's not that much of a mental leap to go from carrying a personal electronic device at all times to having one that your brain controls and interfaces with directly. It's a testament to Kewin's skills that the reader quickly feels at home in a world that is so like and unlike our own.

One of the constants of human existence is greed and in Kewin's world, greed is alive and thriving. There appears to be little that the super-rich cannot get or do if they have enough money and everyone from low-level clinicians to high-level law enforcement officers have their price. For Simms, the joy is in the search and retrieval of the data. He's not happy unless he's stimulated, on a job. He's mostly indifferent to the moral implications of his work and in that sense he's an anti-hero, but his love interest is devoting her life to alleviating the problems that Simms's work facilitates. And despite her hostility to continuing their relationship, Simms's thoughts keep coming back to her. Simms is a complicated man. You want to reach into the text and throttle him at times. The guy doesn't know what's good for himself, but it's always thrilling to see him get out of his latest predicament.

Kewin does a marvelous job structuring the series. Each novella delves into Simms's quest to fulfill a single client's request while a broader, secondary plot concerning the mysterious Boneyard develops at the series level. There's something to satisfy the reader's immediate need for closure and something to carry forward to the next installment. So fire up your plugins and dive into the not-so-pleasant future with Simms.

Purchase Links:
Amazon US / Amazon UK / Kobo
Add it on Goodreads

To learn more about Simon Kewin and his writing, visit his blog.

To learn about Kewin's take on The Genehunter series, check out "Simon Kewin Talks about The Genehunter."


Summertime and the living is easy?


With all due respect to the writers of the above famous lyric, I beg to differ.

I hate summer. I hate heat, I hate the blazing sun, and, most of all, I hate humidity. It's safe to say summer is not my season. I know that puts me in a small minority. Possibly of one?

Nothing about me is conducive to enjoying summer. My skin is so pale that I could easily pass for a corpse, and tanning is not something it is capable of. The only color my skin can turn is lobster red. I have thick, curly hair that hates humidity as much as I do. Five minutes outside in July and my carefully coiffed curls are transformed into a frizzy clown wig. Even my feet hate summer, as nearly every pair of sandals I have ever owned has given me blisters.

While most people look forward to the standard summer attire of shorts and tees, I cringe with embarrassment at the thought of exposing my blinding white legs. I loathe leaving work and getting into my car when it has been roasting in the parking lot all day. The inventor of air conditioning is one of my personal heroes.

One of the few things I like about summer is baseball, yet this year my Reds are so pitiful that they have merely increased my seasonal grumpiness.

My hatred of summer played a big role in the development of my latest novel, Polar Day. After writing my debut novel Polar Night around the winter solstice and the Arctic phenomenon of 24 hour darkness, I became interested in writing a sequel about the opposite extreme. When reading about summer in the book's setting of Fairbanks, Alaska, I was horrified at the thought of a sun which never has the decency to set. When I read about an extraordinary summer heatwave that was baking Fairbanks, it was easy to imagine the primary horror facing the people of my story. What else could it be but fire?

Fortunately, unlike the people of my book, I've never had to face the terror of being burned alive. The only burning I've had to deal with is from the sun. But I still count the days until I can say goodbye to summer.

October is far and away my favorite month of the year. I love the cool, crisp air and I love being able to cover my ghostly pale limbs with jeans and hoodies. I love football, the shorter days, snuggling under a toasty blanket, and hearing the leaves crunch under my feet when I take my dog for a walk. In short, I love everything about autumn.

To quote Green Day and wrap this up with another lyric, this one much more suited to my personality, "wake me up when September ends."