Ross Newberry's Writings

IN WHICH a software developer attempts to get all literary.

Review: Mystic, by Jason Denzel

Mystic CoverMystic is the debut novel from Wheel of Time superfan Jason Denzel, and it shows in a number of ways. You’ve got a medieval setting, magic, a blacksmith’s apprentice, a headstrong female character, and even a magical construct called the Green Man. At first blush, this seems awfully derivative of Robert Jordan’s story. But wait! There’s actually something else going on here, and I’m pretty sure the WoTish veneer was a calculated misdirection.

What actually unfolds here is a story of struggle against a caste system, teen love, personal discovery, adventure, and a surprising mentor/mentee relationship that feels like it was pulled from the author’s extensive martial arts training.

But the main thing I want to say about this book is that it’s the most feminist work I think I’ve read in years. That’s not because the main character is a girl. And it’s not because Denzel makes a point of showing male and female rangers, male and female magic users, male and female brigands. It’s more subtle than that. Lots of “feminist” literature does all it can to have men talk down to women, then have the women overcome the men’s unfounded bias. There is no point in this story where any male makes any kind of value judgement of a woman based on her sex. Nowhere. And there’s no bigotry the other way, either. So refreshing.

In summary, Mystic is a very solid debut that plays on your expectations and then subverts them in a number of enjoyable ways. I can’t wait to read the next two volumes in the trilogy.


All Stories are True, but This One Really Happened (Part One)

The Moon over GuelphChuck Wendig’s blog post writing prompt this past week was to write a story from your life in under a kiloword. I’ve told this story to lots of people over the years, but had never taken the time to write it down, so the prompt, plus the fact that Halloween is right around the corner, meant I wasn’t about to pass up the opportunity.

I humbly present a tale of my youth: A Taste of His Own

There are plenty more stories of my idiot youth, so I plan to add to this series from time to time.

My thanks to Pat Rothfuss for inspiring the title of this post.

Moon image by Ryan Hodnett (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

One-Sentence Storytime

This one drifted through the ether and smacked me in the brainpan this morning.

If it had a title, it’d probably be “A Grave Mistake”, but it doesn’t. It’s just that everything I do needs to have a pun in it, and the story itself was lacking…

And so, without further ado, the story:

We didn’t bury Daddy deep enough, the first time.

If you’ve got a one-sentence story trying to get out of you, post it in the comments!

IN WHICH a humble request is made for donations

This past weekend, I attended JordanCon, an annual SciFi/Fantasy book convention that began as a celebration of the late Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series, but has since grown to encompass others. Though attendance hovers from five to six hundred people each year, there’s a core group of people from all across the world who act as the backbone. Those people have, over the past 8 years, come to act less like friends and more like family, and this past Sunday, the family took a hit.

I’ve attended JordanCon the past three years, so I don’t know exactly how long Jim and Julia Moore have been going. What I can tell you is that, each of the past three years, any time that I entered or exited the Art Show, I expected to see Jim Moore in his Warder’s cloak working security, making sure those not attending the Con didn’t get in, and that unpaid-for art didn’t get out. In the course of a three-day-long convention, I only saw him away from his post for maybe an hour, total.

Know how much he got paid for his efforts? Zero. He and his wife, like everyone else staffing the Con (including myself), are volunteers. Actually, I need to amend that total. They were paid zero, minus a Jeep. You see, after they and I finished tearing down the Art Show on Sunday, they went out to the hotel parking lot to find that someone had stolen their car. Their uninsured car.

I’m generally a very happy, positive person, but thinking of these incredibly generous people being rewarded for the weekend they gave to other people by losing their car is incalculably infuriating. One of the artists attending the Con has set up a GoFundMe campaign in order to help raise funds to replace the Moores’ car. If you read this, and can spare even $5, well, it all adds up.

But wait! There’s more! At the time of posting, the campaign has raised $3,655. If the total hits $5000, I’ve agreed to post a video of myself playing guitar and singing along to “Jak o’ the Shadows”, a song from the Wheel of Time books, while sitting in a bin of icewater. If that’s something you’ve always wanted to see, you should by all means help give enough to make it happen. Let’s do this. Fair warning: I am not an excellent singer.

Again, the link is:

Short Story Challenge 2015 – Round 2

I’ve just posted my story for Round 2 of the Short Story Challenge on its own page. As always, I’d love to hear any comments or critique you’d like to hurl my way. I’m calling this one rated PG for violence.

Down the Tubes

Crossing off the Success List: Short Story Challenge Round 2!

boromirWell, it’s been an interesting couple of weeks since my last post. Last week, I received notice that my Round 1 submission to the Short Story Challenge won second place in its heat! The top five moved on to Round 2, so that means that I’ve met another one of my goals! Unfortunately, they get a lot harder from here… Read the rest of this entry »

Measuring Success

a_winner_is_youSomething happened yesterday that made me really happy. A friend who does lots of reading messaged me on Facebook after having my recent story, The Third Wish, drift through her thoughts. It confused her, because she couldn’t initially place where she’d seen it. She told me, “Oh, this was Ross’s story, not one of the Hugo stories I read last year. Well, I’m glad it didn’t lose an award after all, because it’s way better than most of those were.” This made me really happy, and also caused me to think about how I gauge success in my writing.

Read the rest of this entry »

Short Story Challenge 2015 – Round 1

This is my submission for the first round of the Short Story Challenge, 2015. Feel free to offer me constructive criticism, because there’s certainly room for it.

I’d rate it PG for mild language and adult situations, FYI.

The Third Wish

EDIT: I moved the story to its own page as part of a site reorganization.

My review of The Name of the Wind, by Patrick Rothfuss

So, I finally got around to reading Patrick Rothfuss’s debut novel, The Name of the Wind. This book was annoying on a number of levels.

First, the story never quite went where I expected it to go. “Ah,” I’d say to myself, “Kvothe finally came into a little money. Now things will be better.” Nope. Didn’t happen. The reason this is annoying is that, when I read what actually ended up happening in the story, I could never find fault with it. Of course that’s what was really going to happen. It’s annoying to be repeatedly proven wrong.

Secondly, the craft of the writing was such that I found myself quite often forgetting that I was reading a book, letting myself be carried along by the story. This is annoying due to the massive letdown when you remember that dinner won’t cook itself.

Finally, and most importantly, I’m annoyed that this was a debut novel, and I’m working on a debut novel, and I don’t think that spending nine years working on it would leave me with something even a third this good. Almost, almost it’s enough to make me quit trying. I could only find fault with one segment late in the story, when it seemed very out-of-character for Kvothe not to understand the fundamentals of naming. He’s smarter than I am, has been exposed to the legends his entire life, and has experienced all of the context necessary. It doesn’t make sense that he doesn’t get it. Perhaps there’s an in-story reason for this. I shall have to read the next book and find out.

  • Most infuriated by: Denna
  • Most surprised by: Layers of Bast’s character

If you haven’t read this, you need to annoy yourself. Now.

Thoughts on Hospice

I sit facing my father, a crossword puzzle in my lap. Dad loves crossword puzzles, mostly, I think, because my mom loves them. I love them, too, and it seems that working this one with him is helping. Whether it’s helping him or me, I’m not sure. Maybe both.

#2 Down: A fading eastern star? They always twist the answer a bit when there’s a question mark at the end of the clue. My favorite kind of clue, which requires looking at things from a different direction. I’ve got the first three out of the four letters. ARO_. Aha!

“I’ve got it,” I say. “AROD. Alex Rodriguez of the Yankees.”

“Hey,” Dad says, “good one! No way I would have guessed that.”

“Don’t heap your adulation on me just yet,” I say. “I had the first three letters already.”

“I’ll heap my adulation where I want, and where I want is on you.” He’s dying, but he’s still the same man he’s always been. Always building others up. Placing others before himself. And always, always with a firm grasp on his own opinion.


When I arrived at the hospice house, there was a Cadillac hearse pulling away from the building, its sides the color of storm clouds on a spring morning. Someone had just died. Walking into the family entrance, though, I found it hard to dwell on that fact. Everything inside was warm-toned wood and soft lighting. The nurses were supremely helpful. Nothing in their mannerisms told my father that they’d just dealt with someone’s death. Their smiles were frequent and genuine.

When my father turned 50, we threw him an Over The Hill party. If 50 was over the hill, he’s now reached the bottom, and is slowly coasting to a stop, only his momentum carrying him. Dad was admitted to hospice three days ago when the pain from his cancer spiraled out of control. Today, though the level of medication was causing him to hallucinate occasionally, I supported half of his bodyweight so that he could climb out of bed and sit in a chair for a while. This (I choose to think, egotistically) was the highlight of his weekend.

One of our nurses stopped in to ask if he’d like a snack, and he settled on some vanilla ice cream. As he ate, he asked me if it was Blue Bell. I looked at the lid, then back at him, and smiled.

“Let’s go with yes,” I said. Dad laughed around the spoonful in his mouth, content to believe the lie. It was ice cream, after all. He quickly tired, so we got him back into bed.

He’s sleeping as I write this, his noisy breathing a worrying reminder that he’s not at all well. He’s happy, though. As happy as we can make him right now. He got out of bed, and ate some ice cream, and I’m staying with him through the night so my mother can go home and get a good night’s sleep for the first time in a while.

So I’m thankful for hospice. I’m not happy that my father is here, just around the corner from one of those light-dark-gray hearses, but if he’s going to die (which we all are, one way or the other), I’d hope for him to die in comfort, surrounded by caring family. It’s terrible that this place has to exist at all, but I welcome the difference that it’s making.