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    The Desert of Souls

    Monday, August 13, 1066

    In 8th century Baghdad, a stranger pleads with the vizier to safeguard the bejeweled tablet he carries, but he is murdered before he can explain. Charged with solving…

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    The Bones of the Old Ones

    Monday, August 13, 1066

    As a snowfall blankets 8th century Mosul, a Persian noblewoman arrives at the home of the scholar Dabir and his friend the swordsman Captain Asim. Najya has escaped…

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    The Waters of Eternity

    Monday, August 13, 1066

    Venture into the time of the Arabian Nights with stalwart Captain Asim and the brilliant Dabir as they hunt an unseen killer that craves only the eyes of…

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    Plague of Shadows

    Monday, August 13, 1066

    In the third official novel in Paizo’s Pathfinder Tales line, the race is on to free Lord Stelan from the grip of a wasting curse, and only Elyana,…

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    Stalking the Beast

    Monday, August 13, 1066

      When a mysterious monster carves a path of destruction across the southern River Kingdoms, desperate townsfolk look to the famed elven ranger Elyana and her half-orc companion…

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Jul
30

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Pulp Swashbucklers

The pulp era began around the turn of the 20th century, in the days before radio and television. Magazines on all sorts of diverting topics were found on the newstands, printed on cheap, pulpy paper, hence the term “pulps.” There was something aimed at almost every reader, rather like all the television shows on cable channels today. And like television today, at least 90% of it was bad. That’s why “pulp fiction” has certain connotations-—cheap, sensationalist, and over-the-top being among them — not to mention “dated” and frequently sexist and politically incorrect. But not everything from this time period should be dismissed casually — there are treasures there, hidden among all those decades of magazines. The trick is knowing how to find the good stuff, and where to look, and today I thought I’d do my best to guide you to it. Read More

Jul
28

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The Great Brackett

shannach

The 4th and final Brackett collection from Haffner Press.

Only a few generations ago planetary adventure fiction had a few givens. First, it usually took place in our own solar system.  Second, our own solar system was stuffed with inhabitable planets. Everyone knew that Mercury baked on one side and froze on the other, but a narrow twilight band existed between the two extremes where life might thrive. Venus was hot and swampy and crawling with dinosaurs, like prehistoric Earth had been, and Mars was a faded and dying world kept alive by the extensive canals that brought water down from the ice caps.

To enjoy Leigh Brackett, you have to get over the fact that none of this is true – which really shouldn’t be hard if you enjoy reading about vampires, telepaths, and dragons, but hey, there you go. Yeah, Mars doesn’t have a breathable atmosphere, or canals, or ancient races. If you don’t read Brackett because you can’t get past that, you’re a fuddy duddy and probably don’t like ice cream.

A few of Brackett’s finest stories were set on Venus, but it was Mars that she made her own, with vivid, crackling prose.

Here. Try this, the opening of one of her best, “The Last Days of Shandakor.” You can find it in two of the three books featured as illustrations in this article, Shannach — the Last: Farwell to Mars, and Sea-Kings of Mars and Otherworldly Stories.

Anyway. On to Brackett.

He came alone into the wineshop, wrapped in a dark red cloak, with the cowl drawn over his head. He stood for a moment by the doorway and one of the slim dark predatory women who live in those places went to him, with a silvery chiming from the little bells that were almost all she wore.
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Jul
23

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Confessions of a Guilty Reviewer

Howard’s Review Rooster of Doom.

I used to write occasional reviews for Tangent Online, and once I wrote one that I still regret. I’ve rarely found a slice-of-life story or flash fiction that I enjoyed, so I probably had no business evaluating a piece of short fiction that was both. Yet I read it and I slammed it. Not because it was bad flash fiction, or because it was a bad slice-of-life story (I had no kind of qualifications for adequately judging either) but because I didn’t like flash fiction or slice-of-life stories. It was the epitome of ill-informed reviewing, where the writer is arrogant enough to know better than fans of an entire genre. Or two.

I didn’t understand my mistake for a while and when I met the author of the story at a convention years later he was kind enough not to mention my idiocy, or, more likely, hadn’t remembered the name of the idiot who’d written the review.

You’d think that my epiphany about having written such a bad review would have arrived when I started to get my own fiction published more regularly, but it actually hit me faster, probably because it took a loooong time for my fiction to get published regularly.

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Jul
21

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New Look

Regular visitors might notice a slightly changed look to the site. I recently updated the Menu bar so that it’s easier to get around.

For instance, all of my most useful essays on writing techniques are now grouped under the Writing Techniques header, with a drop-down list that leads to ALL the articles that discuss writing (technique or otherwise).

I also finalized all the information about my Appearance at GenCon on my Appearances page, so you can now see what the topics of the panels I’m going to be on are really about, as well as the names of my fellow panelists. In another week or so I should be able to provide information about when I’ll be at the Paizo booth during GenCon.

Jul
18

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Three Cool Things

Howard ZebrasHere’s a trio of nifty things.

First, I just learned that the audio sample from Kaiju Rising: Age of Monsters is from my Dabir and Asim story collected in that anthology (“The Serpent’s Heart”), so if you want to hear a sample of what my favorite characters have been up to lately follow the link and listen to the snippet. And if you haven’t purchased the book yet, now’s your chance! There’s scads more stories in the anthology, some of them by friends whose work I know and love. (Here’s the part where I shamefacedly admit I haven’t yet read the other stories, for I don’t own a Kindle or Nook and am waiting for my hardcopy.) Read More

Ancient Arabia

The Wily Dalilah: Arabian Nights Feminist

Thursday, March 27, 2014

In a work as varied as The Arabian Nights there are naturally some portions more popular than others, probably because some are more easily adapted into standalone tales…

The Fantasy Adventures of Alexander the Great

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

I think my favorite parts of Alexander the Great’s life involve his fight with the dragon, and the time he climbed to a mountain summit and saw the…

Link Day

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

I need to hit the ground running today, so I’m going to hook you up with some nifty and eclectic links. First, a post from my talented writer…

Authorial Voice, Scheduling, and a New Review

Monday, January 14, 2013

I wrote my most recent post about Guy le Strange’s book on ancient Baghdad in one long sustained burst, and upon revisiting just noticed that I use the…

Ancient Baghdad’s Street Plan

Friday, January 11, 2013

When you’re researching you sometimes stumble onto books that seem to have been written just for you. I’ve read a long shelf’s worth of interesting and sometimes wonderful…