• 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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  • Through the Gate in the Sea

    Saturday, July 7, 1066

    Deepwater salvager Mirian Raas and her bold crew may have bought their nation’s freedom with a hoard of lost lizardfolk treasure, but their troubles are only just beginning…

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  • Beyond the Pool of Stars

    Monday, June 25, 1066

    Mirian Raas comes from a long line of salvagers, adventurers who use magic to dive for sunken ships off the coast of tropical Sargava. When her father dies,…

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  • For the Killing of Kings

    Saturday, January 7, 1065

    Their peace was a fragile thing, but it had endured for seven years, mostly because the people of Darassus and the king of the Naor hordes believed his…

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May
18

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Novel Lessons 1: The Desert of Souls

I’d like to think that I learn a little more about writing with every book, and I thought that it might be useful to my fellow writers if I shared what I’ve learned… often the hard way.

Before I ever got to the first published novel I had at least five others that didn’t make the cut. I write “at least” because three of those five were rewritten numerous times, sometimes nearly from scratch, so maybe the total is more like ten or twelve. Yeah, that many.

I am reminded of what I heard as a creative writing minor in college when a published author dropped by to talk to us. He said that it might take us multiple novels before we got published, and he cited a figure close to ten, because that’s how long it had taken him. I remember thinking to myself that I would certainly figure things out faster. Hah! The arrogance and optimism of youth. I sure thought I was special (even as I was brimming with insecurities that I really wasn’t). Would I have stuck with it so long if I’d known success wasn’t waiting around the corner? What if I’d known the advice I later heard, about having to put in about 10,000 hours before you were good enough to be professional with a skill? I think that little gem is probably pretty accurate for most of us, as it turns out.

Probably I’d still have kept at it. I’ve always wanted to be a storyteller, even if I thought I had more of a natural knack that wouldn’t require quite so much time to get right. Of course, some people get it right the first time out of the gate, like Lynch and Rothfuss. That wasn’t me, alas. Maybe to write your first one it helps if you’re a more seasoned human being, because some of my challenge was that I hadn’t experienced enough life to write a convincing novel when I was in my teens or early 20s.

So what did I learn in the writing of my first published novel, The Desert of Souls? Read More

May
17

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Writing Observations: Backstory

I finished reading a slim, hardboiled novel the other day of 142 pages and marveled again about how much story these good writers from the ’50s could cram into a tiny space.

One of the things I liked best was that the backstory wasn’t front loaded into the plot. I think a lot of modern writers would have spun it out twice as long and shown us a bunch of scenes of the youthful years of the character as he experienced the things that shaped him. Instead, the story starts with Jake Wade’s new identity already established, then the threat to that identity is introduced. The story is in motion from the very start and anything we don’t know acts as an enticement to find out the secrets behind it all. Boy do I love that style more.

I wonder if it says something about the era in which I grew up, where as a boy I admired and emulated men who had still waters that run deep, and didn’t talk about problems. Not that I was successful, because I tend to wear my heart on my sleeve, but I aspired to be more like that. Those were the models I saw around me and those are the models I saw on television and in the movies. Of course those models had some things wrong with them, too — the inability to communicate, for instance — but I still admire the habit of not spewing your problems and backstory over everybody you meet. Maybe the tendency to do that in some modern fiction is a backlash against being too closed in.

Anyway, two thumbs up for The Law and Jake Wade, and I’m looking forward to seeing the movie now, which is supposed to be a pretty strong old western.

It’s not until page 134 (of those 142) where we finally get a little window into how a man who’s good now ended up running with a bad bunch in the past, because it’s necessary for Jake to try and explain himself to the woman he loves over breakfast before he makes his final goodbye. Here, I’ll excerpt this text from Marvin Albert’s book: Read More

May
15

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Mighty Warriors

I wanted to point everyone to the new sword-and-sorcery anthology, The Mighty Warriors. My old friend Paul McNamee has a story within — along with David C. Smith and the mighty Charles Saunders and other talented folks– and it is graced with a Bruce Timm cover. Visit Paul’s web site for a lowdown on the table of contents and a good look at the artwork.

It’s gotten me thinking about sword-and-sorcery anthologies and mulling which old ones are my favorites. What about you?

As I’m away from home right now I can’t step over to look at my bookshelf to search through individual volumes. I know I was always a little disappointed in the Flashing Swords anthologies, and fond of the Swords Against Darkness collections. As to single volumes, though, it gets tougher. How to judge? Some are strong collections but hold stuff I have in other collections. Doesn’t mean that they’re not a strong sample of the good stuff…

May
14

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Tales From the Magician’s Skull Issue 2

Just this weekend I double-checked all the final changes for the stories intended for issue 2, and now it’s getting close to release ready. The art’s in place, the stories are in place, the ads are all there… it’s just a grand looking product. Some of the authors I’d hope to include didn’t have time to finish a story or didn’t have time to draft a heroic fiction tale, but I hope that they’ll all be in the magazine eventually, and I’m mightily pleased with the writers we do have.

I’ve been contemplating some changes to the web site, at least in the way I present it. I intend to start discussing editing and writing more frequently, along with publishing tips, and I hope to start inviting some guests by with a lot more frequency. I may also get around to changing the banner up at the top, as it’s based on The Bones of the Old Ones. I happen to be very proud of that particular book, and while I’d still like more people to read it, I think it’s time to start promoting the next one.

Likewise I’ll check up on my links, updating to get rid of ones that don’t work, and adding links to some other web sites I visit with regularity. It’s time for a spring cleaning, so to speak. I’ve been spending a lot of time on the yard, and on the inside of the house, so I might as well take that clean-up process to the web site.

Are there any topics that you wish me to discuss more regularly?

 

 

 

 

May
11

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The Liberation: An Interview with Ian Tregillis

Last year I sat down with Ian Tregillis over at Black Gate to discuss his new book. Tregillis is one of the few modern writers I go out of my way to read, and I think my regular readers would really enjoy him.

Here’s a reprint of that discussion:

As John O’Neill wrote in November of 2016, the last book in Ian Tregillis’ new trilogy comes out this month (December 2016). I’m a big fan of Tregillis, and was fortunate enough to read The Liberation in manuscript. It was a blast, and you should buy it it. Seriously. Go buy the trilogy, and if you already have the first two, go buy the third.

Alright. Now that you’ve done that, Ian and I kicked back last and talked about his trilogy. Here’s what he had to say:

Howard: You’re on an elevator with your new book when Ringo Starr enters, sees the cover and says how fab it looks. He wants to know what the book’s about – what do you tell him?

Ian: OK. First of all, I’d probably be hard pressed not to lose my composure the moment he stepped into the elevator. I mean, there I’d be sharing an the-liberation-ian-tregillis-smallelevator with A BEATLE. I discovered their albums at just the right age, and I swear I listened to that music practically nonstop during high school. So keeping it cool would be a challenge, *especially* if Ringo asked about the book.

But assuming I could recover my composure enough to speak coherently without babbling, and assuming he wanted the long version, I’d tell him it’s an adventure story about a clockpunk Terminator apocalypse in a world where the industrial revolution never happened, disguised as a story about slave rebellion and Free Will.

If he wanted the short version, I’d tell him it’s basically Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots but with more swearing and stabbing.

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Writing

Novel Lessons 1: The Desert of Souls

Friday, May 18, 2018

I’d like to think that I learn a little more about writing with every book, and I thought that it might be useful to my fellow writers if…

Writing Observations: Backstory

Thursday, May 17, 2018

I finished reading a slim, hardboiled novel the other day of 142 pages and marveled again about how much story these good writers from the ’50s could cram…

Celebration

Monday, January 22, 2018

I’ve written of the power of Robert E. Howard’s prose any number of times, and I’m sure that there’s more that could be said, and that will be…

Agent Aid

Friday, January 12, 2018

Sometimes writing can be a real slog. You know what needs to be done because you have the outline, but you’re feeling your way along or think there’s…

For The Killing of Kings

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

So here’s the official cover copy being used to promote the new book on B&N and Amazon and numerous other places. I have several months yet and can…