Monthly Archives: July 2012

Contest Results Finalizing

Hello all — just a quick note today, as the morning’s waning and I have a lot of words left to write before day’s end.

I’m making a final pass through the best of the “name the Dabir and Asim series” entries this evening, and hope to announce a winner later in the week.

Now, though, I need to return to 8th century Baghdad.

Riding for the Range

A book by "John Benteen" a some-time pseudonym for the late, great Ben Haas.

I had a fairly pleasant weekend here at our tower on the shore of the Sea of Monsters. I had dinner Saturday with some old friends, and courtesy of an equipment loan from my brother-in-law have been transferring old family videos over to CD-ROM. It’s amusing how many vids we have of child 1. There are a lot fewer of them three years later with child 2, probably because we were already exhausted taking care of child 1. It’s a good exhaustion, mind, but two young children can keep a person busy, and child 1 didn’t sleep well when he was an infant and toddler. With my wife in school or training all through that period, that meant I was the one always getting up in the middle of the night, so it sometimes seems like those years are one long bleary blur.

Writing wise, I am deep in the middle parts of the third Dabir and Asim novel, still called, less and less tentatively, The Maiden’s Eye. At the end of August I’ll be switching gears to get back to  writing a new Paizo Pathfinder novel, a sequel to Plague of Shadows, and as a way of doing research, I’ve switched my reading material. You’d think that with the novel being set in the Pathfinder world that I’d be buried in fantasy texts, or at least Pathfinder gaming material. I’m sure I’ll be doing a little of the latter as I draw closer and closer to my start date, but no, what I’m reading are westerns.

Strep Throat

Blech. No new updates today. My poor wife came down with strep throat and was feeling so bad she called in to work to stay home. With strep, of course, there’s the danger of infecting everyone around you, so she didn’t want to subject anyone else to the illness as well.

Anyway, my morning has been spent driving her to the doc, getting her medicine, and pampering her a bit, so there will be nothing especially clever or insightful on the blog roll today.

Send my wife some good thoughts, although she’s in no real danger, just discomfort. And keep fingers crossed my kids don’t come down with it. Or me. I don’t want to come down with it either!

With that, I’m headed back to ancient Baghdad, although I’ll be on call all day in case my wife needs glasses of water or more pillows or anything.

Pies and Plans and an Update

No pie for me today.

I finished reviewing galleys for the second Dabir and Asim book yesterday, The Bones of the Old Ones, drove them over to the post office, and sent them away. When next I see these words they’ll be bound in a sort of “preview edition” or advanced reader copy (ARC). But I’m not sure when I will actually READ it again.

After I sent those galleys away I had trouble switching gears from reviewing to rough draft mode, but I still managed, just barely, to draft two thousand words of the third novel of Dabir and Asim. The rest of the week I hope to get at least three thousand words in a day.

A few of you have written in to ask about my birthday. It was very nice, thank you. Apart from some practical matters like some shirts, I received two graphic novels, Conan Volume 11: The Road of Kings, and Fatale Volume 1: Death Chases Me. I enjoyed both of them very much. I haven’t been that big of a fan of the recent Dark Horse Conan comics because most of the time the writers don’t get Conan right (for those of you who aren’t in the know, Conan’s a lot more complex than he might seem in the cinema), but Roy Thomas did it properly, and pleased me mightily. John C. Hocking tells me that the second half of the new Roy Thomas run is even better, and I’m now looking forward to reading it when it’s collected later this year. Fatale is a kind of noir/supernatural/detective/adventure story that’s compelling and captivating and I can hardly wait to read the next story arc.

Medal of Honor

I had planned a series of articles this week about research and the writing process. But if you’re a writer, you must write, and today I found myself applying the Dr. McCoy test to ask whether I was a writer, or a blogger.

And then, of course, there’s the fact that I’m contemplating talking about heroes all this week. I don’t think there are any archives of heroism that could exceed the records of Medal of Honor recipients. If you want to find stories of real heroes, I urge you to visit the Congressional Medal of Honor site any time you think the world is only grim and dark and that everyone is out for themselves.

The text that follows is ALL © Copyright 2012 Congressional Medal of Honor Society. But the heroics belong to Lucian Adams. I picked him at random from the archive page of the web site. You can find equivalent tales about real life figures by clicking on any one of the names on the site. Many of the stories are likely to move you to tears. I urge you to visit. Marvel at their accomplishments and think of them any time someone sneers that there are no heroes. Honor their achievements, their sacrifices, and their memory.

Thinking of Heroes

butch_o_hare-280As I’ve been pondering villainy and heroes over the last few days, I thought it a good time to revisit an old post I’d made on the Black Gate Livejournal page a few years ago. I imagine a lot of you haven’t read it; if you have, I apologize for the repeat.

During the school year my little girl brings home reading practice sheets every week. Each day we’re to time her reading the fluency sheet for a minute, three times, the idea being that it will improve her reading. She does get better at reading each time through, naturally, but she also gets pretty bored – I suppose I would, too, if I had to read the same thing over and over three times a day. But she’s also bored because the stories as a whole haven’t been very interesting. Except for one.

She brought home the story of Butch O’Hare. I’d never given much thought to whom O’Hare airport was named after. I suppose I assumed it was named after a politician. None of these fluency stories can be read completely in a minute—she was only about a third of the way through when the minute timer dinged. My son, her older brother, was so interested that he looked up from his own homework and said “actually, that’s pretty interesting.” I agreed, and asked her to keep reading, and she was intrigued enough herself that she kept going without complaint.

Stories about heroes fascinate my family, and, I believe, humanity as a whole. I think that we’ve become so cynical that we sneer a little when we hear stories of heroics and imagine that it can’t really be true, or we wonder if the hero secretly beats his wife. We are programmed to think that we REALLY need to read stories of ordinary people or cowardly people or despicable people and that stories of heroes are for children. We’re savvy enough now not to believe everything we hear or read, because, God knows, we’ve been fooled plenty of times.

But we still need heroes. And Butch O’Hare was one.

The Real Caliph

When I decided to set the Dabir and Asim stories in historical Arabia, I likewise decided that while I would emulate the real world, I’d also pay homage to the 1001 Nights. I would emphasize glitter over grit, although the latter wouldn’t be entirely absent. There would naturally be elements of the fantastic, although they would not be everyday experiences.

There are not just fantasy figures in the 1001 Nights, there are also real historical characters, like the caliph Harun al-Rashid and his vizier Jaffar. Dabir and Asim start out working for Jaffar, and rise to such prominence that they begin to interact with the caliph, one of the most powerful men in the world.

I have had more and more reason to be thinking about Harun as I advance into the writing of the third Dabir and Asim book. He makes a few appearances in The Desert of Souls, and is off-stage through The Bones of the Old Ones, but he is a central character in The Maiden’s Eye. I show him as he is in the 1001 Nights, where he comes across as a pretty compelling figure. In real life, though… he was kind of a tractless jerk.

Today’s My Birthday

So you may have heard that today’s my birthday.

What do I want apart from universal peace and brotherhood and some quality time with my family? (And maybe a piece of cherry pie? Cakes are overrated.)

Well, I wouldn’t mind it at all if everyone who liked The Desert of Souls got a copy for a friend. You could say: “Here old chum, it’s Howard’s birthday, enjoy his book.” Preferably with a ridiculous English accent.

Or, if you enjoyed the book, I’d be grateful if you just dropped by and said a few kind words on the Amazon Desert of Souls page. It wouldn’t have to be very many words, either, just a few. I’d liked to see that review number climb to 50 or higher.

If you really liked the book, you could consider buying the short story collection, The Waters of Eternity, or pre-ordering The Bones of the Old Ones — although it’s always better for an author if you can buy a copy of a book from a physical bookstore, which could also take your pre-order. It’s strange but true. It has something to do with a record of physical sales STILL being tracked as more important than online sales. Maybe that will change, eventually, but it hasn’t yet, and so sales numbers from stores help authors more than online sales. (Although if the choice is online sale or nothing, every one of us will choose online!)

Oh, one last thing. If you didn‘t like The Desert of Souls, it being my birthday and all, perhaps you could just keep it a secret.

Right, well, that’s about as clever as I feel like being right now. Keep your fingers crossed on that pie for me.

Galleys, then ARCs, then… the Book!

My galleys arrived the other day. Those are the printed copies of pages as they will look (as far as spacing and fonts) once they’re actually bound into the final book. As a result, The Bones of the Old Ones is starting to feel more and more real, because now I can see what it will look like when laid out. (After this I’ll see it in an advanced reader’s copy, or ARC… and then the real thing.)

I’ll be spending the next week going over the text a final time. Of course, at this point in the process I really have to keep changes to a minimum because the book is now laid out, and each change here could re-wrap all the words in the entire chapter… and that, as you can probably guess, can be a huge problem and expense.

Once I turn the galleys back over to St. Martin’s/Thomas Dunne Books, I have to start gearing up for the marketing push. One aspect of that will be designing a newer, snazzier web site, but I will also be needing to get out there talking about my book and writing and doing everything I possibly can to spread news that it’s coming soon.

Hannibal’s Words

A bust that MIGHT be Hannibal.

I suppose a lot of writers are weird kids. I was, though I was enough of an introvert you couldn’t necessarily tell by looking just how weird. I was too worried about what people thought. I didn’t have enough social acumen to realize that part of the reason I wasn’t exactly popular might be the clothes I wore, or my lack of interest in sports, or my obsession with the original Star Trek, or the way I was always reading or playing D&D. Part of the problem was surely that I was just a skinny pale kid. With glasses. And braces. And freckles. And a sort of light bulb shaped head.

But this makes it seem like I feel sorry for myself, and the truth of the matter is that I had a fantastic childhood, with great and loyal friends and a loving and supportive family. I don’t think I’d change anything except a few poor decisions, and a few words I’ve since regretted. And I surely wouldn’t trade in my idols for the popular ones. Sure, I always dug The Beatles, and still do. And there are probably a lot of men my age who picked up cues from Kirk and Spock. (And no, I don’t mean how Kirk got to score with alien babes; I’m referring instead to compassionate leadership and standing up for the right thing, and always coming through for your friends and allies even at risk of your life or your career.) But my biggest idol was Hannibal of Carthage, and I’m sure I never met anyone else my age who thought he was as cool as I did. Or thought that he was cool at all. That was just weird.