Yearly Archives: 2013

On Writing Swiftly

Sometimes I write quickly. Occasionally, when I write quickly, I write well. Most of the time, though, I don’t. I have to revise and re-revise and throw things out.

You’ll find me peering with envious eyes over the shoulders of great writers who write quickly, studying, studying, trying to divine the secrets.

And I think I’ve learned a few. I AM getting faster. Some of it just comes from experience, but some of it, for me at least, comes down to conscious choices.

Thinking back over the best successes I’ve had with writing well, swiftly, I can recall a Dabir and Asim story I wrote in one sitting (“Servant of Iblis”) and an occasional chapter or two that ended up with only a few words changed between when I crafted it in a blaze of inspiration and when it appeared in print. And I think about what I’ve learned talking to talented writers who write swiftly and reading about those from the past. As a result I can make a few generalizations. Maybe they’ll help you as National Novel Writing Month gets into full swing.


I don’t have any yet, but with the coming of cold weather, I was put in mind of one of many great Badfinger tracks most people have never heard of. There’s a lot more great stuff from this band that never got radio play. So under-appreciated.

Here, take a listen. I’ve got to get to some writing.

Stalking the Beast

My new book is out, NOW! You want monsters, monster slayers, death defying feats, a canny, intelligent female leader? Check out Stalking the Beast. It’s a standalone sequel to Plague of Shadows, which means that most of the heroes who happened to survive the first book take center stage in the second. Get thee to a store and get to reading!

Here’s the official back cover copy:  “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 Drelm for salvation. For Drelm, however, the mission is about more than simple justice-it’s about protecting the frontier town he’s adopted as his home, and the woman he plans to marry. Together with the gunslinging bounty hunter Lisette and several equally deadly allies, the heroes must set off into the wilderness, hunting a terrifying beast that will test their abilities-and their friendships-to the breaking point and beyond. But could it be that there’s more to the murders than a simple rampaging beast?”

For more details, visit SF Signal, where I was recently interviewed by Patrick Hester about both this novel and my Dabir and Asim books. Or you can swing by Paizo and look over my Q & A about the book, or read an essay where I talk about both writing for Paizo and my gaming background.

Vincennes Writer’s Festival

I don’t think I’ve ever turned the blog over to anyone else, but today I’m going to do so, because Judy Kratzner has said everything I’d say about the matter, and with all the detail required. In short, if you’re in the region and want to learn about writing and talk to some writers (including this one!), I hope you’ll swing by. Take it away, Judy:

The Knox County Public Library is hosting the Second Annual Writers Festival, Saturday, November 2nd, 9-3 p.m. Speakers include award winning authors Margaret McMullan, James Alexander Thom, Howard Andrew Jones and Vincennes University faculty Bernie Schmitt and Matt Groneman. Registration is underway . The $30 registration includes attendance at all sessions, handouts and snacks. Stop by the library for the registration form or go online

November 2nd an author Meet & Greet with the speakers and an additional ten authors is free and open to the public from noon- 2 p.m. The additional guest authors include Marlis Day, Dale Glenn, Rick Kelsheimer, Holli Rebecca Burnfield, Darrell Case, Jeanne James Cox, David Lottes, Jennifer Mackinday , Venessa Purdom  and Angie Mayfield.  The authors will have books for sale and signature.

For information on the Writers’ Festival call Judy Kratzner, KCPL Literacy Coordinator at 812-886-4380.

Writing Mistakes, Part 2

Puny Banner poses beside Hulk’s Car.

Well, I finally performed the proper web site magics to add Stalking the Beast to the Home Page book slider. I forgot how I had done it the last time, so it took a good chunk of the evening.

Today I wanted to take another quick look at parts of my Writing Mistakes list, particularly the ones I thought needed clarification. I’ll just pick the ones that sound vague to me and offer more explanation. If there were some from last week that you wanted to know more about, drop me a line.

My List of Writing Mistakes

A month or so back I was contacted by a reader and fellow writer who’d heard about my mistakes list that I keep in my writing notebooks. She wanted to know what those mistakes were. Today I thought I’d share them with you.

One thing I’ve finally figured out at 45 is that I’ll keep inventing new mistakes, even though I will slowly (too slowly, it seems) get wiser. I believe I’ve already mentioned that I always carry around a mini-pen and a small writing notebook, one that can fit in my back pocket, or even a smaller model (a Paperblanks Micro) that I can slip into a front pocket. You can find a link to my discussion of that very subject by clicking here, along with some photos of my favorite notebooks and size comparisons.

While on that recent vacation I mentioned yesterday, I found it handy to carry around the Micro notebook featured right up there. As my daughter rode and re-rode the Tower of Terror (once was enough for me) I sat on an uncomfortable stone bench and plugged away on an outline and had almost as much fun as she was having plunging up and down. It would have been just as much fun, if not for the bench. I love to write.

Hulk keep list too. Do Not Smash List!

Some Considered Suggestions

Having recently spent some time at the Disney Hollywood Studios, I feel compelled to offer some suggestions to provide attractions of greater interest, as apart from a nifty roller coaster and a terrifying plunge ride, the theme park seems mostly to consist of shops all selling more or less the same thing.

1. How about a James Bond ride? You could climb into an Aston Martin simulator and back up Double-O Seven and fight Goldfinger’s brother, Copperfinger, or maybe even Goldsting.

2. So you have Star Wars. Why not Star Trek? As a matter of fact, why not model off of Epcot’s Mission: Space, and create a simulator ride that’s a shuttlecraft to the Enterprise? (Although I think what everyone would REALLY want would be the chance to have a lirpa fight to the death, or maybe a styrfoam rock fight with a Gorn.)

3. As long as we’re talking about science fiction, why not a ride that’s an homage to ’70s science fiction greats? You could flee from some Sandmen or play Rollerball. Maybe the reason the carts always turn up empty in the ride is that they deposit all the visitors in Soylent Green vats…

Vampire Earth

At GenCon Lou Anders rightly called me out on one of my bad habits. You see, I have a tendency, when discussing favorite writers, to only discuss those who are dead or near forgotten. Part of that comes from me having spent so much time unearthing the pulp fiction of Harold Lamb and exploring the work of his contemporaries (I wrote my master’s thesis on Lamb) and partly that stems from me having decided, about 16 years ago, that if I was serious about becoming a good fantasy writer I had to better understand its roots.

Thus I immersed myself in the grandfathers and grandmothers of the genre… and sort of lost touch with what was going on in modern fantasy. I’ve just started to catch up. Anyway, with a nod to Lou, I think it’s long past time in this column to mention one of my favorite modern writers, E.E. Knight.

Vance, Robert E. Howard, and the Role of Women

I’m  having trouble sleeping again, but this morning at least I’m putting it to use and am up early writing. I’ve got a lot of work to do on two projects I’m really excited about, so I’ll keep the entry short.

First, in my continuing effort to be everywhere on the Internet, I had a Q and A over on the Paizo boards about my upcoming novel, Stalking the Beast (which reminds me — I’ve got to create a “cover slide” for the new book so it can join the other four rotating at the top of my main page — hope I remember how!) You can find it here.

Second, on a long trip yesterday I started and finished Jack Vance’s Big Planet, courtesy of John O’Neill giving me one of his four extra copies (thanks, John!). I started to take Charles Saunders’ The Naama War — the fourth Imaro book — but was afraid it would get dinged up on the journey.

Big Planet was typical Vance and a great read, but it was also a product of its time. Lengthwise I can’t imagine it was much longer than 65 thousand words, which left barely any room for characterization. Vance can frequently be pretty light on characterization in some ways, although he will add details to even minor characters to bring a culture to life. But I don’t usually read Vance for his characters (unless said character is Cugel the Clever) I read him for the wild inventiveness about culture and events and amazing scenery, which he again, even in this early work, tosses off with careless ease that few others can even approach. Over the course of Big Planet the main characters travel through a vast landscape and encounter all manner of environments and societies, each different from the other and well described and fairly plausible even in their weirdness. And, as is almost always the case in his work, the pace never flagged. The man was a master and there’s still a lot to learn from him even while you’re enjoying his lighter fare.

Having been written in the early 1950s, it has some artifacts of its time that it can’t really be blamed for. It’s assumed and never, ever questioned, that adventuring and important duties are for men — sexual equality isn’t even on the radar. It makes me wonder how I’d ever share this book with, say, my daughter. Most authors can’t be expected to look beyond their time, and I’m sure in 50 years, assuming anyone’s still reading my books, someone will find something that I’m not doing that makes me dated. Still, in contemplation of this sexism I can’t help thinking about Robert E. Howard’s Valeria, from “Red Nails.”


In my continuing quest to be all over the interwebs, I’m over at the talented Garrett Caltera’s blog along with some luminaries, and we’re all talking about famous forgotten books. Not books that are “curious” or “interesting” but GOOD books that someone really ought to still be reading.

Mine is Edison Marshall’s Earth Giant, and if you want to find out why I think it’s so cool, follow the link. Hint — heroic fiction fans would love it. Seriously, anyone who loves Leiber or REH or Lamb should be reading the thing.