Yearly Archives: 2015

Cool Gifts

We had a nice Christmas here at our little tower upon the Sea of Monsters. I’ve been a bit under the weather for about a week, but it didn’t hit hard until late Saturday night, which meant I was free to enjoy Christmas with my family and extended family and spend some time with some close friends Saturday evening. Sunday I was laid pretty low, although I’m good enough now that I can climb up an old ladder to clean out some gutters. Yay for that.

Whilst lying around I did some reading for fun. I have a friend’s story to edit but didn’t feel clear enough headed to attempt that, so it is slated for this week.

HJ Sagan TreeI thought I’d share my gifts with the wider world. My wife and I really only exchanged a few this year, owing to the fact that the oven and the TV both went out recently. So, for instance, I got a new one of my favorite shirts (like the one I’m wearing in this photo at Kew Gardens, where we THINK Carl Sagan might have been sitting in the original Cosmos) but my wife actually ordered it for me way back in September when there was a huge sale at SCOTTeVEST. (Speaking of which, they’re running a huge sale right now, through January 4.) Not only do I like the fit and the look, it has scads of pockets, which is great for the traveller, and convenient regardless.

Web Thoughts

hulk thinkIt’s always a little strange to me that I maintain a web site. It’s not something I ever planned to do, but I was told, some time ago, that a writer really needs to maintain a presence out here in the world wide web, and so I do.

I’ve come to enjoy it for the most part. I love the opportunity to meet other folks who enjoy the same kind of stuff I do, and to work with fine folks like Bill Ward and Chris Hocking and discuss some excellent forgotten fiction.

Occasionally I get a note from someone who really found one of my writing posts helpful, and that’s always quite nice. My most successful post, ever, seems to be the one I wrote about a prayer to the muses for inspiration, and it continues to pull in people who have no interest in anything else on the site, but who found that prayer of use. I’m glad of that.

Some days I’m just too busy to post anything, especially when deadlines loom. Some days I find I have nothing to say, and some days I actually have a WHOLE lot I want to say and am short on time. I guess I’m always short on time.

And then sometimes I go to bed feeling just fine and wake up with every joint aching. Like today. No fun, that. I sure hope this is a 24 hour virus so that I can get to enjoying some holiday time off when it hits. For now I’m going to get some food in so I can take some ibuprofen, and then get back to my “honey do” list.

I’ll try to be more entertaining later in the week!

For now, here are some interesting links:

First, James Reasoner looks at another great Leigh Brackett story.

Second, a great Savage Sword of Conan discussion. I laughed, I cried, well, I don’t think the latter, but it’s a neat place to visit if you’re curious about how well various stories hold up.

Winter Update 2

I turned over my new book to my agent last week. The final third has some spots that are pretty rough yet, and I’ll be sanding those down after the next week. Right now I’m trying to catch up on some long overdue house organization. Thankfully gift shopping is nearly done, barring any sort of shipping shenanigans.

After being pedal to the metal on fiction writing, I hope to pick up some books I’d started and maybe start some new(isn) ones. I’ve also a friend’s manuscript to read. And I hope to do some gaming over the coming weeks. Speaking of which, I’ve picked up some great low-cost role playing books over the last month and I’ve been meaning to talk them up, because if you’re  a gamer, you need to be reading them. I like them so well that I’ll probably take the review over to Black Gate so more people hear about them. For the meanwhile, though, I’ll just say that these two products have really innovative ways to approach old school gaming, and that if you’re a fantasy tabletop gamer you really need to check them out:

Whitehack — the simplest way to run old D&D I’ve seen that also manages to accomplish all the things I was always frustrated that D&D couldn’t do. The one and only book is on sale for less than $ 7.00 through January.

The B/X Rogue — an elegant way to approach any Thief or Rogue or related classes. It’s simple, intuitive, and so clearly explained I’m simply astonished no one has ever done it this way before. Really impressive, and yours for only $1.50!


Conan Re-Read: “The Servants of Bit-Yakin”

conquering sword conanBill Ward and I are starting our read through of the Del Rey Robert E. Howard collection The Conquering Sword of Conan. This week we’re discussing “The Servants of Bit-Yakin,” occasionally known as “Jewels of Gwahlur.” We hope you’ll join in!

Howard: I expected to like this one less. I try to walk into reading these stories with a pretty open mind, but in the case of Bit-Yakin I recently caught a few articulate REH fans writing about how it was their least favorite, and of course Patrice Louinet mentions, in the concluding essay to the book, that it was probably written quickly to help build up the stock of Conan stories in the Weird Tales inventory. With that in mind I thought I’d be reading more filler. Yet I ended up enjoying it a lot more than “A Witch Shall be Born” — apart from that one great scene we discussed last week — and there’s nothing in this story that touches that.

Monday Morning Brackett

Leigh-BrackettIt’s been a madhouse here with me working pretty much night and day towards a book deadline, so my weekly posts have been greatly reduced.  I should have things back to at least three updates (hopefully interesting ones) a week, possibly THIS week.

Right now I need to go make some final adjustments to some action sequences, but I wanted to leave you with some links to other Leigh Brackett articles that popped up over the last few days.

The web site of Keith West

The web site of Don Herron

The web site of Sarah Hoyt

Keith Taylor at the Two Gun Raconteur

Conan Re-Read: “A Witch Shall Be Born”

conan blooddy crownBill Ward and I are continuing our read through of the Del Rey Robert E. Howard collection The Bloody Crown of Conan. This week we’re discussing “A Witch Shall be Born.” We hope you’ll join in!

Howard: I had hoped to like this one more. I’ve only read it once before, and I hadn’t remembered it being quite so frustrating. Coming as it does on the heels of a sword-and-sorcery masterpiece it’s even more of a let down, and it seems hard to believe that the man who just gave us such a spellbinding story should trip this way.

Bill: It’s like the steep initial drop on a roller-coaster, minus the exhilaration.

Leigh Brackett: “The Moon that Vanished”

Leigh-BrackettThe great Leigh Brackett was born 100 years ago today. She put Adventure into planetary adventure the way few others did before or since, painting her settings with astonishing color and details that never detracted from the story. I’ve written about this in detail here, if you’re after a few samples of her prose and a light discussion of her technique.

Today, though, hopefully you can join Bill Ward and me in celebrating Leigh Brackett by discussing one of her great stories, “The Moon that Vanished.” If you missed the announcement last week, you can still join in by grabbing a copy of the story inexpensively. You won’t regret it.

Conan Re-Read: The Hour of the Dragon, Part 2

conan blooddy crownBill Ward and I are continuing our read through of the Del Rey Robert E. Howard collection The Bloody Crown of Conan. This week we’re discussing the second half of “The Hour of the Dragon.” We hope you’ll join in!

Bill: It is only at the midpoint of The Hour of the Dragon that Conan learns the full significance of the Heart of Ahriman, the terrible jewel with the intrinsic power to recall the dead to life or enhance sorcery beyond the bounds of mortal power. He learns this from the priests of Asura, a cult that he has shielded from persecution during his reign, and the same priests not only shelter him and the recently rescued princess Albiona, but they also facilitate his journey southward. From this point until its conclusion, the novel is a race for the jewel as Conan travels not only through the Hyborian Age landscape, but through his own past lives as mercenary, pirate, and thief.

Celebrating Leigh Brackett

Leigh-BrackettThe 100th birthday of the late, great Leigh Brackett is coming up next Monday, and to celebrate, Bill Ward and I our doing a read-through of one of her great stories set on a Venus that never was.

Brackett was a phenomenal writer. She’s been called the Queen of Space Opera, but I think a better-named crown was probably Queen of Planetary Adventure.

She wrote screenplays with Faulkner  AND mentored Ray Bradbury AND wrote the first draft of The Empire Strikes Back. She was writing about heroes who would have been comfortable plying the space lanes beside Han Solo and Malcolm Reynolds decades before those characters were ever conceived. Most importantly, though, she was simply an incredibly gifted adventure writer who wrote with fantastic atmosphere, wonderful pacing, and dynamic characters. She’s one of my very favorite writers, and she’s had a tremendous influence that (unfortunately) has often gone unsung.

We hope you’ll join in our re-read. To make things extra simple, here’s a link to an extremely affordable e-collection of her work from BAEN, The Swamps of Venus. From that collection Bill and I will be reading “The Moon that Vanished.”

This e-book is only $4.00, and I have to say, if you’re going to invest that, you probably ought to simply get Brackett’s Solar System collection for $20.00 so you can read her even more (and justly) famed stories set on Mars. Bill and I are reading “The Moon that Vanished” because it’s a great one that gets passed over because she has so many more stories set on Mars.

Anyway, hope to see you here, and I hope you’ll trust my recommendation if you’ve never read Brackett.